Camp Cuba Libre
FLA., July 1, 1898
TO THE UNION; Our camp, since we have been located here, has undergone many changes. When we first arrived here it did not look much like it would ever be the home of twenty thousand soldiers. It was a fine forest covered by brush and inhabited by insects and reptiles, now it is, I shall say, the "happy home" of the soldier boys and instead of huge snakes hissing through the grass the soldier's "left! left!" leaves "footprints on the sands of Time."
Our camp is laid out in streets and allies and the buildings consist of tents for the soldiers, officer's quarters, kitchens, bath houses, hydrants, the canteen, hospital and last but not leasst, especially for some of the boys, is the guard house.
Quite an improvement has been made by the boys since pay day. They have all put floors in their tents and built new kitchens and made other household furniture too numerous to mention.
If one of our Vandalia friends was here during the morning hours he would hear and see, as near as I can describe it, about as follows: The first sound of drowsy revielle would remind him that he was in a camp of soldiers and he would be more forcibly reminded of the fact when he saw the slumbering boys awake and rise from their blanket beds, fall in line and clean the quarters. Then comes the morning physical excercise, and next the rush for their culinary utensils. This is the most exciting scene to the visitors as they watch us line up and march each one in his turn rattling his pan and cup as they march to the mess tent where each one is dished out his portion in "due season." We have twenty minutes to eat and wash our dishes, and this is ample time according to our bill of fare. The next thing to be seen is guard mount and the bands play "The Union Forever" while they are being inspected, and it fully awakes the boys to do their days duty while their minds may be far away on friends at home. And if one would look across the parade ground he would see the boys who run the guard line or committed some other offense, going out under guards to do extra duty, such as grubbing up stumps, digging ditches, and this is not a very agreeable sight to look at as the boys look tired from being out so late, and their comrades say to them as they pass: "Now will you be good.: We are glad to say that our company has had very few such cases. The next thing after guard mount one can see the boys putting on their leggins and filling their canteens for the morning drill. For awhile the camp is nearly deserted except a few who are on the sick list remain at camp. When the boys return from the drill hot and dry they hastily lay aside their accounterments while the prespriation rolls down their bronzed cheeks, and you might hear someone say: "I will never forget the Maine."
If our visitor stays with us the rest of the day the next thing he would see the boys line up for dinner, march to the mess tent, get their beans and hardtack, then seat themselves under the schorching rays of "old Sol" on stumps and logs to relish their dinner. Our visitor would now see some of the boys trying to sleep, some cleaning their guns, but the greater part of them either reading papers or letters or seated on boxes, logs or the ground writing letters to far away friends, while the sweat rolls down on their paper like the tears of a Holiness preacher in a revival.
Again the assembly calls the soldiers together at four o'clock and the boys hastily fall in line for evening drill. After an hour's drill you would see the company coming in to quarters for a few minutes' rest before supper. After supper the boys don their best clothes for dress parade. This is the time we have the most visitors and about two-thirds of them are colored people. When dress parade is over our day's work is done. The boys then put away their guns and make a grand rush for the bath house to take a bath, and while they wait for the sound of "taps" to tell them to retire they pass away the time in singing, jumping, music, games telling war stories and prayer meetings. After "taps" all the lights are put out and the camp is once more silent, while slumbering soldiers dream of "flowery beds of ease" with nothing to disturb their slumbers except a sentinel's "all is well" until the gray streaks of early morning make crimson the eastern skies and the sound of revielle breaks in on the sleepy soldier's ear and tells him that another day's work has begun.
The negro that shot Private Charled Buchart, of Co. A, was hunted down by the soldiers and placed in prison to keep the boys from lynching him. Jacksonville now posses the finest rifle range in any of the millitary camps in the country. There is a straight range of 1000 yards and wide enough for a battallion front. At right angles to this is another range of 200 yards for recruits. It is locted one and one-half miles north of the city.
Gen. Fitzhugh Lee has decided to go into the field with his men and will establish his headquarters at the corner of First and Liberty streets, in the shady grove. Work has begun last week clearing the grounds, preparatory to pitching the tents. A house near by will probably be secured for officers for the corps. Gen. Lee has not decided just when he will move his headquarters from the Winsor Hotel, but it will probably be within the course of the next week or so. The General has evidently given up all hopes of an early departure for either Cuba or Porto Rico with his command. Our division has recieved 500 mules, 250 army waggons and fifty hospital wagons.
Dr, F.H. Wines, of Springfield, Ill., Secretary of State Army and Navy League, was here last week looking after interests of the Illinois boys. The League has made arrangements with railraod companies for reduced rates on all freight sent to the soldiers. They are arranging to give each man a canvas straw tick and pillow, and to look after the boys in general. He went from here to Tampa.
Tom Pantry received a discharge for Co. I this morning for inability and will be sent home.
A private by the name of Charles Boggs of Co. B had his collar bone broken while working on the rifle range.
It is reported that there are three cases of yellow fever in Camp Panama.
New recruits have been coming in from all parts of the country. Co. "D" has had 17; Co. "F," 21; Co. G," 23 and Co. "I," 25, each company now numbering 106 privates.
Quite a number of Co. I's boys visited St. Augustine and Pablo Beach last Sunday.
Sir Gilbert David Tate and William Hudson Pippin of Vandalia have joined Co. K.
Chas. Powell of Co. M., of Champaign was overcome by heat Saturday and is in bad condition.
Tim Courtney has recieved a revised edition of the stamp act.
Chas. Curry says that there is only one thing that keeps him from making a good soldier and that is he can't raise whiskers.
The mail is received and delivered three times per day.
Co. I worked on the rifle range Tuesday. It is almost completed.
Our officers have new uniforms of light colored duck cloth. They look quite becoming.
George Bingaman is on guard at quarter master's department today.
Last Tuesday Torrey's Rough Riders went into Camp Panama, about two miles north of this camp. They belong to the 2nd Wy. Cavalry and are a fine looking set of men.
Fred McKnight has quit the band and is now back as bugler in Co. I.
John Slicter of Co. I has been detailed as clerk in the Canteen.
Paul Boyer visited St. Augustin yesterday.
Tom Brannon and Ira Snyder have a new way of erecting tents. They have their tent set on pine pillars with a basement beneah and in front of their tent there is a card hanging out and painted: "Planters, Ira Snyder and Tom Brannon Proprietors; Art Lawler, Porter, and John Rutledge boot black.
We signed our month's pay roll yesterday.
The new recruits have not yet received their new uniforms. They are being drilled in squads by themselves. Their orders have been sent in and they will be equipped in a week.
The weather still continues warm the average being the past week 110 in the shade.
The 3rd Brigade held its first review yesterday on the parade grounds of the 2nd Ill. The review was a success in every particular and was witnessed by Maj. Gen. Lee, Division Commander Arnold. Brig. Com. Hasbrouck and a number of officers from all the regiments in camp.
Gov. Tanner will visit us about July sixth.
The boys are signing the pay roll for the month of June.
There is no one in the hospital from Co. I this week. "All's well."
The War Situation
All interest has centered, since our last issue,
on the battles waged around Santiago and the magnificent victories won
by our soldiers on land and sea in that locality.
July 1. Santiago attacked by Shafter and Sampson. Enemy beaten back from intrenchments into the city of Santiago after many hours of hard fighting. Our loss near 1000 men killed and wounded.
July 2. Absence of news from the front creates anxiety throughout the nation.
July 3. Bold attempt of Cevera to escape from the harbor of Santiago at 9:30 a.m. and at two p.m. the last of the fleet, Cristobal Colon, had run ashore six miles west of Santiago. All the Spanish vessels were destroyed and 1800 prisoners captured including Cevera.
July 4. Rejoicing everywhere. A truce at Santiago pending a demand for surrender.
July 5. Truce still on at Santiago.
July 6. Nothing new in the situation reported. Fighting may be going on.