THE APPROACH OF WAR - PEACE RELATIONS END - THE CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS - KANSAS TO THE FRONT - THE CAMP IN SAN FRANCISCO - FIRST SMELL OF POWDER - THE DAY ON THE FIRING LINES - WHERE THEIR SPIRIT ORIGINATED - THE NIGHT ATTACK - THE FIRST REAL BATTLE - A SKIRMISH MARCH - MALOLOS IS TAKEN - CALUMPIT, NEXT STOP -TREMBLY AND WHITE IN SWIMMING - THE CAMPAIGN CONTINUES - OUTPOSTS ARE ANNOYED - BACK TO MANILA - THE BOYS WHO GAVE UP THEIR LIVES - THE MUSTER INTO SERVICE - THE BOYS FROM KANSAS CITY, KANSAS.
Away back in 1868 the people of the little island of Cuba began a war for freedom from the thraldom in which they were held by the Kingdom of Spain. It was an unequal war, and yet the Cubans, by bush-fighting methods, managed to continue it for many years. When, in recent years, the excitement of the war ran high, the government of the United States noticed it. To protect the American interests on the island the battleship "Maine" was sent to Havana. While lying there at night, on what was supposed to be peaceful waters, the immense ship was sunk supposedly by a mine placed under its keel by the hand of some dastard. The grand ship was destroyed and with it departed the lives of two hundred and six brave American sailors. This deed was perpetrated on the night of February 15, 1898.
The news flashed across the wires and the people of this country were aroused. The more hot-headed ones demanded that war be declared on Spain at once. Others did not favor a resort to arms. But as the facts of the cowardly night attack developed, the people were almost unanimous in their demands that Spain be made to pay the penalty of the supposed misdeeds of her sons. Much sympathy was manifested by the American people for the Cubans, and press and pulpit cried down the cruelties and atrocities of the Spaniard.
Blacker and nearer approached the cloud of war and the navy yards and arsenals became beehives of industry. The regular army was recruited from a peace footing until it became the finest body of disciplined men in the world and one capable of meeting and successfully coping with any foe. The young men of the nation, inspired with that spirit which actuated their forefathers at Bunker Hill and Gettysburg, burned to do something, and even the children gave up playing hide and seek and their games were in imitation of the acts of Mars.
As time went on the Spanish diplomats and statesmen began to feel their extreme danger and Madrid was the scene of turmoil. The "honor" of the nation was at stake and the "pigs of America" were making things warm for the practitioners of the inquisitions of the Middle Ages.
February drifted by and early in March President McKinley asked congress for an appropriation of $50,000,000 to man the coast defenses of the United States. In the house Speaker Reed called for the vote and a glorious record of three hundred and fifty-two ayes and no nays went down as a mark of the confidence men of all political beliefs and creeds had in the wisdom of the chief executive.
Events followed each other with kalaidoscopic rapidity and congress passed resolutions recommending armed intervention in Cuba. The president gave Spain three days to evacuate the island. The Spanish minister, Poloy Barnabe, and the American minister to Spain, General Woodford, received their passports and diplomatic relations between the countries ended. This was held to be a declaration of war and the North Atlantic squadron under Sampson, then a captain, sailed to blockade the port of Havana.
The spirit of war and conquest tingled through American veins and when, on April 22nd the bulletins announced that the "Nashville" had fired upon and captured the "Buena Ventura," Young America felt that indescribable something arouse him that had nerved the loyal heart of the Civil war volunteer when he heard that Fort Sumter had been bombarded.
The next day President McKinley said to those young men: "I want 125,000 of you! I want you to volunteer your very lives, if need be, to crush the men who destroyed our brothers and our noble ship." The apportionment gave to Kansas three regiments of infantry. No Kansan can forget the enthusiasm which filled the most remote county, Five companies of men were organized in Topeka almost as soon as the call had been published and all had more men in them than could have been accepted.
Governor Leedy, then the chief executive of the state, announced that the colonel of the first regiment to be organized would be Fred Funston, whose record in Cuba was fresh in the memory of the whole state. The appointment met with general approval and the gallantry displayed by the little general in Cuban campaigning has only been surpassed by his heroic, almost foolhardy, bravery about Manila.
Leaden, gloomy skies greeted the first volunteers who went into camp in Topeka on Sunday, May 1st. Camp Leedy was christened and the first men to occupy the ground were those of company A of Topeka and Company B of Kansas City, Kansas, both of which were later assigned to the Twentieth regiment. Not a murmur could be heard among the men that would indicate that they were sorry they had left home and friends to face the dangers of war.
On May 11th the war department issued an order that one of the three Kansas regiments would be sent to San Francisco and thence would probably go to Manila. The report reached Camp Leedy and every company on the grounds claimed that it was in the Twentieth regiment and every soldier wanted to go. When the personnel of the regiment was made up, the men gave up their time to rumors that the next day would be the day of departure. Those sturdy Kansas boys wanted to go. They felt that the Spaniards had given each of them a personal affront, and perhaps there was some spirit of revenge - but there was more of intense patriotic love for the Stars and Stripes in their desire.
On May 14th the now famous regiment lined up on the fair grounds before Lieutenant W. F. Clark, of the United States army, for muster-in. Everyone who braved the rain on that disagreeable evening remembers the fine looking body of men. Even though they were not uniformed, the splendid physique and robust Kansas health were apparent. As they returned to the camp after the ceremony, every soldier wondered just how long it would be before he left his state for the front.
Two days later, the Twentieth boys boarded the train on the Union Pacific and started on their long journey for San Francisco. They didn't know how much further they would go, but they had great hopes and were full of joy. Could they have foreseen the hardships they were to encounter; could they have guessed the dreary existence at camp in San Francisco; could they have known of the deaths by privation, exposure, disease and rebel bullets, they might have been less gay, but the way they encountered and overcame these difficulties brings conviction that their course would have been unchanged even under a knowledge of those circumstances.
Crowded into ordinary day coaches, the men made the trip across the continent and arrived in San Francisco on May 20th. They went into camp at Camp Merritt and, although there were but four companies in the regiment that could show a semblance of the army blue, the sturdy marching of the Kansas boys attracted the Californians.
As they marched through the streets of San Francisco an ovation, equalled only by the one they had received at their departure, greeted them. The boys were weary and grimy from their long ride, but the people appreciated the fact that they were looking at men, and the first men who had responded to the call of their country.
Their colonel was away. He had been detailed on the staff of Major General Miles. In far-away Tampa he was doing service that would aid in the Cuban campaign, but he knew that his boys would need him soon, and he was anxious to leave that duty and join his regiment. On June 6th Colonel Funston received the orders for which he longed, and the next day he set out for San Francisco.
In the meantime his men were faring badly. Camped upon a field which was a veritable hotbed of disease, they worked and drilled and ate and slept. The sand that covered the ground and on which the men had to drill by day and sleep at night, was about a foot deep. Under it were the dumpings of San Francisco, and many a Kansas boy fell victim to the foulness before he had had an opportunity to leave his country. Upon enlistment, the Kansans had been told that there would be no need of bringing along clothing that was protective and wearable. The men had been promised new government clothes as soon as they reached Topeka, but the clothing had failed to come and the men were in rags.
After the boys had gone into quarters at Camp Merritt the people of San Francisco and the press of that city saw the regiment in the light of the ludicrous. The uniforms failed to come and the men came to look more and more like scarecrows of the Kansas fields. The regiment was made the butt of all the ridicule that was lying around loose, and until two or three of the members of other regiments were soundly thrashed they, too, took a turn at the Kansans.
The regiment was never called the Twentieth Kansas. Cowboys, Coxey's army, and almost every other appellation that carried with it the idea of satire and ridicule, were used in referring to the boys, This continued until the uniforms came. Then the talk changed, and if the boys had come back in overalls and carrying picks and shovels, San Francisco would have been only too glad to claim them.
The fighting qualities of the Twentieth Kansas are known all over America and the followers of Aguinaldo are not unacquainted with its methods of fierce attack and its cool nerve.
The first time the Kansans smelled powder was at night. Out in the edge of the city, Captain Clark had been posted with sixty men to do outpost duty. At about 9:30 o'clock the Kansans were fired upon by the insurgents. The darkness of the night was lit with spouts of flame and the sharp, double cracks of the Mausers and Winchesters in the hands of the Filipinos were soon drowned in the muffled roar of the Kansans' Springfields. Captain Clark, cool and collected, gave his orders in such tones that the men never thought of fear. They did not think of danger. Their minds were devoted to the receipt and execution of their superior's commands, and the red, jagged tongues of flame leapt from the muzzles of their rifles as they sent volley after volley toward the unseen foe.
Word was dispatched to the field officers, and at 10 o'clock Colonel Funston was awakened by Colonel Metcalf, who was eager to reach the scene of action. Out into the night rushed the two officers and, reaching the buildings in which the regiment was quartered, they found the boys up and anxious for the fray. Up and down the deserted streets of Manila sounded the heavy tramp of marching men; from the outskirts of the city came the rattle and roar of musketry. Laughing and jesting, the command hurried toward the scene of action. Coming up to the outpost, the jesting ceased, and, with eye and ear alert, each soldier waited with eagerness for the commands.
Daylight found the regiment ready for an attack, and it was soon made. For the first time the Kansas Twentieth was about to be given a chance to show its merit, and, with almost breathless impatience, the man waited to hear the longed for orders. When it came the line moved forward in that grand unwavering way which had won the plaudits of their countrymen when on review in San Francisco.
On went the line of brown; back, giving ground, grudgingly at first, then more rapidly, went the Filipinos. One entrenchment was won, then another, and the insurgents were forced to seek the protection of a block house. It was with difficulty that the victorious Kansans could be restrained from galloping on through the whole of the Tagalos. As a member of another regiment expressed it: "One of their officers went around the earth when he couldn't catch them and met them coming, giving them orders to come back."
This is a sample of the bravery displayed in every fight. Trembley and White of Company B of Kansas City, Kansas, gave evidence of what would have been done by any member of the regiment in their swim across the Bagbag. One Topeka man, Ted Montgomery, almost forgot his teachings of discipline in his eagerness to accompany the swimmers.
Is it surprising that the Filipinos were unable to withstand attacks made by men whose bravery equalled that of the fabled Gods of Greece and Rome? These men were reared on the plains and in the towns and hamlets of Kansas. Imbued from the time of their earliest understanding with lessons of patriotism and veneration for the flag, they were ready to sacrifice themselves that the Stars and Stripes should not be polluted by the desecrating hand of an enemy.
That regiment did more than its duty. Every regiment in Cuba and the Philippines did its noble duty, but the Twentieth Kansas, with indefatigable courage and patriotic spirit, fought with a heroism that has become a standard in the country for which the service was rendered.
About 10 P. M. on February 4th, orders were received for the regiment to take the field, in accordance with a previously arranged plan. The Second and Third battalions, under Colonel Funston, went at once to the scene of the firing, which was the Kansas outpost at the extreme left of the line.
The attacking Filipinos were being held at bay by the outpost guard of two officers and sixty men. The Second and Third battalions quickly formed and the fire of the insurgents was returned. The Kansans and the enemy kept up this exchange all night and in the morning the First battalion joined the command. At noon an advance was ordered and the enemy was driven back past two lines of intrenchments to a block house about two miles north of Manila.
The next morning the Kansans occupied the ground they had won the day before. On February 7th, Colonel Funston secured permission - for he had to ask it - to attack the insurgents directly in front of his command. With four companies, B, C, E and I, he drove them from their position after about forty-five minutes of sharp fighting. The Filipino loss was heavy.
At 3 P. M., on February 10th, the regimental commander received orders to take the town of Caloocan. The other regiments which took part in the attack were the First Montana Volunteers and the Third United States Artillery. The left flank was protected by two companies of the First Idaho Volunteers and the line was re-inforced by the Utah Light Artillery with two guns and the Sixth United States Artillery with two guns.
Before the line moved upon the town, the American fleet bombarded it for half an hour. Round toward the right they swung and then began to pour a hot fire into the Filipino lines. Back through the town hurried the routed insurgents and on came the unswerving line of Kansans. The Kansans were the first to reach Caloocan, but evidently remembering the orders read, to take the whole country instead of the town, they pressed on and drove the Filipinos out on the other side. It was difficult to get the Kansans to halt; it was impossible to stop the Filipinos.
The insurgents kept up a continuous fire from the town of Malabon and the country surrounding the American intrenchments at Caloocan. The Kansas boys, few of whom had ever been under fire, behaved admirably making steady advances in the face of heavy fire and never flinching in a degree. The Twentieth held its position in Caloocan until March 24th.
After leaving Caloocan, the Twentieth was moved to La Luna church about a mile southeast of Caloocan. The Filipinos were strongly entrenched on the north bank of the Tuluahau river. The advance on the enemy was begun at 6:30 A. M., of March 25th, and the whole line moved up to the south bank of the river. Here was the first place that the swimming abilities of the Kansas boys came into play. Company E, led by Captain William J. Watson, succeeded in crossing the river under fire and driving the insurgents from their position. The entire line then crossed and the position was occupied for the night.
The next day the Kansas continued to advance, meeting with little resistance and finally crossed the Manila at Dagupon railway, near Polo Station. The night was passed near the station.
Early on the morning of March 27th, the march was resumed and at 7 o'clock the command passed through the town of Meycanagau. Just beyond the town the regiment halted for dinner, and the meal had scarcely been finished when companies H and I were called into action on the left of the road, the enemy occupying a position across the Marilao river. After the attempt to dislodge them had failed, plans were made for crossing the river. Colonel Funston and a platoon of Company C crossed on a hastily constructed raft and made a vigorous onslaught on the rear of the Filipino intrenchments. Twenty-eight prisoners, with their rifles and ammunition, were captured.
The platoon re-crossed the river and the command marched down to the town of Marilao, crossing the river there. At that point the regiment was met by a body of insurgents, who attempted to advance. The Filipinos were driven back with loss and the Kansans occupied their former position for the night, holding it during the next day.
At six o'clock on the morning of February 29th, the brigade again moved forward, the Twentieth occupying a position on the right of the line and left of the railroad track. Within a mile from the town the enemy was met and driven back across the Santa Maria Bigaa and Guigninta rivers, halting for about two hours at a point south of the town of Bigaa. Just north of the Guiguinta river, a body of insurgents met the Americans lines with a galling fire and the march was checked. The line was quickly formed and for twenty minutes the battle raged. The Filipino's fire was then silenced.
The march was not continued until March 30th at 2:30 P. M., the line proceeding to the main road to Malolos, where a slight resistance was met. In this campaign, as in the fighting at Caloocan, the members of the Twentieth showed the soldierly qualities in the men of Kansas. Fortitude and endurance were displayed in a manner that may well make this state proud of her sons.
On the morning of March 31st, the gallant regiment advanced toward Malolos and soon entered the town. Colonel Funston and a part of Company E moved ahead of the regiment and were the first to enter the streets of the rebel city, charging forward with cheers and sending the insurgents flying before their furious fire. They pushed forward to the public square, meeting with but little resistance on account of the great respect of the Filipinos for their intrepidity. The insurgents raced out of the opposite side of the city and the American line took a position a mile north of town. This camp was maintained until April 25th.
On that day active operations were again resumed and the Twentieth, in conjunction with the First Montana, moved against the insurgent's intrenchments, which had been thrown up on the north bank of the Bagbag river. About half a mile from the river, the command was halted and an armored train shelled the intrenchment briskly for a short time. Company K then moved up to the river and secured a position, whereby the intrenchments of the rebels were enfiladed. The fire against the enemy's lines was kept up for a short time and the rebels were driven from their position.
The brigade then encamped for the night and on the next day the march toward Calumpit was resumed. The Americans were fired upon frequently as they pushed forward and a strong force was encountered at that town. The fire from the insurgents was continued on April 27th.
A railroad bridge spanned the Bagbag river at Calumpit and before the American troops were sighted the insurgents sawed part way through the girders of the bridge, hoping to precipitate the armored train, which had been playing so much havoc with their prospects, to the bottom of the river when it attempted to cross. The incision had been made too deep, however, and when the command came to the bridge, it had fallen through on account of its own weight.
The river was before the boys, with the enemy on the other side. The problem to be solved was how to get across in the safest and most expeditious way. Colonel Funston ordered Company K, under Captain Boltwood, to a position where it would attract the fire of the enemy. He then sent Lieutenant Collin H. Ball with a scouting party for a reconnoissance of the country toward the bridge.
Lieutenant Ball took with him four men from his own company on whom he knew he could rely. They were Corporal Arthur Ferguson and Privates Norman Ramsey, Albert Cornett and Abraham C. Woodruff. After they had reached the south end of the bridge, they were joined by Colonel Funston and Company K.
"How are we to cross the river?" shouted the Colonel above the rattle of the firing.
"Swim," replied the equally little and equally brave lieutenant, also shouting to make himself heard.
Followed by the four men and the first squad of Company A the two officers ran out on the bridge to the place where the girders had been severed. One by one the men dropped into the water and were soon swimming toward the enemy, the bullets raising little fountains of water about their heads as they moved forward.
Up the bank they charged, Bugler Charles P. Barshfield, of Company B nerving them to deeds of bravery by the clear inspiriting notes of his bugle. The Filipinos were routed almost before they had realized the wonderful bravery and audacity of the handful of men.
Thinking only of the success of the American arms and the glory of the American flag, the members of that little party, barely more than a corporal's guard, did not think that they were performing an act that would earn for them an eternal place in the memory of their countrymen. It was not rashness that caused them to make that swim, nor was it an outcome of the implicit obedience to orders which they had learned at San Francisco; it but illustrated the highest type of heroism and patriotism, which had been instilled into them by the freedom they knew in far-away Kansas.
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