Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day and the Spanish American War

For my Memorial Day post this year, I'm looking at one of my relatives who fought in the Spanish-American war.  My great grandmother's younger brother William Frederick Smith served in old Sixth Massachusetts infantry, Company D.  This company's campaign was in Puerto Rico, as you can see from the map I found.
The red line shows the area marched as my great uncle mentions in a letter home. I went back to my old standby, The Fitchburg Sentinel, and sure enough they published a portion of his letter home to my great grandfather George. I feel so lucky to have this resource!
His complaints don't sound too different from many soldiers: poor food, hard marching, mud, bad weather and disease...oh, and equipment that doesn't work properly. Puerto Rico in August must have been a shock to a New England boy. I love the line "It rains about every five minutes."
     In one of the online archives, I found a whole book just on the Sixth Massachusetts. There in the roll for Company D was my great uncle. He served well, returned home safely and lived out his life in Fitchburg and Leominster working for a shipping company. So this Memorial Day I salute Frederick Smith, 1876-1931. Thank you for your service.


  1. I have been on that route from Ponce to Utuado. It was in 1973 and we travelled up the river into the mountains in the central cordillera. As a lowland city, Ponce is near desert, but as you rise in elevation the clouds from the Caribbean begin to rake the hills with moisture. There is a rocky stream most of the way along the modern roadway until you reach the high passes of the interior. The highest spot on the island is on this route, I think about 1400 meters. At the top there is a rain forest with tree ferns an important part of the flora. It does get cold at night. We continued on that route to Utuado where we camped overnight on a broad, shallow stream. The next morning we toured an indigenous Indian site with mock-ups of buildings, and then the radio telescope of Arecebo. Lots of now-defunct coffee plantations were visible as relics on the rougher acreages, while over-exploited farming areas in the valleys where forest would have dominated the terrain in the 1898's.

    1. Wow! To our modern eyes this sounds tropical and lovely. Imagine hiking that route in a wool uniform with a heavy pack of equipment and supplies. I hope, after reflection, he was able to remember some of the prettier things you described. Thanks for sharing.