Tag Archives: Spanish-American War

Tales of the Gatling

Tales of the Gatling

Tales of the Gatling

Believe it or not when Dr. Richard Gatling received the patent for his Gatling gun in 1862 he did so thinking that it would lead to smaller armies and thus fewer deaths. He truly underestimated the human condition. We’ve all seen pictures of the Gatling guns and are familiar with their looks. The one pictured above is an 1883 model that saw duty with the Illinois National Guard during the Spanish-American War.

The round cartridge at the top carried 104 rounds of .45 caliber ammunition that would be fed through the ten barrels at a potential rate of 350 rounds per minute. They could certainly lay down a heck of a field of fire. The problem was they were heavy and needed the carriage to be moved from place to place.

Two stories

Two stories about Gatling guns sort of give you a good overview of their usefulness.  During the Spanish-American War, a battery of four Gatling guns was used with great effectiveness during the charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba. Three of them were swivel mounted and could pretty much rake the Spanish lines. During that one battle, the three guns fired over 18,000 rounds of ammunition and helped the Americans win the day.

A few years earlier in 1876 General George Custer of the US 7th Cavalry took his troops on a punitive expedition against the natives in the hills of South Dakota. It did not end well for them. The US troops were very, very outnumbered and figured that superior technology and tactics would win the day. The big problem, perhaps, was that they left behind several Gatling guns that had been tasked to them.

The Gatling was heavy and slow and though they could have provided overbearing firepower to Custer and his men, he decided they would just slow his horses down. He deployed without them. Who knows what difference if any those guns would have made during the battle?

Wednesday Words & Phrases: Boondocks

Old Logging Road
Thanks to a certain cartoon this is the cleanest version of The Boondocks I could find.


You most likely hear this term when you are headed out to some remote region or some unexpected place. How did we end up out in the boondocks? 

This comes to us from the Philippines were American Marines picked it up from Filipino guerrillas during the Spanish-American War (1898).  It comes from their word for hill or mountain, bundok.

Dog Tags

Dog Tags

Dog Tags

In the Civil War, it was not uncommon for soldiers to write their name and hometown on pieces of paper to be pinned onto their backs. The idea was that if they were to fall in battle someone would know who they were. Maybe even there would be a chance for their body to make it home.

To that extent, the Civil War saw innovations in embalming techniques that would allow for a body to be preserved for the trip home. If they could afford it. A soldier who purchased the service would be issued a  medallion that they were to wear around their neck. After the battle representatives of the embalming company would search through the bodies to find their clients. These men would be embalmed and sent home.

What would eventually become “dog tags” was born.

On December 20, 1906, War Department General Order No. 204 that was issued. This order made the “identification tag” standard military issue. This tag was to be an aluminum disk approximately the size of a silver half-dollar. It would be stamped with name, rank, company, and regiment. The order provided that the tags would be issued to enlisted men for free, but officers had to purchase theirs at cost.

In 1916 the regulations were changed to provide two tags to each individual. One to be kept with them and one for the burial services and record keeping. At a later point, the religious beliefs of the wounded were added to ensure the proper services during burial.

The tags in the picture above are from the Pre-WWI era and were most likely issued to American soldiers that were engaged in the Philippine Insurrection.

The Philippine Campaign 1899-1913

The Philippine Campaign 1899-1913

The Philippine Campaign 1899-1913


In 1898 during the Spanish-American War, the United States liberated the Philippines from the Spanish. Unfortunately, many Filipinos were not any happier to be under American control than Spanish control. Even after the war with the Spanish ended the war in the islands continued. For three years, until July 1902 the United States and the Philippines remained in a state of war. Even an official peace did not stop the fighting. Rebel factions continued to fight the US until June of 1913. Yep, what started in 1898 continued until 1913. This particular conflict had a huge effect on our military and policies.

 First and foremost it was during this conflict, that was primarily a guerrilla war against unconventional forces, that the book was written on how to deal with this sort of war. In fact, the original blueprint for dealing with the unconventional tactics of the Viet Cong, came from the lessons learned during this war.

 So how did one get this ribbon?


 The following is from the USmilitary.about.com Page: 

The Philippine Campaign Medal was awarded for military service in the Philippine Islands under any of the following conditions indicated in AR 600-8-22, between the dates 4 February 1899 and 31 December 1913:

  • Ashore between 4 February 1899 and 4 July 1902.
  • Ashore in the Department of Mindanao between 4 Feb 1899, and 31 Dec 1, 1904.
  • Against the Pulajanes on Leyte between 20 July 1906 and 30 June 1907, or on Samar between 2 August 1904, and 30 June 1907.

With any of the following expeditions:

  • Pala on Jolo between April and May 1905.
  • Datu Ali on Mindanao in October 1905.
  • Against hostile Moros on Mount Bud-Dajo, Jolo, in March 1906.
  • Against hostile Moros on Mount Bagsac, Jolo, between January and July 1913.
  • Fighting hostile Moros on Mindanao or Jolo between 1910 and 1913.
  • Any action in which U.S. troops were killed or wounded between 4 February 1899, and 31 December 1913.

Considering that the Spanish-American war is barely remembered today, it is not a surprise that this conflict gets overlooked. It also doesn’t help that the dates of when it ended are up for discussion. Casualties are hard to quantify because of this also. For the US it was somewhere around 10,000 killed and wounded. For the Filipino’s between 12 and 20,000 killed and wounded with civilian casualties estimated at around 200,000 thousand.

That medal above represents a lot of lives in a forgotten conflict.

President McKinley, Remember Him?

President McKinley, Remember Him?

President McKinley, Remember Him?

Odds are no, you don’t. Over a hundred years later he remains famous for two things. The Spanish-American War and being assassinated.  In his time though he was known for much more. So well-known that he was elected President twice. However, his second term was cut short six months in by an assassin. The medals above were given out as a part of his second inaugural celebrations.

Besides being the last Civil War veteran to be President he also stood firm on a number of hot button topics at the time. Some of these are not far off from what the current politicians deal with. Which is interesting and a little sad that so little has changed.

McKinley was a strong proponent of the gold standard, having the value of the US dollar backed by the actual amount of gold in the US treasury. A novel concept that would eventually have to be abandoned with gusto by his successors.

He helped to pass tariffs that were designed to protect American business and workers. This made it more expensive for foreign companies to do business in the US.

He worked with Spain to get them out of a rebellious Cuba and grant them independence. When that didn’t work he stepped in and helped free them with our own military. (While securing Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines for ourselves.)

And perhaps most important to many, this former Governor of Ohio and President brought to the forefront Theodore Roosevelt. Who served as Vice-President during his second term. McKinley’s death catapulted Roosevelt into the Presidency and the history books.

Oh, and the high school on Glee was named after him, perhaps his most important contribution. (Not.)



The Spanish-American War Aftermath

Spanish American War Victory Medal

The Spanish-American War Aftermath

Yes, once again the Spanish-American War is a topic for this site. One of the reasons we touch upon it so much is that it falls in that odd period of American history after the Civil War and before WWI that a lot of people seem to think nothing happened during. The causes of the war are denoted elsewhere, the big names are listed elsewhere, this is a conflict that has a deep bench of personalities that bring their own stories.

Treaty of Paris

On December 10, 1898 the Treaty of Paris (yes there were a lot of treaties with that name) was signed between the US and Spain. In the treaty Spain renounced all claims to Cuba and outright ceded to the US Guam and Puerto Rico and for the tidy sum of $20 million ownership of the Philippines was transferred.  In effect the war ended the Spanish empire and gave birth to an American Empire that brought the US to the center of the world stage.

To this day Guam and Puerto Rico are still US territories with the issue of statehood for Puerto Rico under constant consideration. Guam is an important US military base that proves incredibly valuable today.

The last two on that list, well it gets complicated.


Cuba was granted full independence in 1902 and for the first time stood on its own. Mostly, the US still reserved the right to basically interfere and help guide the Cuban people as it saw fit. The island  was always ripe for revolution. For its part the US stepped in many times to ensure its interests during periods of unrest.  Revolutions in the 50’s and 60’s saw the communists brought to power and the USSR favored over the US. The US reacted a little childishly with a boycott that lasted until just recently. Stay tuned, this is a continuing story…

The Philippines did not go as well. The US fought an ongoing war to “subdue” the islands until interrupted by the Japanese and WWII. Yep close to thirty years fighting the Philippine Insurrection and that was only put on hold for a bigger war. After WWII, on July 4th 1946 the US finally recognized the Philippines as a sovereign state. The two countries have been close since with a number of treaties binding them together.  Glad to see there were no hard feelings.