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Corporal Elmore Nelson

Submitted by William Nelson Garcia Bosque

Editor's Note: Although this doesn't pertain to Emmitsburg History, this story does serve as a reminder that Emmitsburg and Thurmont area men did serve in combat during the Spanish and American War. This article serves as a guide for Emmitsburg and Thurmont to remember those men and their deeds. May their deeds and their glory be forever remembered and never forgotten. Thank you Mr. Bosque for the content that went into the page.

My Grandfather Elmore Nelson served in both the Spanish American war in Cuba and the Philippines Insurrection. He enlisted on the 10th day of Sept, 1896 and served his 3 years. Because his regiment was engaged at the time of his supposedly discharge date, he continued fighting. He was born in Ontario, Canada. He was one of the survivors out of the 513 officers and men who entered Santiago in 1898, and is believed to be only 165 survivors. He was a corporal at the time of his discharge.

Corporal Elmore Nelson

See Elmore Nelson's Service Record

Elmore Nelson served in Company H of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, a combat regiment that was always in the field and on the offensive. On the 18th April, 1898, he departed by rail from Fort Crook, Nebraska, under the command of Charles A Wikoff and arrived on the 20th in Mobile, Alabama. War between Spain and the USA was declared on the 25th April 1898.

The Regiment was assigned to the Fifth Army, First Brigade, 2nd Division under Major General William R Shafter. It left Mobile on the 28th April arriving in Tampa Florida on the 2nd May. The commanding general realized that the army was not ready for a campaign in the tropics. The troops were all in heavy winter uniforms, which they were forced to wear throughout the Cuban action, as there was no time for them to be issued with uniforms more suited to the tropics.

On the 14th of June, they boarded the vessel Orizaba and sailed for Santiago, Cuba. Six days later, they arrived at Morro Castle, which is the entrance to Santiago Bay. Lt Colonel John Patterson was placed in command. They landed at Daiquiri and it was the first regiment to land in Cuba.

The small boats ferried them to shore in very choppy waters, so that the men were drenched. Each man carried a blanket, poncho and 3 day's rations all rolled up in a shelter tent. They marched through the choking dust which turned into mud on their sopping wet uniforms. The sun bore down, so the men threw away blankets, clothing, haversacks and even their rations. Conditions were grim. The next morning they took possession of Siboney.

On the 1st July, General Ladlow approached El Caney. Fierce battles ensued through overgrowth and jungles. They were one day battles with many casualties. The most famous of these battles is called the Battle of San Juan Heights. The soldiers slept alongside the muddy roadway. The troops withstood the lengthy siege of the Spanish, but being crouched in trenches, knee deep in water, short of rations, battling the insects and very hot weather, they were easy prey to tropical diseases. Grandfather saw combat. He saw men shot down all around him. Dysentery, malaria and other tropical diseases spread throughout the Regiment. Grandfather contracted both malaria and dysentery. On the 17th, they entered Santiago. Out of 513 officers and men, only 165 were left and almost all were suffering from disease and malnutrition.

Discharge Certificate

These men were returned to the US on the 11th August and sent to Montauk Point, New York. This is at the extreme end of Long Island to a receiving station called Camp Wikoff in honor of Colonel Wikoff, who had died in battle. Grandfather arrived there both physically and mentally ill.

Elmore Nelson's Letter of Service:

I am preparing my case for a rehearing, it is my desire that it appear in a respectful and comprehensible manner owing to near blindness cataracts in both eyes, right eye useless and left eye nearly so.   

I am detailing this statement, so that the merits of my case may be laid clearly before those assigned to rehear it.

I served during the Spanish and American War in Cuba and the Philippine Insurrection with Company "H" of the 22nd United States Infantry, a combat regiment that was always in the field, abs always on the offensive. My discharge shows numerous battles and engagements in both wars. I have seen men shot down all around me, it was not my lot to be shot although, I was in position to be shot were that to be my fate. Instead after the war was won in Cuba, it was my lot to be stricken with Malaria and Dysentery. 

When the expeditionary forces left Cuba for Camp Wikoff Long Island, I was down and out physically and mentally. Although hospitalized for these diseases, I still retained the Malarial Poisoning and its accompanying ill. The Philippine Insurrection coming so soon after the Spanish and American War did not allow sufficient time to eliminate the Malarial Poisoning and to recuperate strength and resistance for almost similar Tropical conditions. 

Therefore I entered the Philippine struggle with a body weak and filled with Malarial Poisoning and disease germs from Cuba, with the result that my power of resistance was at low ill and where in July 1899 after five months of marching and fighting pushing Bull Carts and all the different phases of the Tropical Campaigning during the Raining Season, I suffered a breakdown in left groin and vicinity and was sent into Mauila and the 3rd reserve hospital for treatment. There I was operated on for an injury to the left tactical only.

I was returned to my company while it was on the march and was still wearing bandages and very weak, but being in the field there was no alterative but at the time I was aware of a painful condition in the lower left groin, but thought it was due to the injury above mentioned, but in a short while I discovered that a small groin rupture was developing.

There came time for my discharge September 9th, 1899, but I could not be discharged then (My discharge reads retained in service on account of being engaged in operations against insurrections, so I continued with the Company until September 15th and I was discharged at Sindalo Luzen, in a native town that we had been engaged in taking. 

Since being discharged, this rupture that is located very low on the left groin close to acute of body unease in development. I could not find a truss that would hold it, so underwent an operation for same, but was not successful and now it is in extreme development. Malaria and chills are still with me. The intervals  between attacks depending on amount of quinine consumed

In the preceding sheets, I have endeavored to outline the chain of events that link together my service connected disabilities and now the worse thing that could happen to mankind approaching blindness, the very horror of it drives me to a frenzy of apprehension of the future.

What is there for a disabled blind man to do? What manner of employment could I seek and who would hire one in my condition? I know of no way I could provide revenue to help out in support of me and mine and to recompense those that I must call upon for assistance when necessary.   

I call attention to my last physical examination, in February of 1933, of pension I received 3/20/33. I am enclosing what evidence that I have been able to obtain.

Affidavit Number One: Covers Malaria Poisoning and Dysentery from Cuba at Camp  Wykoff and General hospital.

Number Two: From General Hospital Camp Wykoff via hospital ship Lewiston to Carney Hospital Boston and hospitalization there.

Number Three:  My physical condition on arrival at home near Flint, Michigan after being sent there on sick leave.

Number Four:  My physical condition after being recalled to Co from sick leave at home and also my physical condition on entering Philippine Insurrection and subsequent injury and hospitalization for same.

If you have any information that could help us expand our
archives on knowledge men from Emmitsburg who may have served in the Spanish American War, please send it to us at History@emmitsburg.net