Sandburg's Hometown

April 21, 2014

Carl Sandburg - Sixth Regiment Illinois Volunteers - Spanish American War

Sandburg pictured with the 6th Regiment Illinois Volunteers (center)

Off to War
by Barbara Schock

During the spring of 1898, Carl Sandburg read the newspapers to keep abreast of the events in Cuba and Puerto Rico. The islands had been the possessions of Spain for several hundred years. The Spanish government put thousands of Cubans in concentration camps because the people were attempting to overthrow the oppressive government. Brutality and starvation as well as tropical diseases had killed many of the prisoners.

After the sinking of the United States battleship Maine on February 15th in Havana harbor, the newspapers carried stories about the loss of the ship as well as the camps on the island. Public concern was fed by the continuous flow of atrocities being reported in the papers. The Hearst and Pulitzer newspaper chains were particularly strident in their demands for war. Many residents of the Midwest and western states were in favor of invading Cuba to force the Spanish government to leave.

President William McKinley had been against going to war. Finally, on April 24, 1898, the United States Congress declared war on Spain.

Two days later Carl Sandburg enlisted in Company C of the Sixth Infantry Regiment of Illinois. He volunteered for two years’ service. There were 84 men in the company which traveled by train to Springfield. A huge crowd of Galesburgers was at the railroad depot to send the boys off with cheers and tears.

The men were quartered in one of the livestock buildings on the Illinois State Fairgrounds during May and June. They had physical examinations, learned to handle rifles, drill in formation and receive their uniforms.

Like other parts of the mismanaged war, the new soldiers were required to wear uniforms made of heavy wool. They were similar to those worn by Civil War veterans. This war was to be conducted on a tropical island.

There were students from Knox and Lombard Colleges in the unit as well as local farm boys. A number had relatives who had served in the Civil War. Their reasons for joining the army were varied: curiosity, a thirst for adventure, a desire to test themselves, love of country and to get away from a monotonous life. Or, perhaps, a combination of several of them.

On July 17th the company arrived at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Santiago had already been taken by U.S. troops. A week or so later, they landed on the south coast of Puerto Rico. The men of Company C waded ashore with their rifles over their heads. They saw only poor natives who were happy to see the men. Company C didn’t witness much fighting, but they had to deal with mosquitoes, hot and humid weather, heavy clothes, poor food, heat stroke, torrential rain and lice.

By September 21st the boys were back in Galesburg, being honored as heroes. Many of them had lost weight and suffered a bout of malaria. The people of Galesburg honored Company C with banquets and patriotic speeches.

Martin Sandburg asked his brother what he learned from the experience. Carl responded “I learnt more than I can use.”

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity