Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

How they celebrated the Fourth during the 'Splendid Little War'


July 5, 2018 | View PDF

The cadet corps of the State College of Washington

The cadet corps of the State College of Washington made an impressive appearance in the 1898 Fourth of July parade at Pullman. This WSU archive photo from the library's Rural Heritage collection is on display in the courthouse.

A young Whitman County in 1898 marked a unique celebration when it marked the Fourth of July during what was later called "The Spendid Little War." When the big day arrived that year, the United States and Spain were in the final weeks of a war in which Spain lost control of Cuba, the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico.

Young men from the county had answered the call as war fever mounted and was fueled in part by yellow journalism in which this publication took a small part.

The path to war was fueled by the explosion which sank the U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor Feb. 15. The Maine had been dispatched to look after U.S. interests as Cubans revolted against Spanish rule of the island. Deaths of U.S. sailors on the Maine were reported at 250.

President William McKinley reacted with caution but the call for war increased and it became official on April 21.

The Colfax Weekly Commoner in its report of a "Glorious Fourth" noted the day started out with an early blast from a cannon which had been built in the Carley Brother's shop in Colfax.

The report noted the Commoner during the day posted telegraph bulletins about the July 3 defeat of Spanish Admiral Pasqual Cervera's fleet in the battle of Santiago de Cuba in what turned out to be the largest naval battle of the war.

Residents cheered as the Commoner posted successive dispatches about the victory.

Another part of the report noted Capt. Kincaid's Colfax marine boys group drilled for 20 minutes before the appreciative crowd.

One of the few pictures remaining from July 4, 1898, was the photo of the WSC cadet unit marching on Main Street in Pullman. The unit marched with a band and a mounted military escort.

E.W. Bryan, the first president of the state college, in his "Historical Sketch" of the school noted the Regular Army officer in charge of the cadets was ordered to the front in April.

At the outset of the war, the cadet battalion offered itself as a volunteer company to Gov. John Rogers who "very wisely declined to accept it," Bryan noted.

Many students at the college, which graduated its first class a year earlier, dropped out of school and volunteered for service.

Among the student volunteers was R.E. Bucklin who wound up being wounded in action.

William Stimson's book on a Century of WSU Student Life noted Bucklin was among a dozen ROTC cadets who enlisted in the Army and served in the Philippines. Bucklin rode a train across the state in 1896 to begin studies at the state college.

Stimson's book includes a picture of Bucklin in dress uniform while he was recovering at the Presidio in San Francisco.

Most of the volunteers from the West Coast trained and were dispatched from the Presidio.

Lewis-Clark State College students were among volunteers at Lewiston which were called up by the Idaho governor to service and departed May 5 on the steamer, Almota, according to an account by Steven Branting in the May 5 Lewiston Tribune. The Almota transported the volunteers downstream on the Snake River to Riparia where they boarded a train.

The Commoner at Colfax in its July 1 edition noted E.W. Weinberg had departed five days earlier for Pomeroy where one of four companies from the state was to be formed in a second round call issued by the governor under the command of E.H. Fox of Tekoa, a newly commissioned major.

He was ordered to report to Olympia.

Colfax volunteers C.E. Ewart, George East, John McFarland, George Vollmer, Charles Corey and Frank McClintock boarded a train for Portland that week.

The Gazette reported at least 1,000 people and the Colfax City Band turned out to see the six volunteers off at the station. The recruits were headed for a training camp in Tacoma.

The strong sendoff by Colfax residents could have been generated by the local publication's possible role in the "yellow journalism" led by the Hearst papers and other chains.

The Gazette editions at this time carried line illustrations of American and Spanish ships. The Spanish ships were described as out-dated, but the line sketches of the American ships were accompanied by power captions.

Line drawings in newspapers at the time derived from stiff paper mats which were mailed out to local publications. The mats were placed in forms and hot lead poured to produce a lead plate from the molds which could be locked into place on the press.

The July 1 Gazette included a full column run of four U.S. warships.

Another page in the edition included a line drawing of the "poorly protected" seawall at Manilla. The Spanish guns on the wall are described as "old style and entirely inadequate."

Robert Eben Bucklin

Robert Eben Bucklin, one of the ag college cadets who left to serve in the war, was wounded in the Philippines and was shown here recovering at the Presidio in San Francisco. Bucklin's account and this photo were included in William Stimson's book on student life at the college.

Other volunteers were already in the action.

The June 17 Gazette carried an account of the battle at Manilla Bay which was written by Dwight Hughes of Palouse who served aboard the Commodore George Dewey's flagship. Included with his lengthy letter to his mother was a Spanish sailor's cap ribbon.

The Commoner and Gazette both also reported July 1 that Elmer Bellinger, a former Colfax resident who had joined a company of Oregon volunteers, reported in a letter to a friend here about a warm greeting they had received in Hawaii. Men in uniform, Bellinger reported, have not "been able to spend a cent" in Honolulu because of the warm reception from the Hawaiians.

The recruits who departed Colfax in the last week of June were headed for a war which was about to end.

Spain had lost its fleets in Cuba and Manilla and negotiations for peace were concluded Aug. 12, less than six weeks after the Fourth of July celebrations that year.

A formal treaty was signed Dec. 10.

The 10-inch guns on the Monitor MonadnockThe cadet corps of the State College of WashingtonRobert Eben Bucklin


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