Camp Cuba Libre
The Soldiers' Glorious Fourth. A Visit to St. Augustine. Gen. Lee and Senora Carbonell. Flag Raising of Fourth Regiment. Patriotic Speech by R.W. Ropinquet. The Grand Street March. Condotion of Co. "I."
JACKSONVILLE, FLA., July 9,
UNION: We are still in flowery Florida, but have more hopes of getting to do something now than we have ever had since we have been here. The boys are still in good health and spirits. They have made many warm friends in the city of Jacksonville and vicinity all seem to be at home in the sunny south and are always welcomed every where they go.
The weather still continues warm, but does not seem to effect the soldiers as bad as it did at first.
We have showers almost daily and this cools the atmosphere, but doesn't take long to dry up as there is nothing but sand, and we have no mud.
It will be late news to the readers of the UNION but I will tell you about our Fourth of July. The Fourth in Florida does not differ much from that in our home state. The selfsame blushing country girls with red, white and blue palm fans stood on the corners from early morning till after the "fire works" chewing their "wax" and drinking red lemonade, looking at the soldiers, and the small boys' fire works would also remind one that he was enjoying a celebration at home. All of the merchants and citizens were patriotic and decorated their places of business. The fashionable shades of red, white and blue were everywhere in flags and bunting, long streams and festunes of the colors floating from cornices and windows high above the ground. Patriotism is at high tide in Jacksonville in these exciting days and it is a mighty poor man, or sick one, who doesn't have some indication of his Americanism about his home or place of business.
Long before the sounding or revelle the sound of cannons were heard in camp and awakened the sleeping soldiers to remind them that it was the return of our national anniversary and all day long they continued as if they were echoes of Shafter at Santiago. At noon a national salute of 48 cannons were fired by battery "A," there being one for each state, one foe Cuba, one for the Phillippines and one for Porto Rico. Then the news of the victory at Santiago was received and the cannoning continued and the bands from all parts of the camp played in a general mix up, "Dixie," "Yankee Doodle," "The girl I left behind me" and "The Star Spangled Banner."
Cheers were constant and the morning in camp was noisy with the enthusiasm of the soldiers.
All the duties of the soldiers were discontinued for the day except guard duty and we all enjoyed the day to the full extent.
There was a good shower in the morning which made the air cool, also in the evening which prevented the march of the soldier boys. This was a great disappointment to the people. The Second Regiment band was to give a concert on Bay and Ocean streets but was prevented by rain and gave it at the Winsor Hotel. There were many excursions to the city, the chief attraction being the soldiers.
Everything passed off without accident and the occasion will long be remembered.
To commemorate the Fourth of July Gen. Arnold, commanding the Second division, issued an order, July 3rd, of which the following is an extract!
"The division commander feels that the men of his command now appreciate that, while they are soldiers, they have given up none of their obligations as citizens. They have double duties to perform, those of the soldier and those of the citizen, the most important of these duties being obedience to the orders of their superiors and to the future that he will live up to these requirements.
"There may be serious work for this division of the Seventh army corps and for good work each man must know his drill, his duty, and keep himself im health and good physical training. The soldier gives his life but it is also his duty so to train himself that he may defend his country by being able to fight to such effect that he may not give his life in vain. We may not be together another Fourth of July and it is the wish of the division commander that the national holiday be observed loyally and fittingly by all the men of his command. He therefore orders that so much of the sentences of the field officers' court imposing confinement be hereby remitted and that all prisoners confined by the sentences of such courts be relaesed from confinement and return to duty."
This order was read to the 4th Reg. last Sunday evening by Col. Andel and took effect from that time.
The boys of the 4th Ill. had a celebration of their own Monday morning in the way of a flag raising. The boys of Co. "D" erected a pole on which they raised the stars and stripes and also the colors of Cuba. They extended an invitation to all the boys and had a good attendance. The regimental and line officers were present at the ceremonies which was opened by a patriotic selection by the 4th Reg. band followed by an invocation by Chaplain Todd.
Co. D's quartet sang "Illinois," after which amid the strains of "Star Spangled Banner" the flag was elevated by Col. Andel amid the hearty cheer of the soldiers. R.W. Ropinquet, a private of Co. "D," delivered in part the following address.
"The flag which we have today floated to the breeze one hundred and twenty years ago was by the glorious spirit of '76 dedicated to the cause of freedom and liberty. The principals then proclaimed that the flag dedicated to them have been through all these years transmitted unsullied and unstained with dishonor from generation to generation. During these yers there has been a great struggle between the brothers of our country, and the red stripes of the banner have been dyed in a deeper crimson by the blood of freedom shed for the sins of a nation and in advancement of the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Today in response to a nation's call, two hundred thousand of her noblest sons have left their homes and sacrificed their all in defense of their nation's flag and the principle it represents. The spirit that impelled the men of Ill. in '61 at Shiloh and on the March to the Sea, today goes with the same fervor. I look into the faces of my brave comrades here today and see depicted upon them the same patriotic sacraficial spirit that has marked the sons of freedom since the first days of the Republic. The cause for which we are now strugglin is the noblest that ever called forth the energies of man, not for greed and not for gain, but in the defense of the principles the proclamation of which has made memorable the day we celebrate, is this contest being waged: like the statue on Bledsoe's Island, typical of this nation's mission we are sent to enlighten the world and upon the beginning of this we are now entering. The seed sown by our fathers on virgin soil of this continent which have been the fruitage of the nation's glory which we now enjoy are by us to be sown in the Island of the Sea until the principles of '76 shall find universal sway among the nations of the earth and the oppressor's rod no more be swayed over the western continent at least. The standing army of this nation is an army of volunteer freedmen, every man is an equal and every man is a peer. Comrades of the 4th Ill.: the heroism of a Dewey at Manilla, of a Hobson at Santiago, and the brave boys of Mass. and N.Y. volunteers though they be, will forever emblazon the pages of American History. When the time comes for the 4th Ill. to face the nation's foe, we tpp, will demonstrate that the spirit of a Lincoln and the volunteer Lofan still beats in the hearts of the men in Ill. Let us be true to our trust, my comrades, we may be, whether on the battle field or in the more peaceful camp, let us do nought that will cast diahonor upon the uniforms we wear, and the cause we represent. If it be our lot to die, let us die, let us die nobly, and as freedman, and if it be our lot to return to our homes again may we take with us the lessons of sacrifce and obedience. Be true to our nation in times of peace, as well as in war, and protect the flag we have thus learned to honor and cherish from every strain of national dishonor and so live this bird (Sam Houston) of freedom may ever be a true emblem of American valor, and that the Star Spangled Banner may forever wave o'er the land of the true as well as the home of the brave."
During the ceremonies our mascot, Sam Houston, sat on a perch to the left of the speakers and looked quite dignified. The crowd was dismissed by Capt. Todd and then three rousing cheers were given for Cuba.
The 7th Army Corps was to have given a grand street march in the evening but on account of rain it was postponed until Tuesday and still it rained, but Gen. Lee was determined to carry out his plans. Just as we left camp it began to rain and continued during the entire march, all were wet from Gen. Lee down to the drumer boys. The march lasted about two hours and a half, the streers were lined with people who had come out to see the soldier boys. The rain had little effect on the people and they forgot the rain in the enthusiasm of seeing so many soldiers, and we were greeted with many cheers and clapping of hands. Eleven regiments were in line led by Gen. Lee. The boys from the north and south marched side by side to the music of Star Spangled Banner. Torrey's Rough Riders were not forgotten in the applause, it was their first appearance in the city and nearly every one was surprised to see the fine horses they rode. The last in the procession were the little pack mules with big bundles tied on their backs. Most of the boys wore rubber ponchos as they marched along and kept off some of the rain. We were reviewed at Ocean Street. The parade was led by mounted policemen then came Gen. Lee and his staff. It was a sight never before seen in Jacksonville in the history of the present generation and not likely to be again.
After we reached camp there was a scramble for dry clothes. Fortunately most of us had an extra uniform, and were not long in changing. None of the boys felt the worse for the march, and the next day we had a lay off from duty and dried our wet clothes and cleaned our rusty guns.
Recruits received by the 2nd and 4th Ill. Regt. are becoming efficient in the manual and are gradually being taken into the companies. They all stand the change of climate splendidly.
Co. "L" of the 4th. received, Friday, from the women of Olney Ill., 100 portable mattresses or hammocks, the ticking being so made that they can be stuffed with straw and used as beds and if necessary the straw can be removed and the canvas hung up as a hammock.
Co. "D" of the 4th Ill. received last week a donation of $230 from Bellville to be used for company purposes.
Capt, Todd held religious meeting in Co. "I's" cook shed last Sunday. His theme was "For we must all appear at the Judgment seat of Christ." He delivered an interesting sermon to a large and appreciative congregation of soldier boys, after which Brig. Gen. Bancroft made an excellent talk to the boys.
The 2nd N.Y. Inft. passed through here last Sunday night on its way to Tampa, Fla.
The Salvation Army visits us in camp about once a week. They make music, amusement and sport for the boys.
Sunday School was held in our cook "shock" last Sunday evening, conducted by R.W. Ropinquet of Co. D. It was well attended.
Pete Yarbrough, formerly of Vandalia, but who is now stationed at Ferdenandina, Fla. with the artillery, visited Co. "I" last Monday. He reports every thing in good condition on the coast.
A number of the boys from the camps are seen daily now with their cameras and some of the men have quite a pretty set of pictures of the camp, and the city, which they intend to carry home some time in the future for the interest of their friends.
Madame Evanelina Carbonell accompanied Gen. Lee and his staff Sunday afternoon on his ride through camp. Senora Carbonell is a spy for U.S. who escaped from a Spanish prison in Cuba. She wore a military kepi and preseted most attractive figure. As the cavalcade was passing they were given many cheers which made the old pines tremble.
The canteen of the 4th Regt. has proved to be a good thing financially for the boys, each company was issued a check for $20 this evening and it has been buying cabbage and tomatoes for each campany and has $800 in bank yet as a reserve for the regiment. The net proceeds of the canteen is for the benefit of the regiment.
Capt. Todd, our post master, is kept busy with the mail and has had a new post office erected which was greatly needed.
Co. "I" now has a libraty in squad No. 1. It contains books and magazines sent to us by the friends of our company. This is the source of much pleasure and profit to the boys.
Four hundred pairs of leggins were issued to the boys of the 4th Regt. Tuesday.
While blasting up stumps with dynamite a private in Co. "M" had his arm badly ;acerated. He was struck by a piece of flying stump. His arm was dressed at the hospital and he is now improving.
W.D. Souter, of Jacksonville has enlisted with the 4th Reg. Ill. band and will play the baritone.
Ligget & Myers Tobacco Co., of St. Louis, again donated each of the boys of the 4th a ten cent piece of chewing tobacco Wednesday.
A number of the boys witnessed a hanging of a negro down town Wednesday morning.
Our band will recieve new instruments next week.
The requisition made for the recruits has not been filled yet.
The 4th Ill.is shy twenty-five men but these can be gotten in a short time.
The other night I had a dream and thought I was in Cuba and that being in the fight at Santiago I imagined that my feet were tangled in some barbed wire fence but on awaking it was found that I had got them tangled in Jim Courtney's mustache.
A large number of us soldier boys visited St. Augustine and saw many things of interest to us. We left Jacksonville at nine a.m. and reached St. Augustine at 10:15. On arriving we hired a rig and proceeded to take in the sights. The things which most attracted our atttention was the "City Gates," being built of stone in two large pillars; "The Plaza and Catherdral," a magnificent structure; the "Sea Wall," of tonse, the oldest house in America; "Treasury Street." the narrowest street in the U.S. being only seven feet wide; the swimming pool in the Alcazar; "Hotel Ponce de Leone," which is a beautiful piece of architecture and posses a grand logia and ladies' court; old "Ft. Marion,: which is of historical importance. It is built out of hugh rough stones with conqina stairway, and Ft. Matanzas near St. Augustine. After taking in the sights of the city we drove to the beach where some went bathing , some picked up shells, and some took a sail out to visit the light house. While Capts. Houston and Parker were walking down the beach they saw what they thought to be a beautiful shell and as they approached it it began to move. They kept chasing it through the sand till at last, to their disgust they found it to be a piece of paper blown by the wind. Along the coast near St. Augustine the harbor is being mined and there are also some infantry companies stationed there.
In the evening when the boys were all weary and most of them loaded down with shells they started for the depot to go back to camp all delighted with their day's excursion.
Co. "L" of Olney is on provost guard down town this week.
There are two companies on provost guard at a time and they serve one week. Co. I has not yet been put on provost duty.
The rules of camp life are getting to be more strict nad hard is the soldiers' lot who is caught down town without proper credentials. There is a guard on almost every corner in the city and each soldier is required to show his pass. This is a good thing for the boys as they have to keep regular hours. Their health is good, in general better than when they came here.