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10 The Texas Immunes in the Spanish-American War James M. McCaffrey ON APRIL 21, 1898, upon Pres. William McKinley’s request, Congress authorized him to use US military power to bring the Cuban revolution to an end. Two days later he issued a call to the state governors to provide 125,000 men to form a temporary volunteer army to supplement the regular forces. Each governor received a quota based upon his state’s population, and great enthusiasm soon manifested itself. The governor of Minnesota, for example, was certain that his forty-four counterparts would not have to call forth any of their citizens because his state could provide more than twice the total number of men requested.1 Nowhere was the response more immediate than in Galveston, Texas. There, within hours of the president’s call, hundreds of eager men thronged a meeting at Cathedral Hall to form one of Texas’ three requested regiments of infantry. The president of the University of Texas addressed the patriotic throng, as did Civil War veterans from both sides. One speaker reminded the men that, while their enthusiasm was admirable, it was not enough to win the war. He told them of his own similar feelings of boyish enthusiasm in 1861, later tempered by four hard years of war. Nevertheless, by the next day enough men had signed up to form the basis of six companies, and they had chosen 1st Lt. Charles S. Riché, of the US Army Corps of Engineers, as the commander of what they began referring to as the 1st Texas Regiment.2 Riché and his new command were soon disappointed to learn that Gov. Charles A. Culberson was going to fill the state’s quota with men from the established state guard units. Such in fact had been the intent when the president made his call for volunteers, that the nation’s national guardsmen would receive first preference . Riché’s would-be warriors remained optimistic, however, that there would 214 James M. McCaffrey be another call for volunteers, and they voted unanimously to stay organized and continue drilling for at least the next thirty days in anticipation of such an event.3 They did not have to wait very long for another opportunity to serve. Recognizing the dangers that tropical diseases, particularly yellow fever, presented to any occupation force in Cuba, authorities sought to recruit men who had already been exposed to these diseases and had built up immunities to them. Congress thus authorized, on May 11, 1898, the raising of ten regiments of such men. The army designated the resulting units as the 1st through the 10th US Volunteer Infantry Regiments. White officers and soldiers comprised the first six numbered regiments, while the 7th through the 10th had white company commanders and regimental officers and black enlisted men and junior officers. Riché immediately offered his fledgling command as one of the “immune” regiments, even though there had been no effort to limit enlistment to those with the requisite immunities. Nevertheless, the government accepted the regiment, and it became the 1st US Volunteer Infantry Regiment, or the 1st Immune Regiment. The Texan reaction was not unique. When the call for immunes went out, even the unlikely states of Michigan and Wisconsin got into the excitement, each offering to provide more than enough men to fill all ten proposed regiments. Ironically, recruiters did not always meet such enthusiasm in those parts of the country where young men with the sought-for immunities might actually live. A newspaper writer in New Orleans found that “although the ‘immunes’ are free from yellow fever dangers, the germs of the disease seem to have played sad havoc with patriotic fervor and left them as immune from any idea of enlistment as from the fever.” Ultimately, according to the same source, “Young bums, old bums, any one from anywhere that will merely state he is immune and willing to enlist will be recruited, clothed and fed.”4 Official acceptance of Riché’s command made further recruiting much easier, and all across the state prominent citizens sought to convince enough young men to enlist to form complete companies, which they would then offer to the authorities in Galveston. Juan Hart, founder and owner of the El Paso Times, was one such man. Others included Confederate veteran Stephen Allen of Palestine, ex–Texas Ranger Lee Hall of San Antonio, and Frank Ryan of Sherman. Each of these men sent or accompanied dozens of men to...


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