Fourteen Lowell area residents fought in the Spanish American War. As announced in the Lowell Ledger on May 19, 1898, “The following boys went with the Sons of Veterans organization to Island Lake to be mustered in and drilled for active service: Clarence E. Long, Will E. McCarty, Walter Gibson, Sherman Reynolds, Ulman Hawk, Charles Dickerson, Hayes Rolf and Bert Fenning. The following went to Ionia to join the 34th Regiment there: John Clark, Harvey Gibson, Myron Rice, Jay Gibbs, and Onie Wingate. The volunteers were sent off from the G.A.R. Hall by the Lowell Military Band, the pupils of the village schools, many veterans, and citizens. They were escorted to the depot to the inspiring strains of “Hail Columbia.” Here the band played “The Star-Spangled Banner” while the school children sang. Three cheers were given for the Stars and Stripes and three more for the boys who were going to war; there were tearful hand shakings, sad adieus and expressions of good will and hope, then the conductor called “All aboard” and the Lowell boys were off to the war.”
What was it like for these boys from Lowell? Today it is possible to peek into those battle lines through the words of these boys themselves. Both Clarence Long and Robert Jones wrote letters to the newspaper, their family and friends that have been preserved. May 31, 1898 – Camp Alger, VA, from Serg’t Clarence E. Long, Co L, 33d Mich Inf:
Clarence explained how the camp at Island Lake straightened many boys out who thought the army would be a ‘circus’. Upon arriving at Camp Alger in Virginia, they realized there was no camp, they had to cut down the timber to make the camp. At the time of writing, they had cleared five acres and had a marching ground, and they were beginning to feel at home. There were 22,000 men in the camp. The water was so bad they had to boil it. In addition, an attempt was made to poison the water supply. Thankfully the men involved were caught, but one was killed while being captured and another hanged himself. The remaining suspects were being held under guard. Clarence stated that he doesn’t know where they will be headed next or when, but that the Lowell boys in his unit are all in his tent and they are getting along well.
An undated letter, published in early June of 1898, Tampa Florida from Robert L.C. Jones, of the 32nd Michigan Volunteers:
Robert described how the unit left Island Lake on May 19th and went to Detroit, and then south. They received a rousing reception in Cincinnati, the people there blew whistles and rang bells for half an hour! They arrived at the Florida camp and the Michigan boys were shocked that at noon it was 110 degrees in the shade. They expected to move to Cuba in a few days. The only water available for them to drink was warm. The trip was rough on them. They were on the train from Thursday night until Monday morning, off the train twice for 20 minutes of exercise. That was 86 hours of constant riding. He promised the hometown people he would continue writing.
July 9, 1898 - Siboney, Cuba by Sergt Clarence E. Long, Co L, 33d Mich. Vol. Inf:
Clarence describes how they were involved in the attack on a small town behind Fort Morro, and at the same time the rest of the army attacked Santiago. Two of the men in their company were killed and several injured by a masked battery hidden in the hills to control the approaching troops. While their company sustained these losses, it could have been much worse had they been in with the attack on Santiago. He describes the losses taking the city of Santiago as very severe. On the third day he was on scout duty when he saw the Spanish fleet make their dash out of the harbor. He saw the naval battle and the destruction of the entire fleet. He assures the hometown readers that the Lowell boys, though some have had narrow escapes, are well and feeling good.
July 28, 1898 - Santiago, Cuba, from Sergt. Clarence E. Long, Co. L. 33 Mich. Vol. Inf:
Clarence tells Lowell readers that hometown boy Maurice Lang was in the hospital but had lost track of him. Other than Lang, he says all of the Lowell boys are well.
September 8, 1898, brought the news all of Lowell had been waiting to hear. “Soldier Boys Home” the headlines shouted. Lowell rejoiced as none of the hometown boys had been lost in the war. Businesses decorated in red, white and blue and all the people turned out in hundreds to greet the returning heroes as the Lowell & Hastings train arrived. There was music by the band, firing of guns and shouts of the people. Four were on the train, Clarence Long, Hayes Rolf, Bert Fenning and Sherman Reynolds. Ullman Hawk had arrived home a few days before, quite sick. Nonetheless, he greeted the others and shared in the reception. The band led the way to Island Park, south of Main Street, and an impromptu program was carried out. There was patriotic music, speeches, and then, despite the weakened state of the soldiers, the people proceeded to shake all of their hands. Morris Lang and Charles Dickerson were in the hospital but were expected home soon. Robert Jones from the 32nd regiment was ill in a Detroit hospital.
Many of these new veterans participated in groups such as the American Legion and the United Spanish War Veterans Camps, continuing to serve and support their fellow veterans and preserve the memories of their service in this little-known war.
FromRobert L.C. Jones - https://archives.kdl.org/The%20Lowell%20Ledger/1898/06_June/06-02-1898.pdf
From Clarence E. Long - https://archives.kdl.org/The%20Lowell%20Ledger/1898/06_June/06-09-1898.pdf
From Clarence Long - https://archives.kdl.org/The%20Lowell%20Ledger/1898/07_July/07-28-1898.pdf
Not in article, but from Clarence Long to his sister -https://archives.kdl.org/The%20Lowell%20Ledger/1898/08_August/08-04-1898.pdf
From Clarence Long - https://archives.kdl.org/The%20Lowell%20Ledger/1898/08_August/08-18-1898.pdf