Indiana Volunteers in Camp
Clarence Chambers Account
Clarence B. Chambers was born in Lancaster, Jefferson County, Indiana on March 25, 1861. He lived in Kent, Jefferson County, when he volunteered to fight in the war. He enrolled as a private in Madison on June 27, 1898 for two years in Company D of the 161st Indiana Regiment. He was thirty-seven years old, single, and a farmer. His record of service in the Indiana State Archives also provides this description: grey eyes, dark hair, dark complexion, height 5 feet 6.25 inches.
When his account of the war was donated to the Indiana Historical Society in 1980, his descendant indicated that he had three children and died on December 21, 1924 in Indianapolis. Pension records indicate that Myrtle E. Chambers, Clarence B. Chambers widow, applied for his soldier's pension March 16, 1925. The name Clarence Chambers appears in Indianapolis city directories from 1904 until 1922 with various occupations; it is not clear which entries apply to this man.
Sources: Documentation with collection SC 1718, Indiana Historical Society Library; Record . . . 1898-1899. W. E. Biederwolf, History of the One Hundred and Sixty-first Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry (Logansport, Ind.: Wilson, Humphreys & Co., 1899) provides a complete record of Chambers' regiment and has many interesting photographs. Biederwolf was chaplain of the regiment.
We went into quarters in the barns on the State fair grounds July 1st 1898. The boys immediately set to work in cleaning up their quarters. The cooks were then elected and set to work in preparing dinner. . . . Dinner was served about three oclock in the afternoon. It consisted of A spoonful of rice, A potato boiled with the jacket on A slice of bread . . . and A quart of coffee. The boys were hungry and were not very well satisfied with their dinner, but the cooks were new and were not fairly onto their job. Supper was much better we had beefsteak and beans and the boys eat until they were satisfied and by the next day all seemed to be in the best of spirits.
"Indianapolis Light Artillery." Note the State Fair buildings in the background. The tents behind the soldier and the artillery carriages were housing for the men of this unit. This unit was Battery A of the Indiana National Guard's First Regiment of Light Artillery. It became the Twenty-seventh Battery of Light Artillery, Indiana Volunteers when it was mustered into U.S. service May 10, 1898 (History of National Guard, 233, 365).
Image: The Indiana Woman, May 4, 1898.
Note: Photographs from The Indiana Woman, May 4, 1898 were taken
by Joseph W. Van Trees, a professional photographer in Indianapolis.
Initial quotations in the captions are from The Indiana Woman.
On Sunday morning July 3" 1898 the roll was called immediately after breakfast. . . . At ten oclock the boys were lined up for church services. . . . After rations were served on the morning of July 4th 1898 the company was lined up at 6.30 this being the time for the regular morning drill. Capt. [Charles E.] Cosby addressed the company by saying as this is A national holiday instead of drilling we will smoke and the cigars were passed around by the Capt. in person. . . .
July 5th 1898 was [medical] examination day for the Madison boys and every one was wondering whether or not he would pass the examination. There were several boys in our company that were so anxious to go that they actually shed tears upon being told that they were rejected The Madison boys were called upon to do picket guard duty for the first time at camp Mount on July 6" 1898. the camp grounds were unusually crowded with visitors and the picket guards have A great deal of trouble owing to the fact that they have no uniforms and it is hard to distinguish soldiers from citizens . . . .
"A Mess Camp, Company H., Second Regiment." A mess camp was where food was prepared and eaten by each company of soldiers. Indiana Governor James A. Mount insisted that volunteers at Camp Mount be well-fed. On April 28, for example, rations for 4,500 men included bacon, 3,375 pounds; fresh beef, 5,000 pounds; soft bread, 4,500 loaves; potatoes, 4,500 pounds; coffee, 563 pounds; cabbage, 1,350 pounds; pickles, 4,500 (Indianapolis Journal, April 29, 1898). Letters and articles frequently mention the welcome food items provided by Indianapolis and home-town visitors to Camp Mount--especially on Sunday. This Indianapolis company of the Indiana National Guard became Company H of the 158th Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry when it was mustered into U.S. service May 10, 1898 (History of National Guard, 312, 324).
Image: The Indiana Woman, May 4, 1898.
The Madison boys signed the muster roll on July 9" 1898. Before signing Capt. Cosby made the state-ment that if there was any one that wished to go home that person could make it known by stepping two paces to the front not one man stepped out. . . .
On the morning of July 12" 1898 the regular rules for drilling were put in force. . . . The Articles of war were read to the Madison boys on July 16" 1898 . . . The first stagger at A battalion formation took place July 18th 1898 . . . Col. [Winfield T.] Durbin thought they done exceedingly well for the first time: Uniforms were issued to the boys on July 19" 1898 they were glad to get them as their clothing was getting rather shabby. The boys at camp Mount always look forward to Sunday as A gala day and Sunday July 24th was no exception. . . . The largest excursion came from Lawrenceburg and Mt Vernon. The Lawrenceburg delegation was accompanied by the local band . . . .
On Sunday July 24" 1898 for the first time the different battalions were drawn up in regimental formation under command of Col. Durbin. . . . Fully two thousand persons were in the grand stand at the time and there were many expressions of satisfaction at the soldierly appearance The weather was sweltering and to provide for prostration the ambulance was called out during the parade. . . . Religious services were held in the grand stand . . . .
Up to this time we had been taking up our quarters in the barns on the State fair grounds but we had received orders to vacate the barns as preparations were soon to be made for the State Fair On the morning of July 29" 1898 A detail from the different companies was organized to put up our tents on the grounds just East of the race track and on July 30" 1898 we packed up all our belongings and moved over in our new quarters. . . . The boys of Co. D. 161st Ind. Regt. drew their guns on Aug. 2" 1898 they were the Springfield rifle model of 1884 and the belts were issued Aug. 5" 1898.
. . . Col. Durbin made the announcement that the 161st Ind Regt was ordered to Jacksonville Florida . . . . the boys . . . were rejoicing over their departure from Camp Mount.
. . . The boys received their first months pay on the 10" of Aug. 1898:
. . . Thursday Aug 11" 1898 . . . we began . . . to break camp and by 9.30 every tent in the regiment had been taken down and by 11 oclock every thing was packed ready for shipping. We ate our last dinner at Camp Mount at 11.45 and by one oclock we were on the march for Indianapolis. It was real funny to see the boys as they marched from the camp grounds to the . . . street car station. They were not experienced hands at rolling their blankets and their dog tents with their mess outfit on the inside and as they were given the double quick A time or two the mess pans began to fly. Some of the boys stopping to pick them up were ran over by the boys behind them. We took the street car as far as sixteenth street from there we marched to the Soldiers Monument and around the Capitol. from there to North Street depot on the Big Four rail road. We were all the afternoon getting there Great crowds of people were collected along the streets and at the depot. We boarded the train about 8.30 that evening. . . .
. . . At 1.40 A M. on August 14" 1898 our train landed in Jacksonville Florida. . . .
. . . Our train was ran into Union Station where we got hot coffee. Rations were then passed around and we proceeded to eat breakfast After breakfast our train was ran out to the camp grounds at Park Panama about five miles North of Jacksonville. It was Sunday morning and the heat was intense . . . . And slowly sinking the golden sunset from shining o'er A camp of patriotism and love, while the flag of freedom is floating o'er our land, while the peaceful pines are waving to and fro at the will of A refreshing sea breeze while the Almighty is looking down upon us from on high . . . . Should we not feel grateful to serve our dear and honored country? Should we not look back and recall the deeds of our forefathers when our country was in A perilous struggle for freedom? . . . . Is there anything grander than to serve one's country . . . .
Notwithstanding our camp in Panama Park was kept clean and nice and had all the appearance of being A healthy place we had A great deal of sickness while there
. . . . Our Regiment took its place at Jacksonville in the Seventh Army Corps third Brigade and third division. After A time sickness began to increase so rapidly that it became necessary that the officers in command at the hospital divisions make A requisi[ti]on on the different regiments for A detail to be sent to the hospitals to act as nurses. . . .
. . . On Sunday morning October 23" 1898 we began breaking camp at Park Panama Florida
. . . . We had A long and wearisome siege of it at this place and it will long be remembered by the boys of company D. as one of the unhealthiest places we were ever in. . . . we left there for Savannah Georgia at one oclock on the morning of October 24" 1898 . . . .
. . . December 1st 1898 there were seventy-one new recruits arrived at Savannah for the 161st Ind. the most of them had been transferred from the 159th Ind. This was done in order to recruit the regiment up for ocupation in Cuba . . . .
. . . It is impossible to estimate the many thousands of people who saw the review [of the Seventh Army Corps in Savannah, Ga. on December 6, 1898] . . . .
. . . There was much cleering and applause . . . the one hundred and sixty-first Indiana presented A practically perfect appearance. Every company kept good line and the distances were accurate. . . . The streets all along the line of march back to the camps were thronged with people . . . .
On Monday morning December 12th 1898 the one hundred and sixty-first began breaking camp at Savannah Georgia to embark for Cuba having been in camp there just seven weeks.
We . . . went aboard the United States transport Mobile. The Mobile is one of the finest equipped vessels in the United States for the transportation of troops having been fitted up by the government expressly for that purpose. she has all of the accommodations that can be found in the modern hotel she was fitted up with spring mattresses instead of the hammocks . . . she had A capacity for carrying two thousand (2400) four hundred men without being crowded she also had A dining room that would seat six-hundred people. We left Savannah harbor at 715 A.M. on December 13" 1898 . . . . We caught site of land in Cuba about eight oclock on the morning of December 15th 1898 and it was only A short time afterwards that we were passing Morro Castle she was still flying the Spanish flag. . . . We . . . went into the harbor at Havana. After the whistle had blown for Havana the regimental band began to play, "On the banks of the Wabash far away" "The Star Spangled banner" . . . . We were received with A hearty salute by the people of Havana.