April 25 is the anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish-American War, at least on the American side. Spain issued its declaration of war on the 23rd, two days after the U.S. Navy blockaded Cuba, which was a Spanish territory. Cuban independence was the central issue of the four month conflict, but the war expanded to other areas of the Caribbean and to the Pacific Ocean. The victorious U.S. A. received several of Spain’s island possessions as a result, including the Philippines, bringing Spain’s influence in the western hemisphere to an end. This short-lived engagement also signaled the rise of the United States as a world power.
In 1898, the U.S. Navy was well-equipped and ready for warfare. However, the Army was seriously undermanned, with a standing army of only 28,000. A call for volunteers and the mobilization of National Guard units resulted in an increase of 220,000 men. Wyoming Guardsmen from units based in Sheridan, Douglas, Buffalo, Evanston, and Laramie arrived in the Philippines just in time to participate in the battle of Manila on August 13, unaware that an armistice had been signed the day before. The Cheyenne volunteer unit that arrived in December assisted with occupation of the islands and fighting rebels who resisted American annexation.
Wyoming contributed 463 men to combat zones. A third group that was largely made up of Wyoming men, Jay L. Torrey’s “Rough Riders,” did not leave the United States. Wyoming casualties in the Philippines, during the War and the Filipino rebellion that followed, totaled sixteen. This included three deaths from battle injuries, a suicide, and twelve from disease. Disease took many more lives during the conflict than did combat.
The Wyoming State Archives maintains records concerning the involvement of Wyoming citizens during the War. The records were maintained by the Governor’s Office and are inventoried in that record group. Records include National Volunteer Reserve applications, war reports, Philippine service medal award documentation, rosters of Wyoming companies, general correspondence about various war related issues, financial records, back pay vouchers, and payroll registers. Additional information can be found in the records of Governor DeForest Richards. Records in this collection deal with back pay and medals for veterans who served in the Philippines. Spanish-American War records are open to public research in the Archives’ reading room.