Indiana Responds to the War

The U.S. Congress declared war on Spain on April 25, 1898. On April 22, President William McKinley had been authorized to raise a volunteer army to fight the coming war. He called for 125,000 volunteers to strengthen the regular U.S. Army.

On April 25 at 6:15 p.m. Indiana Governor James A. Mount was notified by telegram by the Secretary of War that Indiana must supply four regiments of infantry and two light batteries of artillery. The president wanted trained units of the states' national guards or militias to provide the first volunteers. Governor Mount responded immediately that the troops would be ready within twenty-four hours--see the illustration below.

Postal Telegraph

Governor James A. Mount responded positively to the call for volunteers for the U.S. service in the Spanish-American War. This is a record copy of the telegram that Mount sent to the U.S. War Department on April 25, 1898.
Image: Indiana State Archives

Governor Mount issued a proclamation on April 25 calling over 4,000 men to the Indiana State Fairgrounds, Indianapolis, "where they will be mobilized and mustered into the service of the United States government." Mount's proclamation said that there were more volunteers than were needed. He urged that a man should only enter service "upon his own free will and accord."

From this first call, Indiana Volunteer regiments 157 through 160 were mustered into U.S. service--continuing the numbering from the Civil War Indiana Volunteer regiments. Also the 27th and 28th Light Batteries, Indiana Volunteers were mustered in. In addition, Indiana provided a company of engineers and a company for the signal corps.

The response to Mount's call was wildly enthusiastic. Indiana was "the first state to meet its full quota of troops" (Phillips, 64). It was believed that "This was to be a war of conquest and glory . . . and for the last time in its history the departure of fathers, brothers, sons, and neighbors was attended by unrestrained jubilation" (Watt and Spears, 90).

President McKinley called for 75,000 more volunteers on May 25. The Indiana quota was one regiment of infantry and two companies of black volunteers. These volunteers were mustered into U.S. service at Camp Mount: the 161st Regiment and companies A and B Colored Infantry (Phillips, 64-65).

The Indiana National Guard had been reorganized and reequipped by the Indiana "General Assembly in 1895 and was relatively well prepared" (Phillips, 64). This allowed for the rapid response to the call for volunteers. None of the Indiana units, however, took part in a battle, but several reached foreign soil.

Indiana furnished a total of 7,421 volunteers for the war. There were no battle casualties, but seventy-three died of disease. Approximately, 1,000 Hoosiers served in the regular army (Phillips, 66).

The official story of these volunteers was issued in 1900 as the Record of Indiana Volunteers in the Spanish-American War, 1898-1899. A summary of their service is provided above. The many diaries and letters--many in books and newspapers--provide the human story of this war.

Indiana Volunteers Roster