On this day in 1898, President William McKinley issued a call for 125,000 volunteer troops to fight in the Spanish-American War in the Philippines.
When the explosion of the USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana harbor left 268 U.S. sailors dead on February 15 of that year, media moguls including William Randolph Hearst blamed Spain – which controlled Cuba – and used their publications to foment the war and patriotism.
The California National Guard responded by sending a pair of 12-company regiments – the First and Seventh California Volunteer infantries, an eight-company regiment (Sixth California Volunteers), and a signal unit that consisted of nearly two dozen enlisted and officers. It also sent the four batteries that comprised the First Battalion of Heavy Artillery.
The state produced a multitude of recruits in other units as well, including the Naval Militia of California.
San Francisco’s Presidio became an important installation during the war, which ended Spain’s control in the Western Pacific and in the Americas. More than 80,000 troops of the 250,000 Americans who fought came through here before shipping out to the Philippines, and more than 1,000 were there when the fighting ceased on August 12, 1898.
Of the Americans who died during the war, 332 were killed in battle while 2,957 died from diseases including Yellow Fever.
The Treaty of Paris formally ended the war on December 10, 1898, with Spain ceding claims to Guam and the Philippines in the Pacific and Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.
There are Spanish-American War monuments in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and the Capitol Park in Sacramento. Mark Denger, an historian with the California Military History Museum, wrote about this monument in detail.