On February 15, 1898, the U.S.S. Maine was docked in Havana Bay, Cuba. It was to serve as an American presence during the Cuban War for Independence. Later that night, an explosion rocked the ship, killing 266 members of the crew. The explosion, still not solved to this day, launched the United States into the War with Spain. Many believed the Spanish were behind the explosion. It resulted in a declaration of war against Spain on April 25.
The War with Spain sent American troops to the Spanish territories of Cuba, the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. Soldiers of the Old Guard departed Ft. Snelling, MN by train and arrived in Mobile, AL en route to Cuba by Army transport ships. In July 1898, the Regiment played a significant part in the Santiago Campaign, enduring tropical heat in woolen uniforms while storming a fortified blockhouse at El Caney that controlled a part of the city’s water supply, followed by three days of more or less continuous shelling in trenches before the city until a ceasefire was signed. The war lasted only ten weeks, with a signed peace agreement in August 1898.
Several years later, Congress made arrangements to raise the Maine and inter the remaining dead at Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial, which also serves as the final resting place for 165 members of the crew, incorporated the recovered main mast of the Maine. In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson was on hand to dedicate the U.S.S. Maine Mast and Memorial. Currently, the mast and memorial is undergoing restoration to its 1915 appearance.
On June 22, 1898, soldiers of the 3d Infantry Regiment arrived in Santiago Harbor, Cuba.
The Regiment started their journey when they departed Fort Snelling, MN by train on April 19. They arrived in Mobile, AL two days later having traveled over 1,400 miles. The Regiment trained in Mobile for six weeks, until it was transferred to Tampa, FL on June 13. Upon reaching Tampa, it was assigned to General Shafter’s force en route to Cuba. Once ashore in Cuba, the Regiment is placed in Brigadier General Bates’ Independent Brigade, and placed in reserve at El Pozo, the Headquarters of the US Army Fifth Corps. By July 1, the Regiment is placed into action as part of the Siege of Santiago.
On August 12, 1898, the War with Spain officially ended. It began in April 1898, was not entirely expected, and the country was not prepared. Troops were called to southern areas of the United States and held for training and later transport to Cuba, including the 3rd Infantry which left Fort Snelling in April. The Regiment traveled by train to Mobile, AL where it stayed until June 3, when it transferred to Tampa, FL becoming an element under General Shafter. From Cuba, the Regiment traveled by ship and disembarked in Cuba on June 22.
The war itself was short and sharp, with serious ground combat limited to the American envelopment and siege of the Cuban city of Santiago. In July 1898, the Regiment played a significant part in the Santiago Campaign, enduring tropical heat in woolen uniforms while storming a fortified blockhouse at El Caney that controlled a part of the city’s water supply, followed by three days of more or less continuous shelling in trenches before the city until a ceasefire was signed. After redeploying from Cuba and arriving back in the United States in August, the Regiment was held in quarantine in a camp on Long Island, New York before being allowed to entrain for Minnesota in September.
Colonel John Henry Page, regimental commander (center, staff photo), was no stranger to the Old Guard. He started his career with the Regiment as a second lieutenant during the Civil War. At the end of the Civil War, Captain Page continued his Army career and fought in the Indian War campaigns. By 1895, Page commanded the 3rd Infantry Regiment, leading it through deployments to Cuba and the Philippine Islands (1899-1902). Page went on to become a brigadier general before retiring with forty years of service. He died in 1916 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 2, Grave 1228).