Calhoun Soldier Writes his Sister in 1899

(09/15/2002)

Transcribed by Norma Knotts Shaffer from microfilm of the Calhoun Chronicle dated 8/1/1899.

A Letter from the Philippines

Hundreds of our readers remember, or knew, A.S. Price better known as "Sturge."  Well, he has two sons who are in the Philippine war and the following is a letter from one of them to his sister who lives in Des Moins, Iowa:

San Fernando, P.I.,
May 25, 1899

Dear Sister Ona:

It has been a very long time since I have written any of the family and my conscience has been hurting me so much lately that I am almost compelled to write.  I have even laid aside an interesting magazine story in order to write you these few lines.  I think my last letter was written from Malolos.  Since writing that letter I have had years of experience and days and nights of walking, working, starving and fighting.  I have seen sights which few men ever see and had experiences which I hope I may never have again.  I have seen as many as a hundred dead men on one field and forty or more behind a trench, not over twenty yards in length.

Since my last letter we have marched over about fifty miles of country fighting our way and driving the insurgents before us as we went.  It would be interesting for me to detail the several engagements we have had and the numerous obstacles we have encountered, but I will just give you one day's programme as an example:  We were aroused from a sound slumber at 4 a.m. by the notes of the bugle, cooked our coffee and bacon, and swallowed it as fast as we could and were in line at 5.  We started out in a column of fours and marched along the road a few miles in this formation.  This was all very well, but we knew it would not last long.  Well as it happened our regiment, as we neared the insurgent territory, was sent out in a skirmish line on the left flank.  We had not traveled far when we struck a big swamp.  Still we had to keep up with the other regiments which were marching on solid ground.  More than this we had to keep so far apart, so as to present an unbroken line to the enemy and give them no chance to make a pop shot of us.

We had received orders from Gen. Hale not to stop our line under any circumstances and if the enemy should fight we were to flank them on the left.  On we went through the swamp and marsh grass which in places was higher than our heads.  If we came to a river we waded right in, never stopping to take off a thing.  During this day, we waded thirteen rivers or at least we waded one or more rivers thirteen times, but I think it was the same river; and because of some mistake in the alignment we had to cross it several times unnecessarily.  Well they engaged the "niggers," but we failed to flank them.  Why?  Because every man was so worn out they had to stop the line and get us over to the road out of the swamp.  So we got behind a little grade along the road and laid there listening to the bullets whisteling around us.  As soon as we had a little rest and had cleaned a little of the mud and water out of our guns, which I did by ripping off a piece of the tail of my flannel shirt and using it as a gun rag, we started on again.  We were all congratulating ourselves and feeling good because we thought all the swamp had been passed, but we were soon undeceived, for another skirmish line was formed and we were sent through mud and swamp grass so thick and high that you could not tell where the line was or even see the man you was marching next to.  Well after while the bullets got to flying and we were lined up on the edge of the grass and commenced firing.  We could see the niggers flying in every direction, some of them will never do any more shooting.  Those are "Good Niggers" now.  We pushed on with what men we had left and as the firing had about stopped we halted for dinner. When the halt was made for dinner there were only twenty four men, including officers and men left in our company  It is useless to add that the "Price Brothers" were among the number.  In fact, not intending to brag any, the Price boys have not missed any part of the "Big Show."  Well to go on with my story, as we had finished our "hard tack" and can of beans we started out again.  We did not get in much of the fighting during the afternoon, but there was plenty going on around us and one of the boys of "H." Company was shot through the heel.

We reached St. Thomas about dark, cooked our suppers and those who did not have to go on guard went to bed.

We have marched for days without taking our shoes off, have not slept without having our cloaths on and our guns and belts near us for over a month.  We cooked our own meals for over a month and lived on "hard tack," coffee, can beans, or beef, onions and potatoes when could get them.

We are at San Fernando now and faring better as our company cook is cooking and we are now getting bread issued, instead of stale "hard tack."

We have been here about two weeks and it looks as though the volunteers were not going to be sent much farther as the Regulars are arriving daily to relieve them.

The boys are all sick and tired of this kind of life and think they have good reasons to be.

They have established a company hospital here and I am in charge of it.  I like the work real well and it is much more agreeable than going on guard and doing the camp duty.  We are furnished with plenty to eat from the company funds and I cook for the boys and look after them while here.  We have chickens, eggs, condensed milk, oysters, crackers and other things that we can buy and which suits the palate of a sick boy.

I have nine here now, none of whom are very sick, as the bad cases are sent into Manila.

It is rumored that all the volunteers must be off the island inside of eight weeks, but we do not know how true it is.

The Kansas and Montana's got into an engagement with the insurgents yesterday morning and we were ordered to be in readiness for a call to arms, but we were not called out.  It was reported that 200 natives were killed and three or four wounded.  I think the natives will soon learn that the U.S. means business and lay down their arms, as many of them are now doing.

Well, I must close.  Will write to the rest of the family later on, but you can pass our letters around as we do not get much time to write.  We are both in quite good health.

Your Brother,
Alfred.


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