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V.P.I. in the Spanish American War

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On April 22, 1898 the Congress of the United States declared the existence of a state of war between the United States and Spain.

A congressional act of April 22, 1898 (30 Stat. 361) provided that "the organized and active land forces of the United States shall consist of the Army of the United States and of the militia of the several States when called into the service of the United States." In time of war the Army was to consist of the Regular Army and the Volunteer Army of the United States. Under that act, a call was addressed to the governors of the states for 125,000 volunteers, and subsequent acts authorized a brigade of Engineers and a force of 10,000 men who were immuned to tropical diseases.

The first American Volunteer Army (militia) had been created during the War of 1812, by statute, which left the states in control of the recruiting of regiments and the appointment of officers. A similar force was authorized during the Mexican War and during the Civil War.

In the rapidly developing mobilization, the Regular Army officers who were on duty with colleges were ordered back into active war assignments. First Lieutenant (state militia Colonel) David Carey Shanks, the Commandant of Cadets at V.P.I., was ordered from V.P.I. to Camp Lee in Richmond for duty as mustering-in-officer to receive the state volunteer forces into federal service.

The Second, Third, and Fourth Regiments of Virginia Volunteers (Infantry) were ordered to rendezvous at Camp Lee when fully recruited. The Second Regiment was the first to achieve full strength and to request orders to enter the service of the United States. Lieutenant Shanks was promoted at Camp Lee to the grade of Major in the Volunteers and assigned to the Second Regiment as commanding officer of its Third Battalion.

The War Department having authorized the organization of bands of twenty-four pieces for the volunteer infantry regiments, Major Shanks wrote to Major James Patton Harvey, Director of the V.P.I. Cadet Band, requesting him "to prevail upon his Band to join the Second Virginia as its regimental band." Since service specifically as a V.P.I. unit had been denied, along with the lettered units of the battalion, Major Harvey and fifteen cadets of the Band resigned from the college and enlisted as individuals with the Second Regiment. Four V.P.I. alumni and five members of the Glade Cornet Band (until 1893 the post band of the V.P.I. Battalion of cadets) also enlisted as bandsmen with the Second Virginia Infantry. Mr. Harvey was appointed Chief Musician and Leader of the new organization. The Second Virginia's new Regimental Band was a V.P.I. organization constituted as an Army unit.

Following their highly regarded commandant, more that a dozen additional cadets of the lettered companies of the Cadet Battalion resigned at that point and enlisted as rifleman in the various line companies of the Second Virginia, particularly in Company G (Roanoke Light Infantry).

After seven months of arduous training, the Second Regiment of Virginia Volunteers (Infantry) was mustered into federal service at Camp Lee on May 21, 1898, and was transferred to Camp Cuba Libre at Jacksonville, Florida, on June 2, 1898, and became unit of the Third Brigade of the Second Division of the Seventh Army Corps.

At Florida, the Seventh Army Corps was mobilizing and training twenty-eight line regiments, along with the attendant technical service units. That mobilization and training had almost been completed at the time Spain surrendered and accepted the American terms.

The Second Regiment of Virginia Volunteers was mustered-out of its federal service during the period of December 13 - 20, 1898. The Regimental Band was mustered-out at Salem, Virginia and its personnel were discharged on December 16.

Although the Regiment did not see action, it was fully prepared and eager to serve in combat at any time that duty and the country might so ordain. It volunteered before the President's call for troops and ended only after the conclusion of hostilities and the reinstatement of peace.

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Last updated October 9, 1997