“Remember the Maine, the Hell with Spain” was the cry from U.S. citizens after a United States Court of Inquiry determined that in the Spanish-held Havana Harbor on Feb. 15, 1898, an underwater mine had blown up the U.S. battleship, the Maine. After the court’s decision, President McKinley asked for 125,000 men to volunteer for two years to help fight Spain in support of Cuba’s fight for independence from Spain.
By May 2, more than 2,500 Connecticut men volunteered to join the Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. There were two Infantries, the First and the Third, with 12 companies in each one. Two Granby men answered the call of duty: Harry E. Wilcox and William O. Case. Both were in the First Regiment; Wilcox in Company F and Case in Company K. Each company had approximately 110 men, which did not include the band or its officers.
On May 4 both Company F and K traveled by train to Niantic to train for almost three weeks. On May 23, both companies left Niantic and traveled by train to Portland, Maine to continue training. The route they took was past New London, Providence, Boston, Portsmouth and finally Portland. They camped at Fort Preble in South Portland. The soldiers set up tents side-by-side with six men to a tent. For two and a half months, they did march drills, shooting drills, fighting drills—their life was drill, drill, drill. On Memorial Day and Independence Day, they marched down Main Street in a parade for the towns people of Portland.
On July 18, Company K traveled back to Niantic by train and Company F stayed in Maine. Two days after arriving in Niantic, Company K boarded another train and went to Falls Church, Virginia, and set up camp at Camp Alger. Company K was joined by companies from Virginia, Michigan, Ohio and New Jersey.
In the mid-Atlantic heat, Company K continued to train and even march down Pennsylvania Avenue. By the end of August word came that Spain had surrendered to the United States, giving Independence to Cuba and the United States had gained territories in Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii and the Philippines. The men in Company K couldn’t understand why they were training in this heat, when they would not see any fighting.
Company K left Camp Alger by train and returned to Niantic. They stayed there for three weeks before returning to Hartford. They were granted a 30-day furlough when they arrived home, after which they went to Hartford to receive their last paycheck. First Company K mustered out followed by Company F. The Spanish-American War lasted 114 days. William Case and Harry Wilcox served approximately 180 days in the military at 52 cents a day. They had signed up for two years, but since the War ended so early, they were given early honorable discharges.
Wilcox was 37 years of age when he joined Company F. He was a mechanical engineer who got his training at Pratt & Whitney in Hartford. He also served on the claims board for the government during World War One. He lived a quiet life in Canton after the war. He died in 1934 at the age of 73 and is buried in the North Canton Cemetery.
Case had worked for Hartford Steam Boiler Insurance Company before he joined Company K and kept working for them after the war. He worked as a clerk and a stenographer for 54 years and retired in 1945. He was proud to serve in the Spanish-American War as his uncle had served in the Civil War and his great-grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War. He lived in Pleasant Valley after the War and died in 1959 at the age of 91 and is buried in a family plot in the Granby Cemetery.
To learn more about Harry Wilcox or William Case, or the Spanish-American War, come join the Salmon Brook Historical Society by calling 860-653-9713 or go online at salmonbrookhistoricalsociety.com