Letters Home: Freeman Wood

Skidmore sent a number of its sons and brothers to serve in the summer of 1898.  Some of them became reporters, of a kind, and sent letters home to be published in the local paper.  Freeman Wood of the 4th Missouri sent this update, published in the Skidmore Standard, Friday, August 12, 1898:

Letter From Camp Alger
Falls Church, VA., Aug. 5, 1898.

Mr. Editor:
I don’t suppose that a letter from Camp Alger would be much news to most of your readers as most everyone has a friend here that keeps him posted, but I don’t expect many have heard the latest orders that the 4th Missouri here recently received.

About three days ago it came out in the Washington papers that the 4th Mo., the 22nd N.Y., and the 1st R.I. will go to Porto Rico.  Of course the news caused a great deal of commotion in camp, which lasted some three or four hours.  The band played all of the old patriotic tunes that they could think of and the boys set up one continued howl which lasted until they were called down by the bugle call taps which means lights out and every one is supposed to be in quarters for the night.  The next day all of the Regimental officers were called to Washington City for special orders in relation to the same, and yesterday the order came out to each Company that we would go to Porto Rico, soon, probably in side of eight days.  A good many of the men don’t believe that we will go as peace is so near at hand, and so many troops are already ordered to that place, and so many on the way.  It is almost too good to be true, most everyone seems anxious to go.

Most of the regiments have left this place and gone to a place 30 miles from here, called Manassas Junction, as this place is getting so unhealthy, and has been condemned.  Typhoid fever is raging and the hospitals are full of patients and many are dying.  Our company, Co. E has only lost one man and there are 3 in the hospital at present with the typhoid fever, two with measles, and one has had a stroke of paralysis.  The rest of us are well and hearty, and can stand the work well.  Most of the boys have been sick some time since we have been here, but now we are getting acclimated and don’t notice it much.

Mike Freece and Mace McDowell have seen a since they came here.  I have been a little ailing at different times, but not to amount to much.

I want to tell you a fellow does not have to take any such a thing as anti-fat to decrease his weight, here.  I have decreased in weight about 25 pounds.

I often wish that I was back in old Missouri, once more so that I might get something to eat, and I am not the only one either who wishes the same.

Nearly all of us have visited the Capital City since we came here, and took in the sights of that place.  Mike Freece and I went together, and were well paid for the trip.  I will name some of the wonders we saw:

First we took the street car for the navy yards, where we took in some of the most wonderful sights I ever expect to see.  We saw some 150 large guns, both coast defense guns and navy guns of all sizes.  One gun was 40 feet long, shoots 13 miles and costs $1000.00 every time it is discharged.  Four guns that were on the Battleship Maine when it was blown up, are in the yard to be made over and sent out again.  They look as though they might make bad work for some fort if turned loose on it.  The Battleship Princeton was there, had been sent in from Santiago for repairs on one of her rapid firing guns.  Well next we went to the large U.S. Library building, which is one of the finest buildings in the world, and went through part of it.  In the afternoon we went out to the Zoological Garden where we saw every kind of animal that there is in America.  Spent the rest of the day there and returned to camp in the evening.

If we get to go to Porto Rico I will write you another letter.  I believe that if we are not sent to that place we will be home soon.

Just now six ambulance wagons passed here with each wagon full of sick men who are being moved to the new camp.

Yesterday we had a sham battle and we – the first battalion – captured the second battalion.  We had a “hot time” but no one hurt.  Yesterday was pay day and we all drew our $15.60.  the boys are spending it as fast as they can and in a day or two will be broke again.

With kind regards to all my friends I will close.

Yours truly,
Freeman L. Wood.
Co. B. 4th Reg. Mo. Vol.