This newspaper article provides a revealing glimpse into the life of an American soldier during the Spanish American War in Puerto Rico.
This is W. D. Matthews’ (my childrens’ 2nd great grandfather) Spanish American War letter home during his service in Puerto Rico.
W. D. Matthews served as a Private in Co. “E,” 1st Infantry Illinois Volunteers, and later transferred to Co. “A” Prov. Engr. Corps.
After his military service and graduation, he was a Fire Inspector and Insurance Underwriter in Chicago, Illinois and was ultimately instrumental in drafting and updating national fire regulations.
The transcription follows:
ACROSS THE ISLAND
WILL MATTHEWS MARCHES OVER PORTO RICO
Says the Natives Were Delighted to Hear That Peace Had Been Proclaimed — Loaned the Soldiers Their Horses and Walked — Snap Shots.
Mrs. E. D. Matthews of Ely, has just received the following letter from her son, W. D. Matthews, whose previous letters from Cuba and Porto Rico have appeared in the Gazette. He hopes to return home within a few weeks and resume his studies at Armour Institute, from which he will graduate in electrical engineering in 1899:
Ponce, Porto Rico, Sunday, Aug. 21 — Dear Folks: Your letter came to hand last night and found me enjoying good health. Just got back last Wednesday from a trip across the island to Aricebo, on the north coast; was gone eleven days; marched 125 miles and saw some grand scenery. The natives along the road treated us fine. We were about fifteen miles ahead of all our outposts, but saw no Spaniards. While at Utuado we heard that peace had been declared and saw the cavalry going out under a flag of truce, carrying the proclamation to Spanish soldiers in the mountains. There was a great demonstration by the natives when they heard about it.
They are very thrifty and take a great deal of stock in the soldiers. Two natives followed us clear across the island and back again and about twenty-five of them followed us for the first two days, carrying our guns and luggage; some of them had horses along, and let the boys ride them, walking themselves.
We have been working hard since we struck the island. This is the first day that I have had off. There was a whole regiment of engineers come in from New York the other day, so I think that we will have things a little easier now. Haven’t any idea of when we are going to be sent back, but hope that it won’t be long now. The First regiment is in New York now.
I will probably lose about a month of school, but that will be all.
Ponce is a flourishing little town of about 25,000. It has electric lights, one narrow guage railroad and an ice plant. Window glass is rarely seen, even in the finest houses. The kids go stark naken until they get to be about 4 years old. The women (except the negresses) all use plenty of face powder, but otherwise dress very neatly, using few ornaments. Eggs cost 8 cents apiece in cafes; buter they don’t have; goat cheese costs 20 cents a pound. We are all broke, but we are able to trade hard tack for stuff to eat, such as bananas, cocoanuts, candy, etc.
Well, I must close.
W. D. M.
Ponce, Porto Rico
The image above links directly to the original document. You can access sources, data, images and documents for these and other individuals, by clicking on the name link, or searching the Blythe Genealogy database site using the surname search link and the ‘All Media‘ search link in the left sidebar.
It is recommended to search using both methods as the results can differ greatly due to a glitch in the software that doesn’t connect all images from the bio.
All data for this and numerous others on this site is available for free access and download.