Spanish American War Address
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The Spanish War Veterans

An address delivered by
Hon. Rice W. Means
at the
Department of Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
May 11th, 1929


The following address by the Honorable Rice W. Means, delivered at the State-Wide Banquet of the United Spanish War Veterans, Dept. of Minnesota, presents to our membership a vivid picture of the hardship encountered in the fever camps of a tropical climate, and the deplorable food and clothing conditions during the Spanish War.

A thorough outline is also given of the pitiful plight of these men after the war, and the indifferent attitude toward proper compensation.

It is through the leadership of such men and through the co-operation of the various camps, that Spanish American War Veterans have finally obtained legislation to effect a compensation which rightfully was due them.

Dept. Adjutant.

The Address


It is a pleasureable delight that I am permitted to be here and break bread with you. I wonder if I might invite all of you to come to Denver next September. We are going to have a real Encampment out there. The State Legislature appropriated $ 5,000.00. The City of Denver equaled that amount and altogether they have quite a nice sum, and I believe they will give you a real show, and if you miss it, you will regret it.

Looking at some of my colored comrades, it reminds me of coming home from overseas. There was a group of colored boys who were lying upon the deck of the ship sunning themselves, and enjoying the trip home. As natural with all young men, they had to begin telling tales to one another. One of them opened it up and told a story of what he had seen. He was rather good at it, and all of them admired his ability as a prevaricator. But not to be outdone, another youngster spoke up and exceeded the imagination of the first speaker, and it seemed as though that was the limit in the art of lying. But suddenly, another boy sat up and said, "Say, have either of you bozos ever had the Delirium tremens?" They of course said "No." Then he replied, "Well, if you ain't had them, you ain't never been no place or seen nothing." And all I can say is that if you don't come to Denver, "you ain't seen nothing or been no place."


Thirty-one years ago on May day, the world received the information that Dewey had accomplished a wonderful feat. That moment we became a World Power, and the most influential power in the great Pacific. There has been a remarkable change in every part of the country and in our people since then.

Let your mind drift back to those days of '98. Our endeavor to be speedy was upon a bicycle. I remember the songs of those days, and looking at the programme, I see my favorite, "On the Banks of the Wabash." If we wanted to be devilish, we sang, "Honey, my heart's on fire, Send me a kiss by wire." I remember the ladies wore long skirts that reached to their shoe tops. Well, the shoe tops are now missing, and * * * We have remarkably advanced.


America heard the cry of distressed Cuba asking to be freed from a yoke of tyranny placed thereon by the Monarchy of Spain. There was an insistence upon the part of the people that we go to war in behalf of humanity. McKinley, himself a service man, knew full well how totally unprepared we were to go to war, and yet he had to go. Only recently I had been visiting with Mr. Stearn who is an intimate friend of President Coolidge, and he told me that he was privileged to be present with President McKinley when a certain noted man was talking with him". The President bowed his head upon the table and tears came to his eyes, and he said, "I fear we must go to war, and we haven't enough ammunition to fight one day." He knew of this sacrifice, and yet the people asked that the young men of America go to war and free the people of Cuba from the yoke of tyranny that the Butcher Weyler had placed upon those people, and of the brutality incident to his reign. And the young men came from everywhere; from the north and the south, from the east and the west. This nation had been grievously wounded by the great Civil strife; in that war, men fought men, states fought states, and even brothers fought brothers, that this nation might endure. The young men of America marched away together at the call of the people of Cuba. Regiments from the north, and from the south marched together and made this nation one and inseparable; wiped out sectionalism and made it the leading nation upon this earth. But they met with the hardship of the fever camps and of the tropical climate. They were badly fed. You all recall the embalmed beef and the canned beef scandal. They had carload after carload of that kind of beef. You remember if you stuck a bayonet in a can of it, it went "sszzzzzzzzz,"-absolutely unfit for food. And those woolen uniforms entirely unfit for service in the tropics. Those men carried the sunlight of American ideals into the dark places of the world, and made for this country the greatness that it boasts of today. Well, they came home, these men, content with their work, satisfied with their efforts, yet sick and disabled. Sickness in the ranks of the volunteers was greater in percentage than in any conflict in which this nation has engaged, the diseases remained with them, yet they asked nothing for themselves. There never was a voice raised asking for a single piece of legislation beneficial to the Spanish War Veterans until the year 1918, and then they asked first that the widows of their comrades who had passed into the great beyond might be cared for by the nation. Not until 1920 was an act passed by the Congress bringing relief to the Spanish War Veterans. In 1926, under the leadership of one who is with us tonight, Congress gave to us our present pension law. That in brief was our efforts in behalf of the Spanish War Veterans. When the men came home, they were content to just give their services to the country.


I was much interested in an article I read from the Annals of the War College as now printed in the last couple of days by the Historical Section of the War College. They tell you that Pershing's greatest task in the World War was not in the Argonne nor upon any field, but his fight was his demand for an American Army, intact, under the American Flag, and under American generals in the World War. That is, England and France and the Allies had no faith in our ability. They knew we had many soldiers with but little experience, and they asked that we be brought into the allied armies in small units and that our generals be not trusted. Clemenceau and Foch asked Pershing, "Did you come here to fight?" He answered "Yes, but to fight with an American army."

I am proud of my service in the World War. I was privileged to command a Regular Army regiment. I have felt as if their service was one of the most brilliant records in the history of the world. But if it had not been for the loyalty and the foresight of Spanish War Veterans, the World War, so far as America was concerned, would have been a sorry spectacle.


As soon as the Spanish War Veterans returned to Civil life, they organized the U. S. W. V. The very purpose for which this organization was created, was to be a valuable aid to the government of the United States in any future war. The generals of the World War were all Spanish War Veterans. It was as a result of the Spanish War that the General Staff was created. The National Defense Act of 1916 was shaped by Spanish War Veterans. You have in the American Army of the World War, the efforts and service of the Spanish War Veterans. Not content with their action in the Spanish War, when the time came to go into the service, more than 60,000, all experienced, soldiers joined the military forces. The Commanding General himself, every Army Commander, Corps Commander, Division Commander and almost every Brigade Commander, and more than 50 per cent of the field officers of the World War were Spanish War Veterans. We were privileged to win the fight because of the leadership of the men who were veterans of the Spanish War.

Friends, I have been accused of boasting sometimes, and I have heard some folks say words derogatory of our service. A member of the Legislature of the State of Minnesota made some remarks that, if the newspaper clippings that were sent to me correctly quote him, make me think of thirty years ago tonight. In my own regiment-and this one is but an incident in all regiments-we did not have enough men to keep the territory we were capturing, and it was necessary to have out-scouting parties.

Private Doxsie, a boy I knew very well, was ambushed. He fell with five bullets in him before he hit the ground. My company was called into action across the river. I was privileged to be one of those that first reached his body. There it lay, prone upon the earth; his face turned towards the pitiless southern sky; the blood of his wounds was a sacrifice upon the altar of patriotism. And a man calls that a "joke"? I would ask the God above to forgive him, for he knows not what he says.

Comparisons are odious, and I won't attempt any. I served in every war in which my country has seen fit to engage in since I was born, and I have no doubt that I would have been in the Civil War if I had been living at that time. And they are all the same. It makes no difference when or where you served. You only ask of a man who wore the uniform, "Did you serve your country, honorably, cheerfully, and well?" If so, you are entitled to great consideration by the American people. You should be a comrade in arms. It is belittling of any man who would speak of a comrade as Hompe did. Perhaps I should not say that. He is aged, so he knows not what he says, and we should be tolerant.

I think of the great benefits that have come because of the service of the men of '98. More benefits have flowed to this country from the efforts of the men of '98 than in any war in which this country has engaged since the day of Independence. I say it brought us from almost an isolated country until we are the leading country of all the world. Those men responded to the colors and carried it to the dark places of the world, and gave to the peoples of the earth the ideal of liberty and justice that had ruled the greatest nation of the world. No one should be permitted at any time to speak disparagingly of any man who wore a uniform of 1898.


Now comrades, there has been a change in industry in the world. With more particular reference to our own country in the last six or seven years, industry has produced the machine age, and the efficiency expert. I am not one to criticise because we have advanced. It has been hard for us to keep up with that advancement. Industry, and even the government itself has drawn an age limit for employes. No man today who loses a position can secure another if he is beyond the age of fifty years. Once he loses his position, he is economically ruined. All the great industries have placed that dead-line as to age, and I am the recipient of many letters speaking of the conditions confronting Spanish War Veterans. Just before I left, I slipped two into my pocket. They speak for themselves. One comrade writes:

"The writer, a man of 52 with a wife and five children, has been unable to find employment of any kind since April, 1928, excepting a door to door canvassing proposition for a few weeks past which has averaged $6.41 per week. My wife, though crippled, went to work February 4, for the first time in twenty-five years. She is earning $11.50 per week. That with my $30.00 a month pension and the $6.41 I earned last week is all we have, and I am today in debt for necessities, and at last it seems as though within a few days it will be necessary to apply to the town for aid. I was laid off of my last two places of employment because I could not compete with young men on quantity production. Although I held a good executive position in large industries for fourteen years, and had a perfect record, I have been unable to secure a position."

Only today, a comrade came to my room who resides in St. Paul. He has a wife and children to support, and he worked down at the refrigerator plant. The efficiency expert has demanded a certain amount of work must be done. He just can't keep up with the efficiency expert's requirements, and is now out of employment. Why, the government is refusing to employ men fifty years of age! One or two days ago, a comrade came to see me. He was working as a mechanic in the public printer's office and has been there seven years. After he became 50 years old and had given excellent service, an efficiency expert came along and speeded him up and sent him home at night all tired out. This foreman made a habit of going around with a ruler to see if he had done his work. Now, he had been at the same job for seven years, but the efficiency expert came around and said, "If you are to remain here, you must keep up." The nervous strain he was under, was teriffic. He would be down early in the morning and would stay late to keep up with the demands of the efficiency expert. And just two days ago, he brought me a letter in which the same efficiency expert wrote: "We have rated your efforts at 75 per cent. It will be necessary for you to equal 80 per cent, or you will have to be discharged for inefficiency." He asks that I get him placed into another department. Think of it! If he loses this job, no other job will be open to him.

That is only one instance. I wish I might have you look over my mail, thousands upon thousands of letters; you will find the same conditions confronting the Spanish War Veterans all over the country. One, a comrade from New York, says: "I was wounded, and on September 8, '99,1 was placed on duty in the Adjutant General's office. I remained in the Philippines in and with the army \7y2 years. I took a civil service examination and was admitted in 1918 and have been in service ever since. Now I received notice that I shall be dropped on April 4. My age prevents me from getting another job, and I have been in government service so long that I can't convince people I can do other work." This man has a wife who became sick immediately upon this news coming to her, and she has a blind daughter upon whom he has spent a lot of money. He has been in government service for 29^2 years, and now he is old and can't stay longer because the efficiency expert demands that he keep up with the younger generation. They are fearful of losing their jobs. They are facing an economic condition that only Spanish War Veterans are called upon to face. The Civil War Veterans have passed from the stage of activities, the World War Veterans are of an average age of 35 years.

In Sacramento, Calif., where the Chief is today, the ladies give a dinner for the unemployed service men every year. This year, they only had 68 who were unemployed in the city of Sacramenta, and 42 of them were Spanish War Veterans. The fact that you served in the fever camps or in the tropics is taken as an assured fact that you are disabled. World War Veterans never felt the effects of it. Industry itself will have to provide for old age. How about the Spanish War Veteran? He has no chance. His danger is imminent. The country should provide for him. Nb man who served this country in the Spanish War should ever be in the bread-line in this country. We do not want to rob the Treasury, but we do ask a minimum for all these men because they are disqualified from employment and we ask that they be given enough so that they can save a pittance that will keep body and soul together. It is a small demand.


There are only 200,000 of us. They say there should be 250,000 of us alive, but there are not. We have not great numbers. We must have our camps prepared to fight. If so, I do not fear the results. And that is what Otto Rath meant when he said, "We want the American people to speak to the Congress of the United States." I say that the United States will never permit an injustice to the Spanish War Veterans if they know the conditions that are confronting them, and when they realize the great blessings that have flowed to this country from the service they have given. The American people will insist and demand that justice be rendered unto that man who served this country in '98. You must make known to the people that fact, and they will respond. We must ask the aid of others because of our numbers.

The Veterans of the World War received much, not because of the justice of their cause, but because of the force of their numbers. Every home was touched in that great conflict, and when they returned home, their troubles were made known to the American people everywhere, and the people demanded of the Congress the passage of laws that would take care of their disabilities. They had hospitalization, vocational training, and everything that a demand was made for because the American people knew and understood the needs of the veterans of the World War.

The Congressmen want to hear from you, and we must let them know that it is not a raid upon the Treasury. We never asked them for a single piece of legislation beneficial to the Spanish War Veteran until 1920, and we would not be asking today, but the industrial changes have made it so that when you have reached the age of fifty, you are relegated to the scrap heap, the government will not employ you. Then it is only fair that they shall place the age of fifty as the recognized disability age, and give you a pension at that age. That is our greatest problem.


Next is a theme I love to talk upon. That is the tie of comradeship. Age comes upon us and comradeship is a good deal like a liquid substance that is now forbidden. It gets better with age. Just to look into your faces and just to be with you is fine. A little boy expressed my views exactly. He was a tough little fellow, and he had gone to a new school for the first day. The teacher wanted to know where to put him, and she asked him some questions. She said, "Johnny, what is 8 times 6?" He very promptly answered, "48." The teacher said, "That is fine." Johnny looked up at her and said, "Fine, hell, that's perfect." I am of the same opinion this moment. I think this dinner is perfect.

And this is the time of the year when we must remember those who have left us and gone on into the great beyond. Somehow, I know that they are with us. We are not privileged to know much about the place where they have gone, and yet, we keep green their memory not only as sacred to us but that we might also renew in our own breasts the faith that they espoused. You tendered your lives as a sacrifice on the altar of patriotism. You have during your civil life been loyal and upright. You have always demanded a proper understanding of Americanism. Your sole intent and purpose is to give to America a true and lasting loyalty. Now as we get along to the shady side of life, we must keep faith with those who cannot be with us and who have gone on into the great beyond. I cannot help but feel tonight that somewhere in that great Camp on Elysian Fields they have gathered together in a spirit of comradeship. If so, I know they are proud of you, and proud that you are carrying on. I think they would send a message that you can best serve your God above by serving your country well. At all times it is our duty and our privilege to serve this country.

Permit me to express a personal reference. I cannot help but recall when I came home from the Philippines. I stopped at Yokohama. We went up to Tokyo. I was gazing around everywhere at the buildings and observing the foreign customs of the people. I walked down the street and turned the corner near the office of the American Consul, and flowing from a staff was Old Glory, rippling in the breeze. I stood still, for it seemed as if I was shaken from the top of my head to the sole of my feet. It seemed to me as if an unseen hand had reached forth from behind the clouds, and a voice had said, "Young man, it is your protector. It is yours to defend. Look up to it. Study it. Love it always."

Yes, we are united together in an organization for two reasons: "Love of country and love of comrade." I am sure we shall always keep sacred thatt trust, and when the time comes when we shall join those who have gone beyond, they will say to us, "Comrade, it was well done."

* * * *

Favorite Songs of Spanish War


While the shot and shell were screaming upon the battlefield;
The boys in blue were fighting their noble flag to shield;
Came a cry from their brave captain, "Look, boys! Our flag is down;
Who'll volunteer to save it from disgrace?"
"I will," a young voice shouted, "I'll bring it back, or die;"
Then sprang into the thickest of the fray;
Saved the flag but gave his young life; all for his country's sake.
They brought him back and softly heard him say:


"Just break the news to mother, She knows how dear I love her,
And tell her not to wait for me, For I'm not coming home;
Just say there is no other, Can take the place of mother;
Then kiss her dear, sweet lips for me,
And break the news to her."

From afar a noted general had witnessed this brave deed;
"Who saved our flag? Speak up, lads; 'twas noble, brave, indeed!"
"There he lies, sir," said the captain, "he's sinking very fast;"
Then slowly turned away to hide a tear. The general in a moment, knelt down beside the boy;
Then gave a cry that touch'd all hearts that day.
"It's my son, my brave, young hero; I thought you safe at home."
"Forgive me, father, for I ran away.'


'Round my Indiana homestead wave the cornfields,
In the distance loom the woodlands clear and cool;
Often times my thoughts revert to scenes of childhood,
Where I first received my lessons-Nature's school.
But one thing there is missing in the picture,
Without her face it seems so incomplete:
I long to see my mother in the doorway
As she stood there years ago, her boy to greet.


Oh the moon-light's fair tonight along the Wabash,
From the fields there comes the breath of new-mown hay;
Through the sycamores the candlelights are gleaming,
On the banks of the Wabash far away.


While strolling down the street one eve upon mere pleasure bent,
'Twas after business worries of the day,
I saw a girl who shrank from me in whom I recognized,
My schoolmate in a village far away.
"Is that you, Madge," I said to her, she quickly turned away,
"Don't turn away, Madge, I am still your friend.
Next week I'm going back to see the old folks and I thought
Perhaps some message you would like to send."


"Just tell them that you saw me,"
She said, "They'll know the rest;
Just tell them I was looking well you know.
Just whisper if you get a chance, to mother dear, and say,
I love her as I did long, long a-go."

"Your cheeks are pale, your face is thin, come tell me were you ill,
When last met your eye shone clear and bright,
Come home with me when I go, Madge, the change will do you good,
Your mother wonders where you are tonight."
"I long to see them all again, but not just yet," she said,
'Tis pride alone that's keeping me away.
Just tell them not to worry, for I'm all right don't you know,
Tell mother I am coming home some day."

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