The Spanish-American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence. Back then, Spain had interests in the Pacific, particularly in the Guam and Philippines. Although the main issue was Cuban independence, the ten-week war was fought in both the Caribbean and the Pacific.
At the time, there was no assigned garrison in the Islands until August 15, 1898, when the 1st New York Volunteer Infantry regiment and the 3rd Battalion, 2nd US Volunteer Engineers landed in Honolulu for garrison duty. They setup camp (‘Camp McKinley’) at Kapiʻolani Park.
Later (November 8, 1898,) approximately 200-soldiers of the 1st New York sailed from Honolulu to Hilo to inspect sites for a possible permanent military post. (Greguras) The troops landed at Waiākea in Hilo and stayed in a large warehouse for one night.
“The mariners under Christopher Columbus were no more anxious and certainly no happier to set foot on land in 1492 than were the New York Volunteer troops which left Honolulu last Tuesday morning on the Kinau, to feel the terra firma of Hilo under them this morning.”
“To say that the trip over was rough is putting it mild. In fact, judging from the number of men who cast their bread upon the (rough) waters, it could not have been worse. After leaving Diamond Head shoal the Kinau tossed, rolled and pitched so heavily that at times many of the men made frantic efforts to reach life preservers.”
“Miss Anna Rose, who was a passenger on board the steamer won the hearts of all the boys by her kindly interest and solicitation in their welfare. She cheered and comforted the sick, brought them little delicacies and in diverse other ways did she make herself the most popular person on board.”
“In appreciation of her service the band serenaded Miss Rose a number of times. She was also voted unanimously the queen of the First New York Volunteers.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, November 14, 1898)
A highlight of their visit was a hike to Kilauea volcano. “The march to the Volcano was begun at noon on Monday last. There was a heavy downfall of rain, but the boys kept up their spirits. A halt for lunch was made eight miles from Hilo, and camp for the night was then made at Kilohana at 3:30 o’clock in the afternoon. Shelter for the night was found in Mr Lee’s barn and in the church.”
“The march next day was resumed, at 10 o’clock. A halt was made at Mountain View hotel, where Mr Hambly entertained the boys at lunch. All the way the boys were the recipients of hospitality and greetings. Mrs. Trowbridge served sandwiches as the troops marched passed her house.”
“Tuesday night was spent at Wailiʻili the home of Mr. Hitchcock. Eight miles beyond, the Volcano house was reached, and here hot lunch was served by Mr. Waldron, and a mile and a half beyond shelter tents were pitched and the men went into camp.”
“The Volcano house has been thrown open to the boys during their stay and the band has given several concerts. Friday morning the entire command went, to the Volcano.” (Hawaiian Star, November 21, 1898)
The camp which the soldiers established at the Volcano was named Major Sague Camp. (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, November 21, 1898) Sague of the 1st New York was in command of the detachment. The troops were in this camp for only three days, returning to Honolulu on December 5th.
A November 24, 1898 letter from a member of Company I of the 1st N.Y. indicates the camp was near the crater of the volcano, about two miles from the Volcano House “in a large (koa) grove with lots of dead wood on the ground.” (Stenzel)
Back in Hilo, “A very interesting affair was the raising of the flag at Riverside Park, formerly known as Reed’s Island, on Thursday. Mr. Pratt had arranged the matter almost extemporaneously, which made the whole occasion perhaps more enjoyable than if it had been a formal and long prearranged ceremony.”
“The commanding officers of this portion of the 1st New York Volunteers, kindly asented to give a military air to the flag raising by the presence of the troops and regimental band, while Queen Anna graciously consented to hoist the American emblem.”
“The troops marched up Waiānuenue street about 2:30, seized the ravine which bounds that side of Reed’s Island without opposition and scaled the opposite cliffs, preceeded by the Queen who proved her physical powers again. The flag was hoisted to the music of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’.”
“A large crowd of townspeople viewed the ceremonies from the Island and from the opposite banks. The day was one of the most perfect which even Hilo affords the occasion was one of great interest to the Hiloites.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, November 15, 1898)
Another important event was the Thanksgiving luau; “the New York soldiers at Hilo were given a big Thanksgiving luau by Mr and Mrs CC Kennedy at the big sugar plantation in Waiakea.”
“The tables were arranged in the big sugar room of the mill, which had been elaborately decorated with palms, flowers and flags. Instead of table cloths the food stuffs, prepared, cooked and served in Hawaiian style, were placed upon ti leaves, which literally covered the tables.”
“The services of all the young ladles in the city were engaged to wait on the soldiers, while to the married ladles fell the responsibility of arranging the tables for the feast.”
“At each plate – wooden – was a handsomely printed souvenir menu of what comprised the feast. The delicacies placed before the boys to eat, as printed on the menu, were: fish, from the Waiākea ponds; Taro; Pig, wrapped in ti leaves; Sweet Potatoes; Breadfruit; Beef, wrapped in ti leaves; Turkey, Kukui nuts, Rolls, Taro Pudding, Hawaiian Pudding, Mince Pie, Fruits, Soda Water, Lemonade, Coffee, Poi and Cigars.”
“When all had eaten until they could eat no more the tables were cleared away, the floor prepared for dancing and this was the order of the afternoon. For the dancing the military band furnished the music, while the music for the evening dance, in the same place, was furnished by the Wela Ka Hao orchestra.”
“Returning to camp the men were loud in their praises for Mr and Mrs Kennedy and all the good people who assisted In trying to make the Thanksgiving day feast a most pleasant event.” (Hawaiian Gazette, November 29, 1898)
In the end, Sague, in expressing his appreciation on behalf of all soldiers, noted, “Hilo is all right. When we were in San Francisco the boys had a continual round of feeding.”
“Let me say on behalf of this detachment of the First New York Volunteers that since passing out of the Golden Gate, Hilo is the only place where they have felt at home. It is the only place they have been where cordiality has been expressed by word and deed.”
“The boys will remember it and in the 600 to 800 letters which leave the camp and go to the relatives and friends in the Empire State the praises of Hilo and Hilo people will be sung. On behalf of the boys who are here let me thank you all for your generous treatment.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, November 21, 1898)
Following the war, Sague returned home to Poughkeepsie, NY and in 1906 was elected Mayor of the city, “whose administration has stimulated Poughkeepsie to the attitude of a wide awake American city.” (Vassar Miscellany, February 1, 1912)
On April 5, 1905, Major John K Sague Camp, United Spanish War Veterans, was organized in Poughkeepsie; Sague served as its first commander. (Poughkeepsie New Yorker, July 7, 1941) (Greguras)
The image shows Camp Sague at Volcano. (Greguras) In addition, I have added others similar images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.