2nd Oregon Volunteer Infantry

The Second Oregon Volunteer Infantry was organized a few days after the declaration of war against Spain, following the sinking of the Maine in Havana harbor. On May 25, 1898 they embarked from San Francisco for Manila, the first time that Oregon soldiers were sent to fight on foreign soil. Although the war ended on August 16, 1898, the soldiers remained in the Philippines as a provost guard. On February 4, 1899, Philippine insurgents attacked U.S. troops in Manila. For the next four months, Oregon troops fought in five campaigns and forty-two battles, engagements, and skirmishes. Sixteen Oregonians were killed in action or died of wounds, forty-eight died of other causes, and eighty-eight were wounded in action.  The Second Oregon Volunteer Infantry sailed from Manila to the United States on June 14, 1899. They were mustered out at San Francisco on August 7, 1889.

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From The Official Records of the Oregon Volunteers in the Spanish War and Philippine Insurrection

COMPILED BY BRIGADIER GENERAL C. U. GANTENBEIN

Gantenbein

Maj. C. U. Gantenbein
From “The Official Records of the Oregon Volunteers in the Spanish War and Philippine Insurrection”

Former Adjutant General. State of Oregon, and late Major Second Oregon U. S. Volunteer Infantry, 1903

In Oregon in 1898, the State National Guard consisted of the First Regiment, Oregon National Guard, located in Portland, seven companies; the Second Regiment, Oregon National Guard, located in the Willamette Valley and Southern Oregon, eight companies; Third Battalion, three companies, located in Eastern Oregon; and three separate companies. Brigadier General Beebe commanded the brigade, His Excellency, William P. Lord, being Commander-in-Chief by virtue of his office as Governor. Each company had between forty-five and sixty members, the maximum being the more often pressed. Colonel Summers, of Portland, was at the head of the First Regiment, and Colonel Yoran, of Eugene, commanded the Second Regiment.

When the President (William McKinley) issued his first call for volunteers to fight against Spain, and apportioned the number among the States, Oregon found that she had been granted the privilege of raising only one regiment. This forced upon the Governor an embarrassing duty — selection. Two regiments and a battalion were already organized, and each struggling to keep down the recruiting pace. Ex-members of the guard tried to get back, besides the hordes of untried men offering themselves in view of pending trouble. At the time the Governor issued the order for the guard to assemble in Portland, April 25th, a company up to the war footing could have been brought from the locality of each already existing. A few hours after the order to assemble was issued by Colonel Summers, the seven companies of the First were in the armory, read to march. Colonel Yoran issued in the morning the order for his regiment to assemble. By noon the companies were in their respective armories, fitted for their journey to Portland, and thence to the field.

General Beebe instructed Major Mitchell, quartermaster of his staff, to establish a camp at Irvington Park, in Portland, to be named “Camp McKinley,” which, with the aid of Captain Case of Company I, First Regiment, and the Engineer Corps, under Lieutenant Povey, and the Signal Corps, under Lieutenant Humphrey, was completed April 29th. The First Regiment was held in the Portland Armory May 2nd and 3rd, under command of Major Eastwick. April 30th troops began to arrive from the Willamette Valley and Eastern Oregon, all being comfortably cared for at the camp, which had been placed under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Gantenbein, pending the official advent of Colonel Summers. By May 4th all were in camp ready for examination. Captain Morris, assistant surgeon in the regular army, had been selected by the War Department for this work.

2nd Oregon Infantry departing San Francisco

“2nd Oregon Volunteers – the Oregon City boys passing the Emporium in San Francisco in the first two platoons.”
Photographer: Harley C. Stevens, Jr.

It being impracticable to send the entire regiment to San Francisco, the Pacific coast rendezvous for the Philippine troops, one battalion was started as soon as four companies had been sworn in, with Major Gantenbein in command. They arrived there May 13th. By May 16th the two remaining battalions and regimental headquarters were prepared for the start.

May 22nd General Merriam informed Colonel Summers that the Second Oregon had been selected as one of the commands for the first expedition to the Philippines, the sailing date then not being far distant. Naturally, the news caused much joy and excitement.

2nd Oregon Infantry departing San Francisco 2

“2nd Oregon Infantry departing San Francisco”
Photographer: Harley C. Stevens, Jr.

Early on the morning of May 24th the Oregon regiment broke camp at the Presidio. As it formed for the march to the wharf, Colonel Jackson, then inspector general of the Oregon National Guard, formally presented to the regiment a beautiful stand of colors, the gift of the people of Portland. In a voice softened by emotion, Colonel Jackson bade officers and men god-speed, never doubting that the proud colors would be brought back home, perhaps scarred, but without a stain. His farewell was very touching, and moved many to tears. For five years he had taken a paternal interest in the National Guard, as official instructor.

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