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Early History of Company L, 24th Infantry

United States Army

Skagway Daily Alaskan
January 1, 1900

The 24th Infantry was organized in 1869 by the consolidation of the 38th and 41st regiments of Infantry and was first commanded by Colonel Ronald S. Mackenzie, who was succeeded by General Abner Doubleday, late a Major General of volunteers, who had served in the late war of the Rebellion. He was followed by Brevet Brigadier General Joseph H. Potter, ultimately Brigadier General of the regular army; then came Zenus R. Bliss, now a retired Major General of the regular army, who was succeeded by J. Ford Kent who retired as a Brigadier General of the regular army, and by Henry J. Freeman who now commands the regiment.

The 24th Infantry served for eleven years in the State of Texas, during which time it was engaged in the Victorio Campaign and in chasing various bands of Indians who pestered the staked plains by their presence. The duties which fell upon this regiment during the eleven years were many and various, and called for a high order of discipline and the perfection of endurance and patience, since it was required to aid in restoring order to that distracted state under conditions calling for patience and perseverance of the highest types.

In 1880 the regiment was ordered to Indian Territory, where it served until 1888. During this time it held in control many tribes of Indians, and the duties that it performed were of a character which brings neither honor, not glory, only arduous and thankless service, the results of which are seen in the peaceful solution of the Indian troubles for which others claim and receive the credit.

In 1888 the regiment was ordered to New Mexico and Arizona, and took part in all the various difficulties there, ending in the settlement of the Apache troubles, the details of which it would take too long to write. In 1896 the regiment was ordered to Ft. Douglas, Utah, near Salt Lake City, where it served until the outbreak of the Spanish-American war. During the time of its service in New Mexico and Arizona, it was called upon to perform many duties of many kinds, from chasing horse thieves to protecting railroads, and all of these were performed in a manner which reflected credit upon the organization.

Upon the outbreak of the Spanish-American war, the regiment was ordered to Tampa, Florida, became a part of the Fifth Corps, and participated in the battles about Santiago, Cuba, during which it lost nearly forty per cent of its officers and about thirty-eight per cent of its men in the first two days of the fight. Afterwards it was ordered to Siboney to guard the yellow fever hospital, but upon arriving there, is was found necessary to nurse the sick instead of guarding them, and for forty days the regiment was cut off from all communication with the outside world. During this time the various nurses from the ranks were stricken with yellow fever, until a large part of the men were suffering from the disease, and the result was that at the end of the Spanish-American war, of the five hundred stalwart, well disciplined, fine, specimens of humanity who went to Cuba, less than two hundred and fifty were left in the regiment, the rest having succumbed to death or disability. No pen can depict the suffering endured by the officers and men in this regiment during the time it was in Cuba, and those who endured the agony of that ordeal decline to speak of it except in confidence.

Under the Act of April 26th, 1898, by which a Third Battalion was organized in each regiment, four new companies were added, I and K being already active only in name, and L and M were added to the organization. Owing to the war conditions it was impossible to organize these new companies until the return of the regiment for the Cuba campaign. The present Company L, therefore, now stationed in Skagway, is a new company having with it twelve men who were with the regiment prior to the Spanish-American war. This company was organized at Ft. Douglas, Utah, in March 1899; was sent from there to Presidio, San Francisco, thence to Vancouver Barracks, and from there to the D. K. T. Dock near Dyea, where if remained until burned out on the 28th of July last. The company is commanded by Captain Henry W. Hovey who has been an officer of the regiment since 1880.

The First Lieutenant is Isaac, C. Jenks who has been with the regiment since 1892. It has, as an organization, participated in none of the victories of the regiment, nor is it entitled in any way to any glory, beyond that which is reflected by being connected with a regiment whose record is second to none in the U. S. Army.