Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Private Harry O. Whitson, Company B 38th Infantry Battalion, Philippines War

This is my journey of discovering my Grandfather Harry O Whitson’s military years. 
It started with finding his pension in the Civil War Files.  He served in the Philippines War in 1899, but they have their pension indexes mixed in with the Civil War indexes.  This discovery was on Fold3. I now knew that he was in Company B of the 38th Infantry Battalion.  I also had his muster in and muster out dates, as well as his death date. My mom said he died when she was 2 months old and so he did.
On Ancestry.com, I found him and his 2 brothers, Robert C Whitson, and Oscar Whitson on the 1900 US Federal Census at Battalion at Batangas, Philippine Islands, Military and Naval Forces in the same battalion. 
The next process was to go to GenealogyBank.com and search the newspapers of that time to see what was being said.  Sad to say, the press was very negative about this war and coverage wasn't great, but the political cartoons were rampant.  The worse was to see about a battalion being charged with atrocities. I breathed a sigh of relief that my grandfather was not in that battalion.  His service summary card said service Honest and Faithful.  A description I would not mind to have. Finally I found an article that told of the end of the volunteer army. It described when they would come home, and the transports that would be involved. 
A Google search using the names of the transports gave me the dates and places that they arrived in. I also found the book AnnualReport of the Secretary of War, Volume 1, Part 3 US Gov. 1901.  In there was the chart that gave the exact ship ‘Thyna’ that his battalion came home on, the date in port and the date they were discharged on which matched his pension card.  Someone (there wasn't a name) had transcribed 2 Oregonian Daily articles that included the arrival of the ship.
Two Big Transports Will Return to Portland From Manila.
“The United States transports Thyra and  Kintuck will both return to Portland
from Manila, and the former has already sailed for Portland with a company of
volunteers, which will be mustered out in San Francisco. The Thyra was turned over
to the Government in this city, and It is supposed that she Is coming back to Port,
land to be returned to her owners. Otherwise, she would probably go direct to
San Francisco with the troops. Just why the troops should not be mustered out In
Portland is a matter which is not easily explained, except that the San Francisco
pull is heavier than that of Portland. The Kintuck will probably bring a few
soldiers when she returns. She had excellent luck with her outward cargo of
horses and mules from Portland, losing but four animals on the voyage.”
ASTORIA:  June 29. Arrived at 8:50 A.M. and left up at 12:30 P. M.
 Norwegian steamer Thyra, from Manila. From San Francisco.
“The Norwegian steamship Thyra, which has been In the Government transport
service for several months, arrived at Astoria yesterday morning, and after a
short stay at quarantine, proceeded up the river. She brings 237 passengers,
nearly all, of them returning volunteer Infantrymen. The officers on board were
Captain D. F. Allen, Captain Ross A. Nichols, First Lieutenant A. J. Brown,
Second Lieutenant A. C. Davis, First Lieutenant S. Friedman and Captain W.
G. Fleischhauer. The present trip of the Thyra will be her last
 in the Government service, and she will probably drift back
into the merchant service.”

From this, I was able to see they had a long hard trip aboard a steamer.  They had to wait another
month before they were discharged to go home.  It was amazing to see they were transported to the upper North West of the United States to be able to get back to their homes.  The newspaper article said they still had to wait for their last 5 days of pay because of not being mustered out until 5 days after the expiration of the time the congress had set for the volunteer army.  
I hope they got it.

These men did not get a ticker tape parade or a pat on the back.  I know from my great uncle, and what my mother said that my grandfather volunteered because he wanted to serve his country. During WWI, he couldn’t volunteer to go serve as a soldier, so he went and volunteered to drive a taxi at Fort Sill, Oklahoma to help the soldiers.  He apparently kept hitting his knee on the door. When his knee hurt enough, he went in to the doctors and they discovered he had cancer in his knee.  His service days were over. According to his Pension Index card, it was the 19th of June 1920 that they deemed him to be sufficiently handicapped to receive his military pension.  My grandmother, continued to receive, thankfully, as a widow, since they lost everything because of medical bills.

I close saying that I am grateful my grandfather was a man who stood for his country and desired to serve to help other’s be free.  He was a good man.  I made a scrapbook page to depict his military journey, from where he lived when he volunteered to where he returned to the United States.  
Created by Fran Ellsworth