Earl Brooks’ Photography: The Spanish-American War

Earl Brooks’ Photography: The Spanish-American War

Earl Brooks’ Photography: The Spanish-American War

 By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

I’ve talked about some of Earl Brooks’ photos before, and now I’d like to look at some other subjects that he recorded.  Right now most people’s attention is on the State Fair and the fairgrounds.  Brooks has some interesting pictures from the spring of 1898 when the grounds were being used for something very different.

When the Spanish-American War began in April of 1898, men all over Indiana immediately volunteered Camp Mount Harrisonto become soldiers.  The state government decided to create Camp Mount at the fairgrounds as a mobilization camp for organizing troops.  It was named for the sitting governor, James A. Mount and the first troops arrived on April 26th.  There were not enough uniforms at first and many of the volunteers began drilling in their civilian clothes.

There were extensively illustrated articles about the camp in the Indianapolis News.  The articles described visiting days when large numbers of civilians came to see what was happening in the camp.  Former president Benjamin Harrison even stopped by to present some flags.  It was probably one of these visiting days when Brooks was able to get his pictures.

SpanAm at FairgroundsThere were two photos in the collection showing Camp Mount – there may have been more which have since disappeared.  One photo clearly shows the soldiers marching behind the old grandstand.  The other shows them drilling in a nearby field.  Even though there were enlistees from Hamilton County there, it’s not known if these men are them.

Interestingly, there was a rivalry between Sheridan and Noblesville to create the company that would represent the county.  Although Sheridan got there first, they were shorthanded and had to accept volunteers from other towns in the county.  The unit was SpanAm in fieldeventually designated as Company I, 158th Regiment, Indiana Volunteers.  However, like many American regiments, it never got to Cuba.  They were shipped out to Florida, but the war ended before they got any farther.  There was one casualty –

Richard M. “Moxey” Hinds died of illness while in camp in Florida.  His body was brought back to Indiana and buried in Crownland Cemetery and, when a veterans’ group was formed after the war, it was named for him.

Camp Mount mapOnly one Hamilton County soldier saw any serious action – Charles A. Dempsey.  Dempsey was African American and a member of the renowned 24th Infantry, who stormed a Spanish fortress at the Battle of El Caney and supported Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders at the Battle of San Juan Hill.  Dempsey had previously been a member of the 10th Cavalry who were known as the “Buffalo Soldiers”.  I’ll cover more of his career in a future blog post.



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