With a history that spans 160 years, Marquette High alumni have participated in almost every major American war, including the Civil War. For the past few years, students and I have researched our alumni with some exciting discoveries. Students helped me research this post, which acknowledges a Class of 1898 alum who enlisted and served in the Spanish American War.
Marquette Remembers the Maine:
On March 26th, 1878, Fred Albert Baumann was born to German immigrants in Racine, Wisconsin. When 14 years old, he attended Milwaukee’s Marquette College, which was a predecessor to Marquette University High School. The college started in 1881 and provided its graduates a 6 year degree where students received both a high school and college diploma.
Just before Baumann was to graduate from Marquette in 1898, however, he enlisted as a Private in Company F of First Wisconsin Volunteers Regiment. This company consisted of almost all Racine men. Like countless Americans who later answered the call to duty after surprise attacks at Pearl Harbor and 9/11, Baumann enlisted after the USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor.
These soldiers were mobilized at Milwaukee’s Camp Harvey to go and fight the Spanish in either Cuba or the Philippines. One wonders whether Marquette teachers encouraged students like Baumann to enlist and what the role of Yellow Journalism may have had on his decision.
Former Confederates & the Civil War’s Legacy :
Baumann and the First Wisconsin soon left Milwaukee for Camp Cuba Libre in Jacksonville, Florida, then nearby Camp Pablo Beach. These soldiers trained for an invasion of Havana, which never materialized (the war in Cuba ended too soon).
The Civil War maintained a strong influence on our military at the turn of the century. The commander of the 1st Wisconsin at Cuba Libre was Major General Fitzhugh Lee (pictured left as CSA General), Robert E. Lee’s nephew, who served as a Confederate cavalry commander during the Civil War. Joseph Wheeler, another former Confederate general also rubbed shoulders with the First Wisconsin in Florida.
It is amazing to think an MUHS alumnus served under and near former Confederates. Few of the Wisconsin boys minded their commander wore grey 35 years earlier as they provided Lee a “huge ovation” when they first saw him. They were not as excited with Civil War’s other presence in camp. The regiment’s medical supplies consisted only of large blue pills from the Civil War, which were still in their original 1860s packages and extremely hard to chew! The Racine Journal Times wrote that the Spanish American war was “the first major military test of the country united since the Civil War” (6 June 1954).
Baumann Leads some Camp Mischief:
Baumann and a few comrades made the Racine Weekly Journal (2 June 1898), which featured stories on their local boys’ soldier adventures while in Florida. Camp Cuba Libra was surrounded by booths, which sold a variety of wares to the soldiers. One night Baumann and 4 other soldiers staged a mock-fight to distract the booth owner who sold pies. As two soldiers fought, this attracted several African American booth owners and Baumann and his mates successfully grabbed 16 pies, which the newspaper reported, provided “a pie feast” later that evening in camp.
After the War:
Baumann registered for World War One’s Draft although he did not serve. He registered again for World War Two’s “Old Man Draft,” which was the government’s attempt to determine which men over 60 years old possessed any skills that could help the war effort.
Baumann owned his own Oil delivery business in Racine with his son until his death in 1956. Clearly his 6 months of service in the Spanish American War wore a special place in his heart. This photo below shows him (sitting, second from left) at a reunion in 1954 with the First Wisconsin’s remaining survivors of the war.