Corporal John J. Kiernan

of the 12th New York Volunteer Infantry Writes Home

Letter 1 - Life in Camp Thomas ||| Letter 2 - Waiting for Action


Corporal John J. Kiernan served with the 12 New York Volunteer Infantry during the War. The unit was first sent to Camp Thomas as Chickamauga, Georgia. Conditions in this camp were terrible. It was overcrowded, unsanitary, and disease-ridden. To stem the losses, the camp was eventually borken up and the troops relocated. The 12th New York was sent to Lexington, Kentucky, which s where they appear at least by October, 1898. The fighting had ended on August 13, 1898, so the unit did not see action. The unit may have been sent back to Americus, Georgia before being sent to Cuba as part of the occupation force in late December, 1898.

Below are several letters written by Cpl. Kiernan.

Letter 1:

"June 28, 1898

Mrs. Kiernan
649 2nd Avenue
New York, NY

Dear Wife,

I have sent you a letter last night telling you about our supposed moving, but now I believe the order is countermanded.  We have just been ordered to bring 10 days rations.  That means that we don't go right away. Nearly all of our men from the city have arrived.  This is a great park - about 1/2 dozen bands playing at the same time.  Over on the the other side a sham battle is in progress where I am now standing outside of the Division Hospital.  There are about 60 men in the hospital but there are none from the 12th.

The new men are being affected now by the water.  Some of the coughs of the men in the hospital are hacking.  You would not think that in a place like this you could get cold but there are about 30 cases of typhoid fever and about 6 of pneumonia.  The men are about sick of this place.  They wanted to be moved.  I hope they do one thing or the other.  Tell Mr. Murphy and Mrs. Murphy and Paul Boyle I send my regards - also Mrs. Duffy.  Tell
her to bring you some pie and charge it to me.  I have not much to say in this letter.  So I bid them all goodbye.  Tell Mrs. Robinson too.

Camp George H. Thomas
Chickamauga Park"

Letter 2:

"July 4th, 1898

Dear Wife and kind friends,

... "To us the 71st is getting all the glory.  We are glad that a New York regiment has had a share in it.  We don't begrudge them the honor they are getting tonight.  After we had a sham battle the only one that done any work today we had 10 rounds of blank cartridges and we put a good deal of vim in our work.  When we move we will, I think understand the rules of warfare. We heard that Cervera's fleet was destroyed.  Such a yell you never heard, everybody shaking hands and jumping up in the air.  Some fairly crazed with
joy." ...


Information contributed by Mr. Kiernan's family. Anyone with info on the 12th New York can write the family by clicking here!

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