Arthur Dickey, who lived near West Creek Township, one of the men who answered the call, wrote the following letter on August 7, 1898: (Copied here in part)
I will get a pass for three days in succession, excused from drill duty for that time. Yesterday I had a pass from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. and thought a more opportune time would not soon come for visiting the oldest city in the United States, so I bought a ticket and boarded the train for St. Augustine (Fla) . We left the imposing Union Depot at 10 a.m. and as the long train loaded with boys in blue pulled across the long viaduct and bridge of the St. John's River, I could not help wishing you could be with me. There are few interesting points between Jacksonville and St. Augustine except perhaps the coaling stations for the railroad engines, which in this country are piled high with pine wood cut and split to the proper dimensions. The engines have a large coaling capacity, so it was necessary for us to stop but once to wood up.
We arrived at the old city at 11:30 and we had only until 5:30 to see the many points of interest in the old town. Our first visit was to the famous Ponce De Leon Hotel. On our way we passed the Flager Memorial Presbyterian, a most beautiful structure with a fine plaza planted with immense palms, enclosed by a most expensive iron and stone fence.
At last we arrived at the famous hotel which for magnificence can not be excelled. It is the largest I ever saw and was a surprise in almost every way.
The next place of interest is the large hotel across the street called the Alcazar. It was built of Florida Stone, is a palace itself, with an interior court planted with all the tropical plants and with a quiet stream of water and a rustic bridge.
Our next visit was to the oldest church in America, called the Cathedral. The foundations were laid in 1535, if I am not mistaken. The front wall where the bells are hung is original. The church, of course, is Catholic and the altars are of fine marble, pure white, with the candles burning at the feet of St. Mary, where I suppose they have been burning since the foundation.
Our attention was next drawn to the plaza and old slave market where traditions say Spanish slaves were bought and sold, and in later times the colored people were the victims.
And now we come to the object of our visit, the old Spanish Fort, which is worth the time and money of anyone to visit. The walls and almost everything are intact just as they were when the Spaniards tortured their prisoners there, the stone steps being worn almost six inches deep in the center. The walls are made of Cokena, a kind of stone formed by small shells, sea water and sand. We were led into dungeon after dungeon of Spanish cruelty, the marks of the instruments of torture being still visible in the solid walls. Almost every victim beneath a cross even in the dungeon of dungeons , a space perhaps 12x20 feet by 10 feet in length, as dark as midnight with six feet of solid wall on either side, entered through a space three feet wide by three feet through a wall four feet thick. Discovered there last year (1897) were two human skeletons tied by chains to the crosses. The entrance was guarded by four sets of heavy iron doors. In the interior of the walls there is a court perhaps 200 feet square which was used as a parade ground, but now there are old cannon and cannon balls, also two brass cannon.
Just inside the ramparts there is a moat 20 feet deep by 50 feet wide, filled with water. The old draw bridge has been destroyed and there is at present a modern wooden bridge.
After my visit to the old fort I was not sorry I enlisted, and if ever the chance comes again I will give my life to crush out a nation of such savage and cruel a nature. I can not get the scene out of my mind. It is terrible.
We then went to view the ancient city gates which stand almost as when built. We took some snapshots of them and went for dinner. We were directed to a residence where we had a fine dinner with a family of New York people who were very pleasant. After dinner we went out for a sail and a sea bath, the equal of which I never saw. We then took the train for camp, well satisfied with our day's recreation.
I am getting anxious to know just what disposition will be made of the volunteer army when peace treaties are finally signed. I shall not go to Cuba unless they insist upon it, when of course I will have to. I think, however, that within six weeks we will see Chicago. Well, I must close as drill call has sounded..
Love to all, Arthur Dickey
Arthur was writing his letter at the end of the hostilities, so his chances of going to Cuba were slim, for all the fighting ended August 12, 1898, and a treaty of peace was signed the following December. Early in the war the Spanish Fleet was destroyed in the Philippines without the loss of a single sailor. American Army casualties for the four months of fighting were 279 killed and nearly 1500 wounded. The US Navy lost 16 sailors, 68 wounded. Nearly 5000 men died from tropical decease. In December when the treaty was signed, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine Islands were ceded to the United States and Spain's sovereignty over Cuba was relinquished. Arthur may have been assigned to Camp Fernandina near Tampa, Florida. Soldiers were also encamped at Camp Cuba Libre near Jacksonville, Florida.
Arthur Dickey was the son of Volney Dickey (1833-1905), early settler in Yellowhead Township in Illinois, near the state line at West Creek Township. His mother was Arminta Pattee Hayden Dickey, the second wife of Volney Dickey.
Several years ago the large book Wright's Official History of the Spanish-American War by General Marcus Wright, 1900, was purchased from the estate of Seymour Kanaar (1867-1943) by the Three Creeks Historical Association and was presented to the Lowell Public Library as a memorial to Ray McIntire, one of the founders and first president of the historical association. The Library has a large selection of books relating to the Spanish-American War available for viewing.
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