O. Batson Hinman in the Spanish-American War

The O. Batson Hinman Papers, 1898-1899 (MS 794) contain the military documents, newspaper clippings, photographs, and diary of O. Batson Hinman, a Corporal of the regiment Company B from Newton, Illinois in the Spanish-American War.

Illinois troops marching in Springfield, MS 794

Hinman was born in Newton in Jasper County, Illinois, and enlisted at the age of 19. His military record describes him as 5 feet 11 inches tall with a dark complexion, brown eyes, and black hair, and he was occupied as a clerk. On May 20, 1898, Hinman was promoted to Corporal in the Company B of the 4th Regiment of Illinois Volunteers.

The Spanish-American War was a short-lived conflict in 1898 between the United States and Spain that derived from the United States’ economic interest in Cuba. It also signaled the end of Spanish colonialism in the Western Hemisphere and an increase in U.S. involvement in global affairs. Beginning in February of 1895, Cuba struggled for independence from Spain, and with the phenomenon of “yellow journalism,” newspapers published vivid yet biased accounts of the conflict in Cuba and declared a moral duty for the United States to intervene. Such reporting led to the American public supporting the war. In February of 1898 the unexplained sinking of the American battleship USS Maine in Havana Harbor was the impetus for President McKinley to officially declare war later in April.

Military papers for promotion to Corporal, MS 794

The collection includes Hinman’s military papers, such as documentation of his promotion to corporal, his discharge papers, an application for furlough, and a day pass to Havana. The collection also contains a diary that describes Hinman’s life in the military, from drills and routines to the bugle schedule and regiment inspections. Hinman also compiled two photograph books of his service in Cuba. They include images of Illinois soldiers marching through Springfield before going to Cuba in May of 1898, his camp, groups of soldiers, and the wreckage of the USS Maine.

The collection also has a “Soldier’s Housewife,” a rectangular-shaped cloth that could be folded into a contained pouch. The “Housewife” packet contained all the materials a soldier would need to repair his clothing when necessary, and Hinman’s holds needles, thread, buttons, and a cake of starch. This packet appears to have been given to Hinman as it contains a note of best wishes and explanation:

please hand to some one, that is not supplied. Compliments and best wishes of Mrs. S.C.A – and St. Clair – In case of heat or rash, (the?) starch is very cooling
“Soldier’s Housewife” packet, MS 794

There are also several newspaper clippings, including a special edition paper of Newton’s Evening Star, published on May 4, 1899, that announced Company B’s return from the war. It describes the welcome the soldiers received as their train arrived back in Newton:

It came in at 2p.m. It carried on board Co. B, 4th Illinois Volunteers, as brave a set of boys as ever shouldered a gun, or “cocked a cannon,” for the United States. They were hale and hearty and in the best of spirits. How could they have been otherwise is a question, when such a grand reception was tendered them when the train rolled into Newton. As the train reached the city limits cannons were fired, whistles blown, church bells rang and the throats of 5,000 people gave forth a shout that could have been heard for miles ‘round.

Hinman’s discharge papers were signed on May 2, 1899 after he had served for two years. His military record further notes his good service:

service, honest and faithful. Character good.
Discharge paper, May 2, 1899, MS 794

In addition to this archival collection, the IHLC also has a number of print holdings on the Spanish-American War, which you can find by searching the library catalog, linked here.

IHLC Resources

Skinner, John R. History of the Fourth Illinois Volunteers in their relations to the Spanish-American War for the liberation of Cuba and other island possessions of Spain. Logansport, IN: Press of Wilson, Humphreys, & Co., 1899. Call number: 973.894 IL6I4

The Volunteer Soldiers of ’98 and ’99. Winchester, IL: The Winchester Times, 1900. Call number: Q. 973.89 V889

Other Resources

“Spanish-American War.” Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, edited by Thomas Riggs. 2nd ed. Gale, 2015. http://proxy2.library.illinois.edu/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/galegue/spanish_american_war/0?institutionId=386

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