On April 6, 1898, Congress declared war on Spain and President William McKinley organized United States forces for the "Splendid Little War." Of the tens of thousands of regular, volunteer and National Guard (Militia) troops who served, 343 Utah Guardsmen saw service in the Philippine Islands. On May 1st, after the Navy's stunning victory at Manila Bay, McKinley authorized an invasion force to capture the Philippine archipelago from Spain. Organized into two batteries, the Utah "Light" Artillery mustered into federal service on May 9, 1898 at Fort Douglas, Utah. Shortly thereafter, at Camp Merritt near San Francisco, the Utah Artillery became part of Brig. Gen. Francis V. Greene's brigade of the U.S. VIII Corps under the command of Maj. Gen. Wesley Merritt.
Leaving San Francisco, Greene's brigade first raised the U.S. flag in Guam and then arrived on the island of Luzon on July 17, 1898. In the Philippines, 15,000 Americans not only faced 13,000 Spanish soldiers but a second army of some 12,000 Philippine rebels under Emilo Aguinaldo. The rebels had been fighting for national independence from Spain and hoping for American assistance. When Merritt ordered to keep the rebels out of the fight against Spain, the rebels became a second possible enemy.
On August 13th, the Utah Artillery supported Greene's brigade as it attacked towards the "old" city of Manila. The battle was predetermined to be a "limited" one in order to preserve Spanish honor and minimize casualties. The rebels, however, made this impossible. As American forces moved quickly against the Spanish defenses, a race to the old city center developed between the Americans and Aguinaldo's rebels. The Utah batteries fired and re-deployed several times providing close and accurate support for the infantry attacks.
The Utah Light Artillery continued in federal service for another year and fought in the Philippine Insurrection until returning to Utah in August 1899. Today's 145th Field Artillery, Utah Army National Guard, carries on the history and traditions of the Utah Light Artillery.
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