Camp Alger, near Falls Church, Virginia, was an army camp established on May 13, 1898, for the Spanish–American War effort.[1] It was originally named Camp Harries for George H. Harries, Colonel of the 1st District of Columbia Volunteer Infantry, but the name was changed on May 23 to honor Secretary of War Russell A. Alger who approved the camp.

Camp Alger
1+12 miles from Dunn Loring
Camp Alger, Virginia, 1898
Site information
Controlled byUnited States
Site history
Built18 May 1898
In use1898
Garrison information
Maj. Gen. William M. Graham
GarrisonSecond Army Corps

The camp was abandoned in early August 1898, by which time the number of troops there had risen to more than 35,000, following a Typhoid outbreak and the War Department put it up for sale in September.[2][3]

The most notable soldier stationed at Camp Alger was the poet and author, Carl Sandburg and today Sandburg Street, located on the old route from the camp to the railroad depot, is named in his honor.

Location edit

Camp Alger was about 1+12 miles from Dunn Loring, a station on the Washington, Ohio and Western railroad a branch of the Southern Railway; 7 miles from Washington, D.C., and about 5 miles distant from Fort Myer. The surface of this tract is rolling, partly wooded, with cultivated clearings and with good drainage. The soil is of clay and sand and nearly impervious to water. Immediately after the selection of this camp preparations were made for the reception of troops by the erection of storehouses at Dunn Loring, where the Southern Railway put in extra sidings to accommodate the increased traffic.[1] It was built on a 1,400-acre farm called Woodburn Manor.[3]

Second Army Corps edit

The Second Army Corps was constituted May 7, and May 16 Maj. Gen. William M. Graham, was assigned to the command, and the troops which were to compose the corps were ordered to this camp. General Graham arrived May 19 and assumed command, which he exercised during the existence of the camp. This corps was composed wholly of volunteers. The troops commenced arriving the 18th of May, and by the last of that month there were 18,309 officers and men in camp. On the last day of June there were 23,511 officers and men, on the last day of July there were 22,180, on the last day of August the troops present at this camp. Total number of troops that went to Camp Alger 31,195.[1][4][5][6]

Duffield's brigade left camp June 15 and Garretson's brigade July 5, both for Santiago, Cuba to reinforce Gen. Shafter's army.[7]

President McKinley edit

The President's own (8th Ohio), Camp Alger, Va.
9th Battalion Ohio V. I Colored troops in skirmish drill, Camp Alger, Va.

The 8th Ohio Infantry Regiment, U.S. Volunteers, arrived at Camp Alger on May 19, 1898, was nicknamed “McKinley’s Own” or “The President’s Own” because three companies were from President William McKinley's hometown of Canton.[8]

Another unit from McKinley's home state was the Ninth Ohio Volunteer Infantry Battalion, an African American regiment. At Camp Alger, this battalion was initially assigned to the Second Brigade, Second Division, of the Second Army Corps.[9]

When President William McKinley and his Cabinet visited Camp Alger, on May 28, 1898,[10][11] two short films were made of this event.[12][13]

Water and sanitation edit

The water supply was quite limited and never was sufficient for other uses than cooking and drinking, and not for that until about the 25th of June, when about forty wells had been sunk. There were no adequate bathing facilities nearer than the Potomac River, which was 7 miles distant. The troops were encamped both in the open and wooded portions. Those in the latter did not seem to suffer on account of their position. The sinks were generally properly policed, of the regulation depth, and were very soon enclosed.[1]

The woods were quite badly polluted by the excreta of the men; but the commanding officer issued stringent sanitary regulations and used great efforts to see that they were obeyed. His efforts were fairly successful. The troops were well supplied with tentage. The camps of the different regiments were well policed, and the refuse properly disposed of by burning. The rations were abundant in quantity and good in quality. Field bakeries were established in the camp and at Dunn Loring on August 2, from which the corps was supplied with excellent bread. As heretofore stated, on 1 August it was decided to reduce the number of troops, one division being sent to Thoroughfare Gap, and about two weeks later it was decided to move the whole corps. Early in September that was accomplished. During the existence of this camp the weather was exceedingly hot and some portion of the time very rainy, both of which conditions, with myriads of flies which infested the camp, were the causes of much discomfort to the men. The health of this locality is reputed to be as good as any in the section of country about Washington.[1][14][15][16][17]

Typhoid edit

A defining event of the war and Camp Alger was the typhoid fever epidemic of July to November 1898.[18][19][20] [21][22][23]

"The number of deaths from May 18 to October 11 was 71, and at Thoroughfare Gap 34. This death rate is not abnormal, and, judging from it, the locality can not be considered unhealthful. The Seventh Illinois Regiment, which was encamped there during the whole time, lost but one man up to the 14th day of December, a record probably not equaled by any other regiment in the service. The establishment of Camp Alger is justifiable upon the report as to the suitableness of the site, but considering the scarcity of water and the want of facilities for bathing, we are of opinion that it was very undesirable, and was not abandoned too soon."[1]

On August 2 the 2nd Division of the corps marched to Thoroughfare Gap, 30 miles distant, and remained in camp there for about one month.

Early in September the remainder of the corps was transferred to Camp Meade, near Middletown, Pennsylvania. [24][25][26] A few troops, too sick to make the journey, remained at the camp in hospital tents until October.[27]

Remnants edit

Nothing remains of the camp. It was sold to William Campbell and became known at times as Camp Alger Farm and the Camp Alger Tract. In 1907 the War Department considered buying it back to create a rifle range, but chose a location in Petersburg, Virginia instead.[28] The land was sold and resold several times in the 1920's before finally being developed in the 1940's and 1950's.

Two historical markers, one on Arlington Blvd. (U.S. 50) near Fenwick St. in Falls Church, near the spot where the Corps Headquarters was and the other on Sandburg Street in Dunn Lorring near the rail depot. There's also a "Camp Alger Avenue" in West Falls Church that recognizes the camp and a Sandburg Street named in honor of Carl Sandburg who was briefly stationed there.

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f Report of the Commission Appointed by the President to Investigate the Conduct of the War Department in the War with Spain, 8 vols., Senate Document No. 221, 56th Congress, 1st Session, vol. 1, pp. 209-211 (1900).
  2. ^ Roberts, Robert B., "Encyclopedia of Historic Forts", Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, London, 1988, Library of Congress card number 86-28494, ISBN 0-02-926880-X, page 802.
  3. ^ a b "Camp Russell A. Alger". Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  4. ^ Annual report of Major General William Montrose Graham, U. S. Vols., Brig. Gen. U. S. Army: embracing reports for part of the year, from September 1, 1897 to March 12, 1898, on the Department of Texas, from March 12 to May 18, on the Department of the Gulf, and the operations of the 2nd Army Corps,United States Army Dept. of Texas, United States Army, Dept. of the Gulf, United States Army Corps, 2nd, Publisher s.n., 1898
  5. ^ MORE TROOPS AT CAMP ALGER, New York Times, May 30, 1898.
  6. ^ Manoeuvres at Camp Alger, New York Times, June 21, 1898.
  7. ^ FROM CAMP ALGER TO SANTIAGO.; The Second Brigade Breaks Camp and Starts for Cuba, New York Times, July 6, 1898.
  8. ^ A History of the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
  9. ^ A Brief History of the Ninth OhioVolunteer Infantry
  10. ^ PRESIDENT TO REVIEW TROOPS, New York Times, May 27, 1898.
  11. ^ REVIEW BY THE PRESIDENT; Twelve Thousand Volunteers March Past the Stand at Camp Alger, Va., New York Times, May 29, 1898.
  12. ^ President McKinley and Cabinet at Camp Alger, May 28, 1898.
  13. ^ 15,000 Soldiers Reviewed by the President at Camp Alger May 28 (1898)
  14. ^ The Management of Camp Alger and Camp Meade, New York Medical Journal, September 24, 1898.
  15. ^ CAMP ALGER'S WATER SUPPLY, New York Times, June 8, 1898.
  16. ^ TO ENFORCE SANITARY RULES.; War Department Orders that Camps Must Be Well Managed. H.C. CORBIN., New York Times, August 10, 1898.
  17. ^ WATER SUPPLY AT CAMP ALGER, New York Times, August 30, 1898.
  18. ^ Report on the origin and spread of typhoid fever in the U. S. military camps during the Spanish War of 1898, Issue 757 of House document Volume 2, Walter Reed, United States. Surgeon-General's Office, Victor Clarence Vaughan, Edward Oram Shakespeare, Publisher Govt. Print. Off., 1904.
  19. ^ DISEASE AT CAMP ALGER.; The Medical Department Disturbed by the Question of Impure Water --Investigation Is Made., New York Times, July 1, 1898.
  20. ^ TYPHOID AT CAMP ALGER.; One Death and Two New Cases Reported Yesterday -- New Yorkers Afflicted., New York Times, July 23, 1898.
  21. ^ RAVAGES OF TYPHOID FEVER.; Sixteen New Cases at Camp Alger and Two Deaths at Atlanta., New York Times, July 26, 1898.
  22. ^ TYPHOID AT CAMP ALGER.; Many New Cases and One Death Reported Yesterday., New York Times, July 28, 1898.
  23. ^ CAMP ALGER IMPROVING.; Rapid Decline in Number of Typhoid Cases -- Almost No Other Sickness., New York Times, August 9, 1898.
  24. ^ THE REMOVAL OF CAMP ALGER.; Again the Rumor of a Change Is Current There., New York Times, June 26, 1898.
  25. ^ MARCHING FROM CAMP ALGER.; Third Brigade Leads the Retreat from the Stronghold of Typhoid., New York Times, August 4, 1898.
  26. ^ REVIEWS AT CAMP ALGER.; Doubtful Whether First Division Will Now Go to Middletown., New York Times, August 23, 1898.
  27. ^ "The last vestiges of Camp Alger has disappeared". Fairfax Herald. 17 October 1947. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  28. ^ "Select Old Camp Alger". 15 June 1917. Retrieved 6 September 2023.

External links edit