"This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Spanish-American War which was declared on April 26, 1898. This action followed Spain's oppressive treatment of Cuba's struggle for independence since 1895. The declaration of war by the United States against the Kingdom of Spain was the direct result of the 'blowing up' of the battleship Main in Havana Harbor in March. President McKinley called for 200,000 volunteers and 1,000,000 stepped forward to enlist. At that time, the US Army numbered 25,000. The Sixth Regiment of the Volunteer Militia of Massachusetts, of which Wakefield's Richardson Light Guard was a part, was the first regiment to offer its services to then Governor Wolcott. The Company held a special meeting on April 28th at which time 69 men enlisted. An additional 15 men joined the following day. On May 5th, the night before their departure, the townspeople hosted a grand farewell reception at the Town Hall. At 7:30 the next morning, the fire alarm rang the assembly signal (12-12), and the townspeople gathered again to escort the soldiers to the train station. School was closed for the day. The soldiers traveled through Boston, Baltimore, Virginia, South Carolina (where they boarded the 'Commodore Perry" to the 'Yale'), and Cuba. Their final destination was Puerto Rico where they were the first whole U.S. regiment to land, and were one of the 'few fortunate regiments to get under fire.' They were ordered home on October 18th, 1898 and arrived in Boston Harbor aboard the 'Mississippi' on October 27th. They arrived in Wakefield at dusk and were greeted by a 'dense mass' of people from Richardson Avenue to Yale Avenue. 'Red fire lighted up the sky; and with the discharge of dynamite salutes, the ringing of bells, the blowing of horns, discharge of fire works, and the music of two brass bands it was a rare spectacle.' The soldiers were honored at a banquet hosted by the Town on November 9, 1898. The Richardson Light Guard Association of the Puerto Rican Campaign was organized on January 2, 1899, and, on orders of the War Department, were quartered in the armory until mustered out. The men were required to report for roll call each morning and evening, and rations were furnished by a Lynn caterer. On January 21, 1899, the company traveled to the South Armory in Boston where they were mustered out of the U.S. service. It is interesting to note that because of the segregation of the U.S. Army at the time, African-Americans served in Company L of the 6th Regiment, and were trained in Boston. Wakefield resident, 2nd Lieutenant George W. Braxton, served with this Company." -- Text from calendar by Jayne M. D'Onofrio.
Wakefield resident George W. Braxton, seated right, a Second Lieutenant with Company L, along with company officers First Lieutenant William H. Jackson, left, and Captain William J. Williams, center.
Image from the Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department annual calendar, 1998
Photo reprinted from the History of the Richardson Light Guard (1851-1901).