If you have an interest in William Jennings Bryan’s campaigns, you are in for a treat. The Nebraska History Museum has a wonderful collection of Bryan’s campaign memorabilia, which was recently added to our online database. Visit http://www.nebraskahistory.org/databases/index.html Click on “Museum and Photograph Collections Search, and enter “William Jennings Bryan” in the keyword search.
One of the museum’s new Bryan acquisitions is a Spanish American War roster for Company F of the Third Nebraska Regiment.
The Third Nebraska was led by Colonel William Jennings Bryan and Lieutenant Colonel Victor Vifquain. It was mustered into service on July 13, 1898, and was sent to Panama Park, Florida. The regiment trained at Jacksonville, Pablo Beach, and Fairfield, Florida.
The Third Nebraska saw no action during the war, which was nearly over. Bryan had unsuccessfully run against McKinley in the 1896 presidential campaign, and President McKinley was concerned that a successful military career might help increase Bryan’s popularity and further his political ambitions.
After a preliminary peace agreement between the United States and Spain was signed on August 12th, Bryan visited the White House and protested his regiment’s service in unsanitary, disease ridden (there were more than 300 cases of Typhoid) and snake-infested conditions. He asked McKinley to muster out the Third Nebraska since the war was over.
McKinley did not honor Bryan’s request and the Third Nebraska was then sent to Camp Onward in Savannah, Georgia on October 24, 1898.
On December 10th the United States and Spain signed a formal peace treaty in Paris, and Spain ceded Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippine Islands to the United States and relinquished sovereignty over Cuba. Bryan, who favored liberating rather than gaining new territories, resigned from his position and continued speaking out against McKinley’s imperialist policies.
After Bryan’s resignation, McKinley sent the Third Nebraska to Cuba as part of the occupation force. Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Victor Vifquain, the regiment arrived in Havana on January 2, 1899 and served there until April of that year. The Third Nebraska was mustered out at Camp McKenzie, Georgia on May 11, 1899.
Bryan ran for president again in 1900, with imperialism as one of his key platforms.
-Laura Mooney, Museum Registrar