Timeline Tuesday: Christmas for a Nebraska Soldier

Andrew S. Wadsworth in 1898 went with the First Nebraska Regiment to the Philippines as a soldier in the first phase of the Spanish American War. He had previously been employed in his uncle’s jewelry shop in Beatrice and while overseas corresponded regularly with his Nebraska relatives.

The First Nebraska arrived in Manila on July 17, 1898, after a stopover in Honolulu. December of that year found Wadsworth and his fellow soldiers in the field and waiting for some promised Christmas boxes from home.

However, the troops were disappointed; no Christmas boxes arrived. Andrew wrote on January 2, 1899, to his sister and brother: “The Christmas dinner we had was the only thing worth mentioning on that day.” The dinner must have been a sumptuous one; it included, according to Andrew, “oyster stew with olives and pickles, baked chicken with dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, bread, butter, jam, cakes, cookies, chocolate, oranges, bananas and cigars.”

The failure of the Christmas boxes to arrive was due to the changing political and military situation in Washington and in the Philippines. Optimists at first thought that American troops would be brought home quickly and the shipment of boxes was halted. But as it became clear that American troops would remain in the Philippines far longer than anticipated, the boxes were sent after all. Andrew wrote on March 8: “We had a Christmas last week when our boxes came and say, it was good to see the things that tumbled out of them-everything from pins to night dresses. I got candy, jell[ied] preserves, papers, books, needles, and little things that helped to fill up, and fruit cake-was common stuff but so good.”

Andrew was wounded in April of 1899 and returned from the Philippines to Nebraska in early 1900.

(December 1998)

(Photo: A number of soldiers sitting in an open sided, thatch roofed structure. The caption on the back of the photo reads: Christmas Dinner, Dinalupihan, 1900. Collection- RG2577.PH000025-000007)

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