Monday, May 19, 2008

Cover Addressed to Governor Steunenberg -1899

Just going through more stuff and ran across this cover I had picked up quite some time ago. Too bad the letter was not inside. It is a Spanish-American war cover from the Philippine Islands and addressed to Gov. Frank Steunenberg. The postmark is a Military Station postmark. The Military Stations were field Post Offices operated under the administration of the San Francisco Post Office (information courtesy of Mark Metkin). This cover was likely "mailed" sometime earlier in the Philippine Islands but postmarked on January 7, 1899 at the military station in San Francisco. It arrived in Boise on February 14th 1899.

I had previously compared the handwriting on the cover to that of George Steunenberg, the brother of Governor Steunenberg, as he was serving with the First Idaho Volunteers. However, the writing is not similar and Steunenberg is spelled incorrectly.

One can only imagine the contents of the letter, maybe part of a correspondence between the governor and military authorities regarding a request for troops to serve in the Spanish-American War or an anticipated need on the home front because of simmering trouble in the Coeur d'Alene's. Or perhaps from a soldier in the field wishing to express an opinion or experience. The name Lyman C. Reed is on the back but I have been unable to identify who that might be. Maybe we will eventually uncover a letter somewhere among Frank Steunenberg's papers that will match this envelope.


After a declaration of War against Spain by the United States Congress on April 19, 1898, the Secretary of War sent telegrams off to each state "advising them of the allotment of troops under the President's call for volunteers.” Idaho’s contribution was defined as two battalions of infantry composed of four companies each. Governor Frank Steunenberg issued orders for the Idaho National Guard companies composing the First Regiment to report to Boise. These companies were mustered into the service of the United States as the First Idaho Volunteer Infantry in May of 1898 for deployment to the Philippines to fight in the Spanish-American War.
"Just before the regiment left for the front, it was presented with a handsome flag of military blue silk, upon which was embroidered in richly colored silks the Great Seal of the State of Idaho. This flag was presented by the women of the state and was carried by the regiment during its entire service. Col. Charles H. Irvin, of Boise, suggested the material and design for the flag, and through the courtesy of Mrs. J. B. Lyon, of Chicago, mother of Mrs. Calvin Cobb, of Boise, the flag was made in Chicago by skilled needle-workers. After the war the legislature directed to collect all flags belonging to the state of Idaho and carried by troops in the Spanish-American war and preserve them in the capitol building, and $100 were appropriated for the purpose. The flag presented to the boys of the First Idaho is now preserved under that order and can be seen by visitors to the capitol." 1
The battle flag of the First Idaho Infantry consisted of a rendition of the pictorial content of the Idaho Territorial Seal centered on a blue field. The regiment name was placed below.
The First Idaho Volunteer Infantry arrived in the Philippines on July 31 and took part in the staged assault on Manila on August 13. After active participation in battles at Santa Ana, Caloocan, Malaban, Santa Cruz, and subsequent scrimmages in 1899, the First Idaho Volunteer Infantry was sent home. They were greeted by Governor Steunenberg and nearly one hundred Idahoans when they arrived in San Francisco on August 29, 1899.

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