The Fort Douglas Browns – History of the Men of the 24th Infantry Regiment – Part 4

 

 

The early months of 1899 would bring many changes to the men of the 24th Infantry Regiment. The yellow fever which took hold of them in ’98 dealt a definitive blow to their heath and their standing as “Regulars’ in the United States Army. Between the months of January and March, a force reductions of the 24th Infantry Regiment would follow, relocations of certain companies would take place, and the incursion into the Philippines were part of changes that would remove the 24th Infantry Regiment from their ‘good station’ in Salt Lake, Utah.

 

It is Stated that the Regiment is to be Taken to the Presidio, and Later to the Philippines.

Another rumor as to the probable movement of the Twenty-fourth infantry has reached Fort Douglas. It is now said that preparations are being made at the Presidio of San Francisco for the reception of eight regiments of soldiers. These troops are to be stationed at the Presidio awaiting orders to sail for Manila. The rumor has it that the Twenty-fourth infantry will be one of the eight regiments to go to the Presidio and from there to Manila.

It is not a very bright outlook for the regiment, but such is life in the army. The officers are living in a half-settled state, as they do not care to go to the trouble or expense of fixing up their quarters for short time and then have to tear them all up and go to the Philippines or elsewhere. At present nothing definite is known, but most of the officers feel certain that it is only a question of time before they leave for San Francisco, en route to Manila.” — Salt Lake Tribune, January 13, 1899

 

Recruits of the Regiment to be Discharged.

Within the next ten days between 500 and 600 men of the Twenty-fourth infantry are to be discharged from the service. This will reduce for a while the garrison at Fort Douglas to 300 men, at that at Fort Russell, Wyo., to about 180 men, while the cantonment at Camp Pilot Butte, Wyo., where company K is at present stationed, will be left with a garrison of about sixty men.

RATE OF DISCHARGE

The men will be discharged at the rate of about ten a day from each company until all are out. Maj. Birmingham and his assistants at the hospital will examine every man closely as to his physical condition.

Maj. Thompson said last night said that the regiment will be re-recruited up to its full strength at once. The order now standing is to keep its strength up, and recruit will be brought on speedily.

The order that came Tuesday night also relates to the Ninth cavalry, the colored regiment, part of which was formerly stationed at Fort Duchesne.” — Salt Lake Tribune, January, 26, 1899

 

By the next day, one hundred and fifty of the three hundred recruits that had been ordered discharged from the 24th Infantry Regiment, and were mustered out of service, on placed on trains heading East. [32]

 

With $45,000 being allotted by the War Department, each solider discharged from the 24th received $75 a piece for traveling expenses. The amount spent on that single day was half of the total amount allotted. This allotment, pursuant to paragraph two of General Order no. 40, only applied to recruits who had enlisted in the regiment between April 22 and October 26, of 1896. The men of the Fort Douglas Browns were not subject to the General Order no. 40, but based on their physical condition after volunteering for the yellow fever hospital at Siboney and contracting the deadly contagion, they were more than likely subject to discharged for health reasons.

 

In February, land and naval forces would be increased in the Philippines, and the men of the 24th Infantry Regiments, stationed at Fort Douglas, Utah and  Fort Russell, Wyoming would be part of the “Regular’ troops undertaking the assignment.[33]

 

In early March, the transfer orders for the 24th had finally arrived at Fort Douglas, which called for a further dividing of regimental strength. Moving four companies, one from Fort Douglas and three from Fort Russell, immediately to Honolulu, as reinforcements in route to Manila. These orders were immediately cancelled, and only three companies were relocated to other areas of the United States. Company B, under the command of Captain Henry Wygant, would be relocated to the Vancouver barracks, in the state of Washington. Company D, under the command of Capt. Arthur D. Ducat, would be headed to Fort Harrison, in Montana. Company K, would be slotted for relocation to Fort Assinniboine, in Wyoming. Company M, a junior company in absence of a captain, were to relocate to Fort Spokane. The under lying message in all of this, would be that Fort Douglas would no longer be the home of the 24th infantry Regiment.

 

Sgt. Mack Stanfield, of Company B, former manager of the Browns, would be one of the men relocating to the Vancouver barracks in Washington. In the mean time, while still on post at Fort Douglas, Sgt. Stanfield was organizing a baseball team that he would name, the “Santiagos”. He felt that as soon as the ground had dried sufficiently, that the men of Fort Douglas should again try their hands at the game of baseball, to keep them active, and use their recreational time doing something productive. [34]

 

In late March, the local citizens of Salt Lake began to promote the upcoming baseball season, mixing politics and religion with the sport of baseball once again. It was noted, that Sunday baseball games were no longer acceptable, and only games played on Saturday afternoon would be allowed. The Y.M.C.A.’s, the Oregon Short Line, the R.G.W.’s (Rio Grande Westerns), and the Salt Lakes were teams that put in their bids for the scheduled season. [35]

 

Local Admirers of the National Game Making Ready.

The Elks of last year’s fame have given no signs of activity as yet. It is quite likely that the team will again be in the field this season. Whether the Browns at Fort Douglas will be able to support a team, weakened and split up as their strong aggregation of two years ago has been by war and division of the regiment, is uncertain. Several companies of the regiment are certain to remain here, but it is not likely that they can get any team which will be so successful as that of ’97.” — Salt Lake Herald, March 21, 1899

 

Simon Bamberger, manager of the Oregon Short Line railroad company would also be the manager of the Oregon Short Line baseball nine, and his nephew Joseph Bamberger would manage the Salt Lakes; together they would also invest a huge sum on money building a resort called the “Lagoon”, which would included a new baseball diamond. By all accounts, this would be the beginning of baseball no longer being played of the Fort Douglas grounds, by the civilian population or soldiers. Simon Bamberger’s financial motivations in trying to create a baseball monopoly that would only stage games at his resort, would do a tremendous detriment to the baseball season in the city of Salt Lake, and other surrounding cities, in the year of 1899. His plan was to get Fort Douglas shut down, as far as baseball was concerned, forcing people to travel to see baseball games at the Lagoon. The men of the 24th Infantry Regiment had larger concerns.

 

GOING TO SAN FRANCISCO AND ALCATRAZ

Headquarters and Three Companies to be at the Presidio–No New Smallpox Cases

An order was received at Fort Douglas yesterday giving the destination of the companies assigned to the Department of California. Headquarters and three companies will go ti the Presidio, and one company will be stationed at Alcatraz barracks. this was pleasant news for the officers and men connected with the regimental headquarters, for the Presidio is considered one of the most delightful stations. San Francisco is to be congratulated upon the acquisition of the band of the Twenty-fourth, the loss of which will be keenly felt here.” — Salt Lake Tribune, March 21, 1899

 

The summer season of baseball in Utah was affected by the reactivation of a ‘Blue Law’ during the Spring of 1899, that was written and adopted in 1881. It was a law that had been dragged out of moth balls to enforce the ruling of certain city councils in the Salt Lake area, that baseball should not be played within the city limits, as it was an immoral institution. Baseball players feared being arrested for playing within the city limits which they had done for many years, and contracts signed by traveling teams from out of state which were legal and ironclad, were subject to large cash forfeitures should the games not take place on the contractual dates, which included Sunday baseball games. In April, four more companies of the 24th infantry Regiment would head for the train depot late at night, loading up their gear and make their way to San Francisco, en route for their final destination, Manila in the Philippine Islands. [36]

 

NO MORE SUNDAY BASEBALL

The provision under which the police department will act is section 25 of title X, entitled crimes and punishments as follows:

“Any person who shall be convicted of skating, ball playing, hunting, fishing or any other kind of sporting, or who shall keep open bar, shop, store, or any other business or amusement or unnecessary business or labor, or who shall barter, sell or give away any spirituous, vinous, or fermented liquors, except for medicinal purposes, within city limits, on the first day of the week, commonly called Sunday, shall be liable to a fine in any sum not exceeding one hundred dollars.”

This ordinance became law June 27, 1881, over a decade an a half ago, when Ogden was a village and hardly seemed applicable to the city as Ogden city is today.” — Ogden Standard, May 18, 1899

 

Jackson, former catcher for the Fort Douglas Browns, played one final game at Fort Douglas, with a squad of nine who were not any good at playing the game of baseball at all. They were so awful, they were taken to task by a high school squad in their final game. It was probably based on their lack interest, as the regiment was in the final stages of being removed from the base. [37]

 

Armstrong had signed on to play with Henderson’s Whirlwinds, as he was an employee of the company, and that was the main requirements to be a part of the team. Jackson would play for the Y.M.C.A.’s that year, even though most of their games would be scheduled on Wednesdays and Saturdays, because of Sunday baseball coming under heavy scrutiny across the nation by members of Christian communities.

 

Fort Douglas was the only place near Salt Lake that had yet to enforce the Blue Law Sunday ban against playing baseball close to city limits, and because it was a military installation and did not fall under city ordinances purview. That would eventually change. A letter written by Simon Bamberger to General Merriman in Colorado, would ensure that baseball would never take place again on the Fort Douglas grounds. Bamberger’s three-pronged attack on preventing baseball from taking place at Fort Douglas included: using a group of four men who jumped from team to team; starting fights and encourage gambling and drinking at games in the cities that applied the letter of the Blue Law, including games on the Fort Douglas grounds; aligning himself with the sabbath movement of the Salt Lake area to prevent Sunday baseball from taking place in city limits, trying his best to force high attendance games to be played only at the Lagoon.

 

On June 13, 1899, the final orders for remainder of those stationed at Fort Douglas, the last 126 men of the 24th Infantry Regiment, to make final preparations to leave for San Francisco. They would be relieved by the Ninth Cavalry from Fort Duschesne. [38]

 

After the departure of the 24th Infantry Regiment from Fort Douglas, Simon Bamberger made certain that the Fort Douglas Brown’s legacy of playing baseball, drawing an average of over 1,000 spectators for every game the played during the season of 1897, would become nothing more than a faint memory in the hearts and minds of the people who had the opportunity to witness their prowess on the Fort Douglas diamond. After getting the U.S. government to shut the Fort Douglas field to civilian ball games, he made a deal with the government to buy the grand stand and fencing, having all of it dismantled, then had it shipped out to the Lagoon so it could be made into car sheds. [39]

 

Simon Bamberger Puts a Stop to It.

HIS PROTEST TO MERRIMAN

Simon Bamberger, proprietor of the Lagoon, does not favor the occupation of Government property by civilians. He also loos with especial disfavor upon the use of Government realty for the purpose of Sunday ball games. In fact, Mr. Bambergeer is opposed to Sunday ball–in Salt Lake county.

Ball is, of course, is played on Sunday at the Lagoon, but the Lagoon is in Davis county, and Davis county–well, that is different, that is all.

Whenever there has been a ball game at the Fort Douglas grounds, Mr. Bamberger hs groaned in spirit; first because a military reservation was being trodden under the foot of civilian baseball fiends, and second because the Sabbath was being violated by the players.

Finally, Mr. Bamberger hit upon a shrewd scheme by which to put a stop to the Sabbath desecration at the Fort grounds. He wrote a letter to Gen. Merriman at Dever protesting against the use of Government property by civilians for ball playing.

WORKED LIKE A CHARM

Gen. Merriman thought so too, and at once directed a communication to the commander at Fort Douglas, in which he ordered that no ball games be played upon the Fort Douglas grounds, except between soldiers and civilians,. He also ordered that no admission fee be charged. These orders brought Sunday games at the Fort to an abrupt termination.

Mr. Bamberger then magnanimously offered to purchase the lumber which has been used in fencing the grounds and constructing the stands. His offer was accepted and the grounds were dismantled.

SAVED SOLDIERS FROM LOSS

Had it not been for Mr. Bamberger’s generous offer the soldiers who assisted in purchasing lumber for the grounds would have lost money.

This in brief is the history of the rise and fall of Sunday ball playing at the Fort.” — Salt Lake Tribune, June 28, 1899

 

The act of closing the Fort Douglas field to civilian teams, had an overreaching effect that Bramberger didn’t count on. It effectively killed the 1899 baseball season, not only in the Salt Lake area, but also at the Lagoon, and other areas far outside of the city limits of Salt Lake. With no field to play on, the expense of traveling to the Lagoon to play ball or see games played, was out of the financial reach of most of the citizenry.  Bamberger’s baseball teams, one after another, were disbanded, simply for the fact that he could not maintain their salary compensation, based on the lack of drawing crowds to the Lagoon. Another factor, in the demise of baseball at the Lagoon was the reputation of fights that took place on the field when teams played at the Lagoon. Citizens did not want to squander the hard earned money to watch a game stopped because of a fight, or a fight that took precedence over a scheduled game of baseball.

 

Early Demise Of What Seemed A Successful Season.

The baseball season has seemed to have come to an untimely end in Salt Lake, and the faithful fans will have to hie to Ogden or some of the other surrounding towns if they wish to see any more ball games this summer.

It is rather unfortunate that this should be the case right in the middle of the summer, with three months and more of good baseball weather still coming. But for weeks past the baseball fever has been on the wane. During the period when the city was minus a ball field interest in the national game took a decided drop. The fans found it too much trouble to got out to the Lagoon for every game, and so they stayed home. —  Salt Lake Herald, July 30, 1899

 

 

The Fort Douglas Brows were not spoken of for many years after 1899. Baseball made a comeback in 1900, with the Inter-mountain being hosted at the Lagoon in 1901. There were other African American teams that played in Utah in 1897. The Salt Lake Monarchs was one of them. But the men of the 24th Infantry Regiment, the men of the Fort Douglas Browns would always be fondly remembered by those who had the opportunity to see them play the game of baseball. They had integrated baseball in Utah for a short, but meaningful period in 1897.

 

When Col. Abner Doubleday, one of the commanding officer’s of Fort McKavett, Texas, made a requested to General E.D. Townsend, Adjutant General of the U.S. Army for, “permission to purchase…baseball implements for the amusement of the men and a Magic Lantern for the same purpose.“, in June of 1871, one can only speculate what his intentions were when it came to teaching the game of baseball to the men of the 24th Infantry Regiment. The Fort Douglas Browns took the skills they had learned about the game of baseball, practiced them for close to a thirty year period and played against civilian teams far and wide, and applied their skills with diligence and sportsman like effort in 1897.

 

Of those that lived through the charge up San Juan hill, their recorded histories are scattered, and almost nonexistent. Those who survived moved on with their lives, only looking forward.

 

Sgt. Thomas W. “Capt” Countee left Fort Douglas and was transferred to the Presidio, where he is buried, along with other Buffalo Soldiers from that period. He drowned on August 21, 1899, during a reconnaissance mission while crossing the San Mateo river in the Philippines, along with eight other men from company G of the 24th Infantry Regiment.

 

Sgt. Mack Stanfiled was transferred to the Vancouver barrack, in Washington state, along with company B of the 24th Infantry Regiment. There are no details of him ever getting together a team called the ‘Santiagos’, but rumor has it that he did front for a team called the “Hard Hitters”, who sometimes went by the name “Brownies”, that played in 1899 and 1900. Sgt. Stanfiled retired and mover to Portland, Oregon, having survived the Battle of San Juan hill.

 

Walter H. Loving, known as “the Professor”, rose through the ranks from a Corporal to become of the the U.S. military’s first commissioned officers. Loving never made the climb up San Juan hill. He was discharged in Tampa, in June of 1898, but reenlisted in the 48th U.S.V.I. and continued his military career. After many long years, he achieved the rank of Major and was finally assigned to Military Intelligence during World War I, where he published many articles on the African American soldier, and the influences the military had on them when it came to racism on the battlefield and their treatment in America after returning home from war to face Jim Crow. He was also noted as chief musician and the first musical director who developed the Philippine Constabulary Band. He was killed in the Philippines during the Battle of Manila in 1945, under unknown circumstance.

 

 

Sgt. Thomas Countee headstone

 

End: Part IV

Part I    Part II    Part III

 

[32] Salt Lake Herald, January 27, 1899

[33] Salt Lake Herald, February 7, 1899

[34] Salt Lake Tribune, March 9, 1899

[35] Salt Lake Herald, March 21, 1899

[36] Ogden Standard, April 5, 1899

[37] Salt Lake Herald, May 22, 1899

[38] Salt Lake Tribune, June 14, 1899

[39] Salt Lake Herald, June 28, 1899

 

 

Advertisements