Who Was This Michigan Guy and Why is He Honored in Galesburg?
I came across this memorial/bust while driving thru Galesburg and it peaked my curiosity. Who is this Shafter guy and why is he being memorialized?
He was General William Rufus Shafter, born in Galesburg and involved in the Spanish-American War when Teddy Roosevelt stormed San Juan Hill in 1898...and that's just a part of it.
William Rufus Shafter was born October 16, 1835 in Galesburg, Michigan. Before he began his military career, he was a farmer and a teacher in that town. When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted in Michigan's volunteer unit; his perseverance paid off and by the time the war was over, he had been promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers.
Afterward, he decided to stay and make the military his career. By springtime of 1897 he was Brigadier General in command of the Department of California. It was in this capacity that he became involved in the Spanish-American War, and not necessarily to his benefit. In May 1898 he took command over the Fifth Corps, which contained the famous Rough Riders and future president Theodore Roosevelt.
In a brief nutshell, the plan was to head into Cuba and capture Santiago. With a shortage of troops and badly organized, Shafter marched his men through miserable Cuban tropical heat with hardly any food or medical supplies. Finally, on July 1, a battle with Spanish troops led to an over-excessive and blood-soaked battle that left Shafter's remaining men dejected. Approximately 8,000 troops, including the Rough Riders and Teddy Roosevelt, stormed – and took over – San Juan Hill, which overlooked Santiago.
Shafter came down sick with gout and had to withdraw from any more battles and waited for Santiago to surrender. By the end of summer, with sickness spreading through his men, Shafter and his remaining troops were gone from Cuba.
After the disbanding of the Fifth Corps, Shafter's former men went to the media and expressed their complaints about their leader, who they felt was unfit to lead the troops into battle at Santiago.
Shafter returned to America as commander of the Department of California from 1897-1901 and was also involved in the Philippine-American war from 1899-1902.
Shafter passed away in Bakersfield, California in 1906.
Find out a little more about Shafter here.
The Michigan General of the Spanish-American War