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Guide to the William Rufus Shafter Papers
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ROLL I February 10, 1862-May 5, 1898

Scope and Content Note

The William R. Shafter Collection begins with papers relating to Shafter's Civil War career, most of which are letters. The preponderance of the Civil War material dates from 1863, and includes letters written by military figures and his family. One especially notable item is a letter from Grandfather Shafter (William R.) to the young officer advising him to with prudent firmness enforce obedience to all necessary orders, as a duty they owe their country, and as much for the soldier's benefit, as for the officer's convenience. This remarkable note continues with a discussion of citizenship for Blacks: he must be restored to all the rights of citizenship as a man, of which we have so long deprived him, we must give him both freedom, and protection.
In 1866, Shafter wrote to Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, requesting an appointment to the Regular Army. Recommendations for his appointment accompany this letter and are distinguished by such signatures as Brevet Major General Clinton B. Fisk, Brevet Major General R. W. Johnson, Major J. S. Donaldson, and Major General Geore H. Thomas.
Following the receipt of his orders of appointment to the Forty-first Infantry, U.S.A., Shafter was sent to the Texas frontier. The Shafter Papers include only a few documents extant for the years between 1876 and 1898. By April of 1876 as Lieutenant Colonel of the Twenty-fourth Infantry, he was in command of Fort Clark, Texas, and the District of the Nueces. Regular official and personal correspondence between Brigadier General E. O. C. Ord and Shafter dates from this period. Most of these papers are concerned with the pursuit of Indian and Mexican raiders into U.S. Territory. From 1876 to 1878 the problem of border raids and how to halt them occupies communications to and from such men as Brigadier General E. O. C. Ord, Major Joseph Taylor, General William T. Sherman, Major G. W. Schofield, Colonel Ranald Mackenzie, and the Mexican General Naranjo. Additionally, reports from the Seminole Negro Indian Scouts, Lieutenant John L. Bullis, and William Schuhardt describe the field conditions in the borderlands and provide military information.
The only correspondence preserved from the 1880's is a small group of Shafter's letters to his mother. In 1890 he sent a request for a promotion to the rank of Brigadier General. Once again letters of recommendation are included with the request and bear the signatures of Major General Oliver O. Howard, John Coburn, A. P. Williams, and Major General Nelson A. Miles. Two of Miles' letters are worth noting. Both pertain to the Battle of Wounded Knee, and bring to light certain irregularities about that action. A third congratulates Shafter on his assignment to the San Francisco Presidio. There is yet another request for a promotion in 1897. In 1897 Shafter was made Brigadier General after an eighteen-year wait.
Eighteen ninety-eight ushered in new responsibilities for Shafter. A letterpress copy of a report on the topography of the southern end of Cuba is the first document which indicates the part he was soon to play. A confidential copy of a letter signed by H. C. Corbin directs Shafter to assume command of an expedition to Cuba under the orders of Major General Miles. The remaining letters, telegrams, and orders are concerned with the camp arrangements at Tampa, Florida, and preparations for transportation of an expeditionary force to Cuba.

ROLL II May 6-June 6, 1898

Scope and Content Note

Letterpress copies of orders as well as printed orders, circulars, and rosters record the preparations for the expedition to Cuba. Shafter's role in the Spanish-American War expanded from commander of a reconnaisance force intended to aid the Cuban Insurgents, to commander of the Fifth Army's invasion of Santiago. A copy of a letter of May 9, 1898, imparts the information that Shafter has been promoted to Major General of Volunteers. In General Orders Number 13, Major General J. F. Wade relinquishes command of what would later be known as the Fifth Army, which Shafter commanded from May to October 1898.
Some of the problems with which Shafter had to deal are reflected in his correspondence with Adjutant General H. C. Corbin, and R. A. Alger, Secretary of War. In one letter Corbin has inquired about Shafter's opinion on appointing noncommissioned officers of the colored regiments to the rank of captain. His reply states that the idea is acceptable to him, but admonishes, You know the unreasoning prejudice against these men and whether or not it is worth while to give cause for dissatisfaction. In another communication the conflict between military security and the people's right to know reaches a climax when censorship is brought to bear on correspondents who have published advance information on the Florida expedition.
Secretary Alger's dispatch of May 31, 1898, contains the instructions upon which Shafter would ultimately proceed. Two documents reflect the hurry up and wait of army life: the June 4th telegram received at headquarters that reveals the sinking of the Merrimac and the presumption that Admiral Cervera was bottled up in Santiago Harbor (thereby freeing the sea lanes to the American transports); and the June 8th explanatory telegram that postponed sailing due to Spanish shipping activity in the area.

ROLL III June 7-July 14, 1898

Scope and Content Note

When the transports finally embarked for Cuba, the pace of correspondence quickened. Orders, telegrams, field reports, and correspondence between Shafter and such figures as Adjutant General Corbin, Secretary Alger, General Garcia, Major General Wheeler, Major General Miles, Lieutenant Colonel Roosevelt, and Clara Barton leave a record of the immense activity inherent in war-making.
According to a note from Shafter to Admiral Sampson, the troops began to disembark on June 22, 1898. On June 25, Shafter could report that they had taken Sevilla. A telegram from President McKinley and the Secretary of War congratulates him on the action of the twenty-fifth and bears the letterhead of the Compagnie Française des Cables Télégraphies in Cuba. By July 3, El Caney and Sàn Juan had fallen to the Americans, and Santiago was closely surrounded.
The Collection at this period is a myriad of orders pertaining to supplies, ammunition, troop placement, and casualties. It also contains documents which are simply unique. Among the latter are the receipt for one hundred and twenty prisoners taken from the Spanish cruiser, Viscaya, by Lieutenant Henicke, U.S.N., on July 3, and an entertaining letter from J. W. Moulton describing an ingenious method of removing barbed wire fence.
The polite demands for surrender of Santiago, the first issued on July 3, and the rejections of General José Toral comprise a fascinating study of diplomatic squabbling. They also serve to remind one that honor and gentlemanly conduct were a tangible part of warfare through the nineteenth century. On July 14, 1898, Toral decided to capitulate conditionally. During the interval between July 3 and July 14, Shafter was the recipient of such items as a letter of introduction written by Miss Clara Barton, a disturbing complaint about food distribution to the troops from Theodore Roosevelt, and a report of an outbreak of yellow fever.

ROLL IV July 15-August 7, 1898

Scope and Content Note

The following weeks were active ones for Shafter, as is indicated by the bulk and variety of documents relating to this period. Telegrams and letters of congratulations from Major Generals Miles and Wheeler, Adjutant General Corbin, Secretary Alger, and President McKinley take their places among testimonial poems, troop rosters, lists of transports, organizational charts, and diplomatic correspondence.
Negotiations for the surrender of Toral's forces were at a crucial point. A copy of a telegram sent by Shafter on July 15 reveals his feelings at the time: I think they fear death when they get home. We may have to fight them yet. His fears were never realized, for at ten o'clock P.M. that day Toral capitulated on the condition that his troops be returned to Spain. Shafter's subsequent telegram reads, The return to Spain of the troops in this district...closes the war in Cuba.
In the interim between the end of the battle and the beginning of the peace, Shafter's responsibilities became even more diversified. His correspondence reflects the problems with which he was confronted. A petition from the lady refugees of El Caney dated July 14, 1898, describes the shortage of food, clothing, and water facing the civilians. A telegram from General Calixto Garcia expresses dissatisfaction on the part of Cuban military leaders that they were not included in the capitulation negotiations. Several letters from Toral, the Spanish General, indicate that he relied upon Shafter to feed his troops, supply them with medical aid, and assure their safety from the Cubans. Finally, Shafter had responsibility for the care and maintenance of his own army.
Upon the cessation of hostilities, the Americans could turn their attention to the general health of the troops. Yellow fever and malaria had begun to take their toll. The official recommendations for coping with fever are contained in Colonel Greenleaf's Memorandum for Sanitary Precautions in Removing the Army from Its Present Line... dated July 17, 1898. This memorandum admonishes the men to keep clean and to move camp every time a fever case is reported. Another means of wrestling with the fever was suggested by a Mr. Nichols. His intriguing letter of July 26, 1898, suggests that the army employ Dr. F. Smyth-Stuart's cure for yellow fever which was used by the British forces attacking Cuba in 1762.
The officers were not amused or reassured by either suggestion. It was their opinion that the command would be decimated by the various fevers if it was forced to remain in Cuba. This belief gave rise to the Round Robin letter of August 3, one of the more important documents contained in the Shafter Papers. The letter is notable in that it is a request expressed in mandatory language that the command be removed from Cuba, and it is signed by Shafter's general officers. Its publication by the Associated Press caused great embarrassment to the government and prompted two communications from Secretary Alger. The official telegram of August 11 chastises Shafter for issuing the letter without permission. In a personal note to Shafter, Alger advises him to plead exhaustion as the reason for using such strong terms of address.
An item in this roll well worth noting is a letterpress copy of a telegram sent by General Linares to the Spanish Minister of War, which describes the position and condition of his suffering troops. He implores the Spanish government to surrender, offering his reputation as a sacrifice for the good of the Mother Country. Shafter, impressed by the poignance of this note, sent it to Secretary Alger as a keepsake.
The remaining documents on this roll are orders and correspondence concerned with preparations to return home to Montauk Point as per orders dated August 3, 1898.

ROLL V August 8-September 25, 1898

Scope and Content Note

The order to return home was heartily welcomed and promptly obeyed. Orders, correspondence, and lists chronicle the movement of the Fifth Army from Cuba to its disbursement from Montauk Point, Long Island. Inquiries for news of the missing and dead give testimony to the less palatable aspect of war.
While arranging to transport his troops, Shafter was actively engaged in preparing Santiago de Cuba for the resumption of civilian life. Several reports and letters attest to the fact that this was not to be an easy task. In a report dated August 9, 1898, Judge Advocate Groesbeck recommends complete rehabilitation of the civil and criminal courts in Santiago de Cuba. His report also discusses the sensitive question of appointing a new president of the Supreme Court.
In a letter of the same date, Shafter laments the large number of highly paid officials who want their jobs back, and refuses to pay the great hordes. His plans for the civilian government of Santiago de Cuba are disclosed in a note of August 16 to Adjutant General Corbin. He informs Corbin that he has arranged for the economical administration of government by abolishing the office of Civil Governor and reducing the number of positions in the Mayor's office, the police department, and the customs houses.
On August 12, Shafter received the proclamation declaring an armistice between the United States and Spain. A letter from the Cuban leader, Estrada Palma, dated August 13, informed Shafter of his acceptance of that armistice. That same day two notes from Washington apprised him that press censorship had ended, and that arrangements had been made to transport the Spanish prisoners to Spain.
The sentiments of a Spanish soldier in defeat are expressed in a letter written by Private Pedro López de Castillo of the Spanish Infantry. On the eve of their departure eleven thousand prisoners convey in this missive their respect for the courage of the American soldier; their thanks for the kindness shown the wounded and captured; and their best wishes to a former enemy.
In a telegram of August 25, Shafter informs Adjutant General Corbin that the command has embarked for Long Island that very morning, and that he intends to leave Cuba before noon. He would return to the United States a hero. Shafter relinquished his command to Major General Henry W. Lawton in General Orders 41, and arrived at Montauk Point by August 31. Shortly thereafter, he wrote to Washington to express his preference to be assigned to the Department of California. That request is coupled with the wish that Majors Noble and Miley, Captain Plummer, and Lieutenant Colonel McClernand be chosen to accompany him to his new post.
A note from A. C. Sharpe concerning the Society of the Army of Santiago de Cuba, a letter sent by Shafter defending his actions in Cuba, an invitation to speak at the National Peace Jubilee in Chicago, and several congratulatory notes comprise the remainder of this roll.

ROLL VI September 26, 1898-March 27, 1945 1860-1906

Scope and Content Note

Included in this portion of the Collection are photographs, correspondence, speeches, cartoons, maps, and miscellany. Though most of this is related to the Spanish-American War, there are some items which date back as far as 1860.
Shafter relinquished command of the detention camp at Montauk Point on October 2, 1898, and was temporarily appointed to command the Department of the East. It was at this time that the Committee to Investigate the War turned its attention to Shafter and his command. The Committee investigated, while yellow press journalism provided a showcase which revealed the diversity of opinion regarding the Spanish-American War. Shafter, once an unconditional hero, now had to defend those who transported, docked, supplied, and nursed the command, and his responsibility for their actions. The many letters from his subordinates in Cuba provide information and evidence to support his position. Other letters offer compliments and encouragement.
After assuming command of the Department of California at the San Francisco Presidio, Shafter's duties included receiving newly arrived veterans from the Philippine Campaign. Thank you notes and testimonial letters from grateful parents and state officials are very prominent in this roll. Business of the Society of the Army of Santiago de Cuba is considered in communications between Shafter and his fellow society members.
The McKittrick Series includes letters written to his daughter about Shafter, and a biographical sketch prepared for The Michigan Historical Magazine. There is one letter to Mary Shafter McKittrick from her father, which is dated 1898, and several from Edward H. Plummer, which elucidate some points of Shafter's life.
Several other series of documents are included in this roll. There are speeches made by Shafter at various gatherings which give his view of events in Cuba. Oversized documents, such as appointments to rank, muster-in rolls, and maps, together with miscellaneous keepsakes and photographs illustrate the diverse activities in which Shafter participated. Original cartoons, thought to be drawn by Shafter, reveal the lighter side of army life.

ROLL VII 1873-October 24, 1938

Scope and Content Note

News clippings concerning Shafter's activities comprise about one-fifth of the Collection. The clippings begin with a criticism of MacKenzie's raid into Mexico in 1873, and end with the announcement of the acquisition of the Shafter Papers by Stanford University Libraries in 1938. A substantial number of these deal with Shafter's role in the Spanish-American War.
Several Cuban newspapers, which date from the period immediately following the war, are included in the Collection. Among them are El Espectador, El Aliuizote, El Parvenir, El Cubano, and The Times, the first American daily paper printed in Cuba.
The Shafter Scrapbook, though poorly preserved, serves to complete the Collection.

Container List


Series I - Correspondence

Box 1, Folder 1

February 10, 1862 - May 31, 1875

Box 1, Folder 2

April 1 - August 29, 1876

Box 1, Folder 3

September 21 - December 22, 1876

Box 1, Folder 4

January - June 9, 1877

Box 1, Folder 5

July 2 - August 29, 1877

Box 1, Folder 6

September 12 - November 30, 1877

Box 1, Folder 7

December 1 - December 28, 1877

Box 1, Folder 8

January 5, 1878 - May 1897

Box 1, Folder 9

April 1 - April 30, 1898

Box 1, Folder 10

May 1 - May 5, 1898

Box 1, Folder 11

May 6 - May 8, 1898

Box 1, Folder 12

May 8 - May 14, 1898

Box 2, Folder 13

May 15 - May 21, 1898

Box 2, Folder 14

May 22 - May 24, 1898

Box 2, Folder 15

May 25 - May 27, 1898

Box 2, Folder 16

May 28 - May 31, 1898

Box 2, Folder 17

June 1 - June 4, 1898

Box 2, Folder 18

June 5 - June 6, 1898

Box 2, Folder 19

June 7 - June 10, 1898

Box 2, Folder 20

June 11 - June 20, 1898

Box 2, Folder 21

June 21 - June 25, 1898

Box 2, Folder 22

June 26 - June 28, 1898

Box 3, Folder 23

June 29 - July 1, 1898

Box 3, Folder 24

July 2 - July 3, 1898

Box 3, Folder 25

July 4 - July 5, 1898

Box 3, Folder 26

July 6 - July 8, 1898

Box 3, Folder 27

July 9 - July 10, 1898

Box 3, Folder 28

July 11 - July 12, 1898

Box 3, Folder 29

July 13 - July 14, 1898

Box 3, Folder 30

July 15 - July 16, 1898

Box 3, Folder 31

July 17 - July 18, 1898

Box 4, Folder 32

July 19, 1898

Box 4, Folder 33

July 20 - July 21, 1898

Box 4, Folder 34

July 22 - July 24, 1898

Box 4, Folder 35

July 25 - July 26, 1898

Box 4, Folder 36

July 27 - July 30, 1898

Box 4, Folder 37

July 31, 1898

Box 4, Folder 38

August 1 - August 2, 1898

Box 4, Folder 39

August 3 - August 4, 1898

Box 4, Folder 40

August 5 - August 7, 1898

Box 4, Folder 41

August 8 - August 10, 1898

Box 5, Folder 42

August 11 - August 14, 1898

Box 5, Folder 43

August 15 - August 18, 1898

Box 5, Folder 44

August 19 - August 24, 1898

Box 5, Folder 45

August 25 - September 7, 1898

Box 5, Folder 46

September 8 - September 12, 1898

Box 5, Folder 47

September 13 - September 18, 1898

Box 5, Folder 48

September 19 - September 25, 1898

Box 5, Folder 49

September 29 - September 30, 1898

Box 5, Folder 50

October 1 - October 31, 1898

Box 6, Folder 51

November 7 - November 30, 1898

Box 6, Folder 52

December 7 - December 27, 1898

Box 6, Folder 53

January 8 - December 17, 1899

Box 6, Folder 54

January 1, 1900 - May 19, 1904


Series II - McKittrick

Box 6, Folder 55

May 5, 1897 - March 27, 1945


Series III - Speeches

Box 6, Folder 56



Series IV - Biographical Sketch and Outline

Box 6, Folder 57

Biographical Sketch and Outline


Series V - Memorabilia and Miscellaneous

Box 6, Folder 58

Awards and Commissions

Box 6, Folder 59

Letters Patent and Must-in Rolls

Box 6, Folder 60



Series VI - Illustrative Material

Box 6, Folder 61


Box 6, Folder 62

Original Sketches and Cartoons

Box 7, Folder 63


Box 7, Folder 64

Cartoons and Portraits


Series VII - Printed Reference

Box 7, Folder 65

Pamphlets on Cuba

Box 7, Folder 66

News Clippings, 1873 - 1897

Box 7, Folder 67

News Clippings, 1898

Box 7, Folder 68

News Clippings, April - June 26, 1898

Box 8, Folder 69

News Clippings, July 1898

Box 8, Folder 70

News Clippings, August 1898

Box 8, Folder 71

News Clippings, September 1898

Box 8, Folder 72

News Clippings, October 1898

Box 8, Folder 73

News Clippings, November 1898

Box 8, Folder 74

News Clippings, December 1898

Box 8, Folder 75

News Clippings, January 1899 - October 24, 1938

Box 8, Folder 76

News Clippings, Undated

Box 8, Folder 77

Cuban Newspapers

Box 8, Folder 78


Box 8, Folder 79

Scrapbook Addenda

Box 8, Folder 80