Let’s talk about one of Palmyra’s favorite sons — Rear Adm. William T. Sampson, born and raised right here in Palmyra.
The admiral was born in a house, now demolished, at the corner of Vienna Street and Johnson Street. Although the home of his birth, the Sampson family moved to a plot of land at the base of Prospect Hill, then called Mount Holmes, into a brick house that Sampson and his father built out of bricks they made themselves. This house is further up Johnson Street. Because the birth home is gone, this home will now become a focus in the history of Adm. W. T. Sampson.
On Feb. 15, 1898, the U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana Harbor, losing approx. 260 crew members. What caused this explosion? Sabotage was the probable cause. This was the last straw in the attacks by Spain, and the Spanish American War was spurred on. Teddy Roosevelt’s’ Rough Riders were marked in history by storming San Juan Hill. Commodore Dewey headed the fleet and the activity in the Philippines and our Adm. Sampson, appointed by President Grover Cleveland, commanded the Atlantic Fleet.
A very short battle ensued, except for the rebuilding of the Philippines, which took over a year. Mr. Cadwalleder, living in what is now called the Liberty Hous”, fought in this war. Although the war was not long, there were many deaths on both sides. It wasn’t until April 25 that war was declared on Spain.
President William McKinley was trying to avoid war, although Cuba and Puerto Rico had been seeking independence from Spain. The Democratic Party pushed the administration to this war. The war only lasted 10 weeks, but there were many casualties, deaths and disease.
A treaty finally came, called the Treaty of Paris, in 1898. The U. S. received temporary control of Cuba and indefinite authority over Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines Islands. This resulted in the collapse of the Spanish Empire, which finally surrendered July 16, 1898.
This war caused the U.S. millions of dollars and 3,000 lives, of which 90 percent died from disease. Many U. S. troops in San Juan were the African-American 9th and 10th cavalry, who fought with the Rough Riders headed by Lt. Col. Teddy Roosevelt. Cuba got its independence, Puerto Rico and Guam were ceded to the U. S. and the Philippines was sold for $20 million by Spain.
Museums are open this week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Come on by for a tour. Our upcoming program will be given by Mike Keene on his newest book, “Vietnam Reflections: The Untold Story of the Holley Boys” from 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Alling Coverlet Museum, 122 William St., Palmyra. This is a no charge event and one of our community participation programs. All are welcome.