United Spanish War Veterans
Soon after the Spanish–American War ended, in early 1899, discharged veterans formed fraternal societies to keep in touch with their former comrades. These included the Spanish War Veterans, the Spanish–American War Veterans, the Servicemen of the Spanish War, American Veterans of Foreign Service, the Army of the Philippines, the Veteran Army of the Philippines, the Legion of Spanish War Veterans and other smaller organizations.
At the start of the 20th century, these groups began to merge. In 1904, the three largest groups, the Spanish War Veterans, the Spanish–American War Veterans and the Servicemen of the Spanish War joined to form the United Spanish War Veterans. They became the largest and most influential of the Spanish–American War societies. In 1906, the Legion of Spanish War Veterans would merge with the United Spanish War Veterans. The Legion existed in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The President of the Rhode Island chapter of the LSWV was Mrs Ellen V. Meehan during the 1930s, her husband was Cpl. James Arthur Meehan, who served in the Spanish war with the Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry.
In 1908, the Veteran Army of the Philippines, composed of soldiers, sailors and Marines who had served in the Philippine Islands, also merged with the United Spanish War Veterans.
The membership of United Spanish War Veterans thus consisted of veterans of three distinct wars:
- Spanish–American War – April 1898 to February 1899 (The fighting had ended by July 1898, but the Treaty of Peace was not signed until February 6, 1899.)
- Philippine–American War. February 1899 to July 1902 (This was a conflict with Filipinos who refused to accept the annexation of the islands by the United States. President Theodore Roosevelt declared the conflict at an end on July 4, 1902, though violence against Moro tribesmen continued until 1913.)
- Chinese Relief Expedition. 1900 to 1901. (Commonly called "The Boxer Rebellion," the veterans who had served in it were placed with the Spanish War and Philippine Insurrection veterans on the federal government pension bills. The “Boxer Rebellion” veterans were accepted into the USWV in the early 1920s.)
The United Spanish War Veterans existed until 1992, when the last member, Nathan E. Cook, died one month before his 107th birthday at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. He is often incorrectly called the last surviving veteran of the Spanish–American War. In fact, Cook was a veteran of the Philippine–American War of 1899–1902. He enlisted in the US Navy in 1901 at the age of sixteen.
- The Amalgamation (merger) Agreements of the five societies that became the USWV are recreated in the front of every National Encampment Journal from 1904–1989. The journals are titled "Proceedings of the Stated Convention of the ___th National Encampment, United Spanish War Veterans, (Location) (Dates).
- Eligibility to Membership is included in every copy of "Constitution and Rules and Regulations, USWV". These were issued irregularly, usually when major changes were voted into these statutes at National Encampments.