People of the Parks: Soldiers
Military reservations, past and present, echo with the voices of soldiers who have passed through. Streets are named and buildings are erected to honor the heroic acts and extraordinary service of individuals. One valley in the Presidio was named, not for a prestigious officer, but for a regiment of rowdy southerners that briefly encamped on post.
Tennessee was the only Post-Reconstruction Southern state to raise volunteer regiments for service in the Spanish American War. The roster for the 1st Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment was finalized in June of 1898. Its members were told to wear their shabbiest clothes and board a train bound for San Francisco. Although these Tennesseans were scheduled to receive their uniforms in Nashville, they were never issued the promised attire and the men arrived in San Francisco wearing their worst.
Once they detrained, the disheveled southerners marched down Market Street to their encampment. As they passed, San Franciscans who lined the street for a glimpse of the Tennesseans were amazed at what they saw, and the word "raggedy" was uttered throughout the crowd. Upon reflection, a regimental veterans publication admitted "we cannot congratulate ourselves on the soldierly appearance of the boys as we marched through the city to the sand dunes of Camp Merritt…but under our parti-colored coats beat manly hearts filled with patriotism."
A regimental reunion program remembered "it was at [this] Presidio camp that the regiment made its real reputation and to this day the camp site is designated as Tennessee Hollow." Although eager to train and get on to the War, the Tennesseans found time to enjoy the sights of San Francisco during months of waiting to ship out. The 1st Tennessee Volunteers were sent to the Philippines in November of 1898. After performing honorably, they returned and mustered out at the Presidio of San Francisco on November 23, 1899.
Soldiers - Panel (pdf 2.8 MB)
Last updated: February 28, 2015