My grandmother’s uncle, John Schuler (above), enlisted in the United States Army at Lima, Ohio, on 15 July 1899, for a three-year term. The twenty-one-year-old private was assigned to Company G, 16th United States Infantry Headquarters in Manila, Philippines, on 20 September 1899. A world away from the small town of Sidney, Ohio, where John lived with his family.
Philippine sovereignty had been transferred from Spain to the United States by treaty in 1898. Filipinos revolted while under Spanish rule and later, did the same under American rule. Filipino troops controlled all the islands, with the exception of the city of Manila, which is where American ground troops were sent in August 1898.
Over the course of John’s service in Manila, the 16th regiment was involved in twenty-seven engagements, the majority of which were fought against Philippine rebels in the Cagayan Valley. American forces eventually defeated the Filipino rebels, but both sides suffered heavy losses.
Two months before his discharge, John was leading a herd of horses to the Angadanan River in Angadanan, in the Luzon province. Disaster struck as they were fording the river, and John drowned on 4 May 1902.
What exactly happened that fateful day is not listed in John’s service record. The records merely state that he was leading the horses to water and he drowned. A letter written to John’s mother and father informed them of his death, but it would be months before it reached them in Sidney, an ocean and thousands of miles away.
John was scheduled to return home in mid-July 1902. When Mary Schuler went to pick up John from the train station, she made a horrible discovery: John was not on the train and he was not coming home alive. The train on which John was to have arrived actually carried the letter that informed his mother of his death.
John’s body didn’t arrive back in the United States until August 1902. His family laid him to rest Graceland Cemetery in Sidney, on 16 August. Mary and Jacob Schuler had eight children, three of whom died young. John’s brother died at the age of ten, in 1900, and his sister, Martha died at the age of five, in 1885.
John’s service records reveal an inventory of his personal effects taken after his death. The list is a sad testament to all that was left of this young man after his passing.