Bio: McGrath, Hugh Jocelyn (1856 - 1899)

Surnames: McGrath, Green, Blair, Carson, Worcester, Lawton, King, Funston 

----Source: History of Eau Claire County, Wisconsin (1914) pages 789-791 

Hugh Jocelyn McGrath, whose death occurred November 7, 1899, from the effects of a gun shot wound received at the battle of Noveleta, Philippine Islands, was born at Fond du Lac, Wis., April 8, 1856, and came with his parents to Eau Claire in 1859. He was educated in the public schools of Eau Claire, and the University of Wisconsin. In 1876 he was admitted to West Point Academy and was graduated in 1880, and joined his regiment, the 4th United States Cavalry, the following September, at Fort Reno, Okla., afterwards spending two years at the infantry and cavalry school at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and for three years was instructor in military science at the University of Wisconsin. During the Apache Indian trouble, Major McGrath served in New Mexico and Arizona against Geronimo and other Apache chiefs. He was later stationed at Walla Walla, and at the time the Spanish-American War opened, was located at Vancouver Barracks. He immediately asked for active duty, was promoted from Captain of the 4th Calvary to Major in the volunteer engineers, and was sent to Jacksonville, Fla., where he was assigned to the 7th Army Corps, on the staff of General Green, later going to Havana, Cuba, where he was ordered to layout the camps for the 7th corps, and there he remained until the corps was disbanded. He was then sent to the Philippines, where he joined his regiment, the 4th Cavalry, having sailed from San Francisco on May 25, 1899, arriving at Manila about May 30. 

Major McGrath was married May 1, 1886, to Miss Lillian Blair, a daughter of General Blair, of Leavenworth, Kan. They had one son, Charles Blair McGrath. Major McGrath 's second marriage was at Savannah, Ga., November 11, 1898, to Miss Mary Carson, daughter of Hon. William Carson, of Eau Claire. Major McGrath was a young man full of zeal and chivalry, a live, wide-awake officer, a man for emergencies, and would undertake anything he was commanded to do by his superior officers. Nothing was impossible with him. He had a fine presence, and made a fine impression; in short, he was a model soldier. 

Professor Dean C. Worcester, member of the Philippine Commission, in an interview on October 20, 1899, declared that Major (then Captain) McGrath was one of the greatest heroes in the Philippines. “It was at Calamba," said Prof. Worcester, “an important town in Laguna de Bay, that was taken by Lawton. While the troops were in front of this town and in the face of a hot and furious fire from the Filipinos, it was found necessary to cross a stream that was swelled with recent rains, until it was most difficult to get over. There were neither boats nor rafts, but on the opposite side, and directly under the rifles of the Filipinos were two canoes.” 

"At that juncture, the hero revealed himself in the person of Captain McGrath of the 4th Cavalry. He did not wait for orders, nor did he call for volunteers. He stripped and plunged into the whirling stream and came back half an hour later with two canoes. There were some bullet holes in the canoes by the time he got across with them, but they were made to serve the purpose of transporting a storming party across the stream, and the trench was taken. It was the most daring thing I ever witnessed, and I believe the most daring action that has come to my notice." 

General Charles King said in speaking of the sad death of Major Hugh J. McGrath, of Eau Claire, at Manila from the effects of a wound received during the recent charge on the town of Noveleta, "I knew Major McGrath well for many years, and always considered him a man of splendid character and a soldier of the highest type. He was one of my successors as Military Instructor at the State University, and while there, made a very creditable record. He was attached to the 4th Cavalry, one of the best mounted regiments in the service. At the outbreak of the war, he was appointed a Major on the staff, and assigned to duty in the South, so that he did not join the 4th Cavalry while it was in my brigade at Manila. When he reached the Philippines, early in the Spring, however, he took hold with magnificent vim and was in one fight after another. He was most conspicuous for bravery, as was shown in the praise he received from the Philippine Commission for his conduct in swimming the river at the attack of Calamba. It was a parallel to Funston's heroic act. Funston, being a volunteer, his deed was heralded throughout the world; Major McGrath being a West Pointer and a regular, no particular attention was paid to his act. 

Understand that this is no disparagement of Funston, who was in my brigade at San Francisco, and for whom I have the highest admiration. But if a man wants to attain distinction, he is more apt to get it in the volunteers, than if he sticks to his legitimate sphere in the regular service. Major McGrath received his wounds which resulted fatally in leading his troops in a headlong charge, and his loss will be deplored in his regiment and throughout the cavalry service."




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