Commanding Officer 22nd Infantry
August 11, 1903 - October 11, 1905
Henry Wygant was born in Almond, Allegany County, New York October 21, 1850.
Wygant entered the US Military
Academy on September 1, 1868, and graduated on June 14, 1872.
He graduated 52 out of a class of 57. His best subjects were Mathematics and French,
his worst subjects were Gunnery and Geology. Upon graduation he was commissioned
a 2nd Lieutenant in the 24th Infantry. The 24th Infantry was one of the four "Buffalo Soldier" regiments,
being comprised of black enlisted men commanded by white officers.
He served on frontier duty with
the 24th Infantry at Fort Brown, Texas, from October 1 to
December 5, 1872.
He then went to Brazos, Texas, where he commanded the post there, from December 7, 1872 to March 31, 1873.
(He was actually on a leave of absence from March 23, 1873 to May 6, 1874, reason unspecified.) He was assigned
to Fort Brown, Texas, from March 1874 to May 1875, Fort Richardson, Texas, from May 16 to July 3, 1875, and
then back to Fort Brown until December 8, 1875.
Wygant was then officially
posted to Ringgold Barracks, near Rio Grande City, in Starr
County, Texas, from
December 12, 1875 to August 28, 1878. However, he took a leave of absence from August 4 to September 6, 1876,
and was a witness before a Court Martial at San Antonio from September 27 to November 13, 1876.
On June 28, 1878 Wygant was promoted to 1st Lieutenant of the 24th Infantry.
He was stationed at Fort Duncan,
Texas, from September 8, 1878 to June 6, 1879. From that time he
recruiting service until January 22, 1880. Then he was back to Fort Duncan for frontier duty until May 24, 1880,
at Fort Davis, Texas, from May to October 1880, and at Fort Concho, Texas from October to December 15, 1880.
His next posting was at Fort
Dodge, Kansas, from December 1880 to February 22, 1881. He was
next at Fort Supply,
Indian Territory until October 6, 1883, and then Fort Reno, Indian Territory until July 2, 1886. (He took a leave of absence
from May 3 to August 7, 1884 to travel to Cuba and Europe.)
From July 2, 1886 to August 1,
1888 Wygant was a Professor of Military Science and Tactics
at Bingham School, North Carolina.
Though documentation was not
found to indicate which company/companies Wygant served in,
during the entire time period above,
the Army Registers show that he served for certain, with Company A from the years 1879-1888.
He was promoted to Captain on May 15, 1888 and given command of Company B, 24th Infantry.
From August 1888 to October 1889
he was on frontier duty at Fort Grant, Arizona, and then at San
until January 1890. From January 1890 to April 1, 1891 he was at Fort Thomas, Arizona, and then at Fort Huachuca,
Arizona until September 1893. From then until November 25, 1896, Wygant was in Richmond, Kentucky,
teaching at Central University. He rejoined the Regiment at Fort Douglas, Utah, from November 1896 to April 20, 1898.
In June 1898 he went with the
24th Infantry to Cuba, as Commanding Officer of Company B. He was
also given command
of 2nd Battalion 24th Infantry.
For the campaign in Cuba, the
24th Infantry was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 1st
Division, 5th Army Corps.
The Commander of the 24th, Colonel Jacob F. Kent, was promoted to command the Division, which left
Lieutenant Colonel Emerson H. Liscum in command of the Regiment.
Colonel Charles Wikoff of the
22nd Infantry had been promoted to command the 3rd Brigade. As
the assault on
San Juan Hill began, Wikoff was killed, and Lieutenant Colonel Liscum was assigned to take command of the Brigade.
This left Captain Henry Wygant in command of the 24th Infantry Regiment. Under Wygant's command, the
24th Infantry was part of the assaulting force which captured the Spanish trenches and fortifications
on the top of San Juan Hill.
For his leadership and courage that day, Wygant was recommended for a Brevet promotion to Major, for
"....gallant and meritorious conduct at battle of San Juan Hill, Cuba."
The record does not show that
Wygant received the Brevet. It does show that he was officially
of a battalion of the 24th Infantry, from November 28, 1896 to February 1899, and that he commanded the
Regiment at "...storming of San Juan Hill, Cuba, July 1, 1898." He served at the yellow fever camp at Siboney,
Cuba, from July 15 to August 26, 1898, and returned with the Regiment to the quarantine camp at Montauk,
Long Island, New York, where he remained until September 20, 1898, at which time he moved with the 24th Infantry
back to Fort Douglas, Utah.
Newspaper article which
prematurely announced the award of a brevet promotion to Henry
Wygant never received the brevet. Photo shows Wygant as an officer of the 24th Infantry during the War with Spain.
Note the article relates that Wygant's son, Henry Sollett Wygant, also was at the Battle of San Juan Hill, serving with the
6th Infantry and that he and his father met on the battlefield. (Both Wygant and his son were known by the nickname of "Harry".)
Wygant's brother Benyoard also served in the War, in the U.S. Navy.
Article from The Richmond Climax February 18, 1899 by jhgeorgeIII from Ancestry.com
The following is Captain
Henry Wygant's After Action Report, of the Battle of San Juan
Cuba, July 1, 1898. He started the day as Commander of 2nd Battalion, and ended the day as
Commander of the Regiment. The report is scanned directly from the 1898 Congressional Serial Set:
On March 2, 1899, Wygant was promoted to Major of the 24th Infantry.
In April 1899 he went with his
Regiment to Vancouver Barracks, Clark County, Washington, where,
on July 1, 1899, the 24th Infantry received orders for duty in the Philippines. He is listed as officially being in
command of the 24th Infantry during the voyage to Manila, July13 to August 20, 1899. Wygant commanded
the 1st Battalion of the 24th Infantry at the pumping station, Maraquina River and El Deposito, Luzon,
until September 1, 1899, and at San Fernando Pampagna and Mexico Pampagna to October 1, 1899.
He commanded the post at San
Jose Nueva Ecija from February 28 to July 10, 1900. He was Acting
Inspector-General, 2nd District, Department of Northern Luzon, to August 1, 1901.
Wygant was promoted to
Lieutenant Colonel of the 6th Infantry on November 8, 1901. He
served with that Regiment
at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, until September 1, 1903. He commanded the Post, and the Military and Staff College,
at various times during this interval.
On August 11, 1903, Henry Wygant was promoted to Colonel of the 22nd Infantry.
He joined the Regiment at Fort
Crook, Nebraska, on September 1, 1903, and commanded the Regiment
and the Post of Fort Crook, until October 23, 1903, when he left for San Francisco, and movement overseas
with the Regiment, to the Philippines, leaving San Francisco on October 31. Wygant and the Regiment arrived
at Manila on November 28, and by December 6, Wygant and his headquarters were at Camp Marahui, (soon to be
changed to Camp Keithley), on the island of Mindanao. Wygant commanded the Regiment and the Post at Camp
Keithley, at intervals until June 1, 1905. From June 1 to July 4, 1905, he commanded the Department of Mindanao.
On October 11, 1905, Wygant retired from the Army, for "Disability Incident To The Service."
He took residence in Cranford, New Jersey.
Henry Wygant was a Veteran Companion of the Military Order of Foreign Wars.
Clipping from the San
Francisco Call, Saturday, June 4, 1904,
illustrating the difficulties Wygant suffered, from the various tropical diseases he incurred during his service.
This portrait of Colonel Wygant hung on
the wall at 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry Headquarters
at Fort Hood, Texas, 1999-2009. Photo courtesy of Major Anne LeGare, wife of LTC Marc LeGare,
Commanding Officer 1-22 IN 1999-2001.
The signature of Henry Wygant which he
signed on an application
for a United States passport to travel to Cuba and Europe in 1884.
The passport application noted that Wygant was "5 feet 8 inches tall,
with a high forehead, green eyes, prominent nose, average mouth
and chin, dark hair, dark complexion and an oval face."
Immediately below is a photo and
article about Henry Wygant
which appeared in the Illustrated Bee from Omaha, Nebraska
August 30, 1903:
From the Library of Congress Chronicling America
Colonel Henry Wygant's decorations
No. 2462. Class of 1872.
Died August 5, 1918, at Buffalo, New York, aged 67 years.
Henry Wygant was born at Almond,
Alleghany County, New York, on October 21st, 1850. His early
was spent in Western New York, to which part of the State his ancestors had moved in the early days of the
country's settlement. His mother died during his infancy and with his father, Milo Hoyt Wygant, a lawyer, he moved
to Helena, Arkansas, during the latter days of the Civil War.
Henry's father wished him to be
a lawyer, but the presence of the Union Army in and about Helena
an influence against which the more prosaic appeal of the legal profession could not prevail. Failing to obtain
his father's sanction or assistance, he succeeded by his personal efforts in securing an appointment to the
U. S. Military Academy, entering that institution from Arkansas in 1868.
The environment was strange and
the tasks imposed presented difficulties to a young man with so
preparatory training, but the goal to be attained, a commission in the regular service, was ever before his eyes
as an incentive to continued effort. Through four years of varying fortunes, years very dear in his memory,
he applied himself with increasing zeal and a growing seriousness of purpose. Cheerful, impetuous, enthusiastic,
he made warm friends among the instructors and members of the corps. The nick name "Circ" gained in his
fourth class year remained with him among his classmates until the time of his death. General Charles King,
novelist and soldier, who was Commandant of Cadets during Wygant's tour at the Point, recently wrote of him to a friend:
"I remember Wygant very
well when 1 was Commandant. He was a sunny fellow with many
who endeared himself to all of us by his manly frankness."
Upon graduation, in 1873, Wygant
was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the 24th Infantry, then
on the Texas border. Two years after his graduation he married Hellene Sollet of Brooklyn, New York. She was
the faithful partner of his vicissitudes and pleasures through his long army life; his counselor and inspiration.
To his mind, no sketch of his life would be complete which did not include a passing tribute to her excellence as a wife and mother.
He served as an officer in the
24th Infantry continuously as Second Lieutenant, First
Lieutenant, Captain and Major
until November 8th, 1901. During these many years he served with his regiment in Texas, Kansas, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming
and Washington; had recruiting service at Memphis and Nashville; was Indian agent at Washikie, Wyoming, and was detailed
as Military Instructor at the Bingham School in North Carolina and at the Central University at Richmond, Kentucky.
While at the latter institution he inaugurated military training at two of its preparatory schools, the one in the Kentucky mountains
at Jackson and the other at Owensboro.
Wygant went to Cuba with the
24th Infantry in 1898, serving through the Santiago campaign. As
Captain, he commanded
first his battalion and later his regiment in the assault on San Juan Hill, being recommended for a Brevet for gallant and
meritorious service in that action. At the concentration camp for yellow fever patients at Siboney, after the capitulation,
he with the entire regiment who had volunteered for this perilous service, spent many weeks when the greater portion
of our expeditionary force had been returned to the United States. Letters from brother officers, now held in sacred trust
by the members of his family, testify to his coolness and bravery under fire and his unselfish devotion to duty in the
trying days at Siboney when officers and soldiers were succumbing in appalling numbers to the fearful malady.
He was promoted to a
Lieutenant-Colonelcy in the 6th U. S. Infantry at Fort
Leavenworth, Kansas, and later to a Colonelcy
in the 22nd Infantry at Fort Crook, Nebraska. With both of these regiments he served in the Philippines, being many times
under fire in the Philippine insurrection. He was for a time Inspector General of the second district of Northern Luzon and
later served with his regiment against the Moros in the Island of Mindanao. He was three times invalided home from the Tropics;
the last time with amoebaea, for which trouble he was retired October 11th, 1905.
Soon after his retirement he established his residence at Cranford, New Jersey, where he lived until shortly before his death.
In Cranford, Colonel Wygant made
warm friends and received many marks of attention and esteem,
During the years
of his residence there he busied himself with movements having for their purpose the upbuilding of the youth of that community
and the promotion of loyal Americanism. He was a friend and an ardent admirer of Theodore Roosevelt, whose
autographed photograph, a Christmas present from the latter, hung with others in his picturesque den at Cranford.
In his early years Colonel Wygant was an enthusiastic and successful huntsman and his home was adorned with many trophies
of the chase. He was a collector of arms and curios, and his collection was unique of its kind. On the walls of his home
hung the stone hatchet of the Aztec, the spear of the Moro, and the scimitar of the Turk, a never ending source of interest
to his visitors old and young.
It was to him a source of keen
regret that the War Department found it impossible to honor his
for active service in the great war which has just drawn to a successful close.
Failing in health for many
months, he sought relief in change of climate, moving to Buffalo,
New York, in the spring of 1918.
The change did not prove beneficial. He died of pernicious anemia on August 5th; funeral services being held at the home of his son,
Philip Wygant of that city, following which his body was interred in Arlington cemetery in Virginia.
His personality was compelling,
his influence strong and uplifting. He was one whose honesty and
optimism bound to him
young and old with bonds of strong affection. His life was an open book, its pages unsullied by a single dishonorable act.
His intense hatred of things unjust or mean, his fearless championship of right, as it was given him to see the right, his
complete fairness and candor carried with them greater conviction than the reasoning of profounder men. He was an able soldier,
a dutiful husband, a generous father. His loss is a source of deep bereavement to the many who loved him.
His memory is revered by all who had the good fortune to know him. ¹
Colonel Henry Wygant and officers of
the 22nd Infantry Fort Crook, Nebraska 1903.
Wygant is seated third from the right.
Photo from the Omaha Daily
Bee, October 11, 1903
University of Nebraska, Lincoln , Nebraska State Historical Society
Henry Wygant is buried in Arlington National Cemetery
Section 2 Grave 898
Grave marker for Henry Wygant
Photo by Joe from the Find A Grave website
¹ Photo of Henry Wygant taken while he was
Colonel of the 22nd Infantry from:
Fiftieth Annual Report of the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy
at West Point, New York June 10, 1919, Seemann & Peters, Inc., Saginaw, Michigan
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