1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
The San Francisco Earthquake and Fire
The 22nd Infantry left Manila for the United
States via Nagasaki on December 15, 1905, and arrived at San
January 14, 1906, after an uneventful voyage on the transport Sherman.
Upon arrival in the United States the regiment
proceeded to stations as follows:
Headquarters, band and the first battalionFort McDowell, California.
Headquarters 2nd battalion; Companies E, F, G, H, I and L, Presidio of San Francisco.
Headquarters 3rd battalion; Companies K and M, Depot of Recruits and Casuals, Angel Island, California.
January 19, the 2nd battalion moved to Alcatraz Island for duty as guard at the military prison at that station.
Private Noah J. Zane Company H died at the
General Hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco, California on
January 20, 1906. Cause of death was recorded as "of paralysis of body below supply of 7th pair of spinal
nerves, caused by injury to spinal cord, in line of duty."
At 8:10 A. M., April 18, 1906,
the first news of the terrible disaster at San Francisco was
received by the regiment
from the army transport Slocum, which brought orders to Colonel Reynolds in General Funston's handwriting, directing the former
to report his command at the Ferry building in San Francisco at once. No information was given as to the equipment required
or the length of service to be expected.
Exactly twenty minutes after the
receipt of Funston's orders, regimental headquarters and the
first battalion embarked on the Slocum,
reaching the ferry at nine o'clock. Fire, debris and wreckage of various sorts prevented a landing being made at this point, however,
and the troops finally got ashore at Powell street at 9:40 A. M. From this point Company D was sent to the Custom House, the remainder
of the battalion to the Phelan building. Desperate, but unsuccessful efforts were made by the regiment to save the San Francisco Call,
Examiner, Phelan and James Flood buildings.
In the meantime a base of
operations was established by the regiment at Portsmouth Square
and Kearney street. Twenty corpses were discovered
and held all night for the deputy coroner. April 19, this base was moved to Washington square, in the Italian settlement.
This movement caused some concern, owing to the shortage of water, but the command managed to keep at work in spite of this hardship.
On the same day headquarters of the third battalion and Companies K and M, from the discharge camp, and Companies E and G, from Alcatraz,
reached the terror-stricken city. April 20, the greater part of the regiment was employed in a tremendous effort to save the San Francisco wharves
from destruction; most of them were saved as a result of the regiment's work.
The fire, however, eventually
forced the troops to abandon these wharves and to board the
steamer Monarch, moored along-side.
The men were landed from the Monarch at Fort Mason, from which point the fire along the wharves was attacked from the rear.
By the night of April 20, this section was practically under control, and the fire almost completely extinguished.
At the same time Companies K and D succeeded, aided by the city fire department, in saving the Custom House.
Practically the entire command had been on continuous duty of the most arduous nature for sixty hours,
without sleep and with little food; the conduct of the troops was in all cases above praise.
The Custom House which was saved from
the fires by the 22nd Infantry.
This structure was also called the Appraisers' Building.
Photo from The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco
The following account of the
efficiency and heroism of some of the individual members of the
regiment is but an example of the many instances
of like nature that helped so much to relieve the stricken city in its hour of greatest need:
Privates Harvey Johnson, Frank R. McGurty and William Ziegler, all of Company E, 22nd Infantry, became separated from their organization
by the flames in Powell street. These soldiers were missing for several days, and much concern was felt for their safety. However,
they made their way back up the steep hill near that street and found themselves in the midst of hundreds of frantic Italians,
helping themselves to everything in sight in the form of food or liquor. Johnson, McGurtz and Ziegler took charge of this mob,
established complete control, organized a camp and placed all the liquor under guard. Further than this, they established a relief station
and issued rations to the people. In all, these three men furnished food and shelter to three thousand persons. This act is referred to
in the annual report of the Secretary of War for 1906.
(Ed., Privates Johnson and
McGurty were awarded Certificates of Merit for their actions
referred to above. Years later McGurty's award
would be changed to the Distinguished Service Medal.)
Distinguished Service Medal
April 23, Company E successfully attacked another fire on the piers and saved the greater part of that section of the docks.
In the meanwhile the second
district was organized as follows :
Companies D and K were posted on Van Ness avenue, between Union and Filbert streets; Companies E and M at the corner
of Van Ness avenue and Bay street; headquarters and staff of this battalion were returned to the discharge camp. April 23, Company G
was shifted from Golden Gate park to the corner of Van Ness avenue and Bay street. April 27th, Company E was shifted to the Spear street depot.
From the 19th to the 28th, Companies I and L were detailed as guard at Sausalite. April 30th, Company F and H relieved E and G.
On May 1, the 22 Infantry band
arrived in San Francisco, and thereafter gave daily concerts at
the various relief stations
which had been established by the regiment throughout the city.
A few days later the second
district was reorganized as the third district. May 20, this
district was discontinued and regimental headquarters
and the band returned to Fort McDowell. Companies I and L were transferred to the Presidio of San Francisco on June 4, and on June 15
Company C was relieved and returned to its proper station. Some detachments of the 22nd Infantry remained on duty in San Francisco
until the middle of July, 1906.
Summing up the services of the
regiment during the trying period, it will be noted that parts of
it were on duty in the fire-swept regions
from April 18 to the middle of July, 1906. During this period the 22nd Infantry had been instrumental in saving government and private property
aggregating millions of dollars in value, untold numbers of lives, and in upholding law and order and furnishing protection to the helpless citizens
against the thieves and lawbreakers who inevitably run amuck on the heels of such a catastrophe. It is indeed a creditable chapter of the regiment's history.
(Ed., the above narrative is the
official record of the 22nd Infantry Regiment during the San
as written by Captain Sidney Appleton in the 1922 Regimental history.)
The following is an excerpt from a
report made by C.A. DeVol, Major & Q.M., U.S. Army, Depot
about the refugee camps and the Soldiers who administered them. He specifically mentions the work
of three Soldiers from the 22nd Infantry.
The officers and men showed
great adaptability and patience in the care and administration of
these camps, and in this connection,
this lecture would be incomplete without a brief reference to the heroes of "Jones dump." About dark, April 21, I was stopped near the Presidio bakery
by a tall, earnest-looking young soldier of the 22d Infantry, who was walking down the road with two wagons. He inquired where he could get some bread,
said the bakery was closed and he must have some food. I asked what he meant and who wanted the food. He then told me that he and two other
members of his company had become separated from their command and found themselves near the foot of Jones street, just out of the burnt district
in the vicinity of what is called "Jones dump," being a general dumping ground for that part of the city. He said they found about 5,000 dagoes down there
who looked to them as wearers of the United States uniform to do something for them.
With true American spirit they
accepted the responsibility and took charge. They levied on some
adjoining stores and warerooms,
making systematic issues. They settled disputes and maintained order. Finally, having exhausted all the resources of his immediate locality
he had started out with two wagons on a foraging expedition, and he said "Those people are hungry and I have simply got to get something for them."
I took him to the Presidio dock and loaded up his wagons, and asked Colonel Febiger that night if he would not visit the foot of Jones street
the next morning and see what was going on. He reported that the man's story was all true. The three privates were running 5,000 refugees,
mostly foreign, and doing it very well, and their authority down there was unquestioned. These refugees were taken in the general organized plan later
and the enlisted men returned to their commands. This is only a minor incident in a great field of work, but it shows a trait in the American soldier,
an ability to take the initiative and do his own thinking, which may enter largely into the history of some great war in the future.
(Ed., The following is taken from The Virtual Museum of the City of
San Francisco, concerning allegations of looting
by US Army Soldiers. Several instances of looting by National Guard and State Militia were witnessed and recorded, however,
the website editor could find no recorded instances in which Soldiers of the Regular Army were shown as having taking part
in any looting. By all accounts, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines performed with heroism and professionalism during this great tragedy.
Captain Orrin C. Wolfe of the 22nd Infantry features prominently in the following narratives.)
of looting by members of the U.S. Army surfaced after the
earthquake as storeowners in the unburned area
around the Montgomery Block began to send demands for payment of looted goods to Gen. Greely. Those claims were rejected by him
after he received reports from officers of the 20th and 22nd Infantry, who were stationed at the Appraisers' Building at Sansome and Jackson,
as well as around the nearby Montgomery Block in the 600 block of Montgomery Street.
Department Rifle Range,
Rodeo Valley, California,
May 24th, 1906
Respectfully returned to the Adjutant, 22nd Infantry Headquarters 3d Military District, Fort Mason, San Francisco, Cal.,
Relative to the matter presented in this letter the preceding endorsements hereon I submit the following detailed statement.
On the morning of April 18th I was ordered by the Battalion Commander to proceed to and guard the U.S. Custom House. I arrived there about ten
o'clock and posted a guard about the Custom House. My instructions did not especially contemplate the protection of private property.
When I arrived there the streets in the vicinity were crowded with people and the fire was approaching rapidly from the east and southeast,
and was within less than a block of the Custom House, which was imminently threatened. I posted the rest of my men in the building
to fight the fire. As soon as the immediate danger to Custom House was over I used my men throughout the rest of the 18th, and during the night
to assist the firemen, and in fighting fire on my own responsibility and in guarding the Custom- House and Station "B" Post-Office.
On the morning of the 19th I sent an Officer and a detachment of 20 men to Oakland leaving me only sufficient men to guard
the Government's property. On the afternoon of the 20th the Custom House was again threatened by fire approaching from west to north,
Company "K" 22nd Infty. under Captain [Daniel G.] Berry came to my assistance [and] together we fought the fire that P.M.,
again saving the Custom House and the block where the [complainant's] firm is located. Several times the block caught, I had men on the roofs
who extinguished the flames during the afternoon and night and to protect it from flying sparks. It was not until 8 P.M. on the 20th
when it seemed likely that this block would be saved that I posted a guard in the streets about a block to protect the property.
It will be seen from the foregoing that until this time my force had all it could do in other directions and no attention could be given
to other property. In the meantime the fire approached this block on 3 sides and adjacent buildings had been dynamited and windows and doors
broken by the blasts. All property located there had been practically abandoned even before my arrival at the Custom House.
Ample opportunity was afforded any passersby to take from any of the exposed stock what he might desire and I have no doubt a great part
of this stock was thus taken as Washington street was filled with people who were watching the fire and backing away from its approach.
On the morning of the 21st Captain Berry and I went around and through the buildings of this block, most of the buildings had been entered
and the stock of goods broken into and it was evident that a great deal had been taken away. After our guard was posted on the evening of the 20th,
no one was permitted inside our lines without a permit from me and I refused no property owner access to his property who could satisfactorily
establish his identity and permitted such watchmen as they would vouch for to accompany them. This I did on several occasions.
Nor was any property permitted to be taken by any person except what was taken by a relief party under charge of a policeman in uniform
who had the authority in writing signed by the chief of police [Jeremiah Dinan]. Even in this case while supplies were taken for use of refugees
said to be located at Portsmouth- Square several express loads were taken from different stores in this vicinity.
As to the allegations in the complained I find them to be indefinite as to time, place, persons and so forth, and as my knowledge of localities
is hazy, I cannot reply to them except in a general way that any goods were wantonly or maliciously destroyed or taken away after I put on guard
the evening of the 20th, I utterly deny.
I also desire to state that the United States was under no obligation or responsibility upon which the slightest claim can be based.
As I was not in any sense in charge, custody, or control of any property other than the Custom-house and Post-Office.
I stationed a guard on the streets as soon as I could do so, to prevent unauthorized persons from molesting unprotected property.
In addition I would state that other troops of marines, Artillery navy and revenue cutter service were stationed in this vicinity
assisting and protecting and saving property.
(Sgd.) Orrin R. Wolfe, Captain 22nd Infty.
William Taylor, with the law firm of Stidger and Stidger, wrote to Secretary of War Taft, in September 1906, to demand payment
for losses incurred by one claimant. He wrote, "The matter to which your attention is now respectfully called has been submitted
to the Division Commander, Pacific Division [Gen. Greely], and he has directed the Military Secretary 'to say that no further action can be had
in the matter at these headquarters.' "
Taylor's letter continued: "At the time of the recent earthquake at San Francisco, and during the days of the conflagration
which destroyed the business portions of the city, much looting was carried on, and unnumbered robberies were committed.
Among the looters and robbers, the majority of whom it was impossible to identify on account of the chaotic conditions then prevailing,
it was observed that soldiers of the U.S. Army in notable numbers were especially active. The fact that these plunderers wore the uniforms
of the army of the United States, and bore the regulation arms openly and menacingly, rendered their connection with the Military Department
of the Government easy, though their individual identity could not be noted."
The five-page letter was accompanied by 13 affidavits from special police officers, volunteer firefighters and businessmen who each swore
they saw soldiers looting businesses in the unburned blocks surrounding Sansome and Jackson streets.
Appeals to Secretary Taft caused the Division of the Pacific to begin an investigation by the inspector-general's office.
Hearings on the matter continued into early 1907, and on February 2 of that year Captain Wolfe testified before the Army hearing
at Fort Mason. A stenographic transcription of his testimony was found in the National Archives. The Division's Inspector General,
J.L. Chamberlain, asked the questions.
FEBRUARY 2, 1907
Captain Orrin R. Wolfe, 22nd Infantry, being sworn testified as follows:
Q. On the 18th of April, 1906, after the earthquake, where did you take station with your company in the city of San Francisco?
A. At the United States Appraisers' Building; I arrived there about 10:30 a.m.
Q. Are you familiar with the building known as the Montgomery Block, located on the corner of Montgomery and Washington streets?
A. Yes sir, I know there is such a building stands there - I didn't know that it was called the Montgomery Block,
but I am familiar with the building which you describe.
Q. Did you on the 18th of April place a guard in the vicinity of this building?
A. I did not sir. On the morning of the 18th as soon as I arrived I posted a squad on each face of the building of the Custom House,
placing two sentries out with each squad. Before this even as the company was halted and in line I gave instructions that no man
was to leave the immediate vicinity of the building. The rest of the company was held within the building until the firemen came to me
and asked if I would let them have some men to assist in carrying hose, which I did.
At no time on the 18th were my men stationed in the vicinity of the Montgomery Block. I think it was on the 21st that I feared
the Custom House was surely going - I sent word to my regimental commander that I would like have some more troops,
and he sent Captain Berry's company. We then fought for several hours and saved the Customs House. Then, for the first time,
I walked around the block bounded by Washington, Montgomery, Jackson and Sansome streets, with Captain Berry.
We noticed nearly all the stores except for those that had iron shutters and doors, had been entered.
We came back to the Custom House and as this block contained a number of liquor stores that I didn't know were there before,
and as I had ample men then, I put several sentries around different portions of the block; I also put a sentry on Washington street
in this block and near Montgomery, where we were getting our fresh water from for cooking purposes, it was an old restaurant,
and this is practically opposite what I understand to be the Montgomery Block.
The orders were in general to allow no one to enter or to take anything from any of these buildings unless by authority.
As I remember it the relief for these sentries was held on the corner of Montgomery and Washington streets. That afternoon,
when Captain Berry and I inspected this block, I observed an express wagon backed up at the Montgomery Block on Washington street
with a policeman in uniform removing groceries. I inquired of the policeman where they were going and was told that they were
relief supplies going to Portsmouth Square; as that was not in my territory I did nothing about it.
Q. Did you at any time post sentries or take charge of the block referred to as the Montgomery Block?
A. I had no sentries posted there; the general instructions were to see that people did not remove anything from the buildings that were left standing.
Q. Did you at any time have any of your sentries posted on Washington Street between Montgomery and Merchant streets?
A. No sir, I did not.
Q. Did you at any time make a personal inspection of this building on its various faces?
A. I entered the side on Washington Street with Captain Berry on the afternoon of the 21st. I entered a grocery store on the Washington
street side with Captain Berry. I never went on the Montgomery street side of this building. To the best of my knowledge that street was,
on the 18th and 19th, guarded by a detachment of Marines, which had its headquarters at the Sub Treasury. On the morning of the 18th
shortly after my arrival at the Custom House, I saw Artillerymen patrolling Washington street between Sansome and Montgomery
until the fire drove them away; I do not know whether they were posted there or not.
Q. Was this the store at whose door you saw the wagon with the policeman?
A. I think it was, I am not positive there were several stores of the same character.
Q. What was the conditions in those stores?
A. Everything was in much confusion.
Q. When was that did you say?
A. It was not earlier than the 21st; it might have been the 20th, I am not positive, but it was the day that Captain Berry came
to assist me that I entered the store.
Q. Did your men at any time occupy as a guard house or as a sleeping from the room on the ground floor of the Montgomery Block
at the corner of Montgomery and Washington streets?
A. Not to my knowledge.
Q. So you know nothing yourself about the face of the building?
A. I know nothing about it.
Q. When was your command relieved from duty at the Custom House?
A. I thing it was on the afternoon of the 22nd, by the 20th Infantry.
Q. Prior to your being relieved was any inspection of this locality made by the Commanding Officer of the 20th Infantry?
A. Yes sir, when they came to relieve me the Commanding Officer of the 20th Infantry, accompanied by myself, Lieutenant Novak
and possibly others, went around the block bounded by Washington, Sansome, Jackson and Montgomery streets.
Q. Did you make any inspection of the adjacent block bounded by Washington and Merchant streets?
A. No sir, not that I remember of at that time.
Q. What was the character of your orders on the morning of April 18th?
A. My orders were to proceed to the Custom House and use my discretion; I understood these orders to mean that my duty
was to protect the Custom House and any United States property there was also an adjoining sub-post-office station on Jackson street
few doors from Sansome and I placed a guard over that.
Q. Was there much drunkenness among your men during the period that you were on duty at the Custom House?
A. Very little indeed -- one or two men were under the influence; there was more or less drinking as was natural since
the whole community was a bar-room and liquor was flowing like water, but I saw no man of my company, nor Captain Berry's company,
that was so drunk that he could not walk, and only two or three who were not able to perform their duties at all times.
An officer of the day was regularly detailed and made frequent inspections night and day of the entire district, had there been
any great irregularities he certainly must have discovered them and would have reported them - no such report came to me.
On April 18th, when I went to the Custom House it appeared that we were marching into a wall of fire and there were crowds on the street,
everybody was panic-stricken and people were backing away from the fire and carrying things in wagons, rushing here and there loaded down
and I particularly noticed, as I was standing on the corner of Washington and Sansome streets, that wagons were backed up to the sidewalks
on each side and people were loading stuff into them and hurrying away.
The hearings were apparently inconclusive as owners of Garbini Bros. & Company found out from this letter
written by Samuel W. Dunning, the Division's Adjutant General.
HEADQUARTERS PACIFIC DIVISION,
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA,
April 5, 1907. Messrs. Garbini Bros. & Company
541 - 547 Washington Street,
San Francisco, California.
Referring to your claim for $3799.24 for wines and liquors, submitted to these headquarters, I have the honor to inform you that your claim
was thoroughly investigated by an inspector, the result of which was submitted to the War Department for consideration, and that the following
conclusions of the War Department are, by direction of the Acting Secretary of War, communicated to you:
"There is no allegation that the property was taken or destroyed by competent military authority. If we accept the statement made
by the claimant that the spoliation was the unlawful and tortious act of individual soldiers the following would appear to be the law
applicable to the case: 'The United States is not responsible for unlawful acts of its soldiers and employees, and the Secretary of War
is not empowered to allow a claim for personal property stolen or illegally appropriated by a soldier." (Par. 783, Dig.Opins.J.A.G.)
"It is well settled that the United States is not legally responsible for the torts of its officers or agents, whether of commission or omission".
Pitman v. U.S., 20 C.Cls., 255; Gibbons v. U.S., & Wall., 269; id., 7Ct.Cls., 105; Morgan v. U.S., 14 Wall., 531.
Judge Story in his work on agency, sec.319, says "It is plain that the Government itself is not responsible for the misfeasances
or wrongs or negligences or omissions of duty of the subordinate officers or agents employed in the public service;
for it does not undertake to guarantee to any person the fidelity of any of the officers or agents whom it employs,
since that would involve it, in all its operations, in endless embarrassments and difficulties and losses,
which would be subversive of the public interests". (Note 1, Par. 784, Dig.Opins.J.A.G.)
After careful examination of all the documents and exhibits in the case, the Department must refuse to favorably entertain the claim".
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