Memorial Day was created after the Civil War to pay tribute to the soldiers and sailors who gave their lives in that war. Since then it has been a day to pay honor to veterans of all wars.
This year marks the centennial of the Spanish-American War (1898-99) and one of Johnstown's veterans of that war --- Brigadier General Edgar S. Dudley --- played an important role.
During the Spanish-American War his claim to fame was as the official representative of the United States who received the transfer of Cuba from Spain to the U.S.
Dudley was born in Oppenheim in 1845, the oldest of five children and the son of James and Maria Swarthout Dudley. His father, a descendant of Gov. Dudley of Massachusetts, was a justice of the Supreme Court. He moved with his family to Johnstown in 1863 and attended Johnstown Academy.
Dudley, a career military man, joined the Army at the end of the Civil War. During the Civil War, when he was just 16 years old, he became a clerk in the office of the Provost Marshall in Schenectady. During the draft riots of the time "he exhibited such coolness and bravery that officers recommended him to a cadetship at West Point," according to his obituary. Since there was no vacancy at the time, he was made a 2nd lieutenant in the NY Light Artillery. He was stationed near Washington D.C. when it was attacked by Confederate General Jubal Early and his raiders.
In 1866 he entered West Point, graduating in 1870. Dudley then went on to Albany Law School, graduating in 1875 with a law degree. In 1904 he received a doctorate in law from the University of Nebraska.
In 1892 Dudley was one of the charter members of the newly formed Johnstown Historical Society.
At that time Cuba was formally turned over to the U.S., Dudley was a lieutenant-colonel and judge advocate in the U.S. Volunteers, 2nd Army Corps. He was stationed in Cuba for 2 ½ years. He served on the staff of Maj. Gen. Brooke and Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood, as legal advisor in civil and military affairs during their terms as military governor of Cuba (December 1898 to May 1901).
Gen. Wood was the first colonel of the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment or "Rough Riders." After Wood was promoted, the regiment was lead by Lt. Col. Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt.
Dudley wrote of the transfer of Cuba to the U.S. in a letter dated Jan. 15, 1899, to H. E. Smith, president of the Johnstown Historical Society:
At noon on Saturday, January 1st, 1899, as the flag of Spain was lowered from over Morro Castle and the "Star Spangled Banner" replaced it there and over the palace of the Spanish governor general, I had the honor, having been duly designated as representative of the United States Government, to demand and receive from the Spanish official in charge:
First - the office of the secretary of the governor-general of the Island,
Second - the office of the president of the council of secretaries of the Island,
Third - the department of Grace, Justice and Government.
I still retain charge and will retain it until the heads of the respective departments of the civil government are designated. Some day, it may be that the fact that a "Johnstown Academy boy" took part in these proceedings would be desirable for record.
The Spanish-American War was the end result of the United States wanting to develop new lands outside of its boundaries. Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge warned that America must enter the race for its share of the "waste places of the earth." Since there was no longer a frontier in the continental United States, America was looking elsewhere.
The Philippines and Cuba were places where America already had interests and citizens living. The Cuban people were up in arms in a rebellion against their Spanish landlords. American sympathies went with these people, via the press, who wanted the U.S. to get involved militarily. On Feb. 15, 1898, the U.S. battleship Maine was mysteriously blown up in Havana Harbor, leaving 266 men dead. April 25, the United States declared war on Spain.
The "Spirit of '98" climaxed a century of territorial growth. Americans finally found themselves in possession of distant colonies, after Spain gave up control of Cuba and ceded the Philippine Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States. In 1900, an annexation treaty was approved and Hawaii was granted territorial status.
By 1900 the United States had become a power on the international scene - a fact that was to have a profound effect on its future. Theodore Roosevelt recognized this, stating "Even if we would, we cannot play a small part."
On June 14, 1909, at the age of 64, Dudley retired with the rank of Brigadier General. His wife, Mary Hillabrandt Dudley, had died six months earlier at West Point, at the age of 59. Their only child died at a young age.
Upon his retirement, he returned to Johnstown, where he was active in community groups, St. John's Episcopal Church and was elected to the Johnstown Board of Education.
He lived at 101 S. Melcher St.
Gen. Dudley died of pneumonia in 1911 and is buried in the Johnstown Cemetery on North Perry Street
Mary Stewart Hillabrandt Dudley
Sponsored by Ancestry