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 John W Harton

John W Harton

Washburn, Rutherford County, North Carolina, USA
Death 12 Dec 1901 (aged 23)
Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA
Plot , 5969
Memorial ID 2590463 · View Source
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Spanish American War: 11 May 1898 to 3 November 1898
Philippine Insurrection: 27 April 1899 to 12 December 1901

John William Harton was born on 18 May 1878 in the rural hamlet of Washburn, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge in Rutherford County North Carolina. He was the eldest son of Thomas J. Harton and wife, W. Hester Norville. John's early childhood years seemed to have been happy ones spent in and around the small communities and bucolic hillsides of Rutherford County. With the passage of years in the 1880s, the Harton family began to grow. A sister, Ethel, was welcomed in 1880. The family soon relocated to Spartanburg County, S.C. where another sister, Grace, was born in 1883, and a brother, Thomas Baxter, followed in 1886. By the first years of the penultimate decade of the nineteen century, the Harton family had moved to Waco, Texas. Here, John quickly came to embrace his new town and surroundings. Even though his North Carolina roots ran deep, John Harton considered himself a citizen of Waco, and a Texan at heart. In 1894, we find John working for a local proprietor in Waco and helping his father and mother run a boarding house. In 1895, a final brother, Leslie, was added to the family.

By 1898, John was twenty years old and looking for life's new opportunities and adventures. The Battleship Maine had been destroyed in Havana Harbor in February, and President McKinley asked Congress for a Declaration of War against Spain on April 11. War was formally declared two weeks later on 25 April–the Spanish American War had begun. And John wanted to serve. He enlisted in the 2nd North Carolina Volunteer Infantry on 11 May 1898 and was mustered in as a corporal two days later in Raleigh, N.C. It did not take John long to discover that he enjoyed the daily company squad and battalion drills that rapidly brought the regiment to a high state of readiness. Eight companies of the 2nd North Carolina served in the southeastern coastal states from North Carolina to Florida. John was quartered at Lands End, SC. The Spanish American War ended rather quickly in August 1898 before the 2nd NC Volunteers could be sent abroad. John was mustered out of service with company on 3 Nov 1898. He quickly returned to Texas

In the spring of 1899, we find John in Waco entertaining thoughts of seeking higher education and pursuing who was to become the love of his life, Miss Chrissie R. Tally. However, all of this is interrupted by a national call for volunteers to join the Army for service in the Philippine Isles. The United States had acquired the Archipelago as a result of the Spanish American War; and various elements of Filipino society had vowed to resist American hegemony. This was the beginning of the Philippine Insurrection. John Harton enlisted in the Army on 27 April 1899 in Dallas, Texas. He was assigned to the USA 23rd Infantry Brigade Company H. John said his final goodbyes to his family and Chrissie on 28 April 1899 and departed via train to the Presidio of San Francisco. He remained there for approximately thirty days, before being transported to the Philippine Islands. He boarded the U.S. Army Transport ship Grant on 30 May 1899 and arrived in Manila Bay on 26 June of that year.

The eight companies of the 23rd Infantry Regiment expected to be quartered in the northern Philippines relatively close to Manila. However, trouble in the southern islands precipitated a move to tropical Sulu Island (today Jolo Island) in the Sulu Archipelago in the southwestern Philippines. Sulu Island was culturally and religiously Islamic and ruled via a Sultanate. The US Army had secured an agreement with the Sultan of Sulu whereby he (the Sultan) would accept American allegiance in exchange for recognition and respect for the practice of Islam. The role of 23rd Infantry on Sulu Island would be one of law keepers, insuring that the isle remained peaceful and free from bandits, pirates,and insurrectionists. This was the geographical and political environment that John Harton and the 23rd Infantry faced from the early mid summer of 1899 to Sep 1901.

John began chronicling his experiences in the Philippines on 20 Sep 1899 by starting a diary. He regularly posted his thoughts about daily military life, the people and culture of Sulu, the almost unbearable homesickness, the joys and frustrations of mail call, and his desire to return to civilian life once his enlistment was fulfilled. Everything is there. Yet, ultimately, it is his immediate comrades plus those all extremely important letters from his family and especially Chrissie Tally that kept him going, that provided him the hope of a new life after the Army in Texas.

John's relationship with Chrissie Tally, now a very long distance one, was strained mightily by his enlistment; but it remarkably recovered and the bond between them grew much stronger as time passed during his tenure in the Philippines. John and Chrissie had met at a church function in the mid 1890s while they were both members of the 5th Street Episcopal Methodist Church in Waco's 3rd Ward. Their romance seemed to have blossomed through the final months of winter as the season changed to spring in early 1899. Although Chrissie was unhappy with John's decision to leave, she committed herself to writing him regularly with the hope that they could rekindle the earlier feelings they had for each other upon his return. Although a letter from Waco to Jolo posted approximately 58 days for delivery, Chrissie continued to write twice a month. Her first letters were purposely shallow and reflected her personal disappointment with John for joining the military and for simply being away.However, as the months turned into years, the exchange of letters began to have an inspirational effect on each one of them. Chrissie and John managed to rediscovered the true basis of their relationship and they began making plans to build upon it. John's minister in Waco served as his proxy in procuring an engagement ring which Chrissie received on 27 October 1900. In her letter to John on that day, Chrissie says she is "thrilled and delighted" with the ring. John received Chrissie's acceptance letter on Christmas day 1900. They were now looking forward to a wedding date in the spring of 1902.

Twenty-seven months was John's tour of duty in the Philippines. He was promoted to Corporal in late 1900, and he was respected by both enlisted men and officers alike. During this period, John's health was compromised several times by tropical fever, but treated and cured with quinine. He also developed a small lesion in the area of his left temple that would be instrumental in determining his fate.

The 23rd Infantry was scheduled to depart the Philippines in late Sep 1901. All eight companies of the regiment boarded the U.S. Army Transport Buford at Jolo City on Sulu Island on 27 Sep 1901. The voyage home began; sixty-six days it lasted, through the Suez Canal, with stops in Singapore, Colombo, Port Said, Malta, and Gilbraltar. The Buford arrived in New York City (NYC) Harbor on 1 Dec 1901 and was anchored just off Liberty Island. The 23rd Infantry Regiment had been around the world.

The passengers of the Buford were ecstatic to see the "roofs and spires" of New York City from the ship's decks. Not only was John overjoyed, but he anticipated a furlough and expected to be in Waco, Texas by Christmastime. However, before reporting for duty at the US Army Barracks in Plattsburg, NY, he was temporarily assigned to the military hospital at Fort Hamilton,NYC, as a patient.. It was time to begin medical treatment for his temporal lesion. The Army Surgeon's staff in the Philippines had recommended an operation, assuring him that there was no danger at all. John was optimistic about his prognosis even before he arrived at Fort Hamilton.

Fort Hamilton became home for John while he underwent medical evaluation and awaited his furlough. Although his exact diagnosis is unknown, the army doctors referred him to a specialist (surgeon) at St. Luke's Hospital in nearby Manhattan. In the meantime, the long awaited furlough letter was delivered. He was granted leave twenty-one days spanning 8 through 29 Dec 1901. Christmas in Waco seemed truly within reach.

John visited the surgeon at St. Luke's Hospital on 7 Dec 1901, and an operation was scheduled for early afternoon on Dec 12th. He telegraphed his family and Chrissie in Waco informing them of his impending surgery, and that his arrival for the holidays would be several days later than expected.

On the morning of Thursday, 12 Dec 1901, John entered St. Luke's Hospital. His operation began not long after the noon hour. Surgery was performed and the troubling temporal lesion was malignant. Sarcoma was the diagnosis, and it had spread extensively. John never recovered; he succumbed from shock directly brought about by the operation at 4:45 PM that day. He was twenty-three years old

The family was contacted in Waco early in the evening, Friday 13 Dec. What had been a family (and friends) expecting so much gladness now turned to mourning. John's mother agreed to have his remains interred with military honors in Soldiers' Field, Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, on 15 Dec 1901. Family members both in Texas and North Carolina suffered unmeasurable grief and loss. Chrissie Tally was heartbroken and overwrought with sorrow. John's early and untimely death remained with them all for the rest of their lives. Chrissie, in her later years, continued to read John's letters and wondered what might have been.

John Harton was an intelligent, decent, caring and practical young man who was unknowingly dealt a tragic hand in the ever continuing (and changing) card game of life.. Yet, in his short twenty-three years, he answered the call of his country, the call of his family, and the call of his God.

So God Speed John William Harton on your eternal journey. You will not be forgotten.

By George M
Grandnephew of John W. Harton

Information from:
1. Diaries of John W. Harton
2. John W. Harton Military Records National Archives
3. NY Times, 2 Dec 1901, Article "Transport Arrives From Philippines; The Buford Here With Eight Companies Twenty-Third Regiment."

Family Members


CPL 23rd INF
MARCH 18, 1878
DECEMBER 12, 1901

Gravesite Details Headstone replaced in 1946; however there is an error in the birth date. Corporal Harton's actual date of birth is 18 May 1878.
  • Maintained by: George M
  • Originally Created by: US Veterans Affairs Office
  • Added: 3 Mar 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 2590463
  • George M
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John W Harton (18 May 1878–12 Dec 1901), Find A Grave Memorial no. 2590463, citing Cypress Hills National Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, USA ; Maintained by George M (contributor 48088814) .