Lieutenant Francis McEnhill – veteran of the Spanish American War

Francis McEnhill was the uncle of my grandmother and one of many Irish relatives in that generation who left the mother country for the United States. He made quite a name for himself in New York society and was permitted to join the US Cavalry becoming a naturalised American citizen on 18 February 1901. He saw service in Cuba and the Philippines during the Spanish-American war. As a result of something he caught in the Philippines (very likely yellow fever) he died quite young of encephalitis – after brain surgery.

When Francis McEnhill was born on 10 June 1872 in Ireland, his father, Hugh, was 37 and his mother, Catherine, was 36. He arrived in the United States on 10 April 1890.


In 1906, he sailed on the Arabic from Liverpool to Boston (may have been visiting relatives in county Tyrone) and the log notes his military service at Fort Snelling in Minnesota. After emigrating to the US, he joined the military and obtained a law degree.

He married Norma Emma Butler on 27 August 1902, daughter of a high ranking military officer and friend of US President Chester Arthur – both of them were Civil War veterans. Francis was a second lieutenant in the 2nd cavalry of the US army. He was promoted from private to second lieutenant on 2 February 1901 according to congressional records.

He fought in Cuba then the Philippines during the Spanish-American war. In 1901 (registered for August and September), he was stationed at Hamilton Barracks in Cuba. Then in January 1904, he is registered at the Manila Arsenal in the Philippines. And continues to be registered there through to March 1905.

Then in May 1905, he is at the Pasay Garrison. In the Philippines, it’s most likely – given his dates and the year of his death – that he was involved in the 2nd US cavalry’s putting down of the Philippine insurrection in 1905. This involved rooting our insurgents and putting down revolts in the countryside.

One cousin believes he was also involved in the abortive US invasion of Mexico (1898-1901). However, that would have been before his service in the US cavalry from 1901. Also, if he started service in 1901, he would have missed the main invasions of the Philippines and Cuba in 1898. But he was probably involved in consolidating the American position as the new rulers of those countries.

By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, Francis was suffering from encephalitis that required a major operation in Philadelphia. He began to recuperate but then his health declined rapidly. He died on 3 June 1909 in Hounsfield, New York, USA, at the age of 36, and was buried in Sackets Harbor, New York, USA.

His funeral coffin was carried by his brothers, J Ernest Shaw, J Edward Butler and Robert W Bowman and three personal friends: Louis Hazlewood, Fred Wescott and Frank Wescott. There was a military escort at his funeral consisting of the 24th military band, a platoon of men who had been led by Francis and an orderly leading the deceased’s horse with his boots reversed in the stirrups. Three volleys were fired and a bugle sounded.


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