Sergeant Holden’s Squad
The three U.S. Army infantrymen standing at the right side of the photo were – according to a very faint caption on the lower edge of the photograph – members of Sergeant Holden’s squad. Holden appears at the far left of this image which was taken at Camp Columbia, Cuba sometime between 1899 and 1902, not long after the end of the Spanish-American War. The dates are based upon the time period when elements of the 7th U. S. Cavalry was stationed at Camp Columbia. An unidentified trooper or officer of the 7th compiled the album in which this photograph originated.
Above: Sergeant James Holden of “F” Company, 8th U.S. Infantry (left) with the three mysterious Obnan brothers at Camp Columbia, Cuba c. 1900. Photo: soldiersofthequeen.com/Edward T. Garcia collection.
This sergeant appears to be Sergeant James Holden of Company “F”, 8th United States Infantry. Holden was born about 1870 in Kilkenny, Ireland and was a resident of New York City when he enlisted in the 8th U.S. Infantry on 5 June 1896. He was honorably discharged with the rank of corporal at Havana, Cuba on 4 June 1899. He reenlisted the following day and served until 4 June 1902 when he was honorably discharged at the rank of sergeant. At the time of both discharges, his character was listed as “excellent”.
Above: Sergeant James Holden’s New York State, Spanish-American War Military and Naval Service Card from his second term of enlistment. Souce: Adjutant General’s Office. New York State Archives, Albany, New York.
After army service, Holden would marry Miss Hannah Cochrane in 1905. The couple would have two sons, Joseph, born around 1910 in Manhattan, and William Thomas, born around 1914 in Brooklyn, New York.
Interestingly a somewhat shaky handed ink inscription on the photograph’s reverse side reads: “Obnan brothers, Liberty Pa.” My assumption is that all three of the soldiers with Sergeant Holden were in fact brothers – they do bear resemblances to one another to a certain degree. The photo may have been something of a novelty if indeed tree brothers were serving in Holden’s squad. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any records of anyone, let alone two or three brothers by the name of Obnan serving in Cuba at the time or living in Liberty, Pennsylvania in the time periods before or after the approximate date of the photo.
Above: A detail of Sergeant Holden’s photograph. Photo: soldiersofthequeen.com/Edward T. Garcia collection.
All four men are armed with either Model 1896 or Model 1898 U.S. Krag-Jorgensen Rifles. Sergeant Holden and two of his men wear dark blue, double-looped Mills Cartridge Belts while the Private second from right wears a khaki version of the same belt. All four men seem to be wearing Khaki service tunics of the type adopted in August of 1899. Additionally, all four men wear U.S. issued M1889 tropical service helmets.