This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Spanish-American War. In response to civil unrest in Cuba, President William McKinley sent the USS Maine in January 1898 to Havana, Cuba, “to protect U.S. interests.” On Feb. 15, a massive explosion sunk the Maine, killing most of her crew. 

Although the cause of this tragedy has never been definitively resolved, “Remember the Maine” became a rallying cry which contributed to McKinley’s decision to blockade Cuba and to a formal declaration of war against Spain on April 25, 1898.

On April 27, 1898, two days after the declaration of war, West Virginia Gov. George Wesley Atkinson summoned the West Virginia National Guard to mobilize at the state capital. Locally, after hearing a rousing speech delivered by Roger Preston Chew, Jefferson County’s Company I, W.V.N.G commanded by Capt. J.M. Pyne boarded the B&O Railroad at its East North Street station headed first to Harpers Ferry, then west to Grafton, and finally south on the old Coal and Coke Railway to Charleston.

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