California 1898 Spanish American War Medal - USS Olympia
The “California Volunteers Medal” was privately instituted and funded by the Native Sons of the Golden West in April of 1899. Six thousand medals were struck by Hammersmith & Field of San Francisco, of which approximately 1,400 were issue to soldiers in the 1st California Infantry Regiment and the Heavy Artillery batteries that had recently retuned from the Philippines. The remaining medals went to men in the other regiments from California as well as volunteers from the state who served in the Regular Army and Navy. (I’ve never seen one named to a Marine.) Normally they were issued unnamed but were often privately engraved, in a variety of formats, by the recipient. There is no known roster that will identify the recipient of an unnamed medal by the number on the back of the top bar.

This nice example is engraved on two lines, “H. W. Kyle / USS Olympia”. Initially I had some trouble researching this medal because I couldn’t find anyone named “Kyle” in the mid-1898 muster rolls of the USS Olympia. Eventually I determined that Kyle was “Harry William Kyle” who joined the ship’s company at the very end of that year. He was only on board for a few months in the early part of 1899 and was discharged in June of that year after fulfilling his one year enlistment. There was no record in Kyle’s service file that he was ever issued any medals by the US Navy, although he was eligible for the Philippine Campaign Medal.

Scan of Kyle’s service papers, which are located at the military records center in St. Louis.

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