1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry Come Home Heroes
Our Boys Return from the Philippines
October 2, 1899
The city was gaily decorated, bands played rousing patriotic music, and townspeople by the thousands waved American flags. That was Valley City last evening when Company G of the 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry arrived home from a distinguished campaign in the Philippines.
When the Spanish-American War broke out in April 1898, the War Department asked the states to activate their National Guards for duty. By early May, 437 men and officers began training at Fargo. Their destination would be the Philippines which Spain owned.
During June the 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry received more training near San Francisco and on June 27 shipped out to the Philippines. The North Dakotans arrived in Manila just as the war against Spain was ending.
This did not mean that the 1st North Dakota turned around and came home — far from it!
The Filipinos had been fighting for independence from Spain for several years and had gained control of the country except for the city of Manila. When the United States took ownership of the Philippines after the peace was signed, the Filipinos began to wage their war for independence against the Americans.
For six months North Dakota’s “Boys in the Philippines” were in the thick of battle — jungle, guerrilla warfare. In that half-year the 1st North Dakota led the charge on several campaigns.
Of special note was the heroism displayed by several North Dakotans who were members of Young’s Scouts. These 25 men, 16 of whom were from North Dakota, were assigned the duty of preceding the army to gage enemy strength and positions. But they ended up doing much more than that!
In mid-May 1899 Young’s Scouts single-handedly drove 300 to 400 Filipinos out of the towns of San Ildefonso, San Miguel, and San Isidro — about 40 miles into rugged terrain north of Manila. Eight North Dakotans received the nation’s highest honor for their heroism during these assaults — the Congressional Medal of Honor. In all, ten NoDaks earned this coveted medal during the Philippine action.
When our boys left the Philippines on July 31, the conflict was far from over, but they had done their job well. Now all across the state, just like here in Valley City, the people are paying tribute to our boys with parades and banquets. Each returning soldier from here has received $26 in gold. This was a surprise the boys least expected.
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.