Today is Memorial Day, a day to remember the fallen heroes who gave their lives in service to their country.
It was a somber Memorial Day in Grafton in 1899. Word had come from the Philippines that four members of Company C had paid the ultimate price. Company C consisted mostly of Grafton area farm boys. They were not accustomed to the hot steamy rain forests, and most of their training had occurred after they arrived in the Philippines in July of 1898.
On February 4, 1899 the North Dakota units came under heavy fire from insurgents and were almost constantly engaged in fighting until July 7th. Among them was private William Lamb, who wrote home that the terrain was terrible to fight in. But constant rain, malaria, insects and sniping by the enemy failed to demoralize these volunteers, for as Lamb stated, “We fellows came 10,700 miles looking for a scrap and we got it, and got it good and plenteous when it did come.”
One night a North Dakota Company camped in a rice field as a heavy rain began. Soon there was six to ten inches of water covering everything. Undaunted, one of the boys began to sing the popular song, “Throw out the Life Line” and others began to quack like a duck. Donald McIntyre of Company C wrote home on the heroics of the company, “I cannot take the space here to tell you of the brave work done by our boys, how they charged up a hill so steep they had to hang onto the branches, how the bullets rained down among them like hail.” They did their jobs valiantly.
Nearing the town of Paete on April 12th, the column came under fire and Major John H. Fraine called for the sharpshooters from Company C. Five members of the unit advanced along a mountain road until they reached an entrenched group of insurgents who fired from ambush only thirty feet away. Corporal Isadore Driscoll and Private Alfred Alman were killed outright and Private Peter Thompkins was mortally wounded from the volley. Lamb, attempting to protect his friends, jumped up and continued firing but also fell. When the insurgents tried to capture the guns of the fallen soldiers, private Thomas Slettleland continued firing, eventually driving them away.
On this day we echo the words of their Commander, Lt. Col. W. E Truemann who said, “May we ever cherish the memory of the First North Dakota Volunteer Infantry and may we all honor the noble dead who are our sacrifice to the Nation’s honor.”
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
Citizens As Soldiers by Jerry Cooper, Institute for Regional Studies, 1986
News and Times June 1. 1899
News and Times June 8, 1899
The Record,June 1899
The Record, October 1899