Tuesday, July 31, 2012
The 1st North Dakota Volunteers set sail from the Philippines on this date in 1899. They had arrived in the islands the previous summer to take part in the Spanish-American War, but stayed long enough to fight in the Philippine-American War that spring.
During the 1890s, the United States grew increasingly wary of reports of Spanish atrocities in their colonial possessions. Particularly unsettling were stories from nearby Cuba, where injustices grew in magnitude and frequency. When the U.S. battleship Maine sunk mysteriously off the coast of Havana, blame was quickly placed on Spain. The U.S. sent an ultimatum to Spain to surrender Cuba, to which Madrid responded with a declaration of war. President McKinley and Congress soon followed with a war declaration of their own, beginning the Spanish-American War. Although much of the war was fought in Cuba, the U.S. also attacked Spain’s possessions in the Pacific, including the Philippines.
In 1898, North Dakota’s Guard unit was called up for duty in the Philippines. “Eight companies were chosen to become the 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry Regiment.” These 685 guardsmen arrived in Manila in July, and within two weeks found themselves fighting one of the largest battles of the war. The Battle for Manila featured an intense firefight between the Spanish forces, entrenched in the island capital, and the American forces surrounding the bay. In a few days, the American forces captured the city.
The North Dakota volunteers were tasked with occupying the city and surrounding area, serving to protect the Filipinos from the Spanish. However, in February, a Filipino insurrection led by Emilio Aguinaldo occurred after American sentries fired shots from the San Juan del Monte Bridge in Manila. The following day, General MacArthur declared war, and the North Dakota volunteers found themselves in the midst of yet another conflict. They fought for three days during the Battle of Manila, and were then sent to various conflicts around the islands.
On July 31, 1899, a year after their arrival, they departed the Philippines on a Navy transport. A month later, they arrived in San Francisco and soon returned to North Dakota. They had lost seven men to conflict and nine to disease, but not one to desertion.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme Job
Wagner, Steven. January 3, 1999.“N.D. Soldiers Ready for any Fight, Historian Credits Hard Work Ethic for Getting Troops Through Battles,” Inforum: Fargo, ND.
Durand, John. 2009. The Boys: 1st North Dakota Volunteers in the Philippines. Puzzlebox Press: Elkhorn, WI.