This week we remember a long forgotten incident from the Philippine Insurrection and a band of elite National Guard citizen-soldiers who exemplified the best qualities of the American military tradition. Thanks to thedonovan.com for bring the story to my attention. Their tale comes from the official website of the National Guard:
“One month after the Spanish-American War began, an expeditionary force sailed from San Francisco to the Philippine Islands. Because most of the Regular Army was in Cuba and Puerto Rico, three-quarters of the first 10,000 U.S. Army troops to arrive in the Philippines were National Guardsmen, most of them from the West and Midwest. The Spanish surrendered quickly, but the Guardsmen soon had another enemy: Filipinos fighting for their independence.
In the spring of 1899 the 1st North Dakota Infantry was part of an expedition to clean out Insurgent strongholds north of Manila. When a civilian named Henry Young organized an elite scouting and reconnaissance force, 16 North Dakotans were selected for this detail, which also included four men from the 2d Oregon. Of Young and his 25 Scouts one historian wrote “Always in front of the main column, the scouts bore the brunt of the advance, reconnoitering and maintaining contact with the enemy.”
On 13 May, a reconnaissance party ran into a band of about 300 Insurgents. Without hesitation 11 Scouts charged the Filipinos and routed them; Young himself was mortally wounded. Three days later (16 May), while reconnoitering for water, the Scouts discovered that the Insurgents had set an important bridge on fire. Knowing the river below as un-fordable, the 22 Scouts rushed the bridge and put out the flames, despite an enfilading fire from some 600 Insurgents. Supported by the 2d Oregon, the Scouts then drove the Insurgents from their trenches.”
For the actions of 16 May, 1899, the following seven men were later presented the Medal of Honor:
BOEHLER, OTTO, Private, Company I, 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry. Place and date: Near San Isidro, Philippine Islands, 16 May 1899. Entered service at: Wahpeton, N. Dak. Birth: Germany. Date of issue: 17 May 1906.
DAVIS, CHARLES P., Private, Company G, 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry. Place and date: Near San Isidro, Philippine Islands, 16 May 1899. Entered service at: Valley City, N. Dak. Birth: Long Prairie, Minn. Date of issue: 28 April 1906.
HIGH, FRANK C., Private, U.S. Army, Company G, 2d Oregon Volunteer Infantry. Place and Date: Near San Isidro, Philippine Islands, 16 May 1899. Entered Service At: Picard, Calif. Birth: Yolo County, Calif. Date of Issue: Unknown.
KINNE, JOHN B., Private, Company B, 1st North Dakota Infantry. Place and date: Near San Isidro, Philippine Islands, 16 May 1889. Entered service at: Fargo, N. Dak. Birth: Beloit, Wis. Date of issue: 17 May 1906.
LONGFELLOW, RICHARD M., Private, Company A, 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry. Place and date: Near San Isidro Philippine Islands, 16 May 1899. Entered service at: Mandan, N. Dak. Birth: Logan County, Ill, Date of issue: Unknown.
ROBERTSON, MARCUS W., Rank and organization: Private, Company B, 2d Oregon Volunteer Infantry. Place and date: Near San Isidro, Philippine Islands, 16 May 1899. Entered service at: Hood River, Oreg. Birth: Flintville, Wis.
ROSS, FRANK F., Private, Company H, 1st North Dakota Volunteer Infantry. Place and date: Near San Isidro, Philippine Islands 16 May 1899. Entered service at: Langdon, N. Dak. Birth: Avon, Ill. Date of issue: 6 June 1906.
Each citation reads exactly – and simply – the same:
“With 21 other scouts, charged across a burning bridge, under heavy fire, and completely routed 600 of the enemy who were entrenched in a strongly fortified position.”
Yet, as we see above, the action in which they participated was far more intense than the citation describes.
This week, let’s all remember the National Guardsmen who serve overseas, now as then, leaving behind their families and jobs to defend the line of freedom for all of us.
The United States National Guard… “Always Ready, Always There”.