NOTE: This history is taken from the "Historical and Pictorial Review: National Guard of the State of North Dakota (1940), a special volume published in 1940, at the time of the unit’s preparation for mobilization into Federal service. Parts have been edited to eliminate repetition.
Historical Sketch of the
North Dakota National Guard
By BRIGADIER GENERAL JOHN H. FRAINE, Retired, and LIEUTENANT COLONEL H. A. BROCOPP
This brief chronological sketch is for the purpose of furnishing the bare bones of the history of the National Guard of the State of North Dakota and such other voluntary troops organized and mustered into Federal service during the period from the organization of the National Guard of North Dakota as have had Federal war time service. The war service of the Guard will be found in other chapters. It is not the intention to publish a laudatory or self-serving history of these organizations. It may be necessary from time to time to mention individual names in order to maintain the continuity of the histories, but it is not the intention to build up a central figure or to indulge in laudatory or biographical sketches of an individual.
It is the hope that this volume may explain to the citizens of North Dakota the reason for and the object of the organization and training of a National Guard, and incidentally, to revive some memories of the splendid men who, during the entire period of the existence of a National Guard in this state have rendered unselfish, devoted service to their country in carrying out the object of the existence of the Guard itself.
Chapter I - THE NATIONAL GUARD
The reason for publishing this brief history is to give the people of North Dakota a concise, authentic account of the part played by such of the state's sons as have served the United States voluntarily in time of the country's necessity. The Regular Army is not now and never has been of sufficient strength to meet the exigencies of war, and it is evident that the temper of the great majority of the citizens of the country is such that a sufficient regular force to adequately meet an attack will never be authorized-it is, therefore, evident that some forces be available, ready to throw into the front line immediately in case of attack. The necessity for such a body of trained men gave birth to the creation and maintenance of the National Guard.
Beginning of the Guard
For many years the idea of creating and maintaining the National Guard was not acceptable to the War Department or the Regular Army; and since assistance in money or instruction for the Guard was not available from Federal sources, the entire support of the Guard devolved on the states.
This situation arose from two causes: first, the Army continued to hope that Congress would at some time authorize and maintain a sufficient regular force to meet any reasonable exigency, and second, the several states felt that an organized force to meet exigencies within their own boundaries was necessary.
For many years, individual organizations, largely self- supported, had existed in some of the older states prior to the Civil War. These had grown to be largely of a social nature, but at the beginning of that war there was given evidence of their potential usefulness and of the spirit of patriotism pervading their membership by their immediately volunteering for war service. The modicum of military training these organizations had been able to acquire made them, with the esprit de corps created by their pride in the organization to which they belonged, of great value; and that they were able to render service which was so outstanding in comparison with the hastily raised volunteers of equal patriotism who were without training caused the idea of a National Guard to be quite generally adopted by the states.
For the first time there was ready, at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, a force outside the Regular Army available for Federal use. True, these organizations had not achieved a high degree of training, were inadequately equipped and insufficient in numbers of active membership to meet the man-power necessities of even that little war; but on call of the President, a sufficient number of the National Guard of the various states responded to meet the quota fixed for each state by the President's call.
North Dakota's Quota
The quota of the State of North Dakota so fixed was for eight companies of infantry of 81 enlisted men per company with the appropriate commissioned officers. At that time the authorized peace maximum per company was 40 enlisted men with three commissioned officers.
By enlisting men who had been former members and a few acceptable young men, the quota was raised within a day or two; and the men were assembled and in camp at Fargo four days after the governor's call and only six days after the declaration of war.
A picture of the sons of North Dakota going into camp would be the most graphic illustration that could be drawn of the state of unpreparedness of the country when war was declared. The companies arrived at the camp each with 100 enlisted men, the excess over the authorized 81 per company was taken to replace such men as might be rejected by the medical examiners, and did actually provide a more than sufficient number to replace the medically rejected.
While there were 81 men in each company, only 40 rifles per company were carried as that was the maxi- mum number ever issued in this state. These rifles were of an obsolete type-the Springfield .45 calibre, black powder, smoke-creating piece-and it may be here stated that the foregoing describes the type of firearms used by the First North Dakota Infantry, during the entire 17 months of its Federal war service.
Not more than 40 men per company were in uniform. None were supplied with army shoes, blankets, tents, underclothes or other equipment, or canteens for carrying water. The balance of the 60 men per company went into camp in their civilian clothes, civilian shoes, derby or soft felt hats; and all men carried an assortment of bedding, running from cotton blankets to thick "comforters" in lieu of the army blankets suitable for field service.
Medical examinations and preparations for muster took until May 14. Meanwhile and until May 28, the men were being supplied slowly with rifles, uniforms, shoes and blankets, and being drilled.
On May 26, the regiment embarked for San Francisco-Companies B, C, D and I via the Great Northern Railway, and A, G, H and K via the Northern Pacific-arriving on the morning of May 31, 1898, and was marched out to the sand lots near the Presidio.
Off for Manila
Owing to the eight companies authorized being less than a regiment, Colonel A. P. Peake was not allowed to accompany the organization to San Francisco, Lieu- tenant Colonel w. C. Treumann being placed in command. Major Harry Flint, Commander of the Second Battalion, being unable to travel because of ill health, decided to resign, and Captain J. H. Fraine was assigned to command the battalion.
While at San Francisco from May 31 to June 28, the men were issued further equipment until finally each enlisted man had a Springfield. 45 calibre rifle, bayonet, blanket and shelter half and haversack. Only 40 men per company, however, had ponchos for protection against rain, or waist belts in which to carry ammunition, until sometime after the capture of Manila on August 13, 1898.
On June 28, the regiment embarked on the Valencia for Manila stopping at Honolulu for about 18 hours en route. The Valencia was a small vessel of about 1,200 tons which had been in the coast trade carrying canned salmon from the canneries in Alaska to San Francisco and was well equipped for that service, but was entirely unfitted for use as a transport. It was so small that, after cramming all men possible into her, 60 of the men under Lieutenant Dorman Baldwin of Company H were shipped on the Indiana, another vessel of the five in the expedition.
At Honolulu a stop was made partly for the purpose of obtaining a supply of drinking water. Due to the incompetence of the officers responsible or the cheating proclivities of the contractor, or both, it was discovered when four days out of Honolulu that one tank had been only partly filled. Another tank which had been filled in Alaska some years before had not been drained and refilled and the tank's contents were unfit for use. As a consequence, the entire personnel were at once placed on an allowance of water, one pint being issued to each man per day until the entire supply was exhausted just before sighting the north point of the island of Luzon. This predicament being signaled to the senior officer of the expedition, the Valencia was permitted to proceed at top speed for Manila, the nearest known place where water could be obtained.
Just after rounding the north end of Luzon the same day of parting from the other vessels of the expedition, the ship ran into a typhoon. Canvas was spread over barrels, the men held their tin cups up to the ropes of the rigging to catch the water dripping down, and be- fore nightfall, a sufficient supply was obtained to pro- vide one day's water supply. Manila Bay was entered the next day, July 31,1898.
It does not speak well for the War Department that 600 men would be ordered on a 33-day voyage on a grossly-crowded ship within the tropics during the hottest part of the year with no better arrangements for health and safety than as related. In fact, the conditions were even more deplorable. Not only was insufficient water provided and the ship overcrowded, but the vessel was not equipped with condensing apparatus, refrigeration or a cooling device. As a consequence, all the fresh meat spoiled, becoming so rotten it could not be lifted with a fork. The vegetables, onions, potatoes, etc., rotted and spoiled, a sack of fresh potatoes or onions scarcely furnishing five or six capable of use; the balance so rotten they squashed together. Heavy sky-blue woolen trousers and dark blue blouses buttoning to the neck were the only clothing for the men. The berth decks were intolerably hot. All men slept on the open deck where possible, the balance on top of deck houses and in boats hanging from davits. Those sleeping on deck lay side by side from superstructure to the outside rail. This overcrowding can best be visualized when it is realized that there were in addition to the crew, 625 officers on board as passengers. Compare that condition with the fact that after re-entering the coast trade, the captain of this ship was fined $250 for the violation of the United States Navigation Laws for overcrowding in carrying 250 passengers from the United States port to an Alaskan port, a voyage of four days.
Chapter II - EARLY GUARD UNITS
Immediately upon the creation of the territory of Dakota, its first voluntary military organizations were formed, consisting of Minor's Company A, First Battalion, Dakota Cavalry, mustered in at Yankton in April, 1862, and mustered out May 9, 1865, and Company B, First Battalion, Dakota Cavalry, organized at Elk Point October 18, 1862, and mustered out November 15,1865.
The history of the National Guard of the State of North Dakota is somewhat intermixed with the history of the National Guard of South Dakota during the territorial days, for certain companies of the First Infantry, Dakota National Guard, were located in what is now North Dakota and some in what is now South Dakota. Some companies in the Second Infantry were also located in both what is now South Dakota and North Dakota.
Upon the division of the territory into the states of North Dakota and South Dakota, the designation of the infantry companies of the Second Dakota Infantry located in what is now North Dakota was changed, although the history of the company itself dates back to territorial days.
The Dakota National Guard, at the time of the division of the territory, consisted of nine companies in the First Infantry and nine in the Second Infantry, two troops of cavalry located in what is now North Dakota and one battery of artillery located at Lisbon, North Dakota.
The foregoing organizations constitute what is known as the 164th Infantry which is the direct successor of the first organized regiment of what is now North Dakota and what was known prior to the World War service as the First Infantry, North Dakota National Guard, which participated in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, 1898 to 1899; Mexican Border service in 1916-1917; and as the 164th Infantry, 41st Division, in the World War, 1917-1919.
Other National Guard organizations existing at some time during the history of the state consisted of Battery A, located and mustered in at Lisbon in October, 1884, and mustered out February 25, 1911. Troop A, First Dakota Cavalry, was located at Dunseith, Dakota Territory. Troop B, First Dakota Cavalry, located at Bottineau, Dakota Territory, mustered in August 23, 1887, and mustered out in 1897. There were also two troops of volunteer cavalry organized in North and South Dakota, members from North Dakota being en- listed with South Dakota members in each troop, both troops forming a part of what was known as Troops G and H, Third United States Cavalry, Grigsby’s Cavalry. This regiment was a volunteer organization but never became a part of the North Dakota National Guard.
The Second North Dakota Infantry was organized under special authority of the War Department in July, 1917, and never was mustered out. On arrival of the regiment at Camp Greene, Charlotte, North Carolina, in October, 1917, in common with some other regiments, its personnel was transferred to various organizations. Four companies went to the 164th Infantry, many men to the 116th Engineers, a large number to the Division Ammunition Train, some to newly organized units such as trench bombers and hospital groups, and the regiment ceased to have an official existence. It is believed that the foregoing constitutes all military organizations affecting the State of North Dakota from the date of the organization of the territory in 1862 to the present time.
It will be noted that with the expiration of term of enlistment of two troops of cavalry organized during the Spanish-American War, they were mustered out and had no National Guard service. All other organizations were comprised within the National Guard of the State of North Dakota.
Back to The 164th Infantry Regiment in the Second World War Home Page