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June 22: Send More Troops!

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When the battleship Maine blew up in Havana harbor in 1898, Spain was immediately blamed. The United States declared war, and Americans assumed the war would take place in Cuba. So, it was surprising for many to learn that troops would be sent to the Philippines on the other side of the world.

Spain abandoned the islands in a matter of months, but that didn’t mean the American troops were coming home. Filipinos learned that instead of granting their independence, the United States bought the islands! Strong resistance rose up against the American occupation, and a full-blown war broke out.

The First North Dakota Volunteer Infantry was among the troops who were disappointed not to be sent home when Spain vacated the Philippines. Far from ending the fighting, there were calls for more troops. Charles McQuesten had served on the staff of American commander General Elwell S. Otis. On this date in 1899, McQuesten said that the United States would need an additional one hundred to one hundred fifty thousand soldiers to bring order to the Philippines. McQuesten said the American troops had done wonders in the Philippines, but there were not enough of them to end the war. The disappointed North Dakota boys, who had signed on to fight troops from Spain, now found themselves in some heavy scraps against Filipino soldiers.

In early June they began to hear rumors that the volunteers were about to be sent home. The rumors grew throughout the month. Finally, on June 30th, they learned they would soon be boarding the USS Grant and sailing for home. John Kinne, a soldier from Fargo, reflected on what that meant. He wrote, “We were happy to think that soon we would escape the land of hot weather, heavy rains, long marches, Mauser bullets, canned beef, and hardtack, and that our last tour of guard duty in the Philippines had ended.”

More troops were, indeed, needed, as McQuesten said. They began to arrive in the Philippines, but that didn’t matter to the North Dakota boys. They were on the way home.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher


  • Bismarck Weekly Tribune. “Too Few Men.” Bismarck ND. 6/23/1899. Page 1.
  • John Kinne. Diary. University of North Dakota Archives.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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