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Volunteering for Duty


During the Philippine Insurrection and the Spanish American War in the late 1890s, many North Dakotans quickly volunteered for duty, and they were sent to a strange and different land in the Philippines, where they endured harsh conditions. Private William G. Lamb of Hamilton wrote this letter home a month before his death:

“We fellows came 10,700 miles looking for a scrap, and we got it, and got it good and plenteous, when it did come. We were under fire from 7:00 a.m. until sundown that evening, and since then we have been lying on the line, eating chickens and shooting all native soldiers that came within 1,000 yards range, and we have had several little skirmishes since then. …The [enemy] sharp shooters will hardly let the men eat. They will shoot at them while lined up for meals, in some cases shooting holes through the boilers they have coffee in. …There hasn’t been an hour since this thing started that there hasn’t been lead flying over us.”

As with all wars, everyone did what they could to help out. This included the many women who remained behind as the men went off to fight, taking part in activities like helping the Red Cross, which was still a relatively new organization in 1899, having been founded by Clara Barton in 1881.

But by this date in 1899, with so much already going on, some women took part in a very different way, as in this report by the Record, a monthly magazine published in Fargo:

“It is not generally known that the Agricultural College [now NDSU] boasts of a battalion of young ladies, uniformed in appropriate costumes, which drills regularly with the Springfield Rifles. The girls are a little bashful now, but it is said they are as well-drilled and as expert in the manual of arms as the boys of the college.”

These women may not have seen the battlefield, but they were forward thinking in their training during a time of conflict.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker


The Record, June 1899

2009-2011 Blue Book