A Ruckus in Pasco
The soldiers of the First North Dakota Volunteer Infantry had acquitted themselves well in the Spanish American War and the Philippine American War in 1898-1899. At that time, it was considered unconstitutional to utilize the National Guard outside the United States. North Dakotans resigned from the Guard so they could enlist in the Volunteers. Nine of them were awarded Medals of Honor for their action. Other states formed volunteer regiments in a similar fashion. Following the wars, the other state regiments reorganized. The North Dakota Volunteers chose to continue their identification as the “First.”
In 1908, North Dakota proudly sent the First North Dakota to maneuvers in the state of Washington as the only unit bearing the designation of “First.” On this date in that year, the Dickinson Press reported that the unit made a fine showing despite the soldiers having an average age of only twenty-two.
Members of the First North Dakota band came primarily from Lisbon and made quite a showing of its own. The band was said to be quite impressive, and tied with Montana for top honors.
But the paper also reported on an incident that occurred on the way to the maneuvers. The train stopped in Pasco, Washington for a change of engines. A second lieutenant and several privates of Company A from Bismarck decided to get off the train and grab some refreshments. The restaurant staff took advantage of the hungry soldiers by charging outrageous prices: 15 cents for a hardboiled egg and 40 cents for a schooner of beer. The North Dakotans, the newspaper said, would not stand for such extortion and they began to object.
Suddenly a blast of the whistle let everyone know that the train was about to depart. The soldiers made a scramble to get back on board, knocking over some dishes and leaving their restaurant bill unpaid. At the first stop west of Pasco, Brigadier General Poole received a telegram demanding $139 for the unpaid food and broken dishes. Poole took up a collection from the soldiers to pay the bill, and said the incident portrayed the North Dakotans “in an unfavorable and unjust light.” In the end, there were no hard feelings.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
The Dickinson Press. “North Dakota Regiment.” 29 August, 1908.
National Guard Educational Foundation. “National Guard Medal of Honor Recipients by State.”
Accessed 23 July, 2017.