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General Order 99


In the spring of 1898, President McKinley put out a call for volunteers for a war with Spain. North Dakotans had always answered their country’s call. The people of the Dakotas fought on both sides in the Civil War and the Indian Wars, and they were willing once again to don uniforms and pick up rifles. But there was a problem.

Towns across what is now North Dakota hosted state militias. Company A was from Bismarck, Company B was from Fargo, and so on. The companies responded to local emergencies. They stood guard during periods of tension between whites and Native Americans, and prevented looting during fires. But it was not possible to send these units directly to the war. It was considered unconstitutional at the time to utilize state militias outside the boundaries of the United States.

In response to McKinley’s call for volunteers, militia members were asked to resign from the militia and enlist in a volunteer army unit. The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican announced that Company B would stand together. “Captain Keye….asked all who were willing to volunteer their services….to step two paces to the front. Every man of the fifty-four stepped up at once.” They would form the heart of Company B. The same thing happened with all the other companies. Their ranks were filled out with civilian volunteers. They came together at Camp Briggs in West Fargo to form the First North Dakota Volunteer Infantry.

Although it worked out well in the end, it was an unwieldy system. Something had to be done to prepare for future emergencies. On this date in 1908, the Golden Valley Chronicle reported on General Order 99. The Order was issued by the War Department. It placed all state militias under the direct authority of the Federal Government. The President now had the authority to call out any state militia “not only for service within the state, but in any part of the world,” without the approval state governors. Any officer or man who failed to respond was court-martialed. To this day, the President retains the authority to call upon the National Guard, thanks to General Order 99.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher.


Fargo Forum. Fargo, North Dakota. “Co. B Stand Together.” 22 April, 1898.

Golden Valley Chronicle. Beach, North Dakota. 17 July, 1908.

Conlin, Peter W. “The Citizen-Soldiers: An Abbreviated History of the North Dakota National Guard. North Dakota National Guard. "" Accessed 1 June, 2017.