Back in 1859 was formed at Council Bluffs, Iowa, a military
organization for the purpose of affording protection to the
settlers of northwestern Iowa and the portions nearest Iowa of
those states which bound the great land of corn.
Protection was necessary, for not far to the north were the
Sioux Indians, not far to the east and north were the Sac and
Foxes, two races of Redmen who were not at all times in those
days peacefully inclined. But mere tribes of Indians
were not the only reasons why western Iowa and its contingent
territories decided upon a military defense. Men of a paler
race, a race which it pleases us most of the time to call
white, wandered without the law in those lands. Protection
from them also was needed, and so the company at Council
Bluffs was formed.
When our bewhiskered forefathers gathered together in the
"Bluffs" sixty years ago, they worked better than they knew.
For in the years that have followed, that organization which
they formed has done much for the freedom of the world. Its
original task of defending the Missouri river frontier has
long since become in a military sense, the most minor part of
the work. Two years after it had been formed, two years which were
crowded with war and rumors of war (it was in those days that
the pre-Civil War battles in Kansas and lower Nebraska took
place) it became the nucleus of
the Iowa Volunteer regiments, which made such a name for
themselves in the great war of the Rebellion.
It is not the purpose of this book to give our readers a
complete history of the regiment, which is its subject. It is
the purpose to write just a little appreciation of the members
who have passed through it, so that those for whom many of
them gave their lives and all of them offered theirs, may
appreciate that which has been saved for them.
After the Civil War the Iowa soldiers returned to their
homes and gave themselves to civilian pursuits. But in their
leisure time, when they might have been playing, they still
remember their county. The old organization was kept alive, so
that today we can trace the regiment without difficulty to
meetings for drill in the days when young men wore whiskers.
We'll skip a few years -- few in a historical sense, yet a
generation in men's lives. In 1888 it was decided that more
compactness was needed in the state military force of Iowa, so
a merger of the Third Iowa Regiment and the Fifth Iowa
Regiment of Infantry was arranged. The whole became the
Ten years was spent in weekly and bi-weekly drilling.
Occasionally the men would see a little active service in riot
duty; now and then a military encampment was held.
In 1898 war again descended upon the country. A call
for volunteers was made. The services of Iowa's
guardsmen were ready and, without hesitation, offered.
On April 26, the call into service for the Iowa soldiers came.
The state fairgrounds at Des Moines was their assembling
point, and it was there on May
30, they ceased to be state troops and entered
into Federal Service as the Fifty-first Iowa Volunteers.
On June 5, they moved to San Francisco on their way to the
Philippines. For a month they laid in the famously unhealthy
camp called Merritt near the Golden Gate. Then they moved to
the Presidio. It was from here on November 2, 1898 they sailed
aboard the troopship Pennsylvania, a former Alaskan freighter.
A few days later they stopped at Honolulu for a day or so, and
then continued their trip to Manila.
Actual fighting, as every soldier will testify, is just a
minor incident of war. The hardships of an army come in the
monotony of waiting, the heavy marches without food, the cold
nights without shelter, the rain, and the mud. The Iowa boys
in 1898 had experienced many of the hardest trials of
soldiering even before leaving the state, but before they
stepped on land again, they saw more.
In Manila, the Pennsylvania laid from December 7 until
December 26, with its load of soldiers from the middle western
prairies. Each day brought rumors of disembarking, each day
saw former rumors proven false. At last, on December 26, the
Pennsylvania weighed anchor, and with the Eighteenth Infantry,
the Sixth Filed Artillery and several other regular army
units, the boys sailed to the harbor of Illio in the Island of
Panay. The troopship's convoy was the B. S. S. Baltimore.
Again a long, tiresome wait. Arriving at Illio on December 31,
they laid in the harbor until January 30, 1899, when they
again sailed for Manila. February 2, after the longest stay on
shipboard ever recorded in the world's history -- a long
distance record which even the history of the great war hasn't
beaten -- the troops were unloaded in the Island of Luzon,
just as the Philippine Insurrection was breaking out.
We'll skip their campaign in the Philippines, although it
deserves much mention. Suffice to say that the soldiers began
fighting the minute they set foot on land, and before they
departed September 22, 1899, they had fought and won
seventeen battles for the old Flag. Seventeen battles
with the long, dreary nights of outpost duty, guarding against
treacherous foes, against savages of the night. We ship it,
but we shouldn't.
We're going home! Nobody but a man who has soldiered in a
strange land knows or appreciates the music of those words.
We're going home! That was the cry of the Third Iowa Infantry,
camouflaged as the Fifty-first Volunteers, September 22, 1899.
And another historic sea-trip was begun.
On the way back the troopers visited Japan. First they put
into Nagasaki, then they passed through the Inland Seas to
Yokohama, where they laid for a short time, during which many
had an opportunity of visiting Tokio. For a time it promised
to be more than the last stage of the trip to 'Frisco. For a
times it promised to be the last journey on this earth.
A short ways out of Yokohama, going east, the troopship ran
into the tail end of a typhoon, --one of those whipping,
vicious storms for which the far eastern seas are notorious.
For several days the ship was torn by the elements, whipped
back and forth on the water like a ship of cork. But she
weathered the gale, and emerged victorious, though
News of the sailing from Japan reached the Iowa homes long
before the boys. With it came the news of the terrific storm
into which their ship had sailed. No word of the transport,
however, sifted out of the western mist. The ship became due,
then overdue, then lost. Iowa waited patiently, hoping that
the boys would come through.
At last a day of prayers was set aside in the commonwealth --
a day to be devoted by the folks at home for supplication to
the Almighty for the safe return of their warriors. A
Sunday afternoon, October 22, was the day chosen. And, as Iowa
was praying, into the Golden Gate two thousand five hundred
miles away, rode the ship with the men for whose safety she
On November 2, 1899, Iowa once more had the opportunity to
welcome her boys of the Old Third Iowa back into civil life
after they had helped win for their flag.
Now again, we'll let the time slide by. The Fifty-first Iowa Volunteers became once more the Third
Regiment of Infantry. The men who had fought in the
ranks in the Philippines passed up the ladder into
commissioned officers. Ernest R. Bennett of Des Moines, a
first Lieutenant in the Antipodes, became, eventually,
commanding officer of the regiment. Lieut. Mather A. Tinley of
the famous old Company L of Council Bluffs, became major, then
lieutenant colonel. Guy S. Brewer of Des Moines, a corporal in
1898 climbed the ladder to major while a brother corporal,
Edward O. Fleur of Des Moines went, by stages, to captain. Dan
Newquist, from mechanic went to lieutenant.
From 1909 until 1916 were years of peace in Iowa.
The Third Iowa, as of old, however, gave its playtime to
drill. Each summer there was a month of encampments,
practicing the business of war. Weekly the men gathered in
their home armories to give a night for their country in
preparing for her defense.
In 1916, two years after the great war had broken
loose in Europe, the same sort of clouds which had obscured
the European continent from all that is good, started
gathering to the south of the United States. War with Mexico was at hand – acts of war had
already been committed.
In June came the call for soldiers.
Americans knew where to go for men in a crisis -- she had had
experience before, and the National Guardsmen were summoned.
Iowa's civilian soldiers gathered at Camp Dodge,
their encampment station northeast of Des Moines, late in June
A month was spent in equipping, preliminary drilling, policing,
patrolling began. Nine months they served, giving
protection to Uncle Sam's southern boundaries.
Ask the men of the Third Iowa of their service on the border,
and they will tell you of Maneuvers, "northers," sand, dirt,
lizards and the rest. But ask the higher officers and they
will tell you of record hikes, of exemplary camp sanitation,
of the best work to be expected of soldiers.
There were rumors and hard work, there was the great storm of
August 15. There was much to make the life hard, yet more or
less interesting, before those pleasant words "We're going
home" once more sounded throughout the Iowa camp. Early
in 1917 those words became true; and the regiment returned
again to its home state. Mustering out came February 20, but the country was drifting
closer towards the maelstrom of the greatest war the world
every knew, then raging in France.