SPANISH AMERICAN WAR HEADGEAR
One of the joys of collecting is having the privilege of owning documented items that were part of history being made. I have been lucky to acquire not one piece of headgear that was worn during the Spanish American War by a member of the First North Dakota Volunteer Infantry, but two: A kepi and a campaign hat.
THE FIRST NORTH DAKOTA VOLUNTEER INFANTRY
In mid-May 1898, 27 officers and 658 enlisted men mustered into service as the First North Dakota Volunteer Infantry at Fargo, North Dakota. The regiment departed the state for San Francisco, where it arrived on May 30, 1898, as part of the Second Brigade, Philippine Islands Expeditionary Forces. From there, the North Dakotans sailed to the Philippines, arriving on July 31, 1898. The unit was then assigned to General Arthur Mac-Arthur’s First Brigade, Second Division, Eighth Army Corps.
It wasn’t long before they went into action. On August 13, 1898, they were part of the assault and capture of Manila. The regiment then performed garrison and outpost duty at Malate until February when they actively participated in continuing engagements — at least 20 before their last fight at Morong.
The Spanish American War officially ended on December 10, 1898, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Hardened as combat veterans, the First North Dakota Volunteer Infantry finally headed for home onboard the transport Grant. They landed at San Francisco on August 29, 1899.
Finally, on September 25, 1899, 31 officers and 507 enlisted men of the First North Dakota mustered out of the service of the United States. During the Regiment’s service in the Spanish-American War, it suffered one officer wounded, six enlisted men killed in action, 13 wounded (one of whom died of wounds), nine died from disease, and two perished in accidental deaths.
The unit won great respect for their service in the Philippines. Nine members of the regiment earned the Medal of Honor.
BERT BARTLETT’S KEPI
Amidst the cries of “Remember the Maine!,” Bert Bartlett, a young man from Devils Lake, North Dakota, made his decision to join with the North Dakota Volunteers to serve his state and country in the emerging war with Spain.
I obtained his much-worn Model 1895 kepi directly from his family. As you can see in the accompanying photos, the cap bears a solid brass, screw-back infantry insignia. A label on the crown lining bears Bert’s name in ink.
It is a privilege to be the owner of this kepi worn by Bert Bartlett who served with such an active and distinguished unit. Bartlett’s kepi shows all the signs that it has “been there.”
GEORGE W. GREGORY’S CAMPAIGN HAT
This campaign hat was worn in the Spanish American War in 1898-1899 and the early part of the Philippine Insurrection by Private George W Gregory, Company B, of the First North Dakota Volunteers. After arriving in the Philippines, Private Gregory contracted typhoid fever and was in the hospital from September 12, 1898, until January 29, 1899. After he returned to his unit, he fought in 16 recorded battles.
Perhaps, his stay in the hospital accounts for the good condition of his campaign hat. Both sides of the hat have the has the so-called snowflake pattern side vents of the period. Private Gregory’s identifying marks are on the sweatband. “G W G Co. B” were carved into the leather sweat band.
As a long-time military collector, some of my favorite pieces are those that are identified and documented as actually being there as history was made by our brave soldiers. These two pieces of headgear are just that. They serve as a reminder and tribute to the brave soldiers who defended both the oppressed as well as our precious liberty.
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