The Wyoming National Guard celebrates a couple of milestones this month, with its 148th anniversary and the 120th anniversary of its first federal activation for war.
In 1870, Wyoming Territorial Gov. John A. Campbell divided the territory into three military districts and assigned a militia colonel to command each, with orders to enroll a regiment in the respective districts. This was General Order No. 1 and it marks the birth of the Wyoming National Guard by establishing the Wyoming Militia.
The militia was authorized to protect and safeguard the people of the Wyoming Territory.
As the militias were ad hoc in nature, efforts were made in 1888 to have a more organized and dedicated guard. The first federally recognized Wyoming National Guard unit was the “Laramie Grays”. The “Grays,” Company A, 1st Wyoming Regiment, was mustered into state service May 29, 1888 and was followed the same year by Company B, known as the “Cheyenne Guards.”
A decade later the Wyoming National Guard was called to serve its country for the first time.
In 1898, the United States entered the Spanish-American War and the federal government enlisted volunteer units from the states. On April 25, Wyoming was tasked by President William McKinley to provide a battalion made up of four infantry companies.
The governor selected the strongest companies from the state’s 10 to meet the quota. C Company, of Buffalo; Sheridan’s G Company; F Company, from Douglas, and Evanston’s H Company were mustered into federal service and ordered to Camp Richards, near Cheyenne, for a week of training before boarding trains to San Francisco, where they would sail to the Philippines.
Just weeks later, McKinley called for another 75,000 volunteer troops. Wyoming offered up a battery of light artillery. The Wyoming Volunteer Light Battery was organized in Cheyenne, in February 1895, as the Alger Light Battery (Battery A) of the Wyoming Volunteers (National Guard).
Meanwhile, across the Pacific, the Wyoming infantrymen were leading the charge to take Manilla, and were the first to enter the city after heavy fighting. On August 13, the Wyoming battalion flag was the first United States flag to be raised in the city. Brig. Gen Thomas Anderson, commander of the first Philippine Expeditionary Force, designated the Wyoming troops as his bodyguards.
In July, 1899, both Wyoming units received orders to prepare to return to the United States, setting sail on July 30. They arrived at San Francisco a month later.
After a few weeks rest and the settling of accounts, they were mustered out of United States service on Sept. 23, 1899, in San Francisco.
The men were able to travel home thanks to a group of Wyoming residents. The federal government didn’t have money to pay for the soldiers to travel home from California. The money raised allows the soldiers to return to their homes without having to bear the cost themselves.