3rd U.S. Volunteer Cavalry on the Way to the Front

Contributed by Ray Crippen

Click here for a link giving the roster of this unit

The following article appeared in the Worthington Herald on May 29, 1898. It relates the story of a South Dakota cavalry unit passing through Minnesota town the way to the front.

This unit, which became the 3rd U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, was made up of troops from North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Nebraska. The 3rd was mustered into the federal service between May 12 and May 23, 1898. Commanded by Melvin Grigsby of Souix Falls and considered to be a "cowboy" regiment, the unit gained the name of "Grigsby's Rough Riders" after the more famous "Rough Riders" (1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry) commanded by Theodore Roosevelt. When mustered in, the unit consisted of 45 officers and 961 men. The 3rd never saw service outside of the continental U.S. and appears to have spent the majority of its brief career at Camp Thomas, located on the former Civil War battlefield of Chickamauga, Georgia. The camp was one of the major U.S. training camps, and grew quite unhealthy as  the population at the camp rose to tens of thousands of men by late summer, 1898. With the war's fighting ending by armistice on August 13, 1898, the 3rd was no longer needed, and was mustered out at Camp Thomas, Chickamauga, Georgia on September 8, 1898. During its term of service, nine men died of disease, twenty-two were discharged on disability, two were courtmartialled and four deserted. The war would end about three months later, on December 10, 1898, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

The Article:

The first soldier train that the citizens of Worthington have been permitted to view by daylight was the first detachment of Col. Grigsby's regiment of "cowboy" cavalry from S. Dak., which passed through Worthington last Friday on their way to Camp George H. Thomas, Georgia. This detachment was composed of two troops calvary B, of Sioux Falls and E, of Pierre, S. Dak., 153 men and 115 horses, under command of Col Grigsby and First Lieut. Kipp, of S. Dak. The troops were not complete, as owing to a scarcity of suitable horses the detachment had to leave 50 horses and 11 men short, but which will follow this week. The boys were a hardy, rugged lot, and if the songs which were distributed among the spectators at the depot are any indication of the fighting qualities of the cowboys, they could lick a whole regiment of Spaniards. About 1000 people were at the depot to bid the boys God speed. Fifteen boxes of cigars were collected by Landlord Oakes, of the Western, and distributed among the soldiers.

Trooper Roy Virgin of the 3rd U.S. Volunteer Cavalry. This photo appears to have been taken at Camp Thomas. Behind him is a Civil War era Three Inch Ordnance Rifle (courtesy of Barbara McConkey).


Worthington [MN] Herald, May 29, 1898.

South Dakota State Historical Society.

Statistical Exhibit of Strength of Volunteer Forces Called into Service During the War with Spain; with Losses from
All Causes. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899).

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