Column: Recollections worthy of Memorial DayWORTHINGTON — We U.S. war veterans. Like sands on the seashore. It has been noted before, from brigadier general to bugler, there is more than a full infantry company of Civil War veterans buried in Worthington’s cemetery.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — We U.S. war veterans. Like sands on the seashore.
It has been noted before, from brigadier general to bugler, there is more than a full infantry company of Civil War veterans buried in Worthington’s cemetery. Numbers grow from that point, that war. The wars since settlement have become so numerous it is convenient to remember them in alphabetical order.
Afghanistan War. Granada War. Gulf War. Korean War. Iraq War. Spanish-American War. Vietnam War. World War I. World War II.
There is a young Nobles County Marine, Eisse Brommer, buried in Grand Prairie Cemetery who gave his life in the 1921 Dominican Republic war (intervention).
War memorials. Washington, D.C., is judged to have no room for additional memorials on the scale of WWII, Vietnam, Korea. Worthington alone has half-a-dozen war memorials:
The Spanish-American monument in front of the high school, the WWII stone on the football field, (War) Memorial Auditorium, Nobles County War Memorial Building, Worthington Cemetery War Memorial, Freedom Shore Park.
America will spend Monday saluting its veterans, living and dead.
Among veterans somewhat forgotten by this date, save in the movies, are some of the most gallant Yankees of them all, the cavalrymen, the pony soldiers. You might guess the last time pony soldiers readied for action was against the Lakota people on a cold day at Wounded Knee. Not so.
I talked one time with George, Iowa, longtime dentist, Dr. Henry DeJong. U.S. Cavalry recruit Henry DeJong of Boyden arrived at Fort Mead, S.D., in late winter, 1941, just ahead of Pearl Harbor. Half of the outfit at Mead was mechanized, half was horse-mounted. “I was small and light, so I went into the horse outfit,” DeJong said.
Of course, it was an experience a man never forgets.
Some of the young soldiers had never been near horses. They learned to ride in bull rings. They had saddles, but they were not allowed to use stirrups. When they became proficient with their mounts, they charged at a full gallop with pistols drawn — the tactics of Reno and Custer with the 7th Regiment at the Little Big Horn.
“You know, there hadn’t been a pistol charge in actual combat since 1912,” Dr. DeJong said. “That was the British army in the Sudan; Churchill was one of their officers. And it was a disaster. Still, we mounted horses and practiced cavalry charges. The whole thing was crazy.’”
“Why were you doing this?” I asked. “Why U.S. troops on horses in 1941?”
“I asked the same questions. I never learned the answers. But there we were,” Dr. DeJong replied. “I’ve still got my cavalry boots. My riding britches.”
There is no knowing how many U.S. Cavalry veterans found their way to southwest Minnesota to northwest Iowa. Benjamin Woolstencroft, one of Nobles County’s first dozen settlers, was 16 years old when he rode with Co. L, Sixth Iowa Cavalry, against an encampment of 1,500 Santees, Yanktonais, Blackfeet and Hunkpapas at White Stone Hill, Dakota Territory, 1862.
A memorable afternoon at Worthington: May 27, 1898. One thousand area residents crowded to the depot to glimpse two troops of South Dakota’s “Cowboy Cavalry” en route to Georgia in the war with Spain. Someone passed a hat, or several hats. The collection was sufficient to buy 15 boxes of cigars for the young pony soldiers en route to fight the Spaniards.
Roy Selberg remembered the day a troop of U.S. Cavalry from Fort Snelling rode past Worthington enroute to Rapid City. The cavalrymen came to the Y south of Org, where Highway 60 and Highway 59 divide.
“Now this was, oh, before 1913,” Roy remembered. “They wanted a place to stay, a piece of pasture.” They set up tents and camped that night on the farm at that site which was then the farm of Roy’s uncle, Victor Anderson.
Sept. 5, 1908. Three troops from the 4th U.S. Cavalry arrived at Sheldon, Iowa, from Wyoming. Blue uniforms. Yellow trim. Guidons snapping in the wind. The cavalry arrived at Worthington in the late afternoon, picketed horses along Lake Okabena and erected tents at Chautauqua Park.
Americans were proud of their cavalry. Those pony soldiers merit a remembrance amid all the salutes that will be made Monday morning.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.