By Norm Tessman

It was America's most popular war.  All over the United States, young men demonstrated their patriotism by rushing to enlist in newly formed regiments.  During the spring and summer of 1898, over 200,000 such volunteers signed up to fight against the Spaniards.


In Arizona Territory, war fever was high.  Prescott's mayor, William Owen "Buckey" O'Neill, and former cavalry officer Alexander Oswald Brodie, made plans to raise a 1,000-man regiment of "...the cowboys of Arizona."  To their disappointment, when the regiment was authorized on April 25, 1898, only 170 (later 200) of its 1,000 men would be Arizonans.  The rest were to come from the three other territories: New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Indian Territory.  This unit became the most recognized and best known of the Spanish-American War.  Officially called the "First Volunteer Cavalry Regiment," it went on to fame as "Roosevelt's Rough Riders." 

Arizonans also joined another territorial regiment.  On July 9, 1898, Arizona Territorial Governor Myron McCord resigned his office to organize and command an all-Arizonan infantry regiment.  When the unit was authorized, however, it too was to include men from New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Indian Territory, as well as 300 Arizonans.  Many of these men came from territorial national guard units.  Officially designated as the First Territorial Volunteer Infantry, the regiment became known as the "Western Regiment," the "Big Four" (from four territories), or "McCord's Infantry." 

Photos show that McCord's soldiers lacked the state-of-the-art equipment which the influential Theodore Roosevelt procured for his Rough Riders.  Instead of the brown cotton uniforms of Roosevelt's troopers, the territorial infantrymen were issued blue wool coats and trousers.  While the Rough Riders carried .30-40 Krag-Jorgenson six-shot carbines, McCord's soldiers were armed with obsolete .45-70 single-shot Springfield rifles.  Besides having more fire power, the Krags used a smokeless powder cartridge.  This eliminated the clouds of tell-tale smoke which marked the location of riflemen firing the older cartridges. 

The Arizona members of the territorial infantry regiment, (companies A, B, and C and the regimental band,) mustered at Fort Whipple.  Robert Brow, proprietor of the Palace Saloon, donated his pet bear, "Yavapai Maggie," as mascot.  On September 28, McCord's infantrymen left Prescott to join the regiment at Fort Hamilton, Lexington, Kentucky.  This site was selected "...for getting them accustomed to a lower altitude before sending them to sea level."  Suffering "the coldest winter on record," Colonel McCord and his infantry moved south to Camp Churchman, Albany, Georgia, sometime before Christmas.  There they shared the camp with the Second Missouri and the Third Mississippi Volunteer Infantry regiments. 

We can only guess at the growing frustration of McCord and his men.  Fighting in Cuba had ended in July.  On September 15, the Rough Riders were discharged, heaped with honors and assured of a place in history.  Undoubtedly, as the year wore on, the infantrymen hoped to see service in the Philippines, where Filipino insurgents had begun to rebel against the American occupation.  But McCord's regiment was not one of those selected to fight in the so-called "Philippine Insurrection." 

An estimated two-thirds of the 200,000 volunteers who had enlisted were in the same predicament.  They sat out the one-hundred-thirteen day war in training camps, begging to see action, but fighting only boredom and disease rather than enemy weapons.  In February, 1899, the men of the First Territorial Volunteer Infantry were discharged. 

Of the 1,308 men who served in McCord's Infantry, eight died of disease (typhoid, dysentery, meningitis) and twenty deserted.  These rates were much lower than that of many similar regiments. Although by 1898, weaponry was rapidly advancing, military sanitation was still primitive.  Total casualties for the Spanish-American War included, 379 men killed and 1,604 wounded in combat, while 4,000 (another source says 5,462) died of disease. 

Today, Roosevelt's Rough Riders are well remembered in books and photographic collections, as well as by many attributed uniforms and pieces of equipment in museum collections.  By contrast, no book was ever written about the men of the First Territorial Volunteer Infantry.  None of their uniforms or major pieces of equipment are known to survive.  Only a few photographs, newspaper accounts, and official records document the regiment's existence.  Perhaps the difference is that while the Rough Riders won glory in Cuban fighting, McCord's men found only boredom and frustration. 

Norm Tessman is Senior Curator at the Sharlot Hall Museum.

Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (mil264p). Reuse only by permission.
Governor Myron H. McCord resigned as Arizona Territorial Governor and became the commanding Colonel of the above first Territorial Regiment of the U.S. Volunteer Infantry. This photo was taken Christmas Day 1898 in Albany, Georgia. Included in this photograph are the volunteers from Prescott.