Idaho State Guard Association Reactivation Group

Semper In Vocatione

HISTORY OF THE IDAHO STATE GUARD 

The Idaho State Guard, formerly known as the Idaho Home Guard, is the state defense force of Idaho. The Idaho State Guard was created to replace the Idaho National Guard as a stateside homeland security force while the National Guard was in federal service.


The history of the Idaho State Guard can be traced back to 1889 as the Idaho Volunteer Militia.

The United States entered the global race for colonies in 1898 in a whirlwind of events. Spain had been a colonial empire for over 400 years and the indigenous people living in its colonies of Cuba and the Philippines were in open rebellion against Spain’s imperial power. America, sympathetic to colonial revolution sent the Battleship Maine to Cuba in support of the insurgents and to protect American interests on the embattled island. On February 15, 1889, The U.S.S. Maine exploded killing 226 members of its crew. After an inconclusive investigation the event was ruled as a Spanish attack. American “Yellow Journalists” lead by William R. Hearst fueled American public opinion against Spain with propaganda and the battle cry, “Remember the Maine!”


War was declared on April 22, 1898, and congress authorized President McKinley to call for 125,000 volunteers to complement the regular army. The quota for the relatively new State of Idaho was set by Secretary of War Russell Alger for two troops of cavalry. Idaho Senator Shoup offered him instead two battalions for infantry doubling the Idaho contribution of soldiers to 676 men. The two battalions of four companies each were ordered to form at the current site of Fort Boise. The state called on its current Militia units to provide the needed soldiers and sent the call around the state for more men to volunteer.


The companies that first arrived at Fort Boise or what became known as Camp Stevenson were Company I, later changed to H Company, formed from men in Boise, Company D of Genesse, and Company F of Wardner. Additionally mustered into service was the University of Idaho’s cadet corps of Moscow to fill the ranks of D Company. Company E, came in from Eastern Idaho, Company G from Pocatello. The battalions were completed with the arrival from Northern Idaho of Companies A, B and C.


Governor Steunenberg, by Executive Military Order Number One appointed John W. Jones as Regimental commander with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Jones was a civil war veteran that had commanded a regiment in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and had lived in Blackfoot Idaho since 1885. Idaho’s Adjutant General, Daniel W. Figgins resigned his post and was placed as First Battalion’s commander. Figgins was a doctor by profession and had thirteen years of service with the militia. Lt. Colonel Jones resigned do to health issues shortly after the Regiment arrived in the Philippines and Figgins was promoted to Regimental command for the remainder of the unit’s deployment. To command the 2nd Battalion the appointment was given to the popular Edward McConville. McConville was a Civil War veteran who initially served as a drummer boy in a New York infantry company. He reenlisted when he came of age in the Twelfth New York Cavalry obtaining the rank of Lieutenant. After the war McConville continued in the army for eight years as an enlisted man and in 1877 he found himself leading the Northern Idaho Volunteers during the Nez Perce war. In the tradition of the militia, junior officers were elected by the men of the unit.  Once the First Idaho was formed and the officers commissioned they were ready for service.


On May 19th 1898, the First Idaho Volunteers militia received their marching orders. The unit was to be part of the Third Expeditionary force to be deployed to the Philippines, after a stop in San Francisco for equipment and training.  The regiment marched through Boise to the train station on Front Street. The community turned out in record numbers to see the Idaho boys off to war. With patriotic banners, cheers and speeches the men said their goodbyes to loved ones and friends some, for the last time. Missing from the festivities was the planned presentation of the regimental flags, a gift from the women and children of Idaho. According to the Idaho Daily Statesman May 19, 1898, the contractor was delayed in the manufacturing of the flags and promised to deliver them by June 1st. The first flag, the national banner “will be made of the finest banner silk and the stars will be hand embroidered…on the banner it will be printed “First Idaho Volunteers.” A second flag, the regimental banner was ordered as well. The flag was blue with the State of Idaho coat-of-arms hand embroidered upon it. The flags would be delivered to the troops in San Francisco by the Governor and representatives from the women and children of Idaho, who had raised the money to purchase the flags. 


  1st Idaho Volunteers at War


The 1st Idaho Volunteers arrived at the harbor of Cavite, Luzon on July 31st 1898. After almost a month at sea and at the height of the monsoon season they marched to Camp Dewey. August 9th found the Idaho boys on watch in the trenches around Manila. Three days later the attack on the fortified city of Manila commenced with the Idaho soldiers placed in reserve. The Spanish surrendered the city after a prearranged sham battle that somehow maintained Spanish honor.


The Filipinos soon discovered that U.S. policy was not for a quick evacuation after the defeat of Spain and turned upon the American Soldiers on February 4th 1899. The Idaho Volunteers were in the thick of a new war, The Philippine Insurrection.  The Idahoans proved themselves as courageous soldiers in the two-day fight for Santa Anna. They Attacked with bayonets into insurrecto redoubts and captured two Krupp Cannons and broke the enemy line. Among the fallen at Santa Anna was the former Civil War drummer boy, Edward McConville.  He was shot in the chest leading the 2nd Battalion from the front in its desperate charge against the Pilipino trenches. After receiving the deadly blow he continued to crawl forward not stopping until he knew his men had carried the day.


On February 9th the 1st Idaho joined General MacArthur’s March on Caloocan north of Manila. Again they saw action on April 8th in the assault on Santa Cruz. July 14th 1899 brought the orders to return home. The losses for the 1st Idaho volunteers accounted for, 7 who died in action, 13 who died of disease, 1 drowned, and 1 lost to friendly fire and 25 men were wounded. The Philippine Insurrection would continue to rage for years to come but fortunately for Idaho the war was over. 

The Idaho Militia would see action again and be called back into service but only this time be split into two military branches. The Idaho Home Guard and the Idaho National Guard. The reason behind this split was some of the members decided to stay with their state volunteer militia which later became the Idaho home guard while others chose to join the National GUARD under the Dick Act.

In 1903, with passage of the Dick Act, the predecessor to the modern-day National Guard was formed. It required the states to divide their militias into two sections. The law recommended the title "National Guard" for the first section, known as the organized militia, and "Reserve Militia" for all others. The organized militia became the National Guard and the unorganized Militia became the state defense forces also known as the State Guard.


World War I


During World War I, the governor ordered formation of four companies of Home Guard, with 100 men per company, paid for by the state.


World War II


In 1940, the Idaho State Guard was organized, with the bulk of its recruits being veterans of World War I.The State Guard of World War II was armed with Enfield rifles. In September 1942, the Idaho State Guard became the first state military organization in the United States to induct women into its command structure when Governor Chase A. Clark administered the oath of enlistment to a group of women from the Idaho volunteer auxiliary reserves.  By 30 June 1944, the Idaho State Guard had reached a strength of 1,378 guardsmen. As of August 1946, after the war's conclusion, the Idaho State Guard remained in active service and was subject to call-up.


Today


On February, 5th 2016, the Idaho State Guard Association was created for the purpose of advocating for the reactivation of the Idaho State Guard and also sponsor and promote federal and state legislation in support of state defense forces. Promote services, training, products and memberships to include a wide array of protective services, law enforcement professionals, militias, and firefighting personal working collectively to protect life and property. 

At first there was a lot of tension between the IDSGA and other state defense forces while lunching the newly founded organization. Marc Mason and his team worked on drafting a state defense forces bill and worked very closely with Idaho Representative Sage G. Dixon on the Idaho committee of defense and transportation. The bill was approved to be drafted by the Idaho Legislative Department on August, 2nd 2016. In March, 2017 at the the legislative floor meeting the bill was read for the first time by the state of Idaho. However the bill was put on delay do to funding concerns of starting such a defense force. The Idaho hose placed the bill under review and place it for a new review at a later date. {TO READ THE BILL CLICK HERE)