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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"


Chapter  14 - The Griffin Rifles

Active Service

(-as transcribed from pages 210 - 215)

Late in the evening of July 9, 1889, a telegram was received by Captain McMaster, reading as follows:

"Madison, Wisconsin.
July 19, 1889.

To Captain H. B. McMaster, Eau Claire:

Muster your company and proceed at once to West Superior and report for duty to Mayor of West Superior and Sheriff.

William D. Hoard,
Governor."

A large party was in progress at the residence of Clarence A. Chamberlin and several members of the company were there as guests, among them the Captain.  Those present were immediately dispatched as messengers to notify other members of the company.  An hour after receipt of the telegram fifty men were at the armory in uniform, fully equipped and ready to march.  The limited number of ball cartridges on hand were issued.  As the sun was rising on the morning of the 20th the company took the four o'clock train on the Omaha for West Superior.  General Griffin accompanied the troops.

The riotous demonstration by several hundred strikers prompted the West Superior officials to call for troops.  A general strike had been inaugurated.  The police officers and deputy sheriffs were unable to guard property and protect those men who desired to work.  The extensive coal docks were threatened with destruction and work on public improvements had been stopped.  Mob rule prevailed.

The company arrived at Superior at 9:30.  Their arrival was unexpected by the rioters and produced an excellent effect.  The company marched through the city to the city hall, where their barracks were established.  The men had hardly reached the city hall when they were ordered out to intercept a body of strikers reported to be moving on the water works trenches where laborers were working.  A press dispatch of that date reads as follows:

"The strikers were encountered and were much surprised at the soldiers' sudden appearance, and many faint-hearted strikers began to steal away from the scene.  The prompt action of Governor Hoard, and the fine appearance and soldierly conduct of the troops are subjects of much favorable comment."

Sunday was spent in a comparatively quiet manner.  On Monday morning a mob of about two hundred men started out to "run the town," while the greater portion of the Rifles, under Captain McMaster, were protecting laborers at the coal docks.  The mob was encountered by Lieutenant Ballard with nineteen men and by the firmness of General Griffin, who had hurried to the scene, was dispersed under the most critical circumstances.  A thousand rounds of ammunition hurriedly forwarded were received from Madison for the Griffin Rifles, while, late in the afternoon, Company L were placed under arms in their armory at Eau Claire, in accordance with telegraphic orders, and held in readiness to start for Superior till 10 o'clock that night, when they were dismissed, but notified to promptly respond to a given signal.  The needed lesson had been taught, however, for the mob element realized that the military authorities "meant business," and Tuesday was spent by the troops in the comparatively simple duty of protecting laborers and standing ready to quell any riotous proceedings.  Most of Wednesday passed in much the same way.  It had become evident that much of the riot spirit had been subdued and the troops departed for home on the afternoon train of that day.  During the whole tour of duty, the purpose of sustaining the civil authorities, suppressing disorder and preserving the peace was steadily maintained by General Griffin, and his judicious management filly accomplished this design without bloodshed, the civil authorities being enabled to make arrests, with the troops at hand to support them.

On their arrival at Eau Claire that night, the Rifles were met at the depot and escorted to their armory by their gallant comrades of Captain Beisang's Company L with a band.  At the armory the members of Company E were welcomed by a large number of ladies, who had prepared for the soldier boys an elegant repast.  The "war" was over; the Rifles had endeavored to do their duty as citizen soldiers; their superiors, including General Griffin and the commander-in-chief, were satisfied with the conduct of the members of Company E, and the boys were content.

Governor Hoard in General Orders No. 13, 1889, made public acknowledgment of the excellent service rendered by the company.  The order reads as follows:

General Orders, No. 13

Adjutant General's Office, Madison, July 27, 1889

Late in the evening of the 19th inst. the Governor received a message from the Mayor of Superior and the Sheriff of Douglas county, representing that the civil authorities there were unable to maintain the peace and protect the persons and property of the citizens and requesting that a company of the National Guard might be sent to their assistance.  Complying with this request, an order was issued to Captain Harry B. McMaster, commanding Company E, Third Regiment, Wisconsin National Guard, at Eau Claire, to muster his command and proceed by first train to West Superior and report to the Mayor.  A message was also sent to Brigadier General M. Griffin, Quartermaster General, requesting him to accompany the troops, not only to provide quarters and subsistence, but to act as the personal representative of the Governor.

These messages did not reach their destination until after one o'clock in the morning, but when delivered they were acted upon with such promptness and celerity that the several members of the company were called from sleep at their homes, and it is represented forty-nine officers and men reported for duty within an hour.  Leaving Eau Claire at about 4 o'clock a.m., in five hours thereafter the company reached West Superior, 147 miles distant, and reported as directed.

All reports concur in ascribing the avoidance of most serious trouble, involving destruction of property if not loss of life, to the timely arrival, soldierly bearing and complete discipline of this detachment of the National Guard of the State, aided as it was by the experienced judgment and wise direction of General Griffin.

A most delicate and unwelcome duty was performed with eminent credit to all concerned, to the entire satisfaction of the Commander-in-Chief, and with great profit to the community calling for assistance, and therefore to the State at large.

Most happily bloodshed was avoided, but the power and the dignity of the military arm of the State were manifest, and thus aided, the civil authorities were enabled to reinstate order in place of chaos, and law in place of mob rule -- demonstrating once again the wisdom of establishing and maintaining an efficient body of well instructed and properly disciplined state troops and once again warning all persons that Wisconsin can and will protect its citizens in their right to labor as and when and where they choose.

The Commander-in-Chief takes pleasure in extending to Brigadier General Griffin and to Captain McMaster and the officers and men of his company this public expression of his estimate of the value of their services.

By Order of the Governor,
Geo. W. Burchard,
Adjutant General.

The second call for active duty for Company E was in the summer of 1894.  At 12:20 a.m., July 9, 1894, Captain Ballard received the following dispatch from Adjutant General Falk:

Milwaukee, Wis., July 8, 1894, 11:40 p.m.

Captain J. M. Ballard,
Commanding Company E, Third Infantry, W. N. G., Eau Claire, Wis.

Assemble your command at armory immediately, equipped for the field with two days' rations.  Take all ammunition on hand.  Will probably require your service in the morning.  Expect Colonel Moore to be in Eau Claire tomorrow morning.  Will wire further instructions later.  Answer at once.

(Signed) Falk,
Adjutant General.

Immediately upon the receipt of this order Captain Ballard communicated with his First and Second Lieutenants, and ordered them to notify each non-commissioned officer to report to him at once at the armory with his squad.  At 2:15 a. m. he instructed the First Sergeant to fall the company in and call the roll.  There were found to be fifty-seven officers and enlisted men in the ranks present for duty.  The company remained constantly in the armory ready to respond to all orders, and had a regular tour of duty.  Guard mount at 8 a. m., drill at 9 a. m. and 3 p. m., and dress parade at 7:30 p. m. daily from the time it assembled at 2:15, July 9, until 8 p. m. July 11, 1894, when the company was dismissed.

Companies L (Eau Claire), H (Menomonie) and C (Hudson) were also assembled and held in readiness at their armories during this period.

Colonel Moore and Major Julius E. Kircheis arrived at an early hour July 9 and established quarters at the Eau Claire House.  The Regimental Sergeant Major, Marshall Cousins, reported to Colonel Moore for duty.  The great railroad strike of 1894 was then at its height and the sheriff at Spooner on the Omaha railway had made a call on the Governor for aid in protecting property and securing the movement of trains.  Fortunately the assembling of troops at their armories was accepted by the strike leaders as a proof of the Governor's determination to prevent violence.  General Louis Auer, Quartermaster General, visited Spooner and conferred with the strike leaders, and order was soon restored.  The officers of the guard and men of the company were well pleased they were not required to visit the scene of the disturbance.

Following this little occurred out of routine military work up to the call for troops in April, 1898.  Rifle practice was taken up by E Company very soon after it was mustered into the State service.  Moses W. Burns, a private in the company, was instructor in rifle work.  A range was fitted up on the prairie south of the city which the men reached by crossing the Milwaukee railroad bridge in the Fourth Ward.  Mention of Private Burns will be made later.  The company soon developed a number of shots who were much above the average and among them may be mentioned Captain Ballard, Sergeants Wall, Cousins and Farr, and Privates Burns, Burroughs, Ray, Parkinson, Larson, Charles and Carlson.  The E Company rifle team won first place in the National Guard of Wisconsin at Camp Douglas in 1890 and in 1891, in competition with teams from all other companies in the State, won a handsome and costly trophy, generously presented by Robert K. Boyd, of Eau Claire.  In 1892 E Company lost the Boyd trophy by a few points.  In 1891 Moses W. Burns qualified as sharpshooter and Captain J. M. Ballard, Sergeant Marshall Cousins, Private Robert E. Parkinson and Sergeant Edward V. Wall as marksmen.  In the following season, 1892, Private Edward S. Burroughs was awarded the decoration of marksman.

At a camp of instruction and interstate rifle competition held at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, October 24 to 29, 1892, Private Edward S. Burroughs was one of the contestants and Private M. W. Burns was present on detail as an instructor.

In the social life of the city E Company in its earlier days took a prominent part and its dancing parties were the events of the season.

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