Skip to content

About Alfred Burton Welch

About the author: Alfred Burton Welch, more popularly known as A.B. Welch (September 26, 1874 — June 30, 1945). His biography as published online details the following:

Born September 26, 1874, Derbe/Corydon, Iowa. Family Homesteaded near Armour, South Dakota, c.1880-1884.

Lived in Tacoma, Steilacoom and Orting, WA, c. 1889-1899. Father was Methodist Minister in these communities. Attended Puget Sound University, Tacoma, c. 1895-1898.

Served with Company D, 1st Washington Volunteer Infantry. Philippine Insurrection .. April 30, 1898 to November 1, 1899.

1899 Battles: Santa Ana Feb 5, Tay Tay June 3 and morning June 4, Calamba July 26, Guadelupe Mar 13, Pateros Mar 18, Pasig Mar 17, Laguna de Bay Mar 19. 1899 Skirmishes: Pateros Feb 15, San Pedro Macati Feb 15-22 and April 9,16, 20, 27, Calamba July 27. 1899 Engagement: Calamba July 28

Commissioned Captain – 1st North Dakota National Guard, June 9, 1913. Worked and Lived in Iowa and the Dakotas c.1900 until 1919, then: Lived in or near Mandan, North Dakota for balance of life as Store Keeper, Postmaster, Friend of the Indians, Founder of El Zagal Shrine

Adopted son of Chief John Grass, March 1913, Grass ‘gave’ his Warrior Name, Charging Bear, to Welch

Served in 1917 Mexican Campaign, chasing Pancho Villa. Commander of Company A, 1st North Dakota National Guard

Served in France during World War I. Landing December 27, 1917, until discharge December 19, 1919 as Major, Field Artillery Section, 3rd Army. Training Jan. 3, 1918 – July 1, 1918 at Camp LaCourtine and St. Aigman.

Champage-Marne Defensive at Epernay, July 15-18, 1918. Aisne-Marne Offensive at Chalons Sur Marne, July 18-31, 1918. Meuse-Argonne Offensive at Montfaucon, September 26-November 11, 1918.

March to the Rhine November 11,1918. Army of Occupation December 3, 1918 to August 10, 1919 as Officer in Charge of District No. 6 .. Cochem area.

Died June 30, 1945, Mandan, North Dakota

The MANDAN Historical Society has this extensive profile:

Alfred Burton Welch spent the majority of his childhood years in South Dakota where he had daily contact with Native Americans. He would later have an extensive military career. Typically referred to as A. B. Welch, he was well known for his extensive artifact collection and lifelong close association with Sioux tribal nations.

Welch resurfaces in history next when he joins the Washington State National Guard/Volunteer Infantry on May 6, 1898 were he serves in Company D, 1st Infantry including a tour of duty in the Philippine Insurrection. He was released from service on November 1, 1899. He listed “merchant” as his occupation prior to enlistment.

Welch moved to Mandan in about 1905. In 1906, he was instrumental in organization Company F-North Dakota National Guard to replace the local militia.

A.B. Welch was credited as being the first white man adopted into the Yanktonai Sioux Nation by its great chief John Grass. Welch was fluent in the Sioux dialect…

The Smithsonian Institute acknowledged Welch as being one of the “best posted men in the United States on the ancient customs, sports and ceremonies of the Sioux.”

Commissioned Captain and assigned to Company A, 1st Infantry, North Dakota National Guard, at Bismarck, on June 9, 1913; called into federal service on June 19, 1916, for Mexican border duty and served there until discharged from federal service at Fort Snelling, Minnesota on February 14, 1917, and resumed National Guard status. He was assigned for a short period of time assist with guarding the Northern Pacific Railway’s Missouri Bridge under the command of Major Dan Wright.

However his reserve status was short lived as he was recalled into federal service on March 26, 1917; placed on supernumerary list, April 13, 1917; re-called into active duty, April 15, 1917 in response to the USA’s declaration of war against Germany in World War I. He gained an assignment as a line captain in June 1917 when a second regiment from North Dakota was formed. He was assigned to Company I, 2nd Infantry, North Dakota National Guard (116th Ammunition Train) to October 28, 1918; 3rd Ammunition Train, to discharge; overseas from December 13, 1917, to August 26, 1919. He was advanced to the rank of Major. A large number of Native American soldiers volunteered for his command. He was ‘loud in his praise” and stated “ I found them always loyal to their officers, always volunteered for the most dangerous of missions to the point of recklessness, and a splendid new element for the army now organized.”

Joe Young Hawk, an Arikara was once captured by five Germans but subsequently escaped, killing 3 of the enemy. Young Hawk was shot through both legs, but was still able to capture his other two captors and take them back to US lines. Major Welch said this of Young Hawk: “I am terribly proud of him. He ought to have a medal, for really it took all kinds of nerve.” Young Hawk was eventually awarded his medal. His division was also involved in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.

He was discharged at Camp Dodge, Iowa, on October. 7, 1919, as a captain. Before his military career was complete, he had served in the Spanish American War, the Philippine Insurrection, the Mexican-American War and World War I.

Major Welch served as the Commander of the American Legion Post in Mandan in 1921-1922. Among his many achievements, he was appointed by US President Harding’s administration to serve as Mandan’s Postmaster from 1923 through 1934. His signature is found on cachets celebrating the opening of the Mandan Airport on May 2, 1933. He resigned a year early in April 1934 and was replaced by Frank S. Hudson.

He died in a Bismarck hospital after a long illness on June 30, 1945 and is buried in Union Cemetery. The funeral, held in the Masonic Temple in Mandan, was attended by representatives of the American Legion, the color guard from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and an honor squad from the North Dakota National Guard.

About the diary: Published in a sub-section of the Welch Dakota Papers website as Philippines Insurrection 1898-1899, Diary of Col. A.B. Welch, The Philippine Diary Project contains the portion of his diary related to the Philippines, starting with his departure from Honolulu en route to Manila (November 7 1898), and ending with his arrival in Nagasaki (September 11, 1899). The spelling and punctuation, etc., are retained throughout as published online; however, when, in the opinion of the Philippine Diary Project places, names, persons or things were mispelled or misidentified, our proposed corrections are included as underlined italicized text within brackets, e.g. [example]. There is only one, consistent deviation from this policy. Reference to samples that reproduce the original manuscript prove, conclusively, that where the published, typed transcripts says “blacks,” the author originally wrote “niggers.” The substitution was clearly done with modern-day sensibilities in mind but The Philippine Diary Project believes readers will understand that it is preferable to use the original, though offensive, language, of the author. It was felt unnecessary to either underline or italicize the word.

Additional information from the Spanish-American Centennial Website on the First Washington Volunteer Infantry , it’s service history, composition, and places it saw action in the Philippines:

The 1st Washington Volunteer Infantry was formed in Tacoma, Washington on May 6 – 13, 1898. Initially, the unit was comprised of 46 officers and 967 enlisted men. Though the war’s fighting had ended by armistice on August 13, the unit shipped out from San Francisco on October 19, 1898 as part of the Fifth Philippine Expedition aboard the transportsNEWPORT and OHIO. The unit arrived in the Philippine Islands on November 22,1898. The Spanish American War formally ended on December 10, 1898, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

When the Philippine American War broke out on February 4, 1899, the unit rapidly became involved. The military records of Private James M. Derrey, of Company J, indicate that the unit initially saw combat in the area of Santa Ana on February 4-5, 1899. Later engagements found the unit in battle around Taguig May 19th, Taitai Cainta and Morong on the 4-5 of June, and near Calamba on July 26-27.

In summary, the 1st Washington spent 38 days in trenches, and 204 days on the firing line. Losses to the 1st Washington from all causes included 27 officers, with 25 resigned or discharged, 1 due to disease, and 1 killed in action. Enlisted losses totaled 578, including 86 transfers, 79 discharged for disability, 2 discharged by general court martial, 344 discharged by order, 17 killed in action, 17 killed by disease, 8 who died as a result of wounds received, 1 drowning, and 24 desertions. In addition to the above losses, 5 officers and 89 enlisted men were wounded during the unit’s stay in the Philippine Islands. The 1st Washington left the Philippine Islands on September 5, 1899 for San Francisco, arriving on October 9, 1899. The unit was stationed at the Presidio while awaiting discharge, where on November 1, 1899 the 1st Washington was disbanded. At that time the unit consisted of 46 officers and 769 enlisted men.