Skip to content

About Thomas H. Briggs

About the author: Thomas H. Briggs (? 1886 — December 29, 1905), Company G, Third Battalion, First Regiment, of the South Dakota Volunteers. No information is provided on the author’s life, though the article closes with,

In late May, Thomas Briggs came down with typhoid, and he was still suffering when the First South Dakota left the Philippines. He was trans-
ported on a stretcher to the Sheridan, a troop transport, on 10 August 1899…

Briggs was not mustered out of the service until October 1899…

Settling into civilian life, he married Anna Mary Thompson and fathered three children. He was a volunteer firefighter who remained in the South Dakota National Guard, rising to the rank of captain. His regular employment was as a brakeman for the Chicago, Milwaukee, & Saint Paul railyard in Mitchell, where he
was killed on 29 December 1905 in a freak accident while coupling the air-brakes on a passenger train. He was only 29 years old.

However, Volume 55 of the Elihu Root Collection United States Documents Relating Philippine Islands includes Special Orders No. 29, January 29, 1900, signed by Thomas Barry on behalf of Gen. Otis, which ends with:

6 — Upon recommendation of the chief surgeon of the department, Acting Hospital Steward Frank Luce and Privates John R. Miller, David W. Denton, Thomas H. Briggs, William H. Ward, Henry C. Garrison, William Gleaves, Arthur A. Bringham, Thomas A. Campbell and Henry D. Carlin, Hospital Corps, will report without delay to the commanding general, 1st Division, for assignment to duty. The quartermaster’s department will furnish the necessary transportation.

The above suggests there may have been another period of service by the author, in the Medical Corps.

About the diary: Made available by the South Dakota Historical Society ( SDHS Journal Vol. 34, No. 3) as the Journal of Thomas H. Briggs. According to the article,

Briggs’s grandson, the late Billy J. Wietelman of Moore, Oklahoma, inherited the journal, preserved it, and made the transcription upon which this publication is based.

The Philippine Diary Project contains his entries from August 22, 1898 when the author sighted the coast of Luzon, to January 19, 1899, when the diary ends abruptly although the author remained in military service until October, 1899. The same introduction points out that,

Some spellings remain un- corrected (e.g. “Norfork” instead of Norfolk, Nebraska; “North Platt” instead of”NorthPlatte”)topreservethefeelofthejournal, whilecorrectionsneces- saryfor clarity orfurther explanation are in brackets. Punctuation has been added sparingly where necessary, and ship’s names have been italicized. Con- textual information appears in thefootnotes. Thefull names of Briggs’s com- rades have been added in brackets from a roster housed in the State Archives, South Dakota State Historical Society, Pierre. Briggs did not write each day he was in the service, and the entries vary in regard to the information they provide. Some are flowing, detailed accounts ofa new world that he obviously found fascinating; others reflect the tedium of life in the army. Still others re- count his growing anxiety about pending combat.

We are grateful to both South Dakota History and the South Dakota State Historical Society for permission to use the diary in The Philippine Diary Project, through a communication from Michael Burns, Ph.D., Managing Editor, South Dakota History of the South Dakota State Historical Society (February 20, 2021).