By Orlan Svingen
352 pages, softcover, Washington St. U. Press, 2010
The origin of Montana’s militia dates to 1867, when a politically ambitious acting governor organized frontiersmen in supposed fear of Plains Indian incursions into the territory’s mining camps and other settled regions. After establishing posts on the upper Missouri, some skirmishing with warriors occurred, but within months these unruly volunteers were disbanded after mutiny in the ranks, their harsh punishment of horse thieves, and disputes over federal provisioning. Afterward, the U.S. Army took the forefront in the Indian campaign. Nevertheless, from this roughhewn beginning arose a professional band of citizen soldiers, serving honorably in the Spanish-American War, the 1916 Mexican border crisis, both World Wars, the Cold War, Desert Storm, and most recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Adding to their merit, the Montana National Guard has provided vital assistance to Montana communities and government agencies in dire need during natural disasters and domestic emergencies. From the 1880s to the end of the 20th century, evolving state, national, and international developments presented new challenges for the Montana National Guard. Splendid Service recounts the proud moments and achievements, as well as the sacrifices and temporary setbacks. This extensively researched volume describes key individuals from all ranks, and outlines the organization’s frequent restructuring, wartime activations, and call-ups for natural disasters in a geographically vast state. The Montana National Guard’s long-standing and commendable service has indeed left a legacy for future generations.