Return of the Fighting Ninth parade in Watertown, N.Y., 1902
The return of the Fighting Ninth in 1902 was celebrated with much patriotic enthusiasm and a parade on Public Square and throughout the greater downtown Watertown area.
Stationed at Madison Barracks in Sackets Harbor, the Ninth was returning from the Spanish-American War in Cuba, the Boxer Rebellion in China and insurrection in the Phillippines. The soldiers marched to City Hall, Coffeen and Massey Streets, down Clinton, Sherman and Ten Eyck Streets before proceeding to Keyes Ave, Franklin, Academy and Washington Streets before re-entering Public Square, going around it once again before heading to the Armory on Arsenal Street.
In a retrospective article published in the Watertown Daily Times on August 4, 1967, it was reported of the 1902 Return of the Fighting Ninth
The gaiety and patriotism exhibited by the charged-up Watertownians has seldom been repeated.The day was July 12, 1902, and the spirit was that of a holiday.
“With every evidence of appreciation of its gallant service, with flags, banner, music, cheers and applause, the people of the city of Watertown today welcomed the Ninth infantry regiment that has won a name and fame within four years as the greatest aggregation of fighting men in the United States army – or in any army,” The Times told its readers.
“There are few of the old men who formerly were at Madison Barracks in the regiment, but even the strangers appreciated today’s reception and were assured of the good will of the people of the city.”
After parading around the city, the soldiers descended upon the Armory on Arsenal Street where they were addressed by Mayor James F. Papa.
I congratulate you upon your glorious record in arms and extend to you a most cordial and hearty welcome to our city… We have watched your operations in Cuba, China and the Philippines, which have reflected great credit not only upon yourselves and this vicinity but upon the whole country at large and we feel confident that you richly deserve the name which seems to be given you by common consent, namely, “The Fighting Ninth.”
One of the many interesting stories regarding the Fighting Ninth pertains to Arthur Bonnicastle. Arthur was born to an Indian woman named Me-Tse-He in the Osage Tribe in Osage County, Oklahoma, in 1877, and given the name from the eponymous fictional character in Dr. Holland’s novel, Arthur Bonnicastle, written three years prior. Dr. Holland would build a summer home in Alexandria Bay and name it Bonniecastle after his own fictional character.
At the age of 22, Arthur Bonnicastle would leave Osage County to study in Pennsylvania at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. He would enlist in the army one year later and be stationed at Maddison Barracks as part of the Fighting Ninth, a mere 34 miles from his namesake in Alexandria Bay. Arthur Bonnicastle would see battle in China as part of the Boxer Rebellion and ultimately reach the rank of sergeant. After discharging from the military, he would return to his Osage County tribe in Oklahoma and become Chief.
While it’s unknown if Arthur Bonnicastle ever made it to Alexandria Bay, there is a very good chance he marched in Watertown as part of the return of the Fighting Ninth. If so, he would have been all the closer.