Friday, March 9, 2012

Col. Sargent

This image is of Lt. Col. Herbert H. Sargent. During the Spanish American War, Sargent commanded the 5th U.S. Regiment  (Immunes), so called because the men in the regiment were supposedly immune to yellow fever and other such diseases rampant in the tropics of Cuba. The 5th was composed of men from Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama and was mustered in at Camp Walthall in the summer of 1898. The camp was located within walking distance of downtown Columbus. The regiment was sent to Santiago de Cuba to serve as garrison troops. Among the Mississippians serving in the regiment was Major James K. Vardaman, who would go on to become governor of Mississippi in 1904. Vardaman was also elected to the U.S. Senate. During the Spanish American War, Vardaman and about 82 men from Mississippi went to Cuba with the 5th Regiment. There, seven men died of disease, twenty-five were sent home, and according to the Pascagoula Democrat-Star in 1899, the remainder "looked more like half-animated cadavers than the stalwart men they were when the regiment first landed on Cuban soil."

Col. Sargent was born in New Hampshire in 1864, was a career army officer and the author of both military history and textbooks on military strategy. Publishing several works on the Napoleonic Wars, at least one of his books, originally published in 1895, has been recently reissued with the title Napoleon Bonaparte’s First Campaign: Italy 1796-97 and the Defeat of the Austrian Armies. He also wrote a textbook on strategy on the Western Front in 1919.

After his service in Mississippi and Cuba, Sargent apparently went west and in the 1920s he was living in Jacksonville, Oregon, at one time a thriving gold boom town founded in 1860. It is possible that he died in Oregon, but I have not yet been able to confirm that. He was definitely around for Christmas in 1920, however, because he was the victim of a practical joke in Medford. From the Medford, OR, Mail Tribune, comes this interesting tidbit: “Some wags had downtown Medford convulsed with laughter this forenoon with an ante-Christmas Day prank which partook of the April fool variety and made many citizens feel cheap. They had a big paper sack stuffed with paper from the ends of which stuck out prominently turkey legs and the head of a turkey, which they placed in the middle of the street car track opposite the Postal Telegraph company office. It looked for all the world as tho a big fat turkey had dropped out of some passing delivery wagon or auto, and most people - pedestrians on the sidewalks, or riders in cars - passing by thought so, and bit accordingly. Of course after lifting the package each realized that he had been sold without hearing the loud guffaws of laughter which came from the waiting crowd on the sidewalk, grinned foolishly and then joined the crowd to witness the next victim’s surprise. Among those who bit hard were Chief of Police Timothy, Sheriff Terrill, Colonel H. H. Sargent, and Romeo Koppes.” As a final note, Col. Sargent was apparently memorialized in song by Butch Martin and the Rogue Valley Riders during Jacksonville, Oregon’s 150th anniversary Jubilee! Celebration in 2010.

The photo is from the digital collection of the New York Public Library. Information on the 5th Infantry can be found at, among other sources. The Christmas prank story comes from Southern Oregon History, Revised, Ben Truwe, editor.


  1. While browsing the Jacksonville Cemetery, a grave stone caught my eye which read "Herbert H.Sargent: Lieutenant Colonel U.S Army Retired. Sept 29, 1858-Sept 16-1921. I'm fascinated by local military history, so i googled the information which led me to here. I think this confirms the part that he Died here.

  2. I also have taken a photo of the grave stone if you would like it for this site.