Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

A surprising number of the residents of Warren, Pa., remember Fred E. Windsor (1859-1936), though his name as well as his exploits have been long – if not deservedly – forgotten beyond the corporate limits. In the memory of Warrenites, he is the man on the borrowed white horse who led the Memorial Day parades in their youth, a relic and a reminder of the exhibitionistic optimism of his generation. Born in the shadow of the Civil War, Colonel Fred was one of a romantic generation who sought the estate of manhood in the ranks of Penn­sylvania’s National Guard. It was a quest that took him from armory drill floor to summer encampment, to the labor strife at Homestead (1892) and, finally, to that picnic of picnics, the Puerto Rican campaign (1898). Each became an extravagant chapter in the annals of the handsomest officer the state could muster in our “age of innocence.”

Young Fred’s initial exposure to a quasi-martial environ­ment occurred in 1874 when he was sent for three years to the Riverview Military Academy at Poughkeepsie, New York. Within its walls intellectual pursuits were secondary to the acquisition of a social style that blended an easy self-confidence with a studied gallantry in the presence of the opposite sex. Military instruction, a regular feature at the school, reinforced an emphasis on gentlemanliness and manners, even as its exercise in the profession of arms was limited to a formal and ceremonial regimen. But, to someone who would choose the National Guard of that day as his avocation, there was no more appropriate preparation.

Windsor’s cadet days were followed by a stint at the Flushing Institute on Long Island. Then, his student days behind him, he returned to the family’s Titusville home in 1878 to enter his father’s employ in the oil fields of Mc­Kean County. Though his activities ran the gamut from roustabout to tool dresser to driller, he also later claimed to have been an oil scout, one of those professional in­vestigators of the fields who lent dash and glamour to the infant years of the modern era’s premier industry. Cer­tainly he looked the part and dressed for the role, and by the time he settled in Warren about 1883, he had accumu­lated a fund of stories of the dog-eat-dog competition that prevailed among the “night riders of the hemlock.”

Clearly he considered himself a man set apart, a man destined to lead; and it is not surprising to learn that he soon took a hand in organizing Warren’s first hook and ladder fire company or that the membership elected him their foreman. Subsequently, he became the uniformed chief of the entire department. That he enjoyed a species of personal exhibitionism cannot be doubted; and Fred Windsor’s enlistment in 1885 as a private in Warren’s Co. I, 16th Regiment, PNG, could not have surprised his friends. Once more there was a uniform to be worn and friendships to be made. Then, too, there was the promise of wider recognition and honors, of calls to service that would en­title him to think and speak of himself as a veteran, as a man among the men of Appomattox.

The National Guard of the Windsor years, at least at the company level, was a quasi-military-social entity with recruiting committees, membership elections, constitutions, by-laws and boards of control to manage the general busi­ness of the company. And though the non-commissioned officers of the company were selected by the company commander, that officer and his two lieutenants were elected by the rank and file-an important consideration in the future of Fred Windsor, a man of finely honed conviv­iality. Thus, when two vacancies among Co. l’s commis­sioned ranks occurred on the same day, Corporal Fred carried the elections for second and first lieutenant by handsome majorities, which spoke “volumes for his popu­larity among his fellow soldiers.”

As might have been anticipated, Lieutenant Fred, making the most of his Riverview days, was a confident figure on the armory drill floor, and the officer conducting the spring inspection of 1887 was particularly struck by the enthusiasm of the officers and the men of Co. I as well as by the number of spectators. Not a little of this notice­able change from the previous year’s lackluster showing was the result of Windsor’s own enthusiasm, which he so evi­dently communicated to all around him. And when the commission of Co. I’s somewhat colorless Captain John Siegfried expired in the fall of 1890, Windsor received the unanimous vote of the company to be their new comman­der. Now thirty-one years of age, Captain Fred had been granted what he sought all his life – not merely the ultimate in personal visibility but the opportunity to be known as the man who made things happen.

Unquestionably Windsor could be counted on in one or the other connection. In the spring inspection of the War­ren company in 1891, for example, the snap and the pre­cision of Captain Fred’s men led the inspecting officer to call their performance the best he had ever seen. Certainly anything that showmanship could insure was provided for on this occasion, as it was the following year when the company was judged “superior” in every respect. And when the results of all the statewide inspections were compared in 1893, it was found that Co. I stood not only first in the 2nd Brigade to which the 16th Regiment was assigned but first in the state – the most proficient company in the Penn­sylvania National Guard.

The annual encampments that Windsor attended, begin­ning in 1886, afforded no less congenial settings for a man at his best amid drama, color and movement. Take what transpired in 1895 at Glencairn, some twenty-four miles north of Pittsburgh on the banks of the Allegheny River. On Saturday morning, August 3, a week’s activities com­menced at 6 A.M. with the firing of the morning gun and the unfurling of the stars and stripes before the brigade commander’s tent. The most pressing of the day’s concerns, from the point of view of the regimental and company commanders, was the time allotted them on the parade ground to prepare for the governor’s arrival that very afternoon. Indeed, the parade ground was the center of the most characteristic of the activities planned, which, in the wake of the chief executive’s formal welcome, included a proces­sion of retreat parades and evening reviews, each drawing between 25,000 and 30,000 visitors.

Windsor, the beau ideal of a junior officer, was very much in evidence amid the panoply of arms – the essence of soldiering to him. But then he was equally visible at the “high social functions” scheduled throughout the week. Among these the most prominent was the reception and dinner the 16th Regiment tendered the governor, his party and a generous representation of influential citizens from around the state. Such affairs were what Captain Fred’s days at Riverview and his years as an elegant Warrenite had prepared him for; and if not a man for all seasons, he was certainly an individual to impress and to please the proud parent, the politician and the picnic girl.

Though the Glencairn encampment took place three years after the Guard’s peace-keeping activities at Home­stead in 1892, those ninety-five days of arduous and some­times unpleasant – though rarely dangerous – duty appeared to have little impact on the tenor of the week’s activities, which owed less to the realities citizen-soldiers were called to face in a turbulent quarter century and more to the fantasizing of a generation come into maturity in the after­glow of Appomattox. Indeed, guardsmen illustrated the very extent to which they were captive to an illusion of martial prowess along the banks of the Monongahela. Susceptible as they were to a host of influences – particu­larly the romantic battle art of the late war and the sensa­tion-oriented popular stage – it is not surprising to find that they transformed a complex industrial and human drama into a suitably melodramatic scenario with themselves in the leading roles.

The stage was set for them in the clash of wills between Henry Clay Frick, the chief administrative officer of the Carnegie steel empire, and the leadership of the Amalga­mated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers. The scene was the Homestead works; the prologue -was the battle of Homestead on July 6 which climaxed in the capitulation of a force of some three hundred Pinkerton detectives who had been ordered to secure the mills. On the scene, though all but ignored, was William McCleary, the sheriff of Allegheny County. His was only one of many voices demanding the presence of a large, disciplined force. Responding to the clamor, the governor called out the National Guard on July 10. Telegrams like that dispatched by the 16th Regiment’s colonel to Captain Windsor brought up the curtain: “Get Here [Oil City] earliest possible moment. Heavy marching order. Three day’s rations, ammunition.”

The Amalgamated leadership had hoped that many guardsmen – especially those from western Pennsylvania­ – would respond indifferently to their mobilization orders. What they had not reckoned on was the response of Wind­sor’s generation to news headlines that described Home­stead as the “seat of war” and the “front.” For them it was a not-to-be-missed opportunity to restore order and sanity in the midst of disorder and social violence, to earn the estate of veteran infantrymen. What Windsor and his peers could not have known when they set out was that the hitherto militant work force had decided on conciliation rather than confrontation and that casual ties in the days immediately ahead would be felled neither by shot nor shell but by something as preposterous as the smell of Home­stead’s open sewers.

That Windsor was disappointed at the anti-climactic at­mosphere that greeted his regiment’s arrival cannot be doubted; nevertheless, he addressed himself to the necessi­ties of the moment, not keeping the peace at bayonet point but making life at Camp Sam Black tolerable. Evidence of his success is to be found in the record of regimental inspec­tions and, in particular, in one inspector’s remark to the effect that the Warren company had the tidiest camp of any at Homestead. Determined to see that his boys were pro­vided for in another connection, Captain Fred secured the services of two cooks from Pittsburgh. With them in the cookhouse, the “grub” began to improve. By way of illus­tration, one of the company wrote home of their having that morning fresh fish and potatoes together with new bread and butter. Clearly this enforced exile had its toler­able moments – not a few of them at meal times.

Less easily remedied was the homesickness that surfaced within days of the boys’ arrival and which outpaced the discomforts and indignities that were part of every guards­man’s lot for howsoever long he soldiered at Homestead. ln part, Captain Fred was aided by a liberal furlough policy as well as by recurring reductions in the duty strength of the company. Perversely helpful too were incidents such as occurred at Duquesne on August 5, when Windsor and his men cleared strikers and their supporters from the mill gates at bayonet point. But such suitably melodramatic moments were an exception, and in their wake guardsmen were prone to characterize themselves as little more than a force of borough constables. Toward rekindling their sense of self-consequence, Windsor and his fellow company com­manders called them to a variety of athletic contests. And when these began to pall, Captain Fred took the lead in promoting burlesque dress parades, evening band concerts and grand stag balls.

Once more Windsor had found a fitting sphere for his particular talents. Then, too, such events as he had a hand in manufacturing drew an audience – not only from among those in camp but from among the guardsmen’s friends and families. For on that first Sunday at Camp Black and on every weekend thereafter, Homestead was re-invested by a multicolored army whose most lethal weapon was the picnic hamper. It is perhaps a moot point whether they should have been there at all, for the potential for violence – as well as the reality of a succession of sobering incidents – continued throughout the Guard’s stay. But come they did – 20,000 on a fine Sunday. And for them there were shows such as had enlivened the encampments of previous summers. Windsor, as one of the hosts of Camp Black, was repeatedly in the public eye, and his unfailing courtesy, ready hospitality and confident bearing must have re­assured more than one anxious parent. In looks and man­ner, if not in actual experience, he was the veteran com­mander whose knowledge and command of the situation seemed equal to all challenges.

Just such an impression must have countered the fears of friends and family a scant six years later when Major Windsor, mounted on his battle horse, Prince Windsor, led his old command through the streets of Warren on April 27, 1898. The cry of “Cuba Libra” was in the air, and guards­men had cause to be ebullient; at long last they had found their shooting war. Their immediate problem, of course, was getting themselves into it after the obligatory muster into federal service. These mechanics were initiated in their state camp at Mt. Gretna on May 3, a formality that in­volved the individual consent of the officers and men in each regiment. Prior to asking for it from those he com­manded, the 16th Regiment’s colonel spoke and so too did Major Fred. The latter’s remarks were especially welcome, being greeted by spontaneous cheers. In their wake, guards­men from the oil country volunteered their services to a man – the first regiment of citizen-soldiers in the nation to do so.

Within a matter of days of this event. the regiment was on its way to Camp George H. Thomas at Chickamauga, Georgia, reaching it early on the morning of May 17. Noticeably enthusiastic, convinced they would be among the first troops on Cuban soil, Major Fred and his fellow officers worked unceasingly to ready the men in their charge, more than half of whom had been recruited since late April in response to directives virtually doubling the strengths of individual companies. Then, on July 4, they heard that theirs was one of six regiments under orders to proceed to Charleston, South Carolina. The 16th’s training had most evidently been hasty. and they were far from the skilled and disciplined force the hometown press pictured them to be. Nevertheless, they had confidence in them­selves as soldiers consecrated in humanity’s cause and no less faith in officers, like Windsor, whom they had chosen to lead them.

They had thought, of course. that they were bound for Cuban soil, but with the surrender of Santiago on July 17, the regiment was diverted to Puerto Rico, that island’s sub­jugation being authorized in the wake of the Spanish capital’s capitulation. Fearful that Spanish overtures for peace would deprive them of the martial experiences they felt so vehemently to be their due – as if by inalienable right – the boys of the oil country hastened aboard Trans­port 21, the Mobile, which they shared with 700 mules and horses. War, as Windsor and his men were to discover in the ensuing voyage, was not exactly as General Sherman des­cribed it – just a little worse. Though they arrived at Ponce harbor too late on the 27th to be among the first troops ashore, they had at least the consolation of being on Span­ish soil with a tangible enemy somewhere to their front.

Following their landing on the morning of the 28th, the regiment repeatedly found itself from twelve to fifteen miles in advance of aU support in the lush country through which it moved. Windsor was not a participant in this phase of the campaign, having been placed in charge of unloading the Mobile, a not inconsiderable task which he went about in his “usual, vigorous, and effective way.” He did rejoin the first battalion, however, in time to take a highly visible role in one of the “prettiest skirmishes” of the entire cam­paign. It was occasioned by the 16th’s orders to undertake a night march and turning movement around the Spanish post at Coamo. Their objectives were to seize the military road beyond the town and then to attack it from the rear, even as other elements initiated a frontal assault on the Spanish positions.

Taken under fire by the retreating garrison’s rear guard, Major Fred’s men – the first in the field – were forced to deploy as they came within sight of the road. A hot hour of “lively action” was in the offing, giving Windsor repeated opportunities to display “great spirit” as he passed from one part of the firing line to the other in the “most fearless manner.” He may have convinced his own generation that he was at once a brave man and a gallant one, but in retro­spect it would appear that he was an actor caught up in a role he had created out of the private and public fantasies of his generation. Coamo then was his stage, and on it he was the handsome warrior of popular stage melodramas and sentimental novels, a hero old-style promoted at the final curtain to a lieutenant colonel of volunteers.

However, his new dignity was short lived, for the regi­ment was mustered out of federal service in December 1898. Colonel Fred was Major Fred once more, commander of an infantry battalion in Pennsylvania’s National Guard. He could not, of course, bestride his battle horse on the armory drill floor, but the encampments of the new cen­tury gave him his opportunity to appear in the saddle, and he gave himself to the panoply of arms as he did to promen­ade concerts, evening receptions and other such conspicu­ous occasions – the essence of life and well-being to him. In point of fact. Windsor felt so much a part of the scene that he appears to have given scarcely a thought to the fact that his commission as a major of the field and staff was due to expire in the summer of 1906. This meant that he had to stand for reelection, but then he was confident that he had the support of the officers of the regiment. However, when the ballots were counted, it was apparent that his lone chal­lenger, the commander of the Meadville company, had garnered a decisive majority.

In the letter Windsor subsequently sent to all his fellow officers there is the sense of hurt and humiliation. He had loved and thought himself loved in return, given his devo­tion and been summarily relegated to a name on the retired list. But then Fred Windsor was no longer a gallant youth, the handsomest man the Guard could muster. He had, with­out his knowing it, become a caricature of himself – irrele­vant and something of an embarrassment to younger men whose votes he coveted. Yet he clung to his avocational role, finding a career of sorts awaiting him in Warren as Colonel Fred, the organizer of patriotic observances asso­ciated with our national holidays.

His scrapbooks attest that Windsor – chief marshal of the day – knew how to mount and then take a highly visible role in occasions of a quasi-military character. And those he trained to assist him over the years in their turn led, albeit self-consciously, ceremonies that marked Windsor’s death in 1936. Today not one of those present can recall what was said at the graveside. But then Colonel Fred had sum­med up himself and the age of optimism not long before his death, writing of men loving a man for being all man and of women loving manly men who have done “real manly things.” Of course, Windsor had in mind the hand­some soldier as the doer of manly things, who, having done them, can never be forgotten.


John L. Marsh is a Professor of English at Edinboro State College and a colonel in the USAR. His interest in the state’s history has led him to author articles in the Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine and The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, to mention a few. A recent article on the exploits of Fred Windsor at the Home­stead strike can be found in the October 1979 edition of Pennsylvania History.