FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 13, 2022) -- The road leading to the new 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum is named after an Army officer who led the way in establishing military training here nearly 115 years ago.
Philip Reade was born Oct. 13,1844, in Lowell, Massachusetts, to Henry and Rowena (Hildreth) Reade. His family shared a history of military service, with ancestors who fought for the British in the late 1600s during King Philip’s War, in the American militia during the Revolutionary War, and in the French and Indian Wars.
Following in their footsteps, Reade studied at a military school in his home state when the Civil War began. One account has Reade serving in the Signal Corps during the war. In the book, “Remembering New York’s North Country” by Dave Shampine, Reade was thought to be too young to enlist. Instead, he took the initiative of conducting his own expeditions in the Midwest to provide intelligence to the Union Army.
For Reade’s exemplary service, Union Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler requested an appointment to West Point for the 17-year-old from President Abraham Lincoln. Reade entered the academy in 1865, but he was removed before graduation for an alleged prank. Despite that blemish on his record, he received a direct commission in 1867 as a second lieutenant in the 3rd Infantry.
In June of 1875, he was put in charge of creating a telegraph between New Mexico and Arizona. Despite numerous logistical problems encumbering the project, Reade was determined to build a telegraph that would last.
But when funds were exhausted and supplies could not be purchased, Reade had to plead his case to private citizens. At one public meeting in Tucson, he said: “If continued telegraphic communications be desired, it behooves the citizens to be no less public-spirited than our New Mexican neighbors.”
This was in reference to the public response in New Mexico where different municipalities donated money and equipment toward the telegraph project. Farmers along the Rio Grande offered their oxen and wagons to transport supplies. The citizens of Tucson responded with similar verve, and construction of the telegraph line resumed.
By early May 1877, Arizona was finally connected with a route of communication to the outside world by a military telegraph that would eventually stretch 1,500 miles from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico.
Reade distinguished himself in combat during the Spanish-American War. According to his commendation letter, dated July 17, 1898, Reade showed extraordinary heroism in the assault on Fort San Juan. While inspecting enemy lines for his commanding officer, he dismounted from his horse while exposed to artillery, machine gun and small-arms fire to conduct the thorough reconnaissance.
Earlier in the day, Reade was wounded by a bullet that hit him above the right ear. Although reported to be mortally injured, he regained consciousness and removed his name from the list of casualties so he could continue fighting the campaign.
The following day, Reade led a squad of the 24th Infantry to recover an enemy water barrel under constant hostile fire. The citation stated that the water barrel saved Soldiers many trips to the river to fill their canteens, which was the only method of replenishment under a tropical sun.
On June 24, 1905, the Army replaced the 9th Infantry Regiment with the 23rd Infantry at Madison Barracks, in Sackets Harbor, with Reade as regimental commander. Madison Barracks was established in 1816 as the first permanent military encampment in the North Country. Although Gen. Ulysses S. Grant is considered its most famous resident (he was stationed at Madison Barracks twice), Reade also made an impression in the community. According to a local newspaper report, Reade was well-known around Sackets Harbor, always dressed in his field uniform and wearing a big hat.
“His quick nervous stride spoke of the potential energy stored up in the man and his love for something doing,” the article accounted.
That same year, President Theodore Roosevelt sought congressional appropriations for six training camps throughout the U.S. After five sites were selected, military planners determined the final one would be located in New York.
Reade understood that modern military weaponry had exceeded the capability of soldier training at Sackets Harbor, and so he looked for an appropriate site for National Guard and active-duty troop maneuvers. He worked closely with North Country civic leaders and state officials in the process, and ultimately the Pine Plains area in Felts Mills (north of the Black River) was selected for a temporary tent encampment.
Reade believed Pine Plains had everything required for a training encampment – plenty of land for maneuvers, woodlands suitable for camping, ample water sources and easily accessible by railroad. On Oct. 16, he joined a committee to welcome Army officials arriving in Watertown for the site inspection.
Summer maneuvers at Pine Plains began in 1907, when New York National Guard Soldiers occupied the encampment. Reade’s 23rd Infantry is believed to have participated in the training, and departed Madison Barracks the following year.
According to a New York Times article from Oct. 19, 1908, Reade retired (for age) with the rank of brigadier general, after 44 years of service.
Reade was not idle in retirement, having memberships in several civil, military and fraternal orders. He served as vice president of The Reade Society for Genealogical Research, which published “The Reade Record.” He was elected president of the organization on Oct. 27, 1915. Reade also published a book about his own maternal ancestors.
Years earlier, he wrote the definitive history of the military canteen, authorized by the Secretary of War Elihu Root and published in 1900.
Reade considered the canteen to be one of the most important items a service member carries. He wrote: “But where man abides in the fields, after the manner of soldiers in a campaign, he learns that his best friends are his arms, his blanket, and his rations; the last named are not any more important than his filled canteen.”
Reade was 75 when he died Oct. 21, 1919, in Massachusetts General Hospital. He was buried in the Hildreth Family Cemetery in Lowell.
An obituary printed in The Reade Record described him as “a tall, blue-eyed, fair complexioned man, genial in conversation, which in every word of utterance evinced a thorough knowledge of his subject.”
“Yet he was always the Military Man in appearance, a commanding figure wherever he went,” it continued.
In June 2008, in celebration of Fort Drum’s centennial, North Country community members gathered in Sackets Harbor for a dedication ceremony of a historical marker to recognize Reade’s service at Madison Barracks.
When the new 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum was being constructed in 2021, a new street sign – Col. Reade Road – was placed in recognition of the Army officer’s contributions to Fort Drum and the North Country.
“We sought to memorialize Col. Reade as, to us, he represented many of the things that the museum does,” said Sepp Scanlin, 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum director. “He contributed to the improvement of military equipment – the canteen – through his studies. He helped the Army adapt its infrastructure to new technology. He witnessed several conflicts and, finally, he personified the connection between our original home at Madison Barracks to our future home here.”
The museum re-opened earlier this year at its new location, Bldg. 2509 on Col. Reade Road, off State Route 26. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled at 3 p.m. June 21.
“Just like Col. Reade, we hope the museum and the history it showcases will be used to inform future developments and support the continued connection of the U.S. Army to the local community,” Scanlin said.
For more information about the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum, call (315) 774-0391 or visit www.facebook.com/FortDrumMuseum.