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Captain William Franklin Nesbitt, U. S. A.
ONE of the most popular and efficient officers in the regular United States army was the late Capt. William F. Nesbitt, mention of whose name arouses in many both admiration and regret--admiration owing to his unusual capacities for service to his country, and regret that his brilliant career should have been terminated so soon. But we are reminded of the saying of the ancient Greeks, the wisest people the world has ever known, that "whom the gods love died early." Those same Greeks, also the Romans, their equals in many respects, were great admirers of symmetrically will developed manhood, and paid great respect to athletes, who were lionized by the cultured and the heads of State. Captain Nesbitt was a many whom they would have crowned with their laurel wreaths, being unusual in both his physical and mental development, as well as the possessor of the most commendable personal characteristics. And had fate decreed that he should have lived out man's allotted three score and ten, the future would, not doubt, have been replete with success and honor worthily attained.
Captain Nesbitt was born in Cleveland, Ohio, October 24, 1875. He was a son of John and Elizabeth (Barkdull)Nesbitt. The father, who was of Scotch-Irish extraction, was born in Ireland, from which country he immigrated to America when young in years, and is now residing in Cleveland, where he established his home fifty years ago. His family consisted of three sons, of whom the subject of this memoir was the eldest; the other two are still living--James H., in Cleveland, and Richard in Oskosh, Wisconsin.
Capt. William F. Nesbett grew to manhood in the city of Cleveland where he received a public school education. After graduating from Central High School he was appointed to West Point Military Academy by Congressman Tom L. Johnson, in 1893, entering the Academy on June 15, 1894. He made an excellent record in all branches, being studious, ambitious, alert, and of fine deportment. He was graduated from that institution on April 26, 1908. He took a keen interest in the various sports of the Academy and was a star in both class and Academy athletics. He played half-back on the Academy football team in 1896 and in 1897, and was captain of the team the latter year, and as such became widely known to the sporting world, performing his duties most admirably. He was honored by being selected as a member of the famous "All America Team." He was also class "Hop" manager. He passed through the grades of cadet corporal, sergeant, and lieutenant, and while the latter was in charge of new cadets. It wa truthfully said of him that it was given to few men to command the respect and affection in classmates in such measure as did "Our Weary," (as he was familiarly known to his friends), and the same held true as to his associates in and out of he service, throughout his life.
Captain Nesbitt's first appointment after his graduation was second lieutenant and he was assigned to the Sixth Infantry in which he served through that grade, also that of first lieutenant, the latter commission coming after the battle of San Juan Hill, he having taken part in the Spanish-American War, seeing considerable service in Cuba in 1898, after which he was sent with the army to the Philippines, where he took part in subduing the insurrection of the natives. He was further promoted, being made captain in the Second Infantry on September 24, 1902, being later transferred to the Fourth Infantry on October 18 of that year. He belonged to the latter regiment until his death, with the exception of a short period, March 11 to August 15, 1911, when he was on the unassigned list.
In 1902, Captain Nesbitt was detailed as instructor in engineering in the "General Service and Staff College," the forerunner of the Service Schools at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and instructor in minerology [sic.], geology, chemistry, and electricity at West Point Military Academy four years, from 1907 to 1911. He gave eminent satisfaction to all concerned as an instructor, being profoundly versed in the subjects he taught and popular with his pupils.
He served under Major-General Frederick Funston on the expedition to Vera Cruz, Mexico, in 1914, having previously been with the troops on the border. In August, 1915, he entered the Army School of the Line. The last few months of his life was spent at Fort Leavenworth.
Captain Nesbitt was a thirty-second degree Mason and took some of the first degrees at the Newberry Lodge in Cleveland. He belonged to the Army Club, also was a member of the leading clubs in the various towns in which he was stationed during his military career. And he was popular in all of them, being a fine entertainer and conversationalist and of genial and pleasing personal address.
Captain Nesbitt was married on May 5, 1903, to Florence Compton Spencer, of Cleveland, a daughter of Charles F. and Anna (Adams) Spencer, and granddaughter of George Hartwell Adams. To the captain and wife three children were born, namely: Katharine Spencer Nesbitt, now (1916) twelve years old; John Spencer Nesbitt, ten years old; and William Franklin Nesbitt, four years old. The Captain was very fond of his family who were always with him when possible, they having made thirteen moves with him during their thirteen years of married life.
Captain Nesbitt's service on the Mexican border undermined his health, and while in a weakened condition, he was attacked by la grippe and pneumonia, which resulted in his untimely death at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on January 1, 1916, at the age of forty years. The funeral services were held in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas with full military honors and the interment was at West Point, were so much of his life had been spent.
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