1916 - Home

Essex Troop – 1916     The Mexican Border                        


The Cause - Tensions between The United States and Mexico were seriously strained in the early part of 1916. The United States government declared that the Mexican government; headed by Prime Minister Uriel Carranza, was unable or unwilling to maintain the security along the U.S.-Mexico border. Raids into U.S. territory by Mexican bandits; most notable Francisco Villa, better known as Pancho Villa increased the political tensions to its boiling point on March 9, 1916.  Villa raided the small town of Columbus, New Mexico. Approximately 500 to 1,000 Mexican bandits attacked the camp of the 13th Cavalry near Columbus. Several soldiers of the 13th Cavalry and several civilians from the town were killed as a result of this raid. The prime minister and Pancho Villa were generals of the Mexican Revolution of 1910; this could explain the prime ministers lack of enthusiasm to intervene on the side of the U.S. An international crisis had rapidly moved to a military confutation.  Orders were issued to Brigadier General John J. Perishing to assemble a force and pursue the raider into Mexico. General Perishing setup headquarters in the town of (Nuevo) Casa Grandes in the Mexican State of Chihuahua. General Perishing was unable to halt the raids along the border and reinforcements were requested. On May 9, 1916 the National Guard of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona were mobilized and were assigned to patrol their respective borders.

The mobilization of the National Guard of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona quickly proved to be insufficient for the demands of the operations. Security along the border improved, but additional troops were needed to insure the safety of American citizens. The Mexican government under Prime Minister Carranza, demonstrated continued reluctance to help solve the situation along the border. The Prime Minister was presenting himself as a dictator of the country; therefore an underscored tone of arrogance existed during the political negotiations. On May 22, 1916, a note was presented to the American Government from the Prime Minister of Mexico, which demanded that the American Government explain its true intensions toward Mexico. The note continued to demand the immediate withdrawal of American Forces in Mexico. The same day President Woodrow Wilson issued an order of mobilization to several states, ordering specific National Guard units to active duty for border service. Between May 22 and June 20, 1916 additional political negotiations continued, with strong warnings of tough military actions, along with the diplomatic hope to avoid the military actions.

First Squadron Reports – With the international stage set the Guardsmen of the First Squadron begin to report to their armories in Newark, West Orange, Red Bank and Plainfield on June 10, 1916. New enlistments for the vacancies among the ranks of the Cavalry soldiers and special duty personnel filled out the personnel rosters of the Squadron.  Troop A recruited to a total strength of 90 men and Troop C reached a strength of 100 men. A final inspection was conducted on June 20 and orders were issued for movement to the camp at Sea Girt. Wednesday, the 21st the Squadron moved, via railroad and local roadways and assembled at Sea Girt. Troops B and D reported the same day, Troop B moving on horseback. The Troops were quartered at the Buckalew Farm in Manasquan, New Jersey. The farm was located at the southern edge of the town, between the present day Routes 70 and 35. Rain came on the first and second day in camp, which turned the once dry fields to ocean of mud. Training began the following day, new recruits had to be trained, and new horses had to be broken in and a habitual camp needed to be established. This schedule continued until June 26, 1916 when orders were received for Troops A and C to move to Texas.

Move to the Mexican Border - The movement orders for Troops A and C were not clear for the exact time, but stated to be ready to move on Tuesday or Wednesday, June 27th or 28th. An excited order was issued on June 26th for the Troops to move the same day; Monday and to entrain at 1745 hours (5:45 pm). Quickly the camp was disassembled packed and every aspect was completed for the move. The Troops reported to the rail station only to be told there is a delay and the movement would not occur until Tuesday evening on, June 27, 1916. The same snap orders were issued to the artillery, who were also delayed in their movement and loading at the rail station. Loading of horses and equipment began at 1315 hours (1:15 pm) Tuesday and was completed around 1900 hours (7:00 pm) the same day. The rail station had only one ramp, so needless to say only one railcar at a time was loaded. Once the car was loaded the entire train had to be moved in order to load the next railcar. As is always possible for these types of operations, the wrong railcars were delivered. Many of the cars were double decked sheep cars. These cars had to be dismantled and cleaned out before loading the horses. Additionally, as mention above many of the horses were green and the work mules were not adjusted to the riggers of Cavalry demands. These animals took extra care in loading and handling. Once the loading operation was complete, there was need for a well deserved rest. The Troopers had loaded 11 stock cars, holding 204 horses and 24 mules; 1 baggage car, holding all the troop baggage and 5 box cars completing the storage of the troop equipment.  194 officers and men were ready to rest and move on the 8 day coaches. Departure was delayed; once again, until Wednesday June 28, 1916, when the train finally left Sea Girt at noon. When the train finally left Sea Girt, this was the first time many of the young Troopers had ever left New Jersey. The Squadron staff with Troops B and D was scheduled to follow along the next week. It appears this was accomplished with much the same inconvenience and typical delays.  

The train was routed through Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Memphis, Little Rock, Fort Reno, Amarillo, and finally El Paso, Texas. Pittsburgh marked the first stop for unloading, feeding and caring of the horses on June 28, 1916. Soldiers of the Army Medical Corps meet the Troops to perform inoculations against typhoid.  All along the trains route many of the local citizens came out to greet the passing troop trains. The next stop for the train was in Memphis and again the horses were unloaded, feed and cared for. In Memphis the Troopers were allowed to visit the local Y.M.C.A. for a swim and shower. A local string band was setup on a platform at the station and the Troopers were greeted by local young ladies for a night of dancing. The balance of the trip to El Paso was uneventful. While traveling through Texas to El Paso and upon the arrival at El Paso the Troopers saw first hand the type of country they were going to operate in. Hot arid plains greeted the Troopers as they traveled further West of El Paso. The plains of New Mexico and Arizona are a collection of dust devils, cactus and mesquite. Heat simmers rising from the hot sands dampened the spirits of the Northern Troopers. Upon the arrival at the site of Villa’s raid; Columbus, Arizona, the Troopers were issued live ammunition and a security detail was established on each platform of the railcars. Finally, early morning July 4, 1916 the Troopers arrived at Douglas, Arizona. The Troopers were welcomed to Douglas with a hot desert wind and 130 degrees at the mid-day. The Troopers were directed to area about a half mile West of Douglas and about a half mile North of the Mexican Border.  

ESTABLISH CAMP – The Troopers were welcomed with a thermometer topping out at 130 degrees and dry winds coming off the desert. The surrounding air was full of the sulfur fumes from the nearby copper smelters. The idea that Arizona was a dry, hot climate was soon dispelled, the winds increased and two days of rain turned the dry landscape into a sea of mud. Because the climate was dry, drainage systems were not built and many of the tents were not elevated above the ground level. This was one of the priority tasks completed after the storm passed and the area dried out. Troopers were turned into a massive labor force, a feeling of complacency settled in to the extent that this trip was nothing more then an extended summer camp.  The locals relaxed their vigilance with a sense of security upon the arrival of the Squadron. Rehabilitation of the camp consumed much of the training day for several weeks. The Squadron did not begin any real training until the rehabilitation of the camp was completed. The return of the hot weather slowed the work around the camp and the change in the altitude hampered the Troopers efforts during the weeks of construction.




Marker designating the border between the USA and Mexico     
in 1916. Aqua Prieta, Mexico appears in the background.


With the construction finally completed the Squadron turned to training and the tasks of a Cavalry Squadron in a combat zone. The new enlisted Troopers needed training, the new horses required attention, pickets had to be established and guard details need to be workout. The typical day began with reveille at 0500 (5:15 am) hours, assembly and roll call fifteen minutes later.  All troops turned too and groomed and fed the horses of the command. Mess call was sounded at 0600 (6:00 am) hours, followed by “Boots and saddles” at 1030 hours. “Boots and saddles” is an older term used to describe the formation of the command, all Troopers mounted on their horses with all equipment for a march. The Squadron Commander may select to inspect one or more of the Troops; the balance of the Squadron would react to the 1100 hours call of stables, with noon mess call sounded at 1300 (1:00 pm) hours. Call of stables was the necessary cleaning and maintenance of the stables, not a very dignified task, but never the less necessary. The balance of the day was committed to training, details (known as fatigue work). Retreat was sounded at 1755 (5:55 pm) hours, and taps completed the day at 2300 (11:00 pm) hours.

Once a period of acclimation passed, the Jersey Troopers became a well trained and hardened command of cavalry. The quality of food improved, the regulation of the daily activities served to build a well organized and dedicated squadron. The Troopers were allowed free time in the evening, were many of the Troopers visited the Hotel Gadsden in Douglas. The free time coupled with the increased and interesting training aided in the development of a well trained and highly motivated squadron. At one point Brigadier General John J. Hines issued an order that placed Douglas on the restricted list for all troops. This order was based on a complaint from Medical Command that an increase of stomach problems among Troopers that dined in Douglas. This restriction was short lived when a strong decent was voiced throughout the command.




The Camp at Douglas, Arizona in September 1916. The Calumet and
Arizona Copper Smelters are in the background. The hills of Mexico
Can be seen further behind the smelters.


LIFE IMPROVES, CHANGES AND MOVES ON. The Squadron built upon the riggers of the daily schedule and proved its value during a medical inspection on July 25, 1916. The medics conducted an in-depth medical exam of the Squadron. Only 4 Troopers were found unfit for duty, the Squadron was classified in excellent shape for duty. Typhoid became an increasing problem throughout the operational theater and an inoculation program was conducted, beginning with the First Squadron. This program consisted several inoculation of a prescribed period of time for Para-typhoid.

In addition to the loss of the four Troopers because of the medical disqualification, the Squadron would loss its beloved Commander; Major William A. Bryant.  Major Bryant’s health took a turn for the worst, resulting in his resignation as the First Squadron Commander in early August 1916. First Lieutenant Hobart B. Brown of Troop C was appointed as the Squadron Commander. Second Lieutenant Lewis B. Ballantyne was promoted to first lieutenant for Troop C. First Sergeant Joseph H. Lecour was promoted to second lieutenant in Troop C. Finally Sergeant William G. Wherry was promoted as First Sergeant for Troop C.
The losses continued when First Lieutenant Henry H. Bertram was called home in September 1916. His replacement Second Lieutenant Edwin C. Feigenspan from Troop B was appointed the adjutant and promoted to first lieutenant for the Squadron.

Training expanded to mock battles between Troops, expanding the Squadron capabilities and responsibilities. The mock battles began in September 1916, were Troops B and C were matched against each other. The first sham battle dictated that Troop C was to ambush a wagon train escorted by Troop B. The exercise took place about 10 miles outside of the camp, with Troop C establishing an ambush site. The ambush was successfully executed, while the scout and point Troopers failed to detect the ambushing Troopers. The wagon train was attacked by dismounted elements of Troops C; designated as the Blue Force, and finished off by a mounted pistol attack. Review of the exercise pointed to the necessity for improvements to the training schedule. Security patrols became a daily function of the Squadron. Patrols were scheduled to be conducted 24 hour a day and 7 days a week. These patrols enhanced the leadership of the junior officers and noncommissioned officers.

Sharing the camp with the First Squadron were the First Infantry Regiment and one of the Brigade Headquarters from New Jersey. These units were ordered to return to New Jersey in early September, leaving the Squadron to expand its responsibilities for the security of the camp. Again this added responsibility aided in the efforts of the Squadron to improve the skill level of the Troops. Night patrols become a common occurrence for the Troops, which opened a new sent of training difficulties for the leaders. These night patrols aided the leadership to improving and strengthening of the chain or command in the Squadron.

Rumors circulated throughout the Squadron of returning home in the coming weeks of September 1916. The Army had different plans for the First Squadron in September 1916. The Squadron was ordered to conduct a 60 mile march from Douglas to Fort Huachuca. Fort Huachuca is located northwest of Douglas, using local trails and unimproved roads. The entire Squadron with trains left Douglas on September 14, 1916. The march was conducted in several stages and completed in three days. The Squadron made camp in the area of Forrest, Arizona which is about 12 miles from Douglas. Mock battles occurred along the route of march between Troopers of the Regular Cavalry and the Troops of the Squadron. Additional camps were setup near Don Luis, Hereford and the final arrival at Fort Huachuca. The route of the march took the Troopers near famous sight of the OK Coral in Tombstone, Arizona. Then following along the route of the present day Arizona Route 82, arriving at Fort Huachuca from the north. The need to carefully plan the route of march was important due to the lack of natural water sources. A potential problem occurred at the scheduled stop at Don Luis. Many of the wells at Don Luis were dry and forced the Squadron to enforce a water discipline act. This water discipline called for the horse to receive the majority of the water on hand, and the Troopers were ordered to walk the horse for great distances. Once again, this situation added to the discipline and professionalism of the Squadron. Throughout the march, each Troop was assigned special details for the security of the camp site. The routine enforced the Cavalry standard of “my horse, my men, myself.”

Upon arrival at Fort Huachuca; at the time the home base of the US 10th Cavalry; the Troopers were treated to many luxuries not seen in many months. At the fort were a full size, outdoor swimming pool, movie theater and Post Exchange. The Squadron left Fort Huachuca in a few days, taking a more southerly route. The return two day march was not completed without mishap. During a rest halt, Lieutenant George Wilkinson; of Troop A, was severely injured after a horse kicked him in the thigh.  Captain Wilbur Kyle was injured during training when his horse stepped in a gopher hole. The Captain broke his collarbone.


TRAINING CONTINUES. Soon after the Squadron’s return to Camp Douglas an endurance race was held. Competitors entered from the 1st U.S. Cavalry, 6th Field Artillery and the First Cavalry Squadron NJNG. The race required the competitors to circumvent a 76 mile course, stopping at stations along the route. The trails along the route were difficult to follow in the daytime; at night dead reckoning was the best course of action. The soldiers reported at 1800 (6:00 pm) hours, received their instructions, hand written maps and individual start time were announced. Each participant was started at 10 minute intervals.  Lieutenant William McHord from the 1st U.S. Cavalry won the race, completing the race in 21 hours. The name of the Squadron competitor is not recorded in any available records. It is known that he completed the course in 25 hours.  

RETURN HOME. Orders were received in late September; relieving the Squadron from duty on the border. The exact date was not announced, due to the lack of railroad equipment. The Squadron finally entrained on October 7, 1916, all the men and equipment were packed and made ready for the move to New Jersey. All the horses were turned in to the Quartermaster at Camp Douglas. After a brief stop in El Paso, Texas, the long trip home ended on October 15, 1916. The train pulled into the Central Railroad Station in Newark, NJ early in the morning. The returning Troopers were met by their families, local dignitaries and the Newark Police Marching Band. The Police Band escorted the Troopers back to the Essex Troop Armory on Roseville Avenue. Troop B and D changed trains in Newark for their final leg of the trip to Red Bank and Plainfield, NJ. Within a week most of the Troopers were mustered out of federal service and returned to the state militia service. The Squadron; less those Troopers discussed previously, returned home with all of the Troopers that were mustered in to service the previous May. After a well deserved rest, regular weekly and monthly training drills resumed. Mission complete!



Troop A and C march along Orange Street to the
Essex Troop Armory on Roseville Avenue, Newark, NJ


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