Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chasing Villa, A Schuylkill Haven Cavalryman in Texas

Schuylkill Countians at Camp Stewart Texas, 1916

The following letter was written by Earl C. Roeder, from Schuylkill Haven a member of Troop H, 8th U.S. Cavalry, stationed on Hester’s Ranch, at Cierra Blana , Texas.


Schuylkill Haven Call
November 30, 1917

“We arrived at our new quarters from Fort Bliss, a distance of 225 miles having covered the entire distance o n horseback. Maybe we were not tired. We rode during the entire day and at night would assemble in groups and carry brush together upon which some of slept, while others slept on the hard sand. It took us six days to make the hike down into the Big Ben Valley; two of our mules died enroute as the days were terribly hot and the nights almost freezing. The entire 8th Cavalry is here for patrol duty and it looks as we might be here until next summer. We relieved the 7th Cavalry while the 5th Cavalry took our place at Fort Bliss.
One of the first things we did after arriving was to divide the troop and send a company to each ranch along the entire Texas border. It certainly is a dead place and hardly fit to live in. If the Lord ever forgot to complete the creation of a place, it is some parts of this state. There are quite a; large number of wild animals strolling the plains and brush hills. It reminds me of a zoological ranch with raccoons, foxes, squirrels, wild doves, wild cats, jack rabbits. White wild geese are abundant along the river front and lakes. If we want any fresh meat, we shoulder a gun and in a short time the boys are preparing some of the above mentioned for a glorious meal.

As the Mexicans are fighting almost continuously among themselves we must patrol the entire border. Corp Labett and myself were compelled to patrol and we rode a distance of 44 miles return. It is evident that the Mexicans are preparing for a big battle among themselves as we could plainly see the Mexican Yakki Indians going down their side of the river to give battle to a crowd of Vila men, who were located about 80 miles from our camp. We can hear them shoot and on Friday, Nov, 2 they had a battle about 15 miles away from our camp. With the aid of a pair of field glasses, we could see their cavalry charging one another and watched them until dusk, but could not tell which side won the day’s conflict.
On our return back from patrol, we met our entire troop of 268 men. They had heard the shooting and believing we were attacked, were on their way down to assist us. We camped in the brushes until morning, and then returned to our camp or headquarters. We could observe a few of the fighters on the other side of the river. Again on Sunday our captain received a telegram that 600 of Vila’s soldiers were coming south. A new patrol was immediately made up and we followed the 600 Mexicans down the river so that they would attempt to enter upon American soil. The patrol followed them until it was observed that the Mexicans were watering their horses and were going to camp for the night. A second patrol was made up to relieve the first, as they had neither food, for themselves or their horses. I was in this second patrol. We started at nine o’clock at night, just as it was getting real cold.
During the night we were compelled to sleep on the sand, with no blankets or sweaters and we dare not make a fire for fear of them spying upon us from the other side. It was midnight when we arrived were the other patrol was stationed. We had taken food along to last three days. The following morning we had breakfast early. The Mexicans never rise until the sun comes out and it’s nice and warm. Long before they ready we prepared to follow them still further south. We had trailed them from Sunday night until Tuesday noon when we met troop F, who patrol the district south of us.
IN the afternoon we started back to our camp, a distance of 120 miles. Maybe our dinner after arriving at camp didn’t taste good, following several days with nothing to eat but hard tack and sleeping on the ground. We were in camp but a few hours when ordered patrol again. However this order was recalled when it was ascertained that we had arrived but a few hours before. When we go on patrol each man has a horse and a mule, one mule carries food and the other oats. This branch of the service I like as one can ride on patrol, and is not compelled to walk.
The YMCA is doing a splendid work here in Texas in the border; many soldiers have been with out money and have gone to the YMCA where they have supplied him with stationery and supplies in order that he might send a few lines home.

Chasing Vila Cavalry Style.

Editors Note:
Men from Schuylkill County served along the Border “Chasing Vila” as it was called in a few different Pennsylvania State Regiments. Notably the 8th Pennsylvania.
Doroteo Arango, alias Francisco “Pancho” Villa, was born in 1877 (1879 according to some sources) in San Juan del Rio, State of Durango, Mexico. During his lifetime, he was a ruthless killer (killing his first man at age sixteen), a notorious bandit (including cattle rustling and bank robbery), a revolutionary (a general commanding a division in the resistance against the 1913-14 Victoriano Huerta dictatorship), and despite his bloodthirsty nature, an enduring hero to the poor people of Mexico. In their minds, Villa was afraid of no one, not the Mexican government or the gringos from the United States. He was their one true friend and avenger for decades of Yankee oppression.

Schuylkill County Boys In Texas 1916

Villa and his “pistoleros” launched raids along the U.S.- Mexico boundary to frighten the Americans living in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona border towns. Concerned for the safety of Americans, President Wilson ordered the War Department to begin deploying troops to Texas and New Mexico. In April, 1915, Brigadier General John J. Pershing and his 8th Infantry Brigade were sent to Fort Bliss, Texas with the mission of guarding the U.S.- Mexico border from Arizona to a bleak outpost in the Sierra Blanca mountains ninety miles southeast of El Paso

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