Pullman in the First World War

That Rascal, Pancho Villa

The brutal Mexican Revolution lasted from 1910 to 1920. Caused by the 1910 succession crisis of President Diaz, several rival factions battled for the presidency. Former rebel leader Jose Garza became head of state of Mexico in 1915, eventually elected President in 1917.  U.S. President Woodrow Wilson reluctantly agreed to support Garza, believing that supporting him was the best way to establish a stable government in Mexico and withdrew support from rival and competing factions.

Garza’s ascendancy and withdrawal of U.S. support was bitterly opposed by a rival rebel leader, Pancho Villa. In retaliation, Villa attacked a train on the Mexico North Western Railway, killing a number of employees of the American Smelting and Refining Company in January, 1916. On March 9, 1916, Villa conducted a raid against Columbus, New Mexico. Several buildings were burned and 18 civilians were killed.

In response, Wilson sent 5,000 soldiers under the overall command of General Frederick Funston and the direct command of General John Pershing with the mission of capturing Villa and destroying his base of operations. The Punitive Expedition, as it became known, pursued Villa and his troops through northern Mexico. The Expedition, unable to locate Villa, eventually withdrew on February 7, 1917. (More information)

The people of Pullman responded enthusiastically to the call to arms...


Conditions in the rural Southwest and the Chihuahuan Desert were absolutely miserable in the summer weather, and the outmoded U.S. Army equipment was woefully inadequate. Pullman employee Christoph L. Stellwag (clerk, Railway Supply Department) wrote of his experiences in Company M., 1st Regiment of the Illinois National Guard serving in the campaign:

"When the President called us to the colors on June 19th last, the First Regiment I. N. G. responded 1200 strong under the command of Col. Sanborn. After five days consumed in being mustered into the United States regular service, we were transferred to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, which is the largest fort in the United States, and is situated ninety miles from the Mexican border. From this point we marched at different times to the following camps, viz: Leon Springs, twenty-five miles; New Braunfelds, thirty-five miles; and Laredo, ninety miles. Our rations consisted mostly of canned goods, beans, army biscuit and smoked salt pork. On our first hike, to Leon Springs, the temperature was 135 degrees and we carried a pack of sixty-five pounds each, walking at the rate of two and one-half to three miles per hour. Out of three regiments making the march, 600 fell out, due to the heat and fatigue, and the hospital corps was kept busy taking care of them."



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