TABLE OF CONTENTS
Guide to the Texas Mexico Border Campaign at Camp Stewart photographs MS 085
Camp Stewart was established at El Paso, Texas, specifically for defense of the Texas-Mexico border against attacks by Pancho Villa and his followers. The campaign known as the Mexican Border campaign, or Pershing’s Punitive Expedition, began on March 15, 1916, when on orders from President Woodrow Wilson, Major General John J. Pershing led an expeditionary force of 4800 men in pursuit of Pancho Villa, who had raided the town of Columbus, New Mexico, six days earlier. A series of battles between Pershing’s and Villa’s forces followed, none of them decisive. It was hoped that the expedition would capture Villa dead or alive and put a stop to any future forays by his paramilitary forces on American soil.
Following a battle at Carrizal on June 21, when eleven Americans were killed and another twenty-four taken prisoner, General Pershing asked for permission to attack the Carvancista garrison of Chihuahua. President Wilson refused because of his expectation that doing so would start a war. The expedition continued, making contact with Villista forces, but never succeeding at capturing Villa himself. American troops remained in Mexico into the winter, but on January 19, 1917, the order came to withdraw. Pershing is said to have reflected that at the time active pursuit of Villa had stopped, the American troops had broken up and scattered Villa’s band, which had been the original mission.
This collection consists of two large framed panoramic photographs and an album of 148 snapshots, all depicting the encampment of Pennsylvania’s infantry and cavalry regiments at Camp Stewart, El Paso, Texas, in 1916. The panoramic views show primarily the expanse of tents with wagons, pieces of heavy equipment, and a few soldiers in the foreground and the Franklin Mountains in the background. The snapshots appear to be a soldier’s record of experience during the 1916-1917 Mexican Border Campaign led by General John J. Pershing. The album begins with scenes that suggest the sending off of the troops, including a picture of perhaps the maker of the album with his family. There are scenes of formal inspection, drills, soldiers marching in the desert landscape, and others making their way through the chow line. A few pictures give an idea of camp life in “off hours”: for instance, in one, soldiers are encircling a boxing match, and in another, two individuals are having Mohawk haircuts admired. Shots taken for their travel interest include rugged mountain landscapes, streets with local inhabitants in an unidentified Mexican town, and the international bridge connecting El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. The photographs also show supplies arriving by both truck and train and soldiers watering their horses at river’s edge. Two photographs apparently taken for the dress of the subjects depict a chaps-wearing cowboy and a well-dressed vaquero. Also included are pictures of the capitol in Washington, D.C., and well-dressed women in a distinctive-looking automobile.
Conditions Governing Access note
This material is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use note
Permission to publish material from the Texas/Mexico Border Campaign photographs must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library.
Texas Mexico Border Campaign at Camp Stewart photographs, 1916-1917, MS 085, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University
Purchased from a manuscript dealer in 2012.