1916 – Collection of photographs from the Mexican Border War including piles of dead bandits from Pancho Villa’s raid on Columbus, New Mexico, and an inexplicable photo of an African-American private assigned to the otherwise all-white 3rd Field Artillery Regiment
Mexican Border: 1916. Disbound. This collection of 59 photographs was purchased as a lot from a woman who had removed them from a disintegrating family album that chronicled “Uncle Max” Mittag’s service as a cook in Battery A, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment during the Mexican Border Campaign. All of the photos have scrapbook remnants, scuffs and thins on the reverse; many also have clipped corners, creases, tears, and chips. Most are snapshots and several are real photo post cards. There were a several loose, grimy captions which I transcribed.
Fort Sam Houston, Texas was the home of the 3rd Field Artillery Regiment from the unit’s 1907 organization until it departed for France in World War I. In 1916, the 3rd deployed to locations along the Mexican border in response to the attack on Columbus, New Mexico by the Mexican bandit-revolutionary, Pancho Villa, and elements of his División del Norte. The regiment patrolled from points along the border including Camp McIntosh (Laredo), Camps Duncan and Shafter (Eagle Pass), and Camp Stewart (El Paso). An unposted RPPC, sent home by Mittag under separate cover, shows eight soldiers and reads in part, “We are on the Mexican border but we hike back to San Antonio Monday morning. . .. Max Mittag, 3 Field Arti. Battery A. Fort Sam Houston.”
Cadavers at Columbus, New Mexico – Seven grisly RPPCs of dead Mexican bandits and horses that Pancho Villa left when his army fled back into Mexico. Three have copyrights of W. H. Thorne, the first photographer to arrive on-site, and four bear copyrights of “R R”. Some are captioned, e.g.,, “Dead on the Battlefield,” “Crowds looking at the Dead,” etc.
An African-American Private and other "comrades: – The photo, when enlarged, clearly shows the black soldier wearing collar insignia from Battery A, 3rd Field Artillery. (This is one of ten photos that probably went with a loose caption that read “Comrades of Max. None are identified.”
At Fort Sam Houston
One posed image of twenty enlisted men and two officers and three of smartly uniformed soldiers riding their horses,
Three images of Mittag’s mess team: one in a kitchen, one in cooks’ whites, and one in fatigues.
Three images of soldiers two large trucks and a tracked caterpillar tractor,
Three stable pictures of soldiers, horses, and a mule,
One image of two members of the A Battery baseball team, and six of soldiers relaxing: shooting craps, feeding the famous deer that, still today, live on the Ft. Sam Houston quadrangle, etc.
On Border Duty
One image of a soldier by a border marker in the middle of a bridge, probably the Rio Grande,
Two images of army aircraft flying over the desert,
One image of General Pershing and his staff visiting the unit.
Three photos of gunnery practice plus one of an artillery piece that had a breech failure. Another shows a civilian attending to a wounded soldier, possibly from breech explosion.
One image of a work detail with a faded caption that (with photo manipulation) can be read, “Battery B, 3rd Regiment of Artillery, Camp McIntosh, Laredo, Texas”,
A photograph of pistol practice,
Two photos of soldiers eating a meal at a field kitchen; one is captioned “A Battery’s Line up for mess.”
Four photos of men relaxing outside of their tents including one with a cowboy in chaps and bandana
Return to Fort Sam Houston - Two images of soldiers unloading equipment at a San Antonio railhead.. Item #009873
(For more information, see “3rd Field Artillery” in Regiments of the Army 1984, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy. . .. vol 6, “Camp Shafer” and “Fort Duncan” at the TSHA website, “Camp Stewart” at Portals to Texas History, and correspondence of Private H. E. Siegrist at Eagle Pass from Aztec Collectibles.)
A very nice collection of scarce and historically important photos. The most important images, e.g., the Columbus cadavers, the integrated African-American artilleryman, and railhead photos are in nice shape.
Mexican Border War photo collections occasionally appear at auction and a number are held by institutions. However, few are from Regular Army regiments like the 3rd Artillery, and fewer contain even one image of dead Mexicans at Columbus. I know of no other pre-Cold War photograph of an African-American soldier assigned to an otherwise all white unit.
Condition issues, so priced accordingly.