On the night of March 8, 1916, Poncho Villa raided the sleepy town of Columbus, New Mexico, an incident that would have far reaching consequences. In his attack he ran into a large portion of the 13th United States Cavalry, under Col. Herbert Slocum, leaving in his wake, seven troopers and eight American civilians dead. The raid cost Villa over 190 causalities, but more important, it brought down nearly the entire United States Military to the Mexican border. The deployment of American troops was not so much to capture Villa, as it was a pretext to get ready for the coming war in Europe.
By June Capt. “Jack” Green was trying to form a company in Dyer County for service in the campaign and reported that “we are rapidly coming in, but that a few more men are needed yet.” While Green was attempting to organize at home, the 1st Tennessee or “First Rifles," mobilized in Nashville. Two Dyer Countians, W.A. Fowlkes and Billy Ford reported for duty with the First Tennessee in June. Later the two boys would file reports with the “State Gazette” often inquiring about the status of the Dyersburg Company. Capt. Green’s Company was slow in filling up however and so in August or early September, those that had organized, departed for Nashville and joined Fowlkes and Ford in Co. M of the 1st Tennessee. Company M would be composed chiefly of men from Dyer County and Livingston, Tennessee. The regiment left Nashville Sept. 16, 1916 in route for Eagle Pass Texas where it arrived on the 20th of that month. They would be part of over 2,500 Tennesseans that mobilized for service on the border. After ten days of quarantine the company spent the next six weeks undergoing basic infantry training on the Texas plains. At the end of the initial training, they and 8,000 other troops from the camp, participated in a week long maneuver before eventually being deployed to their respective post. Time for the Company must have been dull, as they spent most of their remaining tour guarding bridges over the Rio Grande.
General Pershing was already in pursuit of Villa, but was reported to have stopped long enough with the Tennessee Troops to have his horse shoed by Jesse Bunn of Dyersburg. At the time Pershing was likely accompanied by his young aide, Lt. George Patton, an officer that the nation would hear much of in the years to come. Even though Pershing chased Villa across Mexico he was never captured. The pursuit did however scatter his forces so that they were no longer a major threat. In March of 1917 the 1st Tennessee headed back home and mustered out at Memphis on the 12th of April.
In only 19 days the unit would be recalled, this time for the World War raging in Europe. Again the company was assigned to guard bridges and rail roads, only this time in East Tennessee. After being federalized, Company M would be absorbed into the 30th Division, becoming part of Battery F, of the 115th Field Artillery.
Soon after mobilizing, the artillery unit located at Camp Sevier, South Carolina. There most of their time was spent clearing pine and training with artillery. On June 4, 1918, they sailed for Europe, leaving Long Island aboard the H.M.S. Mauretania. After the ship briefly stopped at a couple of English Ports the regiment landed at Le Havre, France in the middle of June. Instead of serving with the 30th Division they were detached and did not reunite until shortly before they sailed for home. The first time the batteries opened fire was on Sept. 1, 1918, then less than two weeks later they would be involved in the St. Mihiel Offensive, this was quickly followed by participation in the Argonne, where 3 men of the Battery were killed and another 3 wounded. On Nov.11, 1918 the battery was located on the bluffs above the Woevre Valley, in support of the 33rd Division. Here above the village of Hannonville, the battery fired its last shot at 8:00, ending their participation in the war.
Below are the names of Dyer Countians known to have served on the border with the 1st Tennessee:
The following is a list of those from Dyer County that joined the 115th Field Artillery before it shipped overseas in World War I:
By Earl L. Willoughby, Jr.
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