Punitive Expedition

In July 1912, the 16th Infantry returned from its second tour in the Philippines for duty at the Presidio of San Francisco. Two years later, the regiment was transferred with the 8th Brigade, commanded by “Black Jack” Pershing, to the Mexican Border to help secure it from depredations by Mexican bandits and paramilitary forces commanded by Francisco “Pancho” Villa. On arrival in April 1914, the regiment was posted to Camp Cotton in the city of El Paso.

For the next two years, in addition to the normal garrison duties, the troops conducted foot patrols along the dusty Mexican border, showing the flag, and attempting to keep the area under some semblance of control. In March 1916, Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico, which, in turn, caused President Woodrow Wilson to order Pershing to take an expedition into Mexico to find and punish the Mexican bandit.

Assembling a largely cavalry force, Pershing selected two infantry regiments to accompany the expedition, the 16th and 6th Infantry Regiments. The long march into the interior of Mexico was hot and dusty. After several weeks of movement between Colonia Dublan and El Valle, the 16th Infantry finally settled in the latter place in June. There the soldiers built mud brick huts for quarters and began to return to what amounted to a garrison routine, except for the occasional patrols into the nearby mountains and valleys to hunt for rumored Villistas. Though the cavalry had several clashes with Villista and Federali forces, the infantry maintained a rather dull and boring existence for the next 8 months. In February 1917, Wilson recalled Pershing’s expedition from Mexico.

  • Camp Cotton, Texas, a sub-post of Fort Bliss at El Paso, was the home of the 16th Infantry 1914-1916 before the Punitive Expedition.

  • This is the headquarters area of the 16th Infantry cantonment at Camp Cotten, El Paso, Texas, 1914.

  • The photographer’s studio in the camp of the 16th Infantry at El Paso, Texas. The photographer, Beckett, in corporal’s uniform beside his studio camera.

  • The 16th Infantry Band moving to board a train at Camp Cotton, Texas, circa 1915

  • Soldiers of the 16th Infantry at route step as they trudge into the Mexican interior in March 1916.

  • Heat and dust were the doughboys’ constant companion for the march into Mexico.

  • The supply trains for the regiment were a combination of trucks and wagons. The trucks often had difficulty negotiating the rough Mexican terrian.

  • The early camps were neat and military in appearence.

  • Tired Doughfeet of the 16th Infantry on the march into Mexico, 1916

  • The further the column moved into the interior, the less military the camps appeared. This is wash day somewhere in Mexico.

  • 16th Infantry camp en route to El Valle, Mexico, 1916

  • Messing and sanitation rules were strictly followed. This is the mess tent for the 3rd Battalion.

  • A mess sergeant and his kitchen police.

  • Troops line up for hot chow somewhere en route to El Valle.

  • A temporary tent shelter.

  • This is most likely a company orderly room set up at one of the longer stays in camp en route to El Valle.

  • Troops of A Company, 16th Infantry in camp at San Geronimo, Mexico, 27 May 1916

  • MG Platoon, 16th Infantry conducting maintenance at Casa Grande, Mexico

  • Troops of the 16th Infantry prepare protective entrenchments to protect the camp at Colonia Dublan.

  • A view of the 16th Infantry camp at El Valle, Mexico, home of the 16th Infantry from June 1916 to February 1917.

  • Another view of the camp at El Valle.

  • Inspecting packs, M Company, 16th Infantry, El Valle, Mexico, 16 September 1916. Orderly room and bulletin board, in foreground.

  • The soldiers of the 16th Infantry slept in these adobe huts at El Valle. Note shelter halves used as rooves.

  • Officers of the 3rd Battalion pose for a picture at El Valle, Mexico.

  • The troop acquired a puppy to help break the periods of boredom and loneliness

  • Boredom was an infantryman’s lot on the Punitive Expedition. These troops enjoy a short reprieve by riding a donkey that wandered into their camp.