Editor’s note: Portions of this article original appeared in Sunday Times on August 14, 2016
In the summer of ’16 — that is 1916 — the U.S Department of War called up the 13th Regiment to serve on the U.S./Mexico border in an effort to capture Mexican revolutionary Francisco “Pancho” Villa.
Before the entire regiment was called up, a portion of the group, Company A Engineers, left for the border in late June. The rest of the regiment was called up Aug. 10 as an infantry unit.
The 13th Regiment had men to serve but they needed more. They set up a recruiting station on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square. They also used a series of advertisements in The Scranton Times asking for men to enlist.
The men left Scranton on a special Lackawanna Railroad train for Mt. Gretna Military Reservation in Lebanon County on August 14, 1916.
The next day, the War Department ordered the halt of all troop movements to the U.S./Mexico border because of the possibility of a railroad strike. The men of the 13th were held at Mt. Gretna.
While the troops were held at Mt. Gretna, new recruits were sent to the camp to join the regiment.
On Oct. 4, 962 officers and enlisted men of the 13th Regiment finally left Mt. Gretna for the border. They arrived in El Paso, Texas, in the early morning hours of Oct. 9.
On March 12, 1917 the War Department announced that Scranton’s 13th Regiment will be leaving Camp Stewart in Texas to return home on March 17. With this news, Scranton started preparing a welcome celebration for the troops. The celebration was to feature 200 piece band and the ringing of the city’s church bells when the troops arrived at the Lackawanna Station. Due to damage to a train bridge in New Jersey, the troops finally arrived home in Scranton on March 28.
Several months later in July, the 13th regiment would be mobilized to start training to join the fight in Europe. The United States entered the war on April 6. Troops started to leave Scranton for training in Georgia in early August.
To learn more about the Mexican Punitive Expedition visit https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1997/fall/mexican-punitive-expedition-1.html