In 1916, after paramilitary forces led by Mexican General Francisco “Pancho” Villa began raiding U.S. border towns, President Wilson ordered U.S. General John Pershing to capture the Mexican leader. From March until June, Pershing’s attempts failed, and Villa’s men continued to raid U.S. ranches and towns. As hopes for a resolution faded, Pershing ordered guardsmen from each state to the border to help stem the attacks, and on this date, companies of the North Dakota First Infantry were called up by President Woodrow Wilson and ordered to Fort Lincoln to begin training.
Early on the morning of June 25th, companies across the state boarded trains bound for Mandan. Every city, it seemed, gave grand farewells to send off their local boys. In Grand Forks, local businessmen and women rose early to prepare an elaborate 5 o’clock breakfast for Company M soldiers at the Masonic Temple. They were joined by Company C of Grafton, and both companies left on the 6 o’clock train bound for Fargo. Over three thousand people turned out to bid the soldiers adieu.
In Fargo, Company B participated in a candlelight vigil the evening before their departure. Fifteen hundred residents joined the guardsmen in front of the Fargo Armory, singing “Onward, Christian Soldiers” and “America.” The following morning, thousands more turned out to see the men off at 7 o’clock. By 8:45, the Grafton and Grand Forks companies arrived to switch trains, and Fargo residents once again turned out. Residents of Bismarck and Mandan also greeted the companies upon their arrival.
In all, nearly a thousand North Dakotans were sent to the Mexican Border for eight months. In January of 1917, the men were called home to prepare for the Great War in Europe.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
Dill, Joseph (ed.). 1988 North Dakota: 100 Years: p. 16. The Forum Publishing Company: Fargo, ND.
The Forum and Daily Republican. Monday (Evening ed.), June 26, 1916: p. 1.