One-hundred years ago this month, June 20, 1916, 78 Grays assembled at the Armory. As the Grays’ band played, and other Grays, friends, and family cheered, the men marched to the railroad station, en route to Dayton. There they were mustered in as Company F, 3rd Ohio Infantry Regiment. From Dayton the regiment would eventually deploy to Ft. Bliss, Texas to serve in the Border Campaign.
Three months earlier, March 9, a band of Mexican revolutionaries led by Francisco “Pancho” Vila had attacked Clovis, New Mexico, and the adjacent Camp Furlong cavalry post. The battle left 10 civilians and 8 soldiers dead, several other civilians and soldiers were wounded. Thirteen of Vila’s men were killed; five were captured, and later hanged for murder. The American public was outraged.
President Woodrow Wilson ordered a force under Brigadier General John J. Pershing into Mexico to search for Vila (who evaded capture), and the National Guard was called into federal service to patrol the U. S. – Mexico border.
Changes in state and federal law in 1903 and 1904 had abolished the independent militias; the Grays were no longer a recognized military unit. But, Grays wanted to serve, and serve together. Largely through the efforts of Grays’ commander Captain Ludwig S. Conelly, a block of Grays was able to join the short-handed 3rd Ohio. In addition to the Grays of Company F, four Cuyahoga County-based National Guard units served in the Border Campaign: 5th Ohio Infantry; Troop A, Ohio Cavalry; Battery A, Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery; and, the Battalion of Engineers.
The Grays endured heat, dust, and, mostly, boredom during the campaign. They did experience innovation: Cleveland-built White Motor Company touring cars were used for scouting and patrol. And, the Ohio units took part in a brief division-strength maneuver, the largest drill of U. S. ground forces since the Civil War.
The Grays and other local Guard troops came home in March 1917; a few weeks after their return, the United States entered World War I.