Friday, January 20, 2012

Chasing Pancho Villa and the Great War

Last summer, as I researched the family of my paternal Great-Grandfather Luis Gallegos, I came across information about Luis’ younger brother, Anastacio Gallegos, and his service in World War I. There was a reference to his internment at the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. I had driven by the majestic cemetery many times, but never visited it. Since I worked near the Santa Fe Plaza, about a mile from the cemetery, I decided one day to walk over and locate the grave site, which identified Anastacio as Private in the U.S. Army during World War I.

I later received Anastacio’s biography and war service from the state archives, which shed some light for my research. But like many military records, these records do not give any clues about the horrors that many men suffered in combat.

The military bio states that Anastacio was born on June 25, 1894 in the village of San Ignacio, NM, to Manuel and Francisquita Gallegos. (his actual date of birth was Jan. 6, 1894, according to his baptismal record.) He enlisted as a volunteer in Albuquerque, where he lived at the time. He served in the “army of occupation,” arriving overseas in July 7, 1918, fighting with Company K, 54th Infantry, 4th Division in France for a year. He arrived back in the U.S. following the war, on Aug. 5, 1919. He earned a Bronze Victory Button and was discharged on Aug. 15, 1919 at Camp Travis, Texas. He was given travel pay to return to Albuquerque.

Anastacio Gallegos in uniform with sister Ishmael
I wrongly assumed that Anastacio’s service in WWI was the extent of his military service. It wasn’t. Before he left for France, Anastacio participated in the Mexican Punitive Expedition as a member of the New Mexico National Guard. He was one of thousands of National Guard troops from nearly every state that were ordered to track down Francisco “Pancho” Villa following his deadly attack at Columbus, NM in 1916. President Woodrow Wilson ordered the mission, headed by Major-General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing.

While the Americans failed to capture Pancho Villa, “the Mexican Punitive Expedition served as a training ground and prelude to World War I, coming just prior to our participation in that war,” according to a 2005 article by Karen Stein Daniel, the former editor of the New Mexico Genealogist. Stein Daniel said many of the men who served under Major-General Pershing (future General George S. Patton was an aide to Pershing in Mexico) went almost immediately to serve in WWI.  When they mustered out of service, Pvt. Anastacio Gallegos was one of 732 enlisted men with the New Mexico National Guard, having served in Company L.

Shortly after discovering the muster rolls for the Mexican Punitive Expedition, I got yet another surprise from my newly discovered cousin in California, Tomas Perez. His grandmother, Ishmael, was the younger sister to Anastacio and my Great-Grandfather Luis. Along with photos of his grandmother, Tomas also sent me photos of Anastacio, including an amazing real-picture postcard from Columbus during his military service. The real-picture postcards, produced by Walter H. Horne’s Mexican War Photo Postcard Company, became famous during the Mexican Punitive Expedition, according to a 2010 article by Charles Bennett in El Palacio magazine. Horne used true photographs of the war and other events along the border, produced chemically from a negative onto photographic paper with a postcard back.

“For the thousands of men across America now encamped on the Mexican border, postcards were the most convenient and memorable way to communicate with family and friends, according to Bennett. “Photo picture postcards were all the more practical in that they married two graphic modes, handwriting and photography. They were the e-mail of their day.”

Anastacio sent the Horne postcard, with a photo of a New Mexico National Guard Unit, to his mother, Francisquita. He asks for her blessings and hopes she has thousands of happy moments.

He sent another postcard, dated Oct. 16, 1916, to his niece – his sister Ishmael’s daughter – Carlota Gallegos.

Anastacio Gallegos lived a long, 96 years, passing away in 1990 in Albuquerque. He had many children, but one in particular stands out. His son, Eddie Gallegos, was very close with my Grandpa Carlos Gallegos. My Grandpa stayed with relatives in Albuquerque for some time during high school. My Dad thinks his father lived with his favorite cousin Eddie. Both Carlos and Eddied served in World War II. My Dad said he remembers the two of them getting together in Albuquerque and telling war stories while drinking beer – “a lot of beer.”

Anastacio’s younger brother, Ignacio Gallegos (also my Great-Grandfather Luis’ brother) was also a war veteran and a member of the DAV, according to his obituary.

1 comment:

  1. Hola, mi bisabuela (Madre del padre de mi padre) Se llamaba Carlota Gallegos; Su hijo Jesus Hernandez es mi abuelo; el cual no conozco y me gustaria saber si hay alguna relacion gracias.