South Dakotans in the Mexican Border War
SDSM&T students at the Mexican Border as part of South Dakota’s 4th Infantry – 1916
The “Miners” and 1000 of their fellow soldiers were among the 100,000 National Guard troops activated by President Woodrow Wilson after Pancho Villa invaded the United States on March 9, 1916. The Mexican revolutionary leader’s attack on Columbus, New Mexico, left ten civilians and eight soldiers dead, and large parts of the town burned to the ground. Villa was pursued into Mexico by General John J. Pershing and 4800 regular Army troops, but the guerrilla leader was never captured.
Troops remained along the U.S. / Mexican border until the Spring of 1917. Erling Dutt and William E. “W.E.” Snyder were two of the almost 40 South Dakota School of Mines and Technology students sent to the Mexican border in 1916 as part of South Dakota’s 4th infantry unit. Dutt’s and Snyder’s correspondence home were among the various “border” letters by SDSM&T students/soldiers published in the school’s “Paha Sapa Quarterly.” Though it’s unknown whether either soldier was ever interviewed about their experiences, their letters were read and recorded below.