Monday, August 12, 2013

Second Division visits Kerrville

Second Division enlisted men's camp, Kerrville, May 1926
Photograph compliments of Lanza Teague.
The front-page headline "Second Division of Regular Army Will Camp Here This Week End" appeared in the Kerrville Mountain Sun on May 20, 1926, and answers a few questions I have about some old photographs in my collection -- as well as bringing up a few more questions for which I do not have an answer.
I have seen several photographs of post-World War I era soldiers encamped in Kerrville. One shows a long line of soldiers on horseback, marching and in vehicles traveling down Water Street near Earl Garrett Street, heading west. Another shows a very large soldiers' camp stretched along what is today's Guadalupe Street, centered about where today's Dietert Center stands, though stretching far both ways from there.
The photos I've seen about the long line of soldiers on Water Street are similar to the photograph published on the front page of the next week's edition of the Kerrville Mountain Sun, May 27, 2013. And the photograph of the large camp is labeled "Entire Second Division Encamped at Kerrville, May 23, 1926."
That weekend was a particularly busy weekend in Kerrville: besides the thousands of soldiers scheduled to arrive, Schreiner Institute was holding graduation ceremonies that Saturday (10 from college, 39 from high school); Tivy, on the following Monday (27 graduates).
The troops were led by Brig. Gen. Paul B. Malone. 5000 enlisted men, 300 officers, 2300 horses and mules, were expected to arrive, via Camp Verde, at 7:00 am that Saturday. The enlisted men were to camp at "Westland Place," and the officers at the "Tourist Park."
Given that the population of the entire Kerr County was less than 10,000 at the time, with Kerrville at about half that, the visit was a very big deal.
The Second Division was made up of the First, Ninth, Twentieth, and Twenty-third Infantry Regiments; the Twelfth and Fifteenth Field Artillery; the Second Engineers; the Second Medical Regiment; the Second Ammunition Train; the Second Signal Company; Second Division Trains, Headquarters, and Military Police Company. Three separate military bands joined the units.
The plan was for the troops to arrive Saturday, rest on Sunday, and break "camp at Monday noon for the hike back to Fort Sam Houston."
"On Friday morning different units of the Division, divided into two columns, will participate in a maneuver for possession of Bandera Pass. Preliminary to these maneuvers one column of the troops will be encamped tonight at Camp Verde, and the other at Bandera."
Kerrville put out the red carpet for the soldiers. "A dance for officers and ladies will be held at the Country Club Saturday night, music to be furnished by Steve S. Gardner Orchestra. Dancing will be available for the enlisted men at the Lake Side Park, which has been taken over by the Fort Sam Houston Athletic Association for the two days the Division will be in Kerrville. Here swimming will be available from noon to midnight and a dance, free to all soldiers, will be held from 8:30 until midnight.
"For the benefit of the soldiers and the citizens of the Hill Country as well a band concert will be given by one of the three army bands on the lawn of the St. Charles Hotel from 7:30 to 8:30 Saturday evening. Another concert will be rendered at Legion during the two-day stay, for the benefit of the patients at the hospital."
Legion was the home of the American Legion Hospital, which happened to be turned over to the federal government about the same time as the Second Division's visit, with the final paperwork signed May 22nd.
"The Dixie Theatre has made arrangements for a special program for this occasion, and the play house will be open to soldiers both Saturday and Sunday." An advertisement elsewhere in the newspaper indicated the movie shown was Reed Howes in "Youth's Gamble," and Buck Jones in "The Fighting Buckaroo."
In a Saturday address to the Rotary Club, Gen. Malone stressed readiness. "General Malone is a forceful and eloquent speaker, and after reciting the glorious part the Second Division had taken in stopping the German hosts at the gates of Paris and in several other important and decisive engagements of the World War, made an impassioned plea for preparedness, stating that five or six hundred men of his division paid the supreme sacrifice 'Over There' who had never fired a gun. The speaker also pointed out that the major portion of the men, horses, artillery, machine guns and other equipment, which he had reviewed from the gallery of the St. Charles hotel that forenoon, had seen service in France."
Now, the questions arising from other military photographs in my collection:
There are several photographs I have which are marked "Mistletoe Regiment," which seem to be around the same era, but not the same event. Even I know a regiment is different from a division; a division is much larger. And, since the Second Division arrived in May, I can't see why they'd have a nickname associated with winter. I'm guessing the photographs are from two separate events, though a search of old newspapers has not yielded the story behind the caption "Mistletoe Regiment." Hopefully someone can help me figure out this riddle.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who suggests residents along Guadalupe Street might find some interesting objects in their yards from the time 5,000 men camped there. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 10, 2013.
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  1. Hi Joe,

    Could you share your "Mistletoe Regiment” photos? If you can make out any unit insignia on trooper uniforms that might provide some clues.

  2. Great article!

    It would be wonderful to see all the old photos that you referenced in this article.


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