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My Life before the World War, 1860--1917

My Life before the World War, 1860--1917: A Memoir

Edited and with an Introduction by John T. Greenwood
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 656
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    My Life before the World War, 1860--1917
    Book Description:

    Few American military figures are more revered than General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing (1860--1948), who is most famous for leading the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. The only soldier besides George Washington to be promoted to the highest rank in the U.S. Army (General of the Armies), Pershing was a mentor to the generation of generals who led America's forces during the Second World War.

    Though Pershing published a two-volume memoir, My Experiences in the World War, and has been the subject of numerous biographies, few know that he spent many years drafting a memoir of his experiences prior to the First World War. In My Life Before the World War, 1860--1917, John T. Greenwood rescues this vital resource from obscurity, making Pershing's valuable insights into key events in history widely available for the first time.

    Pershing performed frontier duty against the Apaches and Sioux from 1886--1891, fought in Cuba in 1898, served three tours of duty in the Philippines, and was an observer with the Japanese Army in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War. He also commanded the Mexican Punitive Expedition to capture Pancho Villa in 1916--1917. My Life Before the World War provides a rich personal account of events, people, and places as told by an observer at the center of the action. Carefully edited and annotated, this memoir is a significant contribution to our understanding of a legendary American soldier and the historic events in which he participated.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4199-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Maps and Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Editor’s Note
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    General of the Armies John J. Pershing is clearly a seminal figure not only in the history of the United States and its army, but also of the world in the early twentieth century. Major biographies of Pershing have relied heavily both on his published two-volume autobiographical account My Experiences in the World War (New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1931) and on his unpublished “Autobiography of General of the Armies John J. Pershing” that rests in his papers.¹ While his published memoir is readily available to any interested readers or researchers, those wishing to dig into his unpublished account must...

  6. 1 Ancestry and Boyhood
    (pp. 11-23)

    It is a matter of no little pride that my forebears were made of the fiber, mental as well as physical, found in the common people that form the backbone of this country. Originally of upstanding, though humble, European stock, we like to think they brought to America a worthwhile heritage of human traditions and achievements. They boasted no royal ancestry, but, like millions of other Americans, both the men and women were great in their simple, honest, wholesome way; and in that way they played their part in the history of the nation. Those of the early days had...

  7. 2 Youth—Its Happy Days and Others
    (pp. 24-35)

    The Fourth of July was the gala day of the year. It was usually celebrated by a parade, followed by a picnic during the day, with fireworks at night. At noon the national salute was fired by the local blacksmith. A small quantity of powder was placed between two anvils, one on top of the other, and touched off with the red hot end of a long iron bar heated in his forge. It sounded like artillery and gave all the youngsters a great thrill. People from the country round about swarmed into Laclede for these celebrations. Led by the...

  8. 3 West Point—Its Grind and Its Pleasures: 1881–July 1886
    (pp. 36-52)

    My sister and I had just got well started with our studies at Kirksville when, one Saturday morning, while visiting her room reading the weekly newspaper from home, my eye happened to light on the notice of a competitive examination to be held in two weeks from that date at Trenton, Missouri, some sixty miles west, for the selection of a boy from our congressional district for appointment to the Military Academy at West Point. The appointment was to be made by the Honorable Joseph H. Burrows, who had been a clergyman before entering politics and had been elected to...

  9. 4 The Army—With the Sixth Cavalry in New Mexico: September 1886–November 1890
    (pp. 53-68)

    The flood of immigration which, in the late ’60s and the ’70s, had poured into the West had aroused anew the fear and resentment of the Indians. They saw the game which had been their main food supply from time immemorial fast disappearing before the advance of the white man. They looked upon the wanton destruction of the vast herds of buffalo, elk, and deer that roamed the western plains as a calamity. The hunting grounds allotted to them by the government in solemn treaties were being overrun by white settlers and gold seekers. And yet the Indian was in...

  10. 5 The Sioux Campaign and Commanding Indian Scouts: November 1890–August 1891
    (pp. 69-80)

    Although our troops were always ready for field service, nothing unusual during the four years following the Geronimo campaign had occurred to suggest serious trouble with the Indians. An occasional Indian scare or the arrest of white cattle thieves or a practice maneuver gave us field service at intervals and added zest to the routine of training and post duty. I loved the service and the country, with its barren plains and rugged mountains. The various assignments that had fallen to my lot had furnished some practical and profitable experience.

    The settlement of the great west continued with increasing volume...

  11. 6 New Assignments, New Challenges, New Friends: September 1891–April 1898
    (pp. 81-97)

    When service with the Indian Scouts came to an end in August, I returned to Fort Niobrara, and in a few days received notice of my detail as military instructor at the University of Nebraska. That the suggestion had been made by members of the faculty and by state officials during the visit to my family at Lincoln two years before that I should return sometime as military instructor gave me assurance that my assignment would be looked upon with favor. The position appealed to me as affording greater opportunity for intellectual improvement through association with both the college faculty...

  12. 7 The Spanish-American War to the San Juan Heights: April–30 June 1898
    (pp. 98-111)

    Since 1895, the march of events in Cuba had been receiving more and more attention from the American people, who now, at the beginning of 1898, had reached a state of mind that strongly indicated the probability of intervention and consequent war with Spain.¹ The islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico were the last of the once widespread dominions of the Spanish Empire in the Western Hemisphere. The people of Cuba in particular were dissatisfied with their Spanish overlords and aspired to the freedom that other Spanish-American colonies had attained. There had been a rebellion in the island lasting from...

  13. 8 The Spanish-American War—Victory in Cuba and Its Consequences: 1 July–20 August 1898
    (pp. 112-125)

    The morning of July 1 was ideal, the sky cloudless, the air soft and balmy. As the first rays of the sun tipped the stately palms that towered here and there above the jungle, all nature still lay in quiet repose. Our cavalry division had bivouacked near El Pozo, about two miles east of San Juan Hill. The camp was stirring at daybreak and our men were eager to enter what for most of them was to be their first battle. They stood about in small groups opposite their places in column, impatient for the order to advance. From the...

  14. 9 The Division of Customs and Insular Affairs and My First Assignment to the Philippines: August 1898–November 1899
    (pp. 126-136)

    A day or so after our arrival, President McKinley visited Montauk Point and, accompanied by several general officers, made a casual inspection of the camp. I think much of his time was occupied by those who had political aspirations. I recall General Sumner’s telling me that Theodore Roosevelt had said that he expected to find out the “old man’s” attitude toward his candidacy for the governorship of New York, and later one of his intimate friends told that the President favored it.

    Soon after reaching Montauk Point, I received notice of my appointment to the temporary grade of “Major and...

  15. 10 Duty in the Philippines—Manila, Mindanao, and Iligan: November 1899–April 1902
    (pp. 137-154)

    There was something romantic in the thought of service in an oriental country inhabited by so many tribes in different stages of civilization beginning at the bottom with wild aborigines. It also offered a variety of opportunities not hitherto embraced in any service which the army had been called upon to perform. As usual [the army] greeted that call of duty with enthusiasm, and the able and devoted manner of its performance is already a matter of history.

    Manila in those days still had the aspects of a medieval city. Its outstanding feature was the old walled city on the...

  16. 11 Dealing with the Hostile Moros around Lake Lanao: April–September 1902
    (pp. 155-173)

    Although we had made good progress in winning over the Moros on the north side of Lake Lanao, the same thing could not be said regarding those on the south. In recent months detachments of troops sent out from Parang-parang to explore and survey the territory between there and the lake had met with opposition. An exploring party of seventeen cavalrymen under Lieutenant W. D. [William D.] Forsyth, Fifteenth Cavalry, had been ambushed [on 15 March 1902] and all its horses had been captured by the Moros;¹ individual soldiers had been waylaid and killed and their rifles stolen; and outposts...

  17. 12 Military Operations against the Lake Lanao Moros and the Routine of Governing: September–December 1902
    (pp. 174-189)

    The task assigned to the army of suppressing insurrection and lawlessness had been accomplished throughout the archipelago except in this remote corner.¹ This was the only section left where any group of people still refused to recognize American sovereignty. Benevolent assimilation insofar as these groups were concerned had not succeeded. They had never submitted to the Spanish yoke and had rejected all overtures to accept American rule. No one could have been more considerate in dealing with them than my command had been. We had come with the olive branch and had been met with kris and kampilan, and it...

  18. 13 Finishing the Campaign against the Lake Lanao Moros: January–May 1903
    (pp. 190-205)

    Shortly after the New Year, 1903, the cholera having abated considerably, our self-imposed restrictions on visits were lifted and friendly marches to nearby rancherias were resumed.¹ Rather extended confidential negotiations had been carried on with some of the Moros, including those from Gata, a large rancheria of no small importance. I had been told by a representative from the sultan that they would be glad to have me visit them and after considerable discussion a date was fixed. At the appointed time, guided by a Gata Moro, I marched out with two or three companies of infantry and a mountain...

  19. 14 Return to the United States, Duty with the General Staff, and Romance and Marriage: June 1903–January 1905
    (pp. 206-216)

    My way home across the Pacific not only completed my first tour around the world but took me past a British colony and two Oriental countries upon which the eyes of the civilized world were then being fixed intently. The first stopping place was Hong Kong. This Far Eastern commercial port on the south coast of China, which the British had developed during the previous half century, was no doubt the sort of trading center which our imperialists had hoped might be developed in the Philippines when they prevailed upon the administration in 1898 to send Admiral Dewey there from...

  20. 15 Off to See a Modern War as the Military Attaché in Tokyo and Observer with the Imperial Japanese Army: February 1905–December 1906
    (pp. 217-245)

    Before leaving Washington I went by appointment to the White House to pay my respects to President Roosevelt and was shown at once into his office by Mr. [George B.] Cortelyou, his private secretary. The President’s office was then composed of two rather large rooms, one being a sort of alcove where his desk was located, the other and larger one being the reception room. He was standing in the corner to the left of the latter, talking in low tones but vigorously to Mr. Gifford Pinchot. In the opposite corner stood Senator [Albert J.] Beveridge, and on the other...

  21. 16 Brigade Commander, Fort McKinley, Philippines: January 1907–August 1908
    (pp. 246-256)

    When I arrived in Manila for duty and throughout my term of service at Fort McKinley—from January, 1907, to August, 1908—Major General Leonard Wood was in command of the army in the Philippines. I had known him before the Spanish War when he was Attending Surgeon in Washington and physician for President McKinley’s family, and had seen him often in Cuba when he was colonel of the “Rough Riders,” and later after he was appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers. In fact, while we were still in the trenches he asked me if I would accept an appointment as...

  22. 17 A Long Journey Home, Taft’s Inauguration, Sick Leave, New Orders, and a Son Arrives: August 1908–October 1909
    (pp. 257-270)

    The itinerary of our journey from Manila across Asia and Europe listed the names of places that alone stirred us with anticipation. It included not only the main Chinese and Japanese ports which lay on our route and which we had seen before but Vladivostok, Irkutsk, Omsk, Petropavlovsk, and Samara on the Trans-Siberian Railway and then Moscow and St. Petersburg and the capitals of Poland, Germany, and Belgium, then Paris and London. As we were traveling with two small children, it was necessary that we should have a capable and thoroughly reliable nurse. Such a person, fortunately, we found as...

  23. 18 My Return to Mindanao: November 1909–December 1913
    (pp. 271-286)

    The post to which I was now assigned was a dual one—that of Commanding General of the Department of Mindanao and Governor of the Moro Province, the military Department and the Province being practically the same geographically. This dual position offered unusual possibilities for constructive work among an alien and backward people. My first tour of duty in the southern islands had aroused my deep and sympathetic interest in their welfare, and from the time I left Camp Vicars, in 1903, I had hoped some day to return and have a further part in the establishment of law and...

  24. 19 Disarming and Taming the Moros: September 1911–June 1913
    (pp. 287-302)

    It was a fortunate thing for several reasons that during the period of disarmament there was a man of the high moral courage and sound judgment of Cameron Forbes in the post of Governor-General of the Philippines. It was generally considered such a radical step that without his confidence the undertaking, difficult at best, could hardly have been accomplished. It was a period when either or both of us might have been subjected to uninformed criticism from home that would have seriously interfered with our work. A statesman is under constant suspicion of “playing politics” and a soldier of wanting...

  25. 20 The Last Military Governor of the Moro Province: 11 November 1909–14 December 1913
    (pp. 303-316)

    In disarming the Moros a necessary preliminary step in the establishment of law and order had been taken. It ended the power of any disaffected leader to rally to his standard erstwhile armed warriors. It enabled us to devote attention to the more important work of civil administration. In the greater part of the province constructive achievement on the civil side went on unheralded, hand in hand with suppression of disorder. But without disarmament the civil administration could not have attained the success I am able to record, nor could I have recommended to Governor-General Forbes, as I did, that...

  26. 21 Diplomatic Missions, Our Return to the United States, and Commanding the Eighth Brigade at the Presidio of San Francisco: June 1911–April 1914
    (pp. 317-326)

    During this period in the Philippines I was twice sent by our Government on diplomatic missions to other Far Eastern lands, once to Hong Kong and once to Japan. The first was in 1911, on the occasion of the Coronation of King George V [22 June]. A special celebration of the event was being held in each of the colonies of the “Far-flung Empire,” and I was delegated to join with the Honorable Charles B. Elliott, of Minneapolis, then [a member of the Philippines Commission and the Secretary of Commerce and Police] of the Islands, to represent the United States...

  27. 22 On the Mexican Border with the Eighth Brigade: April 1914–March 1916
    (pp. 327-338)

    At the time of my arrival in El Paso [27 April 1914] excitement on the border was running high. The people felt that this move meant intervention, which they believed was the only solution to their problems. Naturally, they received us with great cordiality. In the evening of the day after our arrival there was a large reception and ball at the leading club and invitations were extended to me and my staff and the senior regimental officers of the brigade. We thus had the opportunity to meet the prominent people of the city, whom we found most hospitable and...

  28. 23 The Expedition into Mexico: March 1916–February 1917
    (pp. 339-362)

    The last time our troops had entered Mexico was in pursuit of the Apache Indian renegades who had left their reservations, committed a series of raids in Arizona and New Mexico, and had fled across the border and into the Sierra Madre mountains.¹ Our troops trailed them with the help of friendly Indians, but this was a different problem. Villa left a broad trail for a hundred miles and then the trail was lost, and we had to depend on information from generally unfriendly Mexicans. Although Villa was a public enemy, we were foreigners, there by agreement it is true,...

  29. Epilogue
    (pp. 363-366)

    For three months after the withdrawal of the Mexican Expedition from Mexico I remained on the border, at first in command of the El Paso District and then, on the death of General Funston, February 19, 1917, in command of the Southern Department. My promotion to major general in the previous September made me eligible for this post. Then, on April 6, came the declaration of war with the Imperial German Government. I have already written the story of my selection to command the American forces abroad and of my experiences in the world war up to the Armistice.¹


  30. Appendix A An Address on the Campaign of Santiago
    (pp. 367-382)
  31. Appendix B Captain Pershing’s Report on Moro Affairs
    (pp. 383-392)
  32. Appendix C Captain John J. Pershing’s Report of Activities at Camp Vicars, Mindanao, from 30 June 1902 to 15 May 1903
    (pp. 393-406)
  33. Appendix D Report of Captain John J. Pershing, Fifteenth Cavalry, of an Expedition to the Southeast of Lake Lanao, 18–22 September 1902
    (pp. 407-414)
  34. Appendix E Report of Captain John J. Pershing, Fifteenth Cavalry, of an Expedition against Hostile Moros of Maciu, 28 September–3 October 1902
    (pp. 415-422)
  35. Appendix F Report of Captain John J. Pershing, Fifteenth Cavalry, of an Exploring Expedition from Camp Vicars to Marahui, along the West Shore of Lake Lanao, 5–16 April 1903
    (pp. 423-434)
  36. Appendix G Report of Captain John J. Pershing, Fifteenth Cavalry, of an Exploring Expedition around Lake Lanao, 2–10 May 1903
    (pp. 435-446)
  37. Appendix H Pershing’s Report on the Bud Dajo Operation, 15–25 December 1911
    (pp. 447-452)
  38. Appendix I Pershing’s Report on the Bud Bagsak Operation
    (pp. 453-460)
  39. Appendix J Pershing’s Memorandum on the Carrizal Affair (Undated)
    (pp. 461-464)
    John J. Pershing
  40. Biographical Appendix
    (pp. 465-608)
  41. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 609-610)
  42. Notes
    (pp. 611-680)
  43. Bibliography
    (pp. 681-702)
  44. Index
    (pp. 703-732)