The Origins of the 82nd Field Artillery Regiment
By Daniel P. Gillotti (5th Bn, 82nd FA, 1st Cavalry Division, Korea, 1960-61)
The 82nd Field Artillery Regiment (FA Regt) (Horse) traces its ancestry back to
the famous "First Dragoons", the original Regiment of the US Army. Because of the
"dragon" or short musket, so called from the dragons head worked on the muzzle,
the "First Dragoons" represented a type of fighting force, both unique and effective,
for their service could be employed as mounted or dismounted troops. From the "First
Dragoons" was formed the "First Cavalry" which in turn became the mother of the
The 24th Cavalry was organized on 5 June 1917, with one third of the officers and
enlisted men coming from the old First Cavalry. Subsequently, the 24th Cavalry was
reorganized as Field Artillery pursuant to a letter from the War Department dated
20 July 1917, and was effective 1 November 1917. The total strength of the 82nd
FA Regt at that time was 62 officers, 1,448 enlisted men, 1,117 horses, and 114
mules located at Fort D.A. Russell. The entire 82nd FA Regt eventually arrived at
Camp Logan, Houston, Texas, and then proceeded to Fort Bliss, Texas, assigned to
the 15th Cavalry Division. Although training was in full swing and preparations
were being made for overseas movement to fight the Germans, it was not to be. The
15th Cavalry Division and the 82nd FA Regt were specifically trained and equipped
for border service. The Mexican rebel, General Francisco " Pancho" Villa, had been
causing problems in cross border raids, and had committed acts of aggression against
US citizens and soldiers for a number of years. A Punitive Expedition led by BG
John J. Pershing into Mexico had been carried out in 1916-1917. A number of Pancho
Villa's rebel forces were killed or captured and his forces were scattered. But
Pancho Villa was never caught.
By 1919, Pancho Villa had reassembled a sizeable rebel force and had initiated several
battles against Mexican military troops in an attempt to win the hearts and minds
of the Mexican people to rally with him against President Carranza. In early June
1919, indications were received that Villa was moving his rebel forces north to
attack the Mexican military troops at Ft. Hidalgo near Juarez, Mexico. The attack
on Ft. Hidalgo began at 12:10 a.m. on the morning of 15 June 1919 and lasted until
12:50 a.m. when the firing ceased. Then at about 1:10 a.m., another attack by Villa's
forces broke out in a separate part of the city and a battle raged back and forth
for most of the day. For reasons that may never be known, rebel snipers from Villas
forces began foolishly to shoot sniper fire across the Rio Grande River into El
Paso, Texas, wounding several civilians. At 1:36 a.m., 15 June 1919, the 82nd FA
Regt, minus Service Company (SVC Co), under the command of COL Thomas E. Merrill,
left camp at Ft. Bliss and headed towards El Paso to occupy pre-planned firing positions.
The 82nd FA Regt, consisting of approximately 20 officers and 475 enlisted men,
deployed with Headquarters Company (HQs Co), the 1st Battalion (Bn) with Batteries
A & B, the 2nd Bn, with Batteries C &D, and the 3rd Bn with Batteries E & F. Immediately
upon leaving Ft Bliss, the 2nd Bn, 82nd FA, under the command of LTC Henry L. Newbold,
and consisting of 9 officers and 198 enlisted men, was detached from the 82nd FA
Regt and proceeded to join the 2nd Cavalry Brigade (Cav Bde) as direct support artillery.
The 2nd Cav Bde was under the command of COL Selah R.H. Tompkins, and was comprised
of the 5th Cav Regt and the 7th Cav Regt.
By 2:30 a.m., the 82nd FA Regimental Headquarters was in position at the El Paso
Union Stockyards and the 1st and 3rd Bns were in firing positions at Camp Cotton.
At 4 a.m. on 15 June 1919, the 1st Bn, 82nd FA, under the command of MAJ Laurin
L. Lawson, was directed to deploy his two Firing Batteries near the El Paso Milling
Company at the Stanton Street Bridge in support of the 24th Inf Regt commanded by
COL G. Arthur Hadsell. In the vicinity of the 82nd FA Regimental HQs occasional
sniper shots were received from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande River. At 9:30
p.m., it was decided the 1st Bn, 82nd FA should support the anticipated 24th Inf
Regt advance across the river into Juarez from its present positions with the artillery.
An Artillery Liaison Officer, LT McMahan, with a map showing targets numbered as
pre-arranged by the artillery, would accompany the attack by the 24th Inf Regt.
During the remainder of the evening, snipers on the Mexican side of the river were
quite active firing towards the 82nd FA Regimental HQs.
Tragedy struck at 10:35 p.m. on June 15 1919, when Private (PVT) Sam Tusco, HQs
Co, 82nd FA, was killed by a sniper's bullet and PVT Burchard Casey, also of HQs
Co, was severely wounded. The District HQs, under the command of BG James B. Erwin,
ordered 3,600 American soldiers to cross into Mexico at 11 p.m. on 15 June 1919
to prevent further promiscuous firing into El Paso and to provide protection for
American citizens. The American Force consisted of the 24th Inf Regt, the 5th Cav
Regt, the 7th Cav Regt, and the 2nd Bn, 82nd FA. At 12:20 a.m., 16 June 1919, LT
McMahan arrived by motorcycle at the location of the 1st Bn, 82nd FA. His instructions
from COL Hadsell were to open fire on the Juarez Racetrack, as the Villistas had
been definitely located there. Using shrapnel rounds the first artillery shot was
fired across the Rio Grande River into the Juarez Racetrack by Battery A, 1st Bn,
82nd FA, at 12:30 am on 16 June 1919. Battery A fired a total of 52 rounds and Battery
B fired a total of 12 rounds before a "Cease Fire" was called at 1 a.m.
And although the 3rd Bn, 82nd FA, commanded by MAJ Carl C. Krueger, was in position
and prepared to fire, they did not get in on the action. At 4 a.m., LT McMahan reported
the arrival of the 24th Inf Regt at Palazio Commercio in Juarez. While the 24th
Inf Regt was advancing through the streets of Juarez the 5th Cav Regt, the 7th Cav
Regt were moving as a blocking force on either side of the advancing Infantry to
prevent any flanking movements by the Villistas. The 2nd Bn, 82nd FA advanced in
support of the 5th Cav Regt and 7th Cav Regt and were prepared to fire quickly should
targets of opportunity present themselves. By 6:50 a.m. the Combined Arms forces
of the US Cavalry and the 2nd Bn, 82nd FA were in pursuit of the rebel forces. They
had marched southeast about six miles when a sizeable force of Villistas were spotted.
The 2nd Bn, 82nd FA advanced towards the Villistas at an extended gallop and opened
fire with shrapnel on their column at a range of about 4,000 yards. A direct hit
was made with the first volley of shots and the shrapnel bursting overhead in the
center of the rebel column wiped out a complete section. The other two sections
of Villistas were routed and scattered in different directions. This action was
completed around 9 a.m. on 16 June 1919, by Battery D, 2nd Bn, 82nd FA. During the
continued pursuit afterwards, an adobe shack was targeted and a direct hit was made
by the howitzers of the 2nd Bn, 82nd FA. After this attack the bodies of twenty-five
killed or wounded Villistas were found.
On the return march over 50 abandoned saddles, 300 horses and burros, and 100 rifles
were scattered all over the area. Some of the rifles were of German manufacture
and were brought back as souvenirs by members of the command. The conduct of the
artillery's direct support role with the cavalry in Mexico so pleased COL Tompkins,
he later came to the 82nd FA Camp to express his approval personally to the command.
After the funeral for PVT Sam Tusco was conducted a Guard Camp on the bank of the
Rio Grand River was named "Camp Tusco" by the War department in honor of this soldier
of the 82nd FA Regiment. Most of the men of the 82nd FA Regt that participated in
the Battle of Juarez were entitled to wear the Mexican Service Medal. The Distinctive
Unit Insignia for the 82nd FA Regt shows a black artillery shell imposed on a wavy
white background. The black artillery shell and the wavy white background are symbols
of the first round shot across the Rio Grande River by Battery A, 1st Bn, 82nd FA,
at 12:30 am on 16 June 1919. As an integral part of the 82nd FA Regt, the history
of the 1st Bn, 82nd FA displays a rich heritage of Honor, Bravery, Duty, and Country.
And the motto "Can and Will" are reflective of a spirit steeped in traditions of
men doing what needs to be regardless of the obstacles to be overcome.