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My Life before the World War, 1860--1917

A Memoir

General of the Armies John J. Pershing. Edited and with an Introduction by John T. Greenwood

Publication Year: 2013

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.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: American Warriors Series

Front cover

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pp. 1-4


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p. 5-5


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pp. v-vi

Maps and Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

Editor's Note

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pp. ix-xii

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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 ...

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1. Ancestry and Boyhood

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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. ...

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2. Youth—Its Happy Days and Others

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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. ...

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3. West Point—Its Grind and Its Pleasures: 1881–July 1886

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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, ...

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4. The Army—With the Sixth Cavalry in New Mexico:September 1886–November 1890

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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. ...

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5. The Sioux Campaign and Commanding Indian Scouts: November 1890–August 1891

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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. ...

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6. New Assignments, New Challenges, New Friends: September 1891–April 1898

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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 ...

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7. The Spanish-American War to the San Juan Heights: April–30 June 1898

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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 ...

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8. The Spanish-American War—Victory in Cuba and Its Consequences: 1 July–20 August 1898

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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. ...

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9. The Division of Customs and Insular Affairs and My First Assignment to the Philippines: August 1898–November 1899

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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 ...

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10. Duty in the Philippines—Manila, Mindanao, and Iligan: November 1899–April 1902

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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. ...

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11. Dealing with the Hostile Moros around Lake Lanao:April–September 1902

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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. ...

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12. Military Operations against the Lake Lanao Moros and the Routine of Governing: September–December 1902

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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. ...

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13. Finishing the Campaign against the Lake Lanao Moros: January–May 1903

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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. ...

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14. Return to the United States, Duty with the General Staff, and Romance and Marriage: June 1903–January 1905

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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, ...

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15. Off to See a Modern War as the Military Attache in Tokyo and Observer with the Imperial Japanese Army: February 1905–December 1906

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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, ...

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16. Brigade Commander, Fort McKinley, Philippines: January 1907–August 1908

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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, ...

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17. A Long Journey Home, Taft's Inauguration, Sick Leave, New Orders, and a Son Arrives: August 1908–October 1909

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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 ...

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18. My Return to Mindanao: November 1909–December 1913

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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. ...

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19. Disarming and Taming the Moros: September 1911–June 1913

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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, ...

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20. The Last Military Governor of the Moro Province: 11 November 1909–14 December 1913

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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. ...

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21. Diplomatic Missions, Our Return to the United States, and Commanding the Eighth Brigade at the Presidio of San Francisco: June 1911–April 1914

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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]. ...

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22. On the Mexican Border with the Eighth Brigade: April 1914–March 1916

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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. ...

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23. The Expedition into Mexico: March 1916–February 1917

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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. ...

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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. ...

Appendix A: An Address on the Campaign of Santiago

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pp. 367-382

Appendix B: Captain Pershing’s Report on Moro Affairs

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pp. 383-392

Appendix C: Captain John J. Pershing’s Report of Activities at Camp Vicars, Mindanao, from 30 June 1902 to 15 May 1903

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pp. 393-406

Appendix D: Report of Captain John J. Pershing, Fifteenth Cavalry, of an Expedition to the Southeast of Lake Lanao, 18–22 September 1902

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pp. 407-414

Appendix E: Report of Captain John J. Pershing, Fifteenth Cavalry, of an Expedition against Hostile Moros of Maciu, 28 September–3 October 1902

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pp. 415-422

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

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pp. 423-434

Appendix G: Report of Captain John J. Pershing, Fifteenth Cavalry, of an Exploring Expedition around Lake Lanao, 2–10 May 1903

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pp. 435-446

Appendix H: Pershing’s Report on the Bud Dajo Operation, 15–25 December 1911

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pp. 447-452

Appendix I: Pershing’s Report on the Bud Bagsak Operation

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pp. 453-460

Appendix J: Pershing’s Memorandum on the Carrizal Affair (Undated)

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pp. 461-464

Biographical Appendix

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pp. 465-608

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pp. 609-610

I wish to acknowledge all of the assistance and support that I have received during my years of work on this project. Above all, the encouragement and support of Dr. Roger Cirillo, director of the Association of the United States Army’s Book Program, have been critical to my success from the very beginning. ...


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pp. 611-680


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pp. 681-702


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pp. 703-728

E-ISBN-13: 9780813141992
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813141978

Page Count: 656
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: American Warriors Series

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Subject Headings

  • Pershing, John J. (John Joseph), 1860-1948.
  • Generals -- United States -- Biography.
  • Indians of North America -- Wars -- 1866-1895.
  • Spanish-American War, 1898 -- Campaigns -- Cuba.
  • Philippines -- History -- 1898-1946.
  • United States. Army -- History -- Punitive Expedition into Mexico, 1916.
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