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James Willie Willingham
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The United States Cavalry was born of necessity, to protect the settlers in their march across the continent. When possible, cavalry met the Indian in peace. As often they met in war; in countless skirmishes from the Florida swamplands to the western desert; in hand-to-have combat and breathtaking mounted charge.

Indians were not the only enemy, 1846 saw the cavalry on foreign soil, New Mexico was captured. California was next. The young nation gained a southwestern empire. The cavalry had created a two-ocean nation. But its greatest role was still ahead.

Civil War found the Northern cavalry almost totally unprepared. While the South called up large units of expert horsemen, the North called up raw recruits. But it trained them well. Soon they were raiding with Grierson in Mississippi, with Custer and Davis in Virginia, with Sheridan to the very gates of Richmond. The cavalry was proving its worth in the last war in which it was to play a major part.

Peace between the North and South came in 1865, and it was time now to weld the states into one strong nation. The cavalry was again called upon to protect the frontiers. From the Canadian border to Mexico, from the Missouri River to the Pacific, the Indian staged his last great uprising. Incredibly tough, he could not be defeated by Civil War tactics as was discovered, sometimes too late, by General Custer among others. One of the most frustrating and difficult expeditions undertaken by the cavalry was the hunt, throughout the Southwest and Mexico, for Geronimo and his band of outlaw Apaches. But by 1890 the West was at peace. The cavalry had won Now only two tasks remained.

Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders, General Pershing and the search for Pancho Villa -- the final battles were fought. The job of the cavalry was done. The long ride to glory was ended. The horse cavalry lived just one-hunderd-and-ten years. It fought our battles; then progress, in the form of the tank, airplane, and new weapons, passed it by.

Summary of the history of the United States Cavalry as given on the cover flap of the book SPURS TO GLORY, THE STORY OF THE UNITED STATES CAVALRY by James M. Merrill, Rand McNally & Co., 1966.

The success of the German panzer divisions early in World War II demonstrated the superiority of mechanized units. Three months after Pearl Harbor, in March, 1942, the War Department abolished the horse cavalry. Dismounted, the 1st Cavalry Division was sent to the Pacific Theater and trained in jungle fighting. Regiments kept their names and traditions, but became vehicular reconnaissance units. [SPURS TO GLORY, by James M. Merrill]

The “East Texas Oilfield” was discovered 5 Oct. 1930 and surrounds Kilgore which is near it’s center; the field is located in central Gregg, Western Rusk, Southern Upshur, Southeastern Smith, and Northeastern Cherokee Counties, TX. Because rulings of the Railroad Commission regulating oil proration in East Texas were being ignored, Texas Governor Ross Shaw Sterling on 17 Aug. 1931 placed four counties under martial law and shut down all oil production temporarily. On 17 Aug. 1931 Gov. Sterling ordered the Texas National Guard and the Texas Rangers into the oil fields to shut down all of its 1644 wells and to maintain order. Production resumed 5 Sept. 1931 although the military still maintained watch. On 2 Feb. 1932 a federal court ended martial law in the East Texas field by ruling it illegal. [THE NEW HANDBOOK OF TEXAS, The Texas State Historical Association]

dad_well_kilgore1931.jpg (77344 bytes) It was during East Texas Oilfield conflict that the father, James Willie Willingham (1909 - 1989), of Katherine Woerner decided to join the military; he had gone to the train station with his bride to be, Irene Schaefer, to see some friends off, got excited, and jumped on the train carrying the troops to East Texas as the train left Brenham, Washington Co., TX in 1931. He joined the service and served in East Texas during that conflict. [First hand account as told to Katherine Woerner in 2000 by her mother, Irene Schaefer Willingham.] After martial law in the East Texas field was discontinued, 
 James Willie Willingham was a member of Troop E, 124th Cavalry, led by Stable Sergeant Joe Gurka and a photograph in the book A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF WASHINGTON COUNTY, TEXAS 1993, shows on page 68 this unit on 14 April 1935 at a federal inspection of men and equipment

When, in March 1942, the War Department abolished the horse cavalry, James Willie Willingham left military service because he had four children and was thus classified 4F all during World War II. The family left Brenham and moved to La Porte, Harris Co., TX where James worked until retirement at Paty General Tire Company, later known as Ashland Oil Company, in Baytown, Harris Co., Texas, USA. [Dr. Katherine Willingham Woerner, 7 June 2001.]

Some Notable Links:
Terry's Texas Rangers 
(Sharing & preserving the history of the 8th Texas Cavalry Regiment, 1861-1865

11th Texas Calvary

Confederate Unit Histories, Pensions, & Genealogy


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