The collection consists of eight letters written by Harry A. Hargreaves between June and August 1916 while serving with Pershing's Punitive Expedition (also called the Mexican Expedition and the Pancho Villa Expedition). The letters are to his mother and stepfather in Germantown, PA. Seven of the letters are to his mother Mary Dean. One letter is to his step-father Norman R. Dean. There is a single empty envelope addressed to his half-sister Georgiana Dean at the same address in Germantown, PA. Two newspaper clippings from Hartford, CT, area newspapers are enclosed in letters to his mother. They were probably sent to Harry by his wife, and then sent by Harry to his mother.
The letters give a well-written descriptive view of a middle aged man seeing the Southwest for the first time, as his Connecticut Infantry Company is sent to reinforce the Border area during Pershing's Punitive Expedition to Mexico in 1916. He tries to share this new part of the country and his experiences there with his family. He writes of vaccinations in some detail, saying that the men were being revaccinated every seven days until it takes. "There is some terrible looking arms . . . The new way of vaccinating is two small slits in the upper arm and touch with the vaccine paint" [July 8]. He gives good descriptions of Fort Huachua [Aug. 25] and Camp Steven Little, Arizona [July 4], including the boundary posts and neutral zone 50 feet on either side [July 17]. He tells of fellow soldiers sending home specimens of the exotic fauna (tarantulas, centipedes, and rattlesnakes), and how Company D became known as "the hard luck company" after they were flooded out, suffered wind damage to their tents, developed "shirt monkeys" [lice], and had a gun go off accidentally during practice, causing a man to lose a finger [Aug. 1]. He comments on the prejudice of Texans against Mexican laborers [July 2]. Mention is made of the hanging of four of Pancho Villa's raiders in Deming, New Mexico, several weeks earlier [July 4].