Tensions between the United States and its Southern neighbors reached a boiling point when the USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, killing over 200 crewmen. On April 25th, Congress declared war against Spain and the U.S. began its first mobilization since the Civil War. During the conflict, Virginia’s four volunteer regiments were called up. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th were chosen for national service. On June 3, they arrived in Jacksonville, Florida and were assigned to the Seventh Army Corps. The 4th took part in the occupation of Cuba, where they served until March 27, 1899. Most men returned home by the time the peace treaty was signed in December.
The Virginia Guard arrived in Brownsville, Texas in July 1916 to help put down Pancho Villa’s incursions into U.S. territory. While the Regular Army went into Mexico to unsuccessfully try to apprehend Villa, the National Guard protected the border, kept order, and sought to prevent Texans from selling guns to Mexicans, who could in turn use these weapons against our troops. During their time in Texas, The Guard had the opportunity to train in trenches and learn critical tactics that would prove vital in the coming conflict.