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A Tale of Two Mexican Service Medals


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I bought these two Mexican Service Medals over the Christmas holiday last December. They came from two different sellers. Neither are mint specimens but both medals are numbered and have names identified with each, which makes them just as good as mint examples in my mind.

 

Interestingly, one medal is suspended showing the wrong (reverse) side as seen from the front.

 

 

 

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Medal #17686, issued to William Martin Jones, Jr, of Rochester, NY.

 

When I began researching William M. Jones, Jr I quickly discovered that his story of service was a bit unusual. William Jones Jr was born on December 20, 1874 to parents William (senior) and Gertrude Jones. William was the middle of three children. His father became a lawyer after the Civil War, and both William and his younger brother followed in their father’s footsteps. The two brothers worked in their father’s law office after they graduated from law school and took over the business when he died in 1906.

 

William enlisted in the New York National Guard’s Third Infantry in 1913 at the age of 39. It’s intriguing to guess what caused William to enlist at this point in his life. He reenlisted in 1916 at the age of 42, and was promoted to the rank of corporal. Two months later the New York National Guard was called up for federal service on the Mexican Border. William’s National Guard unit moved to State Camp, near Peekskill, for three weeks of intensive training before deployment to Texas.

 

William Jones and the Third Infantry left for Texas on July 13, 1916 and arrived at the border on July 15. They were stationed at a tiny border village called Pharr, TX, in Hildalgo County. They cleared sagebrush and cacti and began construction of a military camp. They also established a firing range about 2 miles SE of Pharr where the citizen soldiers trained in small arms practice. In the first week of September the Third Tennessee Infantry arrived to relieve the Third NY Infantry. William Jones’ unit was among the first to leave TX and return home (Sept 1916).

 

William Jones returned to his law practice in Rochester, raised a family, and participated in various civic organizations and events in Rochester during his later life. He died on January 13, 1960 at the age of 85 and is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester.

 

 

 

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Medal #30620, issued to Eston Eurel Melton, of Macon, GA.

 

Eston Eurel Melton was born on April 15, 1900, the son of Gustavus and Otes Melton. Eston’s parents had some education and made sure that Eston went to school and learned to read and write.

 

Eston had quit school and was working as a clerk in Macon when he enlisted in Company B, Second Georgia Infantry, Georgia National Guard, in February of 1915. He lied about his age and claimed to be 19 yrs old when he enlisted.

 

The Second Georgia Infantry was mustered into federal service on July 2, 1916 at Camp Harris on the northwest portion of Macon, so Eston didn’t have to travel far from his home to join up with his unit. He was promoted to corporal in August just before the unit moved by rail to the Texas border with Mexico. Melton appears to have had a discipline problem because he was busted to private in November 1916. He received a promotion to Private 1st Class in February 1917, then Bugler later the same month. Information about Georgia’s NG troops on the Mexican border is sparse, but it appears that Melton’s unit returned home in March or April, 1917.

 

In August the 42nd “Rainbow” Division was established to serve in France with the AEF. The 42nd Division was deliberately organized from National Guard units from all over the country, with an emphasis on units that had served on the Mexican border. As a result Companies B, C, and F of the Second Georgia Infantry were reorganized into the 151st Machine Gun Battalion, 84th Infantry Regiment, and assigned to the 42nd Division. They traveled to Camp Mills on Long Island, NY at the end of August. Eston Melton, now age 17, was with Company B again as they joined the 42nd Division. He was promoted to corporal once more on August 23, 1917 just as his unit left Macon, GA.

 

Melton served with the 151st Machine Gun Battalion of the 42nd Division through February 1918, when he transferred to the HQ Detachment of the 84th Regiment. At the time of his transfer he was busted back to private a second time. He returned home to the United States with the HQ detachment of the 84th Regiment in April, 1919. In addition to his Mexican border service, Eston E. Melton was credited with serving in these WW1 campaigns: Lorraine, Champagne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne.

 

Melton returned to Macon, GA after the war and served as a clerk and bookkeeper for various businesses. He relocated to Polk County, Florida in the 1930s where he became the manager of an Ice plant. Eston died in Florida on July 30, 1978, and is buried in Wildwood Cemetery in the city of Bartow, Polk County, Florida.

 

Photo below: This photo was taken of soldiers from Eston Melton's 2nd Georgia Infantry while they were stationed on the Mexican border.

 

 

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The story of the Jones and Melton families converge in the Civil War

 

One additional thing I discovered about these two medals is that the story of these two families converged during the Civil War.

 

William Martin Jones, Jr’s father, William Senior, served in the Civil War with the 122nd New York Volunteer Infantry, assigned to the Army of the Potomac. He enlisted in 1862, and beginning with Antietam he was in every major engagement and battle in the east and was present at Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House in April 1865.

 

Eston Eurel Eston’s grandfather was Daniel B. Melton, a Confederate Veteran. Daniel enlisted with the “Twigg Guards,” in May 1861, which became Company I of the 6th Georgia Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Confederate States Army. The 6th Georgia served on and off with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia between 1862 and 1864.

Daniel Melton - Confederate Army, saw action on the same battlefields as William Jones Senior – Union Army, at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Petersburg Siege, and Cold Harbor.

 

Daniel Melton and the 6th Georgia served in the Carolinas Campaign of 1865. He was severely wounded in the right leg at Bentonville, NC in March, 1865, and was recuperating in a Confederate military hospital when the Confederate Army commanded by Joe Johnston surrendered to Sherman on April 18.

 

 

 

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Very interesting histories and obviously expertly researched. I enjoyed reading them. Thank you for sharing those.

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Specific areas of collecting and buying interest:

WWI/WWII 40th (Sunshine) Division, Camp Kearny, Camp Harry Jones, WWI/WWII 158th Infantry, USS Oklahoma, USS Swordfish (SS-193), Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, Mexican Border (1916),

Norman Air Technical Training Center (NATTC) Norman, OK, Tinker Field or AFB, Submariner Items, Knives, Bayonets, Sweetheart Jewelry, other unique

or odd items with interesting stories.

 

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I really enjoyed the read on your thread Geoff and want to thank you for a well-written history here. I have a couple of comments that I hope might help to put some perspective on your two veterans. I'd like to start William M. Jones Jr. In this day and age, we would consider it to be downright crazy for a 39 year-old lawyer to even seriously consider joining the National Guard and even crazier that the lawyer would go in as a private. People need to remember that back in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the guard was made up of various state militias. Also, rank and positions of authority were often times elected with the top leadership sometimes being bestowed by the governor. Perhaps Lawyer Jones was hoping for a run for political office and thus felt the need to have a military background. Another aspect of the early militias being that members had to pay to be a part of the unit, so in many ways, some of these units were much like a country club- limited membership with the members interacting socially as well as during drills. Harry Truman joined the Battery B, 2nd Missouri Field Artillery with the hopes that he would get elected as the unit First Sergeant. He was surprised to find out that he had been elected First Lieutenant. Perhaps Lawyer Jones was expecting to be elected to a higher position than Corporal?

 

As for Eston Melton, the fact that he was able to enlist at the age of 14 and pass himself off as being "of age" is quite the trick, even at the turn of the century. The fact that he was able to perform as a clerk and bookkeeper means that he was a pretty bright fellow and that he was literate, which at the time would have probably put him in the minority of the soldiers in his unit. Today, when we see a reduction in rank, we assume that the soldier was a "bad actor" and that he got into trouble. While reduction in rank was a common form of punishment, it was not always the case in the army before Vietnam. All rank was held by the unit. Commanders would assign rank as they saw fit. If a soldier held a particular rank, he would lose that rank if he transferred to another unit. Some positions, like cook, bugler, etc. came with rank and extra pay as they were an additional duty to their normal unit responsibilities as a rifleman, artilleryman, etc. This is quite foreign to those familiar with the modern army where a soldier makes rank, or is forced out of the army, and they work within a specific Military Occupational Specialty (MOS).

 

Again, thanks for the write up. I enjoyed it, and hope my comments can provide some additional background to the story of these two brave men.

 

Allan

Never under-estimate the power of prayer.

 

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Geoff and Allan, both of you provided a very good read and some very interesting history and facts about not only the recipients of the medals shown but also gave a nice "over view" of the time and how things worked much differently then than now. Very informative and a pleasure to read and view this post.

Always looking for 325th G.I.R. and WWII USMC items!
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