Military Honors Rendered For Owen Leonard Clements

Owen Leonard Clements and three other soldiers drowned in the Rio Grande during a border skirmish at Progreso, TX on January 26, 1916.

Image detail- military honors for Sergeant Owen Leonard Clements, Corporal Michael F. Ring, Private Perry H. Rhode, and Private Charles D. Wilton Best, drowned January 26, 1916

Image detail- military honors for Sergeant Owen Leonard Clements, Corporal Michael F. Ring, Private Perry H. Rhode, and Private Charles D. Wilton Best, drowned January 26, 1916

Clements was a sergeant serving with Battery D, 4th Field Artillery Regiment, on the Mexican border. Owen Leonard Clements (subject of previous post: see Owen Leonard Clements and the 4th Field Artillery) grew up in the Ray City, GA vicinity and entered the Army as a young man.

The bodies of three of the drowned men were found five days later about five miles down stream from Progreso, as reported in the The Chicago Day Book:

Bodies of soldiers drowned in the Rio Grande recovered.  The Day Book, January 31, 1916.

Bodies of soldiers drowned in the Rio Grande recovered. The Day Book, January 31, 1916.

The Chicago Day Book
January 31, 1916

BODIES OF SOLDIERS DROWNED IN RIO GRAND RECOVERED

Brownsville, Tex. , Jan. 31. – Bodies of three of four United States soldiers who drowned while crossing Rio Grande last week to aid in rescue of two comrades kidnapped by Mexican bandits have been recovered.  They are those of Corp. Michael L. Ring of Lenox Mass.; Private Perry A. Rhodes of Seattle, Wash., and Private Charles W. Wilton-Best of East Boston, Mass.  The two former were of Battery D., Fourth Field artillery, and the latter of Troop A., Twelf cavalry.
     A hat was thrown in river at Progresso, Tex., where men were drowned.  When hat stopped with current at a point five miles below Progreso, two charges of dynamite were exploded in river there.  The three bodies rose to the surface.  None of them bore any wounds, dispelling theory that soldiers were hit by Mexican bullets before they went down.

Additional reports indicated the search for Clements continued:

January 31, 1916 edition of The Day, New London, CT reports on the recovery of the bodies of three soldiers who drowned in the Rio Grande. The body of Owen Leonard Clements is reported still missing.

January 31, 1916 edition of The Day, New London, CT reports on the recovery of the bodies of three soldiers who drowned in the Rio Grande. The body of Owen Leonard Clements is reported still missing.

The New London Day
January 31, 1916

U.S. SOLDIERS NOT SHOT BY MEXICANS

Dynamite Floats Bodies of Three Victims – Examination Shows No Wounds.

      BROWNSVILLE, Texas, Jan. 31. – Use of dynamite has resulted in the recovery today of the bodies of three of the four soldiers drowned in the Rio Grande, Jan. 26,  at Progreso, Texas, when American soldiers entered Mexico in an effort to rescue two companions.  The bodies recovered were those of Corporal Michael Ring and Private Henry A. Rhode, Battery B, Fourth field artillery, and Private Charles D. Wilton Best of the Twelfth cavalry.
    Examination of the three bodies at an undertaker’s establishment where they were embalmed last night revealed no bullet wounds and so disposes of the rumors that they were drowned after being shot by Mexicans.
      Search for the body of Sergt. Owen Clements will continue tomorrow.

Within a few days the body of Owen Leonard Clements was also recovered.   The Army provided a funeral service for the four soldiers with full military honors.

Quadruple funeral for Sergeant Owen L. Clements, Corporal Michael F. Ring, Private Perry H. Rhode, and Private Charles D. Wilton Best, drowned January 26, 1916.  The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, 01167, courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Quadruple funeral for Sergeant Owen L. Clements, Corporal Michael F. Ring, Private Perry H. Rhode, and Private Charles D. Wilton Best, drowned January 26, 1916. The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, 01167, courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Quadruple funeral for Sergeant Owen L. Clements, Corporal Michael F. Ring, Private Perry H. Rhode, and Private Charles D. Wilton Best, drowned January 26, 1916. The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, 01167, courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Quadruple funeral for Sergeant Owen L. Clements, Corporal Michael F. Ring, Private Perry H. Rhode, and Private Charles D. Wilton Best, drowned January 26, 1916. The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, 01167, courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Quadruple funeral for Sergeant Owen L. Clements, Corporal Michael F. Ring, Private Perry H. Rhode, and Private Charles D. Wilton Best, drowned January 26, 1916. The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, 01167, courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

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Quadruple funeral for Sergeant Owen L. Clements, Corporal Michael F. Ring, Private Perry H. Rhode, and Private Charles D. Wilton Best, drowned January 26, 1916. The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, 01167, courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Quadruple funeral for Sergeant Owen L. Clements, Corporal Michael F. Ring, Private Perry H. Rhode, and Private Charles D. Wilton Best, drowned January 26, 1916. The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, 01167, courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

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Quadruple funeral for Sergeant Owen L. Clements, Corporal Michael F. Ring, Private Perry H. Rhode, and Private Charles D. Wilton Best, drowned January 26, 1916. The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, 01167, courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Quadruple funeral for Sergeant Owen L. Clements, Corporal Michael F. Ring, Private Perry H. Rhode, and Private Charles D. Wilton Best, drowned January 26, 1916. The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, 01167, courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

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Military honors for Owen L. Clements, of Ray's Mill, GA. The Schulenberg Sticker, February 11, 1916.

Military honors for Owen L. Clements, of Ray’s Mill, GA. The Schulenberg Sticker, February 11, 1916.

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Gravemarker of Owen Leonard Clements (1886-1916), Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.

Gravemarker of Owen Leonard Clements (1886-1916), Cat Creek Cemetery, Lowndes County, GA.

1919 Epilogue:

Investigation of Mexican affairs:

Hearing before a subcommittee of the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, Sixty-sixth Congress, first[-second] session, pursuant to S. res. 106, directing the Committee on Foreign Relations to investigate the matter of outrages on citizens of the United States in Mexico, Volume 1, 1919:

On January 26, 1916, Pvts. W. P. Wheeler and Biggo Pederson, Battery D. Fourth United States Field Artillery, while swimming in the Rio Grande just south of Progresso, swam to Mexico side. There they were taken prisoners by the Mexicans and carried back from the river. As soon as it was reported to the officers in charge of the commands, believing that it was the intention of the Mexicans to abuse the two soldiers, Lieut. John E. Mort, Second Lieut. Bernard R. Peyton, and Lieut Albert W. Waldron, all of Battery D, Fourth United States Field Artillery, with about 20 men, started across by fording and swimming. All but Sergt. Owen L. Clements, Corpl. Michael F. Ring, Pvt. Perry M. Rhode, and Pvt. Chas. D. Wilton Best landed safely, but those  named were drowned, their bodies being recovered about three days later.
   This detachment was unable to find the two soldiers, though they searched many houses.  Being informed that Carranza soldiers had taken them and would not maltreat them, the expedition return to the Texas side.  On January 27, 1916, the Carranzists commander at Matamoras turned the two men over to United States Consul Johnson and they were soon back on Texas soil.  A court-martial was convened to try the offending officers, who received some minor reprimand, and were detailed for more onerous duties elsewhere.

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More on Sergeant Owen Leonard Clements

Owen Leonard Clements (subject of previous posts: see Owen Leonard Clements and the 4th Field Artillery and Owen Leonard Clements Drowned During Invasion of Mexico)  was a son of Senie Burkhalter and  Benjamin Franklin Clements. He grew up in the Ray City, GA vicinity and as a young man entered the U. S. Army.  He was serving with Battery D, 4th Field Artillery Regiment in Texas on the Rio Grande  in January of 1916 when he and several men in his unit were involved in an ‘unofficial’ invasion of Mexico. Clements drowned while crossing the Rio Grande.  Here is another account of the incident.

Owen Leonard Clements was among soldiers who crossed the Rio Grande in 1916.

Owen Leonard Clements was among soldiers who crossed the Rio Grande in 1916.

Corpus Christi Caller and Daily Herald
Thursday, January 27, 1916

U.S. SOLDIERS CROSS RIO GRANDE – FOUR OF THEM DIE

SQUAD OF ARTILLERYMEN SWIM RIVER AT PROGRESO TO RESCUE THEIR COMRADES

RETREATING TO AMERICAN SIDE UNDER HEAVY FIRE FROM MEXICANS FOUR AMERICAN SOLDIERS DROWN – THREE LIEUTENANTS WHO LEAD FORAY PLACED UNDER ARREST AND MAY BE COURTMARTIALED

TWO SOLDIERS HELD PRISONERS BY MEXICANS

Sensational Incident Precipitated by Act of Four American Artillerymen Who Swam the River, Two of Them Being Captured as They Climbed the Bank on Mexican Side – Eighteen of Their Comrades Went to Rescue and Battle Resulted

MERCEDES, Texas, January 26. – Four American soldiers are known to be dead and two others are missing as the result of the first armed invasion of Mexico by United States troops, which occurred at Progreso, seven miles southwest of Mercedes at 3:30 o’clock this afternoon.  None of the Americans, however, were killed by Mexican bullets, the four who lost their lives having been drowned while swimming the Rio Grande.

The Dead

SERGEANT OWEN L. CLEMENT
CORPORAL MIKE F. KING
PRIVATE HARRY A. RHOADE, all of the above are of Battery D., Fourth Field Artillery
PRIVATE CHARLES D. WILTON BEST,  troop A., 12th Cavalry

The Missing

PRIVATE WILLIAM P. WHEELER,
PRIVATE BIGGO PATTERSON, both of Battery D.

Beginning of the Trouble

      The trouble started when four men of Battery D., Fourth Field Artillery, which is on patrol duty at Progreso, swam the Rio Grande to the Mexican side.  As soon as they had scrambled up the bank the party was confronted by a number of armed Mexicans, apparently regular soldiers, who demanded their surrender.  Two of the Americans plunged back into the river and escaped, although a fulisade of shots was fired at them.  The other two, Wheeler and Patterson, were captured and the last their comrades saw of them they were being taken toward the brush.
       Shortly after the men who escaped had reported the affair Lieutenant John E. Mort, commanding Battery D., with Lieutenants Peyton and Waldron, fourteen men of the battery and one trooper of the 12th Cavalry, left camp and swam the river with the avowed intention of rescuing the men taken prisoner by the Mexicans.  For two hours the rescue party searched the brush on the Mexican side penetrating for a distance of three-quarters of a mile into the interior, but failed to find any trace of the missing men.  On their return to the river they were fired on from the brush, but did not return this attack.

Men Lost in Retreat

      As the American soldiers plunged into the river to return to their own side Mexicans, who apparently had been following them, opened a brisk fire on the swimming me, which was returned by other men of Battery D., and of Troop A., 12th cavalry, who had mustered on the Texas side of the river to cover their comrades’ retreat, several hundred shots being exchanged.  It was during this retreat that the four artillerymen were drowned but as their bodies have not been recovered it is not known positively whether or not they were struck by bullets.
      As they acted without orders from their superior officers the three lieutenants who lead the dash across the river have been placed under arrest, pending an investigation.  The privates who participated in the affair are confined to quarters and also may be brought before a courtmartial.
     Major Anderson, commanding this department of the border patrol, has telegraphed a report of the affair to Major General Funston at San Antonio, with a request for instructions as to further action.
      Among soldiers and civilians the incident has created the most intense excitement, many alarming rumors having been in circulation throughout the afternoon and evening.  One of these was to the effect that an organized invasion of Mexico had begun and that a score or more American soldiers had been killed.
      Army officers have taken steps to prevent any recurrence of the trouble but men of the ranks are greatly aroused over the probable fate of Wheeler and Patterson.  They remember that in previous cases where American soldiers have fallen into

SQUAD OF ARTILLERYMEN SWIM RIVER AT PROGRESO TO RESCUE THEIR COMRADES
(Continued from Page 1)

hands of the Mexicans only their mutilated bodies having been recovered.

Another Version

      The following version of the affair, somewhat different from the above, which came to The Caller early in the evening by long distance telephone, was received at midnight over the Western Union wires from The Caller’s correspondent at Mercedes:
      “While American soldiers of Battery D, stationed at Progreso, were bathing in the Rio Grande river this afternoon two got too close to the Mexican side, were captured by Mexicans and taken into the interior.  Four other American soldiers who went to their rescue were drowned.
      “About three-quarters of an hour after this happened a detachment of fifty men crossed into Mexico in search of their comrades but returned in an hour or so without them.  They were fired at continually by bandits.”