In honor of the Fourth of July, the Archives and Special Collections (ASC) is proud to announce the replica acquisition of the Joseph “Joe” Quesenberry diary. The diary was acquired from a Quesenberry descendant in the fall of 2019 and is a great resource for those wanting to learn about how a native New Mexican carried out his military life while deployed overseas during WWI. The diary belonged to Joe Quesenberry, a former student at New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (now NMSU). In 1916, before the U.S. had entered WWI, Joe left his studies to join the U.S. Army amid a national Preparedness Movement that viewed U.S. involvement in the war likely.
While in France, Joe was a first lieutenant in Company K of the 18th infantry. In August 1917, Joe was promoted to captain and given the command of the company. Company K was noted as the first to occupy the frontline trenches on the battlefront in France. The company was also famous for the March 1, 1918 capture of the first German gun and first German prisoner taken by the U.S. Army. About a month later, during a German bombardment of the American lines, Joe was fatally wounded on April 18, 1918 and died at the young age of 23.
The diary captures events that he experienced from December 1916 to March 1918. The first entry begins, “I left my home at Las Cruces New Mexico to begin my life as a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Army. I went to Fort Leavenworth Kansas for a three-month course.” The diary provides a first-hand account of issues Joe encountered, such as the living conditions and the realities he experienced on the battlefront. He vividly explains his daily experiences being part of the 18th Infantry, Company K. Entries vary in nature, some are detailed and light while others are exhaustive and provide much detail. He describes his daily life, drill exercises, and how injuries and illnesses affected the soldiers. The content of Joe’s diary is touching considering he describes the events he encounters with remarkable detail.
Within the Las Cruces community and the NMSU campus there are dedicated areas where Joe’s legacy will be remembered for years to come. On the city’s north side, the American Legion Post 10 is named after the Joe Quesenberry. Ed Torres, who is Commander of Post 10, offered to give me a tour of the post. Inside there is a dedicated room with memorabilia belonging to Joe, representing his time in the military and at NMSU. The area highlights Joe’s career with the 18th Infantry and contains a replica of his military hat and medals. Along with the military attire, a leather football helmet is featured in the exhibit to highlight his time spent in college as a standout athlete. While playing football, Joe served as captain and anchored the offensive line as a left tackle. George Quesenberry, Joe’s brother, served as commander of Post 10 and as the New Mexico State Commander.
On the NMSU campus there was once a football field dedicated to the local hero, unveiled in 1933. The field was situated where the College of Health and Social Services building now sits. The field was named in Quesenberry’s honor and from 1933 to 1949 the Aggie football team competed there. In 1950, Quesenberry Field officially became Aggie Memorial Stadium in honor of all the other Aggie veterans who had lost their lives while serving their country. Today, a part of the stadium remains, known as the Aggie Memorial Tower.
This tower, the sole remnant of the original stadium, is now part of the College of Health and Social Services building. In tribute to all the Aggies who lost their lives in service, there is a memorial located in the Health and Social Services building honoring their service and memory. The Aggie Memorial Tower contains photographs and biographical information of fallen military members affiliated with NMSU. The Round-Up, the college’s student newspaper, published an issue dedicated to Joe upon his passing. Many issues of the Round-Up capture his involvement while attending college and can be accessed remotely through The Round-Up digital collections.
Those interested in seeking further information on the acquisition please view the finding aid and to view the entire diary click here. Lastly, thank you to all military service members – those presently serving our country and to the fallen men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice.