Pancho Villa ataca a Columbus, Nuevo México

Pancho Villa ataca a Columbus, Nuevo México

Enfurecido por el apoyo estadounidense a sus rivales por el control de México, el líder revolucionario de origen campesino Pancho Villa ataca la ciudad fronteriza de Columbus, Nuevo México.

En 1913, una sangrienta guerra civil en México llevó al poder al general Victoriano Huerta. El presidente estadounidense Woodrow Wilson despreció el nuevo régimen, refiriéndose a él como un “gobierno de carniceros” y brindó apoyo militar activo a un retador, Venustiano Carranza. Desafortunadamente, cuando Carranza ganó el poder en 1914, también resultó una decepción y Wilson apoyó a otro líder rebelde, Pancho Villa.

Un líder astuto de origen campesino, Villa se unió a Emiliano Zapata para mantener vivo el espíritu de rebelión en México y hostigar al gobierno de Carranza. Sin embargo, un año después, Wilson decidió que Carranza había dado suficientes pasos hacia la reforma democrática para merecer el apoyo oficial de Estados Unidos, y el presidente abandonó a Villa. Indignado, Villa se volvió contra Estados Unidos. En enero de 1916, secuestró a 18 estadounidenses de un tren mexicano y los masacró. Unas semanas más tarde, en este día de 1916, Villa dirigió un ejército de aproximadamente 1.500 guerrilleros a través de la frontera para organizar una incursión brutal contra la pequeña ciudad estadounidense de Columbus, Nuevo México. Villa y sus hombres mataron a 19 personas y dejaron el pueblo en llamas.

Ahora decidido a destruir al rebelde que una vez había apoyado, Wilson ordenó al general John Pershing que dirigiera a 6.000 soldados estadounidenses a México y capturara a Villa. De mala gana, Carranza accedió a permitir que Estados Unidos invadiera territorio mexicano. Durante casi dos años, Pershing y sus soldados persiguieron a la esquiva Villa a caballo, en automóviles y en aviones. Las tropas estadounidenses tuvieron varias escaramuzas sangrientas con los rebeldes, pero Pershing nunca pudo encontrar y enfrentarse a Villa.

Finalmente, perdiendo la paciencia con la presencia militar estadounidense en su nación, Carranza retiró el permiso para la ocupación. Pershing regresó a casa a principios de 1917, y tres meses después partió hacia Europa como jefe de la Fuerza Expedicionaria Estadounidense de la Primera Guerra Mundial. Aunque Pershing nunca capturó a Villa, sus esfuerzos lo convencieron de que nunca más atacara a ciudadanos o territorios estadounidenses. Después de ayudar a sacar a Carranza del poder en 1920, Villa acordó retirarse de la política. Sus enemigos lo asesinaron en 1923. El resentimiento engendrado en México por los esfuerzos contra Pancho Villa, sin embargo, no se desvaneció con su muerte, y las relaciones entre México y Estados Unidos se mantuvieron tensas durante las próximas décadas.


Pancho Villa ataca a Columbus, Nuevo México - HISTORIA

Estados Unidos se involucró en la revolución mexicana y, en lo que respecta a Pancho Villa, eligieron el lado equivocado. El líder político militar de facto del norte de México, se embarcó en una misión para hostigar y castigar a los estadounidenses, para que se retiraran del conflicto. Comenzó con los secuestros estándar, etc., pero conscientemente se quedó en el lado mexicano de la frontera. Los estadounidenses pensaron que no quería provocar todo el poderío militar de los Estados Unidos. Resultó que solo estaba construyendo sus defensas.

En este día, 9 de marzo de 1916, Pancho Villa encabezó una fuerza de asalto que cruzó la frontera estadounidense en Nuevo México y sorprendió a un regimiento de caballería allí guarnecido (no ayudó que los jinetes hubieran estado bebiendo la noche anterior). saquear el pueblo, llevándose muchos caballos, mulas y toda la munición que pudiera llevar.

Como era de esperar, Estados Unidos reunió rápidamente un ejército para ingresar a México en busca del forajido. Pero ahora los estadounidenses estaban en el terreno de Villa. Los escoltas asignados ostensiblemente para ayudar a guiar al ejército llevaban a los extraviados en cada oportunidad que los guías indios les daban una dirección falsa y Villa escondió cómodamente su fuerza entre el terreno montañoso y montó incursiones de hostigamiento. Al final, después de casi un año de caza infructuosa, los estadounidenses abandonaron la búsqueda y se dieron la vuelta. Villa vivió el resto de sus días como un héroe célebre.


Libro afirma que la redada de Pancho Villa en un pueblo de Nuevo México fue el "primer acto de terrorismo en suelo estadounidense"

Mitchell Yockelson es el autor del libro recién publicado, Cuarenta y siete días: cómo los guerreros de Pershing llegaron a la mayoría de edad para derrotar al ejército alemán en la Primera Guerra Mundial. Yockelson, quien recibió el Premio a la Escritura Distinguida de la Fundación Histórica del Ejército, es archivero de los Archivos Nacionales y ex profesor de historia militar en la Academia Naval de los Estados Unidos.

Han pasado 100 años desde que el revolucionario Francisco “Pancho” Villa cometió el primer acto de terror en suelo estadounidense. El 9 de marzo de 1916, Villa y más de 400 bandidos montados fuertemente armados cruzaron la frontera mexicana y atacaron Columbus, Nuevo México. Los villistas tomaron completamente por sorpresa a la ciudad de 350 habitantes, más una guarnición de 553 soldados de la 13a Caballería de Estados Unidos. "Yo estaba despierto, ellos estaban dormidos", se jactó más tarde, "y tardaron demasiado en despertar".

Durante casi dos horas, los hombres de Villa saquearon el hotel de la ciudad, sus pocas tiendas y casas de adobe antes de que la caballería los persiguiera al otro lado de la frontera. Abandonados en las polvorientas calles de Columbus yacían ocho civiles muertos y diez soldados estadounidenses, y varios más heridos. Los villistas sufrieron mayores pérdidas, entre cien y doscientos hombres, algunos muertos durante una escaramuza de caballería a 30 millas de profundidad en México.

La redada de Villa fue un acto de terrorismo y el primero de este tipo realizado en suelo estadounidense. Sin ser provocados, sus hombres mataron a tiros a estadounidenses inocentes y destruyeron sus propiedades. Aunque el número de muertos palidece en comparación con los ataques del 11 de septiembre o los recientes tiroteos masivos en París, el público estadounidense se quedó atónito y exigió una retribución inmediata, temiendo que Villa estuviera alborotado con planes para masacrar otras ciudades fronterizas. El presidente Woodrow Wilson, un guerrero reacio, estaba en medio de una campaña de reelección que se comprometía a mantener a Estados Unidos fuera de la guerra en Europa. Una guerra con México era ahora una posibilidad y tenía que actuar.

Villa nunca dijo por qué orquestó el ataque, pero su odio por Estados Unidos no era ningún secreto. Estaba enojado porque la administración de Wilson respaldaba formalmente al principal rival político de Villa, el gobernador Venustiano Carranza. Buscando venganza tres meses antes de la redada de Colón, sus villistas asesinaron a 18 estadounidenses a bordo de un tren de México. Wilson ignoró el episodio y no hizo nada.

Sin embargo, un día después de que Colón fuera alcanzado, Wilson necesitaba lucir fuerte y ordenó a su nuevo secretario de guerra, Newton D. Baker, que enviara una fuerza armada a México. Una semana después, una expedición punitiva de más de 14.000 soldados bajo el mando del general de brigada John J. Pershing, incluido el ayudante del teniente George S. Patton, se dirigió a México en persecución de Villa.

Hoy, Pancho Villa está más asociado con una gran cantidad de restaurantes mexicanos que llevan su nombre que con su verdadero legado como asesino a sangre fría. Villa no era un héroe popular como algunos quisieran creer, sino un violento terrorista cuyas acciones nos recuerdan las atrocidades cometidas por ISIS un siglo después.


Pancho Villa & # 8217s falta la cabeza, un misterio sin resolver

En una fría mañana de febrero de 1926, un cuidador, que hacía su patrulla de rutina en el cementerio de la ciudad de Parral, Chihuahua, notó algo extraño. La cubierta de cemento de una de las tumbas había sido alterada. Faltaban piezas del ataúd y el cuerpo que estaba dentro estaba mutilado. Aún más inquietante, el cuerpo había sido decapitado y la cabeza del famoso residente fue removida. Era la tumba de Pancho Villa, el más infame de todos los revolucionarios mexicanos.

Tres años antes, Villa, en su conocido Dodge Roadster de 1919, se dirigía a su casa en Parral. Si bien solía ir acompañado de muchos guardaespaldas, esta vez fue con solo cuatro asociados. Al pasar por un bosquecillo de árboles, alguien gritó & # 8220 ¡Viva Villa! & # 8221

Después de eso, aparecieron siete fusileros y dispararon más de cuarenta balas al auto. Nueve balas alcanzaron a Villa, cuatro le entraron en la cabeza. Murió inmediatamente. Su cuerpo fue encontrado con la mano buscando su arma. Tres de los hombres que iban en el coche con él murieron. Ramón Contreras, quien mató a uno de los asesinos, escapó. Informó que las últimas palabras de Villa fueron & # 8220Don & # 8217 que no termine así. Diles, dije algo. & # 8221 Lo enterraron en un lote municipal en un catafalco de cemento elevado. En él, en pintura blanca, había un breve aviso: “Tumba del Gral. Francisco Villa. Parral, Chi ".

A pesar de la sencillez de la tumba, la vida de Villa fue bastante extraordinaria. Provenía de una familia pobre, fue reclutado en el ejército como soldado común y logró, en poco tiempo, convertirse en el más renombrado y uno de los generales más queridos y odiados de la Revolución Mexicana. Su vida había sido verdaderamente extraordinaria. Además de sus tácticas brillantes y sus numerosas victorias en la batalla, también tenía una reputación de ser bebedor, rudo y rudo, y de hazañas sexuales sin igual por ningún líder mexicano anterior.

Villa fue valiente, algunos incluso podrían decir imprudente. Una de sus hazañas más notorias fue una redada en la ciudad de Columbus, Nuevo México, el 9 de marzo de 1916. La intención era recuperar suministros para su ejército pero, desafortunadamente, resultó en la muerte no solo de varios de sus hombres sino de civiles en los Estados Unidos. Fue la única incursión de un ejército extranjero en suelo estadounidense desde los británicos, durante la guerra de 1812. Provocó la ira del presidente Woodrow Wilson, quien ordenó a una fuerza expedicionaria cruzar la frontera mexicana y perseguirlo.

El general John ("Blackjack") Pershing reunió una fuerza expedicionaria punitiva que consistía principalmente en caballería y artillería. Eran 6.000 hombres armados con ametralladoras, rifles Springfield y pistolas automáticas. Buscaron durante casi un año y no encontraron rastro de Villa, aunque libraron varias escaramuzas con sus hombres. En febrero de 1917, fueron retirados para luchar en Europa, después de que Estados Unidos entrara en la Primera Guerra Mundial.

Mientras tanto, Villa se había separado de su compañero revolucionario y luego presidente, Venustiano Carranza, y se había involucrado en una guerra civil. Se le concedió la amnistía en 1920, después de la muerte de Carranza, y se instaló en una granja de 25.000 acres con varios cientos de sus hombres y una generosa pensión. Pero todavía tenía muchos enemigos, especialmente entre los generales que lucharon contra él, entre ellos un Álvaro Obregón, ex aliado de Carranza, que ordenó matar a Villa.

Otro amigo de Obregón, que antes había luchado al lado de Villa pero se unió a la oposición y consideró a Villa un cañón suelto, fue el soldado de fortuna estadounidense, Emil Holmdahl. Creía que Villa había escondido varios millones de dólares en oro en Sierra Madres. Había realizado varias expediciones en busca del tesoro pero no tuvo éxito.

La noche en que robaron la tumba de Villa, Holmdahl estaba sospechosamente en Parral, Chihuahua. Fue detenido por la policía federal al día siguiente, junto con un acompañante, y acusado de vandalizar la tumba de Villa. Fue puesto en libertad tras la intercesión de un influyente ganadero local, Ben F. Williams. Si bien Holmdahl nunca admitió públicamente la decapitación y el robo, persiste una fuerte sospecha. Según la biografía oficial de Williams, escrita por su hija, Holmdahl le dijo a su padre en privado que le había robado la cabeza a un cliente en Estados Unidos.

Un rumor persistente es que el trofeo ahora es parte de un ritual de la sociedad secreta Skull and Bones en la Universidad de Yale, una organización que ha incluido a muchos funcionarios poderosos en los Estados Unidos, y que ha estado bajo investigación por sus rituales arcanos y cuestionables.

En la campaña presidencial de 2004, un entrevistador preguntó tanto al ex presidente Bush como al senador John Kerry acerca de su membresía en Skull and Bones, a lo que el presidente respondió & # 8220Es tan secreto que podemos & # 8217t hablar de ello & # 8221.


Cuando Patton invadió México: La caza de Pancho Villa

La audaz incursión del líder guerrillero mexicano Pancho Villa llevó al presidente Woodrow Wilson a enviar una expedición punitiva a México.

El teniente John P. Lucas de la 13a Caballería de los EE. UU. Estaba profundamente dormido en una pequeña choza de adobe en Columbus, Nuevo México, la noche del 9 de marzo de 1916, cuando lo despertaron abruptamente los inconfundibles sonidos de hombres y caballos que pasaban por su ventana. . Eran las 4:30 am en el pequeño pueblo del desierto a tres millas de la frontera con México. México estaba en medio de una revolución sangrienta, y la 13ª Caballería estaba allí para asegurarse de que la violencia no se extendiera a los Estados Unidos.

Lucas se levantó rápidamente, tropezando en la oscuridad, y miró a través de la ventana hacia el oscuro vacío. Sus ojos somnolientos confirmaron lo que había oído: una gran cantidad de jinetes estaban llegando a la ciudad. Todavía estaba oscuro, pero Lucas vio a uno de los jinetes, que vestía un sombrero negro. No había ninguna duda en la mente del teniente de que los intrusos eran hombres de Pancho Villa y que Colón estaba siendo atacado.

El teniente buscó a ciegas su pistola y se dirigió al centro de la habitación frente a la puerta. La adrenalina corría por sus venas, Lucas esperaba que los villistas que se acercaban irrumpieran y acabaran con él. Estaba decidido a no caer sin luchar. Con suerte, podría llevarse uno o dos.

Una conmoción cercana salvó la vida del teniente. Cuando los asaltantes se acercaron al Puesto No. 3, no lejos del cuartel general de la 13a Caballería en el Campamento Furlong, fueron desafiados por el centinela de guardia, el soldado Fred Griffin de la Tropa K.En respuesta, un villista le disparó a Griffin en el estómago, hiriéndolo de muerte. . Asombrado por el golpe, Griffin levantó su rifle modelo Springfield 1903 y mató a tres asaltantes antes de morir él mismo.

Ahora no había necesidad de mantener el secreto. Alguien en la oscuridad gritó: "¡Vayanse adelante, muchachos!" En respuesta, los asaltantes espolearon a sus caballos con gritos de "¡Viva Villa!" y "Muerte a los gringos!" La incursión de Colón había comenzado. Aunque a pequeña escala, la incursión antes del amanecer cobraría importancia en la turbulenta historia de las relaciones entre Estados Unidos y su tumultuoso vecino del sur, lo que desencadenó una respuesta militar estadounidense que casi conduciría a la guerra entre las dos naciones.

El mítico Pancho Villa

Pancho Villa, cuyo verdadero nombre era Doroteo Arango, era la figura central del drama, y ​​la redada y los eventos posteriores no pueden entenderse completamente sin una exploración del personaje de Villa. Villa fue una figura más grande que la vida cuya leyenda resuena en ambos países hasta el día de hoy. Pero es difícil separar a Villa el hombre del mito de Villa, un mito basado en parte en hechos pero también, irónicamente, producto de periódicos y películas estadounidenses.

Las actitudes estadounidenses hacia México eran una incómoda mezcla de idealismo y condescendencia. Las malas relaciones entre las dos naciones se remontan a las décadas de 1830 y 1840, cuando Texas se rebeló contra México, instigando la Guerra Mexicana y resultando en la pérdida de una parte considerable del territorio de este último a los Estados Unidos. El antagonismo continuó en el siglo XX cuando una serie de líderes mexicanos impotentes no lograron poner orden en su conflictiva nación.

En 1910, los rebeldes liderados por Francisco Madero pusieron fin a la dictadura de Porfirio Díaz, que duró 30 años, y dio inicio a un nuevo período de malestar e incertidumbre a medida que diferentes facciones políticas competían por el poder. Tres años después, el general Victoriano Huerta derrocó a Madero en un golpe de estado, matando a su rival en el proceso. Huerta fue escasa mejora con respecto a su predecesor, la corrupción flagrante seguía azotando al país. Las fuerzas rebeldes se unieron en torno a líderes carismáticos como Emiliano Zapata en el sur y Álvaro Obregón, Venustiano Carranza y Pancho Villa en el norte.

El presidente William Howard Taft siguió de cerca la caótica situación en México, enviando 16,000 soldados a la frontera en 1911 para salvaguardar a los ciudadanos estadounidenses (y los intereses comerciales estadounidenses). Cuando Woodrow Wilson sucedió a Taft como presidente en marzo de 1913, se negó a reconocer al gobierno de Huerta. En cambio, envió fuerzas navales adicionales a Tampico y Veracruz para proteger los intereses estadounidenses allí y evitar que las armas ingresen al país desde el extranjero. Comprensiblemente, los mexicanos vieron las acciones de Wilson como una intromisión descarada en sus asuntos internos. Aumentó la hostilidad antiamericana.

Las tensiones alcanzaron un punto de ebullición el 9 de abril de 1914, en Tampico, cuando un grupo de marineros estadounidenses del USS Dolphin fueron apresados ​​por las autoridades mexicanas después de que ingresaron por error a un área restringida en busca de suministros. Aunque Huerta avergonzado ordenó rápidamente su liberación y emitió una disculpa formal a los Estados Unidos, Wilson reaccionó enviando fuerzas navales adicionales a la costa mexicana para monitorear el empeoramiento de la situación.

Dos semanas después, un barco alemán cargado de armas para Huerta se acercó a Veracruz. Wilson ordenó inmediatamente a los infantes de marina que ocuparan la ciudad portuaria. Unos 800 infantes de marina y marineros estadounidenses irrumpieron en tierra y se abrieron paso hasta el centro de la ciudad. Los combates callejeros amargos continuaron durante todo el día, cobrando 17 vidas estadounidenses y otros 61 heridos, mientras que casi 200 defensores fueron asesinados, lo que avivó aún más la hostilidad hacia Estados Unidos en todo México y el resto de América Latina.

El régimen de Carranza toma el poder

En julio de 1914, Huerta dimitió. Cuatro meses después, Wilson sacó sus fuerzas de Veracruz y dio su apoyo al gobierno opositor de Carranza. Pero Carranza enfrentó la continua oposición de sus principales subordinados: Zapata, Obregón y Pancho Villa. Zapata y Villa pronto se separaron por la correcta conducción de la guerra, y para 1915, Villa y Obregón también eran enemigos mortales. Al principio, parecía que Villa, el legendario centauro del norte, tenía todas las cartas. Pero Obregón apoyó a Carranza y derrotó decisivamente a Villa en Celaya ese abril.

Aunque Carranza a menudo llenaba sus discursos de retórica antiamericana, parecía una opción más estable que el desacreditado jefe de los bandidos, y en octubre de 1915 Estados Unidos reconoció oficialmente a Carranza y su régimen como los gobernantes legítimos de México. La administración de Wilson ayudó materialmente a Carranza al permitir que las tropas mexicanas usaran los ferrocarriles estadounidenses y cruzaran el territorio estadounidense para reforzar el puesto de avanzada del gobierno en Agua Prieta. Los refuerzos adicionales inclinaron la balanza a favor de las fuerzas gubernamentales. Villa lanzó tres oleadas de ataques contra Agua Prieta, solo para ser rechazados cada vez con grandes pérdidas.

La otra vez orgullosa División del Norte quedó prácticamente destruida. La mayoría de los supervivientes se rindieron o simplemente regresaron a casa. Pancho Villa aún permanecía en libertad, escondido en las colinas con unos cientos de seguidores incondicionales. Cuando Villa se enteró de que Wilson había reconocido a Carranza, se enfureció y juró venganza. Los incidentes a lo largo de la frontera aumentaron hasta el punto de que algunos hoteles estadounidenses comenzaron a anunciar que sus establecimientos eran a prueba de balas.

Intereses estadounidenses en la frontera mexicana

Mientras tanto, los estados fronterizos estadounidenses, particularmente Texas, se alarmaron cada vez más por el aumento de la violencia a lo largo de sus fronteras al sur. Los bandidos mexicanos, algunos villistas, otros no, cruzaban regularmente a los Estados Unidos para robar, asaltar y matar a ciudadanos estadounidenses. Desde julio de 1915 hasta junio de 1916, hubo unas 38 redadas de este tipo, que resultaron en la muerte de 37 estadounidenses. En respuesta, los estadounidenses a lo largo de la frontera formaron grupos de vigilantes que se aprovecharon de los inofensivos mexicano-estadounidenses. Un grupo disparó a 14 mexicano-estadounidenses y colocó sus cuerpos a lo largo de la carretera como advertencia. Algunos de los legendarios Texas Rangers también fueron culpables de atrocidades al azar. Para detener tanto las redadas fronterizas como la escalada de violencia de ambos lados, el presidente Wilson y el secretario de Estado William Jennings Bryan ordenaron al general Frederick Funston, jefe del Departamento Sur del Ejército, que enviara más tropas a la frontera.

Había numerosas minas de plata y cobre en Sonora y Chihuahua, la mayoría de ellas propiedad de empresas estadounidenses y operadas por ellas. Estas minas, cruciales para la economía mexicana, habían sido cerradas debido a la violencia revolucionaria. Como señal de que estaban firmemente en control, Carranza y Obregón declararon pacificada a Sonora y Chihuahua y alentaron a los residentes y trabajadores extranjeros a regresar. Tomándolos en su palabra, American Smelting and Refining Company envió ingenieros para reabrir la mina Cixi en Chihuahua.

El 9 de enero de 1916, los hombres de Villa detuvieron cerca de Santa Ysabel a 17 funcionarios e ingenieros mineros a bordo de un tren en el Ferrocarril del Noroeste de México. Los bandidos sacaron a los estadounidenses del tren, los alinearon y les dispararon en la cabeza uno por uno. Un tejano fingió estar muerto, se arrastró hacia un parche de arbustos de mezquite y logró escapar. La noticia de la masacre enfureció tanto a los ciudadanos de El Paso que los comandantes del Ejército tuvieron que declarar la ley marcial para evitar que los vigilantes estadounidenses cruzaran a México y se vengaran.

Batalla en las calles de Colón

Pero Villa no había terminado con los gringos que sentía que lo habían traicionado. Comenzó a planear una incursión en una ciudad fronteriza, aunque al principio Columbus, Nuevo México, era solo uno de los muchos objetivos posibles. Según algunos relatos, su inteligencia era defectuosa. Sus espías le dijeron que Colón solo tenía 30 soldados estadounidenses, el número estaba más cerca de 350.Los motivos de Villa se han debatido sin cesar, pero probablemente quería provocar una guerra entre Estados Unidos y México que finalmente conduciría a la caída de Carranza. Si sus hombres podían conseguir algún botín, armas y algunos caballos, tanto mejor.

Columbus era una pequeña ciudad fronteriza de alrededor de 350 almas, descrita por el teniente John Lucas como "un grupo de casas de adobe, un hotel, algunas tiendas y calles hasta las rodillas en la arena, combinadas con mezquite, cactus y serpientes de cascabel". El Paso y Southwestern Railroad corría aproximadamente de este a oeste a lo largo de las fronteras de la ciudad. Camp Furlong, la base militar, estaba justo sobre las vías. A lo largo del extremo suroeste de la ciudad había una loma llena de cactus conocida por los lugareños como Cootes Hill.

Villa y sus hombres cruzaron la frontera alrededor de las 2:30 de la mañana del 9 de marzo de 1916. Dividió su fuerza principal en cinco grupos. Dos grupos girarían a la izquierda y rodearían la ciudad desde el norte, mientras que un tercero atacaría Camp Furlong desde el sur y el oeste. Villa permanecería en las cercanías de Cootes Hill con dos grupos de reserva. Los villistas confiaban en haber logrado el elemento sorpresa.

Una vez que el centinela estadounidense fue derribado, sin embargo, se desató el infierno. Los asaltantes de Villa se adentraron en el pequeño distrito comercial de la ciudad, las calles arenosas y los edificios de adobe resonaban y resonaban con los gritos de los hombres, el batir de cascos y el chasquido agudo de los rifles. Los asaltantes desmontaron y se apresuraron al Hotel Comercial, donde capturaron a varios invitados masculinos, los sacaron a rastras y los mataron sin piedad. William T. Richie, propietario del hotel, tuvo el tiempo justo para esconder a su esposa y sus tres hijas en el piso superior antes de que los bandidos subieran las escaleras. Capturado, bajó de buen grado al primer piso, sin duda aliviado de que no hubieran descubierto a su familia. Tuvo poco tiempo para saborear su buena suerte, él también fue asesinado rápidamente.

Los asaltantes pasaron gran parte de su tiempo irrumpiendo en tiendas y hogares y saqueando todo lo que pudieron. Prendieron fuego a una tienda al otro lado de la calle del Hotel Comercial, y pronto la hostería se encendió. El hotel se encendió como una antorcha, las llamas crepitantes saltaron por todas las ventanas. Las mujeres Richie fueron rescatadas de la conflagración por un joven llamado improbablemente Jolly Gardner y un mexicoamericano, Juan Favela.

20.000 rondas

Mientras tanto, el teniente Lucas aprovechó al máximo su indulto de muerte. Como los mexicanos no iban a irrumpir, Lucas usó el abrigo de la oscuridad para intentar llegar al cuartel de Camp Furlong. El teniente de alguna manera se las arregló para evadir a los asaltantes, pero en la emoción no pudo ponerse las botas. Le tomó un mes quitar todas las rebabas y cardos de las plantas de sus pies.

En otra parte del campamento, el oficial del día, el teniente James C. Castleman, estaba leyendo un libro cuando comenzó la conmoción. Cuando salió por la puerta, el estadounidense se enfrentó a un bandido que le apuntaba con su rifle. El mexicano disparó pero falló, dándole a Castleman su oportunidad. El teniente replicó con su automática calibre .45, la pesada bala arrancó buena parte del cráneo del villista.

Castleman conoció al sargento Michael Fody, que había reunido a la Tropa F del teniente. Sin dudarlo, Castleman condujo a la Tropa F hacia la ciudad, donde la situación parecía ser más crítica. Lucas también estuvo activo, uniéndose a su tropa de ametralladoras y sacando todas las armas disponibles. Las ametralladoras Benet-Mercier de fabricación francesa, alimentadas por clips de 30 cartuchos, tenían la desagradable costumbre de atascarse en momentos inoportunos. Lucas y sus hombres comenzaron a disparar en la oscuridad, el cañón de los asaltantes destella su única pista sobre dónde podría estar el enemigo. El ruido de las ametralladoras se unía al agudo crujido de Springfields y al ladrido de Mausers. Muchos asaltantes fueron abatidos por las ametralladoras, que dispararon unas 20.000 rondas antes de que terminara la pelea.

De vuelta en la ciudad, los invasores pronto tuvieron motivos para lamentar su incendio provocado. El hotel y las tiendas en llamas iluminaban la zona mejor que un reflector. Se recortaron las siluetas de los asaltantes violentos, iluminados a contraluz por las llamas rugientes, y los Springfields de los doughboys rápidamente despacharon a docenas de los hombres de Villa. Después de unas dos horas, los asaltantes comenzaron a retirarse. El mayor Frank Tompkins reunió a unos 56 hombres de las tropas F y H, montó y salió en persecución, persiguiendo a su presa 15 millas en México antes de que las bajas municiones lo obligaran a detener la persecución.

La redada de Colón había terminado. Nueve civiles estadounidenses y ocho soldados yacían muertos. En la práctica, la redada de Villa fue un fiasco para el exjefe de los bandidos. Un total de 67 villistas habían sido asesinados en Columbus. Contando los hombres perdidos durante la persecución de Tompkins, más de 100 de los cada vez más escasos comandos estaban muertos; algunas estimaciones dicen que hasta 200. Pero si el objetivo principal de Villa era provocar la intervención estadounidense en México, entonces tuvo éxito más allá de sus sueños más locos. Woodrow Wilson no podía tolerar una invasión tan descarada de suelo estadounidense, particularmente en un año electoral. Después de una ráfaga de intercambios diplomáticos entre Wilson y Carranza, este último accedió a regañadientes a permitir una incursión estadounidense. El asentimiento fue ambiguo y expresado de tal manera que podría ser repudiado rápidamente por razones políticas internas.

John Pershing y la "expedición punitiva"

Wilson, que no se demoraba en las sutilezas diplomáticas, organizó lo que llamó la "Expedición Punitiva". La expedición estaría comandada por Brig de 55 años. El general John J. Pershing, un oficial veterano que era muy querido dentro del ejército, pero que tenía la reputación de ser duro y eficiente. Se le darían dos brigadas de caballería y una brigada de infantería para completar su misión: Apodado "Black Jack" Pershing después de comandar el 10º Regimiento de Caballería completamente negro, el veterano de las guerras indias en Occidente y luchar en Filipinas rápidamente se ganó el respeto de soldados y civiles en su puesto de Texas.

Pero las exigencias políticas pronto alteraron el objetivo de la misión. Originalmente, el secretario de Guerra Newton D. Baker dio órdenes a Pershing para que cruzara la frontera en persecución de la banda mexicana que había asaltado Columbus. Pero Wilson, ansioso por apaciguar las preocupaciones del gobierno de Carranza sobre una invasión estadounidense general, cambió el énfasis. El Ejército debía ingresar a México con el único objetivo de capturar al propio Villa. Hablando en nombre de muchos, un oficial del Ejército tenía poca confianza en el resultado. “Todos los militares”, dijo, “saben que bajo las órdenes que recibió [Pershing] tuvo tantas posibilidades de atrapar a Villa como de encontrar una aguja en un pajar”.

La tarea de Pershing no fue envidiable. El terreno de Chihuahua es un desierto arbustivo, seco, desolado y remoto. Gran parte del terreno desecado, plagado de cactus y mezquite es una meseta alta, con altitudes superiores a los 5,000 pies. Eso genera un calor abrasador durante el día y un frío escalofriante por la noche. La parte occidental de Chihuahua es montañosa, con los picos dentados de la Sierra Madre Occidental que se elevan hacia el cielo como la columna vertebral de un gigante.

Peor aún, no había carreteras de las que hablar, solo pistas desérticas que estaban polvorientas en verano y rápidamente se volvían lodosos cuando llovía. Los soldados lograron utilizar algunos de los ferrocarriles mexicanos, pero el acceso fue deliberadamente limitado por el gobierno de Carranza. La inteligencia confiable sobre el paradero de Villa también era limitada, y abundaban los rumores, las verdades a medias y las mentiras deliberadas. La mayoría de los mexicanos, cualquiera que sea su política actual, resintió que los estadounidenses se entrometieran en los asuntos de su país. No estaban dispuestos a cooperar.

Un ejército hecho para la guerra motorizada

El mando de Pershing estaba compuesto en gran parte por tropas regulares del ejército, profesionales y acostumbrados a las dificultades. La Primera Brigada de Caballería Provisional consistió en la 11ª y 13ª Caballería y una batería de la 6ª Artillería de Campaña. La Segunda Brigada de Caballería Provisional contenía la 7ª y la 10ª Caballería y otra batería de la 6ª Artillería. El 7 y el 10 se encontraban entre los regimientos más famosos del Ejército. La Séptima Caballería, o "Garry Owens", fue mejor recordada por la desafortunada lucha del Teniente Coronel George Armstrong Custer en Little Bighorn contra los Sioux y Cheyenne en junio de 1876. Tomaron su nombre de la canción de marcha favorita de Custer. La décima caballería procedía de los legendarios "Buffalo Soldiers", una unidad totalmente negra que también había ganado fama en las guerras indias. La 2ª Provisional se completó con otra batería de la 6ª Artillería. La 1ª Brigada Provisional de Infantería estaba formada por soldados de los 6º y 16º Regimientos de Infantería y tropas de apoyo.

El plan de Pershing era simple. El cuerpo principal cruzaría la frontera en Columbus, mientras que el resto cruzaría en Culbertson's Ranch, 80 millas al oeste en Hachita. Las columnas iban a converger en Casas Grandes. Se esperaba que Villa quedara atrapada entre las dos unidades. La marcha a Casas Grandes fue una de las más rápidas y agotadoras en los anales de la Caballería de los Estados Unidos. El cansado mando de Pershing llegó a Casas Grandes a las 8 de la noche del 17 de marzo, después de haber recorrido 110 kilómetros en dos días. La marcha había sido una prueba para hombres y bestias por igual. Los cascos de tijera habían levantado nubes asfixiantes de polvo alcalino, y una vez que el sol se deslizó detrás de los acantilados de color rosa, las temperaturas bajaron casi al punto de congelación.

Casas Grandes y la cercana comunidad mormona de Colonia Dublan servirían como bases principales para las fuerzas punitivas. Algunos suministros se enviaron por ferrocarril, incluidos materiales de construcción, madera, azúcar, papas y cebollas. But some of the slack was taken up by motor transport, a new concept. Truck convoys hauled supplies over dusty, deeply rutted tracks. Some of the terrain was so rough and primitive that the expedition had to rely on the time-honored, stubborn charms of the Army mule for supply. A vehicle-maintenance base operated out of Columbus for the duration.

Pershing and Patton on the Front

Pershing, headquartered at Casas Grandes, received information that Villa was some 50 miles to the south. The bandit had escaped his net, but Pershing was still hopeful. The general dispatched three parallel columns from Colonia Dublan, hoping they would get behind Villa and cut off his escape. Once the rest of his command arrived on March 20, Pershing sent out smaller flying squadrons to scour the areas not covered by the three main columns.

In the meantime, Villa attacked a Carranza garrison at Guerrero. He took the town easily but was accidentally wounded by one of his own men. By this time, Villa was press-ganging local villagers into joining his band. It was said that the bullet that shattered Villa’s shinbone was fired by a disgruntled draftee. Whatever the case, Villa was badly wounded—but ironically, the wound proved his salvation. Villa, literally crying and cursing with pain, left Guerrero around midnight on March 29, carried in a litter and guarded by 150 followers.

At that very moment, Colonel George F. Dodd and the 7th Cavalry were heading for Guerrero. The 7th mounted up at Bachiniva, but the guide was unsure of the way. When the locals proved uncooperative, Dodd was forced to use a circuitous route that delayed his arrival. Dodd and the 7th Cavalry finally reached Guerrero at 6 am, six hours after Villa’s departure. The Americans would never again get so close to capturing their elusive foe.

Dodd still had a job to do, and he attacked at once. The 63-year-old colonel led the charge with a .45-caliber pistol in his hand. The troopers followed, spurring their horses forward in spite of the grueling all-night march over forbidding terrain. The remaining Villistas were soon on the run, retreating after 56 were killed and 35 wounded. The Americans had only five wounded and none killed.

Pershing took enormous personal risks during the campaign, often doing his own reconnaissance deep in enemy territory. His peripatetic headquarters was simple in the extreme. Staff consisted of his aide, Lieutenant George S. Patton, Jr., four escort guards, three drivers, and the general’s cook, an African American named Booker. The official caravan consisted of four Dodge touring cars. Riding directly behind in broken-down Model Ts were correspondents from the New York Tribune, Chicago Tribune, and the Associated Press.

Sergeant Chicken

Villa hid out in a cave called the Cueva de Cozcomate. In great pain and unable to walk, the bandit leader stayed literally underground for two months while he recuperated. The mouth of the cave was camouflaged by branches and leaves. Relatives bought him food since no one else could be trusted with the secret. From his lair, the wounded Centaur of the North watched one day as an American cavalry patrol rode by.

Apache scouts were used on the campaign, some of them old warriors who had hunted down Geronimo in the 1880s. One of the most outstanding Apache scouts went by the unlikely name of Sergeant Chicken. His real name was Eskehwadestah, almost unpronounceable to whites. The Indians served the Punitive Expedition with relish since Apache-Mexican enmity dated back to the 18th century.

Under Fire from the Mexican Government

Villa had split his command into four groups, scattering them to avoid destruction. Those who went to Durango emerged from the Punitive Expedition relatively unscathed, but the ones who remained in Chihuahua were decimated by American forces. Two of Villa’s most trusted commanders, Candelario Cervantes and Julio Cardenas, were killed during the campaign. The latter’s demise was part of a hair-raising adventure that George Patton would recall—and lengthily recount—for the rest of his life (see the following article).

Although the soldiers weren’t aware of it at the time, the Punitive Expedition’s high-water mark came about a month before Patton’s adventure. On the morning of April 12, Major Frank Tompkins and K and M Troops of the 13th Cavalry entered Parral, 516 miles from the border. It would be the deepest any American soldier ever got into the Mexican heartland. A local Carranista general told Tompkins to leave, which he did without incident, but just outside town the government forces began firing on the American column. It ignited a running firefight in which the Americans, although outnumbered, managed to inflict heavy casualties on their attackers. Eventually, Tompkins and his men made a stand at Santa Cruz de Velegas, eight miles from Parral, before being rescued by elements of the 10th Cavalry under Major Charles Young, one of the few African American officers in the service.

When Pershing heard of the incident he was outraged, but the Mexican authorities refused to apologize. For safety’s sake, the general decided to consolidate his forces. His advance headquarters would be in Namiquipa, about 180 miles north of Parral and 90 miles south of his main base at Colonia Dublan.

The Last Glory of the Punitive Expedition

The Punitive Expedition had one final moment of glory, this time at a place called Ojos Azules. Major Robert L. Howze of the 11th Cavalry received a message from the townspeople that they were being threatened by Villistas. Howze responded with alacrity, pressing forward with 370 troopers. Howze found Villa’s men at Ojos Azules and launched an attack at dawn on May 5. Thirty Apache scouts led the way, dismounting and blazing away at the surprised bandits, many of whom had just been rudely awakened. Lieutenant A.M. Graham of Troop A, 11th Cavalry, gave the order, “Draw pistols,” and each trooper took his Colt Browning from his holster. The bugler sounded “Charge” and the 11th went forward at the gallop.

Panicky Villistas swarmed out of a cluster of buildings, trying to get to their horses. Another 30 or 40 climbed onto roofs to pour a hail of lead down on the horsemen. Graham took his horse over a fence and shot one bandit out of the saddle at point-blank range. Some Villistas tried to make a stand near some pine trees, but the troopers dismounted and returned fire. The battle was over in 20 minutes, with Villa’s men either dead or in full flight. Some 60 bandits were killed at Ojos Azules. Amazingly, there were no American casualties, even though the firing had been heavy. The last cavalry charge on the North American continent was an undeniable U.S. triumph.

Boyd’s Fatal Mistake

In hindsight, the Punitive Expedition should have withdrawn after Ojos Azules. Tensions were rising, and the longer the Americans stayed on Mexican soil, the greater was the possibility that an incident would trigger a full-scale war between the two angry countries. In June, just such an incident pushed the two countries to the very brink of war. Pershing found himself vastly outnumbered by gathering Carrancista forces, his 100-mile-long line of communication in danger of being cut. He dispatched Captain Charles C. Boyd and C Troop of the 10th Cavalry to reconnoiter.

Boyd wanted to ride through Carrizal, but Mexican General Felix Gomez told the American soldiers to fall back. “Tell the son of a bitch,” Boyd declared, “that we are going through.” It was a fatal error of judgment. Fighting soon broke out, and this time the Americans were defeated. The Buffalo Soldiers lost cohesion when most of their officers were killed or wounded. The action at Carrizal was a Mexican victory, although something of a Pyrrhic one, since 74 Mexican soldiers lay dead, including General Gomez. American losses were also heavy—12 troopers dead on the field, including Boyd, 10 wounded, and 24 captured. A neutral fact-finding commission later blamed the incident solely on Boyd.

From Mexico to Europe: The Punitive Expedition Withdraws

Huge anti-American demonstrations erupted in Mexican cities, and American newspapers joined a swelling chorus for war. Wilson and Carranza kept their heads. Carranza knew that Villa’s original plan was to get him in a war with the United States, and the white-bearded old politician was too canny for that. Wilson, increasingly concerned with German successes in the ongoing world war in Europe, had no wish to become bogged down in Mexico. Both sides pulled back, tensions cooled, and war was averted.

Pershing pulled back to Colonia Dublan, where he remained in camp for six months while the two governments worked out a mutually face-saving solution. To counteract boredom and a concomitant lack of discipline, Pershing ordered intensive training for the men, but the ceaseless Mexican windstorms took their toll on the soldiers’ morale. “We are all rapidly going crazy from lack of occupation and there is no help in sight,” Patton wrote his father in July. American public opinion reversed itself. “Through no fault of his own the ‘Pershing punitive expedition’ has become as much a farce from the American standpoint as it is an eyesore to the Mexican people,” declared the New York Herald. “Each day adds to the burden of its cost to the American people and to the ignominy of its position. General Pershing and his command should be recalled without further delay.”

The Punitive Expedition finally withdrew in February 1917. The soldiers may not have captured Pancho Villa, but they decimated his forces and gained combat experience under grueling conditions. A few months later, Pershing went on to become commander in chief of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I, leaving the dishonor of the Mexican campaign far behind.

The Columbus raid was the beginning of the end for Pancho Villa. He enjoyed a brief resurgence of popularity after the Americans went home, but the comeback was short-lived—as was Villa himself. Bought off by the Carranza government with land and a large hacienda so that he could retire in style, the wily old bandit could not escape his political enemies. On July 20, 1923, seven gunmen pumped 150 shots into Villa’s car as he drove through Parral. Sixteen bullets struck Villa’s body and another four hit him in the head, leaving Villa as dead as any of his long-ago victims in Columbus. It was a fitting end to an inglorious career.

This article by Eric Niderost first appeared in the Warfare History Network on September 24, 2016.

Image: General Francisco "Pancho" Villa (1877-1923) on horseback, during the Mexican Revolution. Possibly taken at the time of the Battle of Ojinga, Chihuahua, which took place in January 1914. Library of Congress/Bain News Service. Public Domain.


The Centennial of Pancho Villa’s Raid on Columbus, NM: Intersections of History, Historical Memory, and Forgetting

We´re excited to welcome our newest contributor, Brandon Morgan, to the blog. Today, he writes a great piece on the historical memory and ceremony. This post originally appeared in the blog, The Mexican Revolution: Memory, Culture, and History. -ed

Speakers and dignitaries assembled as the Villa Raid memorial got underway in Columbus on March 9, 1916.

Slowly and surely people arrived at the crossroads of New Mexico 9 and 11 where the old El Paso and Southwestern rail station stands. Today, the old depot houses artifacts and memorabilia from the turn of the twentieth century. Most specifically, it contains relics that gained significance on the early morning of March 9, 1916, when General Francisco “Pancho” Villa led about 480 men across the international boundary three miles
southwest of town.

One hundred years later, behind the historic train station, restored over the past few decades through the efforts of the Columbus Historical Society (CHS), a slight, cool breeze flapped the edges of the American flags draped across the replica of General Pershing’s review stand and the desert sun grew warmer. I arrived just as the CHS memorial ceremony to mark the centennial of Villa’s raid got underway. Like most of the other 150 or so attendees, I had traveled hundreds of miles to participate in the ceremony to honor the memory of the eighteen Americans who were killed during the course of the attack. Only a handful of the participants in the memorial hailed from Columbus.

Following a proclamation read by Columbus Mayor Philip Skinner and the presentation of the colors by a detachment of the U.S. Border Patrol, CHS President Richard Dean provided an overview of the events of the raid. Characterizing the villistas as “bandits,” and Villa himself as a disgruntled “former general,” Dean explained how they cut the border fence at about 4:00 am on March 9, 1916, and then battled members of the Thirteenth Cavalry and civilian Columbusites for the better part of two hours before the resistance led by Lieutenants Lucas and Castleman forced the villista retreat. Colonel Frank Tompkins then led a small contingent across the border in pursuit for about four more hours.

Lives of everyone in the town were shattered. Dean specifically recalled the harrowing experiences of civilians killed during the raid. He recounted the story of Charles C. Miller who was killed as he attempted to secure weapons from his drugstore across the street from the Hoover Hotel where he had been living. After her husband was shot down, Mrs. J.J. Moore hid in the brush out by her home when villistas shot her in the hip. Outside the Commercial Hotel, Villa’s men shot Charles DeWitt Miller—an out-of-town visitor—as he attempted to escape in his new Model T. Inside the hotel, male guests and William T. Ritchie, the hotel proprietor, faced threats and several—including Ritchie—were eventually forced downstairs to the street where they were executed.

Dean’s own grandfather, James T. Dean was killed during the raid as he attempted to check on his grocery store on Broadway street. To conclude his comments, Dean read an El Paso newspaper correspondent’s account of the slain soldiers’ caskets being loaded on the El Paso & Southwestern, written a couple of days after the raid. A four-piece brass band provided accompaniment, playing the songs mentioned by the correspondent in his account.

Following Dean’s remarks, Helen Patton, granddaughter of General George S. Patton, spoke of her grandfather’s assignment to General John J. Pershing’s Punitive Expedition tasked with hunting down Villa in Chihuahua in the months after the attack. Captain David Poe read the comments of one of Pershing’s descendants who was unable to attend personally, and General Salas of the New Mexico National Guard commented on the support provided by New Mexico guardsmen following the raid. To close the memorial, a roll call of the victims was made as audience participants answered for them. I answered for Charles D. Miller. The entire mood of the ceremony was one of solemnity and patriotism: pride in the military and the heroic stand of those in Columbus.

Roadrunner Food Bank truck pulls up to the Columbus park where locals wait for food distribution.

After the proceedings, participants fanned out to take the walking tour of the various sites that had been razed by the villistas in 1916. Others attended a screening of a new documentary film about Pancho Villa and General Pershing. Although I had taken the walking tour before, I wanted to be outside. As I wandered from marker to marker, I also couldn’t help but notice the large crowd of (mostly) Mexican residents of Columbus that had gathered in the village park. None of them had attended the memorial, although, I assume, that many of them trace their ancestry to the New Mexico-Chihuahua border region. Instead, they jovially conversed and visited as they waited for food and clothing from Catholic Charities and the Roadrunner Food Bank to be distributed. As I watched the crowd, a woman I recognized from the memorial walked past me and commented, “there is nothing for us up here.”

As a student of the New Mexico-Chihuahua border’s history, I was struck by the extent to which Mexican people were excluded and forgotten, even as the Anglo residents of town were heralded and memorialized. Columbus was founded in 1891 as an outgrowth of the Palomas colonization and cattle concessions granted just across the border in northwestern Chihuahua. Connections between Deming, Columbus, Palomas, and La Ascensión (part of a trans-border region known as the Lower Mimbres Valley) had characterized the 1890s and early years of the 1900s. The Pacheco family, among many others, maintained homes on both sides of the international boundary, and frequented both Columbus and Palomas. Festivities to mark the July 4 and September 16 national holidays had routinely included residents from both sides of the border.

Despite continued cooperation, by 1910, agents of the Columbus & Western New Mexico Company headed a deliberate campaign to (re)create Columbus as a space for white American family farmers that just happened to be on the border with Mexico. In their publications, they claimed that as of 1910 there were “less than five percent of the native, or Mexican, population in the valley.” Census counts, however, countered such claims (Morgan 2014, 489). All the while, the specter of the Mexican Revolution just across the border created tension, as well as economic opportunity in the form of the arms trade, for Columbus. Interestingly, Pancho Villa maintained an office in Columbus in 1913 and 1914, when he was at the height of his military prowess and popularity in both the United States and Mexico. Locals reported feeling a sense of safety due to his officers’ regular communication with Columbusites. Villa also had regular commercial dealings with Lithuanian immigrant Sam Ravel, who owned a mercantile and several other Columbus businesses. Ravel and Villa’s relationship subsequently fell apart indeed, many have speculated that Villa chose Columbus because he had a personal score to settle with Ravel over an arms shipment.

Another forgotten figure in the complex history of relations between Villa and Columbus is Juan Favela, a foreman for the Palomas Land and Cattle Company who lived in town. A few days prior to the raid, Favela warned Colonel Herbert Slocum, commanding officer of the Thirteenth Cavalry in Columbus, that Villa was planning an attack. For various reasons, Slocum ignored the warning. On the morning of the raid, as the Commercial Hotel was in the process of burning to the ground, Favela entered through the rear entrance and led the surviving guests and members of the Ritchie family to safety.

Many, if not most, of the villistas present during the raid can also be characterized as victims themselves. Following his devastating string of defeats at the hands of revolutionary rival Alvaro Obregón, Villa could no longer count on his reputation for invincibility. Neither could he count on raising soldiers to his side with ease. In late 1915 and early 1916, Villa began a series of brutal reprisals against people—even entire towns—who had once supported him. Rather than lose their lives, many men opted to join his forces. Apparently, Villa did not inform his impressed army that their actual goal was a small town on the U.S. side of the border. As became apparent in the subsequent trials of villista soldiers in Deming and Santa Fe, most of Villa’s forces believed that they were attacking carrancistas in Chihuahua when, in reality, they attacked Columbus.

As former newspaper editor Perrow G. Mosely reported in a letter to his sister shortly after the raid, Columbusites summarily executed several villistas located in town when the dust had settled. Even local people of Mexican heritage were hunted down or run out of town, due to suspicion of complicity with the villistas. Others were taken prisoner and then tried. Six villistas were condemned to hang following a trial in Deming in the late spring of 1916. Twenty-one others received pardons from New Mexico Governor Octaviano Larrazolo, himself a Chihuahua native, in 1919—a decision that proved to be controversial at the time. As is the case for many of today’s migrants and refugees, I can’t help but think that if any of us were placed in the same situation as the impressed villistas, we would have made the same decision in an effort to preserve the lives of our family members. Also, see this post on Jesús Paez, an 11-year old boy who survived the raid, but remained a cripple.


These photos show how America almost went to war with Mexico during WWI

U.S. soldiers at the Mexican border, May 24th, 1916. (Underwood and Underwood/Library of Congress)

As spring gave way to summer in 1916, the world was on fire. In Europe, the Allies were struggling to hold the Western Front. In the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire was caught between British troops in the north and an Arab uprising in the south. In North America, more than 100,000 National Guard troops were amassed on the Mexican border.

The military buildup followed an early-morning raid at the garrison town of Columbus, New Mexico. Ten soldiers and eight civilians were killed when the Mexican revolutionary leader General Francisco “Pancho” Villa attacked with almost 500 men. The revolutionaries suffered heavy losses and captured few supplies, but the raid wasn’t as much a calculated military strike as it was retaliation against America for withdrawing support for Villa.

The decade-long Mexican Revolution was a fractious mess of shifting alliances, as much for the combatants as for Presidents William Taft and Woodrow Wilson. Sympathies teeter-tottered as the American government tried to balance business interests with geopolitical concerns, always wary of both the leftist tendencies fueling successive revolutions and their dictatorial opponents. Relations were already at a low point after American troops occupied Veracruz, and sank deeper in the fall of 1915. Although Wilson had originally been sympathetic to Villa’s cause and tactics, he recognized that Venustiano Carranza, already in marginal control of the government, would provide a stable leadership for Mexico and hopefully end what had become a three-pronged civil war fought between Carranza, Villa, and Emiliano Zapata.

In January, soldiers under Villa dragged 17 American mining engineers from a train near Santa Isabel and executed them. Two months later, Villistas crossed the border to attack Columbus, and Wilson tapped General John J. Pershing to give chase. The de facto Mexican government was incensed but powerless to resist the incursion.

But even Pershing’s straightforward mission was caught up in the constantly shifting winds of the revolution. Carranza begrudgingly gave American troops permission to operate in the border state of Chihuahua but barred them from Mexican railways. Their supply lines were dependent on horse-drawn wagons after military trucks continued to break down in the rough terrain, and communication lines were constantly sabotaged. Worse yet, although Villa continued to order raids north of the border, U.S. troops had few engagements with his soldiers on Mexican soil. Instead they found themselves fighting Carranza’s troops, who wanted them out. On June 21, 1916, seven Americans were killed and 23 captured at the town of Carrizal. Wilson quickly negotiated an agreement with Carranza, and the search for Pancho Villa wound down over the next several months. In February of 1917, the last American troops returned home and General Pershing was soon sent to fight in Europe instead.

American field headquarters, near Namiquipa, 1916. (William Fox/Library of Congress)

General Pershing and General Bliss inspecting the camp, 1916. (William Fox/Library of Congress)

When One Man Attacked The USA With His Militia at His Back – Pancho Villa

In 1916 WWI was ravaging Europe. Neutral countries were on edge, striving to stay out of the conflict. Then the southern border of the United States was suddenly attacked, not by a major power, but by one man and his militia. He was Francisco Pancho Villa.

Very little is known about Villa’s early life. He was most likely born in 1878, to a poor family in Chihuahua, north central Mexico. As a young boy, he attended a local church school, but never took to education. When his father died, he began working as a sharecropper to support his mother. Then, after a wide variety of careers, from a butcher to mule herder, to railway foreman, he found his true calling: a bandit.

In 1910, at the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution, and subsequent civil war, Villa discovered that banditry and revolution went hand in hand. As a staunch supporter of the Madero Government, which took control during the civil war, Villa acted as a cavalry general, winning key victories for the still young government. In 1912, another General, Victoriano Huerta accused him of theft, calling him a bandit. He was ordered to be executed, but a telegram from President Madero saved Villa’s neck, just in the nick of time. He was instead imprisoned.

In prison, his education was completed by fellow disgraced revolutionaries, Gildardo Magaña and Bernardo Reyes who tutored him. After escaping on Christmas day, 1912, he fled to El Paso, Texas, to plot his revenge. Over the next three years, he went from outlaw to guerilla leader, to governor, to winner of the revolution. However, his success was short-lived.

Villa as a politician and revolutionary during the Mexican Revolution

The capital, Mexico City, was taken by his ally, Venustiano Carranza, who immediately consolidated power and began fighting against his former fellow revolutionary.

By the end of 1915, Villa was on the run, and the US under President Woodrow Wilson recognized Carranza as the rightful leader of Mexico. Villa was cut off, and in need of supplies and weapons to continue his fight against Carranza. He had been betrayed for the last time and would do anything to get back at his former ally.

Villa mounted on horseback 1914

On March 9, 1916, he ordered his troops to attack the border town of Columbus, New Mexico. It lay adjacent to Camp Furlong, and the 13th Cavalry Regiment, which had an armory full of weapons, and stables full of horses and mules. Villa’s men were driven back across the border, with almost 50 percent casualties but they captured large supplies of ammunition, rifles, horses and mules.

In response, US President Woodrow Wilson ordered the Punitive expedition to capture Villa and bring him to justice. General John J. Pershing was given the task. He quickly assembled his force and prepared to move across the border.

The town of Columbus, New Mexico, after the raid which sparked off the Punitive Expedition

Under his command was a provisional division, mostly made up of cavalry, with M1909 machine guns, M1903 Springfield rifles, and M1911 automatic pistols. In addition to ground troops, he was supplied with trucks and 8 Curtiss JN3 airplanes, to perform reconnaissance. Totaling 6,600 men, it was the first modern military unit in US history and the first time aircraft were used for such a task.

On March 15, the division marched out from Columbus, in two columns, heading south to Mexico.

General John Pershing while in camp during the expedition

Two weeks later, they made contact with Villa’s men. After a 55 mile march, Colonel George A. Dodd and 370 cavalry troops approached the town of Guerrero. 360 Villistas, as the Mexican guerrillas were known, scattered, fleeing south. Dodd sent half his troops to skirt round the other side of the town, to cut off their escape, while the rest of his troops attempted a charge at the front.

However, their horses were too fatigued to charge, and the brief battle turned into a pursuit. Over the next five hours, 75 of the Villistas were killed with only five wounded Americans. Villa’s men were outmatched, and the Americans hoped it would be a short and easy campaign.

American troops and trucks prepare to head across the border, 1916

Unfortunately, foul weather, excessive snow, and increasing opposition by Carranza, Mexico’s recognized leader, forced Pershing into adopting new strategies. When forces loyal to Carranza attacked his troops, he halted the flying column operations. Instead, he undertook to patrol a series of districts near the border. His troops were ordered to avoid any conflict with Carranza’s men.

On May 5, American troops achieved their greatest victory against the Villistas, killing 44 with no American wounded. Meanwhile, Villistas attacked the border town of Glenn Springs, Texas. It was exactly what the expedition was intended to prevent, but they were unable to stop it. While casualties were light, and hostages and property were recovered, the attack was an embarrassment for Pershing and his troops.

A Curtiss JN3 preparing for taking off in Casa Grandes

By May 9, the political backlash had reached its height, and Carranza’s Secretary of War and the Navy, Álvaro Obregón, met with American delegates in Texas. He stated that if the American troops did not leave northern Mexico, the Mexican government would have no choice but to attack their supply lines, and destroy their force. Pershing was ordered to withdraw, but on May 11 the order was rescinded. The US troops pulled back to just south of the border, waiting to see what would happen.

Mexican forces then harassed the American troops, and the US prepped for war. Luckily diplomacy won the day, and the crisis was averted. Pershing’s troops were kept in Mexico as encouragement for the Carranza Government to put more effort into finding Villa, but to no avail. In January 1917, the expedition withdrew.

The long march back to the United States: American troops withdrawing from Mexico, having failed to capture Villa

While the expedition failed in its goal of capturing and putting Villa on trial, it did prevent him from gaining any further support. 169 Villistas were killed, approximately 115 were wounded, and 19 were captured. It severely weakened the Guerrilla leader’s ability to operate freely, and by 1919 he had retired from the raiding life.

The car Villa was killed in, 1923

Just as important was the fact that the expedition had given the US vital experience in military actions, combining aircraft, trains, cavalry, and trucks for the first time. Of those involved in the event two famous generals arose. John J. Pershing led the US Military in WWI (which they entered only a few months later) and George S. Patton, a general famous for his skill with armor and quick troop movements during WWII.

Pancho Villa was assassinated in 1923, after getting involved in Mexican Politics for the final time.


Trouble brews

In early 1916, Columbus was a growing town of about 400 residents. It had a school with 12 grades, three hotels, a bank, two mercantile stores, a grocery store, two drugstores, a hardware store, two churches, a lumberyard, a blacksmith shop and restaurants.

The modern age had arrived, represented by a Ford automobile dealership and a Coca-Cola bottling plant.

With revolution raging to the south, rumors of attack had become common. Townspeople prepared by conducting drills, finding the shortest route from home to the town’s more substantial brick and adobe buildings where family members could find a measure of safety.

The U.S. government, taking defensive measures, had established military camps along the Southwest border.

In Columbus, Army tents for enlisted soldiers in the 13th Cavalry were lined up across the railroad tracks from the town’s southern border. Col. Herbert J. Slocum, who lived in Columbus with most of the officers, had about 350 soldiers in camp.

Slocum was prevented from sending soldiers into Mexico by presidential policy. So, he and his soldiers scoured newspapers, questioned travelers from Mexico, pumped Mexican border guards and even paid a Mexican cowboy to find Villa’s force and report its location. Unfortunately for Slocum, most of his intelligence indicated Villa was moving away from Columbus.

In fact, Villa had targeted the town.

Villa’s motives are not entirely clear. However, historians agree that a number of factors likely contributed to his resolve.

President Woodrow Wilson had allowed Villa rival Venustiano Carranza to use U.S. railroads for troop transport. Carranza’s forces had traveled through Columbus into Arizona and on to Agua Prieta, Mexico, to hand Villa a significant defeat — one of many he was suffering at the time.

“It was a huge blow to his ego,” Dean said.

Some historians believe Villa was trying to provoke war between Carranza’s Mexico and the United States.

Villa felt he had protected U.S. residents and businesses in northern Mexico and saw Wilson’s move as a betrayal. And, after the mounting losses, Villa was reportedly low on provisions — weapons, ammunition, horses, food and other supplies.

Personal revenge may even have played a role. Sam Ravel, who owned a hotel and a general store in Columbus, allegedly accepted money from a Villa agent in 1913 for arms and ammunition. When Wilson banned the sale of those items to Mexican nationals, according to some accounts, Ravel kept the money without supplying the merchandise.

Whatever his motivation, Villa sent two spies to walk the streets of Columbus the day before the raid. They informed Villa his army would face only about 30 to 50 soldiers.

“Pancho Villa would never have done this if he had the correct intelligence,” Dean said.


March 9 1916 – Pancho Villa and His Men Attack Columbus, New Mexico

Shortly before daylight on March 9, 1916, some 500 Mexican guerillas moved through the darkness outside Columbus, New Mexico. Led by Pancho Villa, a revolutionary looking for revenge after betrayal by the United States government, the men set the small town on fire and killed 18 Americans before retreating into Mexico. The attacks — the largest assault on the continental US by a foreign force until the hijackings September 11, 2001– nearly led to war between the North American neighbors.

Born in the state of Chihuahua in north-central Mexico, Villa spent much of his youth acting as a part-time criminal. By his late teens, he was an outlaw riding through the neighboring state of Durango with a group of robbers. When caught at the age of 24, Villa managed to avoid prosecution and secured a position in the federal army instead — one he ran away from within months of his appointment. From 1903 until 1910, he moved through society as a sort of gentleman thief, bouncing back and forth between legal and illegal ventures based mostly on his whims until a chance meeting with Abraham Gonzalez helped Villa focus his energies.

According to Gonzalez, Villa could become a Robin Hood-like figure if he wanted, subverting the rule of Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz by attacking wealthy landowners and, when possible, sharing the property amongst peasants and soldiers. Intrigued by the possibilities and eager to see Diaz ousted, Villa joined the revolutionaries in the north and helped drive Diaz into hiding.

The leadership vacuum created by Diaz’s flight left many hungry for the seat of power. Francisco Madero, whom Villa supported, took over as President of Mexico in 1911 and held the office for just 15 months until a plot by his former general, Victoriano Huerta, led to his assassination. Huerta quickly proclaimed himself the interim leader, angering a number of Mexicans loyal to the dead president.

Villa himself was furious. Opting to join Venustiano Carranza’s and follow his Plan of Guadalupe to remove Huerta, Villa suppressed his reservations about Carranza for the sake of avenging Madero. Even with his misgivings, Villa served admirably as the head of the Division del Norte, planning and executing raids on behalf of the Constitutionalists for months. Immensely popular with those living closer to the border with the US, he found willing recruits at almost every turn.

About the same time, President of the United States Woodrow Wilson began to exert diplomatic pressure on Carranza’s behalf. Calling Huerta’s administration a “government of butchers,” Wilson removed the US ambassador for helping bring Huerta to power and offered help to the rebels by way of weapons and other supplies. Carranza would ride the support to victory, taking over as leader in August 1914.

By that time, Villa had gone from being suspicious of Carranza to hating him outright. Once Carranza’s involvement in the murder of Gonzalez, Villa’s close friend from his days in Chihuahua, was confirmed, he could not stand to see the man in power. Coordinating with his fellow rebel Emiliano Zapata, who led the southern armies, peasant armies continued to strike out at government officials and create problems for administrators.

Watching from afar for the better part of a year, Wilson felt unsatisfied with the heavy-handed policies Carranza employed. Though he, like Villa, knew Carranza to only be marginally better than Huerta, Wilson hoped to see stability and progress toward a democratically-elected government in Mexico. In a decision that would come back to haunt him later, Wilson initially opted to back Villa’s forces before changing his mind in late 1915 because he believed Carranza was finally on the right track.

Undermined by the Americans, Villa fled into the mountains of Chihuahua with 200 loyal men at his side. Determined to make Wilson pay for his slight, the Villistas launched an assault on a train moving past Santa Isabel and killed 18 American workers around mid-January 1916. The lone survivor passed details along to the press, forcing Villa to admit he ordered the raid, though he refused to say he wanted the riders slaughtered.

Not yet content with the havoc he had caused, Villa set to work with his guerillas — suddenly a force of 500 after his gruesome success — for an audacious raid into the US. According to historians, it seems logical Villa believed the assault would serve two purposes: 1) striking fear into the Americans living near the border with Mexico and 2) allowing his soldiers to grab supplies from the military outpost in the small New Mexico settlement of Columbus. (No record exists of Villa’s true intentions.)

Camped near Palomas, Mexico, three miles south of Columbus, Villa and his men waited for information about the contingent of US Army soldiers stationed within the town. Informed the defenders amounted to just 30 men, the group of about 500 moved to the north during the early morning hours of March 9, 1916. Riding into Columbus from two directions, the Mexicans shouted “Viva Villa!” while grabbing whatever valuables or weapons they could carry and throwing torches on American homes.

Though most of the residents and soldiers were asleep — the assault started around 4:15am — the garrison recovered quickly to pursue the Villistas. Unknown to the raiders, the scouts had only spotted a small group of the Army unit on site. Some 330 men were available to pursue the attackers and, led by a wounded Major Frank Tompkins, the 13th Cavalry inflicted severe casualties on the retreating Mexicans.

After an hour’s worth of fighting, Villa stood in front of his men and proclaimed the mission a victory. Based on the additional horses and military equipment stolen, one would find it difficult to disagree. He had, however, lost 80 men and seen an additional 100 wounded, a significant portion of his fighting force. Further, the Villistas’ action angered the even-tempered Wilson and invited a full military response.

Six days after Villa crossed into the US, General John Pershing received orders from the American President to lead a 5,000-man hunting party after the outlaw and his men. On March 19th, pilots from the 1st Aero Squadron were in the air over northern Mexico attempting to find Villista encampments as American soldiers marched across the border and fanned out across Chihuahua in two “flying columns.”

Almost immediately, disputes arose between the neighboring governments. Carranza’s administration, wary of having Pershing on their soil, prevented the Army from using Mexican railroads for supply. Trains were forced to stop at the US-Mexico border and unload their cargo onto trucks for transport into Chihuahua. Through a series of battles during the latter half of 1916 and early 1917, the Americans inflicted heavy casualties but were unable to capture the man himself.

Carranza, impatient with the US pursuing a Mexican citizen in his country for so long, withdrew permission for Pershing to continue operating south of the border in late January 1917. It was just as well, as far as Wilson was concerned — the deterioration of the Americans’ relationship with Germany meant he needed the soldiers to begin training for entry into World War I.

Villa would never again venture onto American soil, instead choosing to retire from public life after Carranza was killed in May 1920. Granted a 25,000-acre estate in Chihuahua as part of the agreement to step away from politics, he received a generous pension from the interim government. While driving through the town of Parral on July 20, 1923, Villa was assassinated by seven gunmen. In the decades after his death, he would be elevated to the status of national hero by Mexicans and cult figure to others — his raid is celebrated by, of all people, the citizens of Columbus to this day.

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Villa was assassinated when he was 45 years old

Although he had evaded American troops, Villa's own forces were scattered as a result. After a series of losses, Villa retired to the mountains where he'd fled as a young man. He lived in a collective, with families and a few followers, as John Mason Hart, Moores professor of history at the University of Houston, told How Stuff Works. Of course, there are stories of Villa's hidden cache of gold somewhere in the mountains, but it's never been found. He had at least seven wives over the course of his life perhaps as many as 75.

On July 20, 1923, Villa was driving home with a few friends when seven men opened fire. Villa died in the assassination, struck by 16 bullets, reports True West. He was 45 years old.

Hero or villain? Revolutionary or opportunistic bandit? As Marshall Trimble, official historian of Arizona, wrote, "Pancho Villa was the 'Good, Bad and the Ugly,' all rolled into one. Like others of his ilk, Villa was a product of his time, and should be judged that way."


Ver el vídeo: La Batalla del Carrizal la derrota de ante México - Expedición Punitiva contra pancho villa.