Pancho Villa ataca Colombo, Novo México

Pancho Villa ataca Colombo, Novo México

Irritado com o apoio americano de seus rivais pelo controle do México, o líder revolucionário de origem camponesa Pancho Villa ataca a cidade fronteiriça de Columbus, no Novo México.

Em 1913, uma sangrenta guerra civil no México levou o general Victoriano Huerta ao poder. O presidente americano Woodrow Wilson desprezou o novo regime, referindo-se a ele como um “governo de açougueiros” e forneceu apoio militar ativo a um desafiante, Venustiano Carranza. Infelizmente, quando Carranza conquistou o poder em 1914, ele também se mostrou uma decepção e Wilson apoiou outro líder rebelde, Pancho Villa.

Um líder camponês astuto, Villa juntou-se a Emiliano Zapata para manter vivo o espírito de rebelião no México e perseguir o governo de Carranza. Um ano depois, porém, Wilson decidiu que Carranza havia dado passos suficientes em direção à reforma democrática para merecer o apoio oficial americano, e o presidente abandonou Villa. Indignado, Villa se voltou contra os Estados Unidos. Em janeiro de 1916, ele sequestrou 18 americanos de um trem mexicano e os massacrou. Algumas semanas depois, neste dia de 1916, Villa liderou um exército de cerca de 1.500 guerrilheiros do outro lado da fronteira para realizar um ataque brutal contra a pequena cidade americana de Columbus, no Novo México. Villa e seus homens mataram 19 pessoas e deixaram a cidade em chamas.

Agora determinado a destruir o rebelde que ele uma vez apoiou, Wilson ordenou ao general John Pershing que liderasse 6.000 soldados americanos para o México e capturasse Villa. Relutantemente, Carranza concordou em permitir que os EUA invadissem o território mexicano. Por quase dois anos, Pershing e seus soldados perseguiram a evasiva Villa a cavalo, em automóveis e com aviões. As tropas americanas tiveram várias escaramuças sangrentas com os rebeldes, mas Pershing nunca foi capaz de encontrar e enfrentar Villa.

Finalmente perdendo a paciência com a presença militar americana em seu país, Carranza retirou a permissão para a ocupação. Pershing voltou para casa no início de 1917 e três meses depois partiu para a Europa como chefe da Força Expedicionária Americana da Primeira Guerra Mundial. Embora Pershing nunca tenha capturado Villa, seus esforços a convenceram a nunca mais atacar cidadãos ou territórios americanos. Depois de ajudar a tirar Carranza do poder em 1920, Villa concordou em se aposentar da política. Seus inimigos o assassinaram em 1923. O ressentimento gerado no México pelos esforços contra Pancho Villa, no entanto, não diminuiu com sua morte, e as relações mexicano-americanas permaneceram tensas nas décadas seguintes.


Pancho Villa ataca Colombo, Novo México - HISTÓRIA

Os Estados Unidos se envolveram na revolução mexicana e, no que dizia respeito a Pancho Villa, escolheram o lado errado. O líder político militar de fato do norte do México, ele embarcou em uma missão para perseguir e punir os americanos, para tirá-los do conflito. Ele começou com os sequestros padrão, etc., mas conscientemente permaneceu no lado mexicano da fronteira. Os americanos achavam que ele não queria provocar todo o poderio militar dos Estados Unidos. Acontece que ele estava apenas construindo suas defesas.

Neste dia, 9 de março de 1916, Pancho Villa chefiou uma força de ataque que cruzou a fronteira americana no Novo México e surpreendeu um regimento de cavalaria guarnecido lá (não ajudou o fato de os cavaleiros terem bebido na noite anterior). Pancho conseguiu para saquear a cidade, levando muitos cavalos, mulas e toda a munição que pudesse carregar.

Como esperado, os Estados Unidos rapidamente reuniram um exército para entrar no México em busca do fora-da-lei. Mas agora os americanos estavam no território de Villa. Escoltas designadas ostensivamente para ajudar a guiar o exército desencaminhavam os extraviados em todas as oportunidades. Os guias indianos davam-lhes falsa direção e Villa escondia confortavelmente sua força entre o terreno montanhoso e montava ataques de assédio. No final, depois de quase um ano de caça infrutífera, os americanos desistiram da busca e voltaram. Villa viveu o resto de seus dias como um herói célebre.


Livro afirma que o ataque de Pancho Villa a uma cidade do Novo México foi o "primeiro ato de terrorismo em solo dos EUA"

Mitchell Yockelson é o autor do livro recém-publicado, Quarenta e sete dias: como os guerreiros de Pershing chegaram à maturidade para derrotar o exército alemão na Primeira Guerra Mundial Yockelson, ganhador do Prêmio de Redação Distinta da Fundação Histórica do Exército, é arquivista do Arquivo Nacional e ex-professor de história militar da Academia Naval dos Estados Unidos.

Já se passaram 100 anos desde que o primeiro ato de terror em solo americano foi cometido pelo revolucionário Francisco “Pancho” Villa. Em 9 de março de 1916, Villa e mais de 400 bandidos montados fortemente armados cruzaram a fronteira mexicana e atacaram Columbus, no Novo México. Os Villistas pegaram de surpresa a cidade de 350 habitantes, além de uma guarnição de 553 soldados da 13ª Cavalaria dos EUA. “Eu estava acordado, eles estavam dormindo”, ele se gabou mais tarde, “e demoraram muito para acordar”.

Por quase duas horas, os homens de Villa saquearam o hotel da cidade, suas poucas lojas e casas de adobe antes que a cavalaria os perseguisse de volta para o outro lado da fronteira. Deixados para trás nas ruas empoeiradas de Colombo estavam oito civis mortos e 10 soldados americanos, e vários outros feridos. Os Villistas tiveram perdas maiores, entre cem e duzentos homens, alguns mortos durante uma escaramuça de cavalaria a 30 milhas de profundidade no México.

O ataque a Villa foi um ato de terrorismo e o primeiro desse tipo realizado em solo dos EUA. Não provocados, seus homens atiraram em americanos inocentes e destruíram suas propriedades. Embora o número de mortos diminua em comparação com os ataques de 11 de setembro ou os recentes fuzilamentos em massa em Paris, o público americano ficou chocado e exigiu retribuição imediata, temendo que Villa estivesse em frenesi com planos de massacrar outras cidades fronteiriças. O presidente Woodrow Wilson, um guerreiro relutante, estava no meio de uma campanha de reeleição que prometia manter os Estados Unidos fora da guerra na Europa. Uma guerra com o México agora era uma possibilidade e ele tinha que agir.

Villa nunca disse por que orquestrou o ataque, mas seu ódio pela América não era segredo. Ele ficou furioso com o fato de o governo Wilson ter apoiado formalmente o principal rival político de Villa, o governador Venustiano Carranza. Em busca de vingança três meses antes do ataque a Columbus, seus Villistas assassinaram 18 americanos a bordo de um trem para o México. Wilson ignorou o episódio e não fez nada.

No entanto, um dia depois de Colombo ser atingido, Wilson precisava parecer forte e ordenou que seu novo secretário da Guerra, Newton D. Baker, enviasse uma força armada ao México. Uma semana depois, uma expedição punitiva de mais de 14.000 soldados sob o comando do brigadeiro-general John J. Pershing, incluindo o ajudante-tenente George S. Patton, dirigiu-se ao México em busca de Villa.

Hoje, Pancho Villa está mais associado a uma série de restaurantes mexicanos que levam seu nome do que seu verdadeiro legado como um assassino de sangue frio. Villa não foi um herói popular como alguns gostariam de acreditar, mas um terrorista violento cujas ações nos lembram as atrocidades cometidas pelo ISIS um século depois.


Cabeça perdida de Pancho Villa e # 8217s, um mistério não resolvido

Em uma fria manhã de fevereiro de 1926, um zelador, fazendo sua patrulha de rotina no cemitério da cidade em Parral, Chihuahua, percebeu algo estranho. A tampa de cimento de uma das sepulturas foi mexida. Pedaços do caixão estavam faltando e o corpo dentro estava mutilado. Ainda mais preocupante, o corpo havia sido decapitado e a cabeça do famoso residente removida. Era o túmulo de Pancho Villa, o mais famoso de todos os revolucionários mexicanos.

Três anos antes, Villa, em seu famoso Dodge Roadster 1919, dirigia para sua casa em Parral. Embora geralmente estivesse acompanhado por muitos guarda-costas, desta vez ele foi com apenas quatro associados. Ao passar por um bosque de árvores, alguém gritou & # 8220Viva Villa! & # 8221

Depois disso, sete fuzileiros apareceram e dispararam mais de quarenta balas no carro. Nove balas atingiram Villa e quatro entraram em sua cabeça. Ele morreu imediatamente. Seu corpo foi encontrado com a mão em busca de sua arma. Três dos homens no carro com ele morreram. Ramon Contreras, que matou um dos assassinos, escapou. Ele relatou que as últimas palavras de Villa foram & # 8220Don & # 8217 - não deixe terminar assim. Diga a eles, eu disse algo. & # 8221 Ele foi sepultado em um lote municipal em um catafalco elevado de cimento. Nela, em tinta branca, havia um breve aviso: “Tumba del Gral. Francisco Villa. Parral, Chi. ”

Apesar da simplicidade do túmulo, a vida de Villa foi bastante extraordinária. Ele veio de uma família pobre, foi convocado para o exército como soldado comum e conseguiu, em pouco tempo, se tornar o mais renomado e um dos mais amados e odiados generais da Revolução Mexicana. Sua vida foi realmente extraordinária. Além de suas táticas brilhantes e suas numerosas vitórias em batalha, ele também tinha uma reputação de beber muito, ser violento e desonesto e por fazer façanhas sexuais inigualáveis ​​por qualquer líder mexicano anterior.

Villa foi destemido, alguns podem até dizer imprudente. Uma de suas façanhas mais notórias foi um ataque à cidade de Columbus, Novo México, em 9 de março de 1916. A intenção era recuperar suprimentos para seu exército, mas, infelizmente, resultou na morte não só de vários de seus homens, mas de civis nos Estados Unidos. Foi a única incursão de um exército estrangeiro em solo americano desde os britânicos, durante a Guerra de 1812. Provocou a ira do presidente Woodrow Wilson, que ordenou que uma força expedicionária cruzasse a fronteira mexicana e o perseguisse.

O General John (“Blackjack”) Pershing reuniu uma força expedicionária punitiva consistindo principalmente de cavalaria e artilharia. Eram 6.000 homens armados com metralhadoras, rifles Springfield e pistolas automáticas. Eles procuraram por quase um ano e não encontraram nenhum sinal de Villa, embora tenham travado várias escaramuças com seus homens. Em fevereiro de 1917, eles foram retirados para lutar na Europa, depois que os EUA entraram na Primeira Guerra Mundial

Villa, entretanto, separou-se do colega revolucionário e mais tarde presidente, Venustiano Carranza, e se envolveu em uma guerra civil. Ele foi anistiado em 1920, após a morte de Carranza, e se estabeleceu em uma fazenda de 25.000 acres com várias centenas de seus homens e uma pensão generosa. Mas ele ainda tinha muitos inimigos, especialmente entre os generais que lutaram contra ele, incluindo um certo Álvaro Obregon, um ex-aliado da Carranza, que ordenou a morte de Villa.

Outro amigo de Obregon, que antes havia lutado ao lado de Villa, mas se juntou à oposição e considerava Villa um canhão solto, era o soldado americano da fortuna, Emil Holmdahl. Ele acreditava que Villa havia escondido vários milhões de dólares em ouro em Sierra Madres. Ele havia feito várias expedições em busca do tesouro, mas não teve sucesso.

Na noite em que o túmulo de Villa foi roubado, Holmdahl estava suspeitamente em Parral, Chihuahua. Ele foi preso pela polícia federal no dia seguinte, junto com um companheiro, e acusado de vandalizar o túmulo de Villa. Ele foi libertado após a intercessão de um fazendeiro local influente, Ben F. Williams. Embora Holmdahl nunca tenha admitido publicamente a decapitação e o roubo, uma forte suspeita permanece. De acordo com a biografia oficial de Williams, escrita por sua filha, Holmdahl disse a seu pai em particular que ele havia roubado a cabeça de um cliente nos Estados Unidos.

Um boato persistente é que o troféu agora faz parte de um ritual da secreta Skull and Bones Society da Yale University, uma organização que incluiu muitos funcionários poderosos nos EUA e que está sob investigação por seus rituais misteriosos e questionáveis.

Na campanha presidencial de 2004, um entrevistador perguntou ao ex-presidente Bush e ao senador John Kerry sobre sua filiação à Skull and Bones, ao que o presidente respondeu & # 8220É & # 8217s tão secreto que não podemos & # 8217também falar sobre isso. & # 8221


Quando Patton invadiu o México: a caça a Pancho Villa

O audacioso ataque do líder guerrilheiro mexicano Pancho Villa levou o presidente Woodrow Wilson a enviar uma expedição punitiva ao México.

O tenente John P. Lucas, da 13ª Cavalaria dos EUA, estava dormindo profundamente em uma pequena cabana de adobe em Columbus, Novo México, na noite de 9 de março de 1916, quando foi abruptamente acordado pelos sons inconfundíveis de homens e cavalos passando fora de sua janela . Eram 4h30 na pequena cidade no deserto, a cinco quilômetros da fronteira mexicana. O México estava passando por uma revolução sangrenta, e a 13ª Cavalaria estava lá para garantir que a violência não chegasse aos Estados Unidos.

Lucas se levantou rapidamente, tropeçando na escuridão, e olhou pela janela para o vazio escuro. Seus olhos sonolentos confirmaram o que tinha ouvido - um grande número de cavaleiros estava vindo para a cidade. Ainda estava escuro, mas Lucas avistou um dos cavaleiros, que usava um sombrero preto. Não havia dúvida na mente do tenente de que os intrusos eram homens de Pancho Villa e que Colombo estava sob ataque.

O tenente tateou às cegas em busca de sua pistola, movendo-se para o meio da sala de frente para a porta. Com a adrenalina correndo em suas veias, Lucas esperava que os Villistas se aproximassem e acabassem com ele. Ele estava determinado a não cair sem lutar. Com sorte, ele poderia levar um ou dois com ele.

Uma comoção próxima salvou a vida do tenente. Quando os invasores se aproximaram do Posto No. 3, não muito longe do 13º quartel-general da Cavalaria no Acampamento Furlong, eles foram desafiados pelo sentinela de plantão, o Soldado Fred Griffin da Tropa K. Em resposta, Villista atirou no estômago de Griffin, ferindo-o mortalmente . Aturdido pelo golpe, Griffin ergueu seu rifle Modelo Springfield 1903 e matou três invasores antes de morrer.

Agora não havia necessidade de sigilo. Alguém na escuridão gritou: "Vayanse adelante, muchachos!" Em resposta, os invasores esporearam seus cavalos com gritos de "Viva Villa!" e “Muerte a los gringos!” O ataque a Colombo havia começado. Embora em pequena escala, o ataque da madrugada se tornaria grande na história conturbada das relações entre os Estados Unidos e seu vizinho tumultuado ao sul, desencadeando uma resposta militar americana que quase levaria à guerra entre as duas nações.

The Mythical Pancho Villa

Pancho Villa, cujo nome verdadeiro era Doroteo Arango, foi a figura central do drama, e a invasão e os eventos subsequentes não podem ser totalmente compreendidos sem uma exploração do personagem de Villa. Villa era uma figura enorme, cuja lenda ressoa em ambos os países até hoje. Mas Villa, o homem, é difícil separar o mito de Villa - um mito parcialmente baseado em fatos, mas também, ironicamente, produto de jornais e filmes americanos.

As atitudes americanas em relação ao México eram uma mistura incômoda de idealismo e condescendência. As relações ruins entre as duas nações datam das décadas de 1830 e 1840, quando o Texas se rebelou contra o México, instigando a Guerra do México e resultando na perda de uma parte considerável do território deste último para os Estados Unidos. O antagonismo continuou no século 20, quando uma série de líderes mexicanos impotentes não conseguiram colocar ordem em sua nação turbulenta.

Em 1910, rebeldes liderados por Francisco Madero encerraram a ditadura de 30 anos de Porfirio Diaz, dando início a um novo período de agitação e incerteza à medida que diferentes facções políticas disputavam o poder. Três anos depois, o general Victoriano Huerta derrubou Madero em um golpe, matando seu rival no processo. Huerta foi uma melhoria escassa em relação ao seu antecessor, a corrupção flagrante continuou a assolar o país. As forças rebeldes se reuniram em torno de líderes carismáticos como Emiliano Zapata no sul e Alvaro Obregon, Venustiano Carranza e Pancho Villa no norte.

O presidente William Howard Taft monitorou de perto a situação caótica no México, enviando 16.000 soldados à fronteira em 1911 para proteger os cidadãos americanos (e os interesses comerciais americanos). Quando Woodrow Wilson sucedeu Taft como presidente em março de 1913, ele se recusou a reconhecer o governo de Huerta. Em vez disso, ele despachou forças navais adicionais para Tampico e Veracruz para proteger os interesses americanos lá e evitar que armas inundassem o país do exterior. Os mexicanos, compreensivelmente, viram as ações de Wilson como uma intromissão flagrante em seus assuntos internos. A hostilidade antiamericana aumentou.

As tensões chegaram a um ponto de ebulição em 9 de abril de 1914, em Tampico, quando um grupo de marinheiros americanos do USS Dolphin foi apreendido pelas autoridades mexicanas após entrarem por engano em uma área restrita em busca de suprimentos. Embora um envergonhado Huerta rapidamente tenha ordenado sua libertação e emitido um pedido formal de desculpas aos Estados Unidos, Wilson reagiu enviando forças navais adicionais para a costa mexicana para monitorar o agravamento da situação.

Duas semanas depois, um navio alemão carregado com armas para Huerta se aproximou de Veracruz. Wilson ordenou imediatamente que os fuzileiros navais ocupassem a cidade portuária. Cerca de 800 fuzileiros navais e marinheiros americanos invadiram a costa e abriram caminho para o centro da cidade. Os combates de rua duros continuaram ao longo do dia, ceifando 17 vidas de americanos e outros 61 feridos, enquanto quase 200 defensores foram mortos, inflamando ainda mais a hostilidade contra os Estados Unidos em todo o México e no resto da América Latina.

O regime da Carranza toma o poder

Em julho de 1914, Huerta renunciou. Quatro meses depois, Wilson retirou suas forças de Veracruz e deu seu apoio ao governo de oposição de Carranza. Mas Carranza enfrentou oposição contínua de seus principais subordinados - Zapata, Obregon e Pancho Villa. Zapata e Villa logo romperam um com o outro sobre a condução adequada da guerra, e em 1915, Villa e Obregon eram inimigos mortais também. A princípio parecia que Villa, o lendário Centauro do Norte, tinha todas as cartas. Mas Obregon deu seu apoio a Carranza e derrotou o Villa de forma decisiva no Celaya naquele abril.

Embora Carranza frequentemente enchesse seus discursos com retórica antiamericana, ele parecia uma escolha mais estável do que o desacreditado chefe bandido, e em outubro de 1915 os Estados Unidos reconheceram oficialmente Carranza e seu regime como os governantes legítimos do México. A administração de Wilson ajudou Carranza materialmente ao permitir que tropas mexicanas usassem as ferrovias americanas e cruzassem o território dos EUA para reforçar o posto avançado do governo em Agua Prieta. Os reforços adicionais penderam a balança a favor das forças governamentais. Villa lançou três ondas de ataques contra Água Prieta, apenas para ser repelido a cada vez com grandes perdas.

A outrora orgulhosa Divisão do Norte foi virtualmente destruída. A maioria dos sobreviventes se rendeu ou simplesmente voltou para casa. Pancho Villa ainda permanecia em liberdade, escondido nas colinas com algumas centenas de seguidores radicais. Quando Villa soube que Wilson havia reconhecido Carranza, ele ficou furioso, jurando vingança. Os incidentes ao longo da fronteira aumentaram a ponto de alguns hotéis americanos começarem a anunciar que seus estabelecimentos eram à prova de balas.

Interesses americanos na fronteira mexicana

Enquanto isso, os estados fronteiriços americanos - particularmente o Texas - ficavam cada vez mais alarmados com o aumento da violência ao longo de suas fronteiras ao sul. Bandidos mexicanos - alguns Villistas, outros não - cruzavam regularmente os Estados Unidos para roubar, assaltar e matar cidadãos americanos. De julho de 1915 a junho de 1916, ocorreram cerca de 38 dessas invasões, resultando na morte de 37 americanos. Em resposta, os americanos ao longo da fronteira formaram grupos de vigilantes que atacavam mexicanos-americanos inofensivos. Um grupo atirou em 14 mexicanos-americanos e colocou seus corpos ao longo da estrada como um aviso. Alguns dos lendários Texas Rangers também foram culpados de atrocidades aleatórias. Para interromper os ataques à fronteira e a escalada da violência de ambos os lados, o presidente Wilson e o secretário de Estado William Jennings Bryan ordenaram que o general Frederick Funston, chefe do Departamento Sul do Exército, enviasse mais tropas para a fronteira.

Havia inúmeras minas de prata e cobre em Sonora e Chihuahua, a maioria pertencente e operada por empresas americanas. Essas minas, cruciais para a economia mexicana, foram fechadas devido à violência revolucionária. Como um sinal de que eles estavam firmemente no controle, Carranza e Obregon declararam Sonora e Chihuahua pacificados e encorajaram residentes e trabalhadores estrangeiros a retornar. Acreditando na palavra deles, a American Smelting and Refining Company despachou engenheiros para reabrir a mina Cixi em Chihuahua.

Em 9 de janeiro de 1916, 17 oficiais de mineração e engenheiros a bordo de um trem na Ferrovia do Noroeste do México foram parados pelos homens de Villa perto de Santa Ysabel. Os bandidos tiraram os americanos do trem, os alinharam e atiraram na cabeça deles um por um. Um texano fingiu estar morto, rastejou para um pedaço de arbustos de algaroba e conseguiu escapar. As notícias do massacre enfureceram tanto os cidadãos em El Paso que os comandantes do Exército tiveram que declarar a lei marcial para impedir que os vigilantes americanos entrassem no México e se vingassem.

Batalha nas Ruas de Colombo

Mas Villa não acabou com os gringos que ele sentia que o haviam traído. Ele começou a planejar um ataque a uma cidade fronteiriça, embora a princípio Columbus, no Novo México, fosse apenas um dos muitos alvos possíveis. De acordo com alguns relatos, sua inteligência era falha. Seus espiões lhe disseram que Colombo tinha apenas 30 soldados americanos - o número estava perto de 350. Os motivos de Villa foram continuamente debatidos, mas provavelmente ele queria provocar uma guerra entre os Estados Unidos e o México que acabaria por levar à queda de Carranza. Se seus homens pudessem colocar as mãos em algum saque, armas e alguns cavalos, tanto melhor.

Columbus era uma pequena cidade fronteiriça de cerca de 350 habitantes, descrita pelo tenente John Lucas como “um aglomerado de casas de adobe, um hotel, algumas lojas e ruas com areia até os joelhos, combinados com algaroba, cactos e cascavéis”. A ferrovia El Paso e Southwestern corria aproximadamente de leste a oeste ao longo das fronteiras da cidade. O acampamento Furlong, a base militar, estava logo depois dos trilhos. Ao longo da extremidade sudoeste da cidade havia uma colina salpicada de cactos conhecida pelos locais como Cootes Hill.

Villa e seus homens cruzaram a fronteira por volta das 2h30 da manhã de 9 de março de 1916. Ele dividiu sua força principal em cinco grupos. Dois grupos girariam para a esquerda e circundariam a cidade pelo norte, enquanto um terceiro atacaria o acampamento Furlong pelo sul e oeste. Villa permaneceria nas proximidades de Cootes Hill com dois grupos de reserva. Os Villistas estavam confiantes de que haviam alcançado o elemento surpresa.

Assim que o sentinela americano foi abatido, no entanto, o inferno começou. Os invasores da Villa invadiram o pequeno distrito comercial da cidade, as ruas de areia e os edifícios de adobe ecoando e ecoando com os sons de homens gritando, cascos batendo e o estalo agudo de rifles. Os invasores desmontaram e correram para o Hotel Comercial, onde prenderam vários convidados do sexo masculino, arrastaram-nos para fora e os mataram sem piedade. William T. Richie, proprietário do hotel, só teve tempo de esconder a esposa e as três filhas no último andar, antes que os bandidos subissem as escadas. Capturado, ele desceu de bom grado ao primeiro andar, sem dúvida aliviado por sua família não ter sido descoberta. Ele teve pouco tempo para saborear sua boa sorte, ele também foi abatido rapidamente.

Os invasores passaram a maior parte do tempo invadindo lojas e casas e saqueando tudo o que podiam. Eles incendiaram uma loja do outro lado da rua do Commercial Hotel, e logo a própria hospedaria pegou fogo. O hotel pegou fogo como uma tocha, as chamas crepitantes saltando alto de todas as janelas. As mulheres Richie foram resgatadas do incêndio por um jovem improvável chamado Jolly Gardner e um mexicano-americano, Juan Favela.

20.000 rodadas

Enquanto isso, o tenente Lucas aproveitou ao máximo sua suspensão da morte. Como os mexicanos não iriam invadir, Lucas usou a cobertura da escuridão para tentar chegar ao quartel do acampamento Furlong. O tenente de alguma forma conseguiu escapar dos invasores, mas na empolgação não calçou as botas. Demorou um mês para ele remover todas as rebarbas e cardos da planta dos pés.

Em outra parte do acampamento, o oficial do dia, tenente James C. Castleman, estava lendo um livro quando a comoção começou. Ao sair pela porta, o americano foi confrontado por um bandido apontando seu rifle para ele. O mexicano atirou, mas errou, dando a Castleman sua oportunidade. O tenente atirou de volta com sua automática calibre .45, a bala pesada explodindo uma boa parte do crânio de Villista.

Castleman conheceu o sargento Michael Fody, que havia reunido a tropa F do tenente. Sem hesitar, Castleman conduziu o Tropa F em direção à cidade, onde a situação parecia ser mais crítica. Lucas também foi ativo, juntando-se à tropa de metralhadoras e disparando todas as armas disponíveis. As metralhadoras Benet-Mercier de fabricação francesa, alimentadas por clipes de 30 cartuchos, tinham o péssimo hábito de atolar em momentos inoportunos. Lucas e seus homens começaram a atirar na escuridão, o focinho dos invasores mostra sua única pista de onde o inimigo pode estar. O barulho das metralhadoras se juntou ao estalo agudo de Springfields e o latido de Mausers. Muitos invasores foram abatidos pelas metralhadoras, que dispararam cerca de 20.000 tiros antes do fim da luta.

De volta à cidade, os invasores logo tiveram motivos para se arrepender do incêndio criminoso. O hotel e as lojas em chamas iluminavam a área melhor do que um holofote investigativo. Os invasores violentos foram recortados, iluminados por trás pelas chamas rugindo, e os Springfields dos massacres despacharam dezenas de homens da Villa. Após cerca de duas horas, os invasores começaram a recuar. O Major Frank Tompkins reuniu cerca de 56 homens das Tropas F e H, montou e saiu em perseguição, perseguindo sua presa 15 milhas no México antes que a munição baixa o obrigasse a interromper a perseguição.

O ataque a Colombo acabou. Nove civis americanos e oito soldados morreram. Em termos práticos, o ataque de Villa foi um fiasco para o ex-chefe dos bandidos. Um total de 67 Villistas foram mortos em Columbus. Contando os homens perdidos durante a perseguição de Tompkins, bem mais de 100 do comando cada vez mais escasso estavam mortos - algumas estimativas dizem que chegam a 200. Mas se o objetivo principal de Villa era provocar a intervenção americana no México, então ele teve um sucesso além de seus sonhos. Woodrow Wilson não podia tolerar uma invasão tão descarada do solo dos EUA, particularmente em ano eleitoral. Depois de uma enxurrada de trocas diplomáticas entre Wilson e Carranza, este último concordou relutantemente em permitir uma incursão americana. O assentimento foi ambíguo e formulado de tal forma que poderia ser repudiado rapidamente por razões políticas internas.

John Pershing e a “Expedição Punitiva”

Sem se demorar com sutilezas diplomáticas, Wilson organizou o que chamou de "Expedição punitiva". A expedição seria comandada pelo Brig de 55 anos. Gen. John J. Pershing, um oficial veterano muito querido no Exército, mas que tinha a reputação de ser obstinado e eficiente. Ele receberia duas brigadas de cavalaria e uma brigada de infantaria para completar sua missão: apelidado de "Black Jack" Pershing depois de comandar o 10º Regimento de Cavalaria todo negro, o veterano das guerras indianas no oeste e lutando nas Filipinas rapidamente ganhou o respeito de soldados e civis em seu posto no Texas.

Mas as exigências políticas logo alteraram o objetivo da missão. Originalmente, o Secretário da Guerra Newton D. Baker deu ordens para Pershing cruzar a fronteira em busca da banda mexicana que havia invadido Columbus. Mas Wilson, ansioso para amenizar as preocupações do governo Carranza com uma invasão geral dos Estados Unidos, mudou a ênfase. O Exército deveria entrar no México com o único objetivo de capturar o próprio Villa. Falando por muitos, um oficial do Exército tinha pouca confiança no resultado. “Todos os militares”, disse ele, “sabem que, sob as ordens que [Pershing] recebeu, ele teve tantas chances de pegar Villa quanto de encontrar uma agulha em um palheiro”.

A tarefa de Pershing foi nada invejável. O terreno do Chihuahua é um deserto arbustivo, seco, desolado e remoto. Grande parte do terreno desidratado, cravejado de cactos e mesquitas, é um planalto alto, com altitudes superiores a 5.000 pés. Isso resulta em um calor escaldante durante o dia e um frio de gelar os ossos à noite. A parte oeste de Chihuahua é montanhosa, com os picos irregulares da Sierra Madre Occidental projetando-se para o céu como a espinha dorsal de um gigante.

Pior ainda, não havia estradas dignas de menção, apenas trilhas no deserto que ficavam empoeiradas no verão e rapidamente se transformavam em atoleiros lamacentos quando chovia. Os soldados conseguiram usar algumas das ferrovias mexicanas, mas o acesso foi deliberadamente limitado pelo governo de Carranza. Informações confiáveis ​​sobre o paradeiro de Villa também eram limitadas, e rumores, meias-verdades e mentiras deliberadas eram abundantes. A maioria dos mexicanos, qualquer que seja sua política real, se ressentia dos americanos se intrometendo nos assuntos de seu país. Eles não estavam dispostos a cooperar.

Um exército feito para a guerra motorizada

O comando de Pershing era em grande parte composto por tropas regulares do Exército, profissionais e acostumadas às adversidades. A Primeira Brigada Provisória de Cavalaria consistia na 11ª e 13ª Cavalaria e uma bateria da 6ª Artilharia de Campanha. A Segunda Brigada Provisória de Cavalaria continha a 7ª e a 10ª Cavalaria e outra bateria da 6ª Artilharia. O 7º e o 10º estavam entre os regimentos mais famosos do Exército. A 7ª Cavalaria, ou "Garry Owens", foi mais lembrada pela luta malfadada do tenente-coronel George Armstrong Custer em Little Bighorn contra os Sioux e Cheyenne em junho de 1876. Eles tomaram seu nome da canção favorita de Custer. A 10ª Cavalaria veio dos lendários “Soldados Buffalo”, uma unidade totalmente negra que também ganhou fama nas guerras indígenas. A 2ª Provisória foi completada por outra bateria da 6ª Artilharia. A 1ª Brigada Provisória de Infantaria era composta por soldados dos 6º e 16º Regimentos de Infantaria e tropas de apoio.

O plano de Pershing era simples. O corpo principal cruzaria a fronteira em Colombo, enquanto o resto cruzaria no Rancho Culbertson, 80 milhas a oeste em Hachita. As colunas deveriam convergir para Casas Grandes. Esperava-se que Villa ficasse presa entre as duas unidades. A marcha para Casas Grandes foi uma das mais rápidas e cansativas dos anais da Cavalaria dos EUA. O cansado comando de Pershing chegou a Casas Grandes às 20h00 da noite de 17 de março, depois de viajar 68 milhas em dois dias. A marcha foi uma provação para o homem e para os animais. Os cascos da tesoura levantaram nuvens sufocantes de poeira alcalina e, uma vez que o sol se escondeu atrás dos penhascos rosados, as temperaturas caíram para quase zero,

Casas Grandes e a comunidade mórmon próxima de Colonia Dublan serviriam como bases principais para as forças punitivas. Alguns suprimentos eram enviados por ferrovia, incluindo materiais de construção, madeira, açúcar, batatas e cebolas. 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.

632 – The Last Sermon of the Prophet Muhammad occurs

1933 – President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt begins the New Deal by submitting the Emergency Banking Act to Congress

1934 – Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut and the first man in space, is born

1945 – The US Army Air Forces begin the Bombing of Tokyo, one of the most destructive raids in history

1959 – The American International Toy Fair sees the debut of the Barbie doll

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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."


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