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Pancho Villa’s Approach March

In the darkness before dawn 0n the 9th of March 1916 the guerrilla army of the Mexican revolution, led by Francisco ( Pancho) Villa, attacked the small border town of Columbus , New Mexico which lies in a basin of cacti desert. The mounted army had cut the border fence at 1 a. m. that morning. This was the first attack on American soil since1812.. The men dismounted and advanced on the sleeping town, led by experienced officers, tried and tested in Mexican wars.

Half the men attacked the sleeping American forces and others raided and looted the town. Villa and reserve troops waited near Cootes Hill. In his book ‘Pancho Villa’ O’Brien quotes Arthur Ravel as describing the precision with which the raid was carried out and how this suggests that the men concerned had visited the place previously. Villa’s spies reported that the cavalry was a minimal threat. This was enhanced by the fact that several officers were absent and the remainder had quarters well away from the enlisted men to the south.

In fact many friendly Mexicans had left the town according to Jay Sharp. By the time the sun rose the town was in flames. As word spread American troops prepared to follow the fleeing Villa into Mexico. Their forces arrived by train and set off in pursuit. The previous summer Villa had lost 14,000 men at the battle of Celaya. America backed the victors and Venustiano Carranza was announced as the legitimate leader of Mexico. The border was closed against Villa and he could no longer import weapons etc.

A trader in Columbus took his gold and then defrauded him. He was very bitter. He was a charismatic leader and recruited a further 10,000 men in 5 months. There is some evidence however that men joined him because of a threat to burn down their houses if they did not. . The troops inflicted huge casualties, half the invaders being killed or wounded and only 8 Americans died, but the raid was still in some ways a success as it meant that Villa was in Mexican minds now a hero.The Americans sought him for over a year, but were unsuccessful.


O’Brien Steven. “Pancho Villa” 1st Ed. Philip Koslow. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1994. 85-93 Electronic Sources Pancho Villa’s Impact, retrieved 19th February 2008 ,Local History web site http://blue. utb. edu/localhistory/villapfont. htm Sharp, J. Pancho Villa Raids Columbus retrieved 19th February 2008, Desert USA http://www. desertusa. com/mag07/feb07/villa. html

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