Subversive Historian – 03/09/09

Pancho Villa Rides on Columbus, New Mexico

Back in the day on March 9th, 1916, Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa led a cross-border raid on Columbus, New Mexico. In what was the first attack on U.S. soil since 1812, hundreds of Villistas destroyed much of the business district of the border town in the early morning hours. In the aftermath, as Villa biographer Friedrich Katz has noted, 17 Americans lay dead while more than one-hundred Villistas were killed. The military objectives of securing arms and ammunitions from the nearby U.S. army camp while taking money and supplies from the town largely failed. However, the Columbus raid was principally a political move that largely succeeded. Coming in the context of the Mexican Revolution, Villa had been angered by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s recognition of his main rival Venustiano Carranza’s presidency. Hoping to provoke tension between the two governments, Villa attacked Columbus in an attempt to discredit Carranza. True to the blueprint, a week after the raid, General John J. “Black Jack,” Pershing was commissioned by Wilson to lead an expedition into Mexico to search for and capture Villa that many Mexicans saw as an incursion.

Nearly a year and four hundred miles later, Pershing returned back to the United States without having so much as seen Villa’s shadow giving his movement an infusion of popularity.

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