Columbus, New Mexico - 1916

Columbus, New Mexico was established in 1891, just a few miles north of the Mexican border. Located in the high desert at an altitude of 4,050 feet, the town was named for Columbus Ohio. In 1902 the El Paso and Santa Fe Railroad opened a station north of Columbus - residents moved their village north to its present location to be on the rail line. The town slowly grew to include two hotels and many merchants.

Columbus in 1916. Note the burned foundations Pancho Villa's raiders left behind.

On March 9, 1916, the Mexican revolutionary leader Francisco "Pancho" Villa led over five hundred of his troops in an early morning attack against the town. Columbus was garrisoned by a detachment of the U.S. 13th Cavalry Regiment, which helped defend the town. Nevertheless, the raiders seized 100 horses and mules, burned the town, killed 14 soldiers and 10 residents, and took much ammunition and weaponry before retreating back into Mexico. Five of the bandits were captured and some 80 were left dead or mortally wounded, mostly from the U.S. machine gun emplacements.

Pancho Villa.

In retaliation, President Woodrow Wilson authorized General John "Black Jack" Pershing to pursue Villa with his U.S. punitive expeditionary force from Camp Furlong (known as the Punitive Mexican Expedition or Pancho Villa Expedition). This was the first time in American history that motorized vehicles and aircraft were used in warfare. Despite the mechanized advantage, Pershing's pursuit failed and he returned after 11 months of searching. Pancho Villa was assassinated in Parral, Mexico in 1923.

A more detailed account of the town's entire history may be found at this link.

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New Mexico c.1910

Luna County