Wednesday, June 29, 2005

All posts were moved (11/2006) to

Your Horse is Ugly, and Your General Dresses You Funny

The Battle of Carrizal (Gaspar Reza Heredia, La Jornada de en medio, 26 Junio de 2005) During the so-called “Punitive Expedition” sent to our country to search for Francisco Villa in 1916-17, an almost unknown armed conflict resulted in a rare Mexican defeat of the forces of the United States. Seeking vengeance on the United States which stopped selling him arms, Francisco Villa and 400 cavalrymen launched an early morning raid on 9 March 1916, entering the small town of Columbus, New Mexico with blood and fire. The rapid attack took the military garrison by surprise. Villa’s men inflicted numerous casualties and retired into Mexico with the same speed they attacked. In the United States there was enormous indignation. This was the first time that foreign troops had invaded its soil and beaten its soldiers. The people demanded action against Mexico. President Woodrow Wilson obtained permission from Venustiano Carranza for troops to enter Chihuahua, capture Villa, and return him to the United States for trial. On 20 July 1916 three Mexican soldiers stationed at Villa Ahumada, out searching for lost cattle, were detained by a U.S. military patrol. The GIs took the Mexicans prisoner, marched them to the U.S. camp, where they proceeded to insult the state of Mexican soldiers’, their arms… and their horses. The Mexicans escaped and returned to their unit. Informed of the incident, the Chief of Operations in Cuidad Juarez ordered an immediate halt to the U.S. movement southward. General Félix Uresti Gómez, the Commander at Villa Ahumada, then contacted the invaders, and their commander, Captain Charles T. Boyd, passing on the order and his informing the Americans that he was instructed to resist any further advances. Captain Boyd responded “in a disdainful tone” that his instructions were to advance, and he didn’t care what the Mexicans thought. Given the state of things, General Gómez returned to his own unit. The enemy troops advanced and opened fire on the Mexicans, killing General Gómez. Despite inferior arms and numbers, the Mexican resisted bravely, and – now led by Colonel Genovero Rivas Guillén, who assumed command when General Gómez was killed – counter-attacked. The U.S. troops were forced to withdraw. 50 men were dead (27 Mexican, 23 U.S. soldiers). 27 U.S. soldiers were taken prisoner, and the Mexicans captured 22 horses and a great quantity of arms and munitions. Under the circumstances, it was fortunate that the incident did not lead to a declaration of war. The soldiers sent to Mexico were from segregated black units. In 1916, dead black soldiers were unlikely to have the same impact as dead white soldiers on public sensibilities in the U.S. Then too, both the wounded Lieutenant Moray and interpreter Leon Spillsbery, testified that Captain Boyd had been arrogant and exhibited poor judgment when he confronted General Gómez. Another factor was that the first shots came from the invaders. And, with respect to those shots, the Mexican surgeon who treated the 29 wounded Mexican soldiers noted that the majority of the injuries were caused by expanding bullets: prohibited by international treaty for military use by any civilized nation at that time. The “Punitive Expedition” left Mexico without further incident on 6 February 1917. It is surprising that the Carrizal episode has remains in the shadows, given the Mexican people’s celebration of their heroes. Perhaps Mexicans are reluctant to bother our good neighbors by making public an action in which their troops played so disgraceful a role. Still, it would only be basic justice to raise a national monument, and each year to hold a commemoration service, at the place where soldiers fought and died in defense of the national territory, as is done for those sailors who also died defending their country against the United States at Tampico and Veracruz in 1914.


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