Huachuca Illustrated, vol 1, 1993:
Buffalo Soldiers at Huachuca:
The 10th Cavalry Joins Pershing
Back at Fort Huachuca on the morning of 9 March, the news of the raid at Columbus interrupted the morning paperwork of Colonel W. C. Brown, the 10th Cavalry's commander. A telegraph operator saw an Associated Press dispatch go out over the wire and telephoned the Huachuca headquarters to relay the news.
Major E.L.N. Glass, the regiment's historian, reported the alert:
About 11:30 a.m. March 9th, the regimental commander, Colonel W. C. Brown, and Adjutant Captain S. McP. Rutherford were going over routine work in the old amusement room that served as an office, when the telephone rang and the hard working adjutant picked up the receiver with a bored expression which soon changed to one of intense interest as he called back: 'Call up Douglas and see if you can get any further details'; then turning to the commanding officer he said: 'Colonel, the telegraph operator phones that an Associated Press dispatch has just gone over the wires saying that Villa attacked Columbus [New" Mexico] early this morning, burned half the town, and killed a lot of civilians and soldiers.' It was now the commanding officer's turn to wake up, and he ordered: 'Get that word around to troop commanders at once and tell them to hold their troops in readiness for orders,' adding, 'We'll get them soon enough. These came about thirty minutes later from Cavalry Brigade Headquarters at Douglas, directing that the command proceed to Douglas at once equipped for field service.(52)
"U.S. Army Wagon Train Crossing the Rio Grande." Photo by W. H. Horne Co., El Paso, Texas.
So troop commanders were already busy preparing their men for the field when the official orders came thirty minutes later from the Cavalry Brigade Headquarters at Douglas. These orders called upon the regiment to set out at once for Douglas, later amended to take them as far as Culberson's Ranch, fully equipped for the field.
The 10th lost no time in loading personal and troop gear and were in the saddle by 4 p.m. that same afternoon. There was no time to handpick men or mounts. As part of a tradition practiced during the Indian Wars thirty years before, the band played while the troops filed off the post.
Debouching from Huachuca were Troops A through I, K, and the Machine Gun Troop. Troop L would march from Fort Apache and join the Punitive Expedition in Mexico on April 28th. Troop M traveled from Nogales, Arizona, by train and entered Mexico from Columbus, N.M., on 16 March. All thirteen of the 10th Cavalry's troops would participate in the chase.
William C. Brown.
George B. Rodney was a captain in 1916 and had just arrived to take command of a troop at Naco, Arizona, when the regiment was ordered into the field. Sending his wife back to Huachuca on the train, the captain readied his troop, loading his two wagons with rations, forage, ammunition and horseshoes. An old campaigner with the 5th Cavalry, he ordered his First Sergeant to load double the number of horseshoes and four times the number of greased horseshoe nails. The Sergeant advised him that the Captain was serving with colored troops now and need not worry about the details; they would be taken care of. Rodney agreed to leave matters in the sergeant's experienced hands but felt compelled to warn him that "if anything goes wrong you'll catch hell."
The top sergeant was unflustered. He muttered as he walked away, "Ah been ketchin' hell fo' thirty years now. Reckon I kin stan' a lil' mo'." (The dialect is rendered by Rodney.)
General view of Fort Huachuca around 1916. U.S. Army Signal Corps photo (SC83539)
The main column from Huachuca made camp on that first night at Hereford, twenty-five miles from the fort. They then set out to pick up those of their regiment stationed along the border at Naco, Arizona. Rodney described the sight of the main body approaching the Naco outpost where he was waiting for them.
...The head of the Advance Guard came over a distant ridge and we saw the regimental standard bright against the sky. The regiment made camp, watered horses, ate, and left while we waited for our orders to catch up with the command, just as soon as we could be relieved. That relief, two companies of Infantry, dropped off a train in midafternoon and that night we got our orders.(53)
From a letter postmarked "Naco, Arizona," dated 10 March 1916, Brown writes to his sister:
Here again! Left post about 6 PM March 9th. Arrived Hereford about 11 P.M. Unrolled my bed roll by a dirty corral and got a few hours sleep. Reveille at daylight this A.M.
We are stopping at Naco today from 10 A.M. to 1 P.M. to rest and then in to Forrest Station and will arrive Douglas 11 A.M., Saturday the 11 th. You will have seen from papers about the attack on Columbus garrison. Bert (Yellow) Slocum's regt. (13th Cav) much depleted. We have no authority as yet to go across the line. I have with me Cabell and troops A, B, C, I, E, F, K, H and the Machine Gun Troop---19 wagons.
That fellow Villa is ann enterprising individual even if he is a bandit. We hear that he lost Lavilv at Columbus.(54)
On 13 March they reached Culberson's Ranch, in the southwest corner of New Mexico, having passed through Douglas and Slaughter's Ranch. Orlando C. Troxel, the First Lieutenant of H Troop was on the march to Culberson's and did not find the trek particularly severe, but in an article in the U.S. Cavalry journal for October 1917, he noted that "the weather was hot" and
...only now and then did we have hay, watering facilities were always poor, the supply insufficient and frequently none except at our nightly camps, and the country was sand and devoid of grazing. We thus marched 160 miles before we entered Mexico. We lost several horses from sand colic and all horses had begun to feel the effects of the march.(55)
At Culberson's they rendezvoused with the other elements of the Second Cavalry Brigade and received orders to be prepared to move at once.
Capt. Orlando Collette Troxel commanded Troop D, 10th Cavalry, Naco in 1915.
Amazingly, all of the troops for the Pershing Punitive Expedition were assembled along the border in just five days and on 15 and 16 March crossed into Mexico in two columns. The western column staged from Culberson's Ranch and was made up of the 7th and 10th Cavalry regiments and Battery B of the 6th Field Artillery. This was known as the Second Cavalry Brigade and was commanded by Colonel George A. Dodd. Pershing himself commanded this column, which numbered 16 officers and 1,501 men, on its march to Colonia Dublan.
The eastern column would move into Mexico from a base in Columbus, N.M., and consisted of the 11th and 13th Cavalry regiments, with Battery C of the 6th Field Artillery attached (the First Provisional Cavalry Brigade); the 6th and 16th Infantry regiments (the First Provisional Infantry Brigade); and these support units: Companies E and H, 2nd Battalion Engineers; Ambulance Company No. 7, Field Hospital No. 7. Signal Corps detachments, First Aero Squadron; and Wagon Companies No. 1 and 2. All told there were 100 officers and 2,100 men in this column. Both columns converged on the city of Colonia Dublan in Chihuahua, Mexico.
The cavalry intended to travel light, packing all their curb bits and overcoats in the troop wagons which were left behind. Rodney, who had served at Fort Huachuca earlier in 1913 and was familiar with the clear cold nights of the Mexican border did not find the decision to jettison the overcoats a prudent one. "We were ordered to pack up all overcoats and load them into the wagons, for Mexico was a semitropical land and wiser heads than a captain's had, decided that it was always hot in semitropical lands."(56)
The Second Cavalry Brigade discovered just how cold the nights could become when they swung into their saddles just after midnight on 16 March for the ride into Mexico. The 10th, bringing up the rear of the column, crossed the border at 1:15 a.m.. This marked the beginning of a year-long adventure that would be filled with hard marching, some singular military triumphs, and the loss of some brave comrades.
52. Glass, 67-8.
53. Rodney, 250-1.
54. Brown papers in FHM files.
55. Glass, 135.
16. Buffalo Soldiers at Huachuca: The 10th Cavalry Marches into Chihuahua
table of contents