Huachuca Illustrated, vol 1, 1993:

chuca Illustrat

chuca Illustrat

Buffalo Soldiers at Huachuca:
The 10th Cavalry Marches into Chihuahua

chuca Illus


Moonrise at midnight found us formed in column moving silently toward the border miles away.

Daylight found us twenty-five miles out on the trail and as I glanced back at my troop I could not help laughing. For hours we had plodded along at a walk across a plain that was utterly devoid of water but was rich in white alkali dust that had settled like a blanket on men and horses, and the only spots on my men where I could see their original color were their upper eyelids when they winked. All else was white with alkali, and those eyelids stood out like flies in a pan of milk.

We found a little water, bad, at Carriza Springs, and that evening we reached Ojitas, fifty-eight miles south of the line. The next day' march was hard, no water and little food, and we reached Colonia Dublan, a little Mormon settlement. That march will always stand out as an example to me of what cavalry can do in cross-country marching, and to cap it all we made camp, if one can call it that, on a prairie that was covered with a dense growth of Johnson grass five feet high and as dry as tinder so that a single spark would have started a prairie fire and our herds would have stampeded. That night we spent fireless, each man with his horse picketed near him, waterless save for what little we had in the canteens that used to swab out the nostrils of our jaded mounts.(57)

The 10h Cavalry on the march near San Antonio, Chihuahua, Mexico, on the Punitive Expedition 1916. Capt. A. E. Philips leads the column on a white horse. Philips was in command of the machine gun troop of the 10th. The regiment was commanded by Col. W.C. Brown.

The march into the northern reaches of the state of Chihuahua was set down by Captain Rodney who rode at the head of G Troop.

Colonia Dublan, the Mormon village near which the Americans had pitched their first camp on Mexican soil, would become the field headquarters for the Punitive Expedition. It was only fifty-two miles from the border and on the only rail line in the western part of Chihuahua.

It was there that General Pershing decided upon a plan to send three separate cavalry columns into the Mexican countryside. They were to push southward on generally parallel courses, like the tines of a trident, in the hopes of crossing Villa's trail and trapping his forces between their pincers.

The 7th Cavalry operated as one column, with Colonel James B. Erwin in command of the 29 officers and 647 enlisted men. The 2nd and 1st Squadrons of the 10th Cavalry, commanded by Colonel W. C. Brown and Major Elwood W. Evans, respectively, each composed the second and third columns. Brown's force, which included the Machine Gun Troop, numbered 14 officers and 258 enlisted men. Evans had 8 officers and 204 men.

In Camp near San Antonio, Mexico, with the 6th Infantry. Riding the train are carranzistas and United States troops. Pictured are carranzistas who went through here on the way to different points along the railroad in search of Villa and his men. National Archives photo 94-UM199912.

Pershing requested that a train be sent from Juarez for use by his forces. While saving some of the cavalry's tired mounts, the commander felt that the use of rail would also be an advantage in swiftly interdicting Villa's movements.

Sketch Map of Route of Cavalry Troops, Punitive Expedition, 1916.

The 10th Cavalry was selected to ride that train south into the heart of Villa country. It looked as if the regiment was going to get a break after marching 252 miles, 30 miles a day, from Huachuca. The 10th boarded trains in Colonia Dublan on 19 March with Brown and the 2nd Squadron heading for El Rucio and Evan's 1st Squadron making for Las Varas. From these points on the rail line they would march to their respective destinations of San Miguel and Namiquipa. Everyone remembered that train ride.

Lieutenant Troxel recalled: "Our troubles in patching and nailing up the cars, getting material for camps, collecting wood for the woodburning engine and getting started late in the afternoon with the animals inside the freight cars and officers and men on top in truly Mexican style, were exceeded, if possible, only by the troubles in keeping the engine going by having the men get off and chop mesquite to burn in it, only to find that the wood must be used to send the engine some place for water, and so on ad infinitum."(58)

Captain Rodney said, "It was a train by courtesy, nothing else." He went on to describe their journey.

Six cattle cars were hitched a woodburning engine for which there was no fuel. Our first job was to rebuild the train, for great holes had been burned in the floors. Most of the cars had no doors and every time the engine moved the sides of those cars opened out just as the sticks in a fan separate. When we finally got the horses loaded we placed bales of hay along the tops of the cars so the men would not fall off when asleep; then we set to work with camp hatchets to cut a supply of fuel for the engine. In some way we finally got started, after demolishing a set of loading pen sfor fuel for which the Government later had to pay nineteen hundred dollars. Then we started but it was only a start. From time to time a man would roll off the roof or sparks from the engine would set fire to the hay bales; then the engine would stop for water and we had to cut down telegraph poles for fuel and when we got the fuel the water was gone. It took us twenty-four hours to run twenty-five miles and we finally reached our destination about three hours after we would have reached it had we marched. At a little wood station called Rucio we finally got the horses off the train. As there was no ramp for unloading, the train was stopped in a railway cut and we got the horses out by the simple process of pushing them out of the open car doors. Then we started on our cross-country march to San Miguel rancho where rumor said Villa had been hiding.(59)



Capt. Henry A. Meyer, Capt. A. E. Phillips and Lt. D.R. Scott, ----------A trooper in 1916 with the Signal Corps buzzer.
Punitive Expedition, Chihuahua, Mexico, 1916.
Note "sneakers" on Lt. Scott. National Archives Series, 94-UM-200072.

Lack of fuel, water and ancient boxcars were only some of the problems posed by the rail journey. Railway employees, claiming they had no notice of the train's arrival, were unprepared to provide services enroute and the train's sleepless crew were kept at the job only by Colonel Brown's promise of fifty dollars in gold pieces if the troops were carried to their destination without delay. Clearly the 61-yearold Brown was a leader who left no details to chance. He rode up in the cab when the engine made a run, uncoupled, to Pearson for water.

Brown's detachment left the train at Rucio just before noon on 20 March and marched cross country, looking for news of Villa's whereabouts along the way. The latest intelligence placed the bandit somewhere just east of Namiquipa, a favorite haunt of Villa and where he had just skirmished with Mexican government troops under Colonel Cano. With a population of three to four thousand, Namiquipa was thought to be "the most revolutionary town in Mexico." By the afternoon of 24 March, Brown had rejoined Major Evan's 2nd Squadron which had stayed with the train as far as Musica where the engine eventually gave out.

Capt. Pritchard and the 10th Cavalry regimental colors in front of his tent during the 1916 Punitive Expedition.

If the trip south by rail proved to be for Colonel Brown's command a comedy of errors, for Major Evans 1st Squadron it was a disaster. After Brown and his men disembarked at Rucio, Evans' troops continued on the same train to their destination of Las Varas. At a place called Musica, two cars loaded with men, horses and equipment derailed and plunged over an embankment injuring eleven men, one of whom, Saddler Hudnell of Troop B, later died.

Evans sent the injured men back to Colonia Dublan on the next train in the care of his hospital corpsman and a civilian guide. As they were already three days behind schedule due to the slow train ride, Evans ordered a night march for San Jose de Babicora where he received a message from Brown telling Evans to link up with him.

Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing, and his aide Lt. James L. Collins, -----------Pershing and his staff car in Mexico, 1916.
in Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico, 1916.
National Archives photo.

"Mexican Ambulance Crossing the Rio Grande River ---------------U.S. ambulance picking up wounded on the battlefield.
with Wounded." Photo by W. H. Horne, El Paso, Texas.
----------------------Photo courtesy Col. James W. Fraser.

Evans' squadron rode into Brown's camp at 2:00 p.m. on the 24th of May. The consolidated force now comprised the entire regiment, less Troops I and K which had been left at Colonia Dublan and would be attached to troops of the 13th Cavalry to form a provisional squadron under Major Frank Tompkins, and Troops L and M which were enroute to the theater from their more distant stations of Nogales and Fort Apache.

Vehicles bogged down in the mire during the 1916 Punitive Expedition.

Mounted artillery in action during the 1916 Punitive Expedition. Photo by W. H. Horne, El Paso,Texas.

"Battlefield Scene in Mexico."Photo by W.H. Horne, El Paso,Texas. -------------------10th Cavalry on the march in Mexico.


57. Rodney,255-6.

58. Glass, 135.

59. Rodney, 257-8.

17. Buffalo Soldiers at Huachuca: The Battle of Agua Caliente

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