Huachuca Illustrated, vol 1, 1993:

chuca Illustrat

chuca Illustrat

Buffalo Soldiers at Huachuca:
The 10th Cavalry to the Rescue

chuca Illustrat

The 1916 Punitive Expedition into Mexico, led by General John Pershing, met with hostility on every side.

American troops, like the 10th Cavalry out of Fort Huachuca, were operating in the domain of Pancho Villa where many of the peasants held pro-Villa sympathies. The Mexican government officers likewise questioned the American's rights to be there. Even though American officers carried and distributed a proclamation by Mexican Secretary of War Obregon extending a vague permission to operate in Mexico, almost no Mexican official believed the expedition to have any legitimate right to be maneuvering through their territory.

And it became plain that Mexicans, from railway employees to Carranza's commanders, would do all they could to thwart American efforts to find Pancho Villa. Participants like Colonel Frank Tompkins felt that the active "treachery" of the de facto government officials was all that prevented Pershing's forces from capturing Villa, the pillager of Columbus, New Mexico. Tompkins wrote, "There was among the people a resentment toward us that was clearly shown in the brazen false news they disseminated. Practically all information from native sources was either entirely misleading, or if based on fact, located Villa's band at places several days later than the actual date. ...Several Mexicans frankly said that they would consider it a national disgrace if the Americans should capture Villa."

A Dangerous Shift

The resistance to the expedition would make a dangerous shift from providing the Americans misleading information to actual attacks on their columns. On April 12th near the town of Parral, Pancho Villa's home town, Mexican government forces attacked a squadron of the 13th U.S. Cavalry under Major Frank Tompkins.

Frank Tompkins, shown here as a colonel.

On hearing of the attack on Tompkins, Colonel William C. Brown raced his 10th Cavalry to reinforce him. Within minutes the Buffalo Soldiers were in the saddle and moving to Santa Cruz de Villegas where Tompkins was reported to be making a stand. An hour later, with darkness falling, the buglers of the 10th sounded some calls and a faint answering call let them know that they were at the American camp.

10th Cavalry on the march near San Antonio, Mexico, 1916.
Major Charles Young is second from right.

It was obvious that the beleaguered Tompkins was glad to see the relief force come up. Captain Rodney was among those first 10th cavalrymen to ride into Tompkins' position and he recounted the scene.

The sound of our hoofbeats brought Tompkins to the gates and he gave us a warm welcome. He had bee wounded in the arm and he had injured a leg by falling over some hasty entrenchments that he had been supervising, and he was glad to see us. As we splashed through the ford he shouted to us. I can hear his words yet.

Major Charles Young, one of the six Negro officers of the Army and our Squadron Commander, was riding by me at the head of the advance guard when Tompkins sighted him and called out, "By God! They were glad to see the Tenth Cavalry at Santiago in '98, but I'm a damn sight gladder to see you now. I could kiss every one of you!"

Young grinned and called back. "Hello, Tompkins! You can start in on me right now."

There was no further talk of kissing....(65)

On the morning of the 13th, Colonel Brown and Major Young led a party towards Parral to recover the body of Private Ledford, killed in the fight the day before. The body, stripped of outer clothing and shoes, was returned by wagon along with the little stray dog that had watched over him. In the afternoon a meeting under a flag of truce was held with the Mexicans. The Mexican commander at Parral, General Lozano did not show up, instead sending a civilian representative, Jose de la Luz Herrera, the Presidente of Parral. In the several hours of talks, Brown demanded an explanation for the attack and asked for the return of the body of Sergeant Richley who had fallen just outside of Parral. He also presented a list of provisions that would be needed for the American army and would be paid for.

Major Young with unidentified soldiers.

Diplomatic protests were filed by the American government over the incident and the Mexicans responded by denying that General Lozano's forces had opened fire on Tompkins troops. The fight at Parral would be prelude to further animosity between the Americans and the Carranza government.


65. Rodney, 262-3.






19. Roll Call: Colonel Charles Young

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