Primary Documents - General Pershing on Military Operations in Mexico, 30 March 1916

General John Pershing From March-June 1916 the United States mounted an armed expedition to Mexico to quell raids initiated by prominent Mexican leader Pancho Villa into the U.S.

Allegedly sponsored by the German government Villa launched a raid into the State of Chihuahua on 11 January 1916, capturing and killing 19 U.S. citizens.  This was followed on 9 March with a raid upon Columbus in New Mexico, killing 11 citizens.

Following U.S. protests Mexico's President Venustiano Carranza undertook to deal with Villa but insisted that the U.S. not interfere.  However with the U.S. rapidly losing patience with Carranza, General Frederick Funston - U.S. commander along the border - was ordered to despatch an armed U.S. column into Mexico in pursuit of Villa (to be taken dead or alive).  To that end Funston placed General John Pershing in command of the expedition.

Pershing led 4,000 U.S. troops into Mexico on 15 March 1916, remaining there until early 1917.  On 29 March 1916 a U.S. force of 400 men defeated a larger number of Villa's followers.  Nevertheless U.S. troops remained to mop up the remnants of Villa's supporters; these troops increasingly came into contact - and armed conflict - with official Mexican troops sent by President Carranza to deal with Villa, the first of which took place on 12 April 1916.

Increasing clashes led to a very real threat of war between the U.S. and Mexico; on 18 June 1916 U.S. President Woodrow Wilson called out the National Guard to deal with the Mexican problem.  As these were gathering along the Mexican border President Carranza backed down, releasing a group of captured U.S. troops and despatching a note of apology on 4 July 1916, in which he suggested convening a conference to prevent future issues.

Reproduced below is General Pershing's brief official report dated 30 March 1916 regarding the dispersal of Pancho Villa's forces.  Click here to read General Funston's official report.  Click here to read Newton Baker's statement on the calling up of the National Guard.  Click here to read Mexican President Carranza's formal letter of complaint to the U.S. government.  Click here to read the U.S. government's response.

Official Report of the Dispersal of Villa's Forces by General John Pershing

San Geronimo Ranch,
March 30, 1916

Dodd struck Villa's command, consisting of 500, 6 o'clock, March 29th, at Guerrero.

Villa, who is suffering from a broken leg and lame hip, was not present.  Number Villa's dead known to be thirty, probably others carried away dead.  Dodd captured two machine guns, large number horses, saddles, and arms.  Our casualties, four enlisted men wounded, none seriously.

Attack was surprise, the Villa troops being driven in a ten-mile running fight and retreated to mountains northeast of railroad, where they separated into small bands.

Large number Carranzista prisoners, who were being held for execution, were liberated during the fight.

In order to reach Guerrero, Dodd marched fifty-five miles in seventeen hours and carried on fight for five hours.

Eliseo Hernandez, who commanded Villa's troops, was killed in fight.  With Villa permanently disabled, Lopez wounded, and Hernandez dead, the blow administered is a serious one to Villa's band.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. IV, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

A "blimp" was a word applied to an observation balloon.

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