Skirmish at El Tintero – April 1916


So, in case that would be necessary they could have gotten water from melted snow?

Also, would be possible that the Villistas even if they were forced to withdraw that they might have let behind some men hidden to watch to the American position...
Good points. I was looking at a topographic map again earlier today and the contour levels are marked in meters, so the height didn't quite click in my foot/yards American mind right away. 2500 meters is definitely high ground. I had also read one of the histories where they made the point of how two companies of US Cavalry got separated in mid-march, because of the blizzard white-out. Blown snow, mixed with sand.... That was only a couple of weeks prior to these events and 50 miles to the west.

You're absolutely correct about getting water from the snow. The water treatment for creating potable water from other surface sources was just in transition. In camp, they'd be continually setting aside water in large kettles to settle out sediment, then it might be boiled, or run through a Lyster bag with calcium hypochlorite - both were very slow processes. Chlorine or Iodine was also used in the field.

The likelihood of an ambushing rear guard on the other side of the pass should be expected. Both sides used that tactic historically. The major bug-bear for Villa's soldiers was they were chronically short of ammunition, as they were cut off from Mexican government sources. Their raids on Constitutionalist bases were sometimes a calculated expectation of reaping more food and ammunition than they expended getting it. Prior to the Columbus raid, they could also tap into ammunition and gun purchases from US sources. After Columbus, that was more difficult, but was done (money talks...) Basically, they couldn't risk many drawn-out battles.

Many of the Villistas were combat veterans by this point of the Revolution, but with a fair amount of backfilled replacements (of varying levels of commitment). The heavier number of replacements needed after the disasters of 1915. Some of Villa's officers were professional soldiers like Col. Felipe Angeles - French-trained artillery expert. Others had less formal military training, but long service in combat leadership, like Cervantes and many others. Arguably the best tactical General on the continent at the time was Alvaro Obregon - Villa's one-time ally, but now his nemesis. Obregon was another with no formal military training, but one of those natural soldiers who picked up modern tactics on the fly and he understood how to make them work in most situations.

*edit* Sorry for pontificating there....:)
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Well, it could seem counterintuitive, but I doubt very much that in this scenario any Villista officer with professional training/formation would be so useful given that, IMO, the best option for Villa might be attempting to avoid to have fight full-fledged battles between both armies...
First, due to the differences in equipment and training between with respect to the US Army, but, also by the Villa's style of leadership and particularly cause they would be fighting near their operations base. But mainly for the above mentioned characteristics and composition of the Villa's army that could be best suited for an irregular/ asymmetric style of warfare...


Well, it could seem counterintuitive, but I doubt very much that in this scenario any Villista officer with professional training/formation would be so useful given that, IMO, the best option for Villa might be attempting to avoid to have fight full-fledged battles between both armies...
First, due to the differences in equipment and training between with respect to the US Army, but, also by the Villa's style of leadership and particularly cause they would be fighting near their operations base. But mainly for the above mentioned characteristics and composition of the Villa's army that could be best suited for an irregular/ asymmetric style of warfare...
Exactly. When Villa made his campaign against Obregon in 2015, Angeles argued against it strenuously, and it ended badly for Villa. As you note, he would have been better served staying the assymetric warfare path.

I got re-interested in the Pancho Villa Expedition first as a setting for US Army Rommel, but with that, I also got interested in the Mexican Revolution in general. My god, what a continual set of tragedies piled on tragedies. It is full of heroes, villains, and an assortment of "morally-ambiguous characters". Felipe Angeles is one of those leaders who deserved a better end than he recieved.
1000 April 13 - Canyon floor


1000 – April 13 – On the canyon floor East of El Tintero

Rommel, along with Jacobus’s squad carefully made their way down to the canyon floor and their first priority was to be sure none of the Villista survivors were going to take potshots at them. Pvt Adams snapped his rifle butt onto his shoulder, ready to fire when he saw a pair of hands tentatively raised from a body lying face-down on the ground. Jacobus shouted in his best halting Spanish “Manos arriba lentamente!” (Hands up slowly!) – Jacobus hoped that was the right thing to say…. To everyone’s surprise, several pairs of hands slowly rose from spots nearby. The original hand raiser slowly stood as well, and Rommel was stunned to see a youth, maybe thirteen or fourteen years old, obviously scared. Some of the others stood then too, and they were of varying ages and conditions. Rommel now said “Por ahi” (over there) and used his pistol to point the upright prisoners over towards an open area by the creek bed, just so they were all in one spot. Still, there were plenty of bodies lying around, some quick, some probably dead. There was also the piteous neighing of badly wounded horses.

“Dickenson and Szymanski, each of you grab one of the Mexican pistols and finish off those wounded animals. Be careful there’s no bushwhackers out there” Off they went and soon there were several sharp pops as Dickenson and Szymanski made their grim rounds.

By now, Montoya and his squad had worked their way down to the canyon floor. Rommel ordered Montoya and three of his men to work their way up to the head of the canyon to be sure that the Villistas were gone. “They still outnumber us three to one. Be sure they haven’t got a rearguard waiting on the reverse slope!”

Meanwhile, the rest of Montoya’s and Jacobus’ men made their way around checking wounded or making sure the dead were really, truly dead. The wounded that could be moved, were brought over by where the first prisoners were gathered and some elementary first aid was done. Some of the wounded were in such bad shape that moving them would kill them anyway, so they were made as comfortable as possible where they were found. Cold-hearted, but no real fix for the problem, under the circumstance.

“Jacobus, take a quick look around and let me know how many Villistas are dead. We’ll need back into a number to give the Captains an idea of how many got away”

Now Leclerc and his squad were down on the floor too. Leclerc was the unofficial armorer and gunsmith of the platoon, so Rommel gave his squad the assignment of quickly collecting all the weapons and ammunition bandoliers, both lying loose on the ground and on the wounded and dead. “We’re not leaving anything behind that can be used against us later.” Leclerc had also made the point of bringing down the bodies of Dimmington, Calloway, and Worsely, carrying them in impromptu slings made from blankets.

Bryggen and his squad were the last off the canyon rim and on to the canyon floor. They had the unenviable task of bringing the bodies of McCowan, and Wickes, who had been killed later in the fight.

There were eight of his men wounded, nine counting himself. Most were fairly superficial, but Corcoran and Nelson were more severe.

“What should we do with these horses, Lieutenant?”, asked Szymanski, as they lead up seven lean animals of the Villa band and four more jogging up behind on their own.

“Perfect. See if you can find a usable pack-saddle or two in this mess and take those two fitter-looking horses for Leclerc’s guns. Put two of our dead up on three others and get the wounded who can still ride, up on the rest. Those that are too bad off to ride or walk, we will need to carry down in blankets. Those able-bodied prisoners can help with that chore. I’m afraid we’ll need to leave the Villista dead where they are. No help for it right now. We need to get a move on.”

Leclerc and his squad had a stack of about fifty rifles and a similar number of pistols. “Christ Lieutenant, if we need to pack this stuff out, we’re gonna be making several trips, sir. I’d say that we break down the pistols and chuck the cylinders over’n that mud hole an’ throw the frames in a scraped-out hole in the crik bed over yonder. Mebbe do the same with some of the older and oddball rifles too. Then smooth some dirt over ‘em. What a goddam olio of equipment…. There’s three old black powder guns, twenty or so Winchester and the like of differ’nt models an’ calibers, three old Krags! would ya believe, an’ sixteen real nice Mesican Army issue Mauser carbines – nice guns there… Oh yeah, eleven 1903’s, including some of our own. One is very beat-up. On second thought, If I may suggest, we could quick break down some of the old-timers and try smashing the actions on the rock over there. That won’t take but a few minutes. We could build a quick fire with some of the creosote bush and mesquite up-canyon and dump some of the oddball ammunition and the wrecked weapons in the fire. O' course, we’d need to get the hell outta the way, quick-like though. We should keep them Mausers and the Springfields and a couple of other prizes. We might need ‘em later…”

“Do that. We need to shake a leg though. We’re exposed down here just as bad as those fellows were” Rommel replied, pointing to the nearby dead soldados. “….Wait, what prizes?”

Leclerc let a wolfish smile spread across his face. “Well, there’s this one” as he pulled an odd-looking pistol from the back belt of his pants. “I’m purty sure this is a Mauser self-loader pistol. It’s stamped with Mesican Army lingo. Eik found that one by that big fellow near the front of the company. He musta’ been an officer to have that weapon. We’ll show you who we mean in a bit. But that ain’t nuthin’. Right at the start of the fight, I saw a big packhorse with what looked to me to be a gun scabbard up’n top. From the distance, I couldn’t tell what it was fer sure, but it had ta’ be important. It took me and Posey several shots, but we finally dropped that horse an’ he rolled over the edge of the crik bank with his feet in the air. We also dropped another pack horse that was his sidekick. Weeelllll, when we finally got down here and were policing the canyon floor, the first thing we did was to roll that first pack horse over and lo an’ behold that scabbard contained a real honest to god automatic machine rifle! Once agin’ stamped with Mesican Army markings. I’m dead sure it’s a Madsen. The other packhorse was carrying six trays loaded with ammunition and other para’nalia for the gun. Christ, if they’d gotten that gun set up, they coulda drummed a real paradiddle on our heads. You can see by the number of bodies around that pack horse, that they sure tried to get ta’ that gun. Now,…. the shoes wrong-footed ag’inst them. IF’n Villa’s boys come back over the ridge, we can give ‘em some hellfire an’ damnation!”

“Do you have any idea how to make that thing work? ….Nevermind, Of course you will figure it out. Get your men going on the destruction work, and we’ll start down the canyon. Don’t take too long! Ten minutes, no more.”

“Bryggen, get a couple of your men to untangle the pack saddles from those dead horses and put ‘em on these two fit-looking animals. Lash as many of the captured guns and bandoliers on them as you can. We’ll need to carry the others. Leave Leclerc’s machine rifle and magazines up on top.”

Jacobus came back with a count of twenty-three Villista bodies on the canyon floor. Rommel had counted eighteen wounded and nine able-bodied prisoners. So maybe one hundred, give-or-take, that got back over the pass? That would still be a substantial force to run to ground.
1020 April 13 - Canyon floor - Counterattack!


1020 – April 13 – On the canyon floor East of El Tintero

They all turned as they heard several sharp cracks from rifles near the head of the canyon. Pvt Hicks had come back down off the top of the pass to wig-wag with his hat and bandana “attack coming”.

“Damn!..... Get the prisoners and our wounded into the creek bed. Our own wounded can guard them. That’s the best we can do. Shoot any of them who tries to bolt”

“Leclerc, get your automatic rifle set up. Everyone spread out in extended order, Find whatever cover you can.”

Looking back up the canyon, Rommel could see Montoya, Hicks, and O’Rourke working their way back down the slope as quickly as they could manage, by leapfrogging of two covering the third in motion. No sign of Giertich, or the Villistas though.

Rommel took a quick scan around to see if there was a better disposition for his own force, but there probably wasn’t enough time now to regain the heights quickly. The canyon floor was just as rounded and with as limited of cover as when his boys ambushed the Mexicans’. There was just a bit of a step down in the canyon floor to the west which would provide a bit of cover for half his men against an attack from the east. The only other geography working in their favor right now, was that the Villistas couldn’t spread out to take advantage of their superior numbers. Several of his soldiers were frantically digging shallow fox holes, but not enough time to really make them useful. He’d been too hasty in bringing his platoon down to the canyon floor, but nothing to be done for that now.

Montoya was only about one-hundred and fifty yards away now, and the three turned and just started sprinting for their compatriots.

Three Villista’s appeared on the top of the pass, clearly scanning the layout below. One turned back and disappeared.

“Hold fire till they’re closer. Bryggen, Tikkanen, target anyone you think is a leader” (those two were the better shots in the Platoon.)

“Leclerc, have you figured out how to fire that machine rifle yet?”

“Yup, purty sure….” From Leclerc. “Say, how ‘bout we get a fire going out front in the crik bed and toss in some of pistol and odd ammunition? That may give ‘em the idea there’s more to us down here. We gotta get rid of it anyways.”

“….No time for that, I’m thinking.”

Montoya, Hicks, and O’Rourke regained the US position. Between gasps for air, Montoya rolls out, “Maybe eighty-five or more were heading this way before we skeddadled. Giertich took one in the chest on the other side of the pass. He’s dead.”

Montoya joined O’Rourke in using one of the dead horses for cover.

Montoya barked at Rommel, “They’re comin’ over the pass now in force. Get down sir! Those fellows can shoot!”

Tedeschi handed Rommel one of the spare Springfields and a belt full of ammunition pouches. He hunkered down behind another of the dead horses, knowing that the 7mm bullets of the Mexican Mausers might well pass right through the horse and into him. At least, there was an illusion of protection.

The Villistas could only spread out ten or fifteen riders wide, without being bunched up, or too far up the steeper part of the slopes. They were still over six hundred yards away up canyon, so Rommel let them come on farther. He was unsure of his own men’s marksmanship. The Army had allowed very little range time from before they crossed the border. Apparently, bullets were too expensive to waste on practice….

Now, they were down to four-hundred yards off. “Open Fire! Fire at will!”

A rippling set of shots from the Springfields, with the staccato chattering of the Madsen tore the air. Men and horse went down in the first rows, and a few riders pressed on, but others, who had been at Celaya where the machine guns of Obregon’s troops had cut them down like wheat, held up. There was no future in this fight. Time to live to fight another day, so the brief attack ended and the survivors headed back up the slope.

Rommel called “Cease firing” when the Villistas got to about six hundred yards off.

“Montoya, Jacobus, find out what we have left for ammunition. Everyone should still have a couple of dozen rounds left. Distribute more from Leclerc’s cache, if needed.”

Speaking to Leclerc about the Madsen, “You weren’t joking one bit about Hellfire and Damnation with that thing!”

Leclerc blinked a few times and exhaled slowly. ”Well…. That was SOMETHING, wasn’t it? Just a few seconds of firing… I can’t even begin ta imagine what those boys in Flanders go through when there’s hunnerds of machine guns laying down a hailstorm of bullets…”

A quick look with the binoculars provided an estimate of fifteen to eighteen more Villistas on the ground, along with a number of horses but that was as close as he was going to check.

“Get our wounded, the prisoners ready to move, and our other gear packed up right now. I doubt they come back again today, but I don’t want to give them time to loop around through another canyon to hit us on the flank.”

Thinking to himself, “They have to low on ammunition too”

Leclerc and his men got on with their earlier task of destroying the incompatible ammunition and some of the earlier Mexican guns. They also finish pack-tying the Mausers and spare Springfields and bandoliers onto the two pack horses. Leclerc rigged up an impromptu sling for the Madsen from horse reins and he carried the gun and a spare magazine himself. It was heavy, but manageable. The other magazines, including the now empty one and the partial were divided up among his squad.

As they formed up to leave the canyon, Rommel had Montoya’s squad step off to the new front (West), and Bryggen’s squad as rear guard. Jacobus and Leclerc on the flanks, with the wounded and prisoners in the middle. They had left the second attack wounded for the Villista’s to deal with their own.

As they were leaving, Private Eik showed Rommel the body of the soldado where he had found the Mauser pistol and Leclerc’s guess that that man was an officer. “Judging by his clothes and the fancy tack on his horse, you’re probably right about him being an officer. Put his body up on that big horse, along with Dimmington’s body. We’ll see if anybody back at El Valle recognizes him”

About ten minutes later, Leclerc and his men came slowly jogging down the trail to catch up with the rest of the column. Rommel could hear a series of pops from roasting ammunition (and odd rifles) and see a dirty column of smoke arising from Leclerc’s bonfire. “Ennnh, I’ve got my doubts about how well that’s gonna work, but it was the best we could do…:

1020 Situation map - source contour map from
(please forgive my terrible cartography.....)
1020 Map.gif


Also, would be possible that the Villistas even if they were forced to withdraw that they might have let behind some men hidden to watch to the American position...

You have me re-thinking the next post now....:biggrin:
The 1000 post I had written last week. Your comment above got me re-thinking and I wrote the 1020 post yesterday.

The Villista's have had a tough stretch, but that's consistent with history. The few successes they had since 1915 were largely against outnumbered Constitutionalist outposts.
1245 to 1735 April 13 - Departure


1245 – Near the canyon mouth – East of El Tintero

Rommel’s motley column was on the move finally, and coming out of the canyon into the broader valley. In a day full of surprises, the Brrrrappp engine sound from a pair of dispatch motorcycles with sidecars came quartering off the road and weaving through the low scrub towards him, caught him with his mouth open. Even a quarter mile away, he could see the occupant of the sidecar on the first motorcycle was Captain Pope.

Only a couple of minutes passed and Pope hopped out and seeing Rommel’s quizzical look, Pope said “I got antsy to know what you were up to. So earlier today, I bent the ear of your Colonel Allaire to have him authorize the use of these wonderful machines. You really ought to try this. Quite an experience.”

“I know… I own one myself and I’ve rebuilt a couple of motorcycles. I’ll tell you about that sometime.” Rommel said with a hint of a smile. “We’ve had our hands more than full this morning.”

Pope looked at the mix of dirty, obviously tired US Infantry and the ragged collection of wounded and prisoners, most of which looked ready to fold up. “I see that! You ran into far more trouble than I thought you would. Tell me your short version of events, and I’ll send a messenger back for some help” Pope quickly strode back over to the sidecar and pulled out a dispatch bag and a notebook and pencil from within. Pope looked back to Rommel, “How many Villistas would you estimate were up there? So that the Colonel has a handle on what to expect.” Pope’s eyes widen a bit when Rommel gave him the estimate of the number coming down the canyon and the greatly reduced number heading back up. He quickly scribbled a note and handed it to the rifle-toting Corporal in the second motorcycle’s sidecar. “Take this note directly to Colonel Allaire. Pronto! Don’t spare the throttle. Return as soon as you can, so I know what action is being taken. I expect to see you in a couple of hours.”

Then Pope returned to Rommel, “In the note to your Colonel, I made a strong request for him to dispatch at least another platoon, using the same trucks as this morning. I also asked him to relay to my Quartermaster troop that they need to round up whatever other vehicles we can to get down here right away. Your men look about done in. Also, any idea on what the Mexicans were doing?”

Rommel replied: “I don’t know their plan. To be honest, I haven’t tried to get information from the prisoners yet”

“Well, by the sound of things, you shot them up quite badly, and they’re also likely short of ammunition themselves, and probably not coming back to this spot again, but that doesn’t solve the convoy problem. I’ll need to get a message through to our base at Namiquipa that we’ll need to hold the convoy in El Valle for a day, till we can protect the route more thoroughly, and probably get a cavalry troop to scour the countryside where the Villa troop headed. I’ll have hell to pay for holding up the convoy, but it’s gotta be done.”

“To state the very obvious thought, you and your men did a hell of a job in waylaying that bunch. They could have devastated our convoy had you not acted. Well done!”

1535 – April 13 - On the road back towards El Valle

Once again, they heard the welcome Brraaappp of the motorcycle coming towards them. It shortly pulled up, the dusty rider saluted, and handed a note to Captain Pope. Pope scanned the note, snorted, and said, “Just before my dispatch rider returned to camp, Colonel Allaire was informed that one of our aviators had spied a large body of mounted men on the east side of this range – a few days ago. Had-we-but-known before you left camp this morning…. Apparently, the plane couldn’t get over the mountain range, so they had to fly the long way around and then ran out of fuel, leading to more delay….”

“Also, in response to that new piece of tactical information, Colonel Allaire is immediately dispatching the rest of your company, with a Lieutenant Orton(5) leading the first wave in the Quartermaster trucks and Captain Spalding with the balance of the company on foot. They should expect to see the trucks by 1800 hours, if not before. The rest of the Regiment is also on a greater state of preparedness.”

That was good, as darkness fell after seven this time of year. The temperature would drop quickly, which would not help the wounded any.

Pope quizzed the dispatch rider if he had sufficient fuel to go on to Namiquipa with the news of the skirmish and the planned delay of the convoy to both the Cavalry and Quartermaster officer in charge. The driver replied he should be all set for that trip (he carried a spare fuel can lashed to the back of the sidecar). Off he tore on his appointed mission.

(5)Lt William Orton – OTL member of the 16th Infantry Regt.

1735 – April 13 - On the road back towards El Valle

Now the weary band, which hadn’t gotten very far in five hours of trudging, heard the encouraging sound of approaching trucks.

In a few minutes, the first truck, a Jeffrey Quad pulled up and Lieutenant Orton bounded out of the front seat over to Captain Pope and after the military formalities, he turned to Rommel and said, “You look like hell, Erwin”

“Good to see you too, Bill”

Soon, the other trucks pulled up and unloaded Orton’s platoon. There were three other Dodge automobiles and an FWD that came as well. Apparently, that was all that could be scraped up on short notice.

The US wounded, (and Villista wounded, under guard) were loaded onto four of the trucks. Then Rommel and the rest of his able body men clambered up onto the back of the remaining trucks and the autos. Leclerc’s booty of the Mauser and Springfield rifles, the Madsen, along with a surprisingly good supply of 7mm ammunition was going back to El Valle. The able-bodied prisoners (still under guard) were also loaded up.

Pope chose to remain behind (along with the second motorcycle and the Mexican horses) and satisfy himself that Lieutenant Orton and Captain Spalding followed the plan.
0730 April 14 - El Valle Infirmary


0730 – April 14 – El Valle Infirmary

With Captain Spalding still out on the road near El Tintero, Colonel Allaire, the commander of the 16th Infantry Regiment, made a point of visiting his men in the infirmary. Corcoran and Nelson had been pulled through their wounds, but Corcoran’s days as a soldier were finished. He would need to have a medical discharge once he mended up enough to make the trip back to Arizona. Nelson would be laid up for some weeks. The wounds on Rommel’s other men were easily enough treated, but the Surgeon wanted all of those fellows to remain under medical watch for at least a day or two, to make sure no sepsis developed. Rommel’s badly scraped-up knees and right hand were a nuisance. His left thigh still burned from where the bullet creased it, a hands-breadth above his knee. He was still puzzled by the several cuts scattered across his face. He had no idea when and where he acquired those wounds.

He gave Colonel Allaire a lengthy verbal accounting of their actions yesterday, including what he saw as his own mistakes, and promised he’d complete a written report later in the day. Rommel admired the tough and capable Allaire and wanted to be sure he made his report in a full and formal manner. The Colonel seemed quite genuine in his congratulations on Rommel’s impromptu ambush plan and that the casualty list was surprisingly low, under the circumstance. The Colonel even said, “Well done running your first skirmish! My only criticism is that you were too impetuous coming off the ridgeline. By your description, that was a solid defensive position. That move could have gone badly. It would have been better to have dispatched a small scouting party to the pass first. As to the soldiers trying to flank you via the ledge, perfect reconnaissance of a battlefield isn’t always possible and good soldiers find weak spots. Remember that for next time and be prepared. Still, very commendable results in the end. It’s also nice to get one over on the cavalry too. They’ve had all the excitement so far on this expedition.”

“We interrogated most of your prisoners overnight. Some are long service revolutionary soldiers, so we got little information out of them – they’re pretty hard nuts to crack. Some are recent volunteers, and others I gather, are press-gang conscripts, and once we separated them off from the veterans, several were quite… chatty…. Any idea who shot the officer?

Rommel replied to the last question, “Not that I’m aware of. No one claimed that when we put his body on the horse. Is that important, sir?

“Some of your prisoners are claiming that officer’s body you brought back is Pancho Villa himself! That just seems too fantastic to be true, as we believe he’s well west of here. That tale of a Villa sighting has been told many times before, so…. don’t get too excited. A couple of our officers who had seen Villa close-up at that El Paso pow-wow two years ago say that the body certainly looks like Villa, but he could be a doppelganger meant to throw sand in our eyes as to Villa’s real whereabouts. Keep all of this under your hat till we learn more. In fact, I’m only telling you since too many people back on base heard the prisoners’ chatter last night. That information is already common gossip around the camp. You might be the last one in the loop to hear it! ”

“Villa? Seriously!?”

“I’ve sent a coded telegram to General Pershing at his Namiquipa base to inform him of the claim. If push comes to shove, the General and several of his staff have met Villa in person, so they may decide to judge for themselves.” Col Allaire stated

“Yes sir. To be honest, I didn’t press the prisoners – able or wounded – for information. I considered that we had other tasks to do first. Did they allow any idea about what they were doing there? Did they intend an attack on a convoy? Those comments and queries from Rommel.

“As I said earlier, the veterans were tight-lipped and they would be more likely to know the plans. Two of the conscripts thought the idea was to keep their force on the move, hopefully, one step ahead of our cavalry patrols. They thought the group was headed to the canyonlands to the other side of the road, west of El Tintero. The 10th Cavalry is already on the move north, based on the sighting by our aviators a few days ago. They will pursue the survivors of your band. The Buffalo Soldiers may be a couple of days behind, but we’ve boxed in that Villista force.”

“Since we have real enemies sighted and engaged, I’ve dispatched the rest of your battalion out there along the road, along with some of the Signal Corps troops. If your foes re-emerge we will be able to intercept them.”

”One more thing… Your PFC Jacobus gave me quite a colorful account of your actions on the flank when you dropped into the midst of the banditos. He said, and I quote,” The Lieutenant was just like a Fox in the chicken house! The Lieutenant. shot ‘em to pieces!.”. I would like to have seen that myself.”

OTL Villista prisoners taken near Namiquipa in April (photo from Wikipedia)
April 17 - Maynas Corral


April 17, 1916 – Maynas Corral, Chihuahua (North of El Tintero)

The depleted remainder of the Villista force, after leaving the battle canyon, backtracked several miles back to the other side of the range of hills. There, they regrouped (partly sorting out new leadership in the depleted band) and treated their wounded, or found care for the more badly injured. They also need to forage for food and water for both men and horses, further delaying their progress. Nothing could be done here to relieve the dwindling ammunition supply though. After a long day of recovery and some replenishment, an alternate plan was formed for their western trek. They couldn’t stay where they were. They headed north for several miles, before turning back west through a different series of canyons and over lower ridges till they came to a spot for another attempt to cross the flat valley that the road ran through. That crossing spot was a wider part of the valley, so less than ideal, but there were some low hillocks that might prevent their being seen… If they could just complete the night-time crossing of a few miles across the valley floor and then disappear into another rugged range of high hills after that..

However, scouts from the 10th Cavalry Regiment under Major Charles Young(7), had spotted the band before they cleared the northern canyon. Trying to dodge between Infantry and the pursuing Cavalry, the Villistas were caught in the open, by the Buffalo Soldiers, near the Maynas Corral. The battle was short and sharp, with the bulk of the Villista force now numbering only seventy-odd, being mostly captured or killed. The rest were scattered. The 10th made use of their fire-power advantage: two Hotchkiss M1909 Benet-Mercie Machine Rifles, along with their other weapons

One of the low-ranking survivors had the notion that the group was heading to an area south of the Campo Verde area, fifty miles to the west.

(7) Major Charles Young – OTL leader of the 10th Cavalry Regiment
“Villa? Seriously!?”
“I’ve sent a coded telegram to General Pershing at his Namiquipa base to inform him of the claim. If push comes to shove, the General and several of his staff have met Villa in person, so they may decide to judge for themselves.” Col Allaire stated
Well, while I don't think that P. Villa could be the one Villista officer killed leading the attack, I think that he would be pretty well known even for low rankings from both armies and that he wouldn't be alone nor that he could be the only high ranking casualty... Given that surely he might have been fighting/charging surrounded by his lieutenants...
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Well, while I don't think that P. Villa could be the one Villista officer killed leading the attack, I think that he would be pretty well known even for low rankings from both armies and that he wouldn't be alone nor that he could be the only high ranking casualty... Given that surely he might have been fighting/charging surrounded by his lieutenants...
My thinking here runs on several lines:
* Villa's picture and likeness wouldn't be all that well known to the troops on the border. Local newspapers typically didn't run photos - they weren't set up to do that
* The "playing card" ID pack featuring photos didnt't come along till later in the campaign.
* The OTL Villa was holed up somewhere in Mexico, following his life-threatening wounds in March. Here ITTL, he's still in command and on the move. Historically, he kept moving as he was (rightfully) paranoid about assassination attempts.
* Historically, he also made a trip to Constitutionalist-occupied Chihuahua City (to the east). In part to poke the Constitutionalist control in the eye, in part to drum up both financial and manpower support. He was critically and continually short of both at this time.
* There may be others of lesser command in this group, but the top commanders were scattered with 100-300 man-size companies across Chihuahua. With the disasters of 1915 still fresh, they had no permanent base, and foraging was less burdensome in smaller groups.
* There was a small point group well out front(at El Tintero), but this officer (Villa) would be near the front of the main body. That was the group that bore the brunt of the opening fusillade, so he probably went down in that group. After that, his men are fighting for their own lives.

*edit* The other alternative I considered was Candilerio Cervantes, Villa's next-level surviving commander. Cervantes was in the area and survived the Expedition, but with Villa not sidelined with that gunshot wound, Villa was every bit as likely to be in the area.
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I'm going to plug in a few historical notes from time to time for context. Outside of North America, the world has been engaged in the Great War of course. The US has been quite publically trying to stay far away, while happily selling whatever could be sold within the limits set by Congress. "Eat your cake and have it too"

However, by early 1916, the slide towards war is picking up pace.


Apr 18, 1916 – Washington DC.

US Secretary of State Warns Germany that the USA may break diplomatic relations unless torpedo attacks on unarmed ships stop
April 20 & 22 - Namiquipa area


April 20, 1916 – On the road South of Namiquipa.

Road marches down here in Chihuahua were often hot when the sun was up and cold at dusk and always very dusty work. The column of the 16th Infantry was on a road march south of Namiquipa, which was new territory for them They were in a broad flat valley with rugged mountains several miles away. Up till now, they’d spent most of their time in Mexico shuttling back and forth between Colonia Dublan and El Valle. Now, they had been called south

Rommel’s abraded knees caused him more aggravation than the sutured bullet graze on this thigh, so he was glad to be able to ride a horse on the march as the rest of the officers were.

Bill Orton was riding alongside and struck up a conversation, “So…. What do you hear about your mystery man from the skirmish?” The supposed secret had indeed become a topic of common gossip. (To keep a lid on that gossip, an Army Intelligence officer fed the counter-rumor that the body might have typhus – hence clamping a lid on too much prying)

Rommel laughed, and replied, “Honestly, I haven’t heard boo about who he is. Maybe he’s just a soldier with a nice uniform and a fancy gun.”

The column was called to a halt, as several vehicles approached from the south (8). Rommel’s platoon was near the front at this point of the march, so he had a bird’s-eye view as the cars and trucks pulled off the edge of the road and halted themselves.

A dusty collection of senior US officers and several non-coms dismounted. Rommel soon picked out General Pershing himself as Colonel Allaire brought his horse over, dismounted, and salutes were shared all-around.

Pershing and some staff with the Dodge staff car(photo from

Rommel thought to himself, “How about that! Where had Pershing and his staff been if they were coming up from the south?”

Rommel saw a tall younger officer from the staff cars ask the Colonel’s aide a question and the aide pointed to Rommel. The younger officer strode over and as he got closer, he boomed, “Are you Lieutenant Erwin Rommel?”

Rommel replied in the affirmative.

“I’m Lieutenant George Patton(9) , one of General Pershing’s ADC’s. I’m very pleased to meet you! I got a quick peek at your report and maps of the shootout you had last week. I’m frankly envious. That sounds as though it was quite the hot time! The General would like a few words with you now.”

Lt. George Patton - 1916 (Photo from


Patton quick scanned over Rommel’s appearance. “Quick, I’d lose the bandana and straighten your tie… The General is very persnickety about the uniform, even in the field.”

Rommel did as Patton suggested, dismounted and handed the reins of his horse to Pvt Tedeschi and walked over to the group, with only a hint of a limp.

Military courtesies ensued as introductions were made. General Pershing opened the conversation with, “Congratulations Lieutenant. That was a daring and resourceful action you took up on El Tintero Canyon (the canyon had no name till now…). Quite the audacious coup defeating and killing Pancho Villa! Seeing Rommel’s raised eyebrows, Pershing continued, “We have since confirmed that your man was indeed Villa. That feat will go down in the annals of United States Army history. Congratulate your men for me as well. Lieutenant you will accompany Captain’s Ryan and Burtt in one of the autos. They have some additional questions for you. You and I will talk another time.”

General Pershing turned back to Colonel Allaire, “Bill, we are all returning to Namiquipa in a few minutes, your Regiment as well. Gentlemen, time is pressing”.

(Pershing needed access to the telegraph station in Namiquipa to wire Washington for instructions. Pershing had satisfied himself of Villa's identity by: having assigned staff who had personally met Villa to independently confirm that the body was Pancho Villa, plus verification of Villa’s route by US agents(10), putting Villa very near the location right before the skirmish; and some known battle scars. Nearly as important, a few days prior, US Cavalry units had gotten into a running series of skirmishes with Mexican locals and Constitutionalist soldiers in Parral and points north of there. That was a decidedly un-wanted political-diplomatic development that Pershing had been specifically warned against by his superiors. Pershing was furious at the attacks but also was cognizant this set of fights changed their situation dramatically. Pershing had also stuck his small field HQ out in dangerous territory near San Geronimo. With the recent developments, his temporary HQ was looking quite exposed, leading Pershing to pull in his HQ back north to a more defensible and better communication linked location, along with restricting Cavalry movements to the south. His Cavalry Colonels weren’t keen on that idea, but also, the supply line had become a very arduous 500-mile-long trail back to the US. Keeping the forces in the field adequately supplied that far south was becoming very problematic. )

Captain Burtt(11) was Pershing’s Assistant Chief-of-Staff and Captain Ryan(12) was the Staff Intelligence Officer (and spymaster). Rommel was a bit wary at first by this turn of events, but the questions asked were straightforward enough. They were just looking for him to expand on the contents of his report, such as why he chose the original route, and if he had educated guesses that couldn’t be put in a fact-based report. Ryan let on there was some speculation that Villa had made a secret trip into Chihuahua City for an unknown purpose, and then was later trying to work his way back to the western mountains. Both officers complimented Rommel on his daring, the thoroughness of his text, and the sketch maps that help place events at their place in time. He was also counseled that when any reporter wants to question him about the action, he should refer that reporter to Col. Allaire, or the General. (No official announcement has taken place yet) The feeling he got as they rode along, was that he was being sized up. For what, though? Rommel doubted that nice reports were that important.

(8) OTL General Pershing’s overextended field HQ historically withdrew from San Geronimo to Namiquipa following the skirmish at Parral. They met the road-marching 16th Infantry Regiment south of Namiquipa.
(9) Lieutenant George S. Patton Jr. – Yup, THAT Patton. He was quite active as one of General Pershing’s ADC’s during the campaign.
(10) US Agents – OTL – mostly itinerant Chinese and Japanese traders. Historically, they moved freely throughout northern Mexico. Several were recruited by US Army Intelligence and they provided very useful information, albeit sometimes delayed by the nature of their movements and the limitations of the communications infrastructure. They kept accurate tabs on Villa and his Lieutenants
(11) Captain Wilson Burtt – OTL Assistant to Pershing’s Chief-of-Staff Lt Col De Rosey
(12) Captain James Ryan – OTL Pershing’s Intelligence Officer and spymaster.

April 22, 1916 – Namiquipa - Colonel Allaire’s tent

Rommel is summoned to Colonel Allaire’s tent, where the Colonel and Captain Spalding are waiting.

Colonel Allaire: “I’ve been asked by the General to forward his regrets at not being able to meet with you in person at this time. The pace of events for this expedition are picking up and the demands on his time are great. He did forward this personal note for you”, and passes Rommel a hand-written letter.

The gist of the letter is a re-iteration of congratulations on Rommel’s initiative and daring at El Tintero, his adaptation to a fluid situation, and of the importance of the outcome. There was also a bit of counsel about not letting the “heady experience of fame” go to the Lieutenant’s head. Officers can look to advance their careers but are better served by continual growth in professional ability, rather than riding on past laurels. Rommel would later frame the letter and it often traveled with him during his service.