According to Richard Dean, Historian and Archivist, “The Villistas had a passion for looting, and they looted every store on Broadway street which was the main street of the town.”
While women and children — still in their night clothes — were being stripped of valuables, men of the town tried to put out the fires. One victim — James T. Dean — was perforated by 17 Mexican bullets as he stood in front of a burning store.
“Vayanse adelante, muchachos!” was the cry from Villa’s lips as his men pillaged the town. “Viva Mexico!” echoed through the early morning darkness.
The U.S. Army had rejected all of the world’s useful machine guns — the 1904 Maxim, the Colt, the Browning Medium Machine gun, the Mitrailleuse, and the Savage Arms Company Lewis. Instead, the Army had selected the 1909 Benét-Mercié. Its co-inventor — Benet — was related to the former head of U.S. Army Ordnance. The Benét-Mercié did not use belts of ammunition but instead depended upon timely insertion of long stripper clips. A gun crew must be well trained or the gun will quickly jam. Operating the gun in the early morning darkness required an expert crew — something not present in Columbus, New Mexico, in 1916.
In his after-action report to the United States Congress regarding the poor performance of America’s arms during this battle, General Crozier said: “We have no gun of any kind that can be used at any time except in daylight by a man who must depend upon his eyesight for such operations …”
The attack at Columbus, NM, was not a minor border incursion by ragged peasants looking for food. The U.S. Army had to do everything it could to save the small town of Columbus. The army loosed more than 20,000 rounds at the Mexicans from bolt action rifles. During those dark hours Captain Hamilton Brodie took charge of the town’s defenses and sent Lieutenant Lucas and his men to the center of the town to slow the carnage. For two hours Pancho Villa and his gang looted, pillaged, dragged people into the streets and wantonly murdered them.
At the end of the battle, eighteen Americans and an unborn child were dead. Ninety Villistas were killed. While only about 450 Villistas entered the town, nearly a thousand Villistas participated in the attack.
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