Washington DC Chapter
9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association
The Battle of Carrizal
June 21, 1916
Statement given to Major Charles Young, 10th Cavalry Regiment
by 10th Cavalry Troop C Quartermaster Dallas Farrior at
Colonia Dublan, State of Chihuahua on June 27, 1916.
In March 1916, 500 Mexicans led by Pancho Villa raided the border
town of Columbus, New Mexico. The town was defended by over 300
members of the U.S. 13th Cavalry. Villa's men burned parts of the
town and looted ammunition and horses before they were chased back
into Mexico by the 13th Cavalry. Approximately 80 Mexicans and 18
Americans died. The attack on Columbus provoked a harsh, swift response
from the United States government. General John J. Pershing was placed
in command of a military expedition to find and capture or kill Pancho Villa
and to stop cross-border raids on American towns. This expedition of 4,800 men
was officially called the Mexican Expedition, but was also colloquially called
the Pancho Villa Expedition or the Punitive Expedition.
United States troops fought several skirmishes with Villa's men as they
marched southward from El Paso in pursuit. An American army roaming the
countryside in Mexico during that nation's Mexican Revolution created
considerable tension between the two nations. The new Mexican government
of Venustiano Carranza sought to limit the U.S. Army movements within
Mexico, and General Pershing wanted to move freely to complete his mission.
Brigadier General John J. Pershing received intelligence that Villa
was at Carrizal, in the state of Chihuahua. The Mexican Government
had warned the United States that if the U.S. Army moved either east,
west of the Punitive Expedition column, it would be fired upon. He
selected Captains Charles T. Boyd and Lewis S. Morey to lead
92 Troopers from Troops C and K of the 10th Cavalry reconnoiter
the town of Ahumada. He issued written orders to Captain Morey but for
reasons unknown even until today, he issued verbal orders to Captain
Boyd. Captain Boyd advised his command and his confidantes that his
orders were to go through the town of Ahumada, not around it.
They encountered 400 Mexican Army troops, or
Carrancistas, instead of Pancho Villa. The Mexican soldiers told
the Americans to turn back northward. Captain Boyd refused and
ordered his men south through the town of Ahumada and the Mexican
Army opened fire. A three hour battle ensued with the Mexican Army
bringing up reinforcements. Both sides suffered large losses. Captain
Boyd, Lieutenant Henry R. Adair and 10 soldiers were killed and
another 24 were taken prisoner. Twenty-four Mexican soldiers were killed,
including their commanding officer General Felix Gomez, and 43 were wounded.
The Battle at Carrizal was a major international incident. The public
demanded that the U.S. respond by going to war with Mexico. The Army
demanded to know from General Pershing what happened. General Pershing's
official statement was that Captain Boyd had been ordered to obtain
intelligence re the reports of Pancho Villa being in the area but to
avoid contact with the Mexican Army known to be a large force. The
statement is contradicted by Trooper's of Troop C and Troop K who
testified that Captain Boyd told them his direct orders from General
Pershing were to go through the town of Carrizal and not go around the
town. Further, Captain Troxel advised he had a confidential conversation
with Captain Boyd on June 17, 1916 in who stated he asked General Pershing
a number of questions in order to be sure exactly what the General was
asking him to do. The Army Investigation concluded that Captain Boyd was
the blame for the incident with General Pershing expressing shock that
Captain Boyd actions precipitated a battle.
Major Charles Young, 10th Cavalry took the statements from the Troopers who
participated in the battle. A very clear understanding of the intense action
was thus obtained from the surviving Troopers. When the Mexican machine guns
opened fire, Captain Boyd had already protected his left flank with a platoon
commanded by Lt. Adair and his right flank by Captain Morey and Troop K.
Troop C dropped to the ground and fired; the Mexican Commanding General Felix
Gomez was shot and killed instantly. Privates Bigstaff and Houston both claiming.
When the Mexican cavalry charged Lt Adair ordered Corporal Green to take charge
of the 12 horse handlers to get them to the hills away from the action.
During the second rush Sergeant Farrior was shot and next to him Captain
Boyd was shot in the right hand so he began shooting with his left hand.
The Troop C advance forced the Mexicans to retreat. During the third
Troop C advance, Captain Boyd was hit in the shoulder. Corporal Hammond
and Sergeant Will took out the first machine gun position. The second
machine gun position was overrun. First Sergeant Winrow was hit so all NonComs
were out of action. Captain Boyd instructed Sergeant Farrior to order Troop K
to move forward because they had not advanced. Captain Boyd stood up
and waved his hat for Troop K to advance and was struck in the right eye
and fell. Sergeant Farrior as "is there anything the Captain wants?"
Captain Boyd replied, "Water," and died. Mexican reinforcements arrived
as Lt. Adair headed back to First Sergeant Winrow's platoon for more ammunition
but he never made it, he was shot and killed while attempting to cross the
irrigation ditch. Troop K tried to make a stand, however, under heavy fire
from Mexican reinforcements Troop K was forced to retreat. Troopers told
Major Young that Captain Morey ordered the Bugler to sound assembly but
that failed to work. Private Wilson, Sergeant Winfield and Sergeant Farrior
were joined by Bugler Green made it to an adobe house to make a stand.
Captain Morey was grazed on the inside of the upper left arm and fainted.
Survivors held out till dark and wandered in half-conscious states until
picked up by the Eleventh Cavalry.
The bodies of Boyd and Adair and those of the 10 enlisted troopers were
stripped by the Mexicans and then buried in a mass grave. 23 Troopers and
Lem H. Spillsbury,their Mormon guide were taken prisoner and sent to Villa
Ahumada where they were imprisoned and interrogated but treated humanely.
Colonel Rivas decided to line up the prisoners and execute them but Spillsbury,
the Mormon Guide told him that if you do, no Mexican prisoners would ever again
be taken alive. Upon reflection, Rivas decided against executing the prisoners.
Upon a State Department request the 10th Cavalry prisoners were released
on the bridge joining Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas.
El Paso Times newspaper article covering the June 29, 1916 release
of the prisoners. Click here
June 29, 1916, 10th Cavalry prisoner release, El Paso, Texas
The official Army report and many Army Officers blamed Captain Boyd for poor
judgement by his actions leading to the engagement. However, officers who
served with him, West Point classmates and those who reviewed the statements of
surviving Troopers and those who spoke with Captain Boyd following his receipt
of verbal, not written, but verbal orders from General Pershing, take issue with
the blame being laid upon Captain Boyd. The single biggest mystery regarding the
verbal orders issued to Captain Boyd are the missing pages from Captain Boyd's
Field Message Book that was recovered from Captain Boyd's body by Corporal Lance Jeter
before his retreat from the hopeless battle. 79 years later the bloodstained
book is on file at the National Archives, but missing the pages that would have
contained Captain Boyd's notes regarding his verbal orders from General Pershing.
The pages had been ripped from the Captain Boyd's Field Message Book.
In the May 1, 2005 edition of The True West The History of the American Frontier
Richard Dillon wrote: Inexplicably, Pershing did not give them orders to work together,
and when he later added a detachment of the 16th Infantry to the mix, its commander,
Lt. Martin Crimmins, never learned the purpose of his hurried march to Carrizal. He
even was ignorant of orders sending the cavalry ahead of him. Part of the blame for
the ensuing debacle must fall on Pershing, although he was absolved of guilt.
A statement from General Pershing's official report is very interesting. He wrote
"Even though Captain Boyd had been directed to fight his way through to Ahumada..."
If so ordered, Captain Boyd's actions on June 21, 1916 were pursuant to verbal
orders issued by his Commanding General.
The final sentence in General Pershing's report reads "Too much praise cannot
be given Boyd and Adair for personal courage in their gallant fight against
overwhelming odds in the which both died like the brave American soldiers they were."
(left photo) Captain Charles Trumbull Boyd
(left photo) 10th Cavalry element of the Punitive Expedition
(right photo) 10th Cavalry machine gun drill
(left photo) 10th Cavalry prisoners following their release
(right photo) Funeral procession for Captain Boyd, Lieutenant Adair
and 7 Troopers escorted through streets of El Paso, Texas on July 5, 1916
(left photo) 10th Cavalry Troopers and Officer disguised as Villistas
(right photo) 10th Cavalry Troopers guarding Villista prisoners
(left photo) Brigadier General Pershing crossing the Rio Grande into Mexico
(right photo) Mexican General Felix U. Gomez KIA at the Battle of Carrizal
10th Cavalry Regimental Coat of Arms. Captain Boyd
was the Regimental Adjutant when the Coat of Arms was officially
recognized by the U.S. Army. Click here
for a description of the 10th Cavalry Regimental Coat of Arms