I normally don’t possess much interest in collecting items earlier than WWI, but there are time’s I will make an exception as in this bayo’s case. This Mexican Model Knife Bayonet 1899 is for the No.5 Remington Rolling Block Rifle is in of itself not a particularly rare bayonet. However, the one below is not your average example. It is an genuine artifact from the “March 9, 1916 Columbus, New Mexico cross border raid” which predicated the U.S. Mexican Expedition AKA the “Punitive Expedition” to take place from March 14, 1916, to February 7, 1917. And it was the personal souvenir of a key American participant and Distinguished Service Cross awardee. Out all of my collection’s blades, it is now my very favorite.
In the predawn hours of March 9, 1916 Francisco "Pancho" Villa and his band of several hundred Villistas descended upon the town of Columbus, N.M., in hopes of obtaining needed military equipment, supplies and horses that were in the hands of the 13th Cavalry garrisoned in Camp Furlong. Villa needed these supplies and weapons for his fight against Mexican president Venustiano Carranza.
Warned the day before that Villa was moving his army north towards the border, Colonel Herbert Jermain Slocum dismissed the warning and the Soldiers of Camp Furlong went about their daily business. Taken by surprise when Villa's Army attacked just shortly after 4:00 a.m., the Soldiers of the 13th Cavalry were able to rally and force Villa's Army out of the town, but not before Villa got what he came for. Successful in obtaining what he needed -- capturing more than 300 rifles and shotguns, 80 horses and 30 mules -- Villa's attack, however, was considered a tactical disaster as it cost him more than 100 casualties from his small Army of 400 to 500 men.
Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, N.M. on March 9, 1916 was the first armed invasion of the continental United States since the War of 1812. Lieutenant James P. Castleman's role during the battle is well documented, as he was the officer of the day at Camp Furlong and materially contributed to the battle by commanding the largest of several scattered contingents of 13th Cavalry troopers. His emplacement and direction of effective fire from the Hotchkiss Benet-Mercie machine guns under his command doubtlessly brought many a Villista out of the saddle, one of whom likely carried this bayonet. An excerpt from an account of this action is as follows: Upon hearing the first shots at about 4:15a.m., the Officer of the Day, Lieut. James P. Castleman, ran to the guard tent, shooting a Villista on the way, and turned out the guard. He then joined up with his F Troop, 13th Cavalry, which had been formed by Sergeant Michael Fody. The camp and town were under a general attack from two directions. Minutes later Lieut. John P. Lucas, who had just returned on the midnight train from El Paso, where he had been participating in regimental polo matches, saw a horseman ride by his window. He was wearing a high-peaked sombrero characteristic of the Villistas. Hurrying outside, he joined the attackers, who were running toward the barracks, the darkness concealing his identity. Reaching the barracks of his machine gun troop, he led his men to the guard tent where their weapons were under lock and key. Despite several incidents of the French-made Benet-Mercier machine guns jamming, the four gun crews managed to loose 20,000 rounds at the enemy. After fighting in camp for 30 or 40 minutes, the soldiers began to gain the upper hand and then were able to send aid to the beleaguered citizens. Lieutenant Castleman ordered the troop on toward the town, where the heaviest firing was concentrated. They threw a cordon of troops across the main street and thus kept the bandits from entering the north part of town. In the attached artist’s rendering of the action, Lieut. Castleman is the Soldier shooting the Pistol, M1911 right of center with Lieut. Lucas (barefoot) behind him. This picture came from this book The Hunt for Pancho Villa - The Columbus Raid and Pershing's Punitive Expedition 1916-17: Alejandro Quesada, Peter Dennis: 9781849085687: Amazon.com: Books 1LT Castleman’s photo is courtesy of the USASMA’s Historian, Dr. Bouilly (Thanks again, Sir!).
Lieutenant Castleman was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his actions that morning. This was a retroactive award as the DSC award did not yet exist at the time of his action, Castleman's citation states:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant (Cavalry) James P. Castleman, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism while serving with 13th Cavalry, in action at Columbus, New Mexico, on 9 March 1916. During the attack on the town of Columbus by Mexicans under Villa, Lieutenant Castleman, by his gallant conduct and the successful and effective disposition of his troops in defense, save the lives of many civilians and prevented the loss of much property in the town.
General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 2 (1920).
Yes, one day I will donate this bayonet to the Pancho Villa State Park’s museum (in Columbus, NM), but that will be after my demise. Hope you liked seeing this bayonet and more importantly reading some of the history behind it. No need to contact me about the bayo, it is most definitely NFS, period.
Double click on pictures to enlarge.