On this page we will look back at life in the city during the war years. Here we will provide the visitor with the stories making the news, what was happening in sports and entertainment, city politics, the social scene and the prominent people at the time. We will also recount the events occurring in the war on that day. So, check back each day for new editions.
To share your family or neighborhood stories, please email PhillyWWIyears@gmail.com
TODAY IN PHILADELPHIA – THURSDAY, MARCH 9, 1916
There will be clear and fair skies over the city today but the cold and snow remains. Yesterday’s storm left a little bit over an inch of snow in sections of the city. The high will be around 34° with the low near 19°.
There is horror, anger and mourning on the southern border today. More than 400 Mexican soldiers of the army of Francisco “Pancho” Villa attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico in the early morning hours. At least 8 American civilians and 5 United States soldiers are known dead. Columbus (shown below after the attack) is 3 miles from the border and 73 miles west of El Paso. The fighting began at 4:30am when Mexican forces entered the town from two sides. The first attack was on the Central Hotel which was set on fire. Other buildings were then also set ablaze and as the occupants fled the flames the Mexicans shot them down in the streets.
When American troops arrived from the nearby camp they were joined by men of the town and took the fight to the invaders. A street battle raged for two hours. At around 6:30am the Mexicans were driven out of the town and retreated towards the border. American cavalry are now in pursuit. Additional army and cavalry units are being sent to the area.
Initial reports are that there are dozens of Mexican soldiers lying dead in the streets. Included among the Mexican dead is Colonel Pablo Lopez, one of Villa’s chief aides, who was the leader of the massacre of 18 Americans on January 18th at Santa Ysabel. According to many in the town, General Villa himself led the attack. It has also been learned that prior to crossing the border the Mexicans murdered at least 4 Americans and burned their bodies. One of those, a rancher named J.J. Moore was hung from a tree after he was shot dead and his body burned.
The newly confirmed Secretary of War, Newton Baker, was presented with information about the attack within an hour after taking the oath of office. Mr. Baker received reports from both Colonel Slocum who commands the 13th Cavalry in that area and from General Funston who has overall command of American troops on the border. Secretary Baker has cabled General Funston and advised him he has a free hand to protect the border and American citizens from further attack. However, he did not give the General permission to cross into Mexico in pursuit of Villa’s men.
In Europe, Germany today declared war on Portugal. This makes the Portuguese Republic the 14th nation to be involved in the conflict. The German Foreign Minister stated that the declaration was necessitated in light of the Portuguese seizure of German merchant ships which violated existing commercial treaties between the countries.
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