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And sure enough, the raiders torched Ravel’s business on 9 March.” In the included book “The General and the Jaguar,” Welsome quotes Juan Munoz, one of Villa’s men, as saying, “We did not go to Columbus to kill women and children as it has been said. We went to Columbus to take Sam Ravel and burn his properties for the robbery and treason he committed. Esa es la verdad. (That’s the truth.)”
Sam Ravel (1884/85-1937) immigrated in 1905 and originally lived in El Paso and worked at City Loan & Jewelry Co. before moving to Columbus, New Mexico, in 1910. Columbus was isolated and located just around 70 miles to the west of El Paso and just a few miles north of the border with Mexico. There he owned the Commercial Hotel and Columbus Mercantile Company. He renamed the latter Sam Ravel & Brothers when his brothers Arthur and Louis joined him. Stacey Ravel Abarbanel, a granddaughter of Sam Ravel, indicated he was doing cross-border business with Mexican Revolutionaries as early as 1914 and was arrested in Mexico that year and briefly detained for supplying the Roque Gomez gang with firearms and ammunition. She also indicated that family lore suggested Pancho Villa would occasionally participate in the back-room poker games in the Ravel store where he was likely a customer and that the family and residents of Columbus had long believed Ravel was the target of Villa’s raid due to an arms deal gone wrong. Arthur Ravel, however, denied that Sam Ravel had any business relationship with Villa although he stated they did business with “every revolutionary concern, bandit, or general...With the exception of Pancho Villa.”
Sommerfeld, the double agent working for Villa and the German government, had previously threatened other arms dealers when he
was in the employ of President Madero for supplying Madero’s enemies in addition to Madero’s own forces. Some have suggested it was Sommerfeld who convinced Villa to attack Columbus, possibly acting in the interest of the German government. However, refusing to do business with Villa, especially when he was desperately in need of supplies, and
simultaneously arming other groups certainly could have been cause
for Villa to attack Ravel on his own without Sommerfeld’s potential involvement. The El Paso Time on March 10, 1916, under the headline “Boy of Fourteen Saves Brother’s Life During Raid on Columbus, N.M.” notes that when Villa’s men came looking for asking for his brother, Arthur Ravel was in the store and tricked Villas men to help protect Luis Ravel who
was hiding. He also denied knowing the combination to the safe even as the raiders were executing other men. The younger Ravel was saved by troopers from the 13th U.S. Cavalry who reportedly shot captors which allowed him to flee. 10 other civilians were not so lucky and were killed. Others saw their homes and businesses torched. Arthur Ravel himself did not emerge unscathed and took a bullet through the ear. The 13th Cavalry suffered 8 dead and 5 wounded. Sam Ravel was safe. He wasn’t even in town at the time thanks to an appointment in El Paso.
The U.S. government responded swiftly. Within days of the Battle of Columbus, thousands of U.S. troops led by Brigadier General John
J. Pershing crossed the border near Columbus in search of Villa. The smoldering remains of the town served as a base for the operations which were conducted without permission of the Mexican government. Not surprisingly, “The Punitive Expedition” or “Pancho Villa Expedition” was met with hostility by President Carranza and other Mexicans of various factions nearly leading to a war with Mexico, perhaps exactly what both Pancho Villa and the German government wanted. To avoid war, the last U.S. troops returned to the United States on February 5, 1917, without capturing Villa. Though weakened, Villa and the remaining men of the Division of the North remained a potential threat for both the Mexican government and Americans in the Southwest in early 1917. Newspapers reported Villa’s German connections (both real and imagined) as well as his escape from the Mexican government’s forces that continued to try to trap him. Why then would this revolver have been shipped to El Paso on April 18, 1917, and soon thereafter inscribed for Villa?

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