Patton’s First Battle

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Patton’s first battle was against Colonel Júlio Cárdenas, at his ranch in Mexico:

Waving his ivory-stocked Peacemaker, Lieutenant Patton roared into position near the main gate of the ranch and leaped from his car.

Three horsemen clattered from the ranch at breakneck speed. Patton shouted for them to halt. The three armed riders wheeled and charged him, the leader yanking a rifle from his saddle scabbard, opening fire. At 60 feet, Patton calmly held and squeezed five rounds from his .45. His arms flapping from a hit, the leading bandit fell from his saddle, recovered, and ran through a doorway as Patton reloaded.

The second horseman, desperate to escape, spurred his horse toward freedom, passing in front of the officer’s sixshooter. Patton later said that he then recalled the advice of a salty old Texas Ranger – the best way to stop a horseman is to stop his horse, which he did with one shot. When the rider arose, firing rapidly, Patton joined the other troopers in bring him down. The third rider was felled by rifle fire.

At this point Cárdenas broke from his cover, shooting, and was killed by one shot through the head from Holmdahl’s revolver.

The dead Villistas were later identified as Colonel Cárdenas, Private Juan Garza, and Captain Isadór Lopez. the body of the bandit colonel bore five wounds, and his bandoliers held 35 empty cartridge loops.

George Patton was promoted to 1st lieutenant as a result of this action, and it remained one of his favorite reminiscences. The two notches on the left ivory grip of the Patton Peacemaker are believed to have been placed there by him to represent the killings of Cárdenas and Garza.

Patton had previously competed at the Olympics in the Modern Pentathlon.


  1. Andreas says:

    At one point in this episode Patton climbed up on the roof of a low building apparently hoping to command the area. The roof didn’t hold and he fell not through but into it getting stuck for some time while his troopers finished off the engagement.

    Of far greater import, Patton and his team roared into the ranch in automobiles. This action stands as the first mechanized assault in the history of warfare, likely laying the foundations for Patton’s tank tactics and maneuver.

  2. William Newman says:

    I am not sure how well I will do on my bucket list before I die, but at least I can be comforted by reminders like this that on my negative bucket list I am doing reasonably well with vitally important items like “don’t get into a gunfight with an Olympic marksman.”

  3. Steve Johnson says:


    If the rest of the items on that list are similar then at least you know that if you cross one off then you’ll never get to the others.

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