Villa leading his forces prior to his 1915 defeat at Celaya
0100: Forces under Francisco "Pancho" Villa cross the border near Palomas, Chihuahua to advance on the small town of Columbus New Mexico, which they intend to raid in retaliation for Woodrow Wilson's actions in allowing Carranza's forces to be transported by rail across Texas to be used against Villa's forces in northern Mexico.
Most are on foot. Columbus is 2.5 miles to the north of the Mexican border town, where Villistas had been located and recuperating after a recent defeat at the hands of Carranza's forces.
Villa, who may or may not have accompanied his troops that day, commanded approximately 500 men. His force of horsemen was in disarray after being defeated at the Battle of Celaya in April of the prior year, from which it had still not recovered. Villa had gone in that battle with 22,000 men, 8,000 of which were killed, and another 8,000 of which were captured in the battle. His forces at Palomas, while dangerous, were a shadow of his prior Division del Norte.
Villa believed that nearby Columbus was garrisoned with about 30 US soldiers. This intelligence was erroneous and US forces in the region were alerted to the possibility of trouble occurring.