Engagement with Bandits at Las Cruces
4 January 1928.
Non Commissioned Officer in
charge of Lt. Richal's column.
The Brigade Commander.
Engagement with bandits.
1. At about 1230,
January 1, 1928; while marching on
Quilali, this expedition encountered
bandit forces of Sandino, estimated at
350 to 450 strong, on the Sapotial
[Zapotillal] Hill, about six miles NW of
QUILALI. The action continued for about
one hour, when the enemy was routed.
2. At the time of the
encounter our force was proceeding along
the trail in single file up the side of
a mountain which was on our right or NW
flank. A field which extended for a
distance covering nearly the whole
column on the right flank. The hill was
covered with pinewoods and the field
with heavy brush.
3. Our point had just
turned a curve at the bottom of the
above mentioned hill when Lieutenant
Bruce (GN) observed a movement and
started to draw his pistols, when the
enemy opened fire with machine guns,
rifles, pistols, and dynamite bombs,
from points all along the hill and field
on our right flank. There were also a
small amount of the enemy on our left
flank that opened fire on our left flank
and rear guard. On the hill the enemy
were well entrenched, behind parapets
thrown up and behind pine trees. The
bandit forces were well disciplined, and
when Lt. Bruce was killed were able to
rush our point and advance at the
command of their leader, forcing our
troops to retreat to a point 50 yards
behind our Stokes Trench Mortar where
they took a position in line with our
machine gun which had jammed. There they
established a skirmish line and held off
the enemy until the machine gun was
repaired and gotten into action again.
The machine gun with the Stokes mortar,
and the 37 MM gun, which fired from a
position in the rear of the column
gained fire superiority and routed the
4. Our forces took up
a defensive position on the hill
captured and awaited re-enforcements
from QUILALI, which arrived at 1415,
January 2, 1928.
5. (a) Bandit leader unknown.
(b) No Mounts seen.
(c) Aerial assistance, none, but two
planes appeared about ten minutes after
the route of the enemy and strafed the
hills and the woods in the vicinity.
MARINES KILLED: BRUCE, Thomas G. 1st
Sgt. (1st Lt GN)
MARINES WOUNDED SERIOUSLY: RICHAL, Meron
A. 1st Lt.
POMORSKI, Edward L. Pvt.
MARINES WOUNDED NOT SERIOUSLY: HOOKS,
Lee M. Pvt.
HENRY, Wallace Cpl.
GUARDIA NACIONAL: BRUCE, Thomas G. 1st
Lt. Killed. [ p. 2 ]
About 20 dead bodies were found near the
place of attack.
6. Pack train was
badly shot up and scattered. Animals
lost in action: 15. Animals strayed from
scene of action 3. Total number of
animals brought into Quilali 99.
7. No loss of
ammunition known at present. Both of
Lieutenant Bruces pistols were captured
by the bandits.
8. Lieutenant Richal
was seriously wounded about twenty
minutes after the battle started,
Gunnery Sergeant E. G. Brown assumed
Command immediately and retained same
until the arrival of Lieutenant Hunts
relief from Quilali.
9. Lieutenant Bruce
was killed at the beginning of the
action his body looted and mutilated by
the bandits, but later recaptured by our
forces and buried on the spot, Field
Burial regulations complied with.
Edward G. Brown
- - - - - - - - NCO in Charge - - - - -
- - - - - - - - -
Sandino's Account of the Battle of Las Cruces, 1
Major Encounters near El Chipote at the End of
1927 and on New Year's Day, 1928
. . . On January 1 news reached this
headquarters that Yankees numbering some three
hundred were marching by way of the Telpaneca
road with orders to take part in the general
attack upon El Chipote. I at once ordered
Colonesl Estrada and Colindres to move out with
their cavalry to cut off the enemy's advance,
and to pursue them until they were eliminated.
Our people intensified their action with such
good luck that, at 1 p.m. on that same day, they
took up positions at the place called Las
Cruces, the same place where the bandit
conquerors were defeated two months before,
awaiting them there with determination.
Fifteen minutes later we let the punitive column
advance beyond us, bottling them up and forcing
them to fight man to man. In three hours of
fighting with rifles and grenades, the enemy was
decimated and then almost totally destroyed with
machetes. This horrified the surviving pirates,
forcing them to flee in a shameful manner,
leaving ninety-seven dead and sixty wounded on
the field of battle, among them two principal
officers who were identified by documents taken
from them. Also taken from them were their
battle plans and the codes used by their
aviators. The captured spoils of war were quite
considerable: six Lewis machine guns, three
Thompson machine guns, two Lewis automatic
rifles, forty-six Lewis rifles and sixteen mules
loaded with ammunition of various calibers, and
a large quantity of provisions. . . .
Patria y Libertad.
/s/ A. C. SANDINO
Fortress of the National Sovereignty of
El Chipote, January 4, 1928
Robert Edgar Conrad,
Sandino, Testimony of a Nicaraguan Patriott
(Princeton, 1990), pp. 151-52..
Summary & Notes:Summary & Notes:
disastrous engagement for the Special
Expedition against Chipote, two days after
the Camino Real fight that killed five
Upwards of 400 rebels surrounded the
Marine-Guardia column, killing one Marine
and wounding four before column reinforced
by another column and limped back to
EDSN mutilated and looted body of the dead
Marine, Lt. Thomas Bruce, later turning his
death into a resonant nationalist icon
remembered decades after the fact; in the
1980s, many elderly Sandinistas interviewed
by the Instituto de Estudio del Sandinismo
recalled Bruce's death and mutilation.
Sketch map and Sandino's account of the
battle (as usual vastly exaggerating the
scale of the rebel victory) appended to the
Photo at right: First Lt. Thomas
G. Bruce after the Battle of Ocotal, July
1927, from RG127, US National Archives,
College Park MD.
P C - D O C S :
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