Pancho Villa: Mexican Revolutionary

Pancho Villa: Mexican Revolutionary

Birth & Early Life:

Born on June 5, 1878, as Doroteo Arango Arámbula, the future Francisco "Pancho" Villa was the son of peasants living in San Juan del Río. As a child, he received some education from a local church-run school, but became a sharecropper when his father died. At the age of 16, he moved to Chihuahua, but swiftly returned after his sister was raped by a local hacienda owner. After tracking down the owner, Agustín Negrete, Villa shot him and stole a horse before fleeing to the Sierra Madre mountains. Roaming the hills as a bandit, Pancho Villa's outlook changed following a meeting with Abraham González.
Fighting for Madero:

The local representative for Francisco Madero, a politician who was opposed to the rule of dictator Porfirio Díaz, González convinced Villa that through his banditry he could fight for the people and hurt the hacienda owners. In 1910, the Mexican Revolution began, with Madero's pro-democracy, antirreeleccionista volunteers confronting Díaz's federal troops. As the revolution spread, Villa joined with Madero's forces and aided in winning the first Battle of Ciudad Juárez in 1911. Later that year, he married María Luz Corral. All across Mexico, Madero's volunteers won victories, driving Díaz into exile.
Orozco's Revolution :

With Díaz gone, Madero assumed the presidency. His rule was immediately challenged by Pascual Orozco. Pancho Villa swiftly offered his los dorados cavalry to General Victoriano Huerta to aid in destroying Orozco. Rather than utilize Villa, Huerta, who viewed him as a rival, had him imprisoned. After a brief term in captivity, Villa managed to escape. Huerta meanwhile had crushed Orozco and had conspired to murder Madero. With the president dead, Huerta proclaimed himself provisional president. In response, Villa allied with Venustiano Carranza to depose the usurper.
Defeating Huerta:

Operating in conjunction with Carranza's Constitutionalist Army of Mexico, Villa operated in the northern provinces. In March 1913, the fight became personal for Villa when Huerta ordered the murder of his friend Abraham González. Building a force of volunteers and mercenaries, Villa quickly won a string of victories at Ciudad Juárez, Tierra Blanca, Chihuahua, and Ojinaga. These earned him the governorship of Chihuahua. During this time, his stature had grown to the point that US Army invited him to meet with its senior leaders, including Gen. John J. Pershing, at Fort Bliss, TX.

Returning to Mexico, Pancho Villa gathered supplies for a drive south. Utilizing the railroads, Pancho Villa's men attacked quickly and won battles against Huerta's forces at Gómez Palacio and Torreón. Following this last victory, Carranza, who was concerned that Villa might beat him to Mexico City, ordered him to divert his attack towards Saltillo or risk losing his coal supply. Needing coal to fuel his trains, Villa complied, but offered his resignation after the battle. Before it was accepted, he was convinced by his staff officers to retract it and defy Carranza by attacking the silver producing city of Zacatecas.
Fall of Zacatecas :

Situated in the mountains, Zacatecas was heavily defended by Federal troops. Attacking up steep slopes, Pancho Villa's men won a bloody victory, with combined casualties numbering over 7,000 dead and 5,000 wounded. The capture of Zacatecas in June 1914, broke the back of Huerta's regime and he fled into exile. In August 1914, Carranza and his army entered Mexico City. Villa and Emiliano Zapata, a military leader from southern Mexico, broke with Carranza fearing that he wished to be a dictator. At the Convention of Aguascalientes, Carranza was deposed as president and departed for Vera Cruz.
Battling Carranza:

Following Carranza's departure, Pancho Villa and Zapata occupied the capital. In 1915, Villa was forced to abandon Mexico City after number of incidents involving his troops. This helped pave the way for the return of Carranza and his followers. With Carranza reasserting power, Villa and Zapata revolted against the regime. To combat Pancho Villa, Carranza sent his ablest general, Álvaro Obregón north. Meeting at the Battle of Celaya on April 13, 1915, Villa was badly defeated suffering 4,000 killed and 6,000 captured. Pancho Villa's position was further weakened by the United States' refusal to sell him weapons.
The Columbus Raid and Punitive Expedition:

Feeling betrayed by the Americans for the embargo and their allowance of Carranza's troops to use US railroads, Villa ordered a raid across the border to strike at Columbus, NM. Attacking on March 9, 1916, they burned the town and looted military supplies. A detachment of the US 13th Cavalry killed 80 of Pancho Villa's raiders. In response, President Woodrow Wilson dispatched Gen. John J. Pershing and 10,000 men to Mexico to capture Villa. Employing aircraft and trucks for the first time, the "Punitive Expedition" chased Villa until January 1917, with no success.
Retirement & Death:

Following Celaya and the American incursion, Pancho Villa's influence began to wane. While he remained active, Carranza had shifted his military focus to dealing with the more dangerous threat posed by Zapata in the south. Villa's last major military action was a raid against Ciudad Juárez in 1919. The following year he negotiated his peaceful retirement with new president Adolfo de la Huerta. Retiring to the hacienda of El Canutillo, he was assassinated while traveling through Parral, Chihuahua in his car on July 20, 1923.
How did Pancho Villa die.....

Biography of Pancho Villa

Biography of Pancho Villa

Pancho Villa (
1878-1923) was a Mexican bandit, warlord and revolutionary. One of the most important figures of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), Pancho Villa was a fearless fighter, clever military commander and important power broker during the years of conflict. His vaunted Division of the North was, at one time, the strongest army in Mexico and he was instrumental in the downfall of both Porfirio Díaz and Victoriano Huerta. When the alliance of Venustiano Carranza and Alvaro Obregón finally defeated him, he responded by waging a guerrilla war which included an attack on Columbus, New Mexico. Pancho Villa was assassinated in 1923.

Pancho Villa Early Years

Pancho Villa was born Doroteo Arango to a family of impoverished sharecroppers who worked land belonging to the wealthy and powerful López Negrete family in the state of Durango. According to legend, when young Doroteo caught one of the López Negrete clan trying to rape his sister Martina, he shot him in the foot and fled to the mountains. There he joined a band of outlaws and soon rose to a position of leadership through his bravery and ruthlessness. He earned good money as a bandit, and gave some if it back to the poor, which earned him a reputation as a sort of Robin Hood.

Revolution Breaks Out

The Mexican Revolution broke out in 1910 when Francisco I. Madero, who had lost a crooked election to dictator Porfirio Díaz, declared himself president and called for the people of Mexico to take up arms. Arango, who had changed his name to Pancho Villa (after his grandfather) by then, was one who answered the call. He brought his bandit force with him and soon became one of the most powerful men in the north as his army swelled. When Madero returned to Mexico from exile in the United States in 1911, Pancho Villa was one who welcomed him. Villa knew he was no politician but he saw promise in Madero and vowed to take him to Mexico City.

The Campaign Against Díaz

The corrupt regime of Porfirio Díaz was still entrenched in power, however. Pancho Villa soon gathered an army around him, including an elite cavalry unit. Around this time Pancho Villa earned the nickname “the Centaur of the North” because of his riding skill. Along with fellow warlord Pascual Orozco, Pancho Villa controlled the north of Mexico, defeating federal garrisons and capturing towns. Díaz might have been able to handle Villa and Orozco, but he also had to worry about the guerrilla forces of Emiliano Zapata in the south, and before too long it was evident that Díaz could not defeat the enemies arrayed against him. He left the country in April of 1911, and Madero entered the capital in June, triumphant.

In Defense of Madero

Once in office, Madero quickly got into trouble. Remnants of the Díaz regime despised him, and he alienated his allies by not honoring his promises to them. Two key allies he turned against him were Zapata, who was disappointed to see that Madero had little interest in land reform, and Orozco, who had hoped in vain that Madero would give him a lucrative post, such as state governor. When these two men once again took up arms, Madero called on Pancho Villa, his only remaining ally. Along with General Victoriano Huerta, Pancho Villa fought and defeated Orozco, who was forced into exile in the United States. Madero could not see those enemies closest to him, however, and Huerta, once back in Mexico City, betrayed Madero, arrested him and ordered him executed before setting himself up as president.

Campaign against Huerta

Pancho Villa had believed in Madero and was devastated by his death. He quickly joined an alliance of Zapata and revolution newcomers Venustiano Carranza and Alvaro Obregón dedicated to removing Huerta. By then, Villa's Division of the North was the most powerful and feared military unit in the nation and his soldiers numbered in the tens of thousands. Huerta was surrounded and outnumbered, even though Orozco had returned and joined him, bringing his army with him.

Pancho Villa led the fight against Huerta, defeating federal forces in cities all over northern Mexico. Carranza, a former governor, named himself Chief of the Revolution, which irritated Villa although he accepted it. Villa did not want to be president, but he did not like Carranza. Pancho Villa saw him as another Porfirio Díaz and wanted someone else to lead Mexico once Huerta was out of the picture.

In May of 1914 the way was clear for an attack on the strategic town of Zacatecas, where there was a major railway junction that could carry the revolutionaries right into Mexico City. Villa attacked Zacatecas on June 23. The Battle of Zacatecas was a huge military victory for Villa: barely a few hundred out of 12,000 federal soldiers survived.

After the loss at Zacatecas, Huerta knew his cause was lost and tried to surrender to gain some concessions, but the allies would not let him off the hook so easily. Huerta was forced to flee, naming an interim president to rule until Pancho Villa, Obregón and Carranza reached Mexico City.

Overview of Pancho Villa:

Overview of Pancho Villa:

How Did Pancho Villa Die
Pancho Villa was born Doroteo Arango, the son of a sharecropper at the hacienda in San Juan del Rio, Durango. While growing up, Pancho Villa witnessed and experienced the harshness of peasant life. In Mexico during the late 19th century, the rich were becoming richer by taking advantage of the lower classes, often treating them like slaves.
When Villa was 15, his father died, so Villa began to work as a sharecropper to help support his mother and four siblings.One day in 1894, Villa came home from the fields to find that the owner of the hacienda intended to have sex with Villa's 12-year old sister. Villa, only 16-years old, grabbed a pistol, shot the owner of the hacienda, and then took off to the mountains.
From 1894 to 1910, Villa spent most of his time in the mountains running from the law. At first he did what he could to survive by himself, but by 1896, he had joined some other bandits and soon became their leader. Villa and his group of bandits would steal cattle, rob shipments of money, and commit additional crimes against the wealthy. By stealing from the rich and often giving to the poor, some saw Pancho Villa as a modern-day Robin Hood.It was during this time that Doroteo Arango began using the name Francisco "Pancho" Villa. ("Pancho" is a common nickname for "Francisco.")
There are many theories as to why he chose that name. Some say it was the name of a bandit leader he met; others say it was Villa's fraternal grandfather's last name.Pancho Villa's notoriety as a bandit and his prowess at escaping capture caught the attention of men who were planning a revolution. These men understood that Villa's skills could be used as a guerilla fighter during the revolution. Since Porfirio Diaz, the sitting president of Mexico, had created much of the current problems for the poor and Francisco Madero promised change for the lower classes, Pancho Villa joined Madero's cause and agreed to be a leader in the revolutionary army.From October 1910 to May 1911, Pancho Villa was a very effective revolutionary leader. However, in May 1911, Villa resigned from command because of differences he had with another commander, Pascual Orozco, Jr.

On May 29, 1911, Pancho Villa married Maria Luz Corral and tried to settle down to a quiet life. Unfortunately, though Madero had become president, political unrest again appeared in Mexico.Orozco, angered by being left out of what he considered his rightful place in the new government, challenged Madero by starting a new rebellion in the spring of 1912. Villa gathered troops and worked with General Victoriano Huerta to support Madero. In June 1912, Huerta accused Villa of stealing a horse and ordered him to be executed. A reprieve from Madero came for Villa at the very last minute but Villa was still remitted to prison. Villa remained in prison from June 1912 to December 27, 1912, when he escaped.

By the time Villa escaped from prison, Huerta had switched from a Madero supporter to a Madero adversary. On February 22, 1913, Huerta killed Madero and claimed the presidency for himself. Villa then allied himself with Venustiano Carranza to fight against Huerta.

Pancho Villa was extremely successful, winning battle after battle during the next several years. Since Pancho Villa conquered Chihuahua and other northern areas, he spent much of his time reallocating land and stabilizing the economy.

In the summer of 1914, Villa and Carranza split and became enemies. For the next several years, Mexico continues to be embroiled in a civil war between the factions of Pancho Villa and Venustiano Carranza.

The United States took sides in the battle and supported Carranza. On March 9, 1916, Villa attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico. His attack was the first on American soil since 1812. The U.S. sent several thousand soldiers across the border to hunt for Pancho Villa. Though they spent over a year searching, they never caught him.

On May 20, 1920, Carranza was assassinated and Adolfo De la Huerta became the interim president of Mexico. De la Huerta wanted peace in Mexico so negotiated with Villa for his retirement. Part of the peace agreement was that Villa would receive a hacienda in Chihuahua.

Pancho Villa retired from revolutionary life in 1920 but had only a short retirement for he was gunned down in his car on July 20, 1923.
How did Pancho Villa Die...

In The Hunt for Pancho Villa 1916-1917 (3)

In The Hunt for Pancho Villa 1916-1917 (3)

However, local residents of Parral insist to this day that their mayor had Pancho Villa’s body shifted in the graveyard a meter or so to the right of the marked grave and replaced with another body to prevent any more of Pancho Villa’s remains from being taken. It was the headless decoy body, they insist, that was later taken to Mexico City. Whether Pancho Villa’s body is still in the ground at Parral or not, his tall, stately tombstone remains in place and people still come to place flowers on the grave. So, even in death, Pancho Villa remains elusive.22

On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. Pershing received orders to organize a division with himself in command and to take the formation to France as the first American unit to fight alongside the Allies. He submitted a list of officers whom he wanted on his staff and included Lieutenant Patton’s name. However, several days later, Pershing was appointed the commander-in-chief of the American Expeditionary Force, which included all troops to be sent to France.23

Therefore, with a small headquarters party, Pershing went overseas at once as a symbol of reassurance and promise to the war-weary Allies, who had fought immense battles of attrition for the past three years. Although the Americans entrance into the war was a great psychological boost to them, the United States was unprepared to join in the massive clash of arms on the Western Front. Positioning units along the Mexican border and pursuing Villa had been a small start toward mobilization, but now the U. S. Army had to raise, equip, and train a much larger force. The War Department planned to ship Pershing 2,000,000 partially trained troops. He was tasked to bring them to combat readiness over there.24

As for the Georgia units that had gone to the Mexican Border, some were retained in Federal Service; others returned to Georgia. Nevertheless, on July 3, 1917, the entire National Guard of the United States was mobilized for World War I. In August, 1917, the Georgia National Guard units were reorganized with most of the units being assigned to the 31st Infantry Division with the exception of the Coast Artillery units which were assigned to Savannah Coastal Defense. However, there was one special new battalion to be organized from Georgia.25

Requests from National Guard officers and Governors for early acceptance of their state units to go to war against Germany poured into the War Department. The clamor became so general and so insistent that the Secretary of War conceived the idea of forming a composite Division to include troops from every State in the Union. That was the origin of the famous 42d (Rainbow) Division, which was later to distinguish itself in many important engagements of World War I. In August, 1917, companies B, C, and F of the 2nd Georgia Infantry were reorganized as the 151st Machine Gun Battalion and assigned to the 42d Division. When the 42d Infantry Division arrived in France in November, 1917, there were National Guard units from 26 States and from the District of Columbia in its ranks. Almost a year later, on September 16, 1918, the 31st Infantry Division consisting of National Guard units from Georgia, Alabama, and Florida departed for France and joined the American Expeditionary Force on October 3 1918.26

As for the legend or myth of Pancho Villa today, conservative Mexicans may insist he was nothing more than a self-serving bloodthirsty bandit. However, to most Mexicans his memory has been embellished through songs and stories and he is now generally remembered as a Mexican “Robinhood” figure. Of all the Mexican revolutionary leaders, he is probably the best known and remembered for his victories in the constitutionalist revolution and for being the only foreign military leader to have “successfully” invaded continental U.S. territory.

As for Americans, the massive mobilization of U.S. forces in 1916 and the pursuit of Pancho Villa in Mexico are scarcely noted in our history books and thus, not read about in school. However, it is important to Georgians because it was the first mobilization and deployment of Nation Guard Units for Federal service and an end to the old militia system of recruiting volunteer units of rank amateurs for Federal service as it was done for the Mexican War of 1846-1848. It was also the forerunner of the total force policy so important to our defense preparedness today. If alive today, Pancho Villa would probably claim credit for teaching General Pershing and the gringos from the north how to organize for a fight.
How did Pancho Villa die...

The Hunt for Pancho Villa 1916-1917 (2)

The Hunt for Pancho Villa 1916-1917 (2)
In 1916, the Signal Corps Aviation Service only had a few crude aircraft. The 1st Aero Squadron which was assigned to support Pershing was equipped with six Curtiss JN-2 “Jennies” which had a reputation of being unstable deathtraps. In addition, the airservice was handicapped by inexperienced pilots. Pershing was barely a month into the expedition when he lost all six of his aircraft. Two crashed within the first week of the expedition.

Pershing’s expedition also provided an opportunity for one of the Army more headstrong members. . . George S. Patton, then a young lieutenant. Fearing he would be left behind on mundane border patrol with his unit, Patton pleaded with Pershing to take him along as a replacement for one of his two aides that was absent when the expedition was ordered into Mexico. Pershing agreed at the last moment and took him.

Pancho Villa had a nine days headstart before Pershing’s Expedition crossed into Mexico (Map 1) at noon on March 15, 1916. By that time, Villa and his men were well hidden in the mountains. To cover the uncharted terrain, Pershing divided his force into East and West columns and proceeded methodically into the unfamiliar Mexican interior.7

Basically, the two American columns of the expedition got nowhere in their pursuit of Pancho Villa. Northern Mexico was a vast wasteland with few towns and dominated by the barren and rugged Sierra Madre Mountains with peaks averaging ten to twelve thousand feet and honeycombed with deep canyons providing excellent hiding places for Pancho Villa and his men. The few roads were little more than dirt trails, dusty in dry weather and muddy quagmires in the rain. Villa’s men were on their home ground while Pershing was moving into unfamiliar and largely unmapped territory depending on Mexican guides whose loyalty was always questionable.

Pershing’s soldiers, encountered every imaginable mishap during their eleven months in Mexico. President Carranza had promised assistance, but when, for example, Pershing’s men were on the verge of capturing Panco Villa, the “Carranzistas” attacked them. Another time, Pershing’s Indian scouts misinformed him about the location of Villa’s lair. On other occasions, the scouts brought in blood-filled boots and bullet-riddled shirts as “proof” that he had been killed.

At Colonia Dublan , Pershing established his permanent command post where he began to plan how he would snare Pancho Villa. Everywhere U.S. Troops went, men, women, and children cheerfully provided them with misinformation about his (Villa’s) whereabouts.

As in past American invasions (e.g., the Mexican War of 1846-1848), the Pershing Expedition was a financial “boon” to Mexico. The American soldiers’ wants were catered to and satisfied everywhere they went. Prices skyrocketed. If they so desired, soldiers could submerge themselves in Mexican beer. Cantinas were open all night. In many restaurants soldiers devoured “deer” meat that once ran in the streets barking. Life was hard only when the Americans marched or rode along the dirt roads and were eating their dry ration crackers and looking for water. Dublan was transformed into an enormous military encampment complete with a railhead where tons of supplies were unloaded by a thousand civilian workers. The soldiers and civilians worked by day and brawled by night in the saloons and bordellos that had sprung up in the once sleepy town.

Pancho Villa’s men mingled with the populace at will by simply removing the cartridge belts they normally strapped across their chests. They even mixed with the Americans and attended Western “cowboy” movies with Pershing’s officers.

In May, 1916, Lieutenant Patton saw combat for the first time. Based on information about the location of Julio Cardenas, one of Pancho Villa’s most trusted subordinates and commander of his personal bodyguard; Patton, accompanied by ten soldiers from the 6th Infantry Regiment, and two civilian guides traveling in three Dodge open top touring automobiles, conducted a surprise raid on a ranch house at San Miguelito (Map 2) near Rubio. During the ensuing fire-fight, Patton and his men killed three men. One was identified as Cardenas. The other two dead Mexicans were an unnamed Villista captain and a private. Patton’s men tied the bodies to the hoods of the cars, while Patton put Cardenas’ silver-studded saddle and sword into his vehicle. The spectacle of the three cars with the bodies tied on the hoods caused a great commotion along the road, but Patton and his party sped through the countryside to their headquarters at Dublan without incident.

At around 4 p.m., Patton arrived at Dublan with the three bloody corpses strapped across the blistering-hot hoods of the automobiles. War correspondents crowded around to get a first hand account of his adventure. The stories they filed made Patton a national hero for several weeks. His photograph appeared in newspapers around the United States. Pershing was pleased that someone had enlivened the hunt for Villa and actually taken out a key member of his band. He even permitted Patton to keep Cardenas’ sword and silver saddle as trophies of his first fight.12

In June, Pershing was informed that Pancho Villa could be taken at the small village of Carrizal, northwest of his command center at Dublan. (Map 2). When the Pershing’s troops assaulted the village on June 21, they quickly realized they had been hoodwinked for they found themselves fighting “Carranzistas,” not Villistas. Scores of “Carranzitas” were killed or wounded. Pancho Villa was reported to have watched with much delight — from a safe distance — as his two enemies battled each other in total confusion.

The unfortunate American attack on Mexican government troops became known as the “Carrizal Affair” and created a such a rowe that war with Mexico seemed possible. The situation led President Wilson to call 75,000 National Guardsmen into Federal service to help police the U.S. - Mexico border. In fact, hostilities with Mexico probably would have erupted then and there, but for the bitter war raging in Europe. Wilson, anxious not to become involved in Mexico at a time when relations with Germany were deteriorating, agreed to submit Mexican complaints arising out of the punitive expedition to a joint commission for settlement. Some time later the commission ruled that, among other things, that the debacle at Carrizal was the fault of the American unit commander.

For the remainder of 1916, the intensity of the hunt for Pancho Villa waned and replaced by the tedious routine of life in a temporary bivouac. Boredom spawned drunken shoot-outs between troops and local Mexicans. In an attempt to keep his men busy, Pershing initiated a tough new training program that included cavalry maneuvers. It was clear by this time, however, that given President Wilson’s restrictive orders and the growing intransigence of the Carranza regime that the Pershing led Mexican incursion was doomed to failure.

Company H, 3rd Separate Infantry Battalion and 2nd Company, Coast Artillery were mustered into Federal service on August 10 and September 26 respectively, but remained at home station and were not sent to Texas.

The aggregate strength of the Georgia units that were sent to Camp Cotton, Texas was 3,892. The units were mobilized on June 18, 1916 and mustered into Federal service, most between July 2-31 and one as late as September 26. After some mobilization training at Camp Harris, they departed for duty on the U.S. - Mexico border.

An example of the service of one of the Georgia National Guard units deployed to the border is revealed in the reports of the 2nd Squadron Cavalry. The unit departed Camp Harris at Macon, Georgia on October 25, 1916 and arrived at Fort Bliss, Texas (Map 2) on November 1, 1916. At Fort Bliss, they underwent a month of mounted training until Then, the squadron left on December 1, 1916 for field duty at Fabens , Texas (Map 2) with three officers and 70 men, 79 horses, 2 transport wagons, and eight mules. The group marched 32 miles to Fabens finally reaching there at 1:40 p.m. on December 2, 1916. They performed border patrol with the 1st Kentucky Infantry and from December 16 on with the 2nd Kentucky Infantry. The squadron left Fort Bliss, Texas at 1a.m. on March 22, 1917 with three officers and 77 men, two wagons and full equipment. They arrived at home station, Atlanta, Georgia at 1p.m., March 27, 1917. The distance traveled was 1,700 miles.

In January, 1917, the ill-fated attempt to capture Pancho Villa ended with the recall of the Punitive Expedition from Mexico. On January 27, the first of 10,690 men and 9,307 horses embarked for Columbus. It took over a week to assemble the full expeditionary force back at Fort Bliss, where, on February 7, 1917, with General Pershing at the head, they marched into El Paso to the acclaim of cheering crowds. That officially ended Pershing’s campaign. The expedition had gone as far south as Parral, but Pershing had not captured Pancho Villa. Therefore, the expedition was only notable as the last U.S. Cavalry expedition in U.S. military history. Although Villa had once been nicked in the knee cap by a Carranzistas bullet, he was now completely mended and feeling well. However, many of his best men had either died or deserted him. But, with the gringos gone, he was now free to continue his struggle with his arch foe Venustiano Carranza.18

Unabashed by his failure to capture Pancho Villa, General Pershing claimed the expedition was successful as a learning experience. However, in the minds of Mexicans, Pancho Villa was the clear winner. He had emerged triumphant from battle with the United States led by the great General Pershing. No doubt, in the eyes of the Mexican people, Pershing’s withdrawal from Mexico added to Pancho Villa’s myth of invincibility.

But, a few years later, on Friday, July 20, 1923, Pancho Villa’s luck ran out. Accompanied by his entourage of Dorades (“Golden Ones”), which was what he called his bodyguards, Pancho Villa frequently made trips to Parral for banking and other errands. This day, Pancho Villa had picked up a consignment of gold with which to pay his Canutillo ranch staff and was driving through the city in his black 1919 Dodge roadster when a group of seven riflemen fired 150 shots in just two minutes into his car. In the fusillade of shots, 16 bullets lodged in his body and four more in his head. Pancho Villa was reported to have killed one of the assassins before he died. Truly, Pancho Villa had lived by the gun and died by the gun.

It was never determined who ordered the killing. However, the assassins were given light prison terms leading to general speculation that someone in the Mexican government must have given the order simply because Villa had become an embarrassment to post-revolutionary Mexico.

But even in death, Pancho Villa was not at rest and still stirred controversy. Three years after he was buried in the Cemeterio Municipal at Parral, it was alleged that an ex-Villista officer, Captain Emil L. Holmdahl, had opened the tomb and removed Villa’s head to sell to an eccentric Chicago millionaire who collected the skulls of historic figures. Despite the rumors of a headless Villa, his sons prevented examination of the remains to see if the head was still attached. Three years later, the Federal government ordered Villa’s body, reported to be headless, moved to Mexico City to be interred in the Tomb of Illustrious Men.

In The Hunt for Pancho Villa 1916-1917

In The Hunt for Pancho Villa 1916-1917

Doroteo Arango, alias Francisco “Pancho” Villa, was born in 1877 (1879 according to some sources) in San Juan del Rio, State of Durango, Mexico. During his lifetime, he was a ruthless killer (killing his first man at age sixteen), a notorious bandit (including cattle rustling and bank robbery), a revolutionary (a general commanding a division in the resistance against the 1913-14 Victoriano Huerta dictatorship), and despite his bloodthirsty nature, an enduring hero to the poor people of Mexico. In their minds, Villa was afraid of no one, not the Mexican government or the gringos from the United States. He was their one true friend and avenger for decades of Yankee oppression.

In late 1915 Pancho Villa had counted on American support to obtain the presidency of Mexico. Instead the U.S. Government recognized the new government of Venustiano Carranza. An irate Villa swore revenge against the United States.and began by murdering Americans in hopes of provoking President Woodrow Wilson’s intervention into Mexico. Pancho Villa believed that American interevention would discredit the Carranza government with the people of Mexico and reaffirm his own popularity.

Pancho Villa and his “pistoleros” launched raids along the U.S.- Mexico boundary to frighten the Americans living in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona border towns. Concerned for the safety of Americans, President Wilson ordered the War Department to begin deploying troops to Texas and New Mexico. In April, 1915, Brigadier General John J. Pershing and his 8th Infantry Brigade were sent to Fort Bliss, Texas with the mission of guarding the U.S.- Mexico border from Arizona to a bleak outpost in the Sierra Blanca mountains ninety miles southeast of El Paso.

While the presence of American troops served to deter Pancho Villa on the north of the Rio Grande, the murder of U.S. citizens in Mexico continued. One of the most heinous atrocities occurred January 11, 1916, when Villa’s bandits stopped a train at Santa Ysabel (See Map 1). The bandits removed a group of 17 Texas business men (mining engineers) invited by the Mexican government to reopen the Cusihuiriachic mines below Chihuahua City and executed them in cold blood. However, one of those shot feined death and rolled down the side of the embankment and, crawling away into a patch of brown mesquite bushes, escaped. The train moved on, leaving the corpses at the mercy of the slayers, who stripped and mutilated them. After the escapee arrived back at Chihuahua City, a special train sped to Santa Ysabel to reclaim the bodies. When the people of El Paso heard of the massacre, they went wild with anger. El Paso was immediately placed under martial law to prevent irate Texans from crossing into Mexico at Juarez to wreak vengeance on innocent Mexicans.

Despite outrage in the United States and Washington over the Santa Ysabel massacre, President Wilson refused to intervene and send troops into Mexico. Two months later, Pancho Villa decided to strike again. This time he would invade the United States. At 2:30 a.m., on the morning of March 9, 1916, he and 500 “Villistas” attacked the 13th U.S. Cavalry at Camp Furlong near Columbus, New Mexico (Map 1). Despite prior knowledge that Villa and his men were pillaging, raping, and murdering their way toward the border, the cavalry was caught completely by surprise. One reason for the cavalry’s sluggishness was because some of the troops had been drinking, but perhaps more importantly, all of the troops’ rifles were chained and locked in gun racks. Still, the cavalry managed to get organized and fought off the “Villistas” killing many of them in the process. During their retreat, however, the “Villistas” stopped at Columbus, New Mexico for a looting and window-shooting spree that left several U.S. civilians dead. For three hours, bullets struck houses and shouts of “Viva Villa! Viva Mexico! Muerte a los Americanos!” (death to americans) were heard in the streets. The town was set afire, though Villa’s men realized nothing beyond a few dollars and perhaps some merchandise from the burntout stores. The terror continued until about 7 a.m., and when Villa finally rode off, the smoke-filled streets of Columbus were littered with the dead and wounded. Fourteen American soldiers and ten civilians were killed in the raid.3

Although Villa’s losses from from his American incursion were high, he had achieved his aim of arousing the United States. Now, he and his men headed due south from Palomas seeking the safety of the mountains of the Sierra Madre. However, the 13th U.S. Cavalry was now in hot pursuit. Colonel Frank Tompkins had managed to gather 32 cavalrymen and was nipping at the heels of the fleeing Mexicans. His troops sighted Pancho Villa’s rear guard and killed over thirty men and horses. Colonel Tompkins kept up the chase for eight hours and killed a number of stragglers as well as more of Villa’s rear guard. Lacking supplies, Tompkins and his cavalrymen were forced to return to Camp Furlong. On their way back, they counted 75 to 100 “Villistas” killed during their hastily organized pursuit.4

The populace of Columbus was in a state of hysteria. The American cavalry troops collected the bodies of the “Villistas” that had been shot in the streets and on the outskirts of town and piled them on funeral pyres and cremated them. For a day or more the fires smoldered and the odor of burning flesh permeated the air. Columbus lay virtually demolished, so completely burned and pillaged that it never recovered its former vitality.5

To prevent repetitions of the Columbus outrage, President Wilson called out 15,000 militia and stationed them along the U.S. - Mexico border (Map 1). Wilson also informed President Carranza that he intended to send a military expedition into northern Mexico to capture Pancho Villa, and Carranza reluctantly agreed. President Wilson then appointed Brigadier General John J. Pershing to lead 4,800 troops (mostly cavalry), supported by aircraft and motorized military vehicles (the first time either were used in U.S. warfare) on a punitive expedition into Mexico to capture Pancho Villa.

However, there was a catch to Pershing’s mission orders from Wilson that would be decisive in the end. Pershing was to pursue and punish Villa, but not to upset the Carranza government by firing on any of his troops. The futility of Wilson’s orders was plain even before the expedition began, when the local Carranzista commander at nearby Palomas threatened to attack the Americans. Pershing was only able to stave off an incident by hiring the man as a guide for his troops. Carranza would take advantage of Wilson’s restrictions to make life miserable for the Punitive Expedition throughout their mission.


How was Pancho Villa perceived?

How was Pancho Villa perceived?

In a sense Pancho Villa was a rebel against social abuses; at times he worked a rough justice but he was a violent and undirected destructive force. His daring, his impetuosity, and his horsemanship made him the idol of the masses, especially in N Mexico, where he was regarded as a sort of Robin Hood. The Villa myth is perpetuated in numerous ballads and tales.

How Did Pancho Villa Die...