Edited by Gerald Boerner



JerryPhotoThe Mexican Revolution of 1910 was not a battle against foreign rule, but was an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz. Diaz had become a dictator and the people wanted change. Without the ballot box as an option for change, the opponents of Diaz took up arms. Madero represented a more democratic option to the country. A Constitution was written to establish a representative democracy.

But, as so frequently happens during armed insurrections, some of those taking up arms decided to set up small kingdoms of their own. This was especially true in Mexico at the time since the power was centralized in Mexico City an was less apparent in those somewhat distant from the capitol. This scenario played itself out in northern Mexico in the stat of Chihuahua where Pancho Villa was appointed governor. Villa maintained a militia and frequently raided American settlements in New Mexico, land previously “sold” to the U.S.


These raiding forays across the U.S. border forced President Wilson to send Gen. John J. Pershing across the border to seek and destroy Villa’s army. It provided a training ground to train National Guard troops in a live battlefield. Likewise, it was a training ground for future general like George Patton. This special group under Pershing was retasked when the U.S. entered World Was I in 1917.

So, let’s jump into our exploration of the border confrontation between Pershing and Pancho Villa…  GLB

These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2011 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved

[ 4073 Words ]


Quotations Related to REVOLUTION:


“Whoever finishes a revolution only halfway, digs his own grave.”
— Georg Buchner

“Revolution begins with the self, in the self.”
— Toni Cade Bambara

“We’re still in the first minutes of the first day of the Internet revolution.”
— Scott Cook

“And you cannot have a socialist revolution commandeered from the top, ordered around by some omniscient leader or group of leaders.”
— Ernest Mandel

“The Framers of the Constitution knew that free speech is the friend of change and revolution. But they also knew that it is always the deadliest enemy of tyranny.”
— Hugo Black

“We have confirmed something we only knew in theory, namely that revolution, in which uncontrolled and uncontrollable forces operate imperiously, is blind and destructive, grandiose and cruel.”
— Frederica Montseny

“Before Vatican II, in theology, as in other areas, the discipline was fixed. After the council there has been a revolution – a chaotic revolution – with free discussion on everything. There is now no common theology or philosophy as there was before.”
— Godfried Danneels

“The differences between revolution in art and revolution in politics are enormous. Revolution in art lies not in the will to destroy but in the revelation of what has already been destroyed. Art kills only the dead.”
— Harold Rosenberg


Mexican Revolution: Gen. Pershing Pursuit of Pancho Villa


Mexico_on_treadmillThe Mexican Revolution (Spanish: Revolución mexicana) was a major armed struggle that started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz. The Revolution was characterized by several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements. Over time the Revolution changed from a revolt against the established order to a multi-sided civil war.

After prolonged struggles, its representatives produced the Mexican Constitution of 1917. The Revolution is generally considered to have lasted until 1920, although the country continued to have sporadic, but comparatively minor, outbreaks of warfare well into the 1920s. The Cristero War of 1926 to 1929 was the most significant relapse of bloodshed.

The United States involvement in the Mexican Revolution was varied. The United States relationship with Mexico has often been turbulent. For both economic and political reasons, the American government generally supported those who occupied the seats of power, whether they held that power legitimately or not. Twice during the Revolution, the U.S. sent troops into Mexico.The U.S. had helped the Mexicans achieve independence and supported Juárez in his overthrow of emperor Maximilian, but also supported dictators like Porfirio Díaz, while its ambassador to Mexico, acting without authority, conspired to assassinate legitimate president Francisco Madero. The United States has also sent troops to bomb and occupy Veracruz and engaged in cross-border skirmishes with Francisco (Pancho) Villa and others.

The United States involvement in the Mexican Revolution was varied. The United States relationship with Mexico has often been turbulent. For both economic and political reasons, the American government generally supported those who occupied the seats of power, whether they held that power legitimately or not. Twice during the Revolution, the U.S. sent troops into Mexico.The U.S. had helped the Mexicans achieve independence and supported Juárez in his overthrow of emperor Maximilian, but also supported dictators like Porfirio Díaz, while its ambassador to Mexico, acting without authority, conspired to assassinate legitimate president Francisco Madero. The United States has also sent troops to bomb and occupy Veracruz and engaged in cross-border skirmishes with Francisco (Pancho) Villa and others.

The Pancho Villa Expedition – officially known in the United States as the Mexican Expedition or the Border Campaign, and sometimes colloquially referred to as the "Punitive Expedition" – was a military operation conducted by the United States Army against the paramilitary forces of Mexican insurgent Francisco "Pancho" Villa from 1916 to 1917. The expedition was in retaliation for Villa’s illegal incursion into the United States and attack on the village of Columbus, Luna County, New Mexico, during the Mexican Revolution.

The official beginning and ending dates of the Mexican Expedition are March 14, 1916 and February 7, 1917.


Villa’s Attacks

VillaUncleSamBerrymanCartoonCartoon by Clifford Berryman reflects
U.S. attitudes about the expedition

Trouble between the U.S. and Pancho Villa had been growing since 1915, when the United States government disappointed Villa by siding with and giving its official recognition to Venustiano Carranza’s national government. Feeling betrayed, Villa began attacking American property and citizens in northern Mexico. The most serious incident occurred in January 1916, when 17 American employees of the ASARCO company were removed from a train at Santa Isabel, Chihuahua, and summarily stripped and executed, although one escaped by faking his death. Villa kept his men south of the border to avoid a direct confrontation with the U.S. Army forces which were being deployed to protect the border.

Battle of Columbus

At approximately 4:17 am on March 9, 1916, Villa’s troops attacked Columbus, New Mexico and its local detachment of the U.S. 13th Cavalry Regiment, killing 10 civilians and 8 soldiers and wounding 2 civilians and 6 soldiers, for a total of 18 killed and 8 wounded. The raiders also burned the town, took many horses and mules and seized available machine guns, ammunition and merchandise, before they returned to Mexico. However, Villa’s troops suffered considerable losses, with at least sixty-seven dead. About thirteen others would later die of their wounds. Five Mexicans were taken prisoner and later executed. The raid may have been spurred by an American merchant in Columbus who supplied Villa with weapons and ammunition. After Villa paid several thousand dollars in cash in advance, the merchant decided to stop supplying him with weapons and demanded payment in gold.



Punitive-truck-trainStaging area in Columbus, New Mexico for truck trains that supplied
Pershing’s troops during the Expedition

On March 15, on orders from President Woodrow Wilson, General John J. Pershing led an expeditionary force of 4,800 men into Mexico to capture Villa, who had already had more than a week to disperse and conceal his forces before the punitive expedition tried to seek them out in unmapped terrain. The newly adopted Curtiss "Jenny" airplane was used by the 1st Provisional Aero Squadron to conduct aerial reconnaissance.

Pershing divided his force into two columns to seek out Villa, and made his main base encampment at Casas Grandes, Chihuahua. Due to disputes with the Carranza administration over the use of the Mexico North Western Railway to supply his troops, the Army employed a truck-train system to convoy supplies to the encampment and the Signal Corps set up wireless telegraph service from the border to Pershing’s HQ. In June, Lieutenant George S. Patton raided a small community and killed Julio Cárdenas, an important leader in the Villista military organization, and two other men. Patton personally killed Cardenas, and is reported to have carved notches into his revolvers.

1st_aero1st Aero Squadron on the Mexican-US border in 1916, marked with
"later Soviet-style red stars", as the US national insignia, on
rudder and wings

On June 21, U.S. forces, including elements of the 7th Cavalry and the African-American U.S. 10th Cavalry Regiment, attacked Mexican Federal army troops in an engagement in the Battle of Carrizal, Chihuahua, resulting in many cavalry troops becoming prisoners of the Federals, and effectively ending the 10th Cavalry’s usefulness in the campaign. Another skirmish with Federals took place north of Parral, Chihuahua on April 12. Carranza sent General Jacinto Treviño to warn Pershing of armed Federal resistance to any further advances of Pershing’s forces into other areas; troop movements north to the border would be the only movements acceptable to the Carranza government.

Pancho_Villa_Expedition_-_Infantry_Columns_HD-SN-99-02007Members of the 6th and 16th Infantry
withdrawing homeward in January 1917

While the expedition did make contact with Villista formations and killed two of his generals, it failed in its major objectives, neither stopping border raids – which continued while the expedition was in Mexico, although both National Guard troops and Texas Rangers were stationed on the border – nor capturing Villa. However, between the date of the American withdrawal and Villa’s retirement in 1920, Villa’s troops were no longer an effective fighting force, being hemmed in by American and Mexican federal troops and money and arms blockades on both sides of the border.

Withdrawal and Final Battle

The bulk of American forces were withdrawn in January 1917. Pershing publicly claimed the expedition was a success, although privately he complained to family that President Wilson had imposed too many restrictions, which made it impossible for him to fulfill his mission. He admitted to having been "outwitted and out-bluffed at every turn," and wrote "when the true history is written, it will not be a very inspiring chapter for school children, or even grownups to contemplate. Having dashed into Mexico with the intention of eating the Mexicans raw, we turned back at the first repulse and are now sneaking home under cover, like a whipped curr with its tail between its legs." Despite the withdrawal, warfare on the border continued, and American forces went on to fight the Battle of Ambos Nogales, the bloodiest engagement between United States and Mexican forces during the revolution.

General Pershing was permitted to bring into New Mexico 527 Chinese refugees who had assisted him during the expedition, despite the ban on Chinese immigration at that time due to the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Chinese refugees, known as "Pershing’s Chinese," were allowed to remain in the U.S. on the condition that they work under the supervision of the military as cooks and servants on bases. In 1921, Congress passed Public Resolution 29, which allowed them to remain in the country permanently under the conditions of the 1892 Geary Act. Most of them settled in San Antonio.

Soldiers who took part in the Villa campaign were awarded the Mexican Service Medal.


Training Ground

National Guard units from Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico had been called into service on May 8, 1916. With congressional approval of the National Defense Act on June 3, 1916, Guard units from the remainder of the states and the District of Columbia were also called for duty on the border. In mid-June President Wilson called out 110,000 National Guard for border service. None of the National Guard troops would cross the border into Mexico but were used instead as a show of force.

Nonetheless, activities on the border were far from dull. The troops had to be on constant alert as border raids were still an occasional nuisance. Three of the raids were particularly bloody. On May 5, 1916, Mexican bandits attacked an outpost at Glenn Springs, Texas, killing one civilian and wounding three American soldiers. On June 15 bandits killed four American soldiers at San Ygnacio, Texas, and on July 31 one American soldier and a U.S. customs inspector were killed. In all three cases Mexican raiders were killed and wounded, but the exact numbers are unknown. The Mexican Expedition proved to be an excellent training environment for the officers and men of the National Guard, who would be recalled to Federal Service later that same year (1917) for duty in World War I. Many National Guard leaders in both World Wars traced their first Federal Service to the Mexican Expedition.


The Border War: Pancho Villa’s Perspective 
(Active 1911–1916)

José Doroteo Arango Arámbula, better known as Francisco "Pancho" Villa, came from the northern state of Durango. Villa with his army of Villistas joined the ranks of the Madero movements. He led the Villistas in many battles, such as the attack of Ciudad Juárez in 1911 (which overthrew Porfirio Díaz and gave Madero a little power).

Hermanos_flores_magonPancho Villa (Left) "Commander of the
División del Norte (Division of the North)"
and Emiliano Zapata "Commander of the
Ejército Libertador del Sur’.

In 1911, Victoriano Huerta appointed Villa his chief military commander. During this period Huerta and Villa became rivals. In 1912 when Villa’s men seized a horse and Villa decided to keep it for himself, Huerta ordered Villa’s execution for insubordination. Raúl Madero, brother of President Madero, intervened to save Villa’s life. Jailed in Mexico City, Villa escaped to the United States. Soon after the assassination of President Madero, Villa returned with a group of companions to fight Huerta. By 1913 the group had become Villa’s División del Norte (Northern Division). This army led by Villa had numerous American members. Villa and his army, along with Carranza and Obregón, joined in resistance to the Huerta dictatorship.

Fierro_Pancho_Villa_Ortega_MedinaGeneral Francisco "Pancho Villa" with his
general staff in 1913. Villa in grey suit in
center, Villa’s aide, General Rodolfo Fierro
to Villa’s right.

Villa and Carranza had different goals. Because Villa wanted to continue the revolution, he became an enemy of Carranza. After Carranza took control in 1914, Villa and other revolutionaries who opposed him met at what was called the Convention of Aguascalientes. The convention deposed Carranza in favor of Eulalio Gutiérrez. In the winter of 1914, Villa and Zapata’s troops entered and occupied Mexico City. Villa’s treatment of Gutiérrez and the citizenry outraged more moderate elements of the population, who forced Villa from the city in early 1915.

Columbus NMColumbus, New Mexico after
being attacked by Pancho Villa

In 1915, Villa took part in two of the most important battles during the revolution, the two engagements in the Battle of Celaya, on April 6–7 and from April 13–15. Obregon defeated Villa in the Battle of Celaya, one of the bloodiest of the revolution. Carranza emerged as the winner of the war and seized power. A short time after, the United States recognized Carranza as president of Mexico. On March 9, 1916, Villa crossed the United States–Mexico border and raided Columbus, New Mexico to attempt revenge against the arms dealer who sold the ammunition used in the Battle of Celaya, which was useless for Villa’s forces. During this attack, 18 Americans and 90 of Villa’s men were killed.

Pressured by public opinion (mainly driven by Hearst Newspapers) to confront Mexican attacks, US President Wilson sent General John J. Pershing and around 5,000 U.S. troops on an unsuccessful pursuit to capture Villa. It was known as the Punitive Expedition. After nearly a year of pursuing Villa, Pershing was called off and given command of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I. The American intervention had been limited to the western sierras of Chihuahua. It was the first time the American Army used airplanes on military operations. Unlike Zapata, Villa fought through the northern part of Mexico. With the Americans always on high pursuit of him, Villa always had the upper hand by knowing the rough terrain of the Sonoran Desert and the Sierra mountains. Villa and his revoulutionary fighters fought by using quick guerilla warfare tactics.

Regardless of the intervention, the loss of the Battle of Celaya meant the rise to power of Carranza and the Sonora generals.

In 1920, Obregón (one of the sonorenses) finally reached an agreement with Villa, who retired from the armed fighting. In 1923 Villa was assassinated by a group of seven riflemen while traveling in his car in Parral. It is presumed such assassination was ordered by Obregón, who feared a supposed bid for the presidency by Villa.


End of the Revolution

Mexican_rebel_campRebel Camp

Historians debate the exact end of the "revolutionary period". From a military standpoint, it ended with the death of the Constitutional Army’s primer jefe (First Chief) Venustiano Carranza in 1920, and the ascension to power of General Álvaro Obregón. Coup attempts and sporadic uprisings continued, for instance in the Cristero Wars of 1926–1929. Effective implementation of the social provisions of the 1917 Constitution of Mexico and near cession of revolutionary activity did not occur until the administration of Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–1940). According to Robert McCaa, the total "demographic cost" during the Mexican Revolution 1910–1920 was approximately 2.1 million people.

Cárdenas also abolished capital punishment, better known in Mexico as fusilamiento, death by firing squad. Cárdenas and the PRM’s ability to control the republic without summary executions showed the revolutionary period was at its end.

Another major step was in 1940, when Cárdenas voluntarily relinquished all power to his successor Manuel Ávila Camacho, a legal transition that was unprecedented in Mexican history. In 1942, Ávila Camacho and all living ex-Presidents appeared on stage in the Mexico City Zócalo, in front of the Palacio Nacional, to encourage the Mexican people to support the Americans and British in World War II. This demonstration of political solidarity among diverse elements signaled the true end of the Revolution. Given its importance in national history, Mexican politicians and political parties refer frequently to the Revolution in their political rhetoric.


The Primary Participants

Pancho_Villa_bandolier_cropJosé Doroteo Arango Arámbula
(1878 – 1923), better known by his pseudonym Francisco Villa or its hypocorism Pancho Villa, was one of the most prominent Mexican Revolutionary generals.

As commander of the División del Norte (Division of the North), he was the veritable caudillo of the Northern Mexican state of Chihuahua which, given its size, mineral wealth, and proximity to the United States of America, provided him with extensive resources. Villa was also provisional Governor of Chihuahua in 1913 and 1914. Although he was prevented from being accepted into the "panteón" of national heroes until some 20 years after his death, today his memory is honored by Mexicans, Americans, and many people around the world. In addition, numerous streets and neighborhoods in Mexico are named in his honor.

Villa and his supporters seized hacienda land for distribution to peasants and soldiers. He robbed and commandeered trains, and, like the other revolutionary generals, printed fiat money to pay for his cause. Villa’s men and supporters became known as Villistas during the revolution from 1910 to roughly 1920.

Villa’s dominance in northern Mexico was broken in 1915 through a series of defeats he suffered at Celaya and Agua Prieta at the hands of Álvaro Obregón and Plutarco Elías Calles. After Villa’s famous raid on Columbus in 1916, the US Army General John J. Pershing tried unsuccessfully to capture Villa in a nine-month pursuit that ended when Gen. Pershing was called back as the United States entry into World War I was assured. Villa retired in 1920 and was given a large estate which he turned into a "military colony" for his former soldiers. In 1923, he decided to re-involve himself in Mexican politics and as a result was assassinated, most likely on the orders of Obregon.

General_John_Joseph_Pershing_head_on_shouldersJohn Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing
, GCB (Hon) (1860 – 1948) was a general officer in the United States Army. Pershing is the only person to be promoted in his own lifetime to the highest rank ever held in the United States Army—General of the Armies (a retroactive Congressional edict passed in 1976 promoted George Washington to the same rank but with higher seniority). Pershing also holds the first United States officer service number (O-1). Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, and was regarded as a mentor by the generation of American generals who led the United States Army in Europe during World War II, including George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar N. Bradley, and George S. Patton.

In January 1914, Pershing was assigned to command the Army 8th Cavalry Regiment in Fort Bliss, Texas, responsible for security along the U.S.-Mexico border. In March 1916, under the command of General Frederick Funston, Pershing led the 8th Regiment on the failed 1916–17 Punitive Expedition into Mexico in search of the revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. He had met him in 1913 when he invited him to Fort Bliss. During this time, George S. Patton served as one of Pershing’s aides.

At the start of the United States’ involvement in World War I President Woodrow Wilson considered mobilizing an army to join the fight. Frederick Funston, Pershing’s superior in Mexico, was being considered for the top billet as the Commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) when he died suddenly from a heart attack on February 19, 1917. Following America’s entrance into the war, Wilson, after a short interview, named Pershing to command, a post which he retained until 1918. Pershing, who was a major general, was promoted to full general (the first since Philip Sheridan in 1888) in the National Army, and was made responsible for the organization, training, and supply of a combined professional and draft Army and National Guard force that eventually grew from 27,000 inexperienced men to two Armies (a third was forming as the war ended) totaling over two million soldiers.



Please take time to further explore more about MEXICAN REVOLUTION,
by accessing the
Wikipedia articles referenced below…




Other Events on this Day:

  • In 44 B.C…
    On the Ides of March, Julius Caesar, the newly appointed dictator perpetuo of Rome, is fatally stabbed in Pompey’s theater by some 60 senators led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, who hoped Caesar’s murder would preserve the power of the Roman Senate against Caesar’s imperial designs. The soothsayer’s warning "Beware the Ides of March" will be immortalized in William Shakespeare’s 1599 play Julius Caesar.

  • In 1767…
    Andrew Jackson, the seventh U.S. president, is born in the Waxhaw area of South Carolina.

  • In 1781…
    British troops win a Pyrrhic victory at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, a battle that helps push them to Yorktown.

  • In 1820…
    Maine becomes the twenty-third state.

  • In 1892…
    In New York State, voting machines are first authorized for use in elections.

  • In 1916… 
    U.S. troops under General John J. Pershing cross the Mexican border in pursuit of Pancho Villa. This was a military operation conducted by the United States Army against the paramilitary forces of Mexican insurgent Francisco "Pancho" Villa from 1916 to 1917.

  • In 1917…
    Nicholas II, the last czar of Russia, abdicates the throne amid pressure from striking workers and military troops stationed in Petrograd during the February Revolution. The czar and his family will be executed in 1918.

  • In 1919…
    The American Legion is founded in Paris by veterans returning from Europe after World War I. This group included "Wild Bill" Donovan, the future head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) that became the CIA.

  • In 1964…
    Actress Elizabeth Taylor marries actor Richard Burton for the first time in Montreal. The high-profile couple, whose whirlwind romance was often the subject of Hollywood gossip, will divorce in 1974 only to remarry a year later.


Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)


Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Mexican Revolution…

Wikipedia: United States Involvement in the Mexican Revolution…

Wikipedia: Pancho Villa Expedition…

Wikipedia: Pancho Villa…

Wikipedia: John J. Pershing…

Wikipedia: Timeline of the Mexican Revolution…

Brainy Quote: REVOLUTION Quotes…


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