When the U.S. government officially recognized Villa's adversary and erstwhile ally Venustiano Carranza as Mexico's president in October 1915, tensions between the U.S. and Pancho Villa were high. To make matters worse, the United States also provided train transportation from Eagle Pass, Texas, to Douglas, Arizona, to transfer over 5,000 Carrancista forces to confront Villa at the Battle of Agua Prieta.
Pancho Villa Strikes Back
On January 10, 1916, members of Pancho Villa’s revolutionary army took revenge. In retaliation for President Woodrow Wilson's recognition of the Carranza government, they took 17 U.S. mining engineers from a train and shot 16 of them in cold blood. Then, on March 9, 1916, Pancho Villa led a group of hundreds of rebels across the border and raided Columbus town, killing 17 Americans. The Mexicans were pursued by U.S. troops, who killed 50 in the U.S. and another 70 in Mexico.
Villa Wanted: Dead or Alive
On March 15, Brigadier General John J. Pershing led a retaliatory mission into Mexico to apprehend Villa, alive or dead, per President Wilson's orders. Like Carranza, Pershing spent the next 11 months chasing Pancho Villa without success. The diplomatic crisis that ensued was fueled by Mexican anger over the United States' incursion into their country.
The issue reached a violent peak on June 21 when Mexican government troops attacked Pershing's forces at Carrizal, Mexico, leaving 38 Mexicans deceased and 17 Americans dead or injured. Towards the end of January 1917, the Mexican government exerted enough pressure to have the Americans return home after their goal to arrest Villa had failed.
A Long-Awaited Truce
Villa's guerilla actions continued until Adolfo de la Huerta gained control of the government and created a new constitution. Villa reached an amicable accord with Huerta and decided to step down from politics. The government pardoned him in 1920, but he was killed a few years later in Parral.