War and Conflict

Mexican Revolution

Why did the U.S. government send troops after Pancho Villa?

Pancho Villa (1878–1923) was sought by the U.S. government because in 1916 he and his followers attacked Americans on both sides of the border. In 1915 the United States decided it would back the acting chief of Mexico, Venustiano Carranza (1859–1920), even as he faced attacks from two of his fellow revolutionaries, Emiliano Zapata (1879–1919) and Pancho Villa. Four years earlier, Villa had himself sought to control Mexico after the fall of President Porfirio Díaz. When the United States cut off the flow of ammunition to the rebels, Villa, who was a fierce fighter, earned himself a reputation as a bandit, seeking revenge on Americans in Mexico by stopping trains and shooting the passengers. In 1916 Villa raided the small New Mexico village of Columbus, where he killed 18 people. The attack prompted President Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924) to send U.S. soldiers to hunt Villa down and capture him. Though thousands of men were put on the initiative under General John Pershing (1860–1940), they never caught up with the bandit. Wilson withdrew the forces from Mexico after the government there expressed resentment for the U.S. effort—which the Mexican people, President Carranza included, viewed as a meddlesome American interference in the Mexican Revolution (1910–20). The revolution ended three years later, after 10 years of fighting and disorder.


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