For more than eight decades historians, documentary film producers, folklorists, and scribblers have been fascinated by Pancho Villa’s March 9, 1916, raid on the tiny New Mexico border town of Columbus. Villa’s motivations for raiding Columbus are, even today, still debated by historians of the Mexican Revolution. One of the most enduring legacies of the raid was the fate of Villa’s troops captured during the raid and subsequently during the so-called Punitive Expedition commanded by General John J. ‘Black Jack’ Pershing.
The majority of Villa’s 484 men who attacked Columbus were recruited at gunpoint and told to fight or be shot. Those captured during the raid were later tried for murder–some hanged, some sentenced to long terms in the New Mexico State Penitentiary in Santa Fe.
Although the Villista prisoners of the Columbus Raid have received some scholarly attention in the past, James W. Hurst has now provided us with an excellent, definitive history of their story and fate.