Almost Escapes on Villa’s Horse

This 1916 newspaper article is a first-person description of the abduction, experiences and release of a Mormon colonist in Northern Mexico by Pancho Villa’s forces just prior to and during his attack on Columbus, New Mexico. It provides some insight into Villa’s methods and motives.

Document Type: Newspaper Article
Historical Event: New Mexico Role in WW I Era (1916-1919)
Sub Event: Pancho Villa Invades NM
Origin: Western Liberal, Lordsburg, NM
Date: March 24, 1916
Author: Not Cited - Associated Press
Permission: Public Domain
Contributor: Dan Jones
Albuquerque Historical Society

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Digital Text:
ALMOST ESCAPES ON VILLA'S HORSE
Woman Ready to Mount When She Is Caught.
HEARS HUSBAND IS SLAIN
Mrs. Wright Says Mexican Rebel Chief Expected Help of Germany and Japan In Trouble With the United States.
El Paso. Tex. - Mrs. Maud Hawk Wright the American woman who rode nine days with the Villa troops preceding the raid on Columbus. N.M., learned that her baby, which had been taken from her and given to a Mexican family, was safe at Pearson, Mex., and that her husband had been murdered by the soldiers a short distance from their home. Mrs. Wright arrived in El Paso with Mrs. H. J. Slocum. wife of the 13th cavalry commander.
"I want to go to my baby," Mrs. Wright said. "It would only take me three days to walk to Pearson."
She was Informed that the child probably would be brought to Juarez on the train which is to bring the Mormon colonists.
Stoical, She Tells Story.
Dry-eyed and stoical after the terrible experience in which she had suffered hunger, thirst, exposure, facing almost inevitable death, in addition to the sorrow and worry over the loss of her husband and child. Mrs. Wright told her story to a representative of the Associated Press as though it were commonplace. She had suffered so much she apparently had lost all sense of fear. Because she suffered in silence, never complaining, and holding herself aloof from the horde of soldiers,
fugitives, derelicts and vagabonds on the border, she was called "La Reyna," queen of the Vilistas, by the troops. Villa had told one of the officers that he preferred to have her die of exhaustion rather than to kill her outright - and because she proved to be able to withstand hardships better than his own men he promised he would release her after he had sacked Columbus. He also agreed to give her $100 gold and a permit to travel unmolested through any part of Villa territory.
Villa Expected German Aid.
Villa only talked to me twice," Mrs. Wright said. "I avoided talking with him because he would have thought I admired him and would have forced me to accompany him. He told his officers how he would wipe out the town of Columbus and when the United States tried to invade the Mexican territory Germany and Japan would step in to intervene. Villa believed this firmly. I have overheard him make such remarks from time to time. Whether agents of these two countries are making him believe this or whether it is an idea which came to him I do not know. But he is convinced that he will be assisted in the fight he has started."
"How I wanted to escape to tell the people of Columbus about the attack! But I was watched all the time. The first night I was allowed to sleep in an abandoned adobe hut which was prepared for me. About thirty-saddles were piled In front of the door. The guards slept with their heads to the door, and their feet to a fire just beyond."
Tries to Flee on Villa's Horse.
"I lay down, but not to sleep. About midnight, I heard the snoring of the Mexican guards. I peered through the opening of the saddles and spied Villa's charger, a splendid steed, about fifty feet from the hut. One by one I removed the saddles and stepped over the sleeping forms until I reached the horse."
"The horse was tangled in his rope. I began to untangle the horse and then one of the Mexicans turned over. He saw something was wrong. I stood behind the horse. But the horse refused to stand still and it kept me busy keeping behind the animal. Finally the guard came out to where the horse was."
" 'What are you doing here?' I asked. 'What are you doing here?' he asked.
" 'Untangling this horse.' I replied. Then he finished the task I started. I longed for a hatpin, a dagger, a penknife, anything to kill the man. I could have shot him had I had a gun. But if I could have killed him I could have escaped, since none of the other horses could have overtaken me."
"I returned to the hut. From then on I was watched constantly. For three days and nights we were without fire in the frost-covered mountain country of northern Chihuahua. For thirty hours we were without water. But the soldiers often did without rather than see my canteen empty."
"When we neared Columbus Major Nicholas Hernandez, one of the meanest men
I have ever known, said I was to be given a rifle to kill the 'gringos' in Columbus. I told him I would shoot him first."
" 'I believe you would.' he said."
Mrs. Wright was guarded outside of Columbus, about 500 yards, while the
attack was made on the city. She asked to be released, but her guard said he must have Villa's consent. When the troops retreated she started toward Columbus. Villa, one of the last of the fleeing raiders, stopped beating his horse and men with his sword upon seeing her.
"Do you want to go home?" he asked.
"Do you mean to Mexico?" she asked.
"No. to the United States."
"Yes."
"Go." be said.
"May I take my mare and saddle?" She asked.
"Yes," be answered, and rode on.
Mrs. Wright then rode Into Columbus.

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