Francisco (“Pancho”) Villa was a revolutionist with an army in Mexico during the years just before World War I. In retaliation against American recognition in 1914 of the Garranza government in Mexico, Villa and his army shot 18 Americans at Santa Isabel in Mexico, and killed 17 persons during a raid they made on Columbus, New Mexico.
The U.S. government on March 15. 1916, ordered Major General John J. (“Blackjack”) Pershing and 12,000 U.S. Army troops to track down Villa and his army. The Liberty Independent Troop (Troop B, First Squadron, Georgia Cavalry) was placed on federal active duty and ordered to join in the search for Villa.
Members of the Liberty Independent Troop who were physically unfit, or had families solely dependent on them, were discharged from the unit in early June 1916. This left only 30 troops in the organization. A vigorous recruiting campaign was mounted by the unit in Tattnall, Evans, Wayne, and Liberty Counties. Five days later the organization was up to its authorized strength.
Captain Donald F. Martin Sr. was commander of the unit. Its officers were First Lieutenant T.P. Gordon and First Lieutenant Donald A. Fraser. There were changes in officer personnel after the unit arrived on the Mexican border. Martin and Gordon resigned from the service. Fraser was elected captain. R.G. Forsyth was assigned to the unit as first lieutenant, and Floyd E. Miller, a sergeant, was commissioned a second lieutenant.
The Liberty Independent Troop departed on a troop train from the Mclntosh railroad station on June 29, 1916, on the first leg of its journey to the Mexican border. A large crowd gathered at the depot to bid them a fond farewell. The scene, according to the Liberty County Herald, was “very affecting.”
U.S. troops never caught Villa. He was assassinated in Mexico in 1923. J.B. Gordon, a member of the Liberty Independent Troop, died at Camp Hancock on the Mexican border. His body was returned home for burial.
The Liberty Independent Troop remained on the Mexican border for 12 months. It returned to Liberty County at the beginning of April 1917.