Wilson’s greatest foreign policy challenge came from south of the border, after revolutionaries killed Mexico’s president and replaced him with General Victoriano Huerta in 1913. Even though Wilson refused to bow to public pressure and declare war, he also refused to acknowledge Huerta’s claim to power. However, when Mexican officials illegally arrested American sailors in 1914, Wilson ordered the navy to seize the port of Vera Cruz, Mexico.
Huerta’s regime crumbled later that year, but another revolutionary, Venustiano Carranza, replaced him. In retaliation for the U.S. incursion at Vera Cruz, yet another rebel, Pancho Villa, took a small band of men and killed sixteen Americans while raiding a small town in New Mexico in 1916. Villa also hoped to start a war between his enemy Carranza and the United States. Under Wilson’s orders, General John J. Pershing and several thousand army regulars invaded Mexico and crushed Villa’s forces in 1916.