Even as Villa was no longer a major threat to Carranza and Obregón he accomplished something that fired the imaginations of all Mexicans and insured a place for him among the pantheon of national heroes. This was his raid on the United States at Columbus, New Mexico. Villa, who believed he had always been generous with Americans and sensitive to American interests, felt betrayed by President Woodrow Wilson and his administration, who officially recognized Carranza as the legitimate leader of Mexico. In addition, the Wilson administration helped Carranza militarily. In March 1916, Villa’s soldiers lead a strike against the town of Columbus, New Mexico, just west of El Paso, Texas. Eighteen Americans and ninety of Villa’s men were killed and part of the town burned. Desperate for provisions and ammunitions, the Villistas followed up in May 1916 with smaller raids on Boquillas and Glenn Springs, Texas.

These raids caused Villa and his men to be seen in the United States as bandits rather than revolutionaries, although many in Mexico saw him as an avenger of American oppression. By September, 200,000 U.S. troops were active along the border, with 40,000 in the El Paso region alone, and U.S. authorities rounded up Mexicans in the region. Although Venustiano Carranza apologized for Villa's attacks in an effort to prevent U.S. punitive action and an invasion of Mexico, President Woodrow Wilson ordered American troops under the command of General John J. Pershing to cross the border in pursuit of Villa. Wilson also federalized state militias and ordered all troops to the border. The evidence that Villa had actually participated in the raids is not conclusive, but for the next eleven months Pershing pursued Villa, unsuccessfully, across Northern Mexico. The expedition failed in part because of the intense hostility of the local population toward the American invaders. and their refusal ever to reveal Villa's whereabouts.

Carranza responded in turn, sending forces north to halt Pershing's incursion. By January 1917, U.S. troops withdrew. Over the next four years, sporadic fighting continued throughout the northern states between Carranza's Federal army, Villa's rebels, and the U.S. troops sent to capture Villa and bring him to justice.

Obregón overthrew Carranza in 1920, and on 20 May, while fleeing to Veracruz, Carranza was assassinated. While Obregón was preparing to run for president, the interim chief executive, Adolfo de la Huerta, signed a peace treaty with Villa on 28 July 1920. Villa surrendered and retired from the revolution and was given an hacienda in Canutillo, Durango, and an annual pension. On 20 July 1923, Villa and three companions were killed when his car was sprayed by bullets in Parral, Chihuahua.

Today Villa is remembered with pride by most Mexicans for having led some of the most important military campaigns of the revolution, in which his troops were victorious as far south as Zacatecas and Mexico City. Because of Villa's Columbus escapade and subsequent evasion of U.S. troops, he is also often cited as the only foreign military personage ever to have "successfully" invaded continental U.S. territory.

Here is an excerpt from one of the many corridos about Pancho Villa. This excerpt evokes his loss of the Battle of Celaya.

What horrible carnage!
Oh, what terrible moments!
How they mowed down the Villistas
With their machine guns!

Poor Villa’s men lamented
“No one fears us much anymore
everywhere we wander
we seem like armadillos.”

Obregón defeated Villa
who was the main mover
and that ended the glory
of the vaunted División del Norte.

¡Qué horrible carnicería!
¡Ay, qué terribles las horas!
¡Como mataban villistas!
con las ametralladoras!

Decían los pobres villistas.
--Ya no semos tan temidos,
por dondequiera rodamos
parecemos armadillos--

Obregón derrotó a Villa
que era el principal resorte
y se acabó la gloria
a esa División del Norte.