Pascual Orozco, Jr., Mexican revolutionary leader, was born on the Hacienda de Santa Inez, near San Isidro, Guerrero, Mexico, on January 28, 1882, the son of Pascual Orozco, Sr., and Amada Orozco y Vásquez. Shortly thereafter the family moved to San Isidro, where Orozco attended school for four or five years. At the age of twelve or thirteen he went to work in his father's store, and in his late teens he married Refugio Frías. From 1902 to 1910 Orozco worked as a muleteer, transporting precious metals, mostly silver, for several large mining companies in the Chihuahua mountains. He also opened a mercantile store in Estación Sánchez and eventually bought a gold mine. He soon acquired a substantial fortune, but like many other Mexicans, he was chafing under the prolonged reign of the dictator Porfirio Díaz. In October 1906 Orozco was reported reading antigovernment material in San Isidro, and in May 1909 he and José Inés Salazar, later one of the leading Orozquista generals, were reported purchasing arms and ammunition in the United States and taking them to Mexico on behalf of the Flores Magón brothers, revolutionaries living in exile in St. Louis, Missouri. Orozco did not fully commit himself to the revolutionary movement in Mexico, however, until October 1910. After Francisco I. Madero issued his Plan de San Luis Potosí, calling for a series of revolutionary uprisings against the Díaz government, the Club Anti-Reeleccionista Benito Juárez began recruiting potential leaders in Chihuahua. On October 31 Orozco was appointed revolutionary chief in the District of Guerrero.
He withdrew recognition of the Díaz government in San Isidro on November 19, 1910, and quickly became a leading military hero of the revolution. Eight days later, a portion of his force ambushed Gen. Juan Navarro at Pedernales and won the first important revolutionary victory over regular federal forces. Ciudad Guerrero fell to the rebels in early December. After ambushing federal troops in Cañon de Mal Paso on January 2, 1911, Orozco reportedly ordered his men to gather up all the caps and clothing of the dead federals and sent them to Díaz with the taunt, "Ahí te van las hojas, mándame más tamales" ("Here are the wrappers, send me more tamales.")
In the spring of 1911 Madero promoted Orozco to colonel, and then to brigadier general. On May 10 Orozco and Francisco (Pancho) Villa took Ciudad Juárez; on the following day Madero made the city his provisional capital and named a provisional cabinet, including Venustiano Carranza as minister of war, a position Orozco had coveted. On May 13 Orozco and Villa broke into a cabinet meeting and demanded the resignation of the cabinet and the appointment of new ministers who had actually fought for the revolution. Madero faced them down on this occasion, but the confrontation foreshadowed the schism to come.
After Díaz resigned on May 25, an estimated 30,000 people greeted Orozco upon his arrival at Chihuahua City, and the provisional government appointed him commandant of the rurales in the state of Chihuahua. At this point, however, Orozco made a serious miscalculation, allowing the Club Independente Chihuahuense to draft him as a candidate for governor. He immediately came under attack from the supporters of the Madero government and was forced to withdraw on July 15. After this episode his loyalty to the Madero government was always suspect. He was rumored to be involved with the anti-Madero plots of Bernardo Reyes and Emilio Vásquez Gómez in late 1911, although he repeatedly denied any involvement in these movements and played an active role in the successful January 1912 campaign against the Vasquistas. In that same month, however, he clashed again with Madero, who reportedly asked him to put down the movement led by Emiliano Zapata in southern Mexico. Orozco refused; although he and Zapata apparently never met, there was obvious sympathy between them. Orozco tendered his resignation on January 26, but Madero refused to accept it. In early February, however, the Vásquez Gómez movement grew stronger in Chihuahua, and the state legislature voted to replace the weak governor Aureliano González with Orozco. Rather than associate himself more closely with the federal government, however, Orozco again submitted his resignation, and this time Madero accepted it.
On March 3, 1912, Orozco announced his revolt against the Madero government, thereby lending the anti-Madero movement instant credibility. Many denounced him as an opportunistic traitor. The rest of the month saw a series of rebel triumphs, although one of them caused Orozco a good deal of embarrassment and cost him American support. After the battle of Hidalgo del Parral on March 20, Orozco's old colleague General Salazar executed an American citizen, Thomas Fountain, who had been fighting in Villa's army. Even more damaging to the Orozquista movement was the arms embargo passed by the United States Congress on March 14. President William Howard Taft immediately prohibited all future exports of military supplies to Mexico. At first, however, the resourceful Orozco was undeterred. His forces began stealing cattle from the ranches in northern Mexico, selling them in the United States, and buying arms and ammunition there.
The Battle of Rellano, on March 23, was the high-water mark of the Orozquista military campaign. Two days after it Orozco issued his Plan Orozquista, which called for the abolition of company stores, the payment of all workers in legal tender rather than company scrip, and other reforms. At this point Madero appointed Victoriano Huerta to replace José González Salas as field commander against Orozco. In early May, Vásquez Gómez proclaimed himself provisional president, with his capital in Juárez, but Orozco refused to recognize his administration and forced him to leave the country shortly thereafter. But Orozco's fortunes began to wane. In May the United States formally closed El Paso as a port of entry, cutting off Orozco's main source of supplies. Huerta led his troops to victories over Orozco at Conejos on May 12, in the second battle of Rellano on May 22–23, and at Bachimba in late June. Soon he had pushed Orozco north all the way to Juárez, and on August 16 Huerta took that city as well. The Orozquista army split up and carried on guerrilla warfare in northern Chihuahua. Although they defeated the federals at Ojinaga on September 11, Orozco was wounded in the battle and crossed into the United States. American officials tried to apprehend him for questioning in Fountain's death, but he eluded them. He went to St. Louis and Los Angeles to drum up support for his movement and returned to Chihuahua in early December. He was in poor health, however, due to periodic attacks of rheumatism, and unable to take part in the military campaign.
Huerta's successes against Orozco had given him larger ambitions. He had Madero arrested and executed on February 22, 1913, and installed himself as president. In the north Villa, Carranza, and Álvaro Obregón immediately announced their opposition to Huerta. Orozco, however, agreed to support Huerta if certain reforms were implemented; when Huerta agreed, Orozco publicly announced his support on February 27. In May Huerta sent Orozco to the north, where he temporarily succeeded in slowing Villa, but there was no stopping the Constitutionalist forces. In late December 1913 the federals retreated to Ojinaga, which fell to Villa on January 10, 1914. Orozco escaped from Ojinaga and fled across the Rio Grande. He was said to have hidden for several days in Shafter, then caught a train for New Orleans, where he took ship for Veracruz. In fact, he apparently made his way south, through the Constitutionalist lines, and reached Torreón on January 25, 1914. Huerta promoted him to division general in February, but Orozco had backed a loser; Huerta submitted his resignation to Congress on July 15.
Orozco immediately announced his opposition to the government of interim president Francisco S. Carbajal. On August 3 he took León, Guanajuato, but was forced to evacuate the city three days later. By September he was heading for Texas again. After visiting San Antonio he went on to St. Louis, Washington, and New York. Orozco returned to New York in early May of the next year to confer with his former enemy Huerta about plans for launching a revolution from American soil. On June 27 the two were arrested in Newman, New Mexico, charged with conspiracy to violate United States neutrality laws, taken to El Paso, and held at Fort Bliss. Huerta and Orozco were freed on bonds of $15,000 and $7,500, respectively, but placed under house arrest due to the proximity of the Mexican border. After Orozco somehow managed to escape on July 3, Huerta was rearrested. For almost two months Orozco eluded the American authorities. On the morning of August 29, 1915, he and four companions, reportedly en route to a rendezvous with supporters at Bosque Bonito, in Mexico, rode up to the headquarters of the Dick Love ranch, near Sierra Blanca in Hudspeth County. They ordered the cook to prepare a meal and shoe their horses, but their breakfast was interrupted when they saw Love and two of his men driving up in an automobile. The Mexicans fled on stolen horses, with Love and his men in pursuit. That night a posse of some fifteen men, including federal marshals, deputy sheriffs, and troops of the Thirteenth Cavalry, was organized to pursue them. On the afternoon of August 30 the posse caught up to them in the Van Horn Mountains, eight miles south of Lobo, and shot them to death from the rims of Green River Canyon. Only then, according to their official report, did the members of the posse realize that their quarry had not been common bandits.
Many in El Paso, San Antonio, and other centers of Orozquista sentiment were outraged by the circumstances of Orozco's death, and for a time Anglo residents of the Trans-Pecos feared reprisals. Orozco's body was taken to Van Horn, where it was embalmed. Villa announced that Orozco's family could bury him in Mexico, but his widow disdained the offer. Orozco was buried in Concordia Cemetery, El Paso, on September 3, 1915, with a crowd of some 3,000 in attendance. He was interred in the uniform of a division general of the Mexican army, and a Mexican flag was draped over his coffin. The members of the posse that killed him were indicted on October 7, but tried and found not guilty the following day. In 1923 Orozco's remains were moved to Chihuahua.