Valdés, Pedro Advíncula [Col. Winker] (1837–1887)

By: Ben E. Pingenot

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1996

Updated: August 6, 2020

Pedro Advíncula Valdés, soldier and Indian fighter known as Colonel Winker, was born in 1837 in Allende, Coahuila, to D. Casimiro Valdés and Clara Laurel. His well-known nickname was derived from his middle name; the Indians called him "Huíncar," which became "Winker" when picked up by American soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan and Fort Clark in the 1870s. At an early age Valdés learned to handle firearms and not long thereafter moved to San Antonio with his family. While accompanying the wagons transporting produce to sell in San Antonio, he had his first encounter with Indians when the wagons came under attack. At age eighteen he returned to Mexico and became chief of the Rurales, a home-guard defense force organized to fight hostile Indians. His experience with the Rurales led Gen. Mariano Escobedo and Colonel Naranjo to place Valdés in command of a guerrilla force to fight the French army that Emperor Maximillian had sent to the north. On April 4, 1865, with only eighty to 100 men, Valdés routed a larger opposing force in which the French commander, Colonel Tabachinski, was ambushed and killed. Altogether, Valdés killed and took prisoner 300 men at Arroyo de Tío Díaz in what came to be known as the battle of Rosales. The Juárez government awarded Valdés the Cross of Gold, a decoration reserved for most distinguished service. Later, as colonel in chief of the Rurales of Monclova and the District of the Rio Grande, Valdés participated in the battle of Querétaro and the capture and execution of Emperor Maximillian in 1867. After the reestablishment of the Juárez government, Valdés was commissioned a colonel in the Mexican army and assigned to Coahuila to fight the hostile Apaches and Kickapoos.

In the fall of 1871, while Valdés was commanding a garrison at Piedras Negras, a new revolution, led by Porfirio Díaz, began in Mexico. By December, General Falcón, a supporter of Díaz, had assembled an army of 1,300 men and laid siege to the town of Piedras Negras, where Valdés, still loyal to Juárez, held sway. Since Piedras Negras was an easily defended adobe village, the siege lasted for months. During several assaults by the Falconistas, Valdés led counterattacks to drive them back. The only hope of breaking the siege lay in provoking some kind of interference from the United States military at Fort Duncan. Every time shooting broke out, Valdés saw that a shower of bullets would drop on Eagle Pass and Fort Duncan. The commanding officer of Fort Duncan, Maj. Zenas R. Bliss, notified Valdés that if the rain of lead did not stop, he would fire on Piedras Negras. The note had the desired effect, for the firing ceased almost immediately. On a stormy night in February 1872, Valdés, who had been wounded in the fighting, appeared at Bliss's quarters at Fort Duncan. A few days later Valdés abandoned Piedras Negras before dawn and led his defenders across the river to Eagle Pass. Bliss had the Mexican soldiers rounded up and put under guard. A day or so later Bliss paroled Valdés to go to the department headquarters in San Antonio to try and get his men released. Valdés instead broke his parole and went to Laredo, where he raised another force and attempted to cross into Mexico with it. Col. Edward S. Meyer at Fort McIntosh arrested and detained him, this time for about three weeks. When Juárez died in July 1872, Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, chief of the Supreme Court, succeeded him as interim president and granted amnesty to all political offenders. Upon his release from custody, Valdés recognized that Díaz would soon become president, and he went to Mexico with his men and joined Falcón. As a colonel in the army of Porfirio Díaz, Valdés continued to serve on the northern frontier and played a leading role in eliminating the Indian menace. In the 1870s hostile Indians, under pressure from both the United States and Mexican armies, sought sanctuary in the mountains of northern Coahuila. The Indians would strike remote settlements in Texas and then cross back into Mexico. United States army forces making forays into northern Coahuila in pursuit of Apache raiders sometimes encountered Mexican army units led by Valdés. Although Valdés avoided firing on the Americans, his opposing presence brought about a prompt withdrawal of United States troops from Mexican soil.

Valdés settled his family at the Hacienda de María near the Rio Alamos. After the death of his first wife, Cleofas Salinas, he married Louisa Brown on February 24, 1875. In 1883, while in command of the Sixth Cavalry Regiment at Sabinas, under Gen. Gerónimo Treviño, a daughter was born to them. Valdés had been plagued for years by a wound he had received in the battle of Rosales, and this and other injuries sustained from years of campaigning forced him to retire. Many stories have been told about Valdés that have made him an almost legendary figure along the border. Gen. Luís Alberto Guajardo, who received his commission from Valdés in 1881, told delightful tales about his chief. J. Frank Dobie told one of Guajardo's stories about Winker's horse, Prieto, and how he saved Valdés's life by lying down so his wounded master could crawl upon him. The horse then brought the semiconscious officer back to his camp. While Valdés recuperated on the second floor of his home, Prieto would ascend an outside stairway to his master's room. There Valdés would give the horse a ration of corn, and after eating Prieto would descend the stairs. Despite his renown as an Indian fighter, Valdés was not without compassion. On one campaign he found two Indian girls abandoned after a previous raid by troops he had not commanded. He took the girls home with him and brought them up in his household. Colonel Valdés died at Hacienda de María on August 13, 1887. Prieto held an honored position in the funeral procession. Valdés was buried at San Juan de Sabinas, a village near what is now Sabinas, Coahuila. His body was later moved to Piedras Negras.

Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Mexico (6 vols., San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft and the History Company, 1883–89). Jack Autrey Dabbs, The French Army in Mexico, 1861–1867 (The Hague: Mouton, 1963). T. R. Fehrenbach, Fire and Blood: A History of Mexico (New York: Macmillan, 1973). Edward S. Wallace, "General John Lapham Bullis, the Thunderbolt of the Texas Frontier," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 54, 55 (April, July 1951). Ernest Wallace, ed., Ranald S. Mackenzie's Official Correspondence Relating to Texas (2 vols., Lubbock: West Texas Museum Association, 1967, 1968).

  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Military
  • Soldiers
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Ben E. Pingenot, “Valdés, Pedro Advíncula [Col. Winker],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1996
August 6, 2020