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Translation:The Americans in Mexico





The Americans in Mexico (1914)Edit

(Letters from our special envoy)

The letters from our envoy to Mexico, Mr. Louis Botte, that we publish today, tell us with detailed and chronological precision the seizure of Vera Cruz and how the news of the American invasion unleashed a patriotic riot in Tampico, the population of which had been indifferent to the internal war, the duel between the Huertistas and the Constitutionalists, but rose up ardently, suddenly armed, to resist the American attack which it believed menaced Tampico in turn. During these events and until the day before the seizure of Tampico by the revolutionaries [13 may], our correspondent was in that city. It was only a little later, when he returned to Vera Cruz, that he was able to obtain the very complete details that he gives us on the American seizure of the most important port in Mexico.

THE MEXICAN RESISTANCE IN VERA CRUZ, Vera Cruz May 1914Edit

On Tuesday 21 April at 1030 in the morning, the American representative in Vera Cruz advised our consul, Mr. Brouzet, that his government had ordered the immediate forceful occupation of the train station and customs building in the city. There was no earlier communication that might have predicted this decision. However, at 1050 hours the first invaders landed and a few moments later the cannons of the [USS] Prairie opened fire on this open city.

One might have been astonished that the American authorities should have warned the foreign powers of such an important event as the occupation and bombing of Vera Cruz so casually. The [Americans] made up, in part, for this carelessness a few days later. On 29 April, they communicated to all the [foreign] consulates the copy of a letter dated the 21st and addressed to General Maas, Governor [sic: military commander] of Vera Cruz, by Captain Huse, USN, Chief of Staff to Admiral Fletcher. In this letter, the signer demanded that the Governor [sic] hand over the town without any resistance or else he would be obliged to bomb the city. Now, did General Maas ever receive this letter? He swore upon his honor to this. Whatever the case may be, the trick/deception was played well enough to keep the neutral powers quiet. It must also be said that the American agents were probably surprised by the sudden change of war front from their government. The [American] military authorities also didn’t believe this operation would be imminent: no precautions had been taken and the American forces facing the town had never been so light. Only one battleship, the Florida, flying Admiral Fletcher’s flag, was anchored off the jetties, and the port sheltered only the cruiser-transport Prairie. This vessel, it is true, carried four companies of the 2nd Marine Regiment and a detachment of the Panama Regiment brought to the Mexican shores “for reason of health.” The other elements of this regiment were spread among the battleships at anchor, just off-shore. However, at about 1000 hours, the battleship Utah, sent from Tampico [sic: USS Utah was also at Veracruz but had been sent out to seek the Ypiranga], joined up with the Florida. A little earlier, a train full of Americans [civilians] coming from Mexico [Mexico City] had arrived at the station. All these people were leaving Mexico and embarked on the steamship Esperanza. As the last refugee stepped off the shore, the order for the invasion was issued.

While the Marines—that is to say the naval infantry—of the Prairie, about 350 men, left their ship and landed on the station wharf, those of the battleship Florida, accompanied by numerous sailors, making a group of the same size as the first, boarded into whaleboats, were towed by steam or gasoline launches and were taken to the port.

As soon as the battleships’ launches neared the wharf, the soldiers [i.e. the Marines and sailors], already massed in front of the train station, deployed in double columns and entered the station which they occupied with no resistance. Then, going through the buildings, they emerged in Montesinos Street near Independence Street and one section detached itself to go and take the office of the Telegraph and Telegram Company. At that moment, a first rifle shot is fired on the Americans but they passed by without responding. The column returned to the train station and continued its advance behind walls, all the way to Cinco de Mayo Street, where the column must follow the road. But it is occupied by a group of about ten Mexicans: soldiers, policemen and volunteers, that await for them in ambush at a corner. The Americans are immediately greeted with a fusillade which stops them firmly. Before responding the shooting, they await orders from their chief, Captain Busch, USN. Busch places at the end of the street a machine gun whose mowing fire sweeps the street clean. The [Mexican] shooters scatter but passers-by, completely unaware of what is going on, or gawkers, are wounded or killed.

It is now 1120 hours. The “Marines” and the sailors from the Florida, united in three companies with two Colt machine guns and two field guns of 76mm, are in turn assembled into a column in front of the train station. To reduce the visibility of their white uniforms and maybe also to avoid being confused with the Mexican shooters, also dressed in white, the sailors have doused their clothing in ochre yellow dyes, from coffee grounds or potassium permanganate. As a result their clothing had unexpected color nuances, making them appear somewhat wild. Once lined up, their column marched in a direction perpendicular to that taken by the “Marines” of the Prairie.

The Americans first occupy their consulate, then take the Mail Office and continue their progress toward the Customs House via Mirelos {sic: Morelos} street. There resistance is formed. From each corner of the street, from each balcony, from each terrace, rifles fire and revolvers shoot. The American line scatters. Even though they return fire at 100 to 1, they must move slowly, step by step, taking the street house by house. Bullets hit them without their knowing who fired them. In the library light tower, an able shooter holds the column all by himself quite a while. The guns from the Prairie, 120s, have to demolish [sic] the building to stop him.

It takes an hour for the American sailors to reach the Customs House, less than 200 meters away. They reinforce their position there. A little later, the sailors from the Utah arrive to reinforce them, and together, they will be renewing the fight but not until the following morning.

While the second column takes the Customs House, the first is still held up at the corner of Cinco de Mayo street. Rifle shots are fired on them from Independence Street as well, where it is necessary to aim a canon. The Mexican shooters are very few: 100 or so men at most, but they remain very dispersed and unreachable. There are already many dead, but these are for the most part careless sightseers. However, one detachment returns to the train station and covered by the rail cars piled up on the rail lines, succeeds in reaching and occupying the electrical plant.

That day, the Americans decide not to advance any further. They make a camp, barricading themselves as they can using boards, flour bags, barrels. At night, they fall to the ground, tired and exhausted by the unanticipated combat.

One can draw a first conclusion from that first day of operations. The 700 Americans who landed met only at most 200 isolated shooters. And, nevertheless, despite their advanced materiel and equipment, despite their numerical superiority, despite the canons and their machine guns, despite their elite officers, it took them a number of hours of combat to occupy only two streets where they were continually harassed. Upon the announcement of the disembarkation, the Mexican garrison, about 280 men under the command of General Maas, fought a retreating action. One can believe that it if had conducted a vigorous offense once the Americans had all landed and by their presence making gunfire from the ships impossible, it might have succeeded on that first day to throw the invaders back into the sea.

The Americans intended to occupy only the train station and the Vera Cruz Customs House. Due to the resistance that opposed them and the attacks upon them, they had to occupy the whole city or leave it. This is the first surprise and complication. They had just taken their first dangerous steps into the “Mexican hornet’s nest.”

During the night, major reinforcements arrive for the Americans. At about 2030 hours, the cruisers San Francisco and [at about 2350 h] Chester, which had left Tampico under full steam, arrive to anchor past the channel [sic: inner port]. Later, two groups of enormous battleships, with Vice-Admiral Badger, commanding the Atlantic Fleet, arrived in turn.

Before dawn, the landing corps, numbering about 350 men per battleship, land. They are organized into a brigade of three regiments of infantry with four battalions and a battalion of artillery under the overall direction of Admiral Fletcher. The 1st Regiment forms as a column in front of the Customs House; the 3rd Regiment is in a line in front of the train station and on Montesinos Street; the 2nd Regiment lands in front of the Customs House and along the wharves. Each regiment is commanded by a ship’s captain. It is also a ship’s captain that coordinates the movements of the entire brigade, made up of about 4,200 men.

As soon as it is formed up, the 3rd Regiment goes up Montesinos Street to the electrical plant, then turns to the left and divided into parallel columns, goes down to the south. The most distant units follow the rail line. These different groups encounter little resistance… The 1st Regiment also divided into columns parallel to the sea, follows Morelos, Zaragoza, and Independence streets, where some shots are fired from all sides. The guns from Prairie, San Francisco, and Chester energetically support the Americans, who advance only step by step. A shell aimed at the municipal palace hits the clock and stops the needles at 0712.

At the annex to the Hotel Diligencias, where some resistance takes place, the Americans fire at the windows and kill 10 persons. They have to dislodge shooters from the cathedral clock tower. But the greatest effort is made by the 1400 men of the 2nd Regiment who must face the 70 students [sic: the students were no longer present; they had left the night before] entrenched at the Naval Academy.

THE HEROIC DEFENSE OF THE NAVAL ACADEMYEdit

Having landed in front of the Customs House, the sailors of the 2nd Regiment advanced in tight lines, the captain at the head, towards the Naval Academy which they thought had been abandoned. All of a sudden, at less than 100 meters, from all the shutters shots ring out, while one window opens and a machine gun spits bullets. The American column wavers and falls off. Sailors of the first two ranks fall to the ground, the others break up and run seeking shelter. The captain remains the most exposed. He reforms his column, deploys them as skirmishers and throws them forward. But, once again, the machine gun breaks up the assailants and forces another retreat. A few moments later, the 1st Regiment approaches the Naval Academy in turn and seeks to surround it but it too is saluted by a lively fusillade which stops it short. All morning long (sic: about 0800 thru 1000 h] the American attack is stopped at this spot.

It must be ended. The commander of the Chester receives the order to bomb the building with his 120s. The shells fired at less than 800 meters open large holes in the Academy’s walls. The ceilings fall, the [interior] walls crumble: any further resistance is impossible.

[sic: the following account refers to similar actions that took place the day before, on the afternoon of the 21st] Vice-Admiral Assueta {sic: Azueta}, chief of the Mexican fleet, officer of the Legion d’honneur [sic?!], who had organized the defense of the young students, now orders them to retreat. But, in order to make that possible, two of them remain at their posts and continue to man the machine gun. When they fall, riddled with bullets, their comrades were saved. These two 16-year old heroes are Uribe and Jose Assueta [sic]. The first, hit by many bullets and by a shell burst, drags himself, all bloody, to his bed where he dies two hours later. The second, the son of Vice-Admiral Assueta [sic], hit three times by projectiles, was able to survive 15 [sic] days. These two young men and their 70 companions saved Mexican honor at Vera Cruz.

But the struggle isn’t over yet. As on the day before, a few volunteers, barely 150-200, but very mobile and cunningly hidden, set up in ambushes all over the city and shoot continually. Among them are soldiers, police men, and especially civilians, joined by some convicts liberated just then from Saint-John of Ulloa [sic: San Juan de Ulua]. (These are most likely trustees because the really dangerous individuals are still locked up and their presence hampers the Americans.) [The French verb “embarrasser” is most properly translated as “to hamper or encumber” but it has come to have a similar meaning to the modern English “to embarrass”, i.e. “to shame,” or “to humble.”]

The naval bombardment continues. One shell from the Chester reaches the house of the French Consul, goes through the walls and just misses killing Mme. Brouzet. Various shots reach the English cruiser Essex: that vessel’s purser is wounded in the foot. The Juares [sic: Juárez] monument, which served as shelter for three Mexican shooters is partly demolished. To chase off the defenders, the Americans breach the doors of houses and empty them of their inhabitants. Finally, at about 1700 hours, the three regiments meet at the Alameda, in front of the palace of the military government. Resistance is broken everywhere.

RESISTANCE IS CRUSHEDEdit

The Americans dig in, exhausted. They would be unable to put up an equal effort the following day. Fortunately for them, all that’s left of the city for them to deal with are straight wide streets that are lined by low one-story houses with slanted roofs which offer no shelter to defenders. Taking these quarters is easily carried out. But for ten days, every night, shots are fired on the sentinels, killing some of them. At the military hospital, for instance, five sick Mexican soldiers escape from their beds at about 2300 hours, go into the garden to dig up rifles, climb onto the roof and fire their weapons at the “gringo” soldiers. Then they return the rifles to their hiding places and go back to bed. The do it again the following day and the next until American soldiers are placed at night on the rooftops. For the first two nights of the occupation of Vera Cruz, the Americans announced 17 killed and 47 wounded, including 3 fatally. On the Mexican side, there have been 100 to 150 killed and 150 to 250 wounded, almost all by accident.

From the military viewpoint, the occupation which should have been carried out without meeting any opposition, with only 700 men, required more than 4000 men, despite the retreat of the garrison. And the battle lasted three days.

Afterwards, Admiral Fletcher, commander in chief of the troops landed at Vera Cruz, re-established order pretty quickly. The 22nd and 23rd he made the inhabitants leave their windows and doors open and lit all night long. On 26 April, he proclaimed martial law, applying it to the occupied areas but declaring that it would be extended to all the regions that the American forces would occupy. He also instituted searches that uncovered a thousand Mausers.

It must be said that the Americans acted with a minimum of brutality. They set themselves to repairing the damaged buildings and if they held all Mexican demands for indemnity until a final accounting, they were already taking care of foreign demands. They visibly tried to make themselves agreeable and sympathetic to the local population. By their efforts, foodstuffs had already been distributed to the needy and every day they organized concerts. The American flag was flown over the headquarters building, at the train station, only as of 28 April and not until the 30th at San Juan de Ulua. One had the feeling that, sure of their strength, they avoided any unnecessary mistreatment. The Mexicans keep quiet but one can clearly read their thoughts in their eyes: at the first opportunity they would display their hatred of the invaders. Already on 12 May, at the burial of the young Assueta [sic], and even though very few invitations had been sent out, more than five thousand people squeezed into Independence Street, on the Alameda, and at all the balconies. This was the silent protest of the vanquished.

As of the first days, all the officials of Vera Cruz, except for the city councillors, went on strike. The Americans brought in their own agents, giving notice to the locals to take up their duties. The city was organized into four districts. Then the troops, the sailors who disembarked first, then the regular army, were installed comfortably. The soldiers who were not put up in official buildings put up their tents, which double roofs, which would have made our officers in Morocco envious. Each had a bed with mosquito netting, a table and chairs, and complete aluminum mess kit. Dressed with a soft hat of grey-green felt, a flannel shirt with a wide scooped collar, baggy trousers, leather shoes and linen leggings, they are, generally, very well dressed.

It didn’t take long to organize Vera Cruz as a base of operations. On 1 May, after the arrival of reinforcements and materiel, General Fenstar [sic: Funston] took command of the troops ashore whereas Admiral Fletcher, with all the sailors, re-embarked. Currently, there are in Vera Cruz 11,000-12,000 men, which is a lot to occupy the town but not enough to go to Mexico [i.e. Mexico City].

A FORMIDABLE FLEETEdit

At Vera Cruz the Americans have concentrated all their naval forces of the Atlantic, under the command of Admiral Badger. He had raised his flag on the 27,000 ton battleship Arkansas. Vice-Admiral Fletcher, chief of the 1st Division, is still on the Florida. With him are the battleships North Dakota and Utah, all three of 21,000 tons. Vice-Admiral Busch, on the Louisiana of 16,000 tons, also commands the battleships Vermont, South-Carolina, New-Hampshire and Michigan, of similar size. Vice-Admiral Bealty [sic: Beatty], aboard the Georgia, of 15,300 tons, commands the 3rd Division which also includes the Virginia, the Nebraska, and the New-Jersey. Of the 4th Division, led by Vice-Admiral Mayo currently at Tampico with the Connecticut, only the Minnesota is at Vera Cruz. But one can see the biggest battleship of the world, the New York, of 28,000 tons, carrying the flag of Admiral Wireslon [sic:?], in the channel. Numerous auxiliary vessels are attached to these enormous ships: floating arsenals [literal translation of “arsenal flottant” but I presume there is a proper naval term, possible munition ships?], hospital ship, chartered ships, gun ships, torpedo boats [I have used this term totally arbitrarily; the French term is “contre-torpilleur” which the dictionary translates as “anti-destroyer.” I’m sure there is a proper naval term for such a vessel but I don’t know what it is.] used as couriers. One only rarely had the opportunity to see a fleet of similar strength and so well armed. But it could hardly help the Americans to advance in the interior….

As of 21 April, the news of the occupation of Vera Cruz reaches Tampico where it provoked an anti-American movement of which our correspondent, locked up in the town surrounded by the constitutionalists, was able to see the characteristic marks.

THE PATRIOTIC RIOT AT TAMPICOEdit

The big attack announced yesterday by the constitutionalists isn’t happening. The Federal officers appear very surprised that the rebels should have lied as this had never happened before. The heat, heavy and humid, is overwhelming. Every effort is painful. I have been at Tampico for only two days but I already understand why the people here seem to sleep from morning to night. At around 1600 hours, when the temperature is just about bearable, Captain de Bertier meets me and we go out together.

We have barely gone ten steps when we meet a Mexican, of French origin, to whom we were introduced yesterday by our consul. He greets us with a mysterious air, “Have you heard the news? All the cafes here are closed from 1300 hours by order of General Zaragoza. What do you think of this measure which will displease solid supporters of the government?”

We are all astonished, unable to find a reasonable explanation, when, a little further on, our guide is called by one of his friends: “Do you know why the American cruisers Des Moines, Chester, and Dolphin have just sortied from the river? I’ve just come from the port. The Des Moines, in leaving, had its canons aimed at the town. I saw artillerymen at the guns!”

We reach Constitution Square. The square is full of people of all classes talking animatedly. This time I am thoroughly intrigued: this is the first time I’ve seen Mexicans that excited! In front of the Town Hall the crowd was especially dense. Men wearing jackets —a sign that they know how to read-- surround a policeman writing on a blackboard. Around them, the masses of tanned “pelados” [this is a Spanish term, presumably a derogatory term for “peasants” or “laborers”], in shirt sleeves and wearing conical hats, are waiting for someone to tell them the news. Very intrigued, we ourselves approach and read:

“Bulletin 21 April 1914. As of this morning, at 1100 hours, our valiant troops are fighting at Vera Cruz against the foreign invader who, unfairly and in concert with the traitors who called them in, are trying to take our soil. The Nation calls on the support of its good sons, even at the price of their lives, in this struggle against those who seek to strip us of our wealth by force. Peace and good friendship to the foreigners who join with us and support our cause and merciless war on the unlawful invader who, without any justification, abuses his power. Inhabitants of Tamaulipas, do not stand by while the illegal invader treads on our soil.”

The Americans have occupied Vera Cruz? This is quite an event. We run to see General Zaragoza. The governor [sic: Zaragoza was not the governor of the state of Tamaulipas] is not present but one of his officers explains to us that President Huerta has refused to meet the requirements of the Americans with regard to the events of the 9th; he would only agree to an exchange of simultaneous salutes, with a written protocol relating the agreement. Another incident has been added to the first: the Mexican charge d’affaires in Washington had informed his government that the president demanded that Tampico be treated as neutral but President Huerta had refused to cede in any manner, and on any point, Mexican sovereignty. [I don’t think “neutral” is quite the right term in English, perhaps what is meant is to treat Tampico as a “free zone” where the US could do whatever it wanted.] Such are the two events which provoked the American armed intervention in Vera Cruz and which will lead them, most probably, quickly to occupy Tampico. The city is getting ready to resist them to the last man.

Just as the Americans were taking possession of Vera Cruz, Admiral Mayo telegraphed to the commander of the English cruiser Hermione, anchored in the Panuco, in front of Tampico, as follows: “The situation is decidedly strained.” At the same time he merely alerted the French vessel as follows: “The situation is somewhat strained.” What might be the reason for this difference in tone?

The news, now, has spread throughout the town. While awaiting the imminent American attack, the foreigners expect riots and maybe a massacre. The consuls warn their nationals to get ready to embark on the war ships. The English and their baggage are already piling up on the wharf, awaiting the arrival of boats from their cruiser Hermione to take them off. Our Descartes has not yet been able to enter the river because it draws too much water; it is too late today for its launches to cross the bar. It will therefore be necessary that a foreign vessel, English or German, take in our colony for a few hours. Our colony is actually small: only seven or eight French families or families of French origin. Of course, one thinks first of the vessel of a friendly nation, i.e. the English vessel. But she has presented all sorts of difficulties in taking our compatriots and will not provide shelter for them, and that only for the night, without the strong intervention of the English consul. Fortunately, this attitude of the commander is made up by the perfect courtesy of his officers who take great pains to make the refugees comfortable on their vessel.

Along with Captain de Bertier, we return to the hotel which is empty of its guests: almost all the Americans have already left. The German owner laments their departure. It is already nighttime; only a few lamps are lit. In the lobby, travelers count their baggage lined up along the wall. In the restaurant, only two or three tables are set. We take a seat at one of them. We have only just started our soup course when a muffled murmur which for some time already had been rumbling I don’t know where, grows louder and louder, coming nearer. The waiters rush to the windows and draw the curtains, the diners stop, the manager turns pale. The uproar is now quite close. It is coming towards us. It is the storm roar of a delirious crowd expressing its enthusiasm, demanding bread or blood. In front of the hotel a sort of dark wave spreads out and fills the street. It is a swarm of straw hats, felt hats, caps, bristling with bludgeons, over which green, white and red flags wave. We can hear the clamor that is rising: “Mueran los gringos! Mueran los gringos! Mueran!” “Death to the Americans! Death to the Americans! Death!”

Three, four, ten revolvers crack and tear the night with as many streaks of light. Some pieces of glass fall next to our tables. The diners get up. Suddenly the light goes out. I can hear the sound of our host crying out: “Yo no soy Gringo, yo soy Alemán. Alemán, amigos: Alemán.” [“I am not gringo, I am German. German, friends: German.”]

Maybe this plea is heard; or maybe the destructive ardor of the protestors is satisfied for the moment with five or six broken windows…But the crowd of patriots is already far away and is roaring vengefully elsewhere. Our host breathes and agrees to re-light the lamps. Then he goes to find a flag of his country, opens the door, slides into the street and quickly attaches the colors to the front of the building. They hang like a limp rag. Once the door closed again and locked, he comes over to us and asks us permission also to hang a French flag the following day. Two precautions are better than one…

The captain and I are the only ones still at table. This evening, however, service is very fast. The waiters, ordinarily so slow, scramble and rush us. We therefore finish our meal quite quickly when we hear once again the sound of revolvers and the repeated cries of “Mueran los gringos! Mueran los gringos!” It’s the riot coming back in our direction. This time, the courage of the waiters falters. They yell at us to leave. But, just like the rebels at the Iturbide bridge the other day, we want to pay our bill. The staff doesn’t listen to us anymore but runs away flipping the switches and leaving us standing there in the dark. The care of those people is excessive: this time the popular indignation only costs the hotel one window.

We return to our rooms where our host, abandoned by his staff, himself brings candles. All night long, we can hear the howling crowd go back and forth under our windows attacking the suspicious buildings, riddling the starry sky with bullets, and demanding to drink the blood of the perfidious “Gringos”, of which, fortunately, it finds not one.

22 AprilEdit

This morning the town still maintains an unusual appearance. All the police and the cavalry—the few men of the Victoria squad—patrol the streets to restore order. The riot has completely dissipated. It made more noise than damage. Only one shop, topped with an American flag, has been seriously damaged. The thousands of revolver shots fired by the protestors have wounded five or six persons. Those Americans still hiding in the town, e.g. the consul who sought refuge at the house of his English counterpart, head to the port under police protection.

We want to go back to the outposts to talk to the officers and find out their current feelings. We hail a carriage. Immediately, the coachman asks us, “Are you Gringos? No. Too bad. This morning I’m only taking Gringos because they will pay any amount to get out. Find a carriage elsewhere.”

We find another one who is willing to take us to the Iturbide bridge. We wanted to see Colonel Himorosa [sic: Hinojosa] to obtain his version of the incident for which he is responsible. But he has not left the confines of the barracks. Next we head to the Tampico Post but are overtaken by a speeding automobile. The Duty Officer tells that those people are a delegation to the rebels to invite them to join in peace in face of the foreign danger. We ask, “Do you believe the rebels will listen to those envoys?” The officer tilts his head, saying, “On the contrary, I fear they will hang them!”

We regain the town which is still very animated. There is a crowd, especially in front of the military government building. People are pushing each other, eager to get inside. They are volunteers demanding weapons.

The American consul who, early this morning, left the city in an English launch, meets up with Admiral Mayo at about 0800 hours. I have no idea how he reported the “riots” and the “attacks” of the night, but at 0830 hours, a wireless is sent out in the clear. Usually all the American dispatches are encoded. They want, this time, for all to know the six very expressive words of this telegram: “Birmingham and destroyers rush to Tampico!”

Less than an hour later, 13 smoke plumes can be seen on the horizon and a few moments later 13 torpedo boats [see note above] of 740 tons are aligned in two columns behind the Flag Battleship Connecticut. Almost immediately, four ships assume combat readiness and approach the channel. Not until 1230 hours does the cruiser Birmingham arrive at Tampico, despite the fact that she rushed at full speed. When the American ships near the town, we are on board the Mexican gunboat Zaragoza. Her commander, Captain Carvallo, is ashore in conference with the governor [sic: General Zaragoza] but his Number Two, Captain Aldrete, gives us a tour of his little vessel, already set for the looming battle. In order to monitor the movements of the “enemy” squadron we go ashore with the officer and we reach one of the oil tanks belonging to the Huasteca Company. From this high platform one can see all the surrounding region. At some distance, the small town of Tampico, white and pink, appears to be embedded in a silver loop of the Panuco river. All around, the flat countryside spreads out like a large green rug, spotted in black by the scattered oil tanks and torn by the brilliant surface of lakes. But the Mexican only sees, on the grey-blue sea, the small black plumes that slowly trace big [figures of] eight.

“Will you be able to stop those torpedo boats from reaching the town?” we ask him. Captain Aldrete responds, “Our guns and those of the Bravo, anchored next to us, will doubtless sink the first two and we may even be able to stop the third but the rest will surely sink us. But the three or four vessels sunk in the river will stop any others from coming up stream. And for a few days more Tampico will be safe.” This is the first time in Mexico that I have met a real man.

WHY THE AMERICANS DID NOT TAKE TAMPICO?

23 AprilEdit

Last night we expected an American attack on the city. Why hasn’t it taken place yet? Every day of delay will make the task more difficult. Three thousand rifles and cartridges have already been distributed to young volunteers who aren’t worried about the rebels but want to inflict death on all the Gringos.

The envoys sent yesterday to the rebels have not been hung. They return today carrying two letters, one addressed to General Zaragoza, the other for the American consul who they believe is still in the town. They won’t say anything about the results of their mission but from what they don’t say I believe the rebels accept the alliance with the Federals to fight the Gringos if the town will be handed back over to them. If not, they will join with the Gringos to take the town.

The entire French colony, except the consul who remains at his post, are now altogether on the Descartes. Captain Pervinguieres made great efforts to make everyone comfortable aboard and his efforts have gained him such good will that later no one will want to go ashore.

At 1230 hours the transport Dixie, 6,000 tons, arrives in the channel, full of troops. Without a doubt, the American occupation of Tampico is in the offing. A little later two torpedo boats head south.

24 AprilEdit

Having come to the port this morning, the launch from the Descartes departs at about 1100. As she went down river, the officer and men aboard heard violent canon fire which seemed to come from the barracks. The battle between the Federals and the rebels is on again.

Near noon, the battleship Connecticut leaves its anchorage and goes off to the north. She takes with her 700-800 American refugees. A little later, numerous launches leave the transport Dixie full of soldiers and transfers them to the torpedo boats. Next, the Dixie, along with the cruiser Wheling [sic: Wheeling], weigh anchor and flee to the south.

That evening, while we dine in the wardroom, the wheelman approaches the Officer of the Watch, “Lieutenant, two American torpedo boats, ready for action, leave their anchorage and are advancing on the channel, all lights out.” “This time,” someone says, “it’s the attack. Let’s eat quickly.” Ten minutes later, the wheelman returns, “The two other torpedo boats, ready for action, have just covered their lights and have headed off in the same direction as the first ones. Those have disappeared.” We abandon the meal to go up to the bridge. All the American torpedo boats, in succession, start their engines and then put out their lights. We listen closely to hear if canon fire or an explosion. But the distance is great and no sound reaches us. I think of Captain Aldrete, on the Zaragoza, who, at this very time, may be carrying out his final duty in blocking the mouth of the river with his dying vessel.

25 AprilEdit

Has Admiral Mayo gone into combat this night? Or has he merely prepared the attack? I jump into the first launch headed towards land.

I find all the American torpedo boats lined up in two columns holding the channel. Last night they only took up their combat positions. I am therefore not surprised, a little later, to find the Mexican gunboats back in their places.

I return once again to the outposts and I have the pleasure to meet a friendly Mexican officer at the Iturbide bridge. He tells me that reinforcements have arrived. i ask him about the fighting with the rebels last night. “No sir, we fired a few hundred canons but not a single rifle shot!”

When, a few moments later and while returning aboard, I pass by the Bravo and the Zaragoza, they fire their large guns on the field. I don’t see the rebels but the shells fall within my eyesight. Of the 10-15 shells I see fired, only two explode.

That afternoon, several American torpedo boats go south…

26 AprilEdit

This morning the Americans send off three more of their torpedo boats. Only the battleships Birmingham, Dolphin, and Des Moines and five destroyers remain in the channel. We are now pretty sure that they won’t attack the town. But why didn’t they occupy it a few days ago? I will only learn the reason later when I hear of the resistance of the people of Vera Cruz. The Americans must have had to send all their forces there and it became impossible then to occupy Tampico….

But their friends the rebels are there, very near, and it is they who will take the city.

Louis Botte