1024 867 The Campaign for the National Museum of the United States Army

Three Days in March: El Paso, the U.S. Army, and the Escobar Revolution of 1929

Written By: G. Alan Knight

Once again, El Paso, Texas, found itself dragged into the chaotic world of Mexican political and military strife for three tension-filled days in March 1929.  While fatalities were few and property damage light, the potential for conflict with Mexico was a very real possibility.  The situation in neighboring Ciudad Juarez resulted from the armed clashes between the Mexican Federal Army troops of the city’s garrison commanded by General Manuel J. Limon, Commandant, District of Juarez, his superior, General Matias Ramos, and the insurgent or Escobarista commander, General Miguel Valle.  General (General de Division) José Gonzalo Escobar, the organizer of the insurgency whose name is attached to it, was not directly involved in Juarez until after the March 1929 incidents.  Juarez, the largest city in northern Mexico, was central to rebel success as it was a key port of entry for foreign imports, including materiel of military value.  It was also a major railroad center.

During the March 1929 crisis along the U.S.-Mexican border at Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, Brigadier General George Van Horn Moseley commanded the 1st Cavalry Division at nearby Fort Bliss. (Collection of Colonel Henry G. Moseley, USA-Ret.)

On the American side of the border was fifty-four-year-old Brigadier General (later Major General) George Van Horn Moseley, commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division headquartered at Fort Bliss, Texas, and dual-hatted as the post commander.  Known throughout the Army’s senior ranks for his initiative, forcefulness, courage, and skills in personal diplomacy, Moseley, a member of the U.S. Military Academy’s (USMA) Class of 1899, would be tested as he sought to prevent the violence in Juarez from spreading across the Rio Grande into El Paso and endangering American lives and property.  While he displayed a talent for dealing effectively and harmoniously with key civilian officials in El Paso, Moseley’s proclivity for acting independently when he deemed it necessary created difficulties at both the War and State Departments.

The background to the events of March 1929 is convoluted.  There was active resistance to the established government in Mexico City by substantial elements of the Mexican military, the rebellion of ten states, and a degree of connectivity to the religiously-motivated Cristero Rebellion of 1926-1929, in which numbers of the religiously disaffected fought as insurgents under Escobar, seeing in the revolution some hope of achieving their goals.  One of Escobar’s decrees removed the widely-resented government restrictions on the Catholic Church in Mexico.

There appears to be no agreement on what motivated Escobar to lead a revolt of the generals, an uprising known variously as the Escobar Revolution, the Railroad and Banking Rebellion, or Ejercito Renovadora.  He has been viewed as a patriot intent on saving his country and becoming the provisional president, replacing interim President Portes Gil, a senior officer bitterly disappointed at not being named war minister, or a shameless intriguer.  Historian John W.F. Dulles suggests that plans for a revolt were already well underway as early as December 1928 but had been placed on hold until the opportune moment for action arrived.  That moment came in March 1929 in the state of Coahuila, where Escobar proclaimed himself chief of a liberation movement and what he called Ejercito de Revolucion.  It is estimated that about a third of all military officers of the Mexican Federal Army and approximately 30,000 enlisted men rebelled.

The narrative of the events involving El Paso and Juarez began on 6 March 1929 and was succinctly recounted in a late evening telegram from Moseley to Major General William Lassiter, commander of VIII Corps Area headquartered at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio and Moseley’s immediate superior in the chain of command.  Lassiter, an 1889 graduate of USMA, had served with Moseley on the War Department General Staff prior to World War I.  The fact that each officer knew each other probably facilitated the working relationship prior to and after the events of 6-8 March.  Lassiter would truly be “the man in the middle” reporting developments in El Paso to the War Department and in turn receiving instructions relayed to him along with providing his own guidance to Moseley.

While Moseley apprised Lassiter of the situation, he clearly was already responding somewhat independently with the War Department.  Initially, officials at both the War and State Departments became aware of the border crisis through press accounts.  The State Department was especially concerned about this military intrusion into what it viewed as a diplomatic matter fraught with danger to U.S.-Mexico relations and brought it to the attention of President Herbert Hoover, who summoned several cabinet members and the Army’s Chief of Staff, General Charles P. Summerall, to the White House.  By the time the State Department interceded, the crisis in El Paso was resolved.

The gist of Moseley’s late evening telegram on 6 March was that Albino Frias, Chief of Police in Juarez (soon to disappear and re-surface as an insurgent), had returned that day following a meeting with General Marcelo Caraveo, the rebel Chihuahua governor and commander of the Escobar forces in that state.  Frias subsequently recommended that the city and the Federal garrison capitulate to the rebels (the Escobaristas), thus avoiding an armed clash.  The hapless mayor apparently agreed and was promptly jailed for his views deemed clearly subversive in a city still under rather tenuous Federal control.

Moseley went on to say that on that evening, he met with the Federal Generals Matias Ramos and Ignacio Flores, who had been flown in via Brownsville from Mexico City, and with Enrique Liekens, Mexican Consul General in El Paso.  It appeared that they had gone to Fort Bliss and met with Moseley in his quarters.  Moseley’s wording in a telegram to Lassiter briefly led his superior to believe that he had specifically favored them in his invitation to them as opposed to simply seizing an opportunity to convey U.S. concerns.

Despite the defensive efforts of Limon, about which they were probably aware from being briefed by Consul General Liekens, the two visiting generals advised Moseley that they had arrived to stiffen the Juarez Federal garrison’s resistance to the expected rebel assault and take command of Federal forces in Northern Chihuahua.  Undoubtedly, the threat of losing this critical city was behind the decision of the government in Mexico City to send the two.  Moseley lost no time in pointing out that their arrival was probably too late.  Based upon an estimate of the developing tactical situation by him and by his staff, he suggested that there was a high likelihood of gunfire and the possibility of rounds landing in El Paso causing loss of life and property.  Though it is unclear who made the initial decision on the strategy for defending Juarez, Ramos indicated the Federal Army would not engage the rebels on the city’s southern edge but make a stand in the city’s center.

Moseley also voiced his concern about preventing a repeat of Pancho Villa’s 1910 attack on Juarez that killed several civilians, in addition to several past incidents in which residents of Juarez had been deliberately accused of firing into El Paso in an effort to secure the involvement of the U.S. Army to protect them from rebel force.  Clearly this was not something neither Moseley nor the American government would tolerate.  While not eschewing an incursion into Mexico, Moseley was clear he was not going to respond on the basis of provocation.

Moseley’s last paragraph in the telegram to Lassiter was quite explicit: In the event bullets fall on this side, endangering life and property, I request authority to take such action with the troops under my command to fully safeguard our interests, moving troops into Mexican territory, if necessary.”  Clearly, he was prepared to cross the border but not in an effort to back one side against another.

General José Gonzalo Escobar sits in his railcar in northern Mexico sometime in 1929. While Escobar led the insurgency that bore his name, he was not directly involved the fighting around Juarez and El Paso in March 1929. (Collection of Colonel Henry G. Moseley, USA-Ret.)

On 7 March 1929, Lassiter responded by telegram at 0957.   He directed Moseley to communicate with both the Mexican Federal forces and the insurgents, delivering the message that their actions must not endanger American lives.  He continued,Unless such fire ceases, you will take the necessary measures for protection.  It may be possible by the use of artillery fire to drive back the parties producing the dangerous fire and avoid crossing the border but in the event of actual necessity and the failure of other means the tactical movements essential to the accomplishment of the mission will be the paramount consideration regardless of the boundary line.” Lassiter concluded, “Is essential you avoid taking sides the two parties or showing special regards either party.”  In the abbreviated language of the last paragraph Lassiter was clearly referring to the 6 March visit of Generals Ramos and Flores, along with Consul General Liekens to Fort Bliss in which he thought Moseley had deliberately favored the Federals.

The drumbeat of war continued. Early that morning word had been received that there was a strong advancing rebel force only twenty-five miles from Juarez.  It was under the command of General Valle, Chihuahua’s insurgent army commander and the key subordinate of General Caraveo, insurgent governor of the state.  In an interview on 8 March, Valle spoke with reporters on a troop train south of Juarez consisting of fifty-four cars and approximately 1,600 soldiers.  He indicated that his train, on the tracks of the Mexican National Railroad, would be joined near Juarez by other revolutionary forces arriving on the Mexican Northeast Railroad.  Positioned to meet the insurgents was a Federal force of around 1,000 men at Juarez deployed in seven major positions.  Moseley knew that General Limon, Commandant of the Juarez garrison, was uncertain about the loyalty of his troops and indeed unsure of the loyalty of his own staff to the Mexican government, although he was committed to making a stand.  Apparently Caraveo received a strongly worded message from the U.S. Consul in Chihuahua City, Mexico, on 7 March that drastic action would be taken by the U.S. Army if rounds fell on American territory.  He acknowledged receipt of the message and advised that his subordinates had been instructed accordingly.  Moseley was advised of the delivery of the message and Caraveo’s response.

Ramos and his subordinate, General Limon, had continued somewhat frantically to organize the defense of Juarez on 7 March.  On the American side of the Rio Grande, troopers of the 7th Cavalry, a subordinate element of the 1st Cavalry Division, were placed on standby at Fort Bliss.  Moseley held a morning staff call and, after conferring with key personnel, ordered three armored cars and two railroad cars with 75mm artillery pieces mounted on them to be situated in the vicinity of the two international bridges linking El Paso and Juarez.  The artillery was pointed to Juarez, positioned “…as a word of warning from the U.S. government.”  Two armored cars were placed behind buildings and a third was camouflaged.  The regular military police (MP) detachment at the international bridge was increased from one warrant officer and thirteen enlisted men to a total of forty-four personnel.  This was done in anticipation of the possible need to deal with the crossing of armed men from Mexico seeking asylum in the United States.  The MP detachment was ordered to stay under cover and maintain a low profile.  According to a newspaper report dated 8 March 1929, American forces consisted of 175 officers and 2,600 men at Fort Bliss with a reserve of 512 officers and 7,038 men at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

The 1st Cavalry Division did not have suitable air assets available for reconnaissance purposes at the time.  To rectify this, on 7 March, Lassiter dispatched two observation aircraft (each with a pilot and an observer) from Kelly Field in San Antonio to Fort Bliss. Arriving at 1100 on 7 March, the two aircraft under the command of Second Lieutenant O.P. Wayland flew observation missions that afternoon both east and west of El Paso.  The aviators flew only over American territory, but press reports and inquiries from the War Department claimed that Mexican airspace had been violated on when American aircraft overflew a camp six miles south of the border.  In a 9 March telegram, Lassiter required a report from Moseley and insisted on the discontinuance of any such future flights.  Moseley responded that prior to flying the observation missions, the pilots were carefully briefed and instructed not to fly south of the border, that he understood they had complied fully with their orders, and he further suggested a de-briefing before Lassiter transmitted his response to the War Department.  The pilots were questioned upon landing at Kelly Field, confirming their full compliance in not violating Mexican air space.

Major General William Lassiter, commander of VIII Corp Area and Moseley’s immediate superior, was headquartered at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Lassiter worked as the “man in the middle” between El Paso and the War Department in Washington, DC. (National Archives)

With the situation growing more serious minute by minute, Lassiter, who had already notified the War Department of developments, sent a radiogram to Moseley at 1205 on 7 March.  In this confidential message, he modified earlier instructions and rules of engagement.  Moseley was instructed to get U.S. citizens away from the border if hostilities broke out (they had).  Accidental bullets landing in U.S. territory were not deemed a sufficient cause for the American troops to return fire.  It was specified that direct firing at Mexican troops was to be permitted only to return fire directed maliciously at U.S. troops or civilians on American territory, or if necessary to drive armed Mexicans out of U.S. territory.  Lassister’s radiogram concluded, “You will make no display or deployment of troops in advance of actual necessity in accordance with the above limitations for their employment.”  Moseley had of course already pre-positioned his troops but had tried to make their presence as unobtrusive as possible.

Escobar rebels gather around a machine gun captured from Mexican troops in Juarez. (El Paso County Historical Society)

Throughout the late night hours of 7 March and into the early hours of the following day, Moseley and his staff received information on the rebel advance and the disposition of the Mexican Federal forces.  The insurgents had encircled Juarez while a rebel train penetrated into the heart of the city, a key railroad center.  The rebels met little determined resistance and the tracks did not appear to have been destroyed to impede the advance of a train-transported force.

At 0500 on 8 March, the rebels, reportedly numbering around 1,000 to 2,000, were reported to have infiltrated the city’s outskirts.  Gunfire was reported as the fighting spread throughout the city.  The claimed numbers may not have been totally accurate, for the initial attack was not spearheaded by a force of 1,000-plus insurgents as some reports suggested, but by 300 infantrymen of the 37th Battalion commanded by General Valle and 400 cavalrymen of the 70th Regiment commanded by General Augustin de la Vega.  Additional insurgent forces subsequently entering Juarez most likely accounted for the higher numbers appearing in press reports.

At daylight, the rebels attacked a major Federal position on 16th Septiembre Street.  Firing was mostly east and west though in the first ninety minutes of the engagement, no rounds were initially reported as landing in El Paso.  Rifle, pistol, and machine-gun fire was reported; the machinegun fire was reportedly heavy.   Meeting with what they considered a heavy volume of fire, the Federals withdrew to the embankment on the south bank of the Rio Grande, leaving behind a fortified position on the roof of the Hotel de Sur.  Federal soldiers, functioning as snipers, occupied the rooftops of a number of downtown buildings.  The Federal force was in part a citizen militia apparently hastily recruited in the wake of defections, often poorly armed, and mostly lacking uniforms.

At 0800, Moseley and one subordinate, Major John B. Coulter, the 1st Cavalry’s Assistant G-3 (Operations), left Fort Bliss for the Stanton Street Bridge, where they joined Major Alexander D. Surles, Assistant G-2 (Intelligence) for the division.  The three officers determined the accuracy of reports that the Federal garrison, supposedly numbering around 600, had given up Juarez and withdrawn to positions along an embankment of the Rio Grande, occupying an irrigation ditch and a position on the levee opposite the Stanton Street and Santa Fe Street international bridges and El Paso’s business district.

Mexican citizens walk by a building badly damaged by Rebel artillery during the fighting in Juarez. (El Paso County Historical Society)

Moseley, Coulter, and Surles were also able to confer with General Ramos at 0830 after crossing to the other side of the Stanton Street Bridge.  Moseley strongly expressed his concern about the danger to U.S. lives and property.  Ramos gamely insisted that he could defend his position, but added he could improve it if he moved some of his outlying detachments to Juarez.  He requested Mosely’s permission to permit him to move personnel of these detachments by truck through U.S. territory and back across the Rio Grande into Juarez.  Moseley responded that this was beyond his authority and denied the request.

At that meeting, according to Major Surles, Ramos and his subordinate, General Limon, verified what was already obvious, that they had been continuing to unsuccessfully counter the insurgent advance and had fallen back to the remaining positions along the Rio Grande.  They had also lost a key improvised medical facilty.  Earlier, during preparations for the upcoming battle, Federal forces had commandeered the Hotel Rio Bravo in Juarez, converting it into a makeshift hospital with medical equipment sent to it from other facilities.  Mexican Blue Cross nurses reported for duty, supplemented by a number of adventurous American college students from El Paso.  The hotel now appeared to be cut-off.  Given that one observer reported the establishment of a fortified position at the hotel manned by over fifty Federal troops, it was a curious development, since a fortified position and the subsequent actions of these soldiers were clearly not consistent with providing security for the wounded and hospital staff.

At 0930, the rebels began to attack the right flank of the Federal troops.  At this time, numerous shots passed overhead and into the city of El Paso.  Employees on the upper floors of the El Paso National Bank building, a thirteen story structure, were evacuated because of the volume of incoming rounds.  Machine-gun fire throughout Juarez was clearly audible in El Paso.  Following the conference with Ramos, Moseley returned to the U.S. side to be informed that two young children had been wounded by bullets coming from the Mexican side.  One of the two would soon die from her head wound.  An additional death was reported, that of an American bartender well known as the most popular U.S. citizen in Juarez.  Several El Paso buildings and civilian vehicles were hit by stray rounds, sustaining minor damage.

Meanwhile, rumors abounded in El Paso.  Support for Moseley and his troops was strong and voiced by Mayor R. Ewing Thomason, who said, “I am sure all El Paso feels that General Moseley will protect our citizens and we are behind him.”  There had apparently been some criticism of Moseley’s actions and Thomason expressed indignation at the carping.  The El Paso Herald printed Moseley’s response: “I have nothing to say about my reported actions except that I am doing everything possible to assure protection of American lives and interests in case of severe fighting.”  Another  El Paso newspaper editorial captured the local mood well:  General Moseley understands the situation here much better than the arm chair pooh bahs of the State Department 2,000 miles away.

American citizens in El Paso gather atop the Hotel Paseo de Norte, the city’s tallest building, to watch the fighting unfold in Juarez. Stray rounds from the Mexican side of the border eventually forced the spectators off the rooftop. (Collection of Colonel Henry G. Moseley, USA-Ret.)

The exact disposition of Moseley’s men, however, remained something of a mystery.  Much speculation centered on whether or not U.S. forces had advanced into the much-disputed Chamizal territory which formed a part of El Paso but which had been awarded by an arbitration commission to Mexico.  If American troops occupied Chamizal, a delicate problem of American diplomacy was likely to result.

U.S. Army armored cars actively patrolled Kemp Street in South El Paso and the international bridges were closed to Americans.  In the interest of public safety, a zone four blocks deep bordering the river had been cleared.  In addition, Chief L.T. Robey of the El Paso Police Department established a series of police lines upon Moseley’s recommendation to Mayor Thomason.  By 1000, what had been desultory firing became much more intense.  Despite the risk, numerous El Pasoans became interested onlookers as the fighting in Juarez progressed, with the rooftops of high buildings affording a clear view of Juarez serving as the favored observation posts.

Having re-crossed the international bridge to the American side, whereupon he was apprised of the wounding of the two children, Moseley again transited the bridge to the Mexican side and sought out General Ramos, requesting permission to pass through his lines to confer with rebel leaders and end gunfire into American territory.  Ramos initially refused, citing the extreme danger of such an endeavor.  However, after Ramos conferred with Mexican government representatives then in El Paso, he was persuaded that the situation was critical and that Moseley should be allowed to pass through the Federal lines.  He would bear a message to the rebel commander, apparently devised by Ramos though probably with Moseley’s input, to the effect that the Federal troops would cease hostilities under one of two conditions.  Condition one was that the Federal troops would lay down their arms and surrender to the rebel commander.  Condition two, the alternative, was that the Federals would pass over into the United States and be held at Fort Bliss, pending receipt of disposition instructions from Washington.

It seems unlikely that Ramos would have expressed willingness to surrender to the revolutionary forces unless urged to do so; the second course of action would have been more palatable.  Moseley’s account and those of Majors Surles and Coulter are unclear on this aspect.  Bearing this message, Moseley, in his government sedan, accompanied by Surles and Coulter, proceeded through Federal and insurgent lines while gunfire continued throughout the city.  Neither Moseley nor his subordinates indicated actually coming under fire but they were most likely were to some extent, given the positions of the insurgents and the Federals.

 

The short trip by car is interesting because the Washington Post account published the following day, 9 March, does not mention heavy incoming fire and indicates that at General Valle’s headquarters “a great swarm of curious Mexicans swarmed about his automobile.”  Had there been incoming fire, whether sporadic or sustained, there would not have been much likelihood of interested bystanders congregating.  Could it be that the exposure to hostile fire came in traversing the bridge prior to the car reaching Valle’s headquarters?  Since Valle ordered firing stopped only upon meeting with Moseley, hearing of his concern for life and property, and being presented with plans for a ceasefire it would appear bullets were clearly flying prior to that time, but had the immediate area of Valle’s headquarters been fully secured by the time Moseley and his subordinates arrived?

Mexican Federal troops such as the one pictured here were heavily outnumbered by the Escobar insurgents in Juarez. Following negotiations between the Federal generals and Moseley, the Mexican troops were allowed to cross into Texas on 9 March to be interned at Fort Bliss. (El Paso County Historical Society)

More specifically, in this meeting with Valle at rebel headquarters in the Mesa Hotel on 16th Septiembre Street, when Moseley addressed the matter of U.S. casualties, Valle expressed his regrets and indicated the shots landing in El Paso were a consequence of his soldiers elevating their fire to drive the Federals from their strongpoint on the roof of the Hotel Sur.  Following the order to his troops to cease firing, Valle then walked with Moseley to the Customs House taken shortly before by the insurgents.  Here, details of a temporary ceasefire were worked-out.  This meeting, which included Moseley, was a preliminary to a further meeting of the commanders at 1500.  However, as early as noon, Ramos appeared resigned to his fate, saying, “I am only a soldier.  I have done all that I can do to sustain the honor of the republic, my uniform and myself.  Defections have been numerous from the troops at my command.  I have less than 300 remaining. The rebels have more than 1,000.”  Yet, at 1700, Ramos inexplicably asked for an extension until 1800.  Given the hopelessness of the outnumbered and out-gunned Federals, why the delay?

Aside from a rapidly diminishing hope that Federal reinforcements might materialize, Ramos may have wanted further assurances from Mexico City regarding his planned actions.  The following day would bring news that a large Federal force of 20,000 troops was assembling in the state of Guanajuato and preparing to move north against the rebels. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that Ramos was aware of these developments or others that included the dispatch of a relieving force from the states of Coahuila and Sonora.  It was also unlikely that such a force would have arrived in a timely manner.  Additionally, the message of an emissary dispatched from Mexico City bearing a letter, purportedly from President Gil, may have persuaded Ramos that it would not be dishonorable to withdraw.  Ramos had already received Moseley’s refusal to allow reinforcements (the outlying detachments) to cross American territory.  In the emissary’s letter, Gil urged a cessation to fighting as the situation was hopeless and continued hostilities would unavoidably impact El Paso.

Moseley declined to consent to this delay, which he interpreted as pointless stalling and demanded Ramos commit to a solution then and now.  Moseley had attended a meeting at El Paso’s Mexican Consulate with Ramos where a call was placed to, or received from Mexico City, apparently recommending the withdrawal.  Ramos agreed to a withdrawal of his remaining troops to the United States and internment, saving face by not actually surrendering to the insurgents.

Soon a truce was proclaimed and the shooting ceased.  Actual casualties are difficult to determine.  Press reports reported an estimate of thirteen Federal soldiers and nine insurgents killed during approximately five hours in which the battle raged with the greatest intensity.  Exact figures on the wounded of either side were not available but they were reportedly quite numerous.

Now began the process of withdrawing the Federal troops across the Stanton Street Bridge and into El Paso for what Moseley would refer to as “internment” at Fort Bliss beginning on the evening of 8 March.  Assuming once again a proactive stance, Moseley telegraphed Lassiter at VIII Corps Area headquarters:

Am interning at Fort Bliss the remains of the Federal garrison of Juarez.  This force estimated to consist of three generals, approximately 300 enlisted men and their families.  Exact numbers will be reported later.  A part of the force is mounted.  Request authority to issue rations, forage and necessary other supplies and equipment pending heir final disposition.

On the following day, Moseley also sought to defuse the issue of the conversation with the Mexican generals and consul general that had led to Lassiter cautioning him against favoring one side over the other.  He explained that what had actually happened was that he had intercepted them as they passed from the El Paso city flying field to Juarez and had neither entertained them nor housed them.  They were permitted to continue their journey to Juarez immediately upon the conference ending at Moseley’s quarters on post.

The remnants of the Federal army appeared to onlookers as a rather unimpressive force as it crossed the bridge in a column.  As reported in the El Paso Herald on 9 March, around 100 of the defeated soldiers wore the regular uniform of the Mexican Army while the remainder were civilian volunteers who carried only rifles and wore cartridge belts as symbols of their short period under arms.  There were some touching sights, such as an elderly man, who appeared to be more than seventy years old, with white whiskers and stooped shoulders, carrying an antique rifle in his trembling hand.  The reporter was of the belief that he had been given the rifle to carry rather than to fire.

As these Federal elements reached the El Paso side of the river, all were relieved of their arms and ammunition.  The internees were allowed to retain their personal possessions and were watched silently by Mexican women and children who had followed the remnants of the army across the bridge.  Many reportedly wept silently as their husbands, sons, and sweethearts surrendered their weapons to the khaki-uniformed soldiers from Fort Bliss.  There was a half hour allotted for leave-taking.  Many soldiers were briefly allowed to walk out of ranks to kiss their wives and children goodbye.  Some wives were reported as exhibiting relief that the fighting was over while others feared that the soldiers, after repatriation, would be sent back to Mexico City and be involved in future fighting.  The soldiers were characterized by the press as accepting their fate stolidly, neither frowning nor smiling.  Many turned their faces away, as in shame, as they were marched across the bridge with their progress recorded by numerous cameras.

On 9 March, the Mexican Federal troops marched across the Stanton Street International Bridge. Once on the American side, the Mexicans were relieved of their weapons and sent to Fort Bliss. In early April 1929, the internees returned to Mexico, crossing the border at Naco, Arizona. (El Paso County Historical Society)

Generals Ramos and Flores (the latter seems not to have been mentioned after his original conference with Moseley) requested that they be allowed to reside at El Paso’s Mexican Consulate pending resolution of the internment matter. Moseley consented.  They were spared a degree of public humiliation, crossing the bridge into internment in a closed car. General Limon remained with the main body of his troops and was the first to enter Fort Bliss.  The surrendering infantrymen were loaded into twenty-two trucks while the cavalry were allowed, under escort of troopers from the 1st Cavalry Division, to ride their own horses through El Paso and over the long and winding road to Fort Bliss.

The report of the Provost Marshal at Fort Bliss at the time, Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General and a future Fort Bliss commander) Kenyon A. Joyce accounts for a detachment of internees that included forty-two women and twenty-eight children, although neither other military reports nor press accounts mention the women and children and their loading onto the trucks.  It is entirely possible that the women may have feared for themselves and their families if they had remained in rebel-held Juarez. where they may have been subjected to “revolutionary justice.”

Whatever the case, Joyce reports that eighteen officers, 277 enlisted men, the previously mentioned women and children, and thirty-four horses were received into U.S. military custody on the afternoon of 8 March.  Casualties were sent to William Beaumont Army Hospital for treatment.  Officers were billeted in two officers’ quarters at the old engineer club in the artillery area. The enlisted men, women, and children were housed in a large empty warehouse (described by some sources as a hanger).  Three American officers, one warrant officer, and fifteen enlisted men were detailed to handle the internee operation.  The Mexicans provided their own interior guards, cooks, and personnel for police details.  Drill and ceremonies, exercising of the cavalry horses, and mass athletics were conducted under supervision of Mexican officers.  The arms and ammunition surrendered by the Mexicans was placed under control of the post’s ordnance officer and housed in the ordnance warehouse.  To provide for the comfort of the internees, the post quartermaster supplied folding cots, kitchen equipment, rations, forage, and fuel.

Finally, on 5 April 1929, as directed by a telegram from VIII Corps Area headquarters, internees were turned over to U.S. Immigration and transported on a special train to Naco, Arizona, where they re-entered Mexico.  The total cost of the internment to the U.S. government was computed by Joyce at $6,443.66 and an itemized statement sent to Headquarters, VIII Corps Area.  On 28 May, the Mexican arms and ammunition surrendered and stored at Fort Bliss were also handed over to the Mexican Consul General in El Paso per instructions received from VIII Corps Area headquarters.

Moseley was able to report to Lasssiter that the situation was quiet in Juarez following its occupation by the insurgents or Escobarista.  While popularly and justifiably hailed by the city’s citizens as the savior of El Paso in handling this crisis, Moseley’s duty was not yet done as problems with Juarez, the insurgents, even the U.S. State Department, and General Jose Gonzalo Escobar whom he would finally meet in Juarez on 22 March 1929 continued.  Further difficulties would ensue with some risk to Americans (including El Pasoans) on the U.S. side of the Mexican border requiring Moseley’s continuing involvement in the sector under his command.  Finally, by May 1929, relative calm returned and all the American troops deployed along the border from Fort Bliss returned to the post.  Moseley would soon be decorated with an oak leaf cluster to his Distinguished Service Medal, denoting a second award, for his meritorious actions in handling the so-called Escobar Revolution of 1929.

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