The Mexican Revolution and the United States in the Collections of the Library of Congress
The War Against Huerta
General Victoriano Huerta took control of the government following the assassinations of President Francisco Madero and Vice President José Pino Suárez. Once they heard the news, many Mexicans called Huerta “the Usurper,” refused to recognize his administration, and declared themselves in revolt. These included Venustiano Carranza, Pancho Villa, and Álvaro Obregón, former supporters of the slain President in the north, and those who opposed his presidency, Emiliano Zapata, in the south. Although they would need time to prepare their troops for battle, ultimately they would overthrow Huerta on 15 July, 1914.
Governor Venustiano Carranza of Coahuila Declares War
Once Carranza learned about the assassinations of President Madero and Vice President Pino Suárez, he prepared for war. On 26 February, Carranza withdrew fifty thousand pesos from the U.S.-owned Mexican Bank El Saltillo and informed U.S. President Taft that he intended to fight Huerta. On 1 March, Carranza officially withdrew his recognition of the Huerta Presidency.
Carranza’s first ally was José María Maytorena of Sonora, whose most important officers, Álvaro Obregón, Plutarco Elías Calles, Benjamín Gil and Salvador Alvarado, were all vehemently anti-Huerta. Sonora withdrew its recognition from the Huerta Presidency on 5 March 1913. In Chihuahua, rebel Francisco “Pancho” Villa, who rallied an army of thousands to ally with Carranza. On 26 March, Carranza issued the Plan of Guadalupe which accused Huerta of treason and formally withdrew all recognition of the Huerta Presidency. The Plan rejected the legitimacy of pro-Huerta governors and named Carranza the First Chief of the Constitutionalist army. Subsequently, Coahuila governed by Carranza, Chihuahua led by Villa, and Sonora now represented by Obregón formally defected on 28 March. A few weeks later, each sent representatives to meet in Monclova, Coahuila where they agreed to fight to the end and informed the newly-inaugurated President Wilson of their declaration of war.
In response, Huerta removed any governor sympathetic to the rebellion and appointed military men of unquestioned loyalty. The former governors allied with Carranza. Huerta contacted Pascual Orozco in Chihuahua and Emiliano Zapata in Morelos. Huerta agreed to recognize Orozco’s men as official federal troops, supplied with federal munitions, paid federal wages with pensions for widows and orphans, and enacted immediate and extensive agrarian reform. Then he sent Pascual Orozco’s father and advisor to talk with Zapata and convince him to join the federal army, but he arrested Huerta’s delegates. Huerta now faced a two-front war.
[Groups of people during the Mexican revolution: Crowd with Carranza in center of picture]. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-89080
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Álvaro Obregón (1880–1928)
Álvaro Obregón was born on 19 February 1880, the last of 18 siblings. His parents were poor, rural sharecroppers in Sonora. Obregón worked as an agricultural laborer, mechanic, travel agent, and elementary school teacher. Finally, he bought a small plot of land in 1905, which he named “La Quinta Chilla.” At the end of 1911, Obregón was appointed municipal president of his township Huatabampo, Sonora. Madero had already issued the Plan of San Luis Potosí, sent former president Porfirio Díaz into exile, and elected president. The Revolution was well underway when Obregón became municipal president, but he had no interest in joining President Madero’s movement.
Obregón joined the Revolution in 1912 when Pascual Orozco revolted and violence threatened to spill over into Sonora. He enlisted in the state militia and was appointed lieutenant of the 4th Battalion of Irregulars. A natural strategist, his tactics were new and unorthodox, and Obregón often disobeyed direct orders to defeat Orozco’s forces. After he vanquished Orozco, Obregón retired to civilian life back in Sonora.
When Huerta became president, Obregón immediately united with the opposition. With permission of Sonora governor Adolfo de la Huerta, Obregón joined Venustiano Carranza’s forces and signed onto Carranza’s Plan of Guadalupe in September 1913. On 30 September, Carranza made Obregón Commander of the northwest division of the Constitutionalist army. With his victory at Culiacán in November 1913, Obregón gained control over Sonora, Sinaloa, Durango, and Baja California. Chihuahua remained Villista.
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Venustiano Carranza and Francisco “Pancho” Villa in 1913
Venustiano Carranza, a former senator from Coahuila during the Díaz regime allied with Madero at the beginning of the Revolution. Carranza declared himself head of the Constitutionalist Army and the First Chief of the Revolution against Huerta following the assassinations of President Madero and Vice President Pino Suárez. He refused to use federal troops to reinforce his local army, but he solely lacked combat experience.
On 6 March 1913, Villa returned to Chihuahua thanks to financial help from Carranza’s advisors. Although he built a large army, he realized that local political leaders were focused on their own agendas. He had to convince them of his military skills, and that they would have to think about how to create a democratic and socially just national government. If he wanted them to help him, he had to prove his worth as a military leader. In a standoff with General Manuel Chao, a former schoolteacher, he showed himself quicker on the draw. Thanks to this incident, Villa was named leader of the División del Norte, (Division of the North). Villa steadfastly refused to ask poor villagers or U.S. citizens to fund his efforts, focusing on wealthy hacendados instead. U.S. President Wilson unofficially recognized Villa’s restraint and allowed U.S. weapons to go to the revolutionaries.
“Side view of Gen. Villa, Gov. Chao and staff on steps of Federal Palace, Chihuahua, Mexico” (1914). Villa is seventh from the left and Chao is standing next to Villa on the left. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-79841
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Oil Interests in Veracruz: A Map
This map illustrates the location of the Pánuco oil wells and the railroads connecting Tampico oil processing plants to Veracruz, the major port for Mexican oil exports. The Tampico-Veracruz line intersected with the Tehuantepec Railway. Throughout the Porfiriato and into the Madero and Huerta Presidencies, foreign investors in Mexico sought to gain control of this railway because whoever controlled Pánuco and the Tehuantepec Railway could send oil efficiently and affordably to ships in the Pacific Ocean, which supplied colonies in Asia, India and Eastern Africa.
European powers wanted the oil to supply the troops and tanks fighting World War I as well as furnishing their colonies with oil, encouraging the expansion of their empires and other interests abroad. The British, for example, used their interests in El Aguila Oil Company with the oil discovered in the Middle East to help maintain the British Empire until World War II. The U.S. wanted to ensure its control over the Western Hemisphere and holding a monopoly on Mexican oil and controlling its international distribution would support its regional hegemony. Meanwhile, Constitutionalist and federal forces alike sought the oil to secure Mexican sovereignty, ensure economic growth, and encourage social progress.
Geological map of petroleum belts of Panuco and Tuxpam. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress. G4541.H8
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Carranza’s Early Defeats
At first Carranza could not raise and train the troops needed to combat Huerta’s experienced federal forces. When he fought the federal army in Coahuila, his first battles were disastrous. On 7 March 1913, General Fernando Trucy Aubert attacked the Hacienda de Anhelo and forced Carranza to retreat from his political headquarters. Two weeks later, federal troops advanced to Saltillo, the state capital, demolishing Carranza’s forces and inflicting over 400 casualties.
Carranza continued his revolt and made alliances even as Huerta’s army gained ground. In September, Carranza had to cross the border into Sonora where he joined Obregón who launched a series of stunning victories; giving new life to Carranza’s failing rebellion. Many scholars believe had Huerta kept Carranza from joining Obregón, he could have pacified the north and saved his presidency. Instead, Huerta withdrew most of his troops and turned his attention to Zapata in Morelos.
Federal forces pushed into Coahuila from the southeast, taking first Hacienda de Anhelo and then the state capital Saltillo. Carranza fled to the northwest, through Chihuahua and to Obregón’s headquarters in Nogales, Sonora, where he negotiated with the U.S. for formal recognition of the Revolution. The map shows the State of Coahuila with Saltillo – the site of Carranza’s biggest defeat - clearly marked.
Adapted from “Map of that part of Coahuila, Mexico, occupied by the American Army, Dec. 1846.” Geography and Map Division LC Luso-Hispanic World, 542 G4450 1846 .M3
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Carranza’s Alliance with Álvaro Obregón and the Revolution against Victoriano Huerta
In March 1913, Obregón went back into the military, when Sonora’s interim-governor named him chief of its army. By May 1913 Obregón and his fellow Sonoran military commanders defeated all the federal forces there except for the Pacific port of Guaymas and Sonora quickly became known as a safe haven against Huerta. Obregón joined Venustiano Carranza’s Constitutionalist forces and signed the Plan of Guadalupe in mid-1913. Carranza’s alliance with military men, such as Obregón, allowed him to focus on political matters. When his home state of Coahuila became too dangerous for Carranza on 14 September 1913, Carranza went to Sonora. When Obregón went to meet the First Chief, the Sonorans easily defeated federal troops and earned a reputation for protecting Carranza.
Carranza then named Obregón Commander-in-Chief of the Constitutionalist forces in the northwest, which officially promoted him to the rank of General. Upon receiving his national military responsibilities, Obregón went south to Sinaloa. Obregón’s forces took control of territories in Sonora, Sinaloa, Durango, and Baja California in November 1913. Nevertheless, Carranza named Felipe Angeles his Secretary of War in October 1913, but tried to pacify Obregón by reminding him he controlled activity at the local level. Ultimately Obregón’s anger forced Angeles to join Francisco “Pancho” Villa in Chihuahua in early 1914.
In April 1914 the U.S. invaded Veracruz, Mexico. Obregón feared the U.S. would declare war on Huerta and start bombarding more Mexican ports. He recommended that Carranza declare war on the U.S. if it continued to invade Mexico or signed a peace treaty with Huerta. On 6-7 July 1914 Obregón’s troops marched toward the city of Guadalajara and decisively defeated federal forces in a 36-hour battle. After some negotiations between Obregón and Eduardo Iturbide, the governor of Mexico City’s Federal District, on 15 August 1914, Obregón’s troops occupied the capital city and declared martial law. Federal troops retreated without being attacked. Three days after entering the city, Obregón visited the tomb of former President Francisco Madero where he presented his pistol to María Arias, a prominent protester who spoke out publicly against Madero’s assassination. According to Obregón, Arias deserved the honor because she showed courage while the men permitted Huerta’s usurpation of the government.
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The Constitutionalists’ Turnaround in Sonora
Although federal troops easily defeated Carranza’s forces in Coahuila, in Sonora Álvaro Obregón went on the offensive. On 14 March, he attacked federal positions at Nogales on the Arizona-Sonora border and captured the city. On 24 March, Obregón took Cananea just as Carranza announced the Plan of Guadalupe.
Obregón triumphed in other ways. After his Nogales victory, his army numbered 8,000 men to Huerta’s force of only 2,000. On 8 April, Obregón attacked Naco on the Arizona border, a psychological blow to Federal forces. Though Huerta’s troops held out for five days, Obregón used the siege to try new tactics and overran federal forces on 12 April. Obregón’s friend and ally Benjamín Gil simultaneously took the city of Álamos for the rebels. Obregón’s victories continued throughout the summer.
President Woodrow Wilson sent diplomats to Nogales and Naco in fall 1913, after Carranza joined Obregón’s forces in Sonora. Carranza secured U.S. recognition for Constitutionalist cause in late 1913, which legitimized his rebellion internationally, and allowed the U.S. to deliver munitions to Obregón and Villa.
These photographs show the city of Naco during Obregón’s fight for control. This first photograph shows Obregón’s entrenched troops firing on the city. This second photograph depicts the artillery troops of Obregón’s sub-commander Benjamín Hill. The images were given to the Library of Congress by General Hugh Lennox Scott, who later became the Joint Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. Today, they are two of a collection of 25 photographic postcards showing the destruction of Naco during the Mexican Revolution.
1 of 2
South-west trenches Major Francisco S. Peralta standing back to shack, in command. [between 1910 and 1920]. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-DIG-ppmsca-35145
[Artillery troops of Obregón’s sub-commander Benjamín Hill.] Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-48075
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Francisco “Pancho” Villa’s Victories in Chihuahua
Huerta knew he must control Chihuahua, connected to the U.S. by train, and a locus for communications between Coahuila and Sonora, to keep the presidency. Huerta arrested and assassinated popular Maderista governor Abraham González. The president amnestied Pascual Orozco and brought his troops into the federal army. He did not expect that Chihuahua would enact social reforms and sent Orozco to suppress increasingly radical movements. For example, the villagers of Namiquipa forcibly took back lands stolen from them in the 1905 Creel Law and divided them among the indigenous inhabitants, but the army returned the land to rich landowners. Such acts would have been unimaginable during the Madero presidency.
In late February 1913 when Villa returned to Chihuahua, it was arming against Huerta. Villa believed that Mexicans had to overthrow the caste system based on race, the federal army, and upper-class hacendados. By early March Villa had organized the troops of local Chihuahuan rebels Manuel Chao, Tomás Urbina, Rosalio Hernández and Toribio Ortega into a loose alliance and allowed them to fight in their home territories where they knew the land and people. He encouraged them to use guerrilla tactics, stealing from the rich, and Huerta’s supporters, and redistributing the wealth among Chihuahua’s masses. In April 1913, Chao took the town of Parral unassisted, the rebels’ first big victory in Chihuahua. In June, Villa himself captured Nuevas Casas Grandes, which proved he could defeat federal troops. That same month, Villa’s ally Tómas Urbina captured Durango for the new Villista coalition. In August, Villa defeated General Félix Terrazas at San Andrés.
Huerta gave Pascual Orozco complete control over all federal troops in Chihuahua and he took city after city throughout August and by September, he had mobilized Chihuahuan elites. The rebels elected Villa supreme commander of the famous División del Norte. Villa decided to take Torreón, one of the most important cities in northern Mexico and the central hub of Mexican trade with the U.S. On 26 September 1913, Villa gathered some 8,000 men under his command and, in a series of unprecedented lightning raids and frontal attacks, overtook the federal position. In less than a week, he destroyed the main body of federal troops in Chihuahua.
Villa next moved on Chihuahua City, but Orozco’s experienced troops repelled him with heavy artillery fire. Villa regrouped to capture Ciudad Juárez by commandeering a federal supply train with 2,000 men on board. At each station, Villa’s troops would surprise Federal forces and capture the target. After federal troops at Ciudad Juárez were isolated, Villa pounced. Next he attacked Chihuahua’s capital on 23 November 1913. The battle lasted three days; on the third the general recognized that he could not take the border city directly so he commandeered a federal supply train and placed 2,000 men on board. At every station, Villa’s men would launch a surprise attack against Federal forces and capture the station, leaving federal troops at Ciudad Juárez isolated. Once he had secured Ciudad Juárez, Villa turned to Chihuahua’s capital.
Villa began the fight for Tierra Blanca on 23 November 1913 against federal troops with superior firepower. But, on the third day, Villa changed tactics and ordered his troops to charge into the oncoming artillery fire and attack the flanks. Villa made sure a train loaded with dynamite crashed into the rear of the Federal position, which surrendered on 26 November and Villa took Chihuahua.
Chihuahua commander Pancho Villa, pictured in three-quarters profile. Bain News Service, publisher. [between 1910 and 1923]. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. PR 13 CN 2012:147.11
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Major Luis Bule
Luis Bule, a cacique under Juan (Temabiate) Maldonado, became commander of Yaqui warriors after his leader’s death. Bule led his men in the Yaqui Wars (1880 – 1908), and became battle hardened in the conflicts of Sierra Bacatete (25 July, 1906), San Lorenzo and El Tunal (29 December, 1906), Los Arrayle (May 1907), and Cañon de los Algodones (26 April, 1908). After federal troops captured him, they moved the entire group to Yucatan and imprisoned them. Bule's involvement with the Mexican Revolution began with his incorporation into the federal army, taking command of Yaqui Auxiliary forces, where he gained the rank of major. Although his forces defended federal outposts in Sonora, Bule and most other Yaqui Indians soon left the national army to fight with the rebels. By 9 May, 1913, Major Bule was serving under Obregón, who had large numbers of Yaqui forces fighting with him, at the battle of Santa Rosa, Sonora. Major Bule died there on 12 May, 1913.
“El Mayor Luis Bule se mató en la Batalla Santa Rosa.” Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-30693
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The Revolution Spreads and Huerta Tries to Bring Peace
Huerta’s many assassinations, arrests, increased militarization, and repression convinced even his partisans that they had to overthrow him. Yet, many disliked Carranza too and feared his Constitutionalist alliance. Throughout the spring and early summer of 1913, thirteen additional states (Chiapas, Colima, Durango, Guerrero, Michoacán, Nayarit, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Yucatan), also staged independent rebellions, but they remained isolated without coordination or communication between them.
Huerta dealt with each rebellion individually and sent troops or negotiators to address every case. Most often, he violently repressed the rebels and refused to listen to their complaints. But sometimes, the president would cut deals with the rebel leaders and give them certain privileges in exchange for their support and use their troops to put down neighboring rebellions. He also sent private negotiators to every independent rebel leader asking each to quit his revolt, but none accepted. Huerta hoped to pacify the country quickly, through individual deals, and then consolidate his troops to combat Carranza without fear of multiple attacks on his position. But while Huerta was tied up in so many little, seemingly intractable conflicts, Carranza strengthened his position and prepared to intensify the war.
People in the U.S. were deeply interested in following the Revolution, and so the Rand McNally Map Company published “Atlas of the Mexican Conflict” in 1913 with a specific section detailing the rise of revolutions in the various Mexican states. The image is the page from the atlas listing in chronological order the rise of new rebellions across Mexico.
Atlas of the Mexican Conflict: containing detailed maps showing the territory involved, pertinent statistics of Mexico and the United States, summary of recent events in Mexico. Chicago ; New York : Rand McNally & Co., 1913. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress. G1546.S6.R3 1913
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Huerta’s Campaign in the South
Huerta stopped negotiating with rebel forces and began his military campaign in Morelos. He named General Juvencio Robles commander of the federal forces there in April 1913 and proclaimed the state under military control. Robles arrested the entire government, and imprisoned everyone. The governor’s arrest alienated the few moderates left in Morelos and they joined Zapata. In late April, Zapata captured the city of Jonacatepec, pardoned his opponent, and asked him to join the rebellion. The Zapatista movement now extended into Guerrero and Puebla.
General Robles adopted a fierce counterinsurgency policy. He massacred residents of cities and towns suspected of helping Zapatista sympathizers; he conducted random executions and public torture. Robles also permitted resettlement camps to breakup indigenous communities. Zapata responded by increasing guerilla warfare and began a campaign of terror against federal forces. Both sides dressed in ordinary clothing, so no one knew who was who and many simply fled to other states. On 2 October 1913, the president put General Adolfo Jiménez Castro in charge of Morelos, but no one was able to wrest control from Zapata.
These photographs were taken by Bain News Service and show the violence that typified the Revolution in the period between 1913 and 1916. Although the sites where these photographs were taken remain unknown, scenes such as the ones pictured would have been common in Morelos as federal General Robles and rebel General Zapata both used terrorism and public execution to send warnings to one another.
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The Division of the North Captures Torreón
Although Villa had proven his abilities as a leader, his troops still required training before they could become a strong, united force. The first test of Villa’s leadership occurred in September 1913 at Torreón, a city in north central Mexico with extensive railroad connections to the U.S. and throughout Mexico. Federal troops underestimated the revolutionary forces, and sent too few soldiers to defend the city so the Division of the North won easily. At the end of the battle, Villa offered captured federal soldiers the choice of execution or joining his army which allowed Villa’s forces to grow considerably throughout the course of the Revolution.
After the battle at Torreón, Villa began allowing soldiers’ families to march with his troops. This let Villa increase the number of soldiers dramatically by upping the incentive to join. Some women even chose to become Villistas, fought in battle, and were referred to as soldaderas, although not all soldaderas took part in battle, preferring to care for the troops and remain on the sidelines.
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The Revolution and Railroads
The emergence of railroads after 1880 had a tremendous impact on transportation. The availability of trains shaped the Revolution because they allowed federal and rebel forces to travel quickly to otherwise nearly inaccessible regions. Without railroads, leaders would have had much more difficulty rallying troops to support their cause.
The rebels in northern Mexico benefitted most from trains, as Chihuahua was well connected with Ciudad Juárez, El Paso, Torreón, and Mexico City. Pancho Villa extensively used trains during the Revolution, and many of his victories involved their use. One of his most memorable victories happened in Ciudad Juárez in November 1913. After capturing a supply train there, Villa replaced the supplies with several thousand of his men. When the train arrived at night, federal forces could not defend themselves, and the revolutionaries took the city. Although Villa had the advantage of easy access to trains, many other leaders, such as Obregón, were not surrounded by many railways, and at a major disadvantage.
The Hispanic Division’s Mexican Revolution Newspaper Clippings Archive contains a selection of nearly 500 U.S. articles that include daily updates from February 1911 to February 1913. Many of the clippings refers to the status and condition of international railroads, as they were of considerable interest to the U.S. The archive announces the rebels’ destruction of rails and bridges in Chihuahua, a frequent occurrence throughout the conflict. This map, from the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress, depicts to scale the railways throughout the U.S. and Mexico.
“General railway map engraved expressly for the Official guide of the railways and steam navigation lines of the United States, Porto [sic] Rico, Canada, Mexico and Cuba: comprising maps of the United States, Cuba, Porto [sic] Rico.” Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress. G3301.P1 1918 .N3
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Villa’s Victories at Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua City
Following the battle of Torreón, Villa unsuccessfully tried to capture Chihuahua City in November 1913. Federal forces overwhelmed the Villista troops who were forced to retreat after much bloodshed. In an attempt to recover, Villa quickly tried to capture Ciudad Juárez. The Villista forces managed to take a federal train headed there, which they filled with Villa’s troops. When it arrived in the city, Villa’s forces easily defeated Federal troops, ordering the execution of the majority of federal officers the following day. The public executions tarnished Villa’s image because most were at night. Yet, President Wilson’s support for Villa was so strong that while he disapproved of Villa’s public executions at Ciudad Juárez, he remained confident that he could defeat Huerta.
Villa next brought his troops to Tierra Blanca, outside Chihuahua City. The battle was very violent and concluded with many dead. Villa and his troops defeated federal forces at Tierra Blanca, and quickly took Chihuahua City after the battle. After this victory, Villa became the de facto political leader of Chihuahua.
“Gen. Fierro, Gen. Villa, Gen. Ortega, Col. Medina [and 2 unidentified men]” (between 1911 and 1914). Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-79857
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1913–1914: Zapata's Revolt Against Huerta
President Huerta tried to make peace with Zapata, but he continued in revolt. In February 1913, Zapata attacked Tlalpan in the Federal District and told his followers that Huerta would appear to negotiate peace but he had no more success than did his predecessor. By September 1913, Huerta had lost all control of rural Morelos.
The war between the Zapatistas and the Huerta-led federal troops turned violent as federal Generals Juvencio Robles and Luis G. Cartón began hanging Zapatistas. In March 1914, Zapata caught Cartón in Chilpancingo, Guerrero and executed him in retribution. By summer 1914, Zapatistas commanded Morelos, wide swaths of other nearby states, and looked to overrun Mexico City.
When the U.S. invaded Veracruz, Huerta pulled his troops back to Mexico City, fearing a further U.S. advance. Zapata and the other revolutionaries took advantage of the power vacuum, and gained control of four federal districts from the retreating federal forces. Zapata was enraged at the invasion, but he could not bring himself to ally himself with Huerta. Instead, Zapata pledged to defend the Republic if necessary. When Huerta resigned on 15 July 1914, Zapata stated that his Revolution would continue until all of Huerta’s men had left office and been replaced by a government committed to the Plan of Ayala.
An announcement about the funeral of Zapata; published in 1914 during a confusing time in the Revolution when southern Mexicans were unsure about whom to follow after the death of President Madero. The artist, José Guadalupe Posada died before Antonio Vanegas Arroyo published this work. The firm prematurely published the broadside thinking Zapata had died in skirmishes with Huerta’s federal troops.
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Two Battles for Torreón in 1914
Carranza decided that attacking Mexico City would defeat Huerta. He sent General Pancho Villa to secure Torreón, Coahuila, a major railroad hub, connecting the tracks from Mexico City to U.S. in the north, and Guatemala in the south. On 16 March 1914, Villa and his 8,200 well-provisioned and well-armed troops and their 29 U.S.-made cannons marched southward from Chihuahua. Federal troops, commanded by General José Refugio Velasco had been fortifying the city since Huerta became president.
On 20 and 21 March, troops on both sides met at the federal outposts of Mapimí and Tlahualilo. Villa and his troops easily forced the federal troops back to Torreón. In the third skirmish Villa’s soldiers retreated, but took the position the next day. On the evening of 26 March, the Constitutionalists attacked Torreón itself. The fighting lasted five days with intense house-to-house combat and substantial civilian causalities. On 1 April, Villa changed tactics as his men retreated from the city to the surrounding fields. Velasco, grateful for the respite, ordered his men to bury their dead and prepare to withdraw. As the Federal troops were forming, Villa began a deadly artillery barrage, slaughtering 1,000, wounding another 2,200. The victorious Villa suffered 550 dead and 1,150 wounded as his troops marched triumphantly into Torreón.
Carranza, though thrilled at the victory, decided to keep Villa away from Torreón and Mexico City, ordering the general to Saltillo. In the meantime, Carranza named Pánfilo Natera to lead Torreón and within a month, federal troops had retaken it. Villa was angry. He quickly defeated federal troops at Saltillo and ordered his generals, except for Angeles, to stay and guard the city while he returned to Torreón with an army of 21,000 men and 50 artillery cannons. Villa attacked the federal position on 23 June and captured La Bufa and Guadalupe, two major federal headquarters located in old silver mines, from the federal army. Villa’s forces soon overwhelmed Torreón, pouring in from three sides. By the evening of 23 June 1914, Torreón was once again Constitutionalist territory.
This photo shows a bird’s eye view of Torreón, photographed in March 1912, shortly after Madero came to the Presidency. It had not changed much when Huerta took the Presidency in February 1913, but Villa’s attacks in March and June 1914 destroyed much of the city.
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