The Mexican Revolution and the United States in the Collections of the Library of Congress
From Woodrow Wilson’s Inauguration to the Invasion of Veracruz
U.S. President Wilson had a different view of the events in Mexico than did his predecessor, President Taft. Woodrow Wilson believed in the sovereignty of popular will, and refused to recognize what he considered to be the illegitimate regime of Victoriano Huerta. Nevertheless, he had to look as if he was doing something to calm the Mexican situation so he and his Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan decided to occupy the most important port in that country.
The U.S. Arms Embargo and Huerta
Many people around the world saw Wilson’s refusal to recognize Huerta’s presidency as an order for the Mexican president to resign. Certainly, they understood the U.S. Arms Embargo and invasion of Veracruz as limiting Huerta’s authority and force his resignation. This cartoon, drawn by Clifford Kennedy Berryman, was released in July 1914, most likely published in the Washington Star and shows the U.S. ordering Huerta to quit the presidency.
The U.S. arms embargo began shortly after President Wilson was inaugurated in March 1913. He believed that the embargo would provoke a cease-fire between the different factions in the Mexican Revolution. Though technically the embargo was designed to apply equally to all belligerent factions, Huerta was more heavily affected than the rest. After Carranza declared Coahuila in rebellion in February 1913, Huerta confiscated all military production in Mexico, even though it did not produce enough arms or rounds to meet the federal army’s needs as the conflict worsened. So Huerta demanded all private arms for military use in the areas he controlled, leaving civilians unarmed and unable to defend themselves against Constitutionalist attacks. Soon, even private citizens couldn’t supply enough firepower. Huerta then asked the U.S. to return all weapons captured from federal troops who surrendered to the U.S. at the border, but President Wilson refused. Desperate, Huerta turned to Europe and Asia and ordered 40 million rifle cartridges and tens of thousands of rifles from Europe and bought 70,000 rifles from the Mitsui Rifle Company in Japan. By the time Huerta declared Mexico bankrupt, he had ordered over 145 million rounds that were never delivered.
Since legal methods could not provide sufficient amounts of ammunition to keep the federal army fighting by the summer of 1913, Huerta used illegal means to gain weapons. He sent teams of smugglers to New Orleans and New York where they ordered arms to be delivered to Cuba where Mexican ships would then pick them up. The U.S. Departments of State and War soon found out about Huerta’s smuggling techniques and used them against him. Throughout 1913, ships bound for Havana with arms for Huerta, would suffer “accidents” or be detained and sent to U.S. Navy headquarters at Tampico or Veracruz. Huerta’s arms would be unloaded and “accidentally” shipped to Carranza’s soldiers who gladly accepted them despite Carranza’s anti-U.S. public stance. The more arms Huerta illegally smuggled from the U.S., the more munitions went to Carranza.
By late 1913, Huerta tried a new tactic. He sent a team of smugglers, headed by the Russian vice-consul in Mexico City León Raast, to New York City where they bought as many munitions as possible from the Hartford Colts Manufacturing Company. Rather than going to Cuba, these arms were shipped to Odessa, Russia then Hamburg, Germany and then to Veracruz on the German liner Ypiranga. Unfortunately for Huerta, the Ypiranga arrived too late to help.
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Foreign Ships and Revolutionary Troops in Tampico Bay and Ciudad Victoria
Beginning in 1913, after President Madero was assassinated, the U.S. stationed a few naval vessels at the Bay of Tampico for reconnaissance purposes. The U.S. Navy gathered intelligence on Carranza’s rebellion against Huerta and protected the interests of U.S. citizens living on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. British, French and Spanish ships with reconnaissance teams were also stationed in Tampico. Although foreign military in Mexican waters blatantly infringed on Mexico’s sovereignty, Huerta did nothing except send his own sailors from the Zaragoza cannon ship to visit U.S. commanders on 28 December 1913.
The heart of Mexico’s petroleum industry in the Pánuco Delta region lay in the city of Tampico. Rebel forces attacked Huerta’s regional strongholds and Pánuco’s oil interests. Rebel and federal forces alike knew that controlling Pánuco was key to achieving victory since its oil industry produced and processed supplies for Mexican troops, and surpluses for shipment overseas to sell to combatants in World War I. The profits could then be used to rebuild Mexico’s infrastructure once the Revolution was over.
Rebel leader Othón Lastra understood the strategic importance of controlling the oil industry and took Pánuco by surprise in the fall 1913. Meeting no resistance from the villagers, Lastra easily gained control of Tampico Bay. Soon after, Lastra announced to the U.S. press his plans to close the Bay in order to attack Tuxpan. Federal General Arzamendi, forewarned, attacked the rebels outside of Tampico and drove them back to Ciudad Victoria.
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Foreigners Flee Tampico
As the fighting between Huerta’s federal troops and Carranza’s Constitutionalists grew more intense in Tampico, many nations worried about the safety of their citizens residing there since their care and the protection of economic interests were deeply intertwined.
The U.S. led the largest and most well organized evacuation effort because it was not yet involved in World War I. For instance, the U.S. Navy forced the relocation of many Americans from Tampico to Galveston, Texas. The French government, impressed by this performance, requested that the U.S. Navy evacuate its citizens as well.
This newspaper article indicates the extent to which some foreigners had been evacuated from Tampico by mid-December 1913. As rebel and federal forces continued to fight, foreigners feared for their property and lives, even though rebel leaders had promised to avoid harming foreigners as much as possible, and a neutral zone was set up to protect foreigners’ lives.
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Woodrow Wilson’s Non-recognition
President-elect Woodrow Wilson disliked President Taft’s “dollar diplomacy” and hated Ambassador Wilson, who believed that only a dictator could maintain order and protect U.S. economic interests. Also, President Wilson simply didn’t like Huerta, believing him to be corrupt, violent, unreasonable, and alcoholic, and didn’t want him controlling U.S. interests in Mexico. On 4 March, Huerta sent a letter congratulating Wilson, but Wilson replied to General, not President, Huerta. On 11 March, Wilson announced that the U.S. would only recognize constitutionally and morally-established governments, and would not accept those that came to power through violence. Ambassador Wilson and Huerta did not believe that President Wilson would refuse recognition solely on moral grounds. The entire world believed that the U.S. would accept Huerta ultimately. By July, most of Latin America and Europe had recognized him, as did China and Japan. Wilson, however, still refused even though U.S. businessmen in Mexico petitioned the president to accept the regime.
Wilson sent journalist William Bayard Hale to Mexico to inform him of the situation, what had happened during the Tragic Ten Days, and how Huerta rose to power. Hale’s reports condemned both Huerta and the U.S. ambassador. In July, the President ordered the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to recall Wilson and appointed John Lind as the new presidential agent in Mexico. Upon landing there, Lind started confidential negotiations with the Huerta regime demanding a general cease-fire, immediate free and open elections in which Huerta would not run, and that their results would be upheld.
Huerta countered he would only talk after the U.S. recognized his government. Lind told Huerta that the U.S. would never recognize him without an election. Meanwhile, Wilson sent diplomats directly to the Constitutionalist leaders in the north and the Zapatistas in the south. Relations with the Huerta government continued to deteriorate until 9 April 1914, when the U.S. finally broke off all discussions with the Huerta government.
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William Jennings Bryan and John Lind
Born in 1860, William Jennings Bryan was one of the best-known faces in American politics by the 1890s. A leader of the Democratic Party’s most liberal wing, Bryan ran for president three times before Woodrow Wilson was elected in 1912. Wilson named Bryan his Secretary of State for his knowledge of domestic and international affairs. Yet, Wilson rarely took the Secretary’s advice, When Wilson tried to negotiate peace and stability in Mexico, Bryan recommended military invasion and control. Bryan resigned his position as Secretary of State in 1915, just when President Wilson faced difficult decisions regarding the Mexican Revolution.
John Lind, a soldier and politician, immigrated to the U.S. from Sweden at age 13. Lind represented Minnesota in Washington, DC as a congressman from 1887 to 1893, and as governor from 1899 to 1901.
When Woodrow Wilson took office in 1913, he made peace in Mexico a top priority. Since he adamantly opposed U.S. Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson’s interference in the Revolution, he removed him, and named Lind his Personal Envoy for Mexican Affairs serving as the President’s eyes and ears in Mexico, gathering information and negotiating deals.
Lind agreed with President Wilson regarding Huerta, who Lind saw as only president de facto of Mexico and not its legitimate leader. Lind argued that Carranza, the legally elected governor of Coahuila, could accept executive power from Huerta until a proper election could be held. By withholding recognition, the U.S. could force Huerta to comply with Washington’s demands. As Lind wrote, “With him [Huerta] in, no such agreement can, in my judgment, be looked for.” (John Lind to William Jennings Bryan 29 May 1914, William Jennings Bryan Papers). Lind urged Wilson that diplomatic relations could resume and an agreement could be reached with anyone but Huerta.
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Prelude to an Invasion and Huerta’s Response to President Wilson
U.S. involvement in Veracruz was far from the only reason Huerta’s government was ultimately defeated. Huerta simply could not resist the forces pressing in on him from all sides. When the Constitutionalists rose up against Huerta, President Wilson capitalized on the internal division. As Huerta later put it, “They [the U.S. and its allies] put up all obstacles, concluding with the occupation of Veracruz, in a manner contrary to all the laws of war, violating the sovereignty of a people and killing innocents with guns fired from a location safe from being touched. And all this to remove me from power.” (Huerta, Memorias del Gral., 98).
Huerta identified Henry Lane Wilson as a friend, because they were both enemies of Francisco Madero. Yet, he claimed Ambassador Wilson had participated actively in the fall of both President Díaz and President Madero. By the time Woodrow Wilson became involved, most of the international community had recognized Huerta, but the U.S., under Wilson, refused. Huerta tried to continue borrowing money from the nations of Europe, but after Wilson’s denial of recognition, the money dried up. According to Huerta, everything President Wilson did, including sending John Lind, was to remove him from the presidency and install the Constitutionalists.
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John Lind’s Letters to William Jennings Bryan (March and May 1914)
The already tense relations between the U.S. and Mexico worsened in early 1914, when troops led by Pancho Villa killed Englishman William Benton. In response, U.S. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, called for the U.S. to adopt a policy of watch and preparation.
Diplomat John Lind wrote Bryan on 23 March 1914, discussing the Zapatista rebellion in Morelos. Lind believed that peace in Morelos was essential for the country and that could only happen by winning over the Zapatistas, or exterminating them. Lind predicted the U.S. could destroy Huerta in less time and with less money than would be needed to establish peace in southern Mexico. Lind also urged Bryan to deal with the Constitutionalist revolutionaries in the north, thinking that the U.S. was already pro-revolution and should back them with arms. The Constitutionalists would win if they took Veracruz and Tampico and if they captured Torreón, their victory would be all but assured, but he warned that the U.S. would need to watch them carefully.
Lind later wrote a book about the Mexican people stating, “I felt [in 1914], how I feel now [in 1915], that it is impossible to achieve peace in Mexico... I am convinced that if it [the U.S. government] had recognized Huerta and would have provided the opportunity to borrow all the money that Europe could provide, he would not have established peace in Mexico.” (Lind, La Gente de México, 13). Lind had already established his stance on Huerta in a letter to Bryan, on 29 May 1914. Lind told Bryan that a new president was needed in Mexico, and that “the elimination of Huerta was necessary in the interests of the Mexican people.” (Lind, La Gente de México, 28).
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Foreign Investors Track the Progress of the Mexican Revolution
Investors throughout the world were very interested in the Mexican Revolution. Each international player supported one side or another to best their competitors in the international market, win World War I, and turn a profit. Consulates and foreign armies gathered information about the progress of Huerta’s, Carranza’s and Obregón’s troops and traded that information with one another.
The Library of Congress’ Manuscript Division houses the papers of Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo, which includes all the notes taken by officials in Veracruz on the progress of the rebellion against Huerta from 1913 to 1914. The notes come in many forms: some are military memoranda for Admiral Fletcher, commander of all U.S. Naval forces in the Atlantic, some are hidden in personal letters sent between the U.S. Consul in Mexico and Mayo, and others come from the leaders of the Revolution itself, either in direct correspondence with Admiral Mayo or through the offices of other foreign consulates.
For example, when Admiral Mayo heard in April 1914 that the rebel forces planned to wrest control of Tampico from Huerta he wrote to General Luis Caballero, commander of the Constitutionalist forces to remind him of U.S. neutrality. He also asked that oil interests along the Pánuco River be spared because they were so close to where foreign refugees boarded ships leaving Mexico. In responding to the Admiral’s concerns Caballero wrote,
“Inspired by the decree issued by... Carranza disposing that the lives and properties of foreigners be absolutely respected. Upon commencing the attack on this port [Tampico] I have issued a circular to all the chiefs of the bodies comprising part of this column, insisting upon their giving all guarantees to the before mentioned foreigners.”
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Ignacio Morelos Zaragoza (1860–1927)
Born in Monterrey, Nuevo León 22 August 1860, General Ignacio Morelos Zaragoza led Mexican troops against the U.S. invasion of Tampico. Morelos Zaragoza supported President Huerta and was appointed governor and military commander of Tamaulipas. Following another promotion, to Major-General (General de división), in 1914, Morelos Zaragoza was assigned to Tampico where he monitored foreign activity in the Gulf of Mexico.
Shortly after he arrived in Tampico, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Huerta regime collapsed because of the “Dolphin Incident,” a tense moment when Mexican forces accidentally U.S. sailors. Morelos Zaragoza dealt with the diplomatic failure himself when the U.S. demanded a full 21-gun salute to the American flag as an apology. Two days later, the U.S. Senate gave President Woodrow Wilson permission to invade Veracruz. Nevertheless, Morelos Zaragoza still fought Carranza’s new regime, was arrested and released.
The U.S. government was deeply interested in the Mexican military commanders in key cities where the U.S held large investments. Tampico and Veracruz were seen as important because they were the main ports of departure for Mexican oil, mostly controlled by U.S., British and German companies.
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Henry T. Mayo (1856–1937)
Henry Thomas Mayo was born in Burlington, Vermont in 1856, and graduated from the U.S Naval Academy in 1876. In 1913, Mayo was made personal aide to Josephus Daniels, Wilson’s Secretary of the Navy. After about a year working under Daniels, he became Commander of the U.S. forces in the Gulf of Mexico stationed off the coast of Tampico Bay. Admiral Mayo commanded naval forces when diplomatic relations failed in early April 1914. He requested that President Wilson give U.S. troops permission to invade Mexico and served as second-in-command during the American invasion in late April 1914.
In 1915, following the end of the U.S. occupation of Veracruz, Mayo was appointed Commander of the U.S. Navy Fleet in the Atlantic, where he served until the end of the World War I.
Admiral Mayo’s papers are held in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. The Mayo Collection contains Mayo’s personal correspondence, military orders, official memoranda and communications with various consuls in Mexico, as well as hundreds of newspaper articles, both American and Mexican, which reveal public opinion about the Admiral. Included is an American paper that names Mayo the “Man of the Hour” for defending the U.S. flag.
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Diplomatic Failure at Tampico: The “Dolphin Incident”
Relations between Huerta’s regime and the U.S. collapsed in early April 1914, when Mexican federal forces accidentally arrested a group of U.S. naval forces. The U.S. had the flag ship U.S.S. Dolphin and several others stationed in Tampico Bay. On 9 April, commanding officer Admiral Henry T. Mayo sent some of his sailors to land at Iturbide Bridge to pick up provisions for the Dolphin. Coronel Ramón H. Hinojosa, unaware of Mexico’s policy about American soldiers and sailors, arrested Mayo’s men and brought them to General Ignacio Morelos Zaragoza in the main plaza of Tampico.
In his memoir, Woodrow Wilson stated that the boat carried the U.S. flag and that Coronel Hinojosa knew the sailors were American. This contradicts eyewitness accounts, which claim that the boat carried no flag or marker of American affiliation. General Morelos Zaragoza, acting governor at the time, recognized the men were American and immediately ordered their release and placed Hinojosa under arrest pending a formal apology to the sailors.
A few hours later, U.S. naval officials from the Dolphin approached Morelos Zaragoza and asked for an explanation. The general recalled the entire incident and apologized again. The officers returned to the Dolphin, passed the information along to Admiral Mayo, and sent an official letter acknowledging General Morelos Zaragoza’s apology to the Governor-General’s office. However, at 5:00 pm U.S. troops again returned to Morelos Zaragoza’s office this time with a demand for a written apology and a 21-gun salute made to the U.S. flag on the spot where the U.S. sailors had been arrested. Morelos Zaragoza quickly turned over a written apology; the general also said he would be happy to comply with the 21-gun salute if the U.S. recognized Mexican sovereignty with a 21 gun-salute to the Mexican flag. President Wilson and the U.S. rejected General Morelos Zaragoza’s compromise and asked Congress for permission to invade Mexico. Two days later, on 11 April 1914, Congress authorized military action and the invasion of Veracruz was underway.
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Frank Friday Fletcher (1855–1928)
Admiral Fletcher commanded various battleship divisions in the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet from 1912 to 1914. On 21 April 1914, the Admiral led the invasion of Veracruz Harbor in Mexico. For his “Distinguished Conduct in Battle,” the Admiral was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. However, Admiral Fletcher did not stay in Veracruz to administer the U.S. held city upon victory; instead he turned command of the city over to the army.
Fletcher was greatly respected by his U.S. subordinates; however he was highly unpopular among the Mexicans, against whom he led the invasion of 1914. The Library of Congress’ Henry T. Mayo Collection in the Manuscript Division contains correspondence between Admirals Mayo and Fletcher that reveals how Mayo and the other officers of the invasion deeply respected Admiral Fletcher. Included is this photograph of the leaders of the U.S. invasion. Fletcher is on the right; Mayo is in the center; and Admiral Charles J. Badger, Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, is on the left.
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On 21 April 1914, U.S. ships in the Gulf of Mexico lined Veracruz Harbor and prepared to attack. Admiral Frank F. Fletcher, acting commander of the U.S.S. Florida, had seized the German ship Ypiranga earlier to keep German arms from reaching Huerta’s forces. Then the U.S. Navy captured the Veracruz Customs House. Fletcher demanded that Mexican federal forces, isolated from German arms and new troops, surrender or it would use heavy 12-inch caliber cannons to force them out. Should the cannon not propel the federal troops to leave, Admiral Charles J. Badger, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, was prepared to arrive with 10,000 men before noon.
President Huerta himself negotiated with Fletcher, and ordered Mexican troops to evacuate Veracruz. Several groups of troops disobeyed and stayed behind to protect the city. A battle began in earnest and the city was shut down.
After the central market closed the U.S. consul called General Gustavo A. Maass, the commander of those troops still in Veracruz, twenty minutes later and announced that U.S. troops had taken the harbor, but would not attack Mexican trains or the materials onboard at Terminal Railroad Station. U.S. troops marched until they were directly in front of Terminal Station, while Mexican troops went to the train station to meet them.
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Troops fought throughout the city by noon. Combat broke out along Avenida Morelos to the Plazuela. U.S. troops took control of the post office and telegraph buildings. At the Plaza de Armas, Mexican troops tried to retake the customs house. The battle intensified along Calle de Esteban Morelos, echoing along the “Muelle de Sanidad” (Pier of Good Health). Mexican troops armed every man at the Military Hospital who could fight. Wounded soldiers defended the artillery warehouses at the port as military prisoners also helped. Even young cadets opposed the enemy on the jetties of the Naval Academy. At Terminal Station, Mexican troops cleared out the munitions aboard their trains and fought with U.S. troops all along the railroad tracks.
By 22 April, Mexican forces were in Tejería and kept fighting. Admiral Fletcher, nonetheless, called for reinforcements. Around noon, a battalion from the U.S.S. Utah landed on the jetties of the Naval Academy, territory won by the U.S. the previous day. However, the cadets still held the Naval Academy. U.S. troops sent a barrage of artillery from the customs house and the market square, but the cadets held out for over seven hours. By the end of the day, the U.S. had lost ground and the Utah troops pulled back out to sea.
Admiral Fletcher called for reinforcements from the Marines. At 7:45 pm, U.S. naval troops attacked the city. The Marines’ attack was quick, professional and deadly; they took Veracruz in mere hours. By 23 and 24 April, the Marines had quieted all resistance, forcing Maass to evacuate as Huerta had originally ordered. The invasion was over; the U.S. officially occupied the port at Veracruz.
Mexico in Peace and War: a Narrative of Mexican History and Conditions from the Earliest Times to the Present Hour, Including an Account of the Military Operations by the U.S. at Vera Cruz in 1914 and the Causes that led Thereto. Chicago, 1914. General Collections, Library of Congress. F1208 .R96
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Map: Tracing the Battles of the Invasion
The map included here is a topographical city plan of Veracruz in 1907. Building 1 is the Veracruz Customs House, where U.S. Navy ships captured the German vessel Ypiranga and transferred its cargo, the first belligerent act of the U.S. invasion. In the northwest corner are the railroad tracks of the Terminal Station where workers unloaded oil for export and served as the transfer point between the Tampico-Veracruz Line and the Tehuantepec Line, where U.S. forces defeated federal troops. In the northeast corner, across the inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, stands Building 22, the Veracruz Naval Academy, where U.S. soldiers fought their most difficult battle of the invasion against a few young cadets for over seven hours. U.S. troops only defeated the cadets by gaining control of the Faro dock, Building 4, and bombarding the Academy from two sides.
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Invasion of Veracruz Stirs Dissent in the U.S.
Although Congress supported the invasion of Mexico, the rest of the U.S. was not as quick to agree with President Wilson. Many people in the U.S. were highly critical of the president’s decision to invade and felt that the U.S. military should stay home, leaving the problem of the “Mexican Situation” to Mexicans.
An article in the San Francisco Chronicle on 21 April 1914 discussed the president’s decision in highly critical language, revealing the author’s disgust with Wilson’s tactics in obtaining Congressional approval to invade. Accompanied by a scathing political cartoon, the article embodies the character of U.S. opposition to the war. Average U.S. citizens were not opposed to the invasion on moral grounds; rather, they opposed it politically, arguing primarily that Wilson had bullied Congress, dealing with the “Mexican Situation” in the wrong way.
Another problem with how President Wilson handled the situation was the request for Mexico to salute the U.S. flag. Wilson claimed that the salute was an apology for insulting the U.S. by arresting sailors from the Dolphin. Why then, even after the invasion of Veracruz, were the Mexicans never made to salute the flag? Even during the negotiations that ultimately led to the U.S. withdrawal and Huerta’s removal from power the topic was never broached. The U.S. Navy occupied Veracruz to show Mexico that Huerta had to step down, and did so without broad support from within the U.S.
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U.S. Depiction of the Invasion of Veracruz
On 21 and 22 April 1914, the U.S. Navy and Marines invaded the Mexican port of Veracruz. U.S. President Wilson claimed that U.S. troops invaded because Victoriano Huerta’s government refused to apologize for the Dolphin Incident, which happened when U.S. sailors were arrested in Tampico during a trip to resupply the U.S.S. Dolphin. More information about the incident and political fallout is available in the Veracruz section of the website. U.S. newspapers took varying positions; some agreed with the President and supported U.S. involvement in Mexico, while others decried Wilson for abusing his powers.
The article included describes the situation in Veracruz, and explains events during the invasion; it notes that only four of the U.S. troops were killed compared to 150 Mexicans.
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The U.S. occupied Veracruz from 21 April until 23 November 1914, offending many Mexicans, federal forces and Constitutionalists alike. Admiral Fletcher declared martial law in Veracruz, allowing Brigadier General Frederick Funston and the U.S. Army to take charge. Huerta considered declaring war, but federal forces were already fighting a multi-front conflict against Carranza, Obregón, Villa and Zapata. Rebel leaders also wanted to declare war, but Carranza and Villa both needed U.S. aid and munitions, and neither Obregón nor Zapata could fight both Huerta and the U.S. at the same time.
On 20 May 1914, representatives from Mexico and the U.S. met at Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada to avoid war. With Argentina, Brazil and Chile (the ABC Powers) to witness it, Mexico and the U.S. agreed that the U.S. would leave Mexico when Huerta resigned and a stable government was in place. By July, Carranza had ousted Huerta and took control of the Mexican presidency.
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