Garza Revolution

Garza Revolution

Garza Revolution
Fr-043-Third Cavalry Troopers Searching a Suspected Revolutionist FredericRemington 1892.jpg
"Third Cavalry Troopers Searching a Suspected Revolutionist," by Frederic Remington.
Date 1891 - 1893
Location Coahuila, Mexico
Texas, United States
Result Mexican/United States victory
United States
Commanders and leaders
Mexico Porfirio Diaz
United States Frank Wheaton
Catarino Garza
Francisco Benavides

The Garza Revolution, or the Garza War, was a armed conflict fought in the Mexican state of Coahuila and the American state of Texas between 1891 and 1893. It began when the revolutionary Catarino Garza launched a campaign into Mexico from Texas to start an uprising against the dictator Porfirio Diaz. Because of this violation of neutrality, the United States Army became involved and assisted the Mexican Army in tracking down Garza's followers. The war was relatively minor compared to other similar conflicts in Mexican history though it has been seen as a precursor to the major Mexican Revolution from 1910 to 1920.



The Garza Revolution was one of many outbreaks of rebellion during the four decades of Porfirio Diaz' regime. In September, Garza issued a statement, declaring that the citizens of Mexico were "treated like 'despicable slaves,' that the Mexican government was plagued by 'frightful corruption,' that freedom of the press had been squashed, and that the Constitution of 1857 had been betrayed." Garza called on Mexicans to "rise in mass in the name of liberty, the constitution and the public conscience." The war began on the night of September 15 when sixty to eighty Garzistas, as they were called, crossed the Rio Grande near Fort Ringgold, Texas to "overthrow the Mexican government." Many of the Garzistas were Mexican-Americans, recruited in Texas, known for being criminals before the war which is why they are often referred to as bandits or outlaws. A record of the war was created by American military and civil personnel in letters, telegrams and official reports, much of which has been preserved in a collection by the United States Army. On September 16, Captain E. L. Randall, United States Army, sent a telegram from Fort Ringgold to the army's Department of Texas with news of the event; "I have received information that at six o'clock last night C. E. Garcia [Catarino Garza] crossed into Mexico when 14 miles below here with over 50 armed men, his object to attempt a revolution" Guerilla warfare was a major factor in the conflict as the number of Garzistas remained very small and they blended into the civilian poulation. They never stayed in Mexican territory for more than a few days and they used horses to ride back and forth across the border, almost with impunity. Over the course of two campaigns, in three years, the Mexican military and the American army engaged in several small skirmishes, all of them occurring within the vicinity of the Rio Grande Valley. The majority of the fighting was between Mexican troops and the rebels in Coahuila but there were also a few encounters between the Americans and the rebels on Texas soil.

The main authors of the correspondents were Captain John G. Bourke, 3rd Cavalry, Captain George F. Chase, 3rd Cavalry, Captain George K. Hunter, 3rd Cavalry, Captain E. L. Randall, Fort Ringgold, the United States consul at Matamoros, John B. Richardson, Captain F. H. Hardie, 3rd Cavalry, Stephen O’Connor, 23rd Infantry, M. Romero of the Mexican legation in Washington, D.C., and P. Ornelas, the Mexican consul at San Antonio, Texas. Captain Bourke's reports of the two campaigns are very descriptive, one of the first was written on October 6, 1891, less than a month after the operation's beginning. In it he describes the difficulties of his mission; "The difficulty of the task performed may be inferred from the fact, which is of course well known to the Department Commander, that the population in this valley [Rio Grande Valley] is essentially Mexican—the language, dress, customs, weights and measures, money used—everything about them—may be put down as Spanish, therefore, it is almost an impossibility to separate a 'revolutionist' from one of the ordinary inhabitants." On October 12, Bourke reported the following about the examination of a Mexican village during one of his scouting expeditions; "Every house in a suspected locality is examined, names of inmates taken down, number of horses on hand ascertained, and the vicinity examined for fresh horse or wagon tracks, manure, fires, signs of bedding, anything to suggest the recent presence of strangers" On November 15, Bourke wrote that the expeditions from Fort Ringgold were "without the slightest result, beyond wearing out horses, men, and officers." This was largely due to the fact that the Americans had to search for a small group of locals in sparsely populated wilderness stretching hundreds of miles.

Intelligence gathering was poor, Mexican civlians employed as guides were known for being unreliable because of their sympathies with the rebels, as were local peasants the army encountered. The Mexican Army suffered from the same problems as the Americans, leading Bourke to recommend to his superiors that all field commanders speak Spanish so as to better communicate with Mexican authorities and citizens, rather than rely on the guides. The United States Army also employed thirty-five Black Seminole Scouts, from Fort Clark, Texas Rangers and local sheriffs to help track the Garzistas. One of the first battles was fought along the banks of the Rio Grande at San Ygnacio, on December 26, during which a large force of rebels opened fire from the Texas side of the river onto Mexican troops on the other side. The engagement was a long range one and according to an American newspaper correspondent, one Mexican soldier was killed and several people were wounded on both sides.



Benavides was one of the first prisoners taken by the Americans during the second campaign. On January 21, 1893, a squad from the 3rd Cavalry, under Lieutenant J. T. Dickman, arrested Benavides and another leader named Prudencio Gonzales without a fight on the Mexican side of the border. A day later Lieutenant Dickman came across Cecilio Eschevarria who put up a "sharp fight" but was ultimately captured. On the same day a rebel named Maximo Martinez, who participated in the San Ygnacio raid, surrendered to a local sheriff. The final engagement of the war to involve the Americans occurred on February 23 in Starr County. According to General Wheaton, Lieutenant P. G. Lowe, 18th Infantry, was out scouting with a former sheriff named Washington Shely and two Black Seminoles when they came across Las Muias Ranch, held by "the most desperate of all the bandits", Eusabio Martinez, alias Mangas de Agua. Another skirmish ensued and ended with Martinez dead. By March of 1893 the war was basically over. Captain Henry Jackson, 7th Cavalry, wrote; "The idea of any Revolution against Mexico is gone, but there are some 50 or 60 still out who are implicated in the San Ignacio raid, without money or food and who, on account of this extradition business, and in some cases civil processes, are afraid to surrender; these men are in the brush, roaming from place to place, stopping no 2 days at any one and will simply have to be hunted down. This can be done better I think by a few Seminoles and the Shelys with his deputies than any other way.... Since my last letter Rafael Nielo and Esperantis Ortiz have surrendered here and others are expected today."

The United States Army continued making arrests of suspected rebels from April to August, but after September the scouting operations had ceased. General Wheaton reported the capture of 132 individuals during the second campaign, eighty-six of whom were found to have participated in the massacre at San Ygnacio and seventy-one of them were convicted in an American court. Wheaton said; "I regret that under our laws more severe punishment can not be given the leaders of such an unlawful raid and brutal massacre as that of December 10 last. Possibly after they have served the sentences awarded by our courts the extradition by Mexico of those guilty of murder and similar crimes may be effected."

See Also


  • United States (1895). US Congressional serial set. United States Government Printing Office.
  • Margolies, Daniel S. (2011). Spaces of Law in American Foreign Relations: Extradition and Extraterritoriality in the Borderlands and Beyond, 1877-1898. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 0820330922.

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