Friday, April 15, 2011

Taft Warns Warring Sides over Border Fighting

A day after fighting in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico between rebels under "Red" Lopez and Federals resulted in the death of American Robert Harrington in Douglas, Arizona Territory from a stray bullet, President Taft and the State Department issued a warning to both sides of the Mexican conflict that they will be held responsible for the loss of American lives and property as a result of the fighting.  Both major Washington newspapers stated that this is the White House's strongest statement yet regarding the Mexican Civil War since Taft ordered 20,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border last month.

The battle in Agua Prieta began early on April 13 when "Red" Lopez attacked the town with 150 rebels who reach the town using a train the band captured the day before.  The forces loyal to rebel President Francisco Modero drove the train back to Agua Prieta and formed a firing line from the railway station to the American customs house.  After three hours of fighting, the Moderists took control of the town.  Much of the fighting took place mere feet from the international border, and a number of stray bullets hit structures and, unfortunately, people on the American side.  One American, Harrington, was killed and six injured.  Another American, J.C. Edwards, was killed fighting for the Insurrectos.

Soldiers from Troop K of the American First Calvary under Captain Julien Edmond Victor Gaujot rode to the international border, while under fire, to issue a warning to both sides to cease firing into Douglas, but it went unheeded.  The twenty-nine Federal troops in Agua Prieta, led by Captains Andreas Basuite and Jesus Vargas, broke from the town and rode across the border, where in accordance with international law, they were disarmed and detained.  They are being held in a ballpark in Douglas.  At the request of the detained captains, Gaujot and a civilian, Charles McKean, rode into Agua Prieta to secure the surrender of the garrison that remained behind.  With the acceptance of the rebel leader Lopez, the remaining garrison surrendered their arms and ammunition and were conducted to safe haven on the American side of the border.  Five Americans held prisoner by the Federals were also carried over to the American side.  At total of 15 were killed in the battle.

A statement issued yesterday by the White House called the situation "acute," highlighting the seriousness they are taking the situation.  With Americans on American soil now confirmed killed by the combatants in the Mexican conflict, Taft has made clear to the Mexican government our sides intentions to protect American citizens.  Further complicating the situation is news reached in Washington yesterday of English marines landing in San Quentin, in Baja California.  30 marines and a Maxim gun arrived in the town to protect it from Socialist rebels.  This is the first real evidence of another power interfering in the Mexican conflict.

It remains to be seen whether Taft intends to send troops across the border after the Battle of Agua Prieta.  Officals from towns near the border are demanding that Taft be more forceful toward the Mexicans in order to defend American lives and property.  From the secretary of the Douglas, Arizona chamber of commerce:
During an engagement between the federals and insurrectos at Agua Prieta, Mexico, yesterday, one mile from Douglas, two Americans were killed and eleven wounded, including some children attending to their own business here in Douglas.  Thousands of bullets fell in our city, passing through residences and endangering life and property.  Is there no way by which Americans can be protected in the peaceful pursuit of their affairs?  Expect more fighting along the line at any time.  Combatants fought within 10 feet of the American line yesterday.

Captain Gaujot issued a warning to both sides today about the fighting:
If so much as one single bullet whistles across the border line, between Texas and Mexico, and is close enough to an American citizen to be heard, United States soldiers will cross the boundary line at once and put down the rebellion.
Link: Taft Preparing to Send Troops Across the Border [The Washington Times]
Link: Taft Says Firing Over the Line Must Cease [The Bisbee Daily Review]
Link: President Warns Mexican Rebels and Diaz Party [The Washington Herald]
Link: Agua Prieta in the Hands of Rebel Forces [The Bisbee Daily Review]

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