|Lorenz, Gilliam, Hafner, Gullett|
Fort Crockett and the occupation of Veracruz, Mexico
In 1900, prior to the great hurricane, Galveston, with a population of 37,000, was the 4th largest and most sophisticated city in Texas. On September 8th, the hurricane made landfall, bringing 130-mph winds and a tidal wave that killed more than 6,000 people and destroyed one-third of the city. In 1902 measures were begun to prevent such as catastrophe from occurring again. The 10.4 mile Galveston seawall was constructed, the level of the island was raised, and structures on the island were jacked up. Construction of the seawall was completed in 1910, and the raising of the elevation was completed in 1928. The construction of the causeway linking the island with the mainland took place 1909-1912. The elegant Hotel Galvez opened in 1911.
Because of unstable conditions in Mexico, on Feb 23, 1913, as a precautionary measure, President William H. Taft ordered 3 transports and 2 brigades to Galveston.
The officers of the 2nd Division were "old and tried Indian fighters", and practically all except the junior officers had seen service in the Philippines. They dealt with the cold rainstorms of South Texas and effectively established camps at Texas City, Texas, on the mainland opposite Galveston. The battalion of engineers laid out camps and drainage systems, constructed roads and bridges, and maintained them in repair, giving valuable comfort to the camps through the bad weather. Encamped at Texas City were Division headquarters; a battalion of engineers, less one company; 4th Brigade, 23rd, 26th, and 28th Regiments of Infantry; 6th Brigade, 11th, 18th and 22nd Regiments of Infantry; 4th Regiment of Field Artillery (mountain); 6th Regiment of Cavalry; Field Ambulance Company No 3; Field Hospital No 3; Field Company D, Signal Corps; detachment, Company B Signal Corps; First Aero Squadron; field bakery No 2, five units; and 3 pack trains.
The 5th Brigade, comprised of 4000 men, were sent to Galveston and camped on a restricted area, mostly the parade grounds of Ft. Crockett, a small post which accommodated Coastal Artillery within the limits of the city. Owing to traffic regulations requiring animals to be unloaded at intervals, the last of the trains did not arrive until March 3, 1913. The organizations encamped at Galveston comprised of Company E, engineers; 5th Brigade, 4th, 7th, 19th and 28th Regiments of Infantry; and field bakery, No. 2, 6 units.
As a precaution to the event of forward movement, all organizations, except those of the 5th Brigade, were instructed to prepare camp sites as near as possible to the available roadways in the edge of Texas City, with the thought to utilize them for hauling supplies. Army transports McLellan, Sumner and Kilpatrick were docked near convenient railroad switches, being provisioned for a 14-day journey.
Sheltering more than 4000 animals presented a funding challenge, and for 3 months the horses, mules, and their feed remained exposed to the elements, causing major concern for the health of the animals. When shelter and crude mangers were procured the animals' health greatly improved.
As soon as troops were permanently located in camp, the process of hardening them for actual service began. Road marches with increasing distances, a course in target practice and field firing, swimming lessons, and lessons in the handling of pack-mule trains became routine. Texas City, being a small town, had no regular police force. An arrangement was made for a provost guard to maintain order amongst the men pertaining to the division within the town limits, and served as a training tool should the division be called upon to occupy and maintain order in a town or city. Major General Wm. H Carter said, "Taken as a whole the men of this division have shown themselves to be a self-respecting, intelligent, and splendid lot of soldiers, drawn from the average citizenship, upon whom the Nation may rely with perfect confidence in time of emergency."
The concentration of troops at Galveston and Texas City gave the first opportunity to try the new field supply and pay department - the Quartermaster Corps. Specifications insured uniformity for field kitchens, latrines, animal shelters, mangers, and picket lines as much as was practicable. Enlisting bakers, teamsters, and mechanics relieved the regiments from having to furnish extra-duty men. Trucks were found useful for delivering stores when the weather was good, but in Galveston's heavy rains the shell roads disappeared in the mud making mule teams the most reliable mode of transport in all weather. The operation of the field bakery was reorganized. Details of administration and supply were simplified, and regimental paperwork minimized.
Though atmospheric conditions were not favorable to aviation, the 2nd Division was joined by an aero squadron comprised of aviators, students, and enlisted men of the Signal Corps. By early June all but 3 officers and a small detachment of these men were relieved of duty with the division.
Porfirio Diaz at one time was seen as one of the heroes in Mexico's struggle against French rule. Through a series of revolts he took the title of President of Mexico in 1876, and proved himself to be a shrewd and ruthless individual, curtailing basic freedoms, and squelching any and all dissension through the use of violence. Through his economic programs the rich benefitted greatly, much of the country's agricultural and mineral resources were sold to foreign investors, and the poor became destitute. In a 1908 interview with a U.S. reporter, Diaz flippantly welcomed opposition parties in the 1910 presidential election. Francisco Madero, a popular author, won that election, and Diaz had him jailed, then claimed to have been re-elected himself. Madero called for an armed uprising, and a rag tag army of revolutionaries ousted Diaz by April 1911. Madero assumed the presidency, but through his lack of political skills he made the mistake of leaving Diaz' men in positions of influence. Madero was soon captured and assassinated along with his vice president. An unscrupulous General Victoriano Huerto named himself President of Mexico and the 2nd phase of the Mexican revolution began. Many American capitalists supported Huerta, but President Woodrow Wilson did not.
A long string of diplomatic insults by Huerta and his government came to head when in April 1914 nine unarmed American sailors from the USS Dolphin, in the process of procuring gasoline for their small boat, were arrested for allegedly entering a prohibited zone in Tampico. Though the sailors were released an hour and a half after their capture, when Huerta refused to apologize, Wilson had an excuse to invade Mexico.
Wilson ordered the U.S. Navy to prepare for the occupation of the port of Veracruz. While waiting for authorization from congress, he was alerted to a German delivery of weapons to General Huerta. He issued an immediate order to seize the port's customs office and confiscate the weaponry. The weapons shipment, in fact, originated from the Remington Arms company in the U.S., and was being shipped to Huerta via Hamburg, Germany as a way to skirt the arms embargo.
Early on April 21, 1914, General Mass, the Mexican military commandant, was notified that US forces intended to take charge of the Custom House and was urged to "offer no resistance but to withdraw in order to avoid loss of life and property of the people of Vera Cruz." He, for the most part complied, but the commander of the Naval Academy and unorganized pockets of individuals offered resistance. Ships of the Atlantic Fleet started bombardment of Veracruz. By 11:30 AM the first detail of 787 soldiers, of whom 502 were marines, landed and seized the custom house, and an urban battle ensued in which many civilians are said to have taken part. The defense of the city also included the release of prisoners held at the feared San Juan de Ulua prison. In the meantime, the building of the Naval Academy was being bombarded by the USS Prairie. American troops occupied most of the town by that evening. The USS San Francisco and USS Chester continued the bombardment of the Naval Academy building until the following day. The first-ever combat observation mission flown by a Navy plane was at Veracruz, Mexico on April 25th.
General Huerta and Constitutional Army leader Venustiano Carranza were too focused on the Revolution to make any resistance to the American occupation. Carranza eventually overthrew Huerta. The occupation brought the US and Mexico to the brink of war and worsened relations between the two countries for many years.
Out of a total of 6000 US Marines landed, 18 were killed. 400 Mexican civilians were killed. On April 30th the army's 5th Infantry Brigade, led by General Frederick Funston, went ashore to relieve the marines and occupy the city under a military government. Occupation lasted until Nov. 23, 1914.
Other items of interest:
-The USS Chester was one of 2 military vessels that had responded to the SOS calls of the Titanic in 1912.
-Tampico and Veracruz were the 2 largest ports in Mexico.
- Other Forts along the Texas-Mexico border that were supplemented with troops in 1913 and 1914 included Ft Huachuca, Arizona.
- A category 3 hurricane struck Galveston Island August 16, 1915. Though the Galveston Depot had 6 foot of water, and 14 lives were lost (of which 4 were soldiers), the newly constructed seawall is believed to have prevented the scale of destruction that had occurred 15 years earlier.
- Notable names in military history also at Texas City, Galveston and Veracruz in 1914 were: George C. Marshall, John J Pershing
- So many immigrants entered the country in Galveston it was often called as the Ellis Island of the South.