On May 13, 1915, a federal grand jury in Brownsville, Texas indicted one Basilio Ramos, Jr. and eight others for conspiring to steal “certain property of the United States of America, contrary to the authority thereof, to wit, the states of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and California….”1 This improbable offense stemmed from the fact that Ramos and his associates were the signers of the Plan of San Diego, which called for nothing less than a Mexican-American rebellion and the establishment of an independent republic in the Southwest.

This remarkable document, ostensibly dated at the small south Texas town of San Diego on January 6, 1915, called for a general armed uprising on February 20, 1915, to proclaim the independence of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California. A provisional directorate, composed of the nine signatories, would provide political leadership, while a Liberating Army of Races and Peoples made up of Mexican-Americans, blacks, and Japanese fighting under a red and white flag bearing the legend “Equality and Independence” would wage implacable warfare—all Anglo males over sixteen years of age would be slain. As the movement gained strength, direction would come from the Supreme Revolutionary Congress of San Diego, which would liberate not only Mexican-Americans but also Indians and blacks. The revolutionary congress would assist the blacks in seizing six states contiguous to the proposed Méxican-American republic for the purpose of setting up their own republic. The framers of the Plan of San Diego specifically stated that they would accept no aid from the Mexican government but might request annexation to Mexico if they considered it expedient.2

The goals of this bizarre conspiracy were manifestly incapable of realization. However visionary the Plan, it had important repercussions not only on United States-Mexican relations but also on the relations between Anglos and Mexican-Americans in Texas and throughout the Southwest. Viewed in isolation, the Plan was an expression of Mexican-American frustration, and it came to nothing. Yet viewed within the context of the Mexican Revolution, the Plan was a device by which one of the contending factions could exploit Mexican-American unrest to its own advantage.

The Plan developed in three phases, the first being from January through June, 1915. It is this period which presents the greatest problems, because many of the events remain obscure. For example, the very authorship of the Plan has never been established and speculation has ranged over a wide gamut of possibilities. At one extreme, it has been intimated that the architect was W. M. Hanson, who in 1917 became Senior Captain and Inspector of the Texas Rangers. Hanson’s motive was allegedly to cause problems for the Carranza government, which in 1914 had expelled him from Mexico for having supported the Huerta regime.3 At the other extreme, it has been suggested that the Plan was what it purported to be—a liberation movement formulated by Mexican-Americans.4 Most historians, however, have tended to view the Plan as part of a larger conspiracy by the deposed strongman, General Victoriano Huerta, to make a comeback in Mexico in 1915.5 The most recent scholarship asserts: “During its life, the Plan began with followers of Huerta, then was taken over by Germans, who later shared their control with Carranza.”6

The view that the Plan of San Diego was a Huertista intrigue rests on two foundations. First, the conspiracy unfolded during the first six months of 1915, precisely the period when Huerta was organizing his counterrevolution. More importantly, Basilio Ramos, whose arrest brought the plot to light, stated that he and his colleagues were Huertistas.7 According to Ramos’ uncorroborated testimony, at the beginning of 1915 he was a political prisoner in Monterrey, which was in the hands of the Carrancistas. And it was in the Monterrey prison that the Plan of San Diego conspiracy was organized by Mexican citizens.

When questioned about the authorship of the Plan, Ramos became extremely vague, saying it was written “by a friend” of his eight Huertista cellmates, a man who had earlier been imprisoned with them but had since been released. The Plan itself was smuggled into the prison by the jailer who brought Ramos and his companions their meals. On January 6, 1915, according to Ramos, each of the nine men in the cell signed the Plan, which was datelined San Diego. And, if Ramos is to be believed, within forty-eight hours after the Plan had been signed, he and one of his companions, Agustín S. Garza, were released from prison.

Ramos left Monterrey, which was about to fall to an advancing Villista army, and traveled to Matamoros, where the Carrancistas were preparing to make a stand. Armed with a copy of the Plan of San Diego, a cipher, and a credential from the provisional directorate authorizing him to issue commissions and organize juntas, he crossed the international bridge to Brownsville sometime between January 13 and 15 to begin recruiting men in Texas. South Texas had been a hotbed of conspiracy since the beginning of the Mexican Revolution, the web of plot and counterplot involving both exiles and local political factions. It was this situation which brought Ramos to grief. He imprudently tried to recruit in McAllen, a center of Villista sympathy. On January 24, pro-Villista officials arrested Ramos and turned him over to the federal authorities.8

Bureau of Investigation agents examined the eleven documents, including a signed copy of the Plan, found on Ramos’ person. They then took the prisoner for interrogation to Brownsville, where he was also questioned by Immigration Service inspectors. The Department of Justice decided to charge Ramos with conspiracy to levy war against the United States, and on February 4, the U.S. Commissioner in Brownsville conducted a private hearing, at which Ramos admitted signing the Plan and being authorized to organize juntas in Texas. He was bound over to await the action of a federal grand jury. Unable to post a $5,000 bond, he was committed to the Brownsville jail.9

Efforts to keep Ramos’ arrest a secret in order to capture his fellow conspirators proved futile. On February 2, the Associated Press broke the story, which began appearing in Texas newspapers the following day. Under this additional pressure to apprehend the remaining plotters, the authorities focused their dragnet on Agustín S. Garza, who was not only a signer of the Plan but was also the commander of the Liberating Army of Races and Peoples. Garza remains a wraithlike figure whose antecedents are extremely sketchy.10 After his release from prison in Monterrey, he had concentrated his recruiting efforts in Laredo, from where he corresponded with Ramos.11 The manhunt initially centered on Laredo, but for the next three months Garza, using the alias of “León Caballo,” was reportedly in a number of Texas towns, and the authorities seemed always to be one town behind in their efforts to capture him.

Tension mounted as February 20, the announced date for the uprising, approached, and the army increased its patrols in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. But the date passed without incident. The only thing that may have happened was the appearance of a revised Plan of San Diego, a Manifesto to the Oppressed Peoples of America. This document, datelined at San Diego on February 20 and issued in the name of the revolutionary congress, appeared over the names of nine individuals, one being the General in Chief “León Caballo” and the rest evidently fictitious. While reaffirming the original Plan, the new manifesto included a more detailed exposition of objectives. The principal change was the proclamation of a social revolution in the United States and the establishment of the Social Republic of Texas. With that state as a base, the revolution would encompass Arizona, New Mexico, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah.12 But it is not at all certain that the manifesto was issued at San Diego, or on February 20, or even by the original authors of the Plan.

The next four months were outwardly peaceful, and to all appearances the Plan of San Diego had been a fiasco. As an indication of how lightly the Plan was now regarded, when Ramos was indicted in Brownsville on May 13, his bond was reduced from $5,000 to $100. He managed to raise this sum, then jumped bail and fled across the river to Matamoros, where he was lavishly entertained by the local Carrancista officials.13

The reception accorded Ramos hardly coincides with his story of being a Huerta partisan, especially since at the time Huertistas in the United States were busily organizing their leader’s bid to regain power in Mexico. Furthermore, the commander at Matamoros, the Carrancista general Emiliano P. Nafarrate, had by Ramos’ own admission assisted him immediately prior to the latter’s ill-fated mission to Texas.14 These inconsistencies raise some doubts about the origins of the Plan of San Diego, which has been considered a Huertista operation primarily because Ramos said it was. Whether the Plan was a Huertista diversion taken over by the Carrancistas after Huerta’s imminent counterrevolution collapsed with his arrest on June 27, or whether it might have been a Carrancista operation all along, the Mexican connection made the Plan significant.

That the Plan could function only with active support from Mexico became apparent during its second phase, lasting from July through October, 1915. The key factor was the privileged sanctuary the Plan’s adherents enjoyed in northeastern Mexico, which was once again firmly under Carrancista control. Beginning in early July, the Plan erupted in a wave of raids that convulsed the Lower Rio Grande Valley. This offensive was characterized by a further modification of the Plan and by the appearance of new leadership. An undated manifesto proclaimed the independence of Texas, New Mexico, California, Arizona, Oklahoma and part of Mississippi, which would become the Republic of Texas. The manifesto, exhorting Mexican-Americans in Texas to arms, purportedly emanated from revolutionary headquarters in San Antonio, being issued by the First Chief of Operations Luis de la Rosa and by the Chief of the General Staff Aniceto Pizaña. The new leadership in itself indicated the continued emphasis on Texas, for De la Rosa was a former Cameron County deputy sheriff, while Pizaña came from a respected ranching family near Brownsville.15

The Lower Valley was in turmoil from July 2 on, when a band of thirty armed Mexicans was discovered north of Sebastian. This band committed depredations for three weeks while eluding sheriffs’ posses, rangers, and the cavalry. Thereafter, isolated clashes occurred, such as a skirmish at Los Tulitos Ranch, the home of the Pizaña clan, but an ominous pattern was developing—the raids increasingly resembled guerrilla warfare. Railroad trestles were burned, telegraph and telephone lines were cut, trains were fired upon, and several Anglos were murdered.16 By early August, the raiders were emboldened to strike at the major symbol of Anglo domination, the enormous King Ranch. On August 8, some fifty Mexicans attacked a subheadquarters, the Norias Ranch located on the railroad seventy miles north of Brownsville. The attack failed but the raiders left five dead before retreating. In the aftermath, the authorities learned that approximately half of the band had come from Mexico.17 This confirmed what was generally suspected; it was Mexican support that was keeping the offensive alive.

Further evidence of this support was provided by the intensive propaganda campaign that began in August for the Texas Revolution. The official Carranza newspapers in Matamoros, Monterrey, Tampico, Veracruz, and elsewhere not only published the manifesto verbatim, but during August and September these dailies, as well as Carrancista organs in Mexico City, carried stirring accounts of the triumphant progress of the revolution.18El Demócrata of Monterrey reported that the Texas revolutionists, numbering 5,000 well-armed men, had captured Brownsville and had the American army reeling in headlong retreat. Yet the laurels for imagination must go to El Dictamen of Veracruz, which announced that the Indians of the Southwest had joined the revolutionary movement and were committing all manner of depredations.19 Besides proving that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, the press campaign clearly demonstrated the Carranza regime’s support for the rebellion in Texas.

That the Carrancistas were providing even more tangible assistance was the conviction of Major General Frederick Funston, commander of the Southern Department. Urgently requesting reinforcements, he reported that Nafarrate was directing an increasing number of raids from Matamoros. In response to Funston’s request, the War Department began dispatching additional units to the Lower Valley.20

Carranza officials continued to deny any connection with the raids. On August 31, Pablo González, Carranza’s favorite general and a man whom the First Chief had appointed in May to command the Army Corps of the East, sent a telegram to General Alfredo Ricaut, Carranza’s nephew who was in command at Nuevo Laredo. González stated that by order of the First Chief, Ricaut and his troops were to abstain absolutely from any involvement in the Texas troubles and would be held strictly accountable for compliance with the directive. The telegram was eminently suitable for showing to the Americans as evidence of Carranza’s good faith, and Ricaut promptly delivered a copy to the consul in Nuevo Laredo.21 But on September 2, Ricaut in a private communication sent González a report from “Major Manuel Amarante, the agent whom I had in Texas in compliance with your orders and who arrived here yesterday.”22 Amarante was a member of Ricaut’s staff.23 Thus at least one Mexican officer had been in Texas observing, if not advising and participating in, the raids.

By early September, it should have been obvious to the State Department that the Carranza regime was playing a double game. Carranza officials emphatically denied involvement in the raids, but ranking army officers on the border were convinced that the Carrancistas were providing the raiders with sanctuary, weapons, and cadre.24 And, in communications with President Wilson and Secretary of State Lansing, the Constitutionalist confidential agent in Washington made one point implicit—recognize the Carranza government and the raids would cease.25 Wilson and Lansing, however, ignored this diplomatic ploy, and the incursions continued.

The situation in the Lower Valley was critical by mid-September. More than half of the army’s mobile units had been concentrated between Laredo and Brownsville, but the presence of these additional troops did not deter the guerrillas, who continued to cross in ever-increasing numbers. On September 13, marauders attacked a patrol camped on the Rio Grande, killing two cavalrymen and wounding two others. Eleven days later, some eighty raiders led by a Carrancista officer crossed by boat near Progreso, where they looted and burned a store, killed one soldier, and wounded two. As the Mexicans withdrew across the river, several hundred Carranza soldiers provided covering fire. An American soldier captured during the foray was taken across the river, executed, and his head displayed on a pike by the raiders.26 Washington was outraged, demanding both an explanation and an immediate cessation of the raids. For the first time since the disturbances began, the Carranza regime responded positively; General Nafarrate, who was a convenient scapegoat, was transferred to Tampico together with his entire command. For almost a month after the Progreso affair there was a lull in the fighting on the Rio Grande.27 The raiders did not strike again until the night of October 18, when they wrecked and looted a passenger train only five miles north of Brownsville, killing three people in the process. On the night of October 21, they attacked an isolated army unit encamped at Ojo de Agua, inflicting heavy casualties on the sixteen-man detachment. And on the night of October 24, they engaged in a five-minute skirmish with the army near Brownsville.28 Significantly, this was the last raid in 1915.

The reason lay in the diplomatic recognition of Carranza. During the lull in October, Carranza demonstrated his ability to halt the incursions, which was not surprising since his regime had sponsored them in the first place. The implicit message was of course that the raids would resume if recognition were long delayed. Washington was already moving toward recognition, for Carranza had emerged as the strongest factional leader in Mexico. Implementing this policy on October 14, the United States gave Carranza permission to use American railroads in order to send reinforcements through Laredo and Eagle Pass for the successful defense of Agua Prieta, Sonora, against a major Villista assault. On October 19, he was accorded de facto recognition by Washington. Whether the final flurry of raids resulted from a breakdown in orders, or whether it had been designed as a final nudge to Washington, the fact remains that within a week after Carranza’s recognition, the military activity connected with the Plan of San Diego ended.

Carranza’s policy had succeeded brilliantly, but at a terrible cost to Mexican-Americans; by the fall of 1915, south Texas was on the verge of a race war. For all the turmoil they had caused, the raiders had inflicted surprisingly few casualties: eleven soldiers killed and seventeen wounded, and six civilians killed and eight wounded, according to official figures.29 But they had triggered a backlash of massive proportions. The Anglo minority, who had come to take the Plan of San Diego very seriously, viewed themselves as engaged in a struggle for survival against the Mexicans. Anglo fear had manifested itself in a wave of summary killings by rangers, local officers, and citizens.

On July 23, two Mexican-Americans were shot to death “resisting arrest” near Mercedes. Five days later, another was lynched near San Benito. In early August, Texas Adjutant General Henry Hutchings led a posse that killed three suspected raiders at a ranch near Brownsville.30 This was only the beginning. Following the organization in August of a vigilante Law and Order League, the executions of Mexican-American “suspects” began to mount.31 By September, the situation had become so serious that several thousand Mexican-Americans fled across the river to Matamoros. Many of these families fled because the rangers and local vigilantes were confiscating weapons and ordering Mexicans to leave their homes in rural areas, often under threat of death.32 Furthermore, in September there occurred the worst single incident of mass murder, near Donna; fourteen Mexican-Americans were shot out of hand and their bodies left in a row as a warning.33 Those Mexican-Americans who were part of the establishment found themselves caught between two fires. Prominent leaders, however, such as attorney J. T. Canales of Brownsville and Deodoro Guerra, the political boss of Hidalgo County, assisted in combatting the raiders. Canales formed a secret service, known as the Canales Scouts, to aid the army, and Guerra led posses in pursuit of the marauders.34

The death toll among Mexican-Americans cannot be determined with any precision. Twenty years later, rows of skeletons with bullet holes in the skulls were still being found in the countryside; further, the two extant lists of those slain are scanty at best. Most estimates range from 102 upward.35 General Funston, however, reported in the summer of 1916 that state and local officers “did execute by hanging or shooting approximately three hundred suspected Mexicans on [the] American side of [the] river.”36

The racial hatred engendered by the 1915 raids continued through the spring of 1916, when some of the alleged raiders were tried in Brownsville. Thirty-four individuals were indicted, most on multiple counts of murder.37 Twelve were actually arrested and tried. Considering the temper of the times, as a group they could have fared worse: only four were convicted of murder. Two were sentenced to fifteen years each in the state penitentiary, and one of these convictions was overturned on appeal. Amid considerable public excitement, the other two were hanged in Brownsville.38 The trials seemed to symbolize the demise of the Plan of San Diego.

Matters might have ended on this note had it not been for an unexpected development—General Francisco Villa’s raid on Columbus, New Mexico, on March 9, 1916, and the subsequent dispatch into Chihuahua of the punitive expedition under General John J. Pershing. As is well-known, Carranza regarded the punitive expedition as a flagrant violation of Mexican sovereignty and demanded its immediate withdrawal. But as American reinforcements poured into Chihuahua and Pershing’s columns continued their southward advance, relations between the United States and Mexico became increasingly tense. It was within this context that the Plan of San Diego received a new lease on life, its third and final phase lasting from March through July, 1916.

Carranza had ended the raids in October, 1915, but he had retained the Plan of San Diego cadre. De la Rosa and Pizaña were fugitives in Mexico, for the governor of Texas had issued a $1,000 reward for them dead or alive. And for months rumors that they were being permitted to rebuild their forces had been reaching the border.39 Under the new circumstances, Carranza revived the Plan of San Diego as a counter to the punitive expedition; unless it were withdrawn, serious trouble would break out in Texas.

The level of apprehension in that state rose markedly during March. A score of towns near the border petitioned for military protection. General Funston replied that it was impossible to provide troops and suggested that the towns organize local defense companies. They began doing so within a week.40 Contributing to the tension were confirmed reports that De la Rosa was openly recruiting followers in Ciudad Victoria; in April, he was doing the same in Monterrey.41

Not only were conditions along the lower Rio Grande a source of concern in Washington, but the punitive expedition had also encountered difficulties. On April 12, a squadron of cavalry was driven from the city of Parral in southern Chihuahua by the infuriated citizenry. In an effort to avert a crisis, the American government appointed General Hugh Scott and General Funston to meet in Juárez with General Alvaro Obregón, Carranza’s Minister of War. The talks soon became stalemated, for Carranza steadfastly demanded that the expedition be recalled. With no diplomatic solution in sight, Scott and Funston urgently recommended on May 1 that the defenses of the border be strengthened. They felt that only a show of force would impress the Mexican generals, who were convinced of the United States’ lack of military preparedness and were accordingly sanguine regarding their chances in a war.42 Washington promptly imposed an arms embargo against Mexico, and on May 9 mobilized the National Guard of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The prudence of these measures had been justified, for on May 5, a band of Mexican irregulars had raided the small settlement of Glenn Springs in the Big Bend region of Texas, a move which resulted in American troops briefly crossing the border in pursuit of the raiders.43

Carranza protested against this new violation of Mexican sovereignty, but he also took the position that raids such as the Glenn Springs affair were the work of Mexican exiles organizing on the American side of the border; therefore, the Mexican government could not be held accountable.44 Exiles were indeed plotting on the American side, in particular General Antonio Villarreal, who was attempting to subvert the garrison in Nuevo Laredo to join him in fighting both the punitive expedition and the Carranza regime.45 Notwithstanding Carranza’s efforts to depict the border troubles as being caused by Mexican refugees in Texas, and to blame Villarreal for fomenting revolution in that state, the fact remained that the threat was coming from Mexico. Villarreal merely provided a useful smokescreen.

While the American army prepared to combat future incursions, the Department of Justice developed information that De la Rosa planned to invade Texas between May 10 and 15. And there were rumors of an imminent Mexican-American uprising in the Lower Valley. Perhaps not coincidentally, on May 8, Governor Ferguson announced that the rangers would immediately be increased to fifty men, with a strong probability that a call would be issued for an additional one hundred ranger volunteers for border service.46 Fears of an uprising seemed confirmed when, on May 11, the federal authorities announced the uncovering of an irredentist conspiracy centered at Kingsville and the arrest of some thirty Mexicans in connection with the plot. Most were subsequently released, but the two alleged ringleaders “disappeared” while in the custody of the rangers.47

May 15 passed without the anticipated invasion, but by then De la Rosa and Pizaña were operating openly around Matamoros. Not only De la Rosa’s irregulars, but also units of the Mexican army, were concentrating on the international boundary.48 A Department of Justice agent in Brownsville even recommended that all border towns be placed under martial law to forestall any Mexican-American uprising in conjunction with an invasion. More disturbingly, he reported that De la Rosa and a mysterious individual named Esteban Fierros had recently traveled to Mexico City to confer with General Pablo González, who was a party to the plot. González had consulted with Carranza, and the latter had ordered that the invasion not be launched until after the Obregón-Scott talks had ended.49 Since the Juárez conference terminated without result on May 11, this precondition had already been met.

The consul at Nuevo Laredo added another disquieting note on June 1 by reporting that the Mexicans were feverishly rebuilding an abandoned branch railroad line from La Jarita, some twenty miles southwest of Nuevo Laredo, to the Rio Grande in order to transport troops to the border. Furthermore, he believed that the invasion reports were true, the Carranza government maintaining it could annihilate the punitive expedition and overrun selected American border towns before the United States could react. Finally, he stated that according to information secured through official Mexican channels, the revised date for the invasion was no later than June 10.50 On June 2, the Mexican representative in Washington delivered a strongly worded note demanding the withdrawal of the punitive expedition.51 If not technically an ultimatum, the note was close to it.

Some American officials refused to believe that the Mexicans were serious. Given the disparity between the two nations, to say nothing of Mexico’s dependence on the United States for munitions, any advantage gained by surprise attacks would be only temporary, and the outcome of a war was a foregone conclusion. But the Mexicans were in fact intending to invade.

The prime mover in this grand design—a revival of the Plan of San Diego coupled with an invasion of south Texas—was General Pablo González, acting from his headquarters in Cuernavaca with Carranza’s approval. Several months earlier, González had dispatched to the border a secret agent, General Juan Antonio Acosta. The latter supplied intelligence on American military dispositions and served as a conduit between disaffected elements in Texas and González.52 The individual whom González selected to implement the invasion was Esteban Fierros, a colonel in the Army Corps of the East. At first glance Fierros seemed an unlikely choice, for he was not a combat officer. He had held a succession of staff assignments involving the Constitutionalist railways and when chosen for the mission was superintendent of the railroad terminal at Tampico. On the other hand, Fierros was a native of Laredo and came from a prominent Mexican-American family there, he was personally loyal to González, and his administrative and railroad background would be crucial to the success of the operation.53

As the crisis in Mexican–United States relations approached in May, Fierros was promoted to brevet general and given command of a special brigade quietly being assembled at Monterrey. His promotion was necessitated not only by his command of the Brigada Fierros but also because he had as subordinates three other generals, one of them being Luis de la Rosa himself. And, for good measure, Fierros was also commissioned as a brigadier general in the Liberating Army of Races and Peoples in America, the military arm of the Revolutionary Congress of San Diego. The commission, purportedly issued at San Diego on May 30, 1916, was signed by the General in Chief “León Caballo.”54

Fierros’ credentials were more impressive than the unit he commanded. Like other military contingents during the revolutionary decade, it was topheavy—four generals, plus a corresponding proportion of subordinate officers through the rank of sublieutenant, for a brigade whose strength was 450 men. The soldiers were a motley aggregation; some were Plan of San Diego refugees from Texas, but the majority were raw recruits. They were stiffened by a sprinkling of Carrancista regulars, including forty men from the Railroad Corps. The latter’s function was to rebuild the track to La Jarita, near Nuevo Laredo, which station had been selected as the base for the invasion. To facilitate the preparations, a military train was placed at Fierros’ disposal. The most intriguing feature of the brigade was that it contained six Japanese, who were evidently ordnance experts. Besides commanding the brigade, Fierros controlled the disbursement of funds.55 This is an important point, for it enabled Fierros to insure that the activities of his principal associate, De la Rosa, would unfold under strict Carrancista direction.

By June 8, 1916, the brigade was more or less poised for action, and Fierros conducted a formal military review at Jarita Station. The next day he sent González a status report. Fierros had assembled 310 cavalry and 143 infantry, but not all of them were at Jarita; he had been infiltrating three to four men across the Rio Grande each night to reconnoiter and serve as guides for the remainder of the brigade when it crossed. This would occur shortly, as soon as Fierros had settled some last-minute details with General Fortunato Zuazua. Then, in a remarkable handwritten postscript, Fierros stated:

Most of the cavalry have crossed into Texas to penetrate the interior of the State, disguised as vaqueros, and to date we have had no difficulty in crossing in parties of 25 and 30 men, dividing them into bands of 20 [dispersed] in different directions, designating Kennedy [sic], Texas as die assembly point. The Coup should break out tonight after midnight [June 10]. I expect we will soon have very good news to communicate to you. I leave on Monday to put myself at the head of my troops, depending on the orders that Fortunato gives me. I send you a strong abrazo. [I am] expecting you to telegraph me the latest on the International situation.

[signed] Esteban E. Fierros

The lady who will deliver this to you is an intimate friend who has all my confidence, who has just returned from Laredo, Texas where I sent her on a mission.56

Mexican preparations for the impending conflict included an orchestrated campaign of anti-American propaganda in the government newspapers, public demonstrations, the massing of troops in Sonora and Chihuahua for use against the punitive expedition, and a buildup on the lower Texas border for the invasion. The plan was said to involve a combined operation between the Fierros Brigade and regular Carrancista units, among them General Fortunato Zuazua’s brigade. Columns would cross the Rio Grande above and below Laredo, isolate that city, and attack it from the north while the garrison of Nuevo Laredo launched an assault from across the river.57 While this was occurring, the Americans would be kept off balance by diversionary raids from Matamoros, by an uprising of Plan of San Diego sympathizers in Texas, and by the guerrilla activities of Fierros’ infiltrators.

However feasible this plan may have seemed on paper, at the last minute the Mexican high command decided not to implement it. Precisely how the decision was reached remains unclear, but the realization that the Americans had uncovered the invasion plan and took an exceedingly dim view of it undoubtedly had a sobering effect; the Americans knew the invasion date, the location and strength of the Fierros Brigade, and that De la Rosa was being aided and abetted by Carrancista officials.58 Accordingly, what took place on June 10 was not an invasion but the frantic postponement of the operation. General Alfredo Ricaut, the commander from Piedras Negras to Matamoros, rushed to Nuevo Laredo. At a meeting on the international bridge he assured the American commander, General W. A. Mann, that the forces at La Jarita were really bandits who had been rebuilding the rail line for their own nefarious purposes. Ricaut promised to deal with them immediately.59

The invasion had been shelved, but the Carranza regime was determined to continue exerting pressure on the United States. Carranza therefore reverted to the strategy that had proved so successful in 1915—a series of raids, none of which by itself would be spectacular enough to provoke massive American retaliation. The Fierros Brigade would mount the raids under the banner of the Plan of San Diego.

The revised plan was implemented with dispatch. On June 12, an American official reported that, “A small party of armed Mexicans invaded Texas last night with a red flag and a can of kerosene oil….”60 He referred to a commando that had tried to burn the railroad trestle and cut the telegraph wires at Webb Station, twenty miles north of Laredo. The party had carried a red and white flag bearing the legend “Liberty, Equality, and Reconquest.” The operation miscarried, and in a running fight with a posse and an army detachment, several of the raiders were killed and three others captured. Among the dead was a Lieutenant Colonel Villarreal, in full Carrancista uniform. One of the prisoners later wrote an indignant letter to the Mexican Minister of War demanding assistance on the ground that he was not a bandit as the Americans claimed, but was a lieutenant in the Carrancista army who had only been following orders.61

A more serious raid occurred on the night of June 15. Some sixty men under Colonel Isabel de los Santos, one of De la Rosa’s adherents and a firebrand of the Fierros Brigade, crossed the river for a surprise attack against an army unit encamped near San Ignacio, thirty miles downriver from Laredo. This band also had a red flag, and the troops were told they were invading Texas to implement the Plan of San Diego. They were detected by the American sentries, and in a sharp engagement eight of the raiders, including a Carrancista major, were killed, several captured, and the rest pursued as they sought the sanctuary of Mexican territory.62

Even as these events plunged the Laredo area into an uproar, another raid occurred near Brownsville. Abel Sandoval assembled some twenty men on June 14 to strike a blow for the Texas Revolution. They crossed the river intending to eliminate Mexican-Americans opposed to the Plan of San Diego, to wreck trains on the line running north from Brownsville, and to attack army patrols. On June 16, they tried to ambush a detachment searching for them. The ambush failed; one raider died, another was captured, and the remainder fled across the river with the army in hot pursuit.63

This raid had consequences on which the Carrancistas had not reckoned. While approving the forays, Carranza had at the same time issued inflexible orders to his generals. His commander in Chihuahua was instructed to notify Pershing that the punitive expedition would be attacked if it moved in any direction except north. The message was delivered on June 16. Furthermore, General Ricaut, commanding the line of the Rio Grande, had received a direct order to repel any American incursion.64 Ricaut’s mettle was now tested, for in response to the raid near Brownsville, General James Parker sent troops to pursue the marauders not only to the Rio Grande but across it.

The first cavalry unit to cross on June 17 was reinforced that afternoon. Ricaut, through the Mexican consul in Brownsville, notified Parker that his troops were moving to repel the Americans. Parker informed the consul that if Ricaut’s troops fired on his men he would attack with the full force of his command. Ricaut countered by hastily evacuating Matamoros. On June 18, the raiders having been dispersed, Parker ordered his men to withdraw. As they pulled back, the rear guard came under Carrancista sniper fire, whereupon they charged and pursued the enemy for several miles. Moreover, the 26th Infantry began crossing the river in support of the cavalry. What could have developed into a major engagement ended on a peaceful note, however. Ricaut promised to deal with the raiders, and Parker withdrew all his troops by nightfall on June 18.65

Parker’s action was decisive insofar as the lower Rio Grande was concerned; he had called Ricaut’s bluff, and the new wave of raids came to an abrupt end. But in a larger context, as Arthur Link has perceptively observed, “This was the incident that set war machinery in motion on both sides.”66 In Mexico City, the War Office’s announcement on June 17 of fighting near Matamoros produced a wave of excitement, the population believing that hostilities had commenced. Although they had not, the United States was definitely preparing for war. The Army War College gave top priority to plans for invading Mexico along the major rail lines from the border, and on June 18, the remainder of the National Guard was mobilized. The stationing of these additional 100,000 to 125,000 guardsmen on the border would free the 30,000 regulars deployed there for service in Mexico. On the diplomatic front, Lansing drafted a menacing reply to the Mexican note delivered on June 2. Lansing’s message emphasized that if the punitive expedition were attacked, “the gravest consequences” would result.67

The State Department delivered copies of the note to all Latin American envoys in Washington on June 21, and by coincidence there occurred that day a clash which seemed to mark the beginning of full-scale hostilities. Pershing had dispatched a seventy-six-man cavalry detachment eastward from his base to reconnoiter a buildup of Carrancista forces. In disregard of orders, the captain in command provoked an engagement with the larger Mexican contingent. The Americans were badly beaten, losing fourteen killed and twenty-five captured.68 This fight at the obscure village of Carrizal poised the two nations on the brink of a war that neither really wanted. For this reason, diplomacy rather than force of arms prevailed. Mexico released the Carrizal prisoners, and the two countries established a joint commission to negotiate their differences. The Mexican commissioners focused on the withdrawal of the punitive expedition, while their American counterparts were primarily concerned about the protection of the United States border.

The crisis had passed, but at least one group of Fierros’ infiltrators had been causing alarm behind the American lines. On June 20, a band of ten men dragged two Mexican-Americans from their homes sixteen miles west of San Antonio and forced them to act as guides. A posse composed of fifty deputy sheriffs, Bureau of Investigation agents, city detectives, and citizens set out from San Antonio in pursuit. For the next several days this and other posses scoured the area, on one occasion engaging in a fire fight with the marauders, who, according to one of their captives, were trying “to capture Texas and restore it to the Mexicans.” Despite the lawmen’s efforts, their adversaries managed to disperse and escape.69

During the June crisis, General González had been coordinating the raids into Texas. He forwarded to Carranza the reports from Acosta, Zuazua, and Fierros, and he asked the First Chief for additional funds to keep the operation going.70 But on June 23, Carranza ordered the detention of De la Rosa and prohibited armed bands from crossing into the United States.71 González was dismayed to learn that Ricaut had De la Rosa in custody in Monterrey. On June 24, he wired Carranza: “Please tell me if this was Your Excellency’s order and if said individual could be liberated so that he can proceed into the interior of the United States to continue carrying out the mission that he has in conjunction with Fierros….”72

Carranza, however, had abandoned his offensive strategy, holding De la Rosa, the Fierros Brigade, and the Plan of San Diego in abeyance for use only in the event of war. De la Rosa’s dentention was a comfortable one; through July 28, he was lodged at the Hotel Continental in Monterrey at the expense of Fierros, who also paid for his meals, liquor, and cigarettes. And on July 29, De la Rosa received 1,000 pesos for expenses.73 The Fierros Brigade was expanded to 570 men compared with its pre-crisis strength of 453. But by the end of July, relations with the United States had improved sufficiently for the Carranza regime to dismantle the entire apparatus. The brigade was disbanded, some units being incorporated into the regular Carrancista army.74 Fierros secured assignment as superintendent of the Constitutionalist railways in Chihuahua through González’ patronage.75 The principal figures in the Plan of San Diego—De la Rosa, Pizaña, Garza, and Ramos—faded into obscurity in Mexico.76 The Plan had run its course.

One of the most puzzling aspects of the Plan of San Diego is the extent to which Germans were involved in it. There is no question but that German policy in World War I included efforts to embroil the United States in intervention in Mexico as a means of preventing American participation on the Allied side. In 1915, Germany financed the abortive comeback of the deposed General Victoriano Huerta.77 There is at least a circumstantial case for the Germans provoking Villa to raid Columbus in 1916 as a way of forcing American intervention.78 The most notorious German ploy was the Zimmermann telegram of 1917, in which Germany offered Mexico a military alliance; in return for declaring war on the United States, Germany would help Mexico regain the territories lost to her northern neighbor during the nineteenth century.79 Moreover, after the United States entered the First World War, Mexico became an important base for German espionage and sabotage. While maintaining a posture of neutrality, Carranza nevertheless was pro-German. Mexico City became the center of operation for dangerous agents such as Kurt Jahnke, the head of German naval intelligence for North America, and for Lothar Witzke, an accomplished saboteur.

In this connection, Witzke’s role as an agent has been used to show German involvement in the Plan of San Diego.80 This assertion has no basis in fact. The documentation concerning Witzke establishes that he did not even arrive in North America until the summer of 1916, whereupon he devoted himself to sabotage missions in the United States, including the spectacular Black Tom and Kingsland munitions explosions. Not until the spring of 1917, after the United States had entered the war, did Witzke begin operating from Mexico.81 His activities in no way constitute proof of German participation in the Plan of San Diego. An examination of several other sources also fails to provide any hard evidence of German involvement. For example, the available German messages intercepted by British naval intelligence between 1914 and 1918 contain considerable material on German operations in the United States and Mexico, but there is nothing relating to the Plan of San Diego.82

German support for the Plan presumably revolved around providing some combination of men, money, and arms. Indeed, this was the theme of numerous reports reaching Washington during late 1915 and early 1916 from American consular officials as well as from secret agents.83 Yet the records of the Fierros Brigade, at least, fail to substantiate the presumption of German support. The single item that could be construed as participation by German personnel is that the rolls list one individual of teutonic surname, a sublieutenant. With regard to money, the brigade operated on a shoestring; 110,810 pesos in banknotes, 50 pesos in gold, and 260 dollars in U.S. currency were expended in June–July, 1916. These sums are hardly impressive, since the Carranza peso fluctuated at around four cents to the dollar. As for armament, the unit that raided San Ignacio was so wretchedly equipped that the American commander later testified, “I do not wish to convey the idea that this force that crossed the river and attacked my camp was a military organization.”84

Most of what can be adduced to support German involvement concerns propaganda activities. It can, for instance, be shown that in the summer of 1915, a Carranza propagandist, Dr. Alberto Krumm-Heller, toured the border making anti-American speeches. Krumm-Heller was both a major in the Carrancista army and a member of the Union of Subjects of the German Empire, whose activities in Mexico included espionage and propaganda.85 Furthermore, Germans in the United States and Mexico did attempt to incite the blacks in the South.86 A black doctor named Jesse Moseley, another Carrancista major, was an organizer in Texas for the Plan of San Diego. But the assumption that Moseley worked under German directions remains unproven. In any case his efforts met with scant success, and Moseley himself came to a nasty end; in July, 1916, after having been arrested and released by American authorities, his body was discovered near Laredo, his skull crushed.87

American officials met frustration in their efforts to substantiate German involvement. As late as May 15, 1916, the American representative in Mexico City sent a plaintive wire to the Secretary of State: “Can you give me any confidential information as to German operations in Mexico. Believe it exists but find it very difficult to confirm.”88 The Secretary answered that the department had received repeated, unconfirmed, but evidently well-founded reports from various sources regarding German activities in Mexico, and he instructed the American representative to make a painstaking investigation, with cost being no object. The representative in turn replied that after investigating he had been unable to gather any specific evidence.89

The paucity of solid documentation at the time and since has resulted in rebanee on weakly conceived conjecture. For example, raiders asked two Anglo captives whether they were Germans; upon receiving a negative reply, they shot them. Other incidents included use of Mauser rifles by some raiders, an Iron Cross being found on a dead raider, and so on.90 While the absence of concrete evidence does not establish that the Germans were not implicated in the Plan of San Diego, little conclusive proof of their involvement has come to light so far. It seems premature to assert that the Plan “was taken over” by Germans during any phase of its existence.

By contrast, the thread running through the Plan’s operational phases is the Carrancista connection. Carranza emerges as a master manipulator, as in his use of Mexican-Americans as pawns. The only times the Plan functioned were when it received support from Mexico, and such support was forthcoming only when it suited Carranza’s purposes. Viewing Mexican-Americans as a useful fifth column, Carranza skillfully played on their hopes and fears as a means of exerting pressure on the United States. When his policies shifted, they were cynically abandoned. Unfortunately, the Anglos also viewed Mexican-Americans as a fifth column, with the results that we have seen. The Plan left a legacy of racial tension in south Texas that has endured to the present.

From Carranza’s perspective, however, the Plan was invaluable. He was, after all, a Mexican politician fighting for the survival of his regime. The military offensive he unleased under the aegis of the Plan proved an effective device for securing diplomatic recognition in 1915. The following year, the punitive expedition having invaded Mexico, Carranza revived the Plan and engaged in an exercise in brinksmanship in an effort to force an American withdrawal.

The most serious confrontation between the United States and Mexico in the twentieth century, the 1916 war crisis, has been substantially misinterpreted. United States historians have focused on the punitive expedition and the Carrizal clash. When the events in the Lower Rio Grande Valley have been mentioned, they have usually been dismissed as either the last gasps of the Plan or as minor isolated incidents.91 Among Mexican writers, Carranza’s apologist, Isidro Fabela, has stoutly denied any Carrancista involvement with the Plan92 while emphasizing that it was Carranza, not his generals such as Obregón and González, who formulated foreign policy.93 Fabela’s Documentos históricos should be used with caution.

Ironically, this is precisely the caveat that has been followed in using the Fall Committee report, because the committee and most of the witnesses it heard were biased against Mexicans in general and against Carranza in particular. For instance, Senator Fall asserted that the committee had documentary evidence proving the connection of various Mexican officials with the Plan and the raids, and he promised to produce a mystery witness who would authenticate the documentation and elaborate on the subject. Fall stated that the witness would show the involvement of Carranza himself, of Generals Fortunato Zuazua, Pablo González, Esteban Fierros, Juan Barragán, and of civilian officials such as Jesús Acuña and Mario Méndez, among others. The witness would also describe how several Japanese officers were implicated. One of them, using the cover name of “Pablo Nago,” was an intermediary in the Plan and together with General Zuazua obtained 10,000 pesos and 1,000 dollars from Pablo González, the dollars to be used in subverting black troops on the border.94 Since Fall produced neither the documentation nor the witness, his allegations have understandably been dismissed as being simply more of his anti-Mexican propaganda.

Yet some of the allegations can be verified independently—Carranza did approve of the uses to which the Plan was put; Generals González, Fierros, and Zuazua did play leading roles in the proposed invasion of Texas in 1916; the Fierros Brigade did include half a dozen Japanese; “Pablo Nago” had dealings with Jesús Acuña, Carranza’s Foreign Secretary;95 and González did entrust Zuazua with 10,000 pesos and 1,000 dollars for delivery to Fierros.96 Fall’s allegations thus contain a core of truth.

And, in an indirect way, the Carranza regime did admit some slight involvement in one of the raids. Four prisoners taken at the San Ignacio clash in 1916 were tried in Laredo as bandits for the killing of an American soldier in that engagement. Within a month they had been convicted and sentenced to hang.97 The Mexican consul formulated an appeal arguing that the men were Constitutionalist soldiers who had acted as individuals, motivated by patriotic zeal in the belief that war had broken out.98 The consul’s argument was specious, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 1918 overturned the lower court’s decision on the ground that an undeclared state of war had existed in the summer of 1916; thus, the men were prisoners of war. They were freed and returned to Mexico.99

As for Carranza’s dealings with the Germans, the assumption seems to be that Germany, a Great Power, was manipulating Carranza, the leader of an underdeveloped country. An alternative possibility comes to mind—that of Carranza using the Germans by letting them appear responsible for fomenting the Plan of San Diego, while in reality he was dealing with the Japanese. And when in 1917 the Germans incorporated a portion of the Plan, the recovery of Mexico’s lost northern territories, in their offer of a military alliance, Carranza had already tested the feasibility of this strategy. He therefore declined the proposal contained in the Zimmermann telegram.

What is clearly indicated is that Carranza’s role in the Mexican Revolution requires significant reinterpretation. One area needing clarification is Carranza’s relations with his subordinates. Where, for example, does Obregón fit in this web of intrigue? Another fruitful topic for investigation is Carranza’s foreign policy toward the United States, Germany, Japan, and even Central America.100 Further ramifications of the Plan of San Diego will appear as future study brings into sharper focus this complex and subtle Mexican statesman.


U.S. V. Basilio Ramos, Jr. et al., District Court, Brownsville, Federal Records Center, Fort Worth, Texas (hereafter cited as FRC-FW), no. 2152.


Ibid. An antecedent of the Plan of San Diego is an obscure document signed by one Francisco Alvarez Tostado on Nov. 26, 1914. It exhorted “Los Hijos de Cuauhtémoc, Hidalgo y Juárez en Tejas” to rebel and establish a republic, thereafter requesting annexation to Mexico. See Michael C. Meyer, Huerta: A Political Portrait (Lincoln, 1972), p. 215. In 1916, Alvarez Tostado was arrested in San Antonio on a charge of having conspired to overthrow the U.S. government, the alleged offense having occurred at Sebastian, Texas, on Aug. 5, 1915; U.S. v. Francisco Alvarez Tostado, U.S. Commissioner, San Antonio, FRC-FW, no. 419. What connection his activities had with the events of the Plan of San Diego remains unclear.


Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense (Boston, 1935), p. 486; William W. Sterling, Trails and Trials of a Texas Ranger (Norman, 1959), p. 28. Although neither Webb nor Sterling identify the individual by name, they are referring to Hanson.


Juan Gómez-Quiñones, “Plan de San Diego Reviewed,” Aztlán: Chicano Journal of the Social Sciences and the Arts, 1 (Spring 1970), 124-132.


Michael C. Meyer, “The Mexican-German Conspiracy of 1915,” The Americas, 23 (July 1966), 76-89; Mexican Rebel: Pascual Orozco and the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1915 (Lincoln, 1967), p. 121, and Meyer, Huerta, p. 218; Allen Gerlach, “Conditions Along the Border—1915: The Plan de San Diego,” New Mexico Historical Review, 43 (July 1968), 195-212; James A. Sandos, “The Plan of San Diego: War and Diplomacy on the Texas Border, 1915-1916,” Arizona and the West, 14 (Spring 1972), 5-24; William M. Hager, “The Plan of San Diego: Unrest on the Texas Border in 1915,” Arizona and the West, 5 (Winter 1963), 327-336; Charles C. Cumberland, “Border Raids in the Lower Rio Grande Valley—1915,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 57 (Jan. 1954), 285-311; on the other hand, several studies of Huerta do not refer to the Plan of San Diego. See George J. Rausch, Jr., “The Exile and Death of Victoriano Huerta,” HAHR, 42 (May 1962), 133-151; Kenneth J. Grieb, The United States and Huerta (Lincoln, 1969), pp. 178-192.


Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” p. 10, n. 9.


Ramos’ testimony is in: U.S. v. Basilio Ramos, Jr. et al., U.S. Commissioner, Brownsville, FRC-FW, no. 249; Ramos’ statement before the U.S. Immigration Service, Jan. 28, 1915, Walter Prescott Webb Collection, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas (hereafter cited as AGT, WC), Records of the Adjutant General of Texas, vol. 19; the Basilio Ramos file, National Archives, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Record Group 65, Mexican File no. 232-144 (hereafter cited as FBI).


Charles A. Douglas to Lansing, Jan. 6, 1915, Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Mexico, 1910-1929, National Archives Microfilm Publication, Microcopy no. 274, File no. 812/14370 (hereafter cited as /______); E. Arredondo to same, Jan. 22, 1915 (/14263) and Jan. 27, 1915 (/14300); “Report of general conditions along the Mexican border…” (hereafter cited as Weekly Report), Jan. 9, 1915 (/14241), Jan. 20 1915 (/14278), and Jan. 30, 1915 (/14366).


U.S. V. Rasilio Ramos, Jr. et al., U.S. Commissioner, Brownsville, FRC-FW, no. 249.


U.S. Marshal Herring to R. L. Barnes, Mar. 2, 1915, FBI; Funston to Adjutant General, Oct. 11, 1916 (/19532); Ramos Statement, Jan. 28, 1915, AGT, WC, vol. 19, exhibit A.


Ramos Statement, Jan. 28, 1915, Garza to Ramos, Jan. 15, 1915, and Inspector E. P. Reynolds to Supervising Inspector, Feb. 9, 1915; all in AGT, WC, vol. 19; Breniman Report, Feb. 6, 1915, Barnes Report, Mar. 3, 1915, Barnes to Herring, Mar. 3, 1915, and Wright Report, Apr. 15, 1915, all in FBI. Whether Garza actually utilized this alias is, like many details of the Plan, unclear. See District Intelligence Officer, Laredo, to Department Intelligence Officer, Fort Sam Houston, Dec. 19, 1919, National Archives, Record Group 165, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, Military Intelligence Division (hereafter cited as MID), 257-5.


A copy of the manifesto is in S. H. Evans to Secretary of the Treasury, Jan. 31, 1916 (/17245); a translation is in the Frederick Funston Collection, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas. See also Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” pp. 9-10.


La Prensa (San Antonio), May 18, 1915; Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” pp. 10-11; Investigation of Mexican Affairs, Senate Document 285, 66th Cong., 2d sess. (Washington, D.C., 1920) [hereafter cited as Fall Committee], I, 1205; Daily Herald (Brownsville), May 9, 1916. The case against Ramos was continued through 1917. See Judge’s Bench Dockets, Criminal Cases, U.S. District Court, Brownsville, FRC-FW, vols. 6 and 7.


U.S. V. Basilio Ramos, Jr. et al., U.S. Commissioner, Brownsville, FRC-FW, no. 249.


The manifesto is reproduced in Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” between pp. 8-9; for De la Rosa’s background, see Robertson to Lansing, June 9, 1916 (/20165); for Pizaña’s, see State of Texas v. Ramón Pizaña et al., District Court, Brownsville, no. 3657.


Scouting Reports, Companies A and D, Texas RangeTS, July, 1915, Texas Ranger Archive, Records of the Texas National Guard, Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas (hereafter cited as TRA/CM); Weekly Reports, July 15, 1915 (/15517), July 21, 1915 (/15559), and July 29, 1915 (/15632); Daily Herald (Brownsville), July 6–24, 1915. Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” p. 16, states that there were only twelve rangers to cover the entire border, and that they were stationed at Marfa. Such was not the case. See Capt. J. J. Sanders to Adjutant General Hutchings, Mar. 1, 1915, AGT, WC, vol. 19; Scouting Reports, Company A, Apr.-May, 1915, TRA/CM; Monthly Returns, Companies A and D, Aug., 1915, Texas Ranger Archive, Texas State Library, Austin, Texas (hereafter cited as TRA/TSL).


A defender at Norias, U.S. Immigration Service Mounted Inspector D. P. Gay, later wrote an account of the raid; “The Amazing Bare-Faced Facts of the Norias Raid,” unpub. ms., found in WC. See also Fall Committee, I, 1284-1285 for the statement of Manuel Rincones, a King Ranch employee whom the raiders captured prior to the Norias affair and later released.


A. J. Peters to W. Phillips, Sept. 9, 1915 (/16194); Weekly Report, Sept. 8, 1915 (/16175); Garrett to Lansing, Aug. 26, 1915 (/15929); Parker to same, Sept. 8, 1915 (/16095); Robertson to same, June 9, 1916 (/20165). The leading Mexican anarchist in the United States, Ricardo Flores Magón, denied there was a Plan of San Diego, describing the conflict in Texas as a struggle for social justice by Mexican Americans; Armando Bartra, ed., Regeneración, 1900–1918: La corriente más radical de la Revolución de 1910 a través de su periódico de combate (México, 1972), pp. 436-439.


Garrett to Lansing, Aug. [27], 1915 (/15946); Canada to same, Sept. 6, 1915 (/16275).


Cumberland, “Border Raids,” pp. 293-297.


Garrett to Lansing, Sept. 8, 1915 (/16149).


Ricaut to González, Sept. 2, 1915; González to Ricaut, Sept. 13, 1915, Pablo González Archive, Microcopy in the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas (hereafter cited as PGA), roll 26B. Unfortunately, Maj. Amarante’s report is not found in the González Archive.


W. L. Gibson to W. K. Adams, Dec. 1, 1915, MID (Army War College), 5761-1053. “W. L. Gibson” was the cover name for Capt. W. E. W. MacKinley, a military intelligence operative on the border. See “W. E. W. M.” to “Dear Friend,” Nov. 8, 1915, MID (Army War College), 5761-1040.


Wilson to Lansing, Sept. 8, 1915 (/61041); Garrett to same, Sept. 8, 1915 (/16149); Secretary of War to same, Aug. 27, 1915 (/15956); Funston to Adjutant General, Aug. 30, 1915 (/16002); Polk to Arredondo, Oct. 6, 1915 (/16001); Weekly Report, Sept. 3, 1915 (/16054); Leonicio G. Reveles to Carranza, Nov. 1, 1915, Venustiano Carranza Archive, Centro de Estudios de Historia de México, Departamento Cultural de Condumex, Mexico City (hereafter cited as VCA), 6528.


Arredondo to Wilson and Lansing, Sept. 6, 1915 (/61041).


Funston to Adjutant General, Sept. 24, 1915 (/16302) and (/16306), Sept. 29, 1915 (/16329); Gregory to Polk, Sept. 25, 1915 (/16336); Weekly Report, Sept. 30, 1915 (/16397).


Polk to Belt, Oct. 1, 1915 (/16329); David Lawrence to Lansing, Oct. 1, 1915 (/16348½); Belt to same, Oct. 2, 1915 (/16351), Oct. 5, 1915 (/16384), and Oct. 7, 1915 (/16413); Arredondo to same, Oct. 6, 1915 (/16406). Despite the lull, Plan of San Diego propaganda continued. See Maj. W. H. Hay to Chief, War College Division, Oct. 13, 1915, MID, 5761-1038.


Ex parte Lorenzo López, Jr., no. 3644, and ex parte Martín Castoreña, no. 3646, District Court, Brownsville; Funston to Adjutant General, Oct. 21, 22, 1915 (/16567); Weekly Report, Oct. 28, 1915 (/16667); Daily Herald (Brownsville), Oct. 25,1915.


Johnson to Lansing, Jan. 20, 1916 (/17124) and Jan. 22, 1916 (/17136).


Daily Herald (Brownsville), July 24, 29, Aug. 7, 1915; Frank C. Pierce, “Partial List of Mexicans Killed in Valley Since July 1, 1915,” in Johnson to Lansing, Jan. 26, 1916 (/17186).


Daily Herald (Brownsville), Aug. 5, 1915; Express (San Antonio), June 18, 1916.


Weekly Reports, Sept. 8, 1915 (/16175), Sept. 16, 1915 (/16256), and Sept. 22, 1915 (/16319); Frank C. Pierce, A Brief History of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (Menasha, Wis., 1917), p. 115.


Pierce, “Partial List” (/17186); “Memoirs of Jesse Pérez, 1870-1934,” as dictated to J. Frank Dobie, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas, p. 58. Pérez was a former Texas Ranger who during 1915 was an Hidalgo County deputy sheriff; Daily Herald (Brownsville), Oct. 2, 1915.


For Canales, see Weekly Report, Nov. 4, 1915 (/16752) and for Guerra, see Sterling, Trails and Trials, p. 25. More than a few Mexican-American peace officers participated in suppressing the raids. See State of Texas v. Ramón Pizaña et ah, District Court, Brownsville, no. 3657; “Memoirs of Jesse Pérez,” and “Memoirs of Casimiro Pérez Alvarez, 1870-1936,” both in the Barker Texas History Center; “Proceedings of the Joint Committee of the Senate and the House in the Investigation of the Texas State Ranger Force,” 1919, 3 vols., Texas State Library, Austin, Texas, I, 12-13; Daily Herald (Brownsville), July 29, 1915.


Virgil N. Lott, “The Rio Grande Valley,” unpub. ms., Barker Texas History Center, part two, p. 24. During 1915, Lott was a deputy sheriff in Hidalgo County; Pierce, “Partial List” (/17186); Jesse Pérez, “Memoirs,” pp. 57-58; Pierce, A Brief History, p. 114; Sterling, Trails and Trials, p. 51.


Funston to Adjutant General, June 7, 1916, Records of the Office of the Adjutant General: Correspondence Relating to the Mexican Border, File no. 2377632-2378529, microcopy in the Latin American Collection, University of Texas, no. 1557. U.S. Secret Service agent Edward Tyrrell reported: “There has [sic] been over 300 or more Mexicans killed in this vicinity [Brownsville], most of them shot down in cold blood….” Tyrrell to Chief, U.S. Secret Service, Nov. 25, 1915, National Archives, Microcopy no. 3.158, Record Group 87, Records of the U.S. Secret Service, Daily Reports of Agents, 1875 through 1936, Daily Reports from San Antonio, vol. 12.


The relevant cases, all in the District Court records in Brownsville, are nos. 3644, 3646, 3653, 3655-3659, 3663, 3667, 3673-3680, 3682, 3684-3687.


Ramón Pizaña v. State of Texas, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Austin, no. 4404; State of Texas v. Melquíades Chapa et al., District Court, Brownsville, no. 3673; Daily Herald (Brownsville), May 8, 18, 19, 1916.


Daily Herald (Brownsville), Oct. 29, 1915; Barnes to Bielaski, Dec. 17, 1915; FBI; Weekly Reports, Jan. 20, 1916 (/17152) and Feb. 3, 1916 (/17239).


Caller and Daily Herald (Corpus Christi), Mar. 19, 24, Apr. 6, May 9, 13, 14, 1916.


Weekly Reports, Apr. 13, 1916 (/17908) and Apr. 20, 1916 (/17981).


Scott and Funston to Baker, May 1, 1916 (/18033).


It has been alleged that De la Rosa personally led this raid (Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” p. 21). There is no credible evidence to support this assertion. See Breniman to Bielaski, Oct. 3, 1916 (/19417); Andrés G. García to Carranza, May [11?], 1916, Isidro Fabela et al., eds., Documentos históricos de la Revolución Mexicana, 27 vols. (México, 1964-1973) [hereafter cited as DHRM], XII, 290-291.


Carranza to Arredondo, May 8, 1916, DHRM, XII, 307-308.


U.S. V. Antonio I. Villarreal et al., District Court, Laredo, FRC-FW, no. 678; Johnson to Lansing, May 1, 1916 (/18078); DHRM, XVII, 82-86.


Caller and Daily Herald (Corpus Christi), May 9, 1916.


Ibid., May 12-14, 1916; La Prensa (San Antonio), May 12-13, 16-17, 23-24, 29, June 1, 1916; Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” pp. 21-22.


Baker to Lansing, May 17, 1916 (/18199); Garrett to same, May 20, 1916 (/18203) and May 24, 1916 (/18238); Hanna to same, May 22, 1916 (/18213) and May 23, 1916 (/18225); Silliman to same, May 22, 1916 (/18215); Rodgers to same, May 23, 1916 (/18227).


McCain to Funston, May 23, 1916 (/18245) and (/18248).


Garrett to Lansing, June 1, 1916 (/18296).


Memorandum by Frank L. Polk, Tune 2, 1916 (/18450); the note, dated May 22, is in DHRM, XII, 339-356.


González to Carranza, Nov. 10, 1915, Acosta to González, Apr. 27, May 2, and June 9, 1916, Marcos Mina to Acosta, June 1, 1916, all in PGA, roll 3.


Bevan to Lansing, Mar. 24, 1915 (/14761); González to A. Valdés, Dec. 30, 1915, PGA, roll 11; Fierros to González, Nov. 23, 1916, PGA, Expediente Esteban Fierros (hereafter cited as Exp. EF), roll 10; J. N. Galbraith to same, Aug. 30, 1915, PGA, roll 11.


PGA, Exp. EF.


PGA, Expediente Brigada Fierros (hereafter cited as Exp. BF), roll 7.


Memorandum, June 8, 1916, PGA, Exp. BF; Fierros to González, June 9, 1916, PGA, Exp. EF.


Robertson to Lansing, Mar. 28, 1917 (/20746); Garrett to same, June 8, 1916 (/18352), and (/18358).


Garrett to Lansing, June 5, 1916 (/18318); Hanna to same, June 7, 1916 (/18355).


Garrett to Lansing, June 10, 1916 (/18370) and (/18373); Weekly Report, June 15, 1916 (/18505).


Garrett to Lansing, June 12, 1916 (/18394).


State of Texas v. Norberto Pezzar [sic] et al., District Court, Laredo, no. 5204; Garrett to Lansing, June 12, 1916 (/18399) and July 9, 1916 (/18683); Weekly Report, June 15, 1916 (/16505).


José Antonio Arce et al. v. State of Texas, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Austin, no. 4314; Funston to Adjutant General, June 15, 1916 (/18443), (/19402), and (/18553); Johnson to Lansing, June 15, 1916 (/18437); Garrett to same, June 17, 1916 (/18456). For translation of the Plan of San Diego propaganda found on the dead raiders, see Commanding General, Laredo District, to Funston, June 21, 1916, Chief, War College Division, to Chief of Staff, Eastern Department, July 25, 1916, and Maj. R. H. Van Deman to Bielaski, July 25, 1916, all in MID, 8528-38.


U.S. v. Abel Sandoval et al., U.S. Commissioner, Brownsville, FRC-FW, no. 309; U.S. V. Felipe Sandoval et ah, District Court, Brownsville, FRC-FW, no. 2208.


Treviño to Pershing, June 16, 1916, DHRM, XII, 369-371; Carranza to Generals Ricaut and Reynaldo Garza, May 19, 1916, ibid., XII, 336.


Johnson to Lansing, June 17, 1916 (/18462) and June 18, 1916 (/18453); Funston to Adjutant General, June 17, 1916 (/19388) and June 18, 1916 (/19219); Pierce, A Brief History, pp. 100-102; Clarence C. Clendenen, Blood on the Border: The United States Army and the Mexican Irregulars (New York, 1969), p. 283; Ricaut to Carranza, June 18, 1916, DHRM, XII, 381-382; J. Z. Garza to Gen. Cándido Aguilar, June [18?], 1916, ibid., XII, 390-391; Aguilar to Latin American Foreign Ministers, June 19, 1916, ibid., XII, 392-393.


Wilson: Confusions and Crises, 1915-1916 (Princeton, 1964), p. 300.


Rodgers to Lansing, June 18, 1916 (/18457); Link, Wilson, pp. 300-301.


Lansing to Wilson, June 21, 1916 (/18533A); Wilson to Lansing, June 21, 1916 (/18533½); Clendenen, Blood on the Border, pp. 303-313.


Express (San Antonio), June 21-24, 1916; U.S. v. Francisco Soto, Sr., et al., District Court, San Antonio, FRC-FW, no. 2257.


González to Carranza, June 17 and 22, 1916, VCA, Telegrams, State of Morelos, 1916. The telegrams for Tamaulipas were not available at the time of this writing.


Gen. Carlos Osuna to Carranza, June 24, 1916, VCA, Telegrams, State of Nuevo León, 1916 and González to same, June 27, 1916, VCA, Telegrams, State of Morelos, 1916.


González to Carranza, June 24, 1916, VCA, Telegrams, State of Morelos, 1916.


Receipts in PGA, Exp. BF; cf. Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” p. 22.


PGA, Exp. BF; Fierros to González, Sept. 30, 1916, PGA, roll 11.


González to Gen. Francisco Murguía, Dec. 28, 1916, PGA, Exp. EF; Cobb to Polk, May 22, 1917, Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Germany, 1910-1929, National Archives Microfilm Publication, Microcopy no. 336, File no. 862.20212; Military Affairs of Germany in Mexico, 862.20212/351 (hereafter cited as 862.20212/_____).


Funston to Adjutant General, Oct. 9, 1916 (/19551) and Dec. 7, 1916 (/20105); Col. M. H. Barnum to same, Jan. 10, 1917 (/20395); Hanna to Lansing, Sept. 7, 1916 (/19099) and Jan. 16, 1917 (/20405); Weekly Reports, Dec. 22, 1916 (/20192) and Jan. 26, 1917 (/20454); District Intelligence Officer, Laredo, to Department Intelligence Officer, Fort Sam Houston, Feb. 24, 1920, MID, 10640-1900; Brig. Gen. M. Churchill to Capt. George E. Hyde, Jan. 30, 1920, MID, 257-5; Fall Committee, I, 1227-1228.


Meyer, “Mexican-German Conspiracy,” pp. 76–89, Mexican Rebel, pp. 124-129, and Huerta, pp. 312-326.


James A. Sandos, “German Involvement in Northern Mexico, 1915-1916: A New Look at the Columbus Raid,” HAHR, 50 (Feb. 1970), 70-88; Francis J. Munch, “Villa’s Columbus Raid: Practical Politics or German Design?” New Mexico Historical Review, 44 (July 1969), 189-214; Friedrich Katz, “Alemania y Francisco Villa,” Historia Mexicana, 12 (July-Sept. 1962), 88-102.


See Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram (New York, 1958).


Fall Committee, I, 1235, II, 3255—3256; Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” p. 11, n. 11, p. 20, n. 35.


U.S. War Department Record of the Court Martial of Lothar Witzke, Mixed Claims Commission, United States and Germany, Federal Records Center, East Point, Georgia (hereafter cited as MCC), vol. 8, exhibit 321; Interrogation of Witzke, Sept. 16, 1919, MCC, vol. 2, exhibit 24; Maj. Gen. Ralph H. Van Deman, “Memoirs,” unpub. ms., Library, U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School, Fort Huachuca, Arizona, pp. 62-63.


Affidavit of Admiral Sir W. Reginald Hall, with annexed copies of 327 intercepted German messages, MCC, vol. 7, exhibit 320. One scholar who has utilized German archives found nothing implicating Germans in the Plan of San Diego; Friedrich Katz, Deutschland, Díaz und die mexikanische Revolution: Die deutsche Politik in Mexiko, 1870—1920 (Berlin, 1964), p. 348.


See Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” pp. 19-20.


José Antonio Arce et al. v. State of Texas, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Austin, no. 4314.


General in Chief, San Luis Potosí, to Col. Ignacio Ramos, July 23, 1914, VCA (1135); List of payments made by the treasury, under the date July 6, 1915, VCA (6573); Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” p. 12.


Brewing and Liquor Interests and Bolshevik Propaganda, Senate Doc. 62, 66th Cong., 1st sess. (Washington, D.C., 1919), III, 1784-1785; Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” pp. 11-12.


Funston to Adjutant General, Dec. 14, 1915 (/16999); Robertson to Lansing, June 9, 1916 (/20165); Daily Times (Laredo), July 11, 14, 1916. As an example of the frustrations American intelligence officers encountered, in September, 1916, a Japanese agent of the Department of Justice, one “Jar,” reported that Moseley was in Laredo and was one of the most active agents of the Plan of San Diego. This kind of inaccurate reporting caused Army Intelligence to question seriously the reliability of “Jar” and other Japanese agents. E. B. Stone to R. L. Barnes, Sept. 12, 1916, Maj. R. H. Van Deman to Leland Harrison, Sept. 25, 28, 1916, all in MID, 9700-23; cf. Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” p. 12.


Rodgers to Lansing, May 15, 1916 (/18164).


Lansing to Rodgers, June 20, 1916 (862.20212/20) and (862.202121/29); Rodgers to Lansing, June 23, 1916 (862.20212/30) and June 29, 1916 (862.20212/31).


Fall Committee, 1, 1252, 1264, 1292, 1311; Gerlach, “Conditions Along the Border,” p. 201; Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” p. 5.


Charles C. Cumberland, Mexican Revolution: The Constitutionalist Years (Austin, 1972), pp. 324, 329; P. Edward Haley, Revolution and Intervention: The Diplomacy of Taft and Wilson with Mexico, 1910-1917 (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 210-220; Robert Freeman Smith, The United States and Revolutionary Nationalism in Mexico, 1916-1932 (Chicago, 1972), pp. 49-54; Sandos, “Plan of San Diego,” pp. 22-23; Clendenen, Blood on the Border, pp. 281-283; Frederick C. Turner, The Dynamic of Mexican Nationalism (Chapel Hill, 1968), pp. 229-231.


DHRM, XII, 298-299, 301, 308-309, 321, 381, XIII, part two, 150-151.


Ibid., XII, 294-295, 338, 373-374, XIII, part two, 176.


Fall Committee, I, 1226-1229. Fall also tried to establish the complicity of Nicéforo Zambrano, the Treasurer of Mexico, ibid., I, 1203, 1232-1233.


P. Nago and F. Nacamura to Jesús Acuña, Aug. 11, 1915, VCA (5307).


Fierros to González, July 6, 1916, PGA, Exp. EF.


Daily Times (Laredo), July 15, 1916.


DHRM, XIII, part two, 149-152, citing Alberto Salinas Carranza, La expedición punitiva (México, 1936), 304-306.


José Antonio Arce et al. v. State of Texas, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Austin, no. 4314; Daily Times (Laredo), May 24, 1918.


There is a body of suggestive testimony and documentation on Carrancista intrigues in Central America in Fall Committee, II, 2889-3118.

Author notes


The authors are respectively Professor and Associate Professor of History at New Mexico State University. They wish to acknowledge the generous financial support of the Weatherhead Foundation, New York City.