The battle of Tijuana, from the point of view of the Liberal Junta, should never have occurred--or at least, should not have occurred in early May. In late April, a Federal force of Rurales and militia volunteers, led by Iriarte and Núñez, garrisoned El Carrizo, about 80 kilometers south of El Alamo. They may have intended to march north on El Alamo, where the Liberal column previously led by Berthold, threatened Ensenada. However, the Liberals determined it would be better to approach Ensenada from the north than the east, and had been called back to Mexicali by the Junta, anyway, to mass for an attack on Vega at the Colorado River waterworks. Magón was extremely clear in his letter, writing: “Comrades, I beg you to agree on everything with comrade Francisco R. Quijada, who is now the general-in-chief of the Liberal forces of Baja California (...) because the common agreement of all is needed to overthrow despotism (...) Companion Quijada guards the Mexicali garrison; that town is sparsely garrisoned and your help is needed to attack Mayol's forces. The Junta considers that it is urgent to end Mayol. PD: We are informed by the head of the 2nd. Liberal Army Division, C. Pryce, which is heading west (...) maybe you will find him when you go to Mexicali, tell him that the Junta has ordered all the liberal forces to march towards Mexicali (...) Likewise Send a mail to Captain Guerrero, who as we know is on his way to San Quintín, to turn immediately to Mexicali (Bartra and Barrera 200).
The Alamo column’s new commander, Valenzuela, intended to follow this order, but the foriegn volunteers with him refused. They voted out Valenzuela, who returned to Mexicali with some comrades, and elected the IWW member Jack Mosby instead. When Mosby’s column invaded Tecate on May 1, the forces at El Carrizo received word. Iriarte led a small force of Rurales to Tijuana, the next logical target for the Liberals in Tecate. Núñez remained to command the El Carrizo garrison, but sent a scouting force to La Entrada, near Tecate. These scouts returned to El Carrizo after observing the Liberals. Mosby’s force, however, had followed the scouts, and the rebels burst into El Carrizo around 2:30pm, capturing three officers and a mail car, and forcing Núñez and his forces to flee. Soon thereafter, Lerdo González, for whom Núñez had been waiting, arrived with another Federal column and recaptured El Carrizo. In this short skirmish, Mosby was wounded. The Liberals put him in the mail car for transport to Tecate, and then on to the United States to receive treatment in a hospital (Bartra and Barrera 198). This left Sam Wood, another IWW member, as the commander of the Tecate column of the PLM.
Meanwhile in Mexicali, Pryce had likely already received the orders from the Junta to attack Mayol’s camp near the riverworks. Instead, on May 5th, Pryce’s Foriegn Legion arrived in Tecate and merged with Wood’s column. The following day, the 200 men of the reinforced Foriegn Legion, also called the Second Division of the Liberal Army of Baja, departed Tecate for Tijuana.
When they arrived near Tijuana on the morning of May 8th, around 100 government forces, led by Subprefect Larroque, held the town. Second Lieutenant Miguel Guerrero commanded the 25 Federal soldiers there. Commanders Iriarte and Mendoza were in charge of the groups of Rurales, and Lerdo González commanded the militia and customs guards.
Larroque had prepared to defend the town by building two lines of trenches and breast works between the bull ring and the center of town.
(Tijuana's bullring, in an old postcard).
Tijuana is a small town on the border of the United States. The Río Tijuana runs from the heights south-east of town, through the town diagonally, crossing the border in the north-west of town, turning parallel to the border and emptying into the Pacific ocean south of San Diego. The town sits south of the river, on the west bank. The main stretch of town consists of a strip of shops, saloons, and customs buildings on a broad, dirt road. Just west of the center of town, the bull ring sits in a grassy area. Homes and farms follow the roads from Tijuana into the surrounding area on both sides of the river. The terrain is dry desert, with greenery by the river, and hills to the south.
Clear - normal visibility for turns 1-8, and 14-22. Nighttime visibility turns 9-13.
Supply: 7 rounds of ammo for defenders, 5 rounds for rebels.
210 fighters of the Second Division of the Mexican Liberal Army in Baja California (Foriegn Legion)
-Pryce and HQ: 5 officers
-Pryce’s Column: 85 rebels
-Sam Wood’s Column: 60 rebels
-Lieutenant Robert’s Column: 60 rebels
-HQ: Larroque and 4 officers and runners
-HQ: Iriarte and 4 officers
-Company: 20 officers
-Second Lieutenant Miguel Guerrero and 4 officers/runners
-1 company of 25 soldiers
-2 Machine guns and crew
Customs guards and Militia:
-HQ: Lerdo González and 4 officers/runners
-20 Customs guards
-20 conscripted/recruited civilians
-Defending force should place sandbags, barricades, and other defenses around the town, and trenches and breastworks, in two lines, by the bull ring. The defending player should arrange forces within the defensive perimeter before the start of turn 1.
-At the start of Turn 1, the attacking player may place 1 column on the table anywhere south or east of Tijuana. The attacking player must roll a 3 or above for each additional column to enter the table, and may attempt this test for each column once each turn.
-Attacking player commences assault for the “Daytime” rounds, from turn 1 through turn 8. After turn 8, night has fallen and the attacking force must consolidate its front lines, leave one column to defend them, and retire the rest of the forces to a camp south or east. (If attacking player has already broken the defensive lines and entered Tijuana, disregard this). The defending player may counterattack, or may reorganize their defenses.
-Sunrise occurs on turn 14, and the attacking player may resume the assault until turn 22.
The only objective in this scenario is the possession of Tijuana. The Second Division of the Liberal Army in Baja must eliminate or drive off all resistance and occupy the town. Government forces must destroy the Second Division or hold the town for 22 rounds, or until further attacks become impossible.
Historic notes and Aftermath:
Seeing the PLM’s Foriegn Legion approach, Larroque led an advanced group of 30 soldiers to meet the Magonistas. The two sides exchanged fire, but at 9am, Larroque retreated back to town. Pryce led his forces onto the high ground south of town, a “promontory” on the Río Tijuana. Pryce then called for the soldiers to surrender Tijuana, “offering guarantees on lives and property” (Bartra and Barrera 198). Instead, the soldiers prepare to defend the town. At 1pm, Pryce’s column attacked Tijuana. The townsfolk fled across the border.
Pryce divided his forces into 3 groups, which took turns attacking Tijuana to save ammunition. As they fired sparingly on the town, they also occupied new, advantageous, positions around the area. At nightfall, Larroque still controlled the town, and the fighting quieted.
That night, Second Lieutenant Guerrero and his 25 Federals launched a raid on the Liberal camp. Guerrero snuck through the siege and hooked around south of the heights before attacking, hoping to trick the Liberals into believing it was a reinforcing group from Ensenada. While Guerrero’s push failed to drive off the rebel column or convince them of anything, they did reach the Liberal’s headquarters and managed to inflict considerable casualties, which included the commander Sam Wood and an African American lieutenant, Roberts.
The Foriegn Legion reorganized and attacked Tijuana again at 4:15am on May 9th. Perhaps thinking about the previous-night’s raid, Pryce assigned two groups to guard the southern and eastern approaches. Pryce led the main force of 85 rebels, who charged the town’s defenses. They threw “incendiary bombs” which destroyed the bull ring and some other buildings, forcing the defenders to abandon the outer line of defenses (Bartra and Barrera 201). Blaisdell writes that, “In this last phase, the fighting became intense. Without authorization, three buildings were burned when the defenders’ stubborn resistance made charges ineffective. The attackers, it was noted, ‘showed no quarter or mercy. They fought like demons, time and again rushing trenches or strongholds in the face of a veritable rain of lead” (Blaisdell 119). By 9am, the second defensive line fell, and the remaining government forces fell or fled, some to Ensenada and some north to the U.S.. Larroque died fighting on the riverbank, and Second Lieutenant Guerrero, who was injured, sought treatment in the US. The fighting was over by 9:45am.
Blaisdell calls the first battle of Tijuana “the most bitterly fought” of the Liberal rebellion thus far. The Federal forces were barely half the numbers of the attackers, and while “many were untrained volunteers,” and “there was ammunition for but a day or two of fighting, their only chance of winning lay in a quick seizure of the initiative. Although they failed to do this, they did put up a remarkable fight under extremely adverse conditions” (Blaisdell 118).
The San Diego Evening Tribune gave a casualty report on May 10 of 32 killed in action, and another 24 wounded, though this and estimates from the commanders are likely too low. Pryce had the dead buried in a mass grave, and he, himself, offered “an episcopal funeral oration….in which he rejects that his troops are outlaws, due to the fact that some defenders have been burned to death in combat: ‘We do what we have to do (...) war is war (...) but when we are not in combat we do not engage in looting, as the newspapers have said’” (Bartra and Barrera 201). The rebels also captured 100 guns, plus ammunition and supplies (Trejo 92). Next, the commander of the Foriegn legion ordered “the destruction of all alcoholic beverages, except beers and light wines; and he justifies his action by saying that: ‘There are times when it's okay to get drunk, but this is not one of those’” (Bartra and Barrera 201).
The battle was fought in Mexico, but it was observed by many eyes in the United States. Not long after the battle began, curious people from the United States lined the border to try to get a look at the action. US soldiers also lined up on the border. According to Blaisdell, the US commanders were impressed by the Second Division of the Liberal Army, and its commander. “Pryce’s tactics earned him the compliments of Captain F. A. Wilcox, head of a company of American soldiers guarding the border, and General Tasker Bliss” (Blaisdell 118-9). Nonetheless, the day after the battle, Captain Wilcox received orders “to isolate the insurgents by preventing the passage, not only of weapons, but also of people and communiqués. The arrest of any suspect of attempting to join the Magonista ranks is also ordered. Finally, the sentries are prohibited from talking with the insurgents” (Bartra and Barrera 201).
Despite Wilcox’s efforts, many new recruits flocked to Tijuana from north of the border, and even more tourists arrived to get a glimpse of the revolution. The influx of people led to some property destruction and looting, which Pryce blamed on the tourists. Finally, on May 13th, Antonio de Pío Araujo arrived in Tijuana, bringing the Junta’s blessings with him. Reading a statement from the Junta entitled, “Take the Land,” Araujo declared: “Mexicans, now that Díaz's despotism has been destroyed in Baja California (...) I invite you on behalf of the organizing Board to come to Tijuana. I guarantee you security, freedom, justice. Our forces, which are composed of conscious men, are ready to support the above. All families will be helped, the poor will enjoy all kinds of considerations. They will no longer have to pay customs duties when introducing supplies or clothing for their use. In a word, ‘The Liberal Revolution,’ independent of and enemy to the despotisms of Díaz and Madero, brings you the happiness of ‘Land and Freedom,’ for which we’ve yearned for so many years” (Bartra and Barrera 201). Araujo also organized a governing council for Tijuana made up of Mexicans, including himself, Pedro Ramírez Caule, Teodoro Gaitán, and Fernando Palomares.
That night, the famous anarchist and femminist Emma Goldman gave a speech in Los Angeles on behalf of the PLM. IWW members sang labor songs and the event raised $113 for the Junta. The attack on Mayol's forces east of Mexicali, as ordered by the Junta, never occurred.