Huachuca Illustrated, vol 1, 1993:
Buffalo Soldiers at Huachuca:
The Battle of Ambos Nogales
"Ambos Nogales," between 1918 and 1920. Photo courtesy Markel album.
At Huachuca in 1918, the men of the 10th Cavalry had time to reflect on the events in Europe and waited anxiously to learn if they were to get in on the fighting. But they were required on the border, a place at that time that was thought to be subject to attack from Mexicans instigated by German agents. The threat from south of the border appeared to be real and intelligence reports on German activities there were received in number. In his history of the 10th Cavalry, Edward Glass recalls the importance attached to these reports.
About August 15, 1918, the Intelligence Division reported the presence of strange Mexicans, plentifully supplied with arms, ammunition, food and clothing, gathering In increasing numbers in and about Nogales, Sonora; also the presence of several strange white men,, apparently Germans, at times engaged in addressing gatherings of Mexicans explaining military terms, movements and methods. At about this time an anonymous letter was received, written by a person who claimed to have been a major In Villa's forces who was sickened and disgusted at the atrocities committed by Villa and his men, and at the lack of pay or reward, and who claimed a feeling of friendly respect for American troops, warning them of the German influences at work near and in Nogales, advising of the financial activities of. the German agents, and of a contemplated attack on Nogales about August 25, 1918. This letter rang so true that it became a subject of investigation by Lt. Col. Frederick J. Herman, 10th Cavalry, then acting subdistrict commander at Nogales, and Lieutenant Robert Scott Israel, Infantry Intelligence Officer at Nogales, and so many points of the letter were verified that it was given more than ordinary weight (12)
Captain Roy V. Morledge, 10th Cavalry. Photo courtesy Lt. Col. John H. Healy, U.S. Army retired.
A shooting incident on 27 August 1918 led to a full-scale shootout when Lt. Col Frederick J. Herman, 10th Cavalry commander at Nogales, rushed reinforcements to the international line. Three troops of the 10th Cavalry and three companies of the 35th Infantry took up position along the American side and returned sniper fire of Mexican troops. It would be known as the "Battle of Ambos Nogales" (Both Nogales).
A complete account of the Battle of Ambos Nogales was prepared by Col. H. B. Wharfield in his book Tenth Cavalry Border Fights.
Nogales, Sonora of 1918 was under control of a Mexican federal garrison. The local situation was complicated by agitation aroused through German agents and an accompanying rising dislike for us --- the Gringos. On the American side the people were on the alert, Most of the householders had a Winchester or other weapon in a convenient location.
During the latter part of August 1918 the Thirty-fifth Infantry at Camp Stephen D. Little was completing its movement to an eastern staging area for overseas war duty. Only Companies G, F, and H remained, awaiting relief by the Twenty-fifth Infantry (Negro). The cavalry camp had Troop A (tenth U.S. Cavalry) Captain Roy V. Morledge, Troop C under Captain Joseph D. Hungerford, and Troop F with Captain Henry C. Caron. Troop M of Captain John Lee and First Lieutenant Herbert W. Farrand were at Arivaca, and Lochiel was occupied by Troop B commanded by Captain Edgar R. Garlick with Lieutenant Shuman.
Manning the international guard station In Nogales were details from the Thirty-fifth Infantry. And patrolling east and west along the border were cavalry detachments. Lieutenant Colonel Frederick J. Herman, Tenth Cavalry, was with the cavalry troops and also acting Nogales subdistrict commander.
Military intelligence developed information that the Nogales situation was becoming critical. The Mexican garrison were, digging some trenches in the hills overlooking the American side. Groups of mounted Mexicans, some in uniforms, were seen moving along the trails into town, and the Sonora border guards at the crossing gate had adapted a changed and officious attitude. Such an explosive condition seemingly only awaited an incident for ignition,
At 4:10 PM. on August 27, 1918, a Mexican coming from the American side tried to walk through the guarded international gate without interrogation. When the U.S. Customs inspector (Arthur G. Barber) ordered " Halt! " the man kept moving toward the other side. Then the government official drew his revolver and went after the person. Private W. H. Klint of Company H, Thirty-fifth Infantry, followed for protection. A Mexican custom guard fired at the American official, missed him but killed Private Klint. Instantly Corporal William H. Tucker of Company H shot the Mexican officer. More Mexican guards came running and started shooting. The corporal opened fire with his Springfield and killed three more. The U.S. Inspector gunned one down. A civilian at the gate (Mr. Frank Eames of the Nogales Theater) phoned to the Thirty-fifth guard detail at the West Coast Company warehouse about the emergency. Another (Mr. Otto Mayer) cranked up his truck and sped to the place, returning with Lieutenant Fanning (Fannin) and the soldiers. They arrived amidst a fusillade of lead from the Mexican side. That was the beginning of the Battle of Nogales.
Capt. Roy V. Morledge of Troop A, 10th Cavalry, was in Nogales ,vhen the shooting started. He wrote:
I happened to be downtown near the depot when I heard some rifle shots, and then more. I saw them carrying a wounded soldier at the international street.
Motor transportation was scarce in those days, but I had a good horse, I sped over the hills a couple of miles to camp. On the way I passed Lieutenant Colonel Herman in a car. He had already gotten some news and told me to go on, get my troop out and notify Troop C and Troop F
Colonel Herman soon arrived and led the troops for the town at the gallop. I was sent down Morely Avenue. The place was a double street along the railroad tracks. At the little park the troop was dismounted, and one trooper detailed to hold each group of eight horses. Those left behind pleaded with me to go along.
Dismounted, I told the men to follow me. Not far along before we got a lot of fire. There was so much it was hard to tell where it was coming from. Also it seemed as though everybody in Nogales was shooting from the windows toward the border.
First Sergeant Thomas Jordan, F Troop, 10th Cavalry. At the time this picture was taken at the Nogales pistol range in April 1919, Jordan had over 20 years with the troop. Photo courtesy Col. H.B. Wharfield, U.S. Army Flet., who in 1918 was a first lieutenant with the 10th Cavalry.
Reaching the line in spite of the fire, we dashed into a big building on the Mexican side without resistance, but bullets from up on a hillside were hitting the place. We ran forward into another connecting building. It was the Concordia Club. In there were some frightened senoritas wearing kimonas. I got a laugh when one of them spoke to a trooper, saying, 'Sergeant Jackson! Are we all glad to see you!" But we did not have time to tarry for the soldier to alibi his acquaintanceship.
Colonel Herman ordered us to the top of the hill. Up we went in waves of a squad at a time, firing at Mexicans off to one side. We took a position near some old buildings and a barricade. Down below were the Mexican depot and buildings. From there they were firing toward the American town, and some probably just hiding. They also started replying to our action.
I hope we only hit those who were shooting. But there were a lot of bodies lying around. All of a sudden some one saw a long pole with a sheet tied on being waved from the top of the Mexican customs house down below.
I ordered the men to cease fire. It was then 7:45 P.M., and getting dark. Where the time passed I do not know. We had five men wounded, and the others wanted to clean out the town. However First Sergeant LaMar and I quickly controlled our skirmish line of troopers.
Finally orders came to move back across the border and bivouac in the park near the depot. There I saw Captain Caron with a bandaged wrist. Also the news came that Captain Hungerford of Troop C and Lieutenant L. W. Loftus of Company G, Thirty-fifth Infantry, had been killed as well as several soldiers.(13)
Capt. Henry C. Caron and Troop F, upon arriving downtown, crossed over to Terrace Avenue on the right of Troop A. Lieutenant Colonel Herman assigned the troop to move forward and occupy Titcomb Hill. Years afterwards Captain Caron wrote:
We left our horses at a lumber yard in the vicinity of the Bowman Hotel, and proceeded on foot up Terrace Avenue to our positions as designated. The Mexicans were on the flat house tops and the hills giving us a heavy fire, and we returned it.
I was behind a telephone pole with First Sergeant Thomas Jordan and got hit in the right arm below the elbow. Sergeant Jordan picked me up and carried me back out of the range of the fire. He then took command of the troop until I returned from the doctor's office. I had no lieutenants with me at the time.
(First Sergeant Thomas Jordan was given a commendation by Lieutenant Colonel Herman for taking command of Troop F during the absence of his commander.)
Captain Joseph D. Hungerford and Troop C were assigned the left sector and moved forward toward the Reservoir Hill for control of the heights overlooking the town. The troop advanced to the position, then crossed the border, clearing the Mexicans out of their entrenchments on the heights. During this forward dash Captain Hungerford was shot through the heart and instantly killed. First Sergeant James T. Penny then took command of Troop C. Subsequently he received a special commendation for his initiative and the handling of the troopers.
Four unidentified members of the 35th Infantry Regiment ----------------Camp of the 35th Infantry Regiment
at Nogales, Arizona in 1917. Photo courtesy John A. Carr, --------------------at Camp Stephen D. Little, one mile
a veteran of the Machine Gun Company, 35th Infantry,------------------------north-of Nogales, Arizona, in 1917.
------------- at Nogales.---------------------------------------------------------------------Photo courtesy John A. Carr, MG Co, 35th Infantry.
Meanwhile Major Herbert E, Marshburn, Thirty-fifth Infantry, arrived in town from Camp Little with contingents of Companies F, G, and H coming along in quartermaster trucks. Company H was held in reserve and moved to the rallroad depot near the border.
Company G was assigned to support Troop F, Tenth Cavalry, moving on Titcomb Hill. Near the line the doughboys became heavily engaged. A bullet killed Lieutenant L, W. Loftus, and Corporal Barney Lots was also fatally shot. Along a street Corporal A. L. Whitworth was hit in the groin and dropped in front of a house. Mrs. Emma Budge and Mrs. Jones, braving the fire, ran out and assisted the wounded man to shelter.
Upon arrival of Company F, Thirty-fifth Infantry, it got action in the support of Troop C on the Reservoir Hill sector. A private was hit and fell across the street from the home of "Colonel" A. T. Bird. June Reed, a niece of the Birds, and Miss O'Daley ran out the back and called to the man. He crawled across the street and was helped into the house. We young cavalry officers were very proud of June for the brave deed. She had favored our acquaintance and company over that of the infantry at the hops and Sunday horseback rides. After her display of courage she increased in favor as our special girl friend.
During the earlier part of the engagement another of our cavalry girls became involved. Pat Shannon, who lived in a hotel fronting Morley Avenue and near the line, had her share of excitement. Two armed citizens used the upstairs window of her room for a firing station, Pat stood close by them, handing out ammunition as the guns were emptied. She was the daughter of a Chicago physician and employed as pianist by the Nogales Theatre moving picture house. Some weeks after the affray Pat and Lieutenant "Dee" de Lorimer, Tenth Cavalry, were married,
In addition to the citizenry, who shared the. gun fight, there were some unattached officers and soldiers engaged.
The sergeant of Ordnance Depot No. 2 near the cavalry camp told me that during the fight overtown and while loading a truck with ammunition a colored trooper came galloping up, dressed only in a hospital gown and riding bareback with a halter shank to guide his mount. The "sick" soldier begged for a rifle and shells so as to join his troop. Army regulations to the contrary notwithstanding, the old sergeant picked out a rifle, had the trooper sign a receipt, and gave him a couple of bandoliers of ammunition. Off he went at an extended gallop, the loose hospital gown floating out like a sail, and his bare legs thumping the ribs of the horse in an urge for more speed.
Machine Gun Co, 35th Infantry, ------------------------------------------------------------"de Lorimer",
Nogales, AZ, 1917. Photo courtesy John Carr------------------------------------Photo courtesy F.H.L. Ryder collection
The records show that Quartermaster Sergeant Victor Arana, with the Thirty-fifth Infantry, was wounded. It is probable that the sergeant abandoned his truck detail and chose to get on the firing line for the battle.
(Another Quartermaster soldier, Pvt, First Class James Flavian Lavery, earned a Distinguished Service Cross at the Battle of Nogales for "braving the heaviest fire, repeatedly entering the zone of fire with his motor truck and carrying wounded men to places of safety, thereby saving the lives of several soldiers.")
"Bill Scott", Photo courtesy F.H.L. Ryder collection
Lieutenant William Scott, Tenth Cavalry, was riding a motorcycle into town on business from Fort Huachuca. Nearing the cavalry camp he heard the firing. Speeding up he took a familiar back track for the high ground above the Sonora town. Arriving close to the place, the cycle was hidden, and he crept to the brow of the hill overlooking the scene of conflict. Besides his .45 pistol Scotty was armed with a new Winchester, which he had "souvenired" some months before at the Yaqui fight in Bear Valley. From his solitary station he spent the time picking off snipers from the rooftops below. Whenever there was a scarcity of targets, he kept in practice by potting chickens that were running in and out of the adobe shocks. Scotty was a former sergeant out of the Texas Big Bend border service. He had been on the Punitive Expedition into Mexico with the Sixth Cavalry.
Captain James T. Duke, Tenth Cavalry (now a retired brigadier general), was in Nogales on business and volunteered his services. After the death of Captain Hungerford, he was detailed to command Troop C. Major H. B. Cheadle, Infantry, on leave in town, also was assigned duties, Lieutenant James B. Potter, Tenth Cavalry, Adjutant of the Nogales subdistrict, served on the line. Lieutenant S. M. Lockwood of Troop A had duty as an aide for Lieutenant Colonel Herman during the affray. His liaison duties were doubled after the commander suffered a slight but hampering leg wound.
When the white flag was displayed, Colonel Herman had buglers sound "Cease Fire." A messenger from the Mexican consul in his office on the American side gave the information that the Mexican commandante and officials wanted a conference in the American consulate building located on the Sonora side. Sniping continued from various locations, but disregarding the danger, the commanding officer with Lieutenant Robert S. Israel of the Intelligence section proceeded to the appointed place. A truce was quickly arranged. The next day Brigadier General DeRosey C. Cabell, the Arizona District commander, arrived from Douglas. After a meeting with the Mexican official party regarding the situation, the hostilities were resolved.
That ended the Battle of Nogales.(14)
In fairness to the guard detail from the 35th Infantry, the remarks of then Lt. Oliver Fannin about a book called Blood on the Border by Clarence Clendenen are included here. Fannin was concerned that the book, and the accounts like that of Wharfield's upon which the book was based, give the impression that the Battle of Nogales was fought solely by the 10th Cavalry. He tried to correct that misleading idea in a letter that he wrote to his son in 1972.
A small band of enlisted men out of H Company of the: 35fh Infantry (who) were doing guard duty along the international border when the trouble started. These men were the real heroes. There were not more than 15 or 20 of them. They were there when the fighting started and they were there when it ended, less those who were killed or wounded.
The meeting of Herman and the American consul and the Mexican officials occurred in broad day light, out in the open, just across the international boundary line in Mexico. I know, because I was there, Herman having asked me to go with him. (Lieutenant Fannin was detailed as Colonel Herman's aide.) I remember distinctly that while this conference was going on a sniper's bullet cut off a small limb of a tree that fell pretty close to me and I felt like diving into a big ditch that was close to us. At this conference the American consul asked Herman what he wanted said to the Mexicans, and Colonel Herman replied, "Tell them to gather all of their forces and surrender them to me within thirty minutes." The American consul demurred, stating that the Mexican authorities could not gather together all of the people who were doing the shooting. The only shooting that was then occurring was some sniping, and it was agreed that both side would attempt to stop their forces from any further sniping.
The book (Clendenen's Blood on the Border) further states that Herman had received Information several days before the episode that there was likely to be trouble, and that although he was skeptical of this information, he had succeeded in obtaining reinforcements, including some machine guns. There were only two or three skeleton companies of the 35th Infantry there at the time, and I know of no reinforcements to these companies. I was officer of the day at the time that this happened, and it seems to me that if Herman had received any such information he certainly should have passed it on to me and the others who were doing the guard duty along the international boundary line at the time.(15)
Fannin would win the Distinguished Service Cross "For valor and bravery ... while under fire, carried a wounded man to safety in the Nogales battle." He was also the recipient of the following testimonial prepared by thirty-three of the leading citizens of Nogales.
The undersigned citizens of Nogales, Arizona, take this method of giving expression to our appreciation of the gallantry and bravery of Lieut. Oliver Fannin, of the Thirty-fifth Regiment of Infantry, U.S.A., and the men on guard duty at the International Boundary, at Nogales, Arizona, on Tuesday, August 27, 1918, upon which momentous occasion Lieut. Fannin was officer of the guard.
At the very beginning of the hostile demonstration, Lieut. 4 Fannin hurried to the boundary the reserve of the guard, and taking position he stood off the attack until the garrlson could be brought to the line and take up the work. The losses of his men, which were a large percentage of all the loss, show the bravery and gallantry of the little force commanded by the heroic officer. Through all the fight, with his men firing from prone position, Lieut. Fannin stood erect, encouraging his men, directing their fire, and contributing to the effectiveness of their work. Their loss of two killed and four wounded presents the perilous position then occupied and held.
In presenting this testimonial we do so without solicitation, to present our appreciation and admiration of a gallan officer and brave men.(16)
Capt. Joseph D. Hungerford, Troop F, 10th Cavalry, was killed while leading his men in a frontal assault on Mexican troops. Lieutenant Loftus of Company C, 35th Infantry, was killed by sniper fire as he brought his men into position. Other American casualties were three enlisted men killed, including Private W. H. Klint and Corporal Barney Lots, both of Company H, 35th Infantry, and several civilians. Two officers, Lt. Col. F. J. Herman and Capt. H. C. Caron, both of the 10th Cavalry, and twenty-nine men were wounded. Mexican casualties are not known, but found among the Mexican dead were the bodies of two German agents provocateurs.
12. Glass, Edward L.N., History of the Tenth Cavalry, 1866-1921, Old Army Press, 1921,83.
13. Wharfield, 1965,16-23.
14. Wharfield, 1965,16-23.
15. Fanin letter in Fort Huachuca Museum files.
16. Fanin bio file, Arizona Historical Society.
7. World War I at Huachuca
Table of Contents