It was more than just an extreme case of outlawry. The wreck and robbery was part of a Mexican invasion of Texas. It’s a story that’s been untold—until today.
The night of October 18, 1915, was relatively normal for the passengers on board the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico Railroad train—until around 10:45 p.m.
It was about seven miles north of Brownsville, Texas, headed into town, when the engine suddenly derailed. The engineer died; the fireman was severely hurt. But that was just the start of things.
A group of 60 men had caused the wreck by pulling one of the rails. They swarmed the passenger cars, shooting Anglos on sight. Three were killed, and three others wounded. The raiders made off with about $325 in cash in addition to jewels, watches and even shoes. They then headed across the Rio Grande. The whole incident took less than 15 minutes.
The history books note that the holdup was the work of Tejanos and Mexican renegades, using the chaos of the Mexican Revolution for their own purposes—to get money, to kill whites or maybe even to wrest control of the Southwest from America.
But it was more than just an extreme case of outlawry. The wreck and robbery was part of a Mexican invasion of Texas. It’s a story that’s been untold—until today.
Plan de San Diego
Enter Charles H. Harris III and Louis R. Sadler, emeritus history professors at New Mexico State who have spent more than 20 years looking into what’s known as the Bandit War. Their findings are published in The Texas Rangers and the Mexican Revolution: The Bloodiest Decade 1910-1920.
They’ll tell you that the Mexican Revolution isn’t well understood in this country. In reality, it was a series of uprisings by various factions, each trying to grab control in Mexico. The best known group was led by Pancho Villa. But other figures also jumped into the fray, notably Venustiano Carranza, a regional governor. Carranza didn’t look like a revolutionary—his long, white beard gave him the appearance of a Santa Claus. He was anything but a jolly old elf; Carranza was brilliant, devious and ruthless to a fault. He used people to achieve his ends. By the middle of 1914, he was the de facto ruler of Mexico.
And he was the man behind the Plan de San Diego.