In 1911, the dictatorial rule of Mexican President Porfirio Díaz had fomented a committed rebellion led by Francisco Madero.
Along with generals Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa, Madero resolved to attack the federal forces stationed in Ciudad Juárez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas. They believed a victory there could be the final push needed to topple the Diaz regime.
The 2,500 rebels outnumbered the 700 federal troops commanded by General Juan Navarro, but the federales had the advantage of better training, discipline and fortified emplacements in the city.
On April 7, Madero, Orozco and Villa surrounded the city from the east, west and south, leaving only the border crossing open for retreat. Before the attack could begin, President Díaz reached out to Madero with offers of concessions, leading to a ceasefire.
Villa and Orozco had no interest in negotiations. They launched an attack on the city against Madero’s orders, blaming it on a spontaneous eruption of fighting.
Fearful of breaking the ceasefire, Navarro’s troops retreated to the fortified city center, allowing the rebels to take the outskirts uncontested.
Meanwhile, thousands of El Paso spectators had gathered at the border to watch the battle.
In order to circumvent the barricades, trenches and machine gun emplacements which covered the streets leading into the city center, the rebels used dynamite to blow paths through adobe houses, avoiding the streets entirely, and taking the fight to close quarters.
By May 8, the federal troops were exhausted, out of water and on the verge of mutiny. General Navarro saw the writing on the wall, and negotiated the surrender of the town two days later.
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