spanish rebellion

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September 24th 1537: First Mexican slave rebellion

On this day in 1537, the first rebellion of African slaves occurred in the Spanish colony of Mexico. Despite 1537 being relatively early in the history of Atlantic slavery, this was not the first such revolt in Latin America, with rebellions dating back from 1512. Mexican slavery expanded following the rise of silver mines and sugar plantations - labour-intensive work which required importation of more slaves from Africa. This created concentrated slave populations, as in Mexico City, and saw slaves outnumber Spanish conquistadors. Additionally, slaves were aware of the political turmoil that beset the Spanish king, and seized on this information to plan their revolt. The rebellion was a co-ordinated decision between slaves and Native Americans in Mexico City and Tlaltelolco to murder their Spanish oppressors, led by a chosen slave king. The uprising was planned for midnight on September 24th, but the plans were thwarted when one slave revealed the plot to Viceroy Mendoza. The viceroy - the Spanish representative in the colony - ordered the arrest of the ringleaders. One female and four male slaves were executed for their role in the plot, with Native Americans acting on the viceroy’s orders and killing the instigators themselves. The plot worried the Spanish authorities, and the viceroy suspended the dispatch of new slaves to Mexico to prevent further rebellions. This incident demonstrates that African slaves continually resisted their oppression, as whilst this was the first rebellion in Mexico, it was by no means the last. Mexican slaves rejected their enslavement not just with violent uprisings, but also by establishing runaway slave settlements called ‘palenques’. Slave resistance was thus ubiquitous during the centuries preceding the abolition of slavery in Mexico in 1829.

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The Colt Browning Model 1895 Machine Gun — The Potato Digger

An invention of John Browning, the Model 1895 was the first true machine gun design employed by the US military.  Unlike other designs which required a hand crank, the Model 1895 was a gas operated design (the first in history) which automatically cycled the action when the trigger was pulled. When fired, the gas from its discharge forced a hinged lever backwards, which operated the action.  The lever was very conspicuous, swinging back and forth as the machine gun fired.  The gun was often mounted on a tripod, but if placed in too low of a position the lever could dig into the ground as it fired.  As a result, the M1895 was given the nickname “potato digger”.

Taking influence from the Maxim machine gun design, the M1895 was belt fed, unlike earlier designs which used a hopper.  Its firing was set at 450 rounds per minute, rather slow, but the M1895 could fire much faster.  All that inhibited it was overheating.  Originally the M1895 was chambered for 6mm Lee Navy, but then was chambered for other US military rounds such as .30-40 Krag, .30-03, and .30-06.  Many of these machine guns were also produced for export to other nations such as the UK, Russia, Italy, Spain, and Latin American countries.  As as result many were manufactured in 7x57 Mauser, .303 British, 7.62x54R, and 6.5 Carcano.

The M1895 saw used by American military forces during the Boxer Rebellion, Spanish American War, the Philippine American Wars, and World War I.  They were also noted for being extensively used by the Boers during the Boer Wars, by Mexico during the Mexican Revolution,  and the Russian Empire during World War I.  They were also notorious for being used by strike breakers during the infamous Ludlow Massacre.  In 1914 at Ludlow, Colorado 1,200 coal miners from the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company were on strike, and had set up camps with their families. Agents of the company stormed the camp with cars mounted with M1895 machine guns, killing 25.  

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America’s Forgotten Soldier, Heinrich Schwindler

At the age of 7, Heinrich Schwindler, a recent immigrant, ran away from home. With minimal command of the English language, he was having quite a hard time, but was taken under the wing of a ethnic German soldier in the US Army, serving in the 3rd US Infantry Regiment, and was soon integrated into the regiment as something of a mascot. He trained as a drummer boy, and that year headed to Mexico with the Regiment, where he earned a mention in dispatches for his nerves under even the heaviest fire. Army life suited him, and at the age of 16 he traded in his drum for a long arm, seeing some action against the Native American population in the west serving in New Mexico. (The Third American: The Life and Times of Heinrich Schwindler, by Albern Schwindler, 1972)

By the outbreak of the Civil War, he was a veteran sergeant, and the massive need for expansion of the Army meant that he was able to secure a commission as a Lt. in a unit of volunteers, serving with the 195th New York Volunteer Infantry. Composed of so many recent immigrants, his command of both English and German was seen as a major asset, and by the end of the war he was a brevet Colonel in command of the entire Regiment! Not bad for a young man still in his twenties! It of course didn’t hurt that he had an agile mind and was unflappable in battle. He always led from the front, and took any risk he expected of his men. He had the distinction of never seeing his men break in battle, and his greatest achievement was undoubtedly saving the entire Army of the Wabash when his Regiment - placed alone on the extreme right flank - repelled numerous attacks by superior Confederate forces. Had they broken, it is assured that the Union line would have been entirely rolled up, and the Battle of Mount Carmel would have been a crippling defeat to the American efforts in the theater (The Civil War: A Tale, Hands 1967).

With the end of the war, he lost his brevet, and but he had risen in Regular Army rank as well, and served as a Captain of Cavalry in the Plains Wars, fighting Sioux and Shawnee with the same pluck and panache he had shown against the Rebs (A. Schwindler) . His continued success meant that, at the age of 58, he was a Brigadier General by the time the Spanish-American War broke out, and while his rank and age precluded him from battle, his role in planning out the Battle of Frying Pan Hill simply can’t be overlooked, as it is a text book assault plan, and still taught at West Point as an example of small unit tactics successfully taking prepared positions despite being outnumbered (Atlas of American Military Tactics, Pasman de Croire, 1984).

Following the end of the fighting in Cuba, he was sent to the Philippines to help fight the continuing insurgency, but took temporary leave from there when he received orders to divert to China where he partook in the relief effort of the Peking Legation during the Boxer Rebellion. He returned to the Philippines, where he was stationed for two more years. and his work there really revolutionized American counter-insurgency doctrine. Finally in 1904, he retired at the age of 64. Settling in Columbus, New Mexico, as he had fallen in love with the state (then territory) while serving there as a young man in the 3rd US Regiment. As fate would have it, in 1916 he would be out hunting with his grandson in the wee hours of the morning when Pancho Villa and his men made a cross border raid on the town. He fired a warning shot, which alerted the town garrison who were able to rouse themselves and repel the attackers. It is thought that the raid would have been much more disastrous without Heinrich’s intervention. He and his grandson (Albern) of course had exposed themselves with the shot, but took up a strong position in a rocky outcropping, and fought of the band of Villistas who attempted to charge them. Heinrich, always humble, insisted it was a lone raider that they killed, but Albern always insisted it was at least a half dozen (A. Schwindler), and the Army’s after action report stated there were five bodies in the vicinity, and indication that 3 more were wounded and either escaped or were carried off by their comrades (The Columbus Report, Library of Congress collection F1234 .C33).

By the 1930s, Heinrich was starting to slow down in his old age, a man in his nineties after all! Albern, now an Army Captain himself, insisted that Heinrich move to be closer to him so that Albern’s wife could look after him, so Heinrich moved to Hawaii, where his grandson was stationed, and took up residence with his family there. Heinrich was there on Dec. 7th, 1941, and true to form, refused to cower in the basement, although he rushed - rather hobbled, he was, afterall, 101 - the rest of the family there. He grabbed his old .29-31 Winchester (The rifle was later donated to the National Firearms Museum, where it is now on display!), and stood in the middle of the street taking potshots at Japanese planes. I wish I could tell you he downed one, but odds are against it, and truth is, we simply can’t be sure (Answering the Call of Duty: Civilian Military Involvement in World War II, Ben Chichoski 2003). Nevertheless, he was certainly out there. He passed away peacefully in his sleep two years later, at the ripe old age of 103. One of the more decorated of Army officers ever, not to mention one with a span of combat experience from the 1850s to 1940s, he was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery (Section 46 Lot 366-11 Grid O/P-22.5 if you ever care to pay your respects).

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August 10th 1680: Pueblo Revolt begins

On this day in 1680 Pueblo Indians in present day New Mexico began an uprising against Spanish colonisers. Any rebellions against Spanish rule in the province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México by the indigenous people were brutally suppressed. This violence, coupled with Spanish seizure of Indian crops and possessions, and Spanish assaults on pueblo religion and enforcement of Christianity, led to deep resentment of exploitative Spanish rule. This came to a head in 1680, when Tewa leader Popé (or Po'Pay) led a co-ordinated, large-scale uprising against the Spanish. The revolt was in direct response to the Spanish governor’s arrest and beating of 47 pueblo shamans, one of whom was Popé. On the night of August 10th thousands of Indians across the province rose up against the Spanish authorities. 2,500 warriors sacked the colonial headquarters in Santa Fe and in the next few days over 400 Spaniards were killed. The rebellion was ultimately successful in driving the Spanish out of the region. However after Popé’s death in 1688 his loose confederation of pueblos fell apart and descended into infighting and wars with neighbouring tribes. The Spanish were therefore able to launch a reconquest in 1692, but this time were careful to allow pueblo religion to continue. While it was short-lived, the remarkable success of the Pueblo Revolt against the far better armed Spanish makes it the most successful act of resistance ever undertaken by Native Americans against European invaders.

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The Colt Model 1889 Navy Revolver,

in the later half of the 19th century, there were two common ways a metallic cartridge revolver could be loaded (with exceptions).  The first was through a loading gate, which made loading and unloading a slow process, with each cartridge being loaded one at a time, and each empty casing being ejected one at a time.  The other was the break top.  The break top ejected all empty casings, and allowed for fast loading, however the mechanism often compromised the strength of the frame, and the ejection mechanism often failed, leaving the user to have to pick out stuck casings from a chamber or the mechanism itself.

Designed by William Mason and Carl J. Ehbets, the Model 1889 featured a new method; the swing out cylinder.  When the user pressed a button (cylinder latch) below the trigger on the left hand side, the entire cylinder would drop out to the left.  Pushing the cylinder pin ejected all spent casings from the cylinder, allowing for fast loading, especially with speed loaders.  The Colt Model 1889 was the first common revolver with such a mechanism, although some uncommon revolvers had similar designs.  It was a double action revolver, chambered in either .38 long colt, .38 short colt, or .41 long colt.  While they were available commercially, they were most popularly known for being used by the US Navy, who used the revolver during the Boxer Rebellion, Spanish American War, and Philippine American War.  A limited number were also purchased by the US Army.  While a brilliant design, many in the Army believed the revolver to be under-powered, especially soldiers who fought native warriors in the Philippines, who were said to have been shot multiple times before going down.  Thus around the turn of the century the Army reverted back to the Colt Model 1873 or other revolvers chambered in .45 caliber.   The Colt Model 1889 would remain in service with the US Navy up to around World War I.

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Chorus:
Si dios fuera negro mi compay
Todo cambiaría.
Fuera nuestra raza mi compay
La que mandaría.



Translation:
If God was black
everything would change.
It would be our race
that would rule.

Original song by Roberto Angleró

La bomba is the dance of African slaves who worked sugar plantations in Puerto Rico. La bomba was used to celebrate weddings and baptisms, and often used as a means to communicate plans for rebellion against Spanish slave owners. Los bailarines tomaban turno para retar los tambores, creando asi un dialogo con sus movimientos, en el cual el tamborilero contestaba. The women would often dance with their skirts raised so to ridicule the fashions of the white women and challenge their views of decency.

Revolución no es parte de nuestra cultura; así es la cultura! 🇵🇷