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conservative troops, March 1927
B Y     R E P O S I T O R Y
B Y     T H E M E

     These USNA2 Photo Pages begin with a series of never-before published photographs discovered in Record Group 165, Military Intelligence Division, Entry 77, Regional File 1922-44, Nicaragua.  Tucked inside box no. 2660 were found 30 small Kodak photographs, affixed in clusters of six to five pieces of paper, appended to a fascinating 9-page narrative of events by U.S. Military Attaché Major A. W. Bloor that describes the circumstances under which they were produced.  High-resolution scans of these photographs are presented & interpreted below and in the two pages to follow.

     As Major Bloor's "Report of Operations" describes his mission:   "At 12.15 pm, March 26, 1927, I left Managua by automobile in company with Major D. Rodriguez, U.S.A., retired, and Mr. A. A. Cohen, my clerk, to observe the forces of General Rivers Delgadillo, consisting of 700 men, on the march between Tipitapa and Teustepe enroute to concentration area west of Muymuy and south of the Rio Grande and to inspect positions occupied by General Noguera Gomez immediately south of Tierra Azul." 

     The three Americans accompanied the US-supported Conservative troops during the most decisive phase of the war.  Soon after these photos were taken, Generals Noguera Gomez, Rivers Delgadillo, Bartolomé Víquez, and other Conservative forces were badly defeated by the Liberal "revolutionists," who by late April were poised to march on Managua.  In short, these photographs were taken just before the big Conservative defeats at the tail end of the Civil War.   Interested readers can find the full text of Major Bloor's report of 3 April 1927 here along with the index to photographs:   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

     These are marvelous and powerful photographs, offering a unique window on Nicaraguan warfare & social realities during this period.  For the full images of all 30 photos, click on the thumbnails of the five scanned pages of the photo album immediately below (6 photos per page; misnumbered from the index, there is no photo no. 13, and panoramic photo no. 32 was of poor quality and is not included here):         

     I thank Dr. Gregory W. Ball, 24th Air Force Historian (AFCYBER), for sharing his expertise, correcting an error (I had mixed up Majors Bloor & Rodriguez), and providing background information on Major Bloor, including this photograph from the Great War which I've put side-by-side with one in this collection:


For more information on Major Alfred Wainwright Bloor (1876-1952), see the Texas State Historical Association's authoritative article, written by Dr. Ball, at www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbl75 (offsite). 

Major Bloor's map of the two-day field inspection, overlaid with my explanatory legend:

Photo USNA2-1.1.   Truck load of wounded coming to Managua from Matagalpa, March 26, 1927.

Photo USNA2-1.2.   General Vidaurre, second in command under Gen. Rivers Delgadillo with his officers at Las Banderas, March 26.


Gen. Vidaurre.  Note the half-moon formation, characteristic of the period, with highest-ranking officers in the center flanked by their lieutenants.



Photo USNA2-1.3.   Machine gun group of General Vidaurre's forces, March 26.


Figure on far left in first two photos is Gen. Vidaurre.  (Descriptions for photos 3 and 4 on the original index appear to be transposed; this is definitely a "machine gun group".) 

A refreshingly informal scene, and a formidable looking machine-gun.



Detail of the machine-gun group.


Photo USNA2-1.4.  General Vidaurre, second in command of Gen. Rivers Delgadillo, March 26.

(Above:  Bloor report, p. 3, describing Saturday, March 26.)

Major Bloor paints General Vidaurre as an incompetent procrastinator.  Under the heading, "Disposition for the march," Bloor writes:   "The advance guard of 150 men procedded the main body by about four miles, while the rear element of the command, 250 men, [General Vidaurre] followed one days' march in the rear of the main body. . . . The advance guard and main body remained all day Sunday in Teustepe waiting for the rear element to catch up, thus losing 24 hours valuable time. Some of the Conservative generals [i.e. General Vidaurre] do not seem to have any conception of the value of time, and the procrastination during the past three weeks is almost unbelievable, especially in view of the fact that the rainy season will commence in about six weeks and the campaign must be concluded before then or drag over for another year."   (my emphases).  Major Bloor had some good, even laudatory things to say about several Conservative generals, but he offered not even the first name of General Vidaurre, a minor player in any case. 

If, on the other hand, the goal of Gen. Vidaurre were to save the lives of his soldiers by avoiding fruitless battles, some might see in him an unsung hero. 

In other words, the US military attaché's remarks and the implicit assumptions that give them substance — that an aggressive military posture and making haste to the battlefield best suited the circumstances — need to be read against the grain of the imperial discourse of counter-insurgencency that informs them.  To the ill-armed, ill-shod, ill-clothed, ill-fed, ill-housed involuntary conscripts who filled the ranks of Gen. Vidaurrre's army — as they filled the ranks of most Conservative armies in the civil war — the prospect of rushing to battle after a string of defeats probably appeared both foolish and suicidal.  Perhaps, given the circumstances, for many conscripts & their families, Gen. Vidaurre's willful inaction made him a hero, or at least was a blessing.  Major Bloor's observations are often keen but his judgments should not be taken at face value; there's much more here than meets the eye.

Photo USNA2-1.5.   Forces of General Rivers Delgadillo on a March between Las Banderas and Teustepe, March 26.

A marvelous photograph of an army in motion, with the line of walking & riding troops & officers stretching far into the distance.  Two men standing on the left and two of the horsemen on the right seem to be taking note of the man taking a photograph.

Photo USNA2-1.6.  General Rivers Delgadillo, March 26.


"General Carlos Rivers Delgadillo.  About 35 years of age, fair education.  Military training acquired in present revolution. Although he is a popular hero, he is inclined to procrastinate and impresses me as being weak and vaccilating and not possessed of any particular military ability."   Bloor report, p. 8.

Photo USNA2-1.7.   US Military Attaché Major A. W. Bloor, General Carlos Rivers Delgadillo, USMC Major D. Rodriguez (Ret.), and three officers of Gen. Delgadillo, March 26.

Left to right:   United States Corps Major D. Rodriguez (Ret.), Ejército Nacional de Nicaragua Gen. Carlos Rivers Delgadillo, and U.S. Military Attaché Major A. W. Bloor.

Photo USNA2-1.8.   Some of Gen. Rivers Delgadillo's forces at rest between Las Banderas and Teustepe, March 26.


Above:   Excerpt from Bloor report, p. 2, describing events later in the afternoon of Saturday, March 26.  "At 4.25 pm we passed the main body, 300 men under General Rivers Delgadillo about four miles south of Teustepe, and upon arrival at Teustepe at 5 pm we found his advance guard of 150 men there."

This marvelous photograph conveys a vivid sense of ordinary troops briefly resting on march.  Note the women amongst the male troops. 

As Major Bloor noted at this point in his narrative:  "The usual number of women (3 or 4 to every 15 or 20 men) accompanied the command as cooks and washwomen.  One woman was marching with a rifle in the column with the men.  Her husband was one of the soldiers."

In the civil war as in the rebellion that followed, warfare & military mobilization were family affairs.

Photo USNA2-1.9.   Advance Guard of Gen. Rivers Delgadillo's Forces at Teustepe, March 26.

About half (ca. 75 of 150 soldiers) of the advance guard of Gen. Rivers Delgadillo's forces at Teustepe, around 5 p.m., Friday, March 26, 1927.

Photo USNA2-1.10.   Soldier of Gen. Noguera Gómez in foxhole, morning of March 27.

In Major Bloor's words, "The tendency of all the generals seems to be to get as high upon the hill as possible.  Gomez has some lines of trenches about 50 years in the rear of the firing line . . . The trenches are really 'fox holes'.  They are constructed for either one or two men and are placed from 5 to 10 yards apart.  Some are dug in, others are constructed by piling up loose stones, and still others by a combination of digging and stones.  No wire entanglements are constructed.  The principle of counter attack is not understood." 

In this photograph, Major Rodriguez looks on as the entrenched soldier under Gen. Noguera Gómez, rifle in hand, drapes his head with a cloth, probably drenched with water from his canteen on his left.


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