History •  Latin America and Military

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The Secret War in El Paso: Mexican Revolutionary Intrigue, 1906-1920

Charles H. Harris III
Louis R. Sadler

Winner of the 2010 Spur Award for Best Contemporary Nonfiction from Western Writers of America

The Mexican Revolution could not have succeeded without the use of American territory as a secret base of operations, a source of munitions, money, and volunteers, a refuge for personnel, an arena for propaganda, and a market for revolutionary loot. El Paso, the largest and most important American city on the Mexican border during this time, was the scene of many clandestine operations as American businesses and the U.S. federal government sought to maintain their influences in Mexico and protect national interest while keeping an eye on key Revolutionary figures. In addition, the city served as refuge to a cast of characters that included revolutionists, adventurers, smugglers, gunrunners, counterfeiters, propagandists, secret agents, double agents, criminals, and confidence men.

Using 80,000 pages of previously classified FBI documents on the Mexican Revolution and hundreds of Mexican secret agent reports from El Paso and Ciudad Juarez in the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations archive, Charles Harris and Louis Sadler examine the mechanics of rebellion in a town where factional loyalty was fragile and treachery was elevated to an art form. As a case study, this slice of El Paso's, and America's, history adds new dimensions to what is known about the Mexican Revolution.


Louis R. Sadler is emeritus history professor at New Mexico State University.

Charles H. Harris III is emeritus history professor at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces.


"This well-researched, deftly written volume enriches understanding of the complexity of the Mexican Revolution and the role that the US played in the conflict. Highly recommended."



"...a first-rate piece of scholarship."


Montana the Magazine of Western History

" The Secret War in El Paso is a fast-paced, entertainingly written collection of derring-do tales based primarily on agents' reports. It is also an important scholarly narrative and should be of interest to both a general reader of military history and Mexican Revolution specialists."


Military History of the West

". . . scholars of the Mexican Revolution, border region, Texas, and El Paso will profit greatly from this book."


Hispanic American Historical Review

"...an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the clandestine arms trade, revolutionaries' limits, and the significance of El Paso to the Mexican Revolution. Harris and Sadler offer specialist knowledge while adeptly spinning anecdotes and challenging myths. Academics will find new and intriguing elements of the border, while less specialized readers will be pulled along by the fascinating characters and their often nefarious misadventures."


New Mexico Historical Review

"Harris and Sadler have demonstrated their high degree of scholarship with this Secret War, continuing the tradition of their previous works."


Wild West History Journal

"The authors are the first historians to make use of the massive (80,000 pages) archive on the Mexican Revolution collected by the FBI (then known as the Bureau of Investigation), declassified in 1977. Professors Harris and Sadler have made good use of this archive and a great number of other sources in producing this impressive history."


Roundup Magazine

"filled with intrigue and a cast of characters that would thrill any movie maker."


Standard Times, San Angelo, TX

"reads like an intriguing novel. . . ."


Las Cruces Sun-News<

"Harris and Sadler have given us an excellent work of scholarship that sheds light on our understanding of Mexico and will please any history junkie."


The Internet Review of Books

" The Secret War in El Paso. . .establishes Harris and Sadler as the leading authorities on the Mexican Revolution along the U.S.-Mexico border. For those interested in border history, this is an invaluable book on significant events in El Paso-Ciudad Juárez in the 1910s. Most of all, readers will be fascinated by the adventures of the many people--Mexicans, Americans, and individuals of other nationalities--who operated outside and inside the law."


The Journal of American History

"There will likely never be as meticulous an account of El Paso's effervescent life between 1906 and 1920 as The Secret War in El Paso ...."


7 x 10 in. 504 pages 29 halftones, 1 maps