The Negro Rebellion, also known as the Little Race War, the War of 1912, or The Twelve, was an armed conflict in Cuba, taking place mainly in the eastern region of the island in 1912. The conflict involved the widespread massacre of Afro-Cubans, by the Cuban Army, and an intervention by the United States military. Both the massacre and the presence of American troops quelled the violence so the unrest and the occupation ended after only a few weeks.
The Independent Party of Color played a central role in the conflict. Under the leadership of Evaristo Estenoz, the party quickly gained the support of a large number Afro-Cubans which annoyed President José Miguel Gómez. Conditions in Cuba were poor for the black inhabitants, most of whom were employed in the sugarcane industry. Estenoz led a movement to better the conditions which first started the unsuccessful War of 1895. In 1912 the Independent Party of Color had regrouped to stage another armed rebellion. In early 1912, affairs in Cuba showed signs of unrest among the Negroes so the American government sent a detachment of 688 officers and enlisted marines to Guantanamo Naval Base. The force was under the command of Major George C. Thorpe and originally intended to be used against rebels in Mexico, it arrived at Guantanamo Bay on March 13. Meanwhile, Estenoz and his followers were preparing to wage war. Though they were lightly armed, the rebels numbered several hundred men, mainly peasants.
On May 20, Estenoz and his men confronted the Cuban Army. Fighting took place mainly in Oriente Province while there were also a few minor outbreaks of violence in the west, particularly in Las Villas Province. Initially the rebels were successful in engaging the Cuban forces, which included soldiers and militia, so on May 23 President Gomez requested aid from President William H. Taft, who approved the idea, according to the Platt Amendment. Additional marines were called for, the first detachment arrived on May 28, landing at Deer Point, Guantanamo Bay, to link up with Major's Thorpe's battalion. Colonel Lincoln Karmany was in command of this new force, designated the 1st Provisional Regiment of Marines, it numbered thirty-two officers and 777 enlisted men.
The 2nd Provisional Regiment of Marines was also en route, under Colonel James E. Mahoney, the 2nd Regiment included 1,292 officers and men. They first sailed to Key West, aboard ten United States Navy battleships from the Atlantic Fleet. After receiving instructions, most of the fleet headed for Guantanamo Bay, arriving on June 7, while one battalion was landed at Havana, on June 10. USS Mississippi landed her detachment at El Cuero on June 19. Of the 1,292 men who landed at Guantanamo, only one battalion would be deployed, Colonel Karmany took command of all the unassigned troops. Together, the American forces in Cuba totaled 2,789 officers and men and were organized into the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, about half of which were sent to occupy various towns and cities in eastern Cuba, the rest remained at the naval base. June saw Estenoz rapidly losing control of his territory to the Cuban military, which was dispersing large bands of the rebels, as well as innocents. Rebel forces numbered at least 3,000 men but by June there was an estimated 1,800 left, the rest having been killed. The marines were assigned to protect the American owned sugarcane plantations and their associated properties, as well as copper mines, railroads and trains. The Afro-Cubans attacked the Marines only once at El Cuero, but were repulsed without casualties to either side. President Gomez offered amnesty to any of the rebels who surrendered by June 22 but Estenoz refused and he continued to fight with a few hundred men. Most of the rebels did surrender though and by the end of June the majority had returned to their homes. The turning point in the war was when Estenoz was killed by government forces at Miraca on June 27.
Estenoz's death resulted in the splintering of the rebel army into small factions which were all eventually defeated. The most important was that of Ivonnet Peter who took his men into the mountains to wage a guerrilla war, however, he was driven out by the mid July. Soon after Peter's surrender, Gomez announced that the American marines were no longer needed so they began to withdraw, first to the naval base at Guantanamo, and then to stations in the United States. The last marines to leave Cuba embarked USS Prairie on August 2 and sailed for New England. For the Afro-Cubans, they lost between 3,000 to 6,000 killed, both combatants and non-combatants, and the results of the rebellion were disastrous, conditions in Cuba largely remained the same after 1912, except for the Independent Party of Color, which was dissolved
- Clark, pg. 97-99
- Clark, George B. (2010). Battle History of the United States Marine Corps, 1775-1945. McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-4598-X.
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