Carl Mueller was born in Davenport, Iowa on December 7, 1894, the son of John Mueller and Elizabeth Korn Mueller. Both parents were born in Germany. Carl had six brothers and a sister in 1910. At that time, Carl was 14 and working for a living as a gas fitter at a light company. Carl’s mother, Elizabeth, died in 1908.
Carl joined the United States Navy on January 30, 1913, and became a watertender. In the United States Navy, a watertender (abbreviated WT) was a petty officer rating that existed from 1884 to 1948. A watertender is a crewman aboard a steam-powered ship who is responsible for tending to the fires and boilers in the ship’s engine room. WT Mueller served in the Mexican Border Crisis. For the U.S. Navy, this campaign started in April 1914 as the “Tampico Affair”.
In the midst of the Mexican Revolution, the presumed head of Mexico was Victoriano Huerta. He struggled to hold his power and territory intact against the challenges of Emiliano Zapata in the south and the fast advance of the Constitutionalists of Venustiano Carranza in the north. By March 26,1914, Carranza’s forces were 10 mi (16 km) from the prosperous oil town of Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico. There was a considerable concentration of U.S. citizens in the area due to the immense investment of American firms in the local oil industry. Several American warships were posted in the area with the stated purpose of protecting American citizens and property.
In the spring of 1914, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Mexico were strained. President Woodrow Wilson refused to recognize the presidency of Mexican General Victoriano Huerta who had been installed as president the previous year after Huerta and the conservative rebel, General Félix Díaz signed the Pact of the Embassy with the approval of the American ambassador Henry Lane Wilson, and who had since been removed by President Wilson. The instability caused by the ongoing Mexican Revolution threatened American lives and economic interests in Mexico.
The American Naval Force, with only the gunboat USS Dolphin, able to navigate the shallow harbor entrance, kept good relations and presented a 21-gun salute to the Mexican flag on April 2, 1914, to pay tribute to the celebrated victory at Puebla in 1867 by Mexican forces fighting against the French.
The situation between the U.S. and Huerta took a turn for the worse on April 9, 1914, when Mexican authorities mistakenly arrested eight U.S. sailors at Tampico, Mexico in what came to be known as the Tampico Affair. The commander of the USS Dolphin arranged for a pickup of oil from a warehouse near a tense defensive position at Iturbide Bridge. The defenders of the bridge anticipated an attack, based on the two consecutive days of skirmishes that had immediately preceded. Nine U.S. sailors on a whaleboat flying the U.S. flag were dispatched to the warehouse along a canal. Based on the sailors’ account, seven of them moved the cans of fuel to the boat while two remained on the vessel. Mexican federal soldiers were alerted to the activity and confronted the American sailors. Neither side was able to speak the other’s language, which left the sailors immobile in the face of commands from the soldiers. The Mexicans raised rifles against the Americans, including the sailors still on the boat, and ushered the men to the nearby Mexican regimental headquarters.
The commander of the U.S. Naval Forces in the area, Rear Admiral Henry T. Mayo, demanded a 21-gun salute and formal apology from Huerta’s government. General Huerta, the President of Mexico, ordered the release of the sailors within 24 hours and gave a written apology. However, he refused for Mexico to raise the U.S. flag on its soil to provide a 21-gun salute. As a result, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for permission for an armed invasion of the area. Although this request was granted two days later, the United States occupation of Veracruz had already begun.
WT Carl Mueller was on one of the ships that took part in this in the Mexican border Crisis. His records do not show which ships he served on.
On February 1, 1918, WT Mueller re-enlisted in the Navy for the duration of the war with Germany (World War I). He was honorably discharged on July 27,1920.
After returning home from the Navy, Carl went to work for the U.S. Postal Service and for 10 years was a civil service examiner in Davenport, Iowa, being appointed in 1949.retiring in 1956. Carl married Henrietta Giebelstein on Sept. 16, 1922. She was born in Germany and was six years older than Carl. Carl was a shipping clerk at the time of the wedding. They lived in Davenport, Iowa, until Carl’s passing on November 12, 1972, at the Veterans Hospital in Iowa City. Henrietta lived to be 100 years old, passing in 1989. She is buried with Carl in the Rock Island National Cemetery.
Fold3, U.S. Veterans’ Gravesites, ca.1775-2019 Fold3 – Mueller, Carl in U.S. Veterans’ Gravesites, ca.1775-2019 (Accessed 28May2022)
The Rock Island Argus, Rock Island, IL, 1972 Nov 13 Page 6 Carl Mueller Obit – Newspapers.com (Accessed 31May2022)
Navy Department, Annual Reports of the Secretary of the Navy for the Fiscal Year, 1914 Tampico Affair | Military Wiki | Fandom (Accessed 31May2022)
TheFreeDictionary.com Water tender – definition of Water tender by The Free Dictionary (Accessed 30May2022)