2004 - Texas Military History


Introductory Remarks 
Alfred F. Hurley, Moderator

Defending a “Forgotten” Frontier: Spanish Texas, 1716–1821 
Donald E. Chipman

To the Last Drop of Our Blood: Defending King and Empire in San Antonio 
Jesus F. de la Teja

Calculated Victory: Sam Houston’s Campaign to Rescue the Texas Revolution
James E. Crisp

Turning Points in the San Jacinto Campaign: The Mexican Army Perspective 
Gregg J. Dimmick

Who Fought for the Confederacy?: Harrison County as a Test Case
Randolph “Mike” Campbell

Who Fought for the Confederacy?: The Soldiers of Walker’s Texas Division 
Richard G. Lowe

Admiral Chester Nimitz: From Fredericksburg to Tokyo Bay 
Admiral Bob Inman

General Walton Walker: The Eighth Army’s Fight for Pusan 
Adrian R. Lewis

The Impact of Aviation on Texas: The Military and NASA Example 
Hans M. Mark


Officers of the Society 

Past Presidents 



Members of the Society 

In Memoriam 

The Philosophical Society of Texas

“Texas Military History” was the topic of the 167th anniversary meeting of the Philosophical Society of Texas, held in the vibrant North Texas area on December 3–5, 2004. The headquarters was Fort Worth’s Doral Tesoro Hotel. The site for most of the meetings, however, was The University of North Texas in Denton. A total of 180 members, spouses, and guests attended. President Alfred F. Hurley organized the program.

The meeting began on Friday with three optional tours: one by helicopter to view the burgeoning Alliance Airport development; the others by University of North Texas buses either to view buildings in Denton designed by O’Neill Ford, or the structure and activities of the University of North Texas Environmental Science Building. A reception and dinner were held at the Doral Tesoro Hotel, featuring musicians from the University of North Texas’s exceptional School of Music.

President Hurley announced the twenty-two new members of the Society and presented them with their certificates of membership. The new members are Phil Adams, Edward Glenn Biggs, John Walter Crain, Maceo Dailey, Ramona Davis, Patricia Lynn Denton, David Dewhurst, Cheryl Fleming, Michael Gillette, Judith Guthrie, Ray Keck, Richard Lowe, Larry McNeill, Patrick Cunningham Oxford, George Shipley, Steven Escar Smith, Rose Spector, Carol Keeton Strayhorn, Claudia Stuart, Lonn Wood Taylor, Herman Lavon Totten, and Kathryn (Kay) Yeager.

Randolph B. Campbell was awarded the 2004 Philosophical Society of Texas Award of Merit for a book on Texas, either fiction or nonfiction, published in 2003. Campbell’s book, Gone to Texas: A History of the Lone Star State, was published by Oxford University Press.

The annual business meeting was held on Sunday afternoon. The names of Society members who had died during the previous year were read: Rex Gavin Baker, Jr., Albert V. Casey, Gilbert Denman, James Hargrove, Amy Freeman Lee, John L. Margrave, James M. Moudy, William Seybold, and Jerome Supple.

Secretary Ron Tyler announced that Society membership stood at 200 active members, 80 associate members, and 43 emeritus members.

Officers elected for the coming year are as follows: Harris L. Kempner Jr., president; Roger Horchow, first vice-president; Isabel Brown Wilson, second vice-president; J. Chrys Dougherty III, treasurer; and Ron Tyler, secretary.

On Saturday evening a reception and dinner were held at the University of North Texas, followed by a President’s Reception in the hotel’s clubhouse.

After a business meeting for Society members and a lively discussion on the topic of Texas Military History on Sunday morning, President Hurley declared the meeting adjourned until December 2, 2005, in Galveston.

Defending a “Forgotten” Frontier

Spanish Texas, 1716–1821


Spaniards viewed the coast of Texas for the first time in 1519, and slightly more than three centuries would elapse before the flag of Castile and León was lowered for the final time at San Antonio in 1821. Uninterrupted Spanish occupation of Texas, however, lasted for only one-third of that period, the 105 years from 1716 to 1821. Spanish Texas (or Tejas, as it was called by its first European settlers) lay above the Nueces River to the east of the Medina River’s headwaters and extended eastward into western Louisiana. This amounted to only a small portion of the present Lone Star State, but even then the area was large enough to offer daunting challenges to soldiers, explorers and settlers.

Spanish Texas was first and foremost a military province. With only a few exceptions, every governor of the province was a commissioned officer in the Spanish army who held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel or Colonel. These governors commanded soldiers stationed at presidios, the Spanish term for military garrisons, and were responsible for the security of Spanish civilians, missionaries, and partially Hispanicized Indians who were congregated in the religious establishments known as missions. Thus, to understand the military history of Spanish Texas, we must first examine how the Spanish came to depend on presidios and missions as an approach to dealing with the indigenous population of northern Mexico and the Spanish Southwest, which ultimately stretched from California to western Louisiana.

Spain’s first experience in establishing its colonial or overseas empire came in the Canary Islands where most of the native population were sedentary farmers or fishermen. Next came Spanish colonization of the major islands of the Caribbean-Santo Domingo, Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Once again, Spaniards found an indigenous population that was settled and fairly easy to control-especially since islands have more finite geographical limitations. The primary agency in dealing with these sedentary people was a complex institution known as encomienda. Spaniards received grants of encomienda, which included a specified number of Indians who were to work as vassals for their Spanish overseer (encomendero) or pay tribute to him.

Then came the conquest of mainland Mexico from 1519-1521, following which essentially all of the sedentary Indians of Central Mexico who survived the conquest were assigned to Spanish encomenderos. The process of conquering outlying areas such as the Gulf Coast, western Mexico, and Yucatán and placing these Indians in encomienda then occupied Spain for the next twenty years.

By 1540 the effective line of Spanish settlement in Mexico ran from Culiacán on the west coast southeastward to Lake Chapala, east to Querétaro just north of Mexico City, and then northeastward to presentday Tampico on the Gulf Coast. With few exceptions, (notably in the Yucatán where Lacandón Maya Indians resisted the Spanish conquest for the next two hundred years), all of the Indians south of this line had been conquered. They, too, as a generalization were sedentary Indians who had been placed under an encomendero. Once again, these settled Indians worked for the Spanish overseer or paid tribute to him. As for the encomendero, he was responsible for bringing the Christian message to his vassals, Hispanicizing them, and protecting them-an obligation few encomenderos took seriously.

Everything Spain had experienced in the Canary Islands, in the Caribbean Islands, and in Central Mexico had been pretty much the same-sedentary Indians (not all of them peaceful to be sure, the Aztecs and Mayas come to mind here) had fallen under Spanish control. Then a “whole new dimension” in Spanish-Indian relations came about in the 1540s and lasted until the 1790s in Spanish Texas.

North of the previously mentioned line of Spanish settlement, were non-sedentary Indians collectively known as Chichimecs. These Indians, which included a great variety of nations and languages, were decentralized and masters of the bow and arrow. They were so tough that even the Aztecs, the most powerful Indians in North America, did not attempt a conquest of Chichimec lands. The Aztecs labeled the Chichimecs as barbarians, or with the pejorative terms “uncivilized dirty dogs.” (As an interesting sidelight, Aztec nobles could dine on human flesh, but they rationalized their inability to conquer the Chichimecs by claiming that “they did not taste good!”)

Spaniards by the early 1540s had little reason to venture into Chichimec lands. The reports of Coronado, whose army had traveled along the west coast away from hostile Indians, as well as accounts from survivors of the De Soto expedition, were not favorable about the North Country. To this discouraging news add the known hostility of the Chichimec nations, all of which made northern Mexico an unattractive and dangerous place for Spaniards.

All of this changed, starting in 1546. In that year a Spanish captain, a few Franciscan friars, and some Indian allies ventured to the present-day site of Zacatecas. At Zacatecas they discovered what turned out to be a mountain of rich silver ore, still worked to this day. This discovery of silver touched off a mad rush of people into the Zacatecas area, and by 1550 (just four years later), the town of Zacatecas had turned into a classic boom town with more than thirty mining companies operating in the area. Zacatecas had attracted so many Spaniards that the town itself was safe from Indian attacks. The problem lay with roads and supply lines that ran into the area from Guadalajara and Mexico City.

Mule trains loaded with silver and headed south for Spanish counting houses in Mexico City or Veracruz were of little interest to the Chichimecs. What really interested the Indians was all manner of goodsfood, supplies, and weapons-being sent north to the mining frontier. In 1550 Chichimecs attacked a supply train and wiped it out, killing everyone. This incident was the start of the Great Chichimec Wars that lasted for half a century.

The Spanish response to these wars is crucial to understanding what would go on for about 250 years and eventually influence the military history of early Texas. To secure supply lines into and out of the silver frontier, Spaniards built strong houses and fortified towns located at the end of a day’s journey. These were Spain’s first presidios or military garrisons.

As an aside, we historians used to think that Spaniards were the most litigious people on earth. Americans, however, now rival them in every regard! But over time, Spaniards drafted a myriad of laws to cover seemingly every possible contingency-right down to where people could sit in church or march in a parade. Some 400,000 laws had been drafted for the New World by the mid-1600s. Laws governing these new military outposts stated they must be stocked with enough goods “to accommodate one hundred nude and hungry guests” at the end of their day’s journey!

Despite these military outposts, wars with the Chichimecs lasted for the better part of fifty years. Why? Keep in mind that Spaniards had defeated both the powerful Aztecs and Incas in record short times, but they had great difficulty in subduing the Chichimecs. There were several reasons for this: 1) The lands of northern Mexico were huge, Northern Mexico is about twice the size of Texas! [Mexico as a whole, 756,198 sq. miles; Texas today, 267,339 sq. miles] Much of the terrain was desert, but
also included rough country containing mountains, hills, and valleys. This provided good cover for Indians who knew these lands far better than Spaniards. 2) Chichimecs were fierce nomadic warriors whose food supply could not be cut off-a powerful lever that had worked well in controlling sedentary people. 3) Spain was seriously over committed both in Europe and America. This made it difficult to concentrate on any one theater of military operation. 4) Spaniards initially underestimated the seriousness of the situation. Having defeated powerful Indians in Mexico and Peru, Spaniards were supremely confident of their military prowess-overconfident. As it turned out, Chichimecs won the early battles and this gave them confidence. 5) Chichimec languages were so difficult that they hindered efforts to communicate directly with them. 6) And Chichimecs were often on the attack, Spaniards were on the defensive. In their attacks, the Indians could fire four or five arrows in the time it took for Spaniards to load a musket or crank a crossbow.

This is not one of the important points but an interesting one. Chichimec warriors wore no clothing other than a breechcloth. Often when attacking Spaniards, they would take off their loin cloths “for the effect” and attack in the nude. There is something about clothing that makes men going into combat feel more secure. Spaniards were absolutely astonished by the appearance of the Chichimec attackers.

Finally, let’s give the Chichimecs a lot of credit. Spaniards themselves who knew something about fighting-having carried out nearly 800 years of warfare against the Moors in Spain-were often, to use modern terminology, in “shock and awe” at Chichimec proficiency with the bow and arrow. As one observer put it, “In the opinion of men experienced in foreign lands, the [Chichimecs] are the best archers in the world.” “They kill hares, which, even though running they pierce with arrows; also deer, birds, and even little animals of the land, not even overlooking rats. They fish with the bow and arrow.” Children were taught the use of the bow from the time they could walk, “and they practice shooting at insects.” The Chichimec arrow was so deadly it could easily penetrate Spanish plate armor and chain mail. This forced the Spanish to use several layers of cotton quilting as armor (much like the modern flack jacket) that did prove effective against Chichimec arrows. By the way, Spaniards learned about cotton quilted armor from the Aztecs, who did not know how to forge metal.

For thirty-five years the Spanish answer to Chichimec attacks was increased military pressure and vicious reprisals for loss of lives. In the final analysis, what the Spanish called “Fire and Blood” policy failed and failed miserably.

Around the middle of the 1580s, Spain gave up on “Fire and Blood” tactics and adopted what historians have called “Peace by Purchase.” This new policy, urged on by the Spanish clergy and accepted by army commanders, was out carried for fifteen years (1585-1600) and it worked: 1) Peaceful sedentary Indians, especially Aztecs and Tlaxcalans, were brought to the frontier to serve as models of good conduct. The transplanting of sedentary Indians to the frontier was used as far north as New Mexico. This was considered for Spanish Texas but was never used. 2) Wives and children of Chichimecs were captured and held as hostages to insure the good conduct of their warrior husbands and fathers. 3) Gifts of clothing, food, and supplies were given as rewards to pacified Indians. 4) And by this time the missionary clergy had begun to learn the Indian languages and could serve as agents of persuasion and pacification.

By 1600 the Chichimec wars in northern Mexico had largely come to an end. During these wars and for the first time in its history, Spain used missions and presidios to deal with decentralized and largely nomadic Indians. (You can readily see that encomienda could not possibly have worked in dealing with these indigenous people). From this point on, Spain would use a combination of force and persuasion on its northern frontier, including Texas. The presidios represented force, and the missions were another aspect of “Peace by Purchase.”

As the frontier of northern Mexico expanded in the second half of the 1500s, the overall strategy of how missions and presidios were intended to work in pacifying nomadic natives took form. In theory, it worked along these lines: 1) The settled and relatively secure areas on the frontier included mines, ranches, and missions, and of course the line of settlement
moved northward toward Texas-a movement that continued throughout the 1600s. 2) A new mission and presidio would advance into the unsettled region, perhaps as many as fifty miles beyond the settled frontier. 3) The new mission was supported and defended by a nearby presidio staffed with soldiers. 4) The missionary clergy were usually members of the Franciscan Order-that is, regular or order clergy. These regular clergy were temporarily assigned to the mission. They were to serve a maximum of ten years, and then move on to a new mission beyond the settled frontier and start the process all over again. 5) And the overall goal of the regular clergy was to Christianize and Hispanicize their Indian charges and make them tax-paying citizens. Once the regular clergy left a mission, they were replaced by secular or non-order clergy.

On January 1, 1700, the first mission of lasting importance to Spanish Texas was founded on the south bank of the Río Grande, a short distance from present-day Piedras Negras or Eagle Pass. The Río Grande mission, San Juan Bautista, was soon joined by two more missions and a presidio in 1703, also named San Juan Bautista. This locale was at a ford in the Río Grande and was the main avenue into and out of Texas.

Now, at this juncture, Spanish Texas as we have defined it was not occupied by Spaniards. But they had explored parts of Texas in the 1680s and occupied an East Texas mission in the early 1690s.

Briefly, the French led by René Robert Sieur de La Salle had set up an ill-fated colony near Matagorda Bay in the mid-1680s. Spaniards learned of the colony’s existence soon after its founding but did not know where it was located. In the late 1680s, Spain sent out five sea expeditions and six by land before finding the remains of the French colony in April 1689-by then Indians had already destroyed the colony and killed all the adults.

To secure East Texas, Spain established its first mission, San Francisco de los Tejas in 1690 (probably near modern August in northeast Houston County). There was no presidio to defend it. At this juncture, it is important to note that the Franciscan clergy believed the sedentary Caddo Indians so peacefully inclined (especially when compared with the Chichimecs of northern Mexico) that they did not need or want a military presence. The military commander, General Alonso de León, wanted to leave fifty soldiers in East Texas; the clergy would accept only five.

Within three years, the Franciscans had to abandon this first mission and burn it before fleeing southward to Mexico. The failure of this mission may be attributed to floods, epidemic diseases among the Indians, and opposition by the Caddos who threatened rebellion. Bottom line Texas was abandoned from 1693 to 1716; and at no time in the future were missions established anywhere in Texas without the eventual support and security provided by military garrisons.

In abandoning Texas for about twenty-five years, the Spanish failed to take into account France’s goal of establishing a colony near the mouth of the Mississippi and the threat this would eventually pose for East Texas. Starting in 1699, the French established a foothold near present-day Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and began the settlement of the lower Mississippi Valley. In July 1714 Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, a Canadian-born French adventurer, crossed East Texas and arrived at Presidio San Juan Bautista, which alerted Spain to the dangers of an unoccupied Texas.

The Spanish response was not long in coming. In 1716 and 1717 six new missions and a presidio were set up in East Texas and western Louisiana. This was the very locale where Mission San Francisco de los Tejas had failed in 1693, but now there was a military garrison in the region. Then in the following year, 1718, a mission, presidio, and civil settlement were established on the San Antonio River.

As mentioned in the conference’s introductory remarks, by the late 1600s wars in Europe began to spill over into the Americas, and this continued through the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), which actually began in the Americas in 1754 and then spread to Europe. The point here is that a relatively obscure war in Europe began in early 1719—it pitted a Quadruple Alliance of England, France, Holland, and Austria against Spain. Six months passed before the Spanish in East Texas knew that the mother country was at war with France.

The Spanish first learned of this far-off conflict when half a dozen French soldiers from Natchitoches descended on the most eastern of the six new missions in East Texas. The French quickly subdued one halfnaked and unarmed Spanish soldier, as well as the local priest. They then turned their attention to the mission’s chicken house, caught a few hens, tied their legs together, and slung the birds over the back of the French captain’s horse. The chickens flapped their wings in protest, which caused the horse to shy and spill the captain in the dirt. In the confusion, the priest fled into the woods and escaped. He reached the presidio with news of the attack and panic set in-a version of Chicken Little’s “The Sky is Falling” lament. Soon rumor spread that one hundred French soldiers were on their way to East Texas. Overreacting, Spaniards abandoned all six missions and the presidio and began a long retreat to San Antonio.

This war is derisively called the “Chicken War” by the Spanish, but it had important results. Once again, East Texas was unoccupied by Spaniards. The war in Europe lasted for just more than a year. But in Mexico, where there was a substantial time lag in news from the Continent, plans went forward for the reoccupation of East Texas-by force of arms if necessary.Five hundred armed men and cannon crossed the Río Grande in late 1719, but by then there was word that the Quadruple Alliance and Spain were negotiating a truce that would end the war in Europe. This Spanish expedition, led by the Marqués de Aguayo did reoccupy East Texas in the summer of 1721. And Aguayo did a lot to ensure that Texas would be Spanish not French. 1) He refounded the six missions in East Texas. 2) He built two presidios in East Texas to protect the missions

and defend against the French. 3) He marched to the site of the old French colony near Matagorda Bay, where he founded a presidio and mission. 4) Aguayo had brought six hundred mule loads of merchandise, plus literally hundreds of horses, cattle, sheep, and mules into Texas. His expedition was the first big “Cattle Drive” in Texas history. In many respects, Aguayo brought Spanish livestock to Texas. 5) And a second mission in San Antonio, San José de San Miguel de Aguayo, had been founded and named in his honor.

Because of the theme of this conference, it might interest you to know that Aguayo had apparently studied the works of Louis XIV’s great military engineer, Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban on siege craft and fortifications, which existed only in manuscript form until its publication in 1740. Many have long argued that Aguayo never built anything very elaborate in Texas. But recent excavations at the French fort near Matagorda Bay have discovered the footings for his star-shaped Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto. I think we can assume that his plans for all Texas presidios were actually carried out.

Aguayo had increased the strength of the military guard in Texas from 60 or 70 to 268. But his work was soon undone. In the 1720s France and Spain, both under Bourbon dynasties, began the long process of becoming allies in the eighteenth century. Spain first began its retrenchment in East Texas. By 1730 Spain closed the western most presidio in East Texas, and the three nearby missions were left without military support. By 1731 these missions had been moved to San Antonio, bringing the total number of religious establishments there to five.

The weakening of military defense in Spanish Texas, primarily because the French were no longer considered a serious threat, led almost immediately to problems with the Indians-especially the Lipan Apaches, who were being driven toward San Antonio by their archenemies, the Comanches. By the 1750s the Lipans were in serious trouble, squeezed as they were between Comanches in the north and Spaniards in the south.

At that time, the Apaches agreed to be peaceful if the Spanish would build a mission for them in their lands to the northwest of Austin. The Spanish agreed and in 1757 built the San Sabá mission and presidio located in Central Texas at present-day Menard. Although the Apaches had promised to live in the mission, they refused to do so. What happened instead is a good example of Apache guile. They would stop by the mission on their way north, pick up things that were clearly Spanish-like
shoes and clothes-then carry out attacks on the Comanches, always leaving behind articles of European manufacture and lending the impression that Spaniards had supported their attacks.

The Comanches were understandably furious. By March 1758, they had recruited hundreds of Indian allies, especially Taovayas (Wichitas), and descended on the mission-located about four miles east of the presidio. The Indians killed two priests, eight Spaniards, and burned the mission. In their fury they even killed the mission cats and oxen. By the way, the San Sabá mission was the only mission in Spanish Texas destroyed by outright Indian attack.

The Spanish responded to the destruction of their mission and loss of life by sending a message to the Comanches and their allies, that “even in their most remote haunts they would not be secure from the long arm of Spanish vengeance.” With a force of more than five hundred men, Colonel Diego Ortiz Parrilla left San Sabá and marched to the Red River near Nocona. In early October 1759, Ortiz Parrilla entered a clearing where he could see the north bank of the Red. To his astonishment there was a palisaded fort within which he spied the French Fleur de Lis (some reports say that the Spanish heard the sound of fife and drum within the fort). In a pitched battle with Indians that lasted for several hours, Ortiz Parrilla suffered losses but inflicted even greater ones on the enemy. Nevertheless, the Spanish commander was obliged to leave behind two cannon,
but the artillery pieces were retrieved about ten years later by Athanase de Mézières.

Following a series of skirmishes with powerful Plains Indians in the 1770s and early 1780s, the Spanish signed a peace treaty with the Comanches in 1785 that essentially lasted throughout the remainder of the colonial era. But by the mid-1780s, the only viable missions left in Texas were at Goliad and San Antonio, and even they were in serious decline. Beginning in the 1790s, Texas missions were secularized. This meant turning over operation of the missions to the secular, or non-order
clergy. As mentioned earlier, Texas missions were to be run by the regular clergy, such as Franciscans or Dominicans, for a maximum of ten years; but the Texas Indians were not considered Hispanicized and Christianized enough to do this for several decades.

The failure of the mission system essentially meant that a military solution was now the main course of action in dealing with Texas Indians. This was especially true of Karankawas along the Texas Coast.

The 1790s was also the decade in which American adventurers, mostly notable Philip Nolan, began making forays into Texas in search of wild mustangs for sale in Louisiana. Spaniards came to view Nolan as a spy or an advance agent of American expansion. On his fourth expedition in 1801, Nolan and his followers were surrounded by Spanish forces near Waco. Early in the fighting, Nolan was shot in the head and killed. Nine of his followers were captured and taken to Ciudad Chihuahua. These nine had to cast dice on a barrel head, and the one with the lowest number would be hanged for firing on the king’s soldier. Ephraim Blackburn’s “four” sealed his fate.

By 1810-1811, Spanish Texas was caught up in Mexico’s struggle for independence from Spain. For a brief time in early 1811, insurgents overthrew the Spanish government in San Antonio. But royalists regained control after only thirty-nine days. Nevertheless, it was clear that Spanish control over Texas was shaky.

Importantly, a Mexican insurgent named Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara traveled to Washington D.C., and arrived there in late 1811. Gutiérrez met with U.S. officials in War and State, as well as with President James Madison. Clearly, what Gutiérrez wanted was American aid for Mexican independence. There is no evidence that Gutiérrez received any encouragement
or promise of assistance whatsoever from the United States, despite claims to the contrary.

Gutiérrez did get passage on a U.S. ship from Philadelphia to New Orleans. From there he traveled to Natchitoches, where the Mexican insurgent found no shortage of volunteers and adventurers who were willing to attack royalists in Texas. One of his recruits was Augustus William Magee, a West Point graduate and artillery officer who had left the U.S. Army.

Gutiérrez and Magee operated under the self-chosen name of the “Republican Army of the North,” and soon had recruited about 130 followers. In 1812 this ragtag army descended on Nacogdoches and captured it without firing a shot, whereupon its numbers swelled to around 300.

The invaders then headed for Goliad and captured the presidio there, where they captured two or three cannons. Spaniards from San Antonio, headed by the governor and Lieutenant Colonel Simón de Herrera marched on Goliad and placed the presidio under siege. But the siege failed, and the Spaniards had to retire to San Antonio. During the engagement Augustus Magee died, leaving command of the rebel army solely in the hands of Gutiérrez.

The so-called Republicans then marched on San Antonio, won a major battle outside the city, and arrested Governor Manuel de Salcedo, Simón de Herrera, and fifteen Spanish officers and sergeants. These seventeen men were sentenced to death but given hope that they would be exiled to American Louisiana. Instead, they were taken outside San Antonio and murdered.

Spain, however, would not tolerate an independent Texas and the murder of its governor. It appointed a no-nonsense military officer in Mexico, Commandant General Joaquín de Arredondo who would alter the course of Texas history. Arredondo assembled more the 1,800 infantry and cavalry troops and marched on Texas. One of his second lieutenants was a young officer names Antonio López de Santa Anna, who got his first taste of battle in Texas and came away with a dim view of the fighting qualities of Anglo Americans.

Opposing Arredondo was the “Republican Army of the North” with about 1,400 former royalists, American adventurers, and a few Indian allies. This collection of men left San Antonio and marched about twenty-five miles south to the Medina River where it engaged Arredondo’s forces on August 18, 1813. The Republicans fought well for about three hours, and then they broke ranks and fled, making themselves easy targets for Spanish cavalry units armed with sabers and lances.

The Battle of Medina is the bloodiest battle in Texas history. An estimated thirteen hundred of the Republican army died in this battle or were later executed as pirates. Arredondo lost fewer than sixty men. Bear in mind the cost of this battle. Thirteen of every fourteen members of the Republican army either died in this battle or were soon executed.

San Antonio was then undefended and Joaquín “the Butcher” de Arredondo would soon demonstrate his “tender mercies” on its inhabitants. For fifty-four days Arredondo meted out executions to “those deserving death.” Anyone suspected of supporting or sympathizing with the rebels was summarily shot without trial.

The military history of Spanish Texas essentially ends with the Battle of the Medina and reprisals of Arredondo in San Antonio. Texas got a decent Spanish governor in 1817, a man named Antonio Martínez who presided over a ruined province until 1821. There was no fighting when Spanish rule ended on July 19, 1821. By then Nacogdoches, which once had a population of more than 500 people, was a ghost town. In words of Texas’s last Spanish governor, Arredondo and the king’s soldiers had “drained the resources of the country and laid their hands on everything that could sustain life.” Again in Governor Martínez’s words, Texas had “advanced at an amazing rate toward ruin and destruction.” One last observation: Spanish Texas reported 3,103 people in its first census of 1777. The estimated non-Indian population of Texas in 1821 was slightly more than 2,000. You can readily see how few people were in Texas and how open it was to Anglo-American immigration. Even Arredondo knew that “to govern is to populate,” and signed off on an agreement with Moses Austin allowing Anglo-Americans, whom he disliked and distrusted, to enter Texas. Clearly the ethnic population of Texas was about to change.


The military history of Spanish Texas may be characterized as periodic clashes with Indians, especially Taovayas, Comanches, and Lipan Apaches. When a mission was established for the Lipans at San Sabá in the late 1750s, it brought down the wrath of the Comanches and Taovayas who later stood off a Spanish army at Red River in 1759, forcing the temporary abandonment of two cannons. Peace with the Comanches in 1785 foreshadowed problems with American adventurers such as Philip Nolan in the 1790s and early 1800s. When the Mexican revolution of 1810 spilled over into Texas, it unleashed rebels within Texas and outside of it in Louisiana. This ultimately led to the punitive expedition of Joaquín de
Arredondo in 1813 and the destruction of Texas’s population to the point that Arredondo himself favored the immigration of Anglo Americans by the time Mexican Texas began in 1821.

Donald E. Chipman, Richard B. McCaslin
University of North Texas



Welcome and Introduction

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the University of North Texas campus and the opening session in our program on “Texas Military History.”

Two important factors support our presenting this program. One factor is the long-standing advice of a founding father of this Society, Mirabeau B. Lamar, who identified military history as one of the subjects to be studied and discussed by our members. Another factor surfaced early in the last decade when I was immersed in the administration of this institution. My colleagues in our Department of History chose military history as one of their two major emphases; the other is Texas history.

Given my deep interest in military history, I was delighted when I heard about that action. Indeed, that decision helps explain why I took up my appointment in the department after stepping down from administrative work. You may be interested to know that the student interest in the subject is so keen that some six faculty members are teaching it here.

Another result was the encouragement the decision gave me to bring fully into the department an annual military history seminar series I had started in 1983 after I had become president. Last October 16, we staged the 22nd Annual Seminar, which attracted an audience larger than this one. Many of the seminar attendees are members of the business and professional communities of Texas; others include military veterans, military history buffs and students.

The format of those seminars will appear in this meeting, where you will have a chance both to listen to and, then, question well-known scholars and practitioners. One of the scholars you will hear today, Dr. Adrian Lewis has been a practitioner as a career Army officer, in addition to being one of five of our History Department faculty members appearing in this program. Two other active practitioners, Admiral Bob Inman and Dr. Hans Mark, have served at the highest levels of military and/or governmental activity and continue to serve in advisory roles in Washington, D.C.

One different dimension to this program, compared to that of the seminar series, is the voluntary participation of five members of this Society as program session chairs. These chairs have been encouraged to keep the program moving along within very specific time limits intended to provide time for you in this audience to ask the speakers questions and make comments.

My hope is that you’ll find the environment of this meeting conducive to continuing your discussions of the issues raised during the formal program during your meals. Those discussions can be continued after dinner this evening when we shall follow the example set last year by Sam Moore in El Paso with a presidential reception at our headquarters hotel.

Now, I invite to this podium the Secretary of this Society since 1990, a very active teacher and scholar on the University of Texas-Austin’s History Faculty and the chair of the first session, Dr. Ron Tyler.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Dr. Tyler.

DR HURLEY: Thank you, Hans, for a presentation that will rank as a significant part of the Proceedings of this meeting. 

DR. HURLEY: Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for attending this session. If there nothing else to bring before this gathering, I declare the 2004 meeting officially adjourned. 

“To the Last Drop of Our Blood”

Defending King and Empire in San Antonio

On 8 May 1791 the citizens of San Fernando de Béxar, as the chartered town we now call San Antonio was then known, addressed a petition to the Commandant General of the Interior Provinces, the military-political jurisdiction of which Texas was a unit. Governor Manuel Muñoz had issued an order calling for the removal of the civilians’ horses from the company herd. Not only was this a break in tradition, but it exposed the impoverished citizenry to great hardship. They asked to be relieved of the burden of guarding their horse herd, except for those times when the company went on campaigns, scouting expeditions, and other royal business. The reasons they gave for their request were familiar to every governor and other royal officials who had had the misfortune of dealing with Bexareños for over a half century. They were a miserable lot of wretched unfortunates, who had little on which to maintain themselves other than their limited plantings and personal labor, the result of the many years “that the enemy Indians have pursued and harassed us, for which reason we have not been able to raise our heads above water.” The request did not mean, however, that they were not willing undertake other services “to the last drop of our blood.” The commandant general, sympathetic to their plight, granted them their request and ordered Governor Muñoz to allow the integration of the civilian herd, including tame mares, into the military caballada (horse herd).

Ten years earlier, in his monthly military report, then governor Doming Cabello, wrote an account of an event—one of many over the decades—that supported the truthfulness of the citizens’ petition noted above. The lone survivor of a Comanche ambush of a patrol out of the Fuerte del Cíbolo, a post on the road between San Antonio and La Bahía, led a rescue party to the site of the skirmish. There, according to Cabello, they found the troop “leaning against trees, their scalps missing and their fingers and noses cut off. But they must have put up a good fight, for fifty spent cartridges were found and the lips and teeth of the soldiers were black with powder, and from the evidence it seems they must have killed some Indians.” Shortly after, Cabello received a summons for help from Ensign Valdez, who while out on patrol from the Cíbolo post felt threatened by a superior force of Indians. Retired Ensign Baltasar de los Reyes Pérez offered to lead the rescue party, which consisted of 37 soldiers and 45 citizens. They set out at 11 p.m. and managed to join up with Valdez early the next morning, but could not catch the Indians. On the way back they found the bodies of José Flores and Melchor Ximénez, who had stayed behind hunting for a cow when Valdez left Cíbolo.

The Cíbolo post had been established ten years earlier, in March 1771, as a result of increased hostilities in the countryside. A temporary respite from Comanche, Apache, and Norteño raiding in the late 1760s had led to the reoccupation of a number of civilian ranches in the valleys of the San Antonio and its tributaries east of town. Renewed hostilities as far as La Bahía had brought the rancheros to request of Governor Barón de Ripperdá that he provide a guard so that the ranchers could plant their fields. The result was the construction of a stockade at the site of Vicente Alvarez Travieso’s Rancho Las Mulas, where, “because of the great danger, only one horse per man should be taken.” The arrangement was to last until it was once again safe for each ranchero to return to his lands and fields.

A decade before that, in June 1762 the townspeople of San Antonio joined the missionary at Espíritu Santo in complaining about Apache depredations to the new governor, Angel Martos y Navarrete. “The Apaches are stealing our horses and slaughtering our cattle and oxen in the vicinity of the presidio and town with such audacity that they almost take no precautions. If a group from the town goes to the rancherías (Indian villages) and spots livestock with known brands, not only do the Indians not return them, but they laugh at us since our forces are so weak.”

The correlation between Indians and presidio, and the survival of San Antonio had been made clear yet another ten years earlier, in June 1750, during an investigation on the desirability of moving the presidio to a site on the Pedernales River in support of a new mission for the Apaches. Although Fray Mariano Francisco de los Dolores of Mission Valero agreed that the transfer would result in the ability of the citizenry to move into the countryside to farm and raise cattle, conditions in town did not permit the move. The citizenry was poor, lazy, and dependent on the supplies provided to the presidio for their sustenance. Béxar’s town council agreed, stating that the town counted no more than fifty or sixty vecinos (citizens), not all of them armed. “If the presidio were moved, not onehalf the citizenry would remain, because of all who would follow it, because it is the only commerce this country has.”

Talk of bringing the Apaches to the light of salvation and civilization had been going around among missionaries for over a decade by the time the Pedernales plan was proposed. In fact, much of the debate centered on whether Béxar’s settlers were not making things tough on themselves because of their treatment of the Indians. Lipan attacks in the late 1730s finally drove Captain Joseph Urrutia to organize the first of three campaigns into Apache territory in the winter of 1739. The expedition was roundly condemned by Fray Benito Fernández de Santa Ana, who claimed that the time of year and the lack of discipline among the soldiery only served to increase the hostility of the Indians. Moreover, “it is ridiculous that these same persons should claim certificates as servants of the King our Lord, when they were interested in what I have stated, and had greater hopes of a considerable prize of horses, hides, and Indian men and women to serve them.”

Horses, settlers, and soldiers— they had been part of the mix from the very beginning of San Fernando, a decade before Urrutia’s campaign. Having taken stock of the Canary Islanders who had just arrived in Béxar after more than a year-long journey from their homeland, Captain Juan Antonio Pérez de Almazán could only scratch his head in wonderment. He provided lodgings for the settlers in the most comfortable dwellings available in the presidio, despite the hardship caused to the soldiers’ families. Then, signaling his disapproval of the whole affair, and “considering the exhausted condition of the settlers, their inexperience with the weapons used against the Indians, and their lack of horsemanship to hinder their usefulness on the watch, I therefore placed the horses of the settlers with those of the company.” Thus were presidio and town joined, a tradition started, and San Antonio’s career as a military town cemented.

One last decade-long step back in time brings us to the beginning of our story in the earliest days of San Antonio, when it was a fledgling community not yet completely settled into its permanent site. In 1721 the Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo was in the midst of his reorganization of the province, making sure that it was sufficiently strong to hold off further French incursions from Louisiana and Indian depredations from the interior. A year earlier, the first documented Apache attack on the settlement had taken place—the killing of two men out searching for missing horses. Aguayo felt the Lipan Apache menace so strong that he increased the garrison by over twenty enlisted men, bringing troop strength to 54 officers and men.

It was the failure of the 1690-1693 religious occupation of Texas, which had been based on the Franciscans’ exaggerated hopes of converting the Hasinais into loyal Christian Spanish subjects, which served as good lesson for the 1716-1718 permanent settlement of the province. Texas would no doubt be a religious province, but it would also be a military district. The mission and the presidio would work hand in hand, just as they had come to do throughout the colonial Mexican far north. It was from that religious-military tradition that San Antonio was born. It was the tradition on which the occupation of California would take place fifty years later.

The upper reaches of the San Antonio River held a number of natural advantages as a site for a missionary-military complex to serve as a waystation between presidios San Juan Bautista del Río Grande and Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Los Adaes. To a greater degree than other Texas streams the San Antonio River was fit for irrigation. The area held plentiful supplies of timber and rock for construction and nearby prairies offered an abundance of grazing land. During a 1709 exploration Fray Isidro Espinosa was effusive in his praise for the area; returning to the site in 1716 as part of the expedition headed for the occupation of east Texas, he sounded even more like a real estate agent in his description of the locale’s potential, praising the abundance of useful plants, animals, and fish. A veteran of northern Mexico’s arid environment, he was laudatory of the aquatic resources: “its copious waters . . . are clear, crystal, and sweet.”

Finding a location for the military-religious complex was the easy part. It would prove much more difficult to turn the post into a flourishing settlement. Governor Martín de Alarcón founded Mission San Antonio de Valero and Villa de Béxar at the beginning of May 1718, but the villa, or town, never developed. Working alongside mission Indians and the few retirees who stayed on after fulfilling their enlistments, soldiers cleared fields, dug acequias (irrigation canals), and erected homes and other buildings. Some of the younger men married from among the daughters of the older soldiers, or found spouses among the presidio families at Los Adaes or La Bahía, but others had to go in search of their wives outside the province. Although the thirty or so soldier-settlers of the Alarcón expedition were joined by those recruited by Aguayo, and later in the 1720s by a few more, it soon became clear that Texas offered no incentives to civilian colonization.

When Inspector General Pedro de Rivera inspected the company late in 1727 he was generally satisfied with the military community: the garrison was well armed and disciplined, although the prices charged by the commander to his men were high; the Apaches, he believed, had been chastised to the point of submission. The soldiers may well have boasted to him of the successful 1723 campaign in which they had killed over thirty braves and captured many horses along with women and children. With the appearance of the regulations of 1729, based on Rivera’s recommendations for cost savings, Presidio de Béxar experienced a reduction in troop strength by ten billets, ironically producing the first substantial boost in the settlement’s civilian population.

Two other Rivera recommendations conspired to turn San Antonio into the center of Spanish activity in Texas. One had to do with the largely moribund missions of east Texas, which soaked up scarce financial resources. Rivera recommended reducing their number because the Hasinais were peaceful Indians who seemed willing to deal with the Spaniards without the intervention of missionaries. After a few months’ stay at what is now Barton Springs in Austin, three missions found a permanent location along the San Antonio River south of the existing communities. In early March 1731 missions Concepción, San Juan Capistrano, and San Francisco de la Espada joined the original San Antonio mission, Valero (now the Alamo), and another founded in 1722, San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, to form the Alamo chain of missions.

Rivera’s second recommendation echoed one that had been made by the Marqués de Aguayo upon his return to Coahuila: to foster the civilian settlement of the province, families from Spain or the Canary Islands should be encouraged to migrate. The king eventually approved the plan for the transfer of 400 families, but of these only fifteen eventually reached San Antonio. Seeing what he had to work with, Captain Almazán thought unworkable the order that the Canary Islands be settled in their own separate community. Instead, as stated earlier, he housed the new arrivals among the presidio families while he repared the area immediately east of the presidio as the site of San Fernando de Béxar.

The small garrison had its hands full. The garrison provided each mission with a guard of about three men. The community’s horse herd, as we have seen, itself required a substantial guard. Escort service—of the mail, of visitors entering or leaving the province, of civilians going to cut timber or to hunt—also reduced the number of troopers available at the garrison itself. When not otherwise occupied, the soldiers performed construction work around the presidio. Of the 43 men in the company, the commander could rarely count on more than a handful to be on hand, and these were usually the infirm or injured. Not surprisingly, Béxar’s commanders came to rely on civilians and mission Indians to supplement presidio troops. In the summer of 1745, following Captain Toribio de Urrutia’s campaign against the Apaches, the Indians mounted one of their most determined attacks on the settlement, which was saved only through the timely arrival of a militia composed of Mission Valero Indians.

A temporary peace with the Apaches was reached in 1749, following another campaign by Captain Urrutia the main purpose of which was to take captives for negotiation. In one of the most spectacular events to have taken place in the frontier community to that time, Apaches and Spanish colonials gathered around a large pit dug in the center of the military plaza, where the symbols of war—a horse, hatchet, lance, and arrows—were buried while settlers, Indians, and dignitaries danced to seal the peace.

The years of relative peace that followed led royal officials to repeat the mistake that General Rivera had made in 1727, the erroneous assumption that peace with the Indians was at hand and that the garrison could be reduced. As always short of funds, royal officials decided to populate the garrison being created to protect a new mission for the Apaches in part with twenty-two men from the Béxar company. The reduction of the garrison to twenty-one effectives, not counting the captain, not only posed a setback to the community’s growth, it forced the civilian population to take on a greater share of the defensive burden. It is during this time that an organized militia emerged, although, as might be expected, the citizenry always played down its ability to contribute to the community’s defense in order to restore the company’s fighting strength.

In the punitive expedition that followed the Comanche-Norteño attack on Mission San Sabá in 1758, a few soldiers and numerous civilians and mission Indians from San Antonio participated. The expedition proved a miserable failure and only served to make Béxar the target of the Apaches’ enemies, who now considered San Antonio’s population allies of their pache enemy. The result was an increasing level of violence that required the posting of temporary detachments from other presidios at Béxar to help manage the situation. The twenty-two men that Béxar had provided for the San Sabá presidio returned in 1769 when the viceroy approved their temporary posting. By 1773 San Antonio’s garrison could count on a permanent troop strength of eighty men, led by none other than the provincial governor, whose capital the viceroy officially moved to Béxar that year.

What happened? From its beginnings until the late 1760s the presidio had been a virtual fiefdom. Presidio commanders had almost complete autonomy in running their companies. They recruited their own men for enlistments of ten years, controlled the payrolls, faced only infrequent inspections, and meted out justice as justicia mayor in the jurisdiction—in San Antonio this last prerogative became a major bone of contention between the commander and the town council, which claimed that the king had granted its civilian authorities jurisdictional autonomy. In sum, the presidio system had evolved as an ad-hoc response to local circumstances in New Spain, and was neither part of the regular army nor a distinct unified command. Presidios came in all shapes and sizes, and while some were under the direct jurisdiction of the viceroy, others were under
the authority of the provincial governor.

In Béxar’s case command had actually become a family legacy. After the terms of the first two commanders, Juan Pérez de Almazán and Nicolás Flores de Abrego, the captaincy had passed to Joseph de Urrutia, an old frontier hand with personal knowledge of Texas’s Indians going back to the early 1690s. Following his death his son Toribio took command, and upon his retirement Luis Antonio Menchaca, Toribio’s nephew, assumed the post. It was Toribio who had built what is now called the Governor’s Palace, a building that served as both home and general store for the town until an independent civilian commercial sector developed in the 1770s. Because they controlled the payrolls, and because the payroll was converted into goods for issuance at elevated prices, the captains were the wealthiest men in town and ran stores that supplied the rest of the community. This state of affairs was so normal that when Toribio de Urrutia asked for retirement at full pay after thirty years of service, the viceroy’s advisor replied that although the law did not allow it without the king’s permission, he and his successor could split the salary since, “the advantages of the post will surely make someone take it up even under these conditions.”

The 1760s marked a turning point in San Antonio’s military history. Increased hostilities from Comanches and the Nations of the North created a need to address its long-term survivability. Viceregal authorities and the governor attempted to deal with the growing crisis by shuffling available resources around, with detachments from as far away as Nuevo Santander and Coahuila stationed at San Antonio for limited periods of time, but that was no solution. In 1766 Captain Menchaca found an opportunity to press the case for reinforcing San Antonio when Governor Navarrete instructed him to supply 10 soldiers and 35 mission Indians to an exploratory expedition to the coast. Menchaca refused to supply the soldiers and was unable to convince the missionaries to do likewise. His reasons reveal the state of defenses at Béxar in the face of growing Indian
hostilities. He was not responsible for the missionaries’ unwillingness to supply Indians—they argued that the Indians made their living from doing daily manual work and should be compensated for being drawn away from their labor for such a mission—he went on to state that he had only six men on hand, three of whom were on guard duty over the horse herd, and the other three on watch over the artillery. Although the company was composed of 21 men, with three stationed at each mission, and with no instructions to remove them, he could not see how he could carry out the order. Furthermore, the presidio, town, and missions were subject to constant Indian attack about which he could do nothing. The solution lay in increasing the garrison and having soldiers from La Bahía and Los Adaes temporarily stationed at San Antonio. The worst was yet to come, he warned, as Indians had stolen about 1,000 animals, and although the detachments he had sent out to track them down had failed, a group of mission Indians from San Jose had met up with four Comanches, whom they managed to kill. “So it is certain that the war with the Comanche will only grow worse.”

From the king on down there was a growing realization that the entire frontier defense structure needed a serious overhaul, especially Texas, which had been the border province with French Louisiana, but the strategic importance of which had changed now that Spain had acquired the territory west of the Mississippi River. The man charged with evaluating New Spain’s northern frontier defenses was the Marqués de Rubí, a Spanish officer trained in the latest military techniques. His inspection took him from the Gulf of California to the Gulf of Mexico over a two year span, at the end of which he presented a bold plan that had major consequences for Texas, particularly San Antonio. Although he recommended that a presidio line be established at 30? north latitude, with all territory above that line be abandoned to the Indians, he also recommended that because of their importance Santa Fe and San Antonio be allowed to remain. Béxar came in for special attention, as Rubí recommended an increase in the size of the garrison, something that townspeople and commanders had been lobbying for since the removal of half the command in 1757. The additional troops would come from closure of east Texas presidios Los Adaes and Orcoquisac. The expanded garrison would be commanded by the provincial governor, who would now have his capital at San Antonio.

The changes officially took effect in 1773. Governor Juan María, Barón de Ripperdá oversaw the permanent expansion of the company to eighty men, and the establishment of the Cíbolo post. Rubí’s recommendations, incorporated into the Reglamento of 1772 and other decrees, for the first time addressed the presidios of New Spain as a system rather than as an ad hoc collection of semi-autonomous posts. The Reglamento called for each company to have a quartermaster, elected from among the officers of the company by the entire garrison. That officer would hold fiduciary responsibility for handling the payroll of the garrison, from which provisions and supplies were to bought. By taking the payroll and supply
functions away from the company commander, higher officials sought to end the rampant corruption and inefficiencies that ill-served royal interests. Each soldier was to receive part of his pay (which was reduced under the logic that given the reforms less would be more) in cash in an effort to boost the local economy and to encourage him to keep his uniform, equipment, and mounts, which in the past had often been sold to cover personal expenses. The regulations also called for regular drilling, including target practice, and inspections. On the bureaucratic side, company commanders were to make monthly reports of all military activities within their jurisdiction and maintain a monthly muster book stating the detail to which each member of the unit was assigned.

The reordering of the presidios was followed up by the creation of a new administrative unit for the frontier that would make communications and decision making more efficient. The Comandancia General de las Provincias Internas, although never the fix-all that the king’s ministers thought it would be, at least created a chain of command at the top of which sat an individual with intimate knowledge of frontier conditions and a zeal for the royal service. In the first decade of its existence, the comandante general’s most important actions were to plan a new strategy for dealing with the various autonomous tribes, particularly the multiple bands of Apaches that carried out depredations from the Sonora-Arizona border region to San Antonio and La Bahía.

For Presidio de Béxar the changes were profound. Although Ripperdá’s successor, Colonel Domingo Cabello, abolished the Cíbolo post, the challenges he faced in his administration, between 1778 and 1786, contributed to the further expansion of the presidio company. By 1781 the garrison had increased to 100 men and had been divided into two companies, one light cavalry and one heavy cavalry. The citizens’ militia was reorganized and supplied with standard weapons. And San Antonio became the center of negotiations with the various Comanche and Norteño bands. Campaigns from San Antonio and Santa Fe against the Apaches brought most of these bands under general control by the end of the decade.

The last decade of the eighteenth century was one of relative stability on San Antonio’s Indian frontier. Still, the presidio represented the settlement’s most important institution. Most members of the garrison were locals, some of them third or fourth generation soldiers of the company. Thus, the presidio was the Béxar’s most important employer, as it was the most important market. While in the early years the captain’s store, stocked from the profits the commander gained from managing the company payrolls, served the rest of the community, by late decades a number of full-time shopkeepers and artisans had the garrison and its dependents for regular customers. Recruits had always seen the presidio as an opportunity to escape the general poverty of Texas; enlistment protected soldiers and families from the instability of the local agricultural economy and most presidio work called for skills that young men already possessed—horseback riding, herding, reading Indian signs, construction. With a little luck and moderate habits, a soldier could stay relatively out of debt, yet know that in case of need the company served as an economic safety net.

The early nineteenth century takes us into a complicated set of political and military transformations that would require an additional paper to explain. The Louisiana Purchase reestablished Texas as a border province with an acquisitive neighbor willing to work through area Indians to undermine Spanish authority. United States claims of Texas as part of Louisiana required a massive reinforcement of the province that brought hundreds of troops from throughout northeastern Mexico to Texas. In the midst of this, the Mexican War of Independence erupted and Texas’s military establishment blew with the winds of change, fighting both against and for royalist interests. By the time of Mexican independence in 1821, the progress that had been made in creating a sustainable society based on a relatively well-equipped military force and strategic consideration of Indian interests was in shambles. Independent Mexico was never equipped to properly restore the presidio system to its required strength and vitality and its feeble attempts to do so in the early 1830s made up one of the contributing factors leading to the struggle for Texas independence.


1. Representación hecha por el vecindario de esta villa solicitando la reunión de sus caballerías al situado de la tropa, Año de 1791, May 8, 1791, Bexar Archives, Center for American History, the University of Texas at Austin (hereafter cited asBA).

2. Estado de la fuerza efectiba. Feb. 28, 1781, BA.

3. Auto of Gov. Ripperdá, Feb. 24, 1771, BA.

4. Petition of Fr. Pedro Ramírez, June 6, 1762, BA.

5. Testimonio de los autos fechos sobre la reducción de los indios gentiles de la nación Apache a las misiones de los ríos de San Xavier de la provincia de Texas. Nov. 29, 1749, Audiencia de Mexico 92-6-22, Archivo General de la Nación de México, in Spanish Materials from Various Sources, vol. 90, Center for American History, the University of Texas at Austin (hereafter cited as SM).

6. Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas 7 vols. (reprint; New York: Arno, 1976) 3:47.

7. Auto en que se da razón de haber hospedado a los isleños y otras providencias. Mar. 10, 1731, Provincias Internas vol. 32, pt. 2, SM vol. 727.

8. Unless otherwise cited, this paper is based on Jesús F. de la Teja, San Antonio de Béxar: A Community on New Spain’s Northern Frontier (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995).

9. Jesús F. de la Teja, “‘A Fine Country with Broad Plains—the Most Beautiful in New Spain’: Colonial Views of Land and Nature,” in Char Miller, ed., On the Border: An Environmental History of San Antonio (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001), 48.

10. Spanish jurisdictional nomenclature is rather confusing, which no doubt contributed to modern names of city and country. The district to which the city, presidio, missions, and outlying ranches belonged was called San Antonio de Béxar, as was the presidio. The chartered town, named in honor of the heir to the Spanish throne and the medieval saint-king, was San Fernando de Béxar. Each mission had its individual names, as did each ranch. For the sake of clarity, I will refer to the settlement as Béxar or San Antonio, identifying the specific entity—town, presidio—when necessary.

11. On the history of the presidio system see Max L. Moorhead, The Presidio: Bastion of the Spanish Borderlands (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975).

12. El virrey de Na. España da quenta con Testimonio de haver concedido reforma a D. Toribio Urrutia Capitán del Presidio de Béjar y nombrado a D. Luis Menchaca. Aug. 11, 1763, Audiencia de Guadalajara 104-6-13, Archivo General de
Indias, SM vol. 42.

13. Diligencias que en virtud de no haber contribuido don Luis Menchaca los diez hombres y 35 indios que se le pidieron para el reconocimiento de las islas blancas que se cometió al coronel Parrilla, tubo a bien de practicar el gobernador de Texas con lo demás que en ellas se expresa. June 30, 1766, BA.

14. For the Texas War of Independence period see Jesús F. de la Teja, “Rebellion on the Frontier,” in Gerald E. Poyo, ed., Tejano Journey, 1770-1850 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996), 15-30; for Mexican-period San Antonio see Jesús F. de la Teja and John Wheat, “Béxar: Profile of a Tejano Community,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 89, 1 (1985): 7-34.