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CHAPTER X:
THE MEXICAN MILITARY COLONY

621In the aftermath of the Mexican War, the defeated Mexican nation under President José Joaquín de Herrera who took office June 3, 1848 (Bancroft 1885:V:550), undertook sweeping governmental reforms to strengthen the country. The armed forces had been so obviously inefficient and disorderly during the recent war as to turn popular opinion against the military establishment. On November 4, 1848, the standing army was cut to an authorized strength of 10,000 to be recruited on a volunteer basis (ibid., V:568). This ideal proved impractical and conscription was resorted to again in 1852 (ibid., V:569).

To achieve a more republican style of army, all males between eighteen and fifty-five were considered members of a national militia, with an active mobile corps of militia subject to six month's service outside the state of enrollment composed of six-tenths of one per cent of the population paid at the same rate as regular troops from state funds unless on federal service, and thus under state command (ibid., V:571). Thirty-four special mobile companies were authorized for duty on the new northern frontier. These measures were not sufficient to contain Indian raids on the boundary, however, 622and the concept of military colonies greatly resembling the royal Spanish presidio was revived and put into execution.

The plan of the military colony called for recruiting men to serve six-year enlistments, receiving six month's pay in advance and tools and animals necessary for farming plus material for houses. Married settlers received exemptions from all taxes, even church tithes. Six-year men should receive a 10-peso bounty and at the end of their enlistment obtains a tract of land. If a soldier re-enlisted for another six-year term, his land grant was to be doubled at the end of his second term.

The military colony plan was put into execution by decree on July 19, 1848, which ordered various colonies formed on the same financial footing as the frontier fort companies authorized by the organic legislation of March 21, 1826, provisions of which are outlined above. The frontier was sectioned into an eastern sector composed of Tamaulipas and Coahuila, a central sector made up of Chihuahua, and the western sector taking in Sonora and Lower California. Each section was to be under the control of an inspector ranking as colonel who was obligated to inspect every colony at least once every two months. Every two to three military colonies were to be commanded by an adjutant inspector ranking as lieutenant colonel, and post commanders were to rank as captains (ibid., V:573 fn 45). A thousand recruits were actually dispatched to the frontier in 1849 with the full authorized staff of commanding 623inspectors and quartermasters. Some 340 of these recruits were destined for the Western Section with five military colonies in Sonora and one in Lower California (ibid., V:573 & fn 46).

Amazingly enough the national congress followed up this basic reform with additional appropriations in the following years and by 1851 the military colony system was fairly functional and developing strength. About half of the planned colonies had been founded although authorized strength was still less than half achieved. The commanding inspector of the Western Section arrived on the frontier in January of 1851 with reinforcements of both men and supplies and he provisionally established military colonies at the old forts at Babispi, Fronteras, Santa Cruz, Tucson and Altar in Sonora, and Santo Tomás Mission in Lower California. The new regime regarded most of these sites as unpropitious and proposals were advanced to move Santa Cruz east to the San Pedro River, to retreat Tucson to Tubac, but to advance Altar to Tres Alamos (ibid., V:574 & fn 47).

In actuality the provisional arrangement turned out to be fairly stable, and the Tucson strongpoint was not abandoned until after Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna returned to the presidency and sold the Gadsden Purchase tract. Santa Cruz also survived (Gándara Nov. 9, 1853b), and garrisons remained at Babispe and Fronteras (Gándara Nov. 9, 1853c).

624A. Tubac Becomes A Military Colony

In the fall of 1851 shortly after the Mexican and United States boundary survey parties both found the site of Tubac still depopulated, a military colony was founded there, apparently with either new reinforcements from central Mexico or a composite company thrown together from the other Sonoran colonies, Altar in particular. The post was very likely reoccupied upon the urging of the commander of the Mexican boundary survey group. The officer who re-established Tubac as a military colony was Captain Gomez, previous comandant at Fronteras- or if he did not found the post he had taken command by July of 1852 (Bartlett 1854:II:302-303).

United States citizens were still traveling the southern emigrant road to California through Tubac, and soon after the post was reoccupied by Mexican troops, its commandat induced a Mormon party to stop there to farm on a commercial basis.  Apparently Mexico had been able to send troops back to Tubac, but unable to find farmers willing to risk life on the Apache frontier in the upper Santa Cruz River Valley. The post commandat was clearly so eager to acquire a body of local farmers that he was willing to offer foreigners substantial concessions to persuade them to remain at Tubac. "He offered them lands in the rich valley, where acequias were already dug, if they would remain and cultivate it; assuring them that they would find a ready market for all the corn, wheat and vegetables they could raise, from the troops and from 625passing emigrants" (ibid., II:304) The fact that the commander could offer the Mormons previously cultivated fields with existing irrigation ditches shows that few if any Mexican settlers had accompanied the troops back to Tubac. Its total population was hardly a hundred persons (ibid.).

Unfortunately for the Mormons, they either planted the wrong crops for the seasonal runoff pattern in the Santa Cruz River or they encountered a drought year. They settled down at the post, plowed and planted at the spring season, but it did not rain and the river flow dried up so they could not irrigate their fields, so eventually they gave up their time, labor and money and abandoned Tubac to continue their journey to California (ibid., II:304-305). Half a century before a drought imperiled Toribio de Otero's land grant; this one saved it for his heirs, for had the Mormons held onto the fields at Tubac, the United States would undoubtedly have recognized their title instead of that of the original grantee's heirs who were evidently not on the land.

Some idea of the reliance of the Tubac garrison on imported supplies is provided by a statement of the basic food supplies required for a campaign against the Apaches planned for May of 1852 (Anonymous Apr. 27, 1852). The post was to receive ninety-eight fanegas of pinole with six mule loads of brown sugar and 100 arrobas of jerky. A ton and a quarter of jerky is a good deal of meat! (An arroba equals approximately twenty-five English pounds.

626One of the handicaps of the new military colony was a lack of a blacksmith (Bartlett 1854:II:305) unless Captain Gomez's message to U. S. Boundary Commissioner Bartlett that Tubac lacked a mechanic or tools useful for wagon repairing resulted from that officer's pique at snooping North Americans.

After the failure of the Mormon crop in the spring of 1852, little farming seems to have been attempted at Tubac in 1853. The Apaches who returned there in mid-July came too late to plant, and early in January of 1854 the Tubac post commandat was still scrounging for provisions. He obtained orders from the Adjutant-Inspector of Sonora permitting him to levy upon the stores of the company at Santa Cruz.  At the same time the Adjutant-Inspector ordered the commander to even things up a bit by dispatching to Santa Cruz some oxen and carts.

The Tubac commandat informed his superior that the post possessed no carts, but that he was sending a privately-owned one to Santa Cruz with three yokes of oxen even though doing so would probably delay the Tubac wheat planting fatally. In addition he sent to Santa Cruz five mules, but only three of them belonged to the Tubac garrison-the other two were loaned by settlers at Tumacacori. Of the eleven and a half pack loads of bags Zenteño sent to Santa Cruz, five belonged to the proprietors of Calabazas. In his report to the Adjutant-Inspector, Zenteño (Jan. 18, 1854:1-2) stressed that his troop would have no food until the train returned from Santa Cruz, and requested an order allowing him to draw on that post for his February rations as well.

627When hostile Apaches attacked the food train at San Lázaro farther up the Santa Cruz River, running off all the oxen and mules, Tubac was left in desperate straits indeed (Zenteño Jan. 21, 1854:1). Captain Andrés B. Zenteño immediately sent a request to Tucson for reinforcements, and an order to the Santa Cruz commander for carts and oxen to transport the supplies needed at Tubac to avoid famine. If the latter did not promptly succor Tubac, its commander notified the state adjutant-inspector, he would be obliged to march to Santa Cruz in order to food his troops (ibid., p. 3).

The sorely needed provisions apparently arrived in time to enable Zenteño and his garrison to hold out a little longer, for "a few Mexican soldiers" were still stationed there as late as September 15, 1854 (Bell 1932:311). News of the ratification of the Treaty of the Gadsden Purchase apparently reached Tubac four days later with the same mule train from Guaymas which took word of the change in sovereignty to Tucson on September 21 (ibid., p. 316).

B. Apache Reinforcements

The weak condition of the Mexican forces sent to re-establish Tubac as a strongpoint against hostile Apaches prompted Sonoran authorities to attempt to strengthen the new post in the summer of 1853 about a year and a half after its reoccupation. Governor Manuel M. Gándara ordered some of the Peaceful Apaches living at Tucson to move to Tubac on June 29, 1853 (Zenteño July 6. 1853).

628The Tucson friendly Apaches arrived at Tubac on July 17, 1853, under their sub-chief Francisco Nichuy (Zenteño July 18, 1853:37:1). The Apache reinforcement numbered thirty-eight warriors (ibid., p. 3), which was the essential information so far as the post commander was concerned. "With respect to the total not even the aforesaid Nichuy knows it" (ibid., p. 1) although the commandat reported some fifty women and thirty-two children for a total increment of 120 (ibid., p. 3) to the Tubac population. This Apache reinforcement approximately doubled the size of the Tubac settlement, since Bartlett (1854:II:304) had found a scant hundred persons there one year earlier.

The Peaceful Apaches continued to receive military rations under the system instituted back in the 1780's. Accordingly the Tubac commandat issued two almudes (about a sixth of a bushel) of wheat to men with families, one almud (a twelfth of a bushel) to men without families, and half analmud to widows. These Apache reinforcements were expected to raise at least a part of their food at Tubac, but when they arrived the spring planting season was already past, and the military colony had only two yoke of oxen for plowing (Zenteño July 18, 1853:38:1) anyhow. The post commander therefore requested the state commandat general to order the commanders at Tucson and Santa Cruz to send him two yoke of oxen from each place, and asked for as much farming equipment such as hatchets and plows as it might be possible to send him (ibid., p. 2).

PEACEFUL APACHE WARRIORS
REINFORCING TUBAC MILITARY COLONY ON JULY 17, 1853
(Zenteño July 18, 1853:37:3)

Spanish Roll



English Approximations


Sub-chief Francisco Nichuy

Francis the Ugly One

Sub-chief Francisco Coyotero

Francis the Coyotero

Eugenio Mungia Eugene Mungia
Romero Placo
Benito el Chapo Benedict the Chappy
Andrés Andrew
Antonio Anthony
Gándara Quite

(took name of Sonora governor)

Diego Chimaco

Jimmy the Kid

Sierra blanca

White Mountain

José fuerte

Strong Joe

Guillermo Sasi William Sasi

Tortuga Janero

Janero Tortoise

Fermín
Francisco Janero

Francis the Janero

Gallego el surdo Deaf Gallego
Juan Leña Kindling John
Joe Domingo Joe Sunday
Andrés el Chino Andrew the Chinaman
Santiago el coyote James the Coyote (or half-breed)
Luis Cabeza Larga Louis Big-Head
630Francisco Vichindi Francis the Witch
Silvestre Sylvester
Chivato He-goat
Romero Tutije
Juan Flaco Lean John
Domingo Frances Sunday the Frenchman
Lugio

 

José el Surdo Deaf Joe
Paura al Sol Paul Sun
Juan Vichindi John the Witch
Félix Quite Félix
Pishuli
Susano
Francisco Virgen Virgin Francis
38
50 women
32 children  
120 total

The state commander granted that part of the Tubac commander's request which required no supplies from his treasury-which is to say he ordered the commandats at Tucson and Santa Cruz to send two yoke of oxen each to Tubac (Zenteño July 18, 1853:38:3). He pled that at the moment the comandancy general was without resources to meet the Apache need for farming tools.

631At the same time that Captain Zenteño requested subsistence farming equipment for the new Peaceful Apache rancheria at Tubac, he put in a request for firearms and ammunition with which to arm them. Not one of them brought a gun to Tubac with him any more than he had brought munitions, and the military colony lacked either (Zenteño July 18, 1853:39:1). This situation happened to be one the comandancy-general could do something about and Governor Gándara ordered the Tubac commander to send two mules to Arispe to pick up thirty-eight rifles for the Peaceful Apaches to use, plus necessary cartridges and other supplies (ibid., p. 1-3).

Less than a month after their arrival at Tubac the Peaceful Apaches expressed to the post commandat their dissatisfaction with the rations issued them and asked permission to send a delegation to the governor of Sonora to seek redress (Zenteño Aug. 11, 1853:57:1). Governor Gándara ordered the ration set at two almudes per week per warrior.

Despite their dissatisfaction with their food ration, the Peaceful Apaches at Tubac remained there at least as late as mid-July of 1854 when they constituted the largest part of the Tubac population (Froebel 1859:503) as they had ever since their arrival a year earlier.

C. Apache Fighting

The reconstituted Tubac garrison began campaigning against the hostile Apaches at least as early as March of 1852 632although the results were not favorable to the Mexicans (Bancroft 1889:476 fn 5). Another campaign was planned on a large scale for May of 1852 (Anonymous April 27, 1852).

Reassured by his reinforcement of Peaceful Apaches from Tucson in mid-July of 1853, Captain Andrés Zenteño appeared eager to undertake a campaign against hostile Apaches whom he suspected of lurking quite near his post. To carry out such a campaign he requested a further reinforcement of fifteen men from the commander at Tucson. These troops were to carry rations for ten days after August first, and the Tubac commandat also requested the loan of a Tucson pack mule (Zenteño July 26, 1853:1). Zenteño (July 26, 1853:2) requested the justice of the peace at Tucson to dispatch him an auxiliary force of twenty-five citizens plus as many more Pima Indians.

Just why Captain Zenteño should have expected the Tucson officials to comply with his request for reinforcements cannot be determined. Possibly he expected that they would regard his request as ridiculous and was merely playing politics. In any event both the commander and the Justice at Tucson declined to send men to participate in Zenteño's projected expedition (Zenteño July 30, 1853:2). In his next communication to the state commander (then also governor), Zenteño (ibid., p. 1) who would not undertake the expedition with his own forces, called the auxiliaries he had requested a "small" number.  He requested Governor Manuel Maria Gándara to issue orders to 633all frontier commanders that they must furnish any auxiliary force needed by other military colonies (ibid., p. 3). Evidently Zenteño anticipated that stronger settlements would never call for reinforcements from Tubac's feeble force, but such orders would allow him to raid the troops of the other posts at will.

While Zenteño played politics, hostile Apaches went into action. At ten a.m. on August 11, 1853, six enemy Indians mounted on good horses killed a man coming from Santa Cruz about four hundred yards away from the Tubac wall and ran off some twenty riding animals belonging to citizens and the post commandat. The post ensign took nine men in pursuit, only part of them mounted, but failed to catch the fast-riding Apaches, accomplishing no more than the recapture of a few horses the Apaches couldn't keep moving (Zenteño Aug. 11, 1853:55:1-2).

Captain Zenteño turned out to be the best Gandarista at the head of a northern frontier post despite his timidity and on November 9, 1853, Governor and Commandat-General Manuel Maria Gándara issued a series of proclamations radically altering the command set-up in the Santa Cruz River Valley in favor of Andrés B. Zenteño. He ordered Sergeant José Paredes to turn over command of the Tubac company to Zenteño (Gándara Nov. 9, 1853a), for what reason is not revealed by available documentation. Perhaps Zenteño had been temporarily removed from command or had simply gone to Ures to plead his case in 634person. Gándara (Nov. 9, 1853b) ordered the commanders of Tucson and Santa Cruz to obey the orders of Captain Zenteño, and notified (Gándara Nov. 9, 1853c) the commanders at Fronteras and Babispe that Zenteño had been appointed commander of the line from Tucson to Santa Cruz.

Captain Zenteño acknowledged his appointment from Tubac on November 15 assuring the governor that he would do his best to carry out the latter's instructions despite his shortage of horses, mules, munitions and clothing for the garrisons of the three frontier posts (Zenteño Nov. 15, 1853:83:1). Among other things, the Tubac and now line commander had been ordered to strengthen ties with the Gila River Pimas so he had sent off dispatch-bearers to Chief Culo Azul to call that worthy to Tucson for a conference with Captain Zenteño (ibid., p. 2). He reminded the governor of his overriding interest in the supplies the state commander had promised and pled for "all types as soon as possible" (ibid., p. 3). This theme Zenteño (Nov. 15 1853:84) repeated even in his letter thanking Gándara for appointing him commander of the line.

Captain Andrés B. Zenteño's political capabilities improved the military situation of his command very little. As mentioned above, no significant amount of produce seems to have been raised on the fertile fields of Tubac in the 1853 growing season, leaving the post still dependent on supplies shipped up from the south. Its main supply depot was the neighboring post at Santa Cruz, where a corporal and six soldiers 635started with a cart pulled by three yoke of oxen plus five pack mules in mid-January of 1854, knowing that the post would be without food until they returned with its January provisions (Zenteño Jan. 18, 1854:1-2). The Apaches seized this opportunity to bring Tubac to its knees again by attacking the empty train at the former San Lázaro ranch on the upper Santa Cruz River, killing two of the troopers and apparently taking a third captive while running off all the livestock. The corporal and three surviving soldiers reached Santa Cruz about four p.m. with news of the disaster (Zenteño Jan. 21, 1854:1-2). The Santa Cruz commander dispatched a subordinate with a party to attempt to catch the raiders.  Second sergeant Ramón Valenzuela had a respectable force under his command-a dozen troopers, fifteen citizens and thirty Pápago Indians (ibid., p. 2). The loss of the transport animals left Tubac owing two mules to the settlers at Tumacacori (Zenteño Jan. 18, 1854:2), but what was more important left the post so short of supplies that its commander felt he would have to march to Santa Cruz with his entire company to feed it if the commander there could not quickly supply new animals to move provisions to starving Tubac (Zenteño Jan. 21, 1854:3-4).

The Apache fighting carried on by the military colony at Tubac was primarily defensive in nature, and the Tubac forces had been defeated repeatedly by the hostile Apaches who carried the offensive to the re-established post. That the post 636survived until the transfer of sovereignty of the Gadsden Purchase area to the United States quite clearly was not the result of any ability or bravery on the part of its commanding officer.

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