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CHAPTER X: THE MEXICAN MILITARY COLONY

D. Emigrant Road Way-Station

The North American emigration from the eastern states to California may have slacked off somewhat in volume after the initial push westward in 1849, but it did not cease. Emigrant trains continued to cross the territories to the new West Coast state, many of them taking the southern route along the Santa Cruz and Gila Rivers.

When a military colony was established at Tubac in the fall of 1851 these trains were provided with a little more protection against raiding Apaches, and one more populated stopping place along the route, although it is doubtful whether Tubac could offer much material assistance in the way of food or animals to passing emigrants. The first commander's attempt to add Mormon farmers among the passing emigrants to his post has already been described. Some attempt was made to maintain oxen and horses at the re-established post since the Apaches found some of both to steal on November 18, 1852 (Anonymous 1852)

By the time the emigrants reached Tubac many of them had lost so many animals they were ready to sell or abandon part 637of their wagons. U. S. Boundary Commissioner John R. Bartlett was able to replace one of his wagons late in July of 1852 within a mile of Tubac by purchasing another from an emigrant train from Arkansas with fifteen wagons (Bartlett 1854:II:305-306) and forty people. On the same July 22 the U. S. boundary survey party passed another emigrant train from Arkansas with a dozen wagons drawn by oxen on the road between Tubac and Calabazas (ibid., II:309) suggesting the amount of travel on this road.

So rapidly had California filled with people after the discovery of gold that the great port of San Francisco was already becoming a staging area for adventurers with their eyes turned toward recently defeated and still weak and turbulent Mexico. Not long after Captain Gomez re-established Tubac as a military post a French count, Charles de Pindray, sailed from San Francisco with eighty-eight Frenchmen bound for Guaymas (Lambertie 1855:209). Whether Count de Pindray shared the filibustering ambitions of another French count (Raousset-Boulbon) who later inherited his forces, his first move was to offer his services to the Sonoran government as a mobile Apache fighting force. His original contingent was reinforced so his total strength reached 150 men-a force half again as large as the total population of the Tubac military colony! Such a large increment to the frontier fighting forces was a godsend to harassed Sonorans and the French unit was urged north through Ures, Arispe., Banámichi, Bacuachi 638and Fronteras into the Apache country (thus relieving the Sonorans of the problem of what to do with such a strong force in state politics). Although Count de Pindray acquired a Sonoran guide named Joaquín, his Apache hunt turned into something more like comic opera than a military operation. The hostile Indians could easily stay out of the way of so large a party of Europeans totally inexperienced in Indian warfare, yet keep the Frenchmen in a constant state of psychological unease.

The Pindray expedition terminated on a tragic note. Its leader contracted a debilitating and painful fever after extensive if useless peregrinations through unsettled territory beyond the frontier. Finally, he advised his Frenchmen the only thing left for them to do was to try to make the post at Tubac, and shot himself with his pistol in front of the company (ibid., p. 257). The survivors headed for Tubac, and probably did reach settled territory again at that post. After recuperating for a while at a large estate farther south, they returned to Cocóspera to found a colony, only to be caught up by Count Gaston de Raousset-Boulbon in September of 1852 (ibid., p. 259) in his attempt to take over the government of Sonora.

The next year Tubac witnessed the passage of the first surveyors for the southern railroad from the South to the Pacific Coast (Gray 1856:51) and the first route recommended was from the San Pedro River up Babocomari Creek and across 639the divide to Sonoita Creek down to the Santa Cruz River and Tubac. From there the proposed line could follow the stream through the Pima Villages or save seventy miles by going west through the arid Pápago country to reach the Gila River (ibid., p. 60).

The stream of overland travel through Tubac continued through the entire period of Mexican sovereignty in the Gadsden Purchase area, its volume unknown for lack of records of traffic at any point along the southern route to California. The number of published accounts of travel along this route indicates a considerable movement of people. A German businessman who passed through Tubac in early July of 1854 noted of the Peaceful Apaches that "The women and girls of this people sat by the road-side, staring at us with their broad, fat, mongol, expressionless faces" (Froebel 1859:503). A cattle-train from Texas passed through Tubac on September 15, 1854 (Bell 1932:311) and it was only one among many which drove stock overland to the booming California market.

E. Morality

The moral tone set for the reconstituted Tubac post by its founding commander was not very high in the view of North Americans of the time. U. S. Boundary Commissioner John R. Bartlett visited the post on July 21, 1852, on his second try at defining the new international boundary, and found the 640commandat to be the "new captor" of a young lady Bartlett's party had earlier rescued from captivity among the Apaches and restored to her home and family at Santa Cruz. The commandat, who had met Bartlett while commanding the Fronteras post was familiar with the girl's history, said nothing to the U. S. Commissioner about her being in his quarters. The North American official heard of her presence from others, and demanded to see her despite the commandat's excuses that she was ill and about to return to Santa Cruz with her mother. Commissioner Bartlett (1854:II:302-303) found his interview with Inez Gonzales very unsatisfactory with the Mexican captain present but found himself unable to do much about it.

Commissioner Bartlett evidently did not realize that the operational morality of the Mexicans in regard to female captives recovered from the Apaches differed markedly from puritanical North American ideals. The great emphasis placed upon bridal virginity in Hispanic culture and the social devices for insuring it such as seclusion of young ladies, the use of dueñas to guard them., etc., led Mexicans to regard any nubile female thrown into the company of a man without the traditional safeguards as automatically defiled and therefore not a suitable marriage match. Under the circumstances, Inez Gonzales had probably done very well for herself, since a post commander was a good catch, formally or informally.

It might be added that Commissioner Bartlett's truculent attitude toward the Tubac post commandat provides one of the 641very frequent if not very edifying spectacles of a U. S. official abroad judging behavior of persons of a different cultural tradition than his own in terms of his personal ideals rather than his country's actual cultural practice. For it must be pointed out that whatever the North American ideal with regard to recovered female captives, North American operational morality differed very little from that of Mexicans.

F. Aftermath

After the Gadsden Purchase Treaty was ratified, Mexican troops withdrew gradually from the purchased tract and the Tubac garrison moved to Santa Cruz just south of the new international boundary. There it continued to deteriorate in the culmination of long years of neglect and faltering command during the republican period.

On April 1, 1857, the commander of the combined companies excused himself to the Adjutant-Inspector for not keeping up with his paperwork. He sent in monthly reports for the Santa Cruz and Tubac companies which were in arrears since February, but continued working up Tucson company reports which were in arrears to the previous August (Anonymous April 1, 1857). The reporting situation had not improved particularly by the beginning of June (Anonymous June 8, 1857), testifying to a declining quality of officer in the military colonies of this frontier.

642By that time the military colonies had been reduced to a state of military inaction by their miserable condition which seemed to responsible commanders an open invitation to further attempts at filibustering by United States citizens across the new international boundary in the growing settlements of Tucson and Calabazas. The morale of the remaining troops had been seriously undermined by their going a year without receiving a single real in pay, serving for only enough food for their families. They had gladly served as long as they received sufficient rations but for five months prior to June 20 they had been receiving only enough rations for each man so their wives and children were going hungry. To forestall wholesale desertions the senior officer on the frontier was purchasing wheat in the San Ignacio Valley with his personal credit (Anonymous June 20, 1857).

The sorry climax of years of neglect of frontier troops by federal and state governments arrived on June 21, 1857, when the soldiers of the Santa Cruz-Tubac company refused to stand guard after standing morning formation. They said that they would not give any service if they were not paid or at least rationed punctually.

The commander of the frontier ordered the Santa Cruz captain to exhort his men to return to duty, but exhortation was useless. The soldiers repeated their demands and then dispersed to their houses, carrying their rifles with them instead of returning them to the headquarters arsenal (Anonymous July 2, 1857). This was open mutiny.

643The commander of the frontier allowed the troopers to sleep in peace until midnight. Then he took the Santa Cruz and Tubac commandats, three sergeants, two staff aids and four trusty citizens and surprised the mutineers in their homes, imprisoning them in the post jail.

Bravery and astute tactics on the part of local officers could hardly overcome basic failings of a frontier army system engendered by decades of neglect, however, and on July 2 the frontier commander was forced to release the prisoners for lack of supplies to feed them, securing their abundant protestations of future subordination (ibid.).

On this inglorious note of frustrated futility the history of the Tubac military colony can end.

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