about table of contents home


F. Commanders of the Tubac Company, 1752-1776

The Company of St. Ignatius at Tubac had only two titular commanders during its entire existence from 1752 to 1776. 223Captain Juan Thomas de Beldarrain led the new Upper Pimería Company to Tubac to found the post and retained command until his death. Captain Juan Bautista de Anza assumed command of the post early in 1760 and still held the title when it was transferred in 1776. Anza frequently left the post under an acting comandant while he campaigned against hostile Indians or explored or colonized for the Crown, and last of these, Lt. Juan M. Oliva, actually executed the transfer order.

Inasmuch as the comandant controlled his men and his post so minutely and with such considerable powers as to make it very much a reflection of his personality and capabilities, it seems worthwhile to devote some space to analyzing the duties of the position not already discussed and summarizing the qualities of the comandants.

1. Merchant Prince

The essential outlines of the commercial relationship between the post comandant at Tubac and his troops prior to June 1, 1774, have been drawn above. The administrative basis for the captain's peculiarly commercial position was the fact that he enjoyed a monopoly on provisioning his garrison.  The soldiers paid for their food, clothes, arms and mounts (Treutlein 1949:291). Actually their pay was turned over to the captain's account in the capital and the supplies they drew were charged against their accumulated pay. This 224eliminated the dangers of carrying large quantities of specie around the unsettled landscape of New Spain, but it made the post comandant a merchant and a bookkeeper as well as an army officer. In fact, merchants frequently secured commissions as post commanders just for that reason, paying twelve to fourteen thousand pesos for them at the capital, according to the Jesuit missionary Pfefferkorn. Naturally the military skill of such captains was entirely a matter of luck, and their general lack of it contributed to the continued success of hostile Indians (ibid., p. 294).

The price control system maintained by the King was designed to allow the post comandant approximately fifty per cent markup over the normal price of European or colonially manufactured goods at the City of Mexico. A peso and a half worth of cloth at Tubac, for example normally cost one peso at the Capital (ibid., p. 293). From this markup the Captain at Tubac had to pay for carrying the goods all the long distance from the City of Mexico to the post and compensate his commercial agent at the capital. This cut his profit well below fifty per cent, especially if the price of goods rose at the capital city.

As a rule the captain profited on the horses and provisions he provided for his garrison. During the years after the founding of the Tubac post, cavalry troopers supposedly maintained six horses apiece out of their pay. Captains Beldarrain and Anza procured horses in Sinaloa or farther south 225where horseflesh was abundant and relatively cheap. Still the horse charged to a trooper at twelve pesos represented only about a forty per cent mark up over his purchase price (ibid., p. 291-292). From this gross the captain had to pay his purchasing agents and the cowboys who drove the remount herds north the long miles to Tubac so his net profit per horse was relatively small. When an entire remount herd was lost to hostile Indians, the captain suffered a real financial loss, aside from the tactical difficulty created for his command. Captain Anza lost such a herd to the Seris in 1761 or thereabouts (Anonymous n.d. p. 215). To avoid such losses, the remount horses were guarded by troops once they reached dangerous territory, and after January 1, 1767, the Captain was under orders to reimburse the escort troopers for all their expenses incurred on such duty, including repair of equipment (Rubí Dec. 31,p 1766b), since the animals were his personal property and responsibility. Earlier the post commanders had used their troops for this personal service without recompensing them (Cota Dec. 22, 1766; Estrada Dec. 24, 1766; Martínez Dec. 24, 1766).

The markup allowed the Tubac captain on foodstuffs he purchased for his garrison seems to have been nearer one hundred per cent than fifty. A measure of maize meal charged to the trooper at six pesos usually cost the captain about three or even less if he had bartered his goods for it. Beeves were marked up in proportion (ibid., p.293).

226The Tubac comandant realized a significant profit from free trade with persons outside his unit. He was the principal source of manufactured goods for the citizens settled at the post and ranchers and miners living in the area. Civilian merchants were not fond of life on the rugged frontier, and clustered in the more southerly towns, principally large mine camps in Sonora. With his capital, the captain could purchase more supplies at the City of Mexico than his troops required and re-sell these outside the price control system since only his troopers were protected by the royal schedules (ibid., p. 293-294).