Military Characteristics of the Tubac Garrison

B. The Tubac Company of Pima Indians remained an infantry company after Mexican independence along with the Opata Indian outfits at Babispe and Bacoachi. The white-mestizo garrisons at Altar, Pitic (Hermosillo), Buenavista, Fronteras, 562Santa Cruz and Tucson continued, on the other hand, to be cavalry troops (Escudero 1849:73; Ybarra, Jan. 1, 1843).

1. Authorized Pay Scale

When the Mexican national congress recognized the presidial companies in 1826, it authorized a pay scale of 800 pesos annually for the commanding lieutenant of the Indian companies including that at Tubac. The ensign was assigned 500 pesos per year, the captain of Indians 400 pesos, the sergeants 240 pesos apiece, the corporals 180 pesos each and the drummer 144 pesos annually. The Indian soldiers were authorized three reales per day, and 100 pesos was authorized for paying a missionary to act as company chaplain (Gomez Pedraza March 21, 1826: Estado 2). It is doubtful whether the Tubac Pima Company continued to receive this rate of pay very long.

2. Decline in Strength

One evidence of the wide discrepancy between authorized and actual pay on the frontier, and the toll of the other socio-economic factors previously outlined, was a serious decline in strength of the Tubac Pima Company. The actual complement on duty at Tubac was usually far below the authorized strength of eighty-one men and three officers because detachments went off on escort and guard duty at other communities just as in Spanish times. Still, this dispersion of forces did not account for the absolute decline in complement to only 563thirty men by 1840 (Browne 1950:130 & Velasco 1850:113). The post holding-detail was usually much smaller than that figure, in consequence of the fall in complement. When Colonel Antonio Narbona mounted an expedition against the Apaches in October of 1842, the acting commander at Tubac was able to take only one soldier with him on the march to Tucson with ninety men brought up from the south via the fort at Santa Cruz. Lieutenant Roque Ybarra had only eight men on duty, of whom three were sick and four had to be left to guard the weapons and provisions of the garrison (Ybarra Oct. 28, 1842:3). This handful of men he left in command of Sergeant Gerónimo Errán (ibid., p. 2), probably a descendent of Lt. Nicolás de la Errán.

The Tubac garrison was at that time completely dependent on supplies produced locally or packed in to it by the pack trains of the neighboring posts at Santa Cruz and Tucson, for the Tubac company had not one single pack mule of its own! Whenever foodstuffs or clothing or money or munitions reached Tubac, they came on the backs of mules loaned by one of the other two forts (ibid., p. 4).

Supplies usually had to be packed long distances because many products such as weapons, munitions, complex equipment, etc., were not produced on the frontier and had to be brought north from the hot country. Some provisions could be obtained closer at hand, but these were mostly foodstuffs of exactly the sorts produced at Tubac. Still, they were not insignificant. H. H. Bancroft (1889:404) concluded that by this 564time Apache depredations had swept the area north of the international boundary line clear of Mexican settlements except for Tucson and Tubac. Actually the Pápago Indian communities at Tumacácori and Bac also survived and produced some food surpluses and the Pápago rancherias out on the desert to the west did also. And as a matter of fact, non-Indian settlement was not limited only to Tucson and Tubac. There was a sizeable Mexican establishment at Sopori a short distance northwest of Tubac. This ranching and mining centre was raided by Apaches early on February 21, 1843. One of the citizens rushed to Tubac with the alarm, and fourteen others took out after the raiders. These picked up a Pápago force at San Xavier del Bac which caught the three Apache raiders in the Amole Pass, killing one and recovering the horses they had stolen (Ybarra March 1, 1843:1v).

The small number of troops available at Tubac resulted from the internal struggles for political power in Sonora mentioned above as a principal cause of deterioration of the frontier military posts. On August 12, 1842, the high command ordered a contingent from Tubac to Cucurpe and Rayón to contain malcontents in those San Miguel River Valley towns. This detached duty absorbed the captain of Indians, José Rosario by name, two sergeants, two corporals, a drummer and thirteen enlisted men (Ybarra Jan. 1, 1843:note 3), a total of nineteen men. This was nearly two-thirds of the total force of the company! The company report for December 1, 1842, showed only thirty-three men in the unit, exclusive of 565the lieutenant commanding on detached duty from Pitic and the quartermaster sergeant (Gerónimo Errán) on detached duty from Tucson.

The company report turned in by Lt. Ybarra on January 1, 1843, showed just how weak the force which held Tubac against the hostile Apaches actually was. The bulk of its garrison had been committed to the struggle for political supremacy in Sonora. The captain of Indians, two sergeants, a drummer, two corporals and thirteen enlisted men were still stationed in Cucurpe and Rayón. One soldier had been carried on the rolls since November 23, 1840, as a prisoner of the Apaches. Three soldiers were sick at Tubac and a fourth was ill at Santa Cruz fort. Two invalids had been added to the complement and there was one man in the guardhouse. This left a grand total of three enlisted men available for unlimited service at Tubac itself, aside from the commander and quartermaster.

The total book-force of the Tubac company decreased from thirty-three to thirty during December of 1842 because three men deserted that month (ibid). The authorized strength of the Tubac company was at that time 100 men (Ybarra Jan. 1, 1843:note 9), so it lacked seventy men of its authorized complement! No better index of the disastrous deterioration of the post since independence could be found!

The serious plight in which Lt. Ybarra found himself at Tubac with so few soldiers with which to run a military post appears in stark relief when one considers that under optimum 566conditions with all his men well, so simple a duty as carrying dispatches to one of the other forts required twenty-five per cent of his total available force! Two troopers carried communications between posts (Ybarra March 1, 1843:1), and Ybarra had only eight men on his post early in 1843 including invalids, sick, prisoners and able-bodied troopers. His actual complement rose to nine when the man who had been sick at Santa Cruz returned on March 2, 1843 (ibid.).

When no campaigns were underway and the Apaches left the post alone, conducting dispatches was actually the principal duty of the feeble garrison. During the month of March in 1843, for example, two Tubac soldiers returned from Santa Cruz with letters for the Commander of the Line, Captain Antonio Comaduran at Tucson, on the second, continuing their journey north on the third. On the ninth one of this pair reached Tubac again headed south from Tucson with more dispatches, and another trooper took them on to Santa Cruz, returning again on the 16th (ibid., f. 1-1v).

During July Lt. Ybarra succeeded in recruiting three men for his company, raising his total force to thirty-two.  Eighteen of these remained in Cucurpe and Rayón (one enlisted man less than before), and four were in Arispe with the quartermaster. There were no men sick so two men remained at Tubac who were fit for any service, one remained in the guardhouse, and two remained on the invalid list (Ybarra Aug. 1, 1843). The drop in force of the Cucurpe-Rayón detachment was caused by desertion of one of the enlisted men.

567During August Lt. Ybarra recruited two more men for the company and one of the deserters was apprehended, but another man deserted and the company finished the month with a total force of thirty-two again, only sixteen in Cucurpe and Rayón, four still at Arispe, five classed as recruits and still only two men at the fort fit for total duty. Two more were prisoners besides the man in the guardhouse (Ybarra September 1. 1843).

At the and of October Lt. Ybarra had three soldiers available for total service, five in the guardhouse, two carrying dispatches to Santa Cruz, sixteen still at Cucurpe and Rayón and three still at Arispe in its garrison, and two invalids (Errán November 1, 1643). The recruits of July and August were considered fully trained and were on duty or under arrest by November 1, such was the pressing need for men for active duty. Errán reported that he was unable to enlist recruits because the Tubac community had no men to recruit.

The actual force of this garrison fluctuated around thirty men for so long that despite its legal complement of one hundred, its garrison was consistently reported to be thirty men (Velasco 1850:113 followed by Nye 1861:73).

Since the other frontier posts also suffered from the handicaps which crippled the Tubac garrison, it is not surprising that Captain Antonio Comaduran withdrew his feeble cavalry force from Tucson rather than attempt to oppose passage of Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke and his Mormon 568Battalion in December of 1846 (Bieber 1938:152). For the reinforcements at his immediate disposal had to come from the weak-sister posts of Tubac, Santa Cruz and Fronteras (ibid., p. 158)! Comaduran know what slender reeds those forts were, and Tubac, his nearest support, in particular.

3. Degeneration of Command

The concatenation of factors reducing the supply of officers to command the frontier military posts took its toll at Tubac from almost the moment of independence. The Comandant at the time of the change of sovereignty had gone to Arispe by 1825 (Figueroa October 22, 1825), if not earlier. His company sergeant at the time of independence, Juan Maldonado, died January 21, 1822 (Libro de las Tubac...f. 17). During the decade beginning in 1830 the supply of officers further diminished so that desperate measures had to be taken in 1840 to rehabilitate the command.

The table of authorization of Tubac and the other Indian companies authorized a Lieutenant to command the unit and a veteran ensign as subaltern. When the veteran ensign of the Tubac Company, Manuel Alarcon, retired on February 1, 1838, he was not replaced (Ybarra Jan. 1, 1843: Note 1) leaving the company with only one officer

Just over two years later the Commandant-General of the Department of Sonora dispatched a lieutenant from the Pitic garrison to take over the command of the Tubac company by an order dated February 28, 1840 (ibid., note 4). This allowed 569the government to grant retirement to the previous post commander, Lieutenant Salvador Moraga on December 16, 1840. But when he did retire on May 1, 1841 (ibid., note 1) he was not replaced either.

This left the acting commander from Pitic, Lt. Roque Ybarra, to run the company with the assistance of Sergeant Gerónimo Errán, detached from his company at Tucson to act as quartermaster (ibid., note 4). Lt. Ybarra had so few troops left in the degenerated company by the beginning of 1843 that he did not even bother appointing corporals to fill the two vacancies which existed in that grade (ibid., note 1).

The company apparently enjoyed a brief resurgence under Lt. Saturnino Limón, who had taken over its command by July of 1847 (Libro de Entie-rros del Presidio de Tubac, f. suelto).

4. Ruination of Structure

The condition of the physical structure of the Tubac fort does not provide as good an index to the progressive deterioration of that post as the shortage of complement and officers, but it helps to fill out the picture of military and social decline.

The Mexican troops continued to occupy the headquarters and barracks constructed shortly after the founding of the first Tubac post in 1752 under Captain Juan Tomás de Beldarrain, insofar as can be now determined. That these adobe structures were still fit for occupancy and use at all indicates that they must have been repaired and maintained in good 570condition throughout the colonial period (if they did not actually date from the coming of the Pima Company) for they would not otherwise have survived so long.

By January 1, 1843, the original fort buildings were nearing ninety years of age, but lack of maintenance by the feeble republican force which remained at Tubac-seventy men under authorized complement and with only a dozen men at most after mid-1842-was responsible for the poor condition of these buildings at the beginning of 1843. Lt. Roque Ybarra (Jan. 1, 1843) reported that the fort building was the property of the nation and clean, but deteriorated "because of the lack of resources to repair it."

5. Apache Saviors

Not all the Peaceful Apaches who had lived at Tubac in the early 1830's rebelled and returned to hostilities in 1832 because the flow of rations slackened after independence or for other reasons (Velasco 1850:240). Probably the Tubac officers managed to keep some trickle of supplies reaching their local peaceful band which was supposed to receive a ration of meat and wheat every eight days, thus retaining its loyalty. Possibly the loyal band had simply lived in symbiotic relationship with the Spaniards and Mexicans for so long its members no longer felt capable of making a living in the wilds, nor wished to lose their civilized friends.

By the early 1840's, the ruin of the presidial company and its officers was so complete that it no longer really571constituted any effective force-in-being. The only fighting force at this post of any significance was the friendly Apache band. The warriors in this band outnumbered the troops remaining in the garrison, and greatly outnumbered them after the departure of nineteen men to Cucurpe and Rayón in August of 1842.

On January 1, 1843 (Ybarra) there were 169 friendly Apaches residing at Tubac under their own band chief, Francisco Coyotero. Sixty-seven of these Apaches were children; fifty-three of the adults were women, leaving a total of forty-nine men, not all of whom could have been warriors, of course. This ratio remained constant until August, when two more adult males joined the band, raising the total to fifty-one (Ybarra Aug. 1 and Sept. 1, 1843).

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