8. Harassing the Western Apaches, 1782–1792
THE YUMA UPRISING OF 1781 and subsequent changes in Spanish colonial expansion policy ended Tucson's function as protector of the land route to Upper California. The post shifted thereafter to become a full-time Apache-fighting garrison. Its success can be evaluated in terms of its diminution of Western Apache military power as one unit in the frontier defense cordon set up by the king's New Regulations of 1772.
Some historians have argued that Spanish involvement in European wars after 1779, and administrative dependence of the commandant general of the Frontier Provinces on the viceroy of New Spain for supplies “almost nullified” the effectiveness of the changes in presidial defense ordered in 1772.1 One historian reported that King Charles III decreed a halt on aggressive action against Apaches from 1779 to 1783 during Spain's war against England in alliance with rebellious British North American colonies.2 The example of frontier presidial effectiveness provided by the following case study of Tucson shows on the contrary that the reforms ordered in 1772 did in fact achieve long-range success in carrying out the geopolitical mission assigned to Spanish frontier garrisons.
During the first decade after establishment of the Royal Post at San Agustín del Tucson, Spanish officials in charge of the Frontier Provinces of New Spain actively pursued a policy of Apache extermination. They strove to break the military might of the hostile Apache bands. They sent frequent armed parties into Apache territory so as to waste Apache manpower in troop engagements, and to destroy Apache crops and settlements in a scorched-earth attrition strategy.3
The Royal Post of San Agustín del Tucson seems to have been too weak to participate very effectively in this probing of southern Apacheland during 1782. Captain Pedro Allande y Saabedra appears to have had to fight a purely defensive war, and the relative weakness of the Tucson post in addition to its very forward position in relation to other frontier garrisons may have helped to bring down upon it the all-out Apache assault that occurred on May Day of that year.4 This represented a decline in force, however, because the Opata scouts Allande had commanded in 1779 had been discharged.5 The Tucson company remained one man shy of its authorized complement in fact because Felix Armenta had deserted and was being sent to Buenavista presidio under arrest.
The inspector described First Sergeant Juan Fernandez as good officer material because of his intelligence and knowledge of writing and accounting. The two ensigns, Usarraga and Carrillo, and the other sergeant, the inspector characterized as good field men not fitted for handling accounts.6 Certainly Usarraga had proved his bravery earlier that year.
On Christmas Day, Apaches again struck to drive off Tucson's cattle herds. When the commanding general of the Frontier Provinces recommended Allande for promotion, he described the Christmas encounter: “More than 200 seized the cattle which were recovered by the parties of troops which he dispatched in their pursuit inasmuch as the wound in his leg was still open. They were able to kill six of the Apache aggressors, whose heads were cut off.”7
Juan Antonio Oliva, son of the tough old lieutenant, emerged as the hero of this encounter. Two parties totaling only 30 men pursued the Apaches, who had slain three herdsmen. Oliva rode pell-mell into the midst of the aggressors. Armed with only his lance, this young man mortally wounded one of the Native Americans, whom he took to the post. Oliva suffered three minor wounds.8
The captain and others wounded on May Day in 1782 gradually recovered. By 1783 Allande was ready to whip his command into shape to take the field. He was able to do so at least three times during the course of the year. The captain himself led a campaign in March which captured two Apaches.
On 6 June, five Indians killed a horse-guard and stole two saddled horses. On 24 to 30 June, Allande took the field again. On this expedition, he led a combined force of presidial troops from Tucson and Santa Cruz, the Catalonian Volunteers and Northern Pimans numbering 96 men. This force killed two enemies in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Allande had the heads cut from the bodies to display at the presidio. He claimed that two Native Americans who escaped “probably” died from their wounds. Most residents of the attacked ranchería had fled beforehand. Even so, the few fighters wounded one trooper.9
In December, Allande achieved even greater success, killing “eleven valiant warriors” and capturing nine prisoners between the Santa Teresa and Florida Mountains in a battle which “began at three in the afternoon and ended in the night.” Allande's own horse was wounded during that engagement.10
Between the end of that campaign and the next, the Tucson garrison received another inspection by the adjutant inspector on orders from the brigadier general commanding the Frontier Provinces. The summary of this inspection (Table 7, Appendix)11 shows that Allande was keeping his complement at full authorized strength despite a year's hard campaigning.
The human erosion of the previous year's campaigning appeared in the turnover in personnel. Only Captain Allande and Sergeant José María Sosa of the 1784 list of garrison strength had been in Tucson in 1779. Sosa was then a lowly second corporal,12 whose promotions reflected attrition in frontier garrison leadership in the field. Besides the 5 officers, 2 sergeants and a drummer listed in Table 7, the remainder of the post complement included the 62 men listed in Table 6, with their financial status shown rounded off to the nearest peso.13 Of these 62 men reported in 1783, 7 had appeared on the 1775 roll, 20 had appeared on the 1779 roll, and 11 had been commended for their bravery during the May Day 1782 encounter (see Appendix Table 7).
At this moment between campaigns in 1783, the troopers of the Tucson cavalry company had 185 horses and 40 mules, not counting officers' mounts. That was considerably short of the 7 mounts per man prescribed by royal regulations,14 reflecting the success of Apache raiders in keeping down the size of the post remount herd.
The troop accounts showed that the financial situation of the individual troopers in the Tucson garrison had changed sharply for the worse during the four years of active campaigning with horse and mule losses to Apache raiders. In 1779, the company had had 2,414 pesos to its credit compared to debts of only 445 pesos. By the end of 1783, the contingent as a whole was 3,630 pesos in debt because of charges for replacing mounts (Appendix Table 7). Only Juan Felipe Beldarrain seems to have worked himself out of debt, which was a very notable achievement considering how much he had still owed in 1779!
Before the year 1783 ended, Captain Allande took out another column which achieved signal success in the opening days of 1784. His intensive campaigning brought him favorable notice from his superiors and another promotion recommendation to the king's minister Joseph de Gálvez from the commandant general of the Frontier Provinces:
In letter No. 64 of December 29th last, I referred to Your Excellency the good results of the campaign which the Captain of the Presidio of San Agustín del Tucson, Don Pedro de Allande, had just finished executing against the enemy. I indicated the measures which he had taken in order to repeat his sally. He did so on the 30th day of that same month, having to endure the harsh rain and snow storms which have occurred generally since the first of this month. On the 5th he attacked two rancherías near the Gila River, killing five Apaches and four women, capturing twenty-four prisoners of both sexes, recovering one female captive, recapturing five riding animals and destroying everything in
For this action and that referred to in my aforementioned letter No. 64, as well as for his proved bravery and spirit and twenty-nine years' seniority, I judge Allande worthy that His Majesty might deign to reward him with promotion to Lieutenant Colonel of Cavalry. Moreover, Captain Don Pedro de Allande defended his presidio with valor on the 6th day of November of '79 against a considerable number of barbarians. He defended it especially well with only twenty men on the 1st of May of '82 when it was surrounded by more than 500 enemies who were able to seize some houses which were outside the stockade, which they attempted to break into and enter by the gateway. (My predecessor gave account in the summary of news which accompanied his letter No. 751 of the 30th of the same month.) Allande encouraged everyone with much calmness and boldness, from the beginning of the battle until the enemy retired after two hours. Allande maintained himself among the most active although they wounded him through one leg. He killed two with his own hands. Finally, he has bloodied the enemy on all occasions when they have approached his neighborhood. … [See page 83].
I therefore ask Your Excellency that he might serve to contribute his most powerful influence so that Allande might be conceded promotion so that he may continue his useful labors with this satisfaction.
The ensigns Don Ygnacio Felix Usarraga of the Presidio of Tucson, who came out gravely wounded, and Don Joseph Tona of that of Santa Cruz, have distinguished themselves in the two campaigns mentioned, giving proofs of unusual valor. I present them to Your Excellency to the end that they might be brought to the notice of the King so that he might dispense to them the gratitude of his Royal Will.
PHELIPE DE NEVE15
Ensign Usarraga was, of course, the officer who bravely defended the bridge between Piman Tucson and the presidio on May Day of 1782. This brave subaltern apparently died of his battle wounds, for Juan Carrillo had become ensign of the Tucson company by 31 March 1784,16 and Usarraga's wife Doña María Antonia Gonzalez de Usarraga was identified as a widow on 31 December 1785.17
The other frontier posts shared this problem of maintaining their officer cadres during this period of high mortality. This led to relatively rapid promotions from the lower ranks. The Santa Cruz Ensign Joseph Tona, whom the commandant general also recommended for promotion, was formerly a sergeant in the Tucson company18 who had been commissioned in the Santa Cruz garrison to maintain its officer strength. The Tucson unit drew on other companies for its officer replacements in like manner.
While the commandant general's recommendations progressed up the colonial administrative chain of command to the king of Spain, the frontier troops carried on their bloody battle with the southern bands of the Western Apaches. On 21 March 1784, these enemy Indians retaliated again in the conventional manner against the forward Tucson post. They attacked the post's remount herd. Once again, the commandant general's summary to the king's minister tells the story:
At break of day on the 21st day of March last, a multitude of Apaches attacked the remount herd guard of the presidio of San Agustín del Tucson, which was under the command of Ensign Don Juan Carrillo. Although the herd was halted in the corral, which was defended bravely, the Apaches succeeded after a long time in stampeding and carrying off the herd, leaving five soldiers dead and one wounded at the cost of the lives of three of the aggressors in the attack.
Thirteen horses ran away to the presidio and immediately afterwards two soldiers arrived to give notice of what had happened. Without loss of time an equal number of troops mounted them and followed the trail under the orders of Lieutenant Tomás Equrrola, reinforced with thirty Pimas of the neighboring towns of Tupson and San Xavier. Thus, this united force consisted of forty-nine men, including five citizens. With the rest of the remount herd guard which consisted of twelve men, our people succeeded in catching up with the enemy in less than three-quarters of an hour. Confident in their numbers, which according to the dispatches which do not seem exaggerated exceeded 500 on foot and mounted, the latter advanced to receive them and were intrepidly attacked. Equrrola gave the example by killing with his own hands one of the Apaches, and the others mixing it up killed thirteen more, among them Chief Chiquito, who was the one who commanded and stimulated them to sustain the action. They broke off the engagement and took precipitous flight as soon as they saw the massacre and noticed the harm which this handful of men whom they had planned to surround with their mass had caused.
Our small forces retired, carrying to the presidio the seventeen heads of Apaches who died in the two combats, twelve horses which it was able to recapture, and some of the arms and effects of the dead soldiers. The barbarians would have received more harm had the troop been able to pursue them in their flight, but it could not be done because all the horses on which the troop was mounted had been wounded. The troops and the citizens and the Indian auxiliaries gave uncommon proofs of valor in the action. This has been in all circumstances among the most distinguished and advantageous skirmishes that has occurred in the Provinces. It is the most notable for there having been, besides the number with whom it was fought, more than hundred more Apaches placed in ambush on the Santa Catalina River and mountain near Tucson, according to what was found in the reconnoitering which they carried out, noting that the wounded were losing much blood on the trail. It is
The experience there is that said enemies execute their strongest irruptions at the beginning of spring. The knowledge acquired that they direct them toward the presidio of Tucson makes me most fearful that they may strike a blow there to revenge the rebuffs with which they have been repelled the other times when they have tried, and make up for the damage which that garrison has caused them in its campaigns. With this in view, I have thought it wise to order that their remount should not be taken until the middle of last month, although they lack more than 350 mounts to complete their complement. I delayed it partly so the Apaches should have less incentive, and partly so that it should not be so surprised by winter as it would if taken during the cold weather, which maltreats the horses and renders them useless. As a result of this prudent measure, the company of the aforesaid presidio has been freed from the loss of a number of mounts equal to the 150 which, including 40 mules, are those which have now been stolen, a little more or less. Also, this occurrence should not, I believe, delay the projected expedition to the Gila River which should be carried out the middle of this month, nor the later operations. I have taken measures to have the remount mentioned arrive at the presidio of Tucson from the 8th to the 10th.
The members of the company which garrisons Tucson find themselves for the reasons related in the hard necessity of paying with their credit for the entire complement of their horses and mules. This is six of the first for each man, and one of the second. Their replacement will increase the considerable pledges which they already have originating from the equal losses which they have suffered. At present, Tucson is the presidio on this frontier which the enemy strikes most often, desiring vengeance for the damage that unit has inflicted. Since the end of November of last year until today, it has killed thirty-three Apache Indians and four women, and made prisoners of thirty-three of both sexes.
It has seemed to me part of my obligation to inform Your Excellency of all this in order that he may serve to present it to His Majesty with the merit which Lieutenant Don Tomas Equrrola, Ensign Don Juan Carrillo, and the troop have contracted in the battle described in order that the Royal Mercy may deign to dispense to them the gratitude which might be his sovereign will.
Postscript: I have just received a new dispatch in which I am assured with positive certainty that besides the seventeen Apaches killed in the battle referred to in this letter, a very great many more were slain until the party of troops grew tired of lancing the great number of enemies who traveled on foot.
PHELIPE DE NEVE19
This final comment by the commandant general emphasized the key importance of the cavalry lance as the preferred and most effective weapon of Sonoran frontier garrison soldiery. A German Jesuit expelled from Sonora in 1767 wrote that the spear was the only weapon the frontier soldiers were20 The reliance that Tucson troops placed on this weapon may be inferred from the number and condition of the lances reported by military inspectors, compared to other weapons. Neve's own 1782 inspection report21 contained this notation about Tucson's weaponry:
The armament has been used since the year 1776, in part, and the rest since '79. Twenty muskets need repairs, and four pairs of pistols, which I ordered done. The guns are of equal caliber, consisting of sixty-six of the first and an equal number of the second. Except a dozen pairs, the latter fire very untruly and are stored for safety. Thirty-eight swords are lacking and the twenty-eight that the troops use are of bad quality because of their inequality and temper. The company is completely equipped with lances.
Much the same condition obtained during the adjutant inspector's review of the post at the beginning of 1784.22
The armament which this Company uses consists of sixty-four muskets, thirty-five of which were supplied the year of '75 and twenty-nine have served since September of '79; an equal number of pairs of pistols, twenty-five almost useless from having French-style triggers and very little fire, and the rest of good quality. … There are only sixteen medium-quality swords. All have lances except four, who are the newest soldiers in the company, whom I ordered supplied from the reserve. I ordered some other short ones replaced with these. Only twenty-two individuals of this company are provided with leather armor, requiring eleven to complete the complement. Twenty-three shields are lacking and there is no prospect of replacing either the one or the other for lack of hides for them.
Lieutenant Tomás Equrrola's distinguished role in the March 21 running battle with Apache raiders emphasized once again the rapid turnover in commissioned junior officers during this period. Tucson Lieutenant José Abate, another of the heroes of the 1782 May Day defense of the post, had been promoted to the captaincy of San Carlos de Buenavista. Commandant General Neve had replaced him with Equrrola. The latter had previously served as a lieutenant under Commandant Inspector Hugh O'Connor in one of the Flying Companies of Nueva Vizcaya in 1775.23 Neve's letter recommending that Equrrola be recommissioned on the basis that he had reformed his faults helps to clarify an odd situation:24
A lieutenancy has become vacant in the Company of the Presidio of San Agustín del Tupson because Don Joseph Abate has been promoted. He has obtained the command of the Presidio of San Carlos de Buenavista, as I informed Your Excellency in my letter No. 81 on 26 January. I have settled the lieutenancy upon Don Tomás de Equrrola. He served
Joseph de Gálvez indeed followed Neve's recommendation, so the king signed Equrrola's commission late in August.25 The inevitable time-lag in imperial governance forced Charles III like other Spanish monarchs actually to delegate much decision-making to officials on the spot in his colonies.
The commandant general of the Frontier Provinces was in a position by this time to put into effect the intensive Apache extermination policy contemplated by Teodoro de Croix, the first commandant general. This capability stemmed from the power that Croix and his successors had built up in the frontier posts. Don Phelipe de Neve felt that the presidial detachments operating individually close to the frontier had enjoyed considerable success in defeating Apaches. He regarded the next step as going over to a strategic offensive by launching a large-scale, multi-expedition probe into the upper Gila River region where the border Apaches retreated.26 Neve originally planned a five-pronged invasion of Apachería, but had to divert some troops to the ever-worrisome Seri frontier.
Adjutant Inspector Don Roque de Medina took over command of two of the planned divisions of a combined force, and led 190 men out of the presidio of Fronteras.27 Adjutant Inspector Don Diego de Borica commanded the third division which entered Apache country from Janos, Chihuahua.28
Captain Don Pedro de Allande y Saabedra commanded the fourth division, apparently composed entirely of troops from his presidio of San Agustín del Tucson. He drove into the Apache strongholds from the southwest29 through the Florida, Santa Teresa, Piedad, Cabezas and Babocomari Mountains.30 The fifth division came from Velarde on the southeast to bottle up the Mimbres area in modern New Mexico.31
Captain Allande proved himself to be the most efficient Apache fighter among the task force commanders. On 26 April 1784, Allande with part of his command slew three warriors, three women and four boys, capturing two youths and freeing a captive Yaqui Indian woman.32 On his return, the Tucson commander managed to kill six more Apaches at Babocomari.33 He also34 His superiors felt quite satisfied with the results of the effort, concluding that the Apaches had seen Spanish soldiers in all of their mountain strongholds which had never been scouted before by Spanish troops.35
At a somewhat later date, another expedition took Captain Allande into the same middle Gila River area. Some troops came north up the Santa Cruz River Valley to Tucson, probably from Terrenate.36 From there on Allande apparently commanded the force of 150 men which included two other captains, Echegaray and Azuela, Spaniards, Opatas, Pimas from San Ignacio, Santa Cruz, Tumacacori and San Xavier,37 not counting Papago and Gileño auxiliaries. The latter ran out of food on the fifth day, and upon receiving rations promptly melted into the brush and returned home.38 The expedition under Allande captured and beheaded four Apaches on the eighth day out of Tucson,39 evidently in the Arivaipa Mountains. Three of those executed were women.40
At the site of the former post of Santa Cruz on the 13th day of campaigning, Captain Allande found 53 of his men sick. He thereupon abandoned the campaign and marched back to Tucson in three days (two of actual travel).41
This campaign in Apache territory achieved very happy results from the Spanish colonial point of view, at least. Consequently, Captain Allande's superiors repeatedly requested promotion for the commander of the Tucson post. The commandant general of the Frontier Provinces recommended him again in July of 1784 along with the other task force commanders:42
In a separate letter of this date numbered 124 I have the satisfaction of informing Your Excellency of the happy results of the campaign carried out to the margins and mountains of the Gila River according to the plan which I remitted in another of March 8th last, numbered 89. The Adjutant Inspectors Don Roque de Medina and Don Diego de Borica, and the Captains Don Pedro de Allande and Don Francisco Martinez have carried out exactly the orders and smallest details of the arrangements that I made for the perfect fulfillment of that enterprise. I consider the four of them worthy of the piety of His Majesty, which might deign to concede them the thanks of the rank of Lieutenant Colonels of Cavalry. Inasmuch as I have asked this for the latter two captains in letters of 25 August 1783, No. 7, and 26 January 1784, No. 76, I shall limit myself in this to soliciting equal ranks for the Adjutant Inspectors Don Roque de Medina and Don Diego de Borica, in reward for the merit which they have accumulated on the campaign mentioned, the punctual fulfillment of their respective present assignments which they serve with distinction. The first has served twenty-nine years, ten as Adjutant Inspector and retired captain, and the second twenty-one years, four years eight months as captain of the presidio of San Elceario and two years nine months as Adjutant Inspector.
Should the superior comprehension of Your Excellency consider them worthy of these thanks, I beseech your generosity in serving to incline the royal will of His Majesty to concede it to them in order that
Apparently the earlier request for promotion for Captain Allande had prompted royal action, for within a short time the commander of the Tucson post requested reassignment to a higher position in part because he outranked Adjutant Inspector Roque de Medina, and in part because his leg wound sustained in the 1 May 1782 action (and probably aggravated by his prolonged refusal to seek treatment) handicapped his efficient discharge of the active leadership required of a frontier post commander:
I place myself under Your Excellency's most powerful protection and am most anxious to employ all my efforts for the illustrious honor of the arms. I find myself in very poor health and in continual suffering in my stomach from inexperience with this climate and many fatigues, with the sadness of seeing my wife and children ill. The deponent finds it impossible to continue this labor because of the wounds which he received in the right leg which have hurt the nerves, as well as because of the present aggravation of seeing the arms of this Province commanded by Adjutant Inspector don Roque de Medina, who has only the rank of captain, while the deponent who is under his orders holds that of lieutenant colonel. Deponent feels capable of continuing his illustrious career or improving it in some government or regiment of cavalry or dragoons with the salary which the mercy of the King might deign to concede.43
Worth noting in this dispatch, along with Allande's jealousy of Medina, is his reference to a wife and children, inasmuch as he had been listed as a widower when he assumed command of the Tucson garrison several years earlier. Perhaps the Santa Cruz River Valley climate agreed less with the new Mrs. Allande and her young children than with the tough officer.
Despite Allande's complaints about his health, he actually continued campaigning against the Western Apaches. During March and April of 1785, this officer again scouted through the Babocomari, Peñascosa, Huachuca, Santa Rita and Santa Catalina Mountains. His command killed eight warriors and recovered stock the enemy had stolen from Cieneguilla. Acting as an example to his troops, the Spanish commander personally dispatched one of the Apaches slain.
When fall inspection time came around again in 1785, the summary (Table 9, Appendix) reported a troop composition of 3 officers and 65 men.44
The rapid promotion of junior officers during the 1780s was reflected by the fact that the subalterns of the Tucson cavalry company had completely changed since the 1783 inspection. Lieutenant Tomás Equrrola, hero of the running battle with Apache horse thieves, had died and been replaced by Francisco Barrios, who had won rapid promotions during the early part of the decade of the 1780s. His rise from second to first ensign of the Fronteras garrison apparently came in 178345 and his transfer and lieutenancy followed within about two years.
The rapid rise of Don Pedro María de Allande, son of the post commander, to the rank of second ensign also points up the rapid promotion of junior officers during these times. His valorous participation in the presidio defense on May Day 1782 stood in his favor, as did his father's position. Yet in a more settled period, young Allande probably could not have risen so fast.
High subaltern mortality brought relatively rapid promotion by commissioning senior sergeants, as well as cadets. This produced in turn relatively rapid promotion of non-commissioned officers from the ranks of veteran soldiers. This process opened opportunities to able individuals whose upward social mobility would have been blocked by their ascribed status in less demanding and rewarding decades.
Such an individual was Francisco Xavier Márquez. Only 27 years of age in 1775, he probably had not then long belonged to the Tubac company when its commander identified him as a mulato born in Sinaloa. Márquez would be socially defined, in other words, as a Negro in contemporary Tucson.
In 1779, Márquez was still merely a trooper in the ranks. Allande listed him seventh among the enlisted men, though, implying either seniority or relatively high promotion eligibility. As the Tucson cavalry company shifted to offensive warfare, promotion accelerated. Sometime before the end of 1783, Francisco Xavier Márquez won the rank of corporal. Before the end of 1785, Márquez rose to sergeant. This represented no mean achievement by the man who may well have been Tucson's first “black” resident, in view of colonial Spanish racial discrimination.
While the large-scale, bitterly contested Spanish cavalry sweeps around Apache territory filled the promotion lists, high royal officials in New Spain searched for a better solution to the Apache problem than genocide. Spanish officialdom sought success for colonial goals rather than inflexible adherence to the details of the royal reforms of 1772.
King Charles III utilized to his advantage the knowledge of officials experienced on the colonial frontier. In 1786, his new viceroy of New Spain, Bernardo de Gálvez,46 concluded that Spain could not militarily defeat the Apaches, so would have to outsmart them. Gálvez enunciated a new concept of Spanish-Apache relations well summarized by H. H. Bancroft.47
The Apaches were to be forced by unceasing campaigns with the aid of friendly Pimas and Opatas, to make treaties of peace, never before permitted with that nation; and so long as they observed such treaties, though closely watched, they were to be kindly treated, furnished with supplies, encouraged to form settlements near the presidios, taught to drink intoxicating liquors, and to depend as much as possible on Spanish friendship for the gratification of their needs. Hitherto war had been the business, as easier than hunting, by which they had lived; now they were to be made to dread war, as sure to cut off their supplies.
This new ethnic policy enabled the augmented military effectiveness stemming from the 1772 royal military reforms to achieve success directly measurable in terms of number of Apaches pacified. The presidial forces continued vigorously to campaign against hostile Apaches year after year, regardless of changes in army command and personnel on the Sonoran frontier.
In pursuit of the goal of Apache pacification, the presidial forces of the Frontier Provinces constituted an Apache-fighting army. These Spanish troops made the year 1788 an especially uncomfortable one for the still-hostile Apaches. As it opened, Captain Manuel de Echegaray of Santa Cruz presidio was assembling forces from the posts at Tucson, Altar, Tubac (which had been re-established as a military post with a Native American garrison), Buenavista, Pitic and Bacoachic for a thrust northward. He led his 186-man force out of the royal post at Santa Cruz on 5 January. The Tucson garrison contributed 30 men to his expedition — 1 ensign, I sergeant, 1 corporal, 5 carbineers and 22 troopers.48 Apparently the Tucson garrison at that time boasted the best marksmen on the Sonoran frontier. In any event, no other garrison sent more than one carbineer on this campaign.
During this hard-riding mission, Captain Echegaray took his command as far east as the Rio Grande. On its banks he fought an engagement with a large Apache force. The latter killed Ensign Rafael Tovar. The Spaniards slew 6 warriors, 8 women and 5 children, capturing 1 woman and 2 dozen horses.49
On the return journey, the ensign of the Pimas at Tubac died from a fever.50 An Opata was killed by a shot in the first engagement of the expedition.51 Compared to this total loss of three killed, two of them officers, Echegaray's command captured 16 Apaches (1 warrior, 4 women and 11 children) and 48 mounts, killing 27 Apaches (7 warriors, 15 women, 5 children). By early February, the expedition's horses were exhausted, and the contingents dispersed to their various posts.
Captain Pablo Romero's turn to hunt Apaches came in early summer 1788. He had been lieutenant at the presidio of Santa Cruz in 1778, staving off abandonment of that post.52 Also lieutenant in the Flying Company of Sonora in 1780,53 Romero commanded the Opata Indian Company at Bacoachi,54 at that rank. He became captain in command of the Buenavista presidio, apparently.55 When Lieutenant Colonel Pedro de Allande left Tucson, Romero moved there as acting captain.56 The earliest available record of his coming is an enlistment record dated 10 September 1786.57
From 31 May to 24 June 1788, Romero led a 208-man force of Sonoran troops that killed 11 Apache warriors and 4 women and children, capturing 34 men and women. The Apaches slain included a chieftain named Quilcho. Romero's expedition recovered 2 captives and 11 animals and lost 2 men. Although Romero did not keep his column in the field as long as Echegaray had, and killed fewer Apaches, he and his subalterns and troops received the thanks of their superiors in the king's name. They singled out Ensign Joseph Moraga for his bravery during the campaign.58
The highlight of this mission was a battle in the Pinal Mountains. Ensign Moraga with a few men from the pack-train escort attacked a ranchería, slaying one Apache himself in hand-to-hand combat. Captain Romero, hearing firing, raced to the scene, arriving before the battle ended. The Spaniards lost 1 man, but killed 6 Apache warriors, captured 23 women and children, and recovered 2 captive Pima girls from the native settlement at Tucson.59
Captain Romero evidently left straightaway after the expedition ended to report to the commandant of arms in Arizpe how well he succeeded in his sweep. On 30 June, a band of Apaches hunting him caught and killed him on the hill of San Borja between Chinapa and Bacoachi.60 Thus, Romero did not live to see the king's commission granting him 2,400 pesos salary, because this was not even signed until October 12.61 Romero left a widow, Doña Luisa Bohorquez, and at least two sons.62
The high mortality of junior officers also continued. The Lieutenant Francisco Barrios who replaced Equrrola was himself killed in 1788 and replaced by Lieutenant Francisco Salas Bohorquez, who was promoted from ensign at San Bernardino presidio.63 Salas himself had won his commission only four and one-half years earlier. The king appointed then Sergeant Salas as second ensign of the Fronteras garrison early in 1784.64
Captain Echegaray took the field again during October and November of 1788 with from 400 to over 500 men,65 as part of a large-scale Apache surrounding operation by Spanish frontier forces. Similar commands moved into the field in Nueva Vizcaya and in New Mexico, driving Apaches toward each other. Early in this campaign, Echegaray picked up some new Peaceful Apaches, one of whom had a brother living with the ranchería whose inhabitants had slain Captain Romero. This chieftain, called Compa, claimed to have won some of Romero's effects, including his saber, while gambling with the Apaches who killed him. The Indian politicly gave the saber to Echegaray, who forwarded it to Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza, military commander of arms of Sonora, to send to Romero's heirs.66
On this fall search-and-destroy-or-capture mission, at least the third mounted from Sonora within the year 1788, Captain Echegaray achieved notable results, in part because the simultaneous sweep strategy worked. Fifty-four Apaches were killed, almost half of them warriors, and 125 were captured. Most important, Echegaray admitted 55 Apaches to peace as allies, and they rendered excellent service as guides, enabling the Spaniards to locate the rancherías and to kill and capture large numbers of hostiles.67
By 1788, the viceroy's new Apache policy had begun really to hurt the hostile aborigines, and imperial Spain began to win its long northern border war. Some Apaches de Paz or “Peaceful Apaches” were already congregated at the Opata post at Bacoachic, but the hard-hitting frontier simultaneous search-and-destroy missions of 1788 seem to have been the clinching argument that convinced numerous Apaches on the Sonoran frontier of the advisability of coming into the posts to settle peaceably. The new Apache policy inaugurated in 1786 paid off handsomely for the Spanish colonial empire. Bancroft evaluated it in glowing terms:
The plan seems to have been remarkably successful; at least for twenty years or more there are but slight indications of Apache depredations … in comparison with its condition in earlier and later times, the country in the last decade of the century and the first of the next was at peace. Then it was that the Arizona establishments had their nearest approximation to prosperity, that new churches were built.…68
Not two but three decades of growth and prosperity for the Spanish communities in Arizona have been similarly described by a more modern historian.69 Ranchers founded “princely domains,” prospectors sought minerals, missionaries put Native Americans to work erecting permanent structures, and Spanish settlers “opened up new farmlands.” In conclusion, the final years of Spanish Arizona were “full of hope and peace.”70
The development of the Presidio of Tucson, and its role in the Spanish offensive from 1783 through 1788, offer further evidence of these several decades of Spanish colonial success. The various reports and letters cited in this chapter indicate that this post built its physical structures, then passed from a defensive posture to far-ranging aggressive sweeps that forced Apaches to surrender.
Tucson and the other presidios in the Frontier Provinces effectively solved the “multitudinous” problems of the colonial frontier. Far from being the “real villian” of what some historians have viewed as failure,71 “the Spanish colonial system” achieved striking success. Having labored long and diligently to achieve a resurgence of Spanish power overseas, King Charles III lived long enough to learn of at least the first evidence of his success in terms of settling Apaches at frontier presidios.
The commander of the presidio of San Agustín del Tucson who led the people of this frontier community into the new peaceful era was Captain Josef de Zúñiga. After Captain Romero's death, the viceroy reportedly appointed Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza as commandant of the Tucson post. If so, Anza was commander in name only, for he continued as commandant of arms of Sonora until his death on 19 December 1788 in Arizpe.72
Then Nicolás Soler was appointed commander of the post. He was adjutant inspector of the Peninsula of Lower California when promoted, so Lieutenant Salas Bohorquez evidently ran the post for some time awaiting73 The latter soon died in office, and Zúñiga was promoted to the Tucson command. He was at the time lieutenant and commandant of the presidio of San Diego in Upper California. His commission was signed by the new king on 19 May 1792,74 but Zúñiga did not reach Tucson until 1794 at earliest. He was a veteran frontier officer with wide geographic experience, having been first commissioned ensign at the Presidio del Norte on the Río Grande in 1778, after serving in the Mexican Dragoon Regiment.75
The high attrition rate among junior officers had, meanwhile, brought about further changes among Tucson's subalterns. Having been breveted a lieutenant, Tucson's First Ensign Josef Ignacio Moraga won promotion to his brevet rank on 1 March 1790, in the Fronteras garrison at San Bernardine.76 Soon after came the recommissioning of Juan Phelipe Beldarrain, son of the founding captain of the Tubac presidio and godson of Colonel Juan B. de Anza. Commissioned an ensign at a tender age in Anza's garrison, Beldarrain had been cashiered for misconduct by Commanding Inspector Hugh O'Connor, and served in the ranks of the Tucson garrison for over a decade. He participated bravely in the defense of the Pueblo of Tucson at the bridge during the May Day 1782 attack. Finally, when the son of another post commandant, Pedro María de Allande, was promoted, Beldarrain was recommissioned as second ensign with official date from 11 August 1790.77
Thus, the quarter of a century following the transfer of the Tubac garrison to Tucson witnessed the Sonoran frontier as it changed from a defensive expansion to a genuine strategic offensive against the Western Apache Indians, carried it to notable victory, and began to enjoy peace. The first decade served to establish the Tucson post firmly and securely at the most advanced permanently held point on this sector of the northern perimeter of New Spain between the provinces of New Mexico and Upper California. The five years following 1786 saw the strategic offensive against the Apachean bands reduce those enemy Native Americans to suing for peace, and settling around the Spanish frontier posts under military supervision, sustained by Spanish rations.
The provincial elite families lost large numbers of junior officer members during the drive to defeat the Apaches in their homeland just beyond the colonial frontier. Thus, the frontier military population became a mixed society of Peninsular natives, creoles and friendly Mestizos and Native Americans with even a few mulattos, as the prosperous decades opened on the Sonoran frontier. Conditions fostered upward social mobility, and then economic prosperity.