10. Peacetime Presidio, 1793–1821


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THE APACHE PACIFICATION POLICY initiated in 1786 succeeded so well during the next half-decade that life in the military post at Tucson followed a very different tenor after Apaches settled there in 1793 than it had during the years of the great Apache offensive by New Spain's northern frontier forces. The policies instituted by King Charles III made the reign of his son Charles IV startlingly peaceful on the northern frontier of New Spain, in contrast to his loss of his crown in the aftermath of social revolution that began in France within months of his succession to the Spanish throne after his father's death on 14 December 1788.1


Garrison Life in a Decade of Peace

By the early 1790s, the Royal Presidio of San Agustín del Tucson had increased in strength to nearly 100 men. The Tubac post on its supply line south toward the interior of New Spain had been reactivated with an Indian company. Tucson demand stimulated Gila River Pima commercial wheat production, and nearby mission production climbed. As the Apache pacification policy shifted the balance of frontier military power in favor of the Spaniards, the pioneering pace of military action at Tucson seems to have slowed.

In 1793, the captain of the Tucson post served on detached duty in Monterey, Upper California. Higher officials took advantage of José de Zúñiga's experience in California during the relative lull in Sonora.2 The lieutenant running the Tucson company with two ensigns was Don José Ygnacio Moraga, who had been commended for bravery in Romero's Apache campaign during the summer of 1788 when Moraga was still an ensign. The command again included both a military chaplain and an armorer.

As the presidial forces settled into the life of an old established post, the financial problems and supply difficulties of the pioneering years were solved. The powder magazines contained plenty of powder, and the quartermaster had sufficient grain and other supplies on hand for the entire year.

Still, all was not entirely peaceful and quiet at Tucson. During one month, the second ensign and 24 men went out campaigning and another 30 men guarded the remount herd, leaving 40 men at the presidio. Nine of those men were sick. The ensign taking the field was none other than Don


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Juan Felipe Beldarrain. The company was 6 men short of its authorized strength of 105 at this time.

During this same month, Apaches raided the Tucson area on three consecutive nights. The first night they stole some wheat, the second night some other produce, and the third they took a mare from the Northern Piman Pueblo of Tucson. The next day Lieutenant Moraga took nine men out to track these brigands, but was not able to do so.3

Apparently Moraga's service at Tucson was temporary. When Lieutenant Francisco Salas Bohorquez retired, Mariano Urrea replaced him in the fore part of 1793. A member of the pioneer premier family of Altar, Urrea was promoted from first ensign at San Miguel de Horcasitas.4 Don Juan Franco served as first ensign of the Tucson garrison during the first part of 1794. The king signed his promotion to lieutenant at Santa Cruz on 9 May 1794.5 The officers and sergeants of the Tucson company later in 1794 were Captain José de Zúñiga, Lieutenant Mariano Urrea, First Ensign Juan Felipe Beldarrain, Second Ensign José María Sosa, Sergeant Francisco Usarraga, Sergeant Juan Antonio Oliva (son of the acting commander who moved the post to Tucson), Sergeant José Domingo Granillo, and Cadets José Romero and Bernardo de Urrea.6

In 1795, the Royal Presidio of San Agustín del Tucson became the jumping-off place for exploring a trade route through recently pacified Apachería to the New Mexico Indian pueblo of Zuñi. Captain José de Zúñiga personally led the expedition, which symbolized the complete success of the Gálvez Apache pacification policy instituted only nine years earlier. Zúñiga's command included troops from the presidios of Fronteras, Santa Cruz, Altar, Bacoachi and Tubac as well as Tucson, and incorporated some Apaches as scouts.7 Captain Zúñiga left his own post on 9 April and met the other units in the San Pedro River Valley the following day.8 On 1 May the advance under Ensign Antonio Narbona entered the Pueblo of Zuñi, where the entire command waited six days for messengers to establish communication with provincial officials on the Rio Grande.9 The expedition returned to Tucson on 29 May after a very successful trip.10

By early 1796, 20 years after the Tucson post was founded, if no earlier, its settlers encroached on Native American fields and water rights in the Santa Cruz Valley. A high Franciscan official charged that “because of the nearness of the Presidio to said Pueblo and the plantings the citizens and soldiers make, the water necessary to the Indians becomes scarce. The Indians suffer, moreover, much damage to their plantings from the cattle and horses of the citizens and individuals of said Presidio.” The friar therefore petitioned the commandant general of the Frontier Provinces to order the damage made good and the Indians allowed to use as much water as they needed.11

The ensign who acted as Zúñiga's adjutant for his 1795 expedition, Don Antonio Narbona,12 later wrote one of the reports of Apache settlement at Tucson in 1819 translated in Chapter 9 of this book. By that time Narbona was serving as commandant of arms of Sonora. He played a significant role in Tucson affairs during the intervening years. Narbona transferred to Fronteras in 1793 from Santa Cruz, where he had been a cadet since 7 October


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1786. His royal commission appointed him to a Tucson ensign's post vacated by Juan Felipe Beldarrain when the latter was promoted.13 Yet Narbona served at Fronteras from 27 January 1793,14 not at Tucson.

In September of 1796, Zúñiga had an ensign named Eduardo García and Sergeant Juaquín Berdugo under his command,15 while Sergeant José Domingo Granillo and Ensign Juan Felipe Beldarrain served at Tucson until at least 3 February 1801.16 The latter had also accompanied Zúñiga on his Zuñi expedition. Yet another young ensign, Manuel de Arvizu, who also made that journey,17 was also to direct Tucson's destinies later on.

In 1796, Lieutenant Mariano de Urrea took leave to go to Arizpe to marry Gertrudis Elías González. On 30 September 1797, Chaplain Pedro Arriquibar baptized the oldest son of this union of pioneer Sonoran military families José Cosme. Captain José de Zúñiga became little José's godfather, and Doña Loreta Ortiz his godmother.18 Mariano thereafter spent much time in Arizpe as his company's quartermaster.19

During this period, the 106-man Tucson garrison cost the royal exchequer just over 30,000 pesos annually when at full strength. The captain earned 3,000 pesos, a tenth of the complement's payroll. The lieutenant drew only 700 pesos and ensigns 500 apiece. Post Chaplain Arriquibar received 480 pesos. Enlisted men earned as follows: sergeants 324, corporals 276, armorer 272, carbineers 270, soldiers 240 and the drummer 144 pesos.20

Captain José de Zúñiga commanded the Tucson presidial unit until some time after 1 January 1803, when his name last appears in available post records, noting a promotion for one of his soldiers.21 Later that year, the king commissioned a trooper who had served at Tucson since its garrison moved there. Tucson Sergeant Juan Antonio Oliva, son of the doughty lieutenant who moved the post, became second ensign of the Santa Cruz presidio with an 11 May 1803 commission.22

An officer named Palacio commanded Tucson from some time before 1 April 1805 to after 12 August 1805. In September 1806, José Romero served at first ensign when he received permission from the Frontier Province commandant general to marry Doña María del Carmen Rodriguez of Arizpe.23

Before 10 September 1807, Antonio Narbona took command. He had risen swiftly in rank since the 1795 Zuñi expedition. He held the command until after 18 July 1812. On that date, he promoted to sergeant's rank one José María Gonzales, a Tubac native who had enlisted in the Tucson outfit in 1796 at the age of 19.24 Later, Narbona became captain of Fronteras Presidio. He frequently visited Tucson as acting commandant in alternation with Manuel de León. This officer transferred to Tucson from the Tubac unit and then furnished command continuity for 20 years.25


Murder at the Mission

The alternation between Narbona and León can be followed through documents concerning a murder at San Xavier Mission. The crime was committed 6 July 1813, when Narbona was interim commander. He had the suspected murderer arrested and jailed. Taken out for exercise on 12 July, the


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prisoner slipped out of his irons, struck his guard, and went over the wall. The post was in a bustle of preparation for a campaign against the Apaches at the time. Perhaps this explains Narbona's presence, inasmuch as troops from other posts assembled at Tucson for the foray. Lieutenant Ygnacio Sotelo, commander of the Tubac company, accidentally apprehended the escaped prisoner when the officer encountered him trying to steal a horse on the road between the two posts. The Tubac troop did not reach Tucson before night-fall, and while it was camped, the prisoner regained his freedom.

Reversing his tactics, the accused man sneaked back into the Tucson post and took sanctuary in the military chapel. When this became known, the authorities formed a ring around the church with armed sentries to prevent the suspect's fleeing farther. The time pressure of the impending campaign prevented their maintaining this blockade very long, so they arranged to have Chaplain Pedro de Arriquibar deliver the fugitive into arrest outside the sanctified limits.

By that time it was 20 August, the second day of the annual festivities for Tucson's patron Saint Augustine. The clash between fugitive and the army interferred with the celebration. Manuel de León acted as military post commandant.26 He issued a writ to the chaplain demanding the fugitive. At four in the afternoon, Chaplain Arriquibar with all solemnity delivered the suspect to a detachment of soldiers commanded by a sergeant.27


Variable Command

In the fall of 1813, the Presidio of Tucson again came under the command of a lieutenant colonel. Manuel de León turned over responsibility to Manuel Ygnacio de Arvizu as interim commander on 19 October.28 Lieutenant Colonel Arvizu did not stay long on that tour of duty at Tucson, probably only until the end of the year. The last available record of him dates from 27 November.29 It was Narbona's turn again from sometime before 22 April 1814 to some time later than 6 May of that year.30

Manuel de León acted as commander again on 29 January 1815, and he had assisting him as a witness to legal documents a young man who was to become an important figure in Mexican and early American Tucson, Teodoro Ramírez, a godson of the post chaplain.31 Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Y. de Arvizu returned to Tucson in 1816 and commanded the post into at least 1818.32 In contrast, a mere ensign was acting commander of the post late in February of 1819. This was Juan Alexo Carrillo, whose report on the Apache settlement under Chief Chilitipagé was translated in Chapter 9 of this book. Carrillo joined the Tucson garrison only on 1 February 1817, on orders of the provincial commander issued a month earlier. He had been promoted from sergeant to ensign of the Bacoachi Opata Indian unit.33 By late May of 1819, Lieutenant José Romero commanded Tucson, as his report on the same affair shows. He still acted as commandant in mid-September of 1820, although his own post was commander of the Opata Indian Company at Bacoachi.34

Thus, it is clear that the command situation at Tucson remained highly variable for 15 years. The senior officer on the post ranged from a lieutenant


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colonel to an ensign. This situation differed markedly from the previous one since the founding of the post to the end of the great Apache offensive. Evidently it reflected changed frontier military conditions following the general pacification of the Western Apaches. The frequency with which higher ranking officers took over command of Tucson on an interim basis suggests some centralization of frontier command that made the post commandant's job less important than it had been when Tucson was the isolated northernmost outpost of Spanish colonial power in Sonora. On the other hand, the frequent devolvement of command on Lieutenant León and even upon ensigns indicates that Tucson played a diminished role in frontier military affairs once the Apache threat terminated.


Early 19th Century Garrison

During the period immediately following King Charles III's promulgation of the New Regulations for frontier posts, field grade officers inspected the garrisons annually. After military success reduced the Apache menace, presidial garrison commanders apparently had to begin making monthly company reports. A set of such reports from the beginning of 1817 indicates the range of duties of officers and men in the Tucson unit. The list and summary of the 1817 review appears as Table 10 in the Appendix.

As in earlier years, only a small fraction of the presidial force actually lived on-post at any given time. Over one-quarter of the garrison guarded the remount herd of this cavalry unit. A sergeant, a corporal and a carbineer led twenty-two soldiers assigned to that duty. One corporal and eight men conducted the pack trains that brought food and other supplies to the post. One carbineer and seven soldiers served as guards. They probably were stationed at San Xavier del Bac Mission and its Piman Tucson branch. Three men cared for the king's cattle, and two for ordinance.

Several individuals were on detached duty elsewhere. One officer served in the Kingdom of Nueva Vizcaya. A cadet, a carbineer and one soldier enjoyed life in Arizpe, the provincial headquarters. One soldier was in Bacoachi with the Opata company, and a sergeant in Tubac with its Pima Indian company. A sergeant, a corporal, a carbineer and eleven soldiers served on the Coast, perhaps on the Seri Indian frontier, although this assignment is not self-evident from the terse company report language. This left only fourteen soldiers, one carbineer and one corporal present for duty on the post, with one sergeant, one carbineer and seven soldiers sick, and two men in the hospital.

With approximately 100 men under arms in the Tucson presidial garrison, that unit's strength fluctuated from month to month regardless of lack of military action. A soldier named Joaquín Berdugo died, for example, during December of 1816.35 The previous month, Hilario Andrada deserted, but because he served with the group “on the Coast,” his commander did not learn of the event until after he made out his January monthly report. Consequently, Lieutenant Colonel Arvizu noted the loss of manpower in his February report. At that time, he also recorded the enlistment of two new recruits. Nineteen-year-old Ysidro Gallegos was born in Tucson, son of Juan


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Gallegos and María Burruel. Manuel Chavez, the other recruit, came from Albuquerque.36 Gallegos' enlistment indicated the biological success of Spanish and Mestizo settlement at Tucson, showing that this population was already able to supply part of the manpower required to maintain the military garrison.

One soldier, José León, was discharged during February. At the beginning of that month, the Tucson company received a new second ensign to fill its vacancy. New Year's promotions of Francisco Romero from carbineer to corporal, and Gerónimo Herran from soldier to carbineer went into effect in time for the March company report.37 Because these men held the special status of “distinguished” individuals, their surnames suggest that they were relatives of officers in the Tubac and Tucson garrisons at an earlier time serving their apprenticeships for winning commissions. The officer listed as first ensign in 1817,38 José María Elías Gonzáles, for example, was a member of the frontier military lineage founded by Francisco Elías Gonzáles de Zayas. Born in Arizpe on 2 February 1793, the son of Simón,39 he enlisted as a cadet in Nueva Vizcaya late in 1809. By 1812 he became an ensign. In September of 1817, José María was promoted to lieutenant at San Buenaventura. During the revolution, he won his captaincy in 1821, becoming a lieutenant colonel the next year in Durango. Returning to Sonora in 1827, he held both military posts and elected office, ascending to colonel in 1835.

In 1840, José María became military commandant of the El Paso District, only to return to Sonora the following year. Elected to the national congress in 1842, Elías resumed military command in Sonora in 1843 and invaded Chihuahua in 1844, assuming command of that province. Deposed by a coup d'état in 1846, Elías nonetheless received command of the relief column sent to Tucson after the U.S. Mormon Battalion under Philip St. George Cooke passed in December. He commanded the garrison for some time, perhaps occasionally remembering the short period of his youth spent there as a lowly ensign. He became inspector of the new “military colonies” on the frontier on 2 September 1848.

Elias retired from the army on 14 March 1851, yet he commanded Sonoran forces in 1854 and in 1857. Moreover, this active elder citizen offered his services to fight the French in 1862 when he was 69 years old!40 A kinship diagram of his illustrious family appears as Chart 1, Appendix.

Although never to achieve distinction like their First Ensign Elías, several of the Tucson troopers in 1817 were also career soldiers. The viceregal court on 1 July 1817 recognized the rewards earned by five Tucson enlisted men for lengthy enlistments. Corporal Vicente Rodriguez had served five terms. Marcos Castro and Gregorio Egurrola each served four, while Juan Bautista Romero and Andrés Ramíez, Manuel Orosco, Francisco Figueroa, Juan José Martín and Francisco Pacheco each had served three terms.41


Ethnic Stratification

Despite the social mobility some soldiers achieved through serving in the Tucson military garrison, the population of this frontier post remained socially stratified along ethnic lines. The military mission of Tucson as a


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Spanish settlement perpetuated there, even more than in central New Spain, the social and economic supremacy of military officers of noble antecedents and the clergy. Frontier Tucson reflected that Peninsular alliance between church and military nobility which had paralyzed any development of a Spanish middle class during imperial times.42

As the northwesternmost outpost of Spanish empire, Tucson attracted none of the doctors, lawyers, barbers, factory workers, notaries public, merchants and artisans who constituted a small urban middle class in the capital and other large cities of New Spain at the end of the imperial era. Being a military post, Tucson did not even require civilian bureaucratic employees, who also formed the emerging middle class in administrative cities.43 What is not clear is whether Tucson's retail merchandising that decades later distinguished its Spanish-speaking leadership from that in other southwestern U.S. cities had already emerged before the end of the colonial period.

On the other hand, Tucson's frontier location prohibited it from ignoring the aboriginal population as urban New Spain tended to do during the 18th century.44 Its mission continued to be frontier defense against tribal assaults, carried out in symbiotic relationship to the indigenous community of Tucson and Northern Piman missions in the Santa Cruz River Valley. Thus, Native Americans were never absent from the conscience and consciousness of the Tucson dominant ethnic minority, as their cousins to the south were from the conscience of New Spain's urban elites.

Up: Contents Previous: 9. Peace With the Western Apaches, 1793–1821 Next: 11. Religion at the Royal Fort of San Agustín del Tucson, 1779–1821.




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