LONG BEFORE THE BLUE DRAGOONS: Spanish
Military Operation's in
Northern Sonora and Pimeria Alta
General William Tecumseh Sherman praised General George Crook as the greatest Indian fighter the Army of the United States had ever had. Crook's biographer, Lieutenant John Gregory Bourke, immortalized him by describing the border campaigns in which Crook brought the Apaches to terms. According to Bourke, this was a feat that even 4,000 Royal Dragoons of the King of Spain had failed to accomplish. With limited manpower and consummate skill Crook achieved a pacification that had eluded both Spaniard and Mexican. Although Bourke knew something of the military history of the Southwest, his purpose was not to write a regional summary, but to record a life. The story of the Spanish soldier on the frontier has yet to be written.
In reality Crook's Apache enemy was but a sharply honed remnant of a vast array of Indian nations that had fought through centuries for simple survival. The Blue Dragoons in the cavalry of the Army of the United States were elaborately equipped and lavishly supplied when compared to the ragged, impoverished frontier militia of New Spain. The saga of the Spanish dragoons bears recounting because it is replete with courage, frustration, bravery, ingenuity, cruelty, mercy, treachery, loyalty, patriotism and perseverance. It is the story of invasion, conquest, insurgence, victory and defeat. It is the clash of Stone Age and Iron Age.
Nearly three centuries before Crook's campaigns, the Spaniards had penetrated north of the Apacheria; Juan de Onate led his colonizing expedition across the Rio Grande del Norte early in May, 1598. It would be four score years before the Pueblo nations of the New Mexico Territory would expel the Spaniards and rally the nomadic tribes to continual harrassment and warfare against Spanish settlements and Christian Indian rancherias. Military operations along the fronteras de la Provincia de Sonora grew out of the need to protect valuable silver shipments from Nacosari and San Juan Bautista. Spanish farms in mountain highlands and desert river valleys were ruinously exposed to frequent raids by Indians from all directions. Only the presence of royal troops could secure the roads and guarantee some measure of peace to the outposts of empire. A line of presidios stretching from Durango to Parral seemed like the answer in the 1670's.
Military strategists may have a definition for a frontier, but the Spanish politicians and academicians had no idea of the vastness of the region they protected only nominally. Although the borders of Nueva Vizcaya touched the southern limits of Nueva Mexico, the whole region was genuinely a frontier. Spanish mines dotted the Sierra Madre Occidental from Durango to Parral; the intervening land was a mixture of missions, cattle ranching, and desolation. In no way was there a settled pattern to life or land use. The Spaniard was indeed an invader, an interloper, an exploiter with a strange and distasteful culture. The Indian peoples who lived frugally from the land were forced to extract minerals from the earth while the Spaniard lived gracefully in his new home. The Indian was uncertain about the reason he had to forego his former life, of hunting and faming to dig the earth for the Spaniard. Soon the thin life lines of transport through the frontier were open to attack and the King was warned to protect the Royal Roads lest he lose his fifth of silver and the colonists, their lives. And so it was done. From Mexico City to the silver cities of Potosi and Zacatecas soldiers were stationed to guard the carts.
When silver was discovered in Guadiana (Durango) and later at Santa Barbara and Parral, the northern frontier then encompassed nearly one-third of all New Spain. Despite Lt. Bourke's remark about the King of Spain sending 4,000 dragoons against the Apache, there were never so many men massed to protect the frontier. In the 1670's Nueva Vizcaya boasted all of 75 soldiers. To the West along the coastal plain the major instruments of pacification were the Jesuit missions. Until the arrival of the militaristic Bourbon strategists in the mid-eighteenth century, the lone presidio of the Province of Sinaloa protected the entire coastal flank of New Spain--unreal, but true.
Because wars are not fought by rabbits, the early decades of the seventeenth century were peaceful along the despoblado of the central plateau. Sporadic military encounters were limited to a few squads of soldiers and militia. The real military operations were undertaken in mountain fastnesses among the Tepehuan and Tarahumara who resisted miners and missionaries alike. The first true test of Spanish power in the vastness of the northern frontiers came in November, 1616, when the Tepehuan rose up in obedience to their hechicero leaders. Depending on the private revelations of the medicine-men, the Tepehuan expected a permanent expulsion of the Spanish intruders. Before the Spaniards could flee or defend themselves ten missionaries and 200 civilians were killed. The rebellion raged for two years until Spanish re-enforcements pressed from all directions, bringing the Indians to submission. Both Indian and Spaniard learned lessons. The Indian knew he could win against the horse-soldiers; the Spaniard knew he needed stronger garrisons.
The western flank of Sinaloa had been expanded and protected by the remarkably successful Captain Diego Martinez de Hurdiade. His courage and prowess opened the lands of southern Sonora to missionary expansion. His successors brought the King's arms into unknown regions and in 1634 Captain Pedro de Perea laid claim to a new province to be called Nueva Andalusia; he wanted to be the new Adelantado of Sonora, but death took him in 1645 after he enticed several families to colonize the Sonoran frontier from Parral. These new, scattered families lived among relatively peaceful Indians --the Nebomes, Jovas, Opatas, and Pimas Altos. But their position was both temporary and precarious because they lived far beyond the range of Spanish military assistance. The whole frontier, in fact, was changing and Spanish settlements were scattered over thousands of square miles without prospect of outside protection.
The problems began in 1671. The long drought of the 70's had set in. Some Seris and Guaymas Indians under Chief Siona wandered into the Nebome mission of Padre Cornelius Gillert. They demanded food, but the missionary ordered his own Indians to arms against the ungrateful heathens. The several Seris were killed and a small war was at hand. Gillert appealed to the Alcalde Mayor of San Juan Bautista for help. Unfortunately Pedro Alvarez Castrillon had gone and the successor to his office, Diego Lopez del Dicastillo, refused assistance because he claimed the mission was beyond his jurisdiction. Consequently Gillert sought help from the Presidio of Sinaloa which was under the command of Captain Antonio de Otermin, soon to become the tragic governor of Nueva Mexico. On June 17, Captain Andre's de Buelna with 15 presidial soldiers and several militia opened an albazo on the Seris whom they found near the missions. The early dawn attack succeeded in killing 60 and taking 20 prisoners. A second attack was launched in which 40 more were killed and 23 taken prisoner; but Buelna and four companions were cut down in the fighting.
This encounter was not significant for being unique because now and then presidio forces held skirmishes with marauding Indians. The fact that the missionaries had to appeal to Sinaloa for protection instead of San Juan Bautista indicated the confused state of affairs. All across the frontier Indians were on the move against Spanish settlements because the drought was forcing them to find food and sustenance beyond their traditional homes. Even the Camino Real down which the treasures of Parral went to Durango and Mexico City was experiencing an occasional raid. The frontier was revealing itself as a sieve for security.
The weakest flower on the budding frontier was toppled on August 10, 1680, when the Pueblo Indians successfully attacked Santa Fe, Nueva Mexico. Although Southwestern historians have dealt with the Pueblo Revolt as a major episode in Mexican history, there is reason to consider it only as a part of a wider series of rebellions. For some it has been labeled as the Great Southwestern Revolt, but there have been many other rebellions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that would call this description into question. What the revolt did accomplish was to alert the Viceroyalty and the Spanish King to the pitifully weak position they held in New Spain.
The revolt in Nueva Mexico jostled Nueva Vizcaya into action. The Sargente Mayor of Sonora, Juan Bautista de Escorza, received word of the revolt on September 15. He organized his force of ten soldiers who were on detached duty from the Presidio of Sinaloa and marched to Senecu in seven days. The Alcalde Mayor of the Sinaloa garrison, Admiral Don Isirdo Atondo y Antillon refused to move from Nio where he was building boats for his California expedition. Spain's response was pathetic. Hundreds were killed and dispossessed, but only tiny squads could be mustered for defense.
In Sonora the fear of open rebellion was rampant. Indians were held in great suspicion. On July 2, 1681, an hispanisized Indian named Xavier reported to the Alcalde Mayor Lazaro Verdugo that Indians were gathering at Chinapa just south of the Bacanuche Valley. The Pimas Altos and Opatas were plotting to join with the Apache to overthrow the Spaniards as the Pueblo had done. Verdugo lost no time. He ordered the ringleaders at Chinapa and Bacoachi to be seized. He dispatched Captain Pedro de Peralta from Nacosari with ten men to arrest the governor, alcaldes and topile of Cuquiarachi. Leaving San Juan Bautista himself at eight o'clock in the evening, he made a forced march to Chinapa where the ringleaders were taken from their jacals at four the next morning. Peralta failed in his mission because the Indians eluded capture. Finally on July 14 Verdugo sent Juan Bautista de Escorza with 18 men to capture the fugitives. The Indians were finally caught at Bacadeguachi and two were killed. While Escorza chased these rebels, Verdugo vigorously moved against Baserac, Guachinera and Teuricachi. On July 28 Verdugo and Escorza joined forces; they were met on the trail by-Francisco Xavier Cuervo de Valdez who was being sent to Sonora as the new Alcalde Mayor. Cuervo acquiesced with Verdugo's campaign and on August 6, 1681, several leaders were executed despite the pleas of the missionaries. All the weapons at Bacadeguachi were burned and the Alcalde Mayor prohibited the use of the bow and arrow for one year.
These events appear routine in one sense. But they reveal the intense reaction of the Spaniards in a manifestly panicky situation. The forces of the northern frontier were simply inadequate for protection. For the next three years the Spaniards of Sonora lived in mortal fear of the extensive Pima nation to the northwest. Rumors were constant about new alliances and possible raids.
Then it happened; not exactly what the Sonorans anticipated, but it was the beginning of constant warfare. The quiet, isolated Franciscan mission of Nuestra Senora de Soledad near Carretas was attacked by Sumas and Janos. Fray Manuel Beltran, OFM, and Captain Antonio de Albizu together with a mestizo servant were killed. Six women and two or three boys were taken prisoner. The raid occurred in the dark morning hours of May 6, 1684.
News of the attack traveled slowly because Captain Francisco Ramirez de Salazar, the Alcalde Mayor of Casas Grandes, did not hear of it until May 11. In the meanwhile the Sumas and Janos attacked Carretas May 9 and Fray Antonio de Aguilar fled to the Jesuit mission at Baserac seeking help from Father Juan Antonio Estrella. Word of the destruction was sent on to Francisco Cuervo at San Juan on May 13. Panic seized the Sonoran frontier. Cuervo issued the call to arms throughout the Province.
In two days thirty-six men.answered the call at San Juan Bautista. On May 16 twelve more were mustered in at Teuricachi; the same day forty-two responded at Nacosari. On the next day nineteen joined the forces from Tepachi. And before the week was out eleven from Nacatobari, sixty-two from Bacanuchi, and thirty-six from San Miguel answered muster.
Cuervo assessed his frontier army. He had 218 men under arms. They were all carrying arquebuses with a variety of pistols, sabres, short-swords, breast-plates, shields, and even a few suits of armor. Twelve of the men had fully armored horses. The Lieutenant of San Juan Bautista, Pasqual Volado, prohibited the use of the escopeta, fearing that more friends than enemies would be killed if discharged.
Captain Juan Fernandez de la Fuente was ordered to Carretas with nineteen men who left Nacosari on foot May 17. Three days later they had only reached Guachiera and Fernandez appealed to Cuervo for horses and two or three suits of armor. Cuervo responded by assigning him fifty mounts from the herd of Salvador Moreno. For good measure he dispatched fifty Opata auxiliaries from surrounding pueblos. While the Spaniards geared for war, Opata scouts reconnoitered the burned hulk of Carretas. No enemy were in sight. When Fernandez arrived with his well armed complement, the town was still smouldering. Bodies of the victims strewn about town were buried. Fernandez de la Fuente gathered up rags and tatters from the victims and made a banner that would be carried in the campaign in memory of the slaughter at Carretas. The force of Fuente was awesome and cumbersome. He rode at the head of twenty-seven armed and armored men. Each carried an arquebus, shield, short-barreled fire arms, and a sword or scimitar. The records hasten to justify the use of the scimitar that was considered an immoral weapon unless used in avenging a particular brutality. With Fuente came seventy-six Opata warriors.
It was June 3 when the combined forces from Casas Grandes and the Province of Sonora rendezvoused at the Place of the Conversion about two leagues from Soledad. News had come that the enemy were settled in the Penol del Diablo. Under the command of maestro del campo Alonso Garcia with 12 men and 28 Sonoran militia under Fuente, the Spaniards attacked some 2,000 Sumas, Janos, and Apaches. The battle lasted six hours. The Spaniards finally retreated in two groups, having lost one Spaniard and nine Indian auxiliaries. The horses were badly wounded. On June 10 Fuente met Cuervo at Oputo where they decided to release the Indian auxiliaries so they could return home to plant the summer crops. Fuente and Cuervo then visited several Indian towns to give alms to the widows of the men who had fallen in the fighting.
The result of the 1684 encounter was significant because it precipitated the Spaniards on the frontier to seek military aid from the Viceroy. The Alcalde Mayor of San Juan ordered a daily patrol of six armed men to guard the area of Bavispe because the Jocomes knew well how to penetrate this area. The twelve-man contingent was under the command of Juan Vaca. The Jesuit missionaries under the leadership of Padre Antonio Leal were preparing for the possible abandonment of the missions. Finally Alcalde Mayor Cuervo convened a general junta for the defense of the province at San Juan Bautista on June 29. The immediate strategy was to protect Sonora's open flank by increasing the Guachinera Patrol to twenty-two men. Already the Suma had cut the road to Parral and Conchos were arriving daily in the Sonoran towns seeking refuge--but in reality they were infiltrating for a general attack.
At this time the attitudes of Indian fighting on the part of different Spanish soldiers comes to light. Cuervo was set on a serious, offensive campaign. He was supported by Juan Fernandez de la Fuente who always harbored great schemes for a combined.army. Fuente urged the conscription of large numbers to form a buen cuerpo militar. He was willing to take vecinos [residents], mulatos, negros, mestizos [mixed Indian and Spanish races], and every sort of person who was normally proscribed from carrying arms. As a reward for their participation in the campaign he wanted to grant these people the perpetual right to carry arms. Down at the Real of San Miguel the Spaniards raised up a company of 200 Yaquis, well paid, equipped and treated.
By August all was in readiness for a major campaign. Cuervo gave the battle cry at San Juan Bautista and by August 15th, four companies of men were ready to ride under the commands of Perdo Garcioa Almazin, Francisco Pacheco, Andres Rezabel, and Cristobal de Leon. In six days they joined forces with Captain Francisco Ramirez de Salazar at Alamo Hueco. But there was no enemy to be found! From the area of the Penol del Diablo the combined forces moved downriver toward Janos and beyond; Cuervo's column rode down one bank, Salazar's on the other. They rode for nine days. On August 30 the force was only 15 leagues from El Paso del Norte and Cuervo had to return to relinquish his position as Alcalde Mayor. It was futile.
The Sonoran frontier was having its problems, but the general military situation throughout Nueva Vizcaya was more than precarious. Governor Joseph Niera y Quiroga wrote the Viceroy, Conde de Paredes that he needed at least 4,000 pesos to wage a defensive war to protect the province. He had only thirty men to cover the main routes of Indian rebels at Parral and Cuencame. His soldiers were earning only 450 pesos annually and they had to pay for Indian scouts, spies, and field campaigns. Although the government might talk of presidio protection, the garrison of Santa Catarina at Papsquiaro had dwindled to nine soldiers and one Captain; San Hipolito only eight and a Captain. The other presidios were not under his control and they had the most men and money. Sinaloa in 1684 had 43 soldiers and one cavo; San Sebastian, 6 soldiers and one captain; and Cerrogordo, twenty-three soldiers and I captain. Niera wanted to know how anyone expected 15 them to maintain peace and protect transport of silver and supplies?
Only the year before a wagon train had been attacked on the cart road between Gallo and Cerrogordo. Nine of eighteen carts were taken, 300 mules were driven off and four persons left dead. Another beleaguered train was attacked outside Parral in which 250 livestock were run off and several persons wounded. Just after Governor Niera reached Parral in 1684, the pack train that was bringing supplies to the military store of Captain Juan Fernandez de Retana was decimated. Niera ordered all the vecinos of Parral to arms within fifteen days. They were equipped with arquebuses, powder, balls and pack horses. This was done under penalty of 100 pesos.
While Niera pondered his problems at Parral, news of the Sonoran troubles reached the mountain capital. So the Governor addressed the King on July 15. New presidios were absolutely essential. It took only a short while for the King to respond because a royal cedula of June 16, 1685, ordered the establishment of two presidios at Cuencame and Gallo; these key places along the cart road to Durango each received fifty soldiers (plazas) and a Captain. The town of Casas Grandes, was ordered to have a garrison of twenty-five men on December 22, 1685. This garrison was to aid in securing the road to Sonora. Apparently the Casas Grandes presidio was an action of the Viceroy and Governor because Royal approval for the twenty-five men was not received until February 7, 1686.
The situation on the frontier did not change much in the decade of the 1680's. In August 1687, Juan Isido de Pardinvas Villar de Franco assumed the governorship of Nueva Vizcaya from Niera. He reported to the King that he was pleased with the territory because of its minerals and agricultural potential. But the province was slowly being depopulated due to marauding Indians. In fact, he admitted to the king that since his arrival at Parral he had never laid his guns down. Pardinas had his own ideas about Spanish soldiery because he did not see the need to amass large forces. A Spanish soldier properly equipped could cope with the enemy. He had seen ten to twelve soldiers holding off 1,000 Indians! While this may appear as a statement of Spanish bravado, it was often true that they fought against overwhelming odds. The fault of the Spaniard was less his exaggeration than his miscalculation that stalemate is victory.
Pardinas was hardly in office when a general uprising was threatened in the Pimeria Alta. The officer in charge of the Sinaloa detachment in Sonora descended on the village of Mototicachi, near Arispe, and massacred fifty Pimas and took all the women and children away as prisoners. This savage act incensed both the Spaniards and the Pimas. Nicolas de Higuerra, the responsible officer, was sentenced to death, but fled before the punishment could be inflicted. Knowing the Indian penchant for vengeance, the Spanish towns prepared for action. It was the season for combat anyhow, so the Alcalde Mayor of Sonora armed seventy vecinos and called on Captain Juan Ferndndez de la Fuente to come from his post at Janos. Together the forces engaged the Janos, Jocomes, and Sumas who were attempting to take advantage of the Pima rebellion. The Governor explained to the Viceroy that much more help was needed, but all the garrisons were so far apart that units had to be called in over distances of 150 and more leagues (350 miles). What was needed, quite obviously, was another presidio in the immediate vicinity.
A year later Don Lope de Sierra Osorio wrote an informe to the Viceroy lamenting the decline in security all across the frontier. The hills were wide open and the Indians were total masters of the terrain. They knew that all they had to do was cut the line of supply and the Spanish colonies would be ruined. Sierra Osorio reminded the Viceroy that Parral's population had declined to a mere 100 and that no town between there and Durango could boast of more than 50 people, while most only had 20 or 30 people at most. When Pardinas became Governor, 17 reales in the province were deserted and countless haciendas and rancherias had been abandoned because of frequent Indian raids. It was a trend that had to be reversed or one day the rebels would reach Mexico City.
The clamor and concern on the frontier began to take effect. The Alcalde Mayor of San Juan, Blas del Castillo, informed his superiors that the vecinos would no longer volunteer to protect the area. They had become full-time soldiers without pay. The patrols had become ineffective and irregular. Unless 30 men well armed and supplied and in the King's pay were made available there was simply no hope for the province. If the King did not concede a presidio, the province would be lost like New Mexico. Pardinas agreed with Castillo when he wrote the Viceroy from Cariochic during the early days of the Tarahumara uprising. To him it seemed that every rock produced an enemy. Finally, on October 23, 1690, the Viceroy, Conde de Galve, conceded a presidio in response to Pardinas', informe of May 31. It was to be erected in the most suitable place.
Everyone was ecstatic. At last the dragoons of Spain would come to maintain peace on the frontier. Pardinas called for opinions from all the experienced Indian fighters and leaders in the north. Fernandez de la Fuente recommended Guachinera; it was close to his garrison at Janos. Don Luis de Valdez opted for Cuchuta which was closer to his haciendas. Blas del Castillo and several vecinos of the Sonora Valley chose Bacanuche -after all that was closer to their interests. The only truly disinterested opinion came from Captain Francisco del Castillo Betancur who recommended the Valley of Caballona which was strategically placed to block invasion routes and respond to any contingency. Strangely enough, Betancur's recommendation went unheeded, but fifteen years later when the presidio was finally located, it was not far away because it was built at Corodeguachi.
The parecer [view] of Captain Francisco Ramfrez de Salazar was really the most effective one. He wrote the Viceroy recommending that the new presidio have no place. It should be, in Ramirez's mind, a "flying company" that was continually on the move. The concept of a static garrison on the frontier was erroneous because the soldiers had to respond to attacks almost everywhere at once. Nor was Ramirez alone in this growing opinion. Others felt it would be foolish to build a new presidio at great cost only to have to assign a third of the complement to the fort to protect the buildings and herds. Everyone was in agreement that a roving troop would accomplish most. Even Fuente was in complete accord; he could see the possibility of his being able to call on these soldiers to increase his command. With the reconquest of the New Mexico Territory now in the preparatory stages under Diego de Vargas, Fuente was pushing his preference to unify all commands and wage a massive war of fuego y sangre [fire and blood] on all the Suma, Janos, Jocomes, and Apaches.
On July 18, 1691, the Viceroy Conde de Galve established by decree the Compania Volante for the fronteras de Sonora. He granted salaries for thirty men and a captain. And he named Francisco Ramirez de Salazar captain of that presidio to serve with the same pay as any other captain, 600 pesos annually. In the same letter he scored Fuente for his overbearing insistence on the unification of forces and his lack of cooperation in protecting other parts of the frontier. The Viceroy recommended that Fuentes tend to his job -at which Fuente happened to be one of the best.
Ramirez was one of the greatest of all frontier soldiers New Spain had known. In 1690 he had already completed fifty-eight years in the King's service. When the Pimeria Alta was tottering on the brink of rebellion, he was quick to rove the frontier in a show of Spanish might and remain a step ahead of any possible attack. When Governor Pardinas received notice of the formation of the Flying Company, he rode after Ramirez de Salazar, joining him in a search for Apache enclaves. They were north of Teuricachi and had found no trace of the enemy. Luckily the Captain of the Sinaloa squadron arrived with his contingent, several Indian allies, and thirty loads of supplies. At a junta de guerra they all agreed that a deeper reconnaissance was in order and the Spanish dragoons rode deep into Apache country until they reached the Gila. An Apache prisoner told them the river flowed west into the land of the Sobaipuri. If it had not been for a driving snowstorm and the biting cold, the expedition would have moved on to take the offensive against the Apache. But as it was, Pardinas, Ramirez and the Sinaloan Captain returned to their base some 100 leagues south.
In March, 1692, Captain Ramirez de Salazar continued his Piman reconnaissance. He visited the walled town of Quiburi and determined that the Sobapuris were truly at peace. Returning via the Pimeria Alta, he visited several Jesuit missions and discussed the new situation with Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino at Dolores. All seemed well in hand as he returned to Parral and left for Mexico City to firm up the details on the new Flying Company for Sonora with the Viceroy himself.
In Mexico City it became obvious that the Flying Company was not a simple gesture of increased military support. It had become a military compromise. During the past decade the flurry of letters deluging the military commander of New Spain had created such confusion that no one seemed to know whether to expand or contract any or all presidios. The Viceroy had decided to cut down the number of men in the more interior garrisons and assign them to the new Flying Company of the frontier. This would solve many problems of finance. Gallant, hardy Ramirez was to ride back through Nueva Vizcaya and enlist his men from the presidios who were losing a certain specified number of men. Apaches couldn't bring him down, but bureaucracy did, for Captain Francisco Ramirez de Salazar only reached Zacatecas on the return journey when he died, leaving the Flying Company without place or pilot.
When news reached Mexico City of Ramirez's timely but unexpected death, the Viceroy took immediate advantage of the King's recent cedula praising Don Domingo Jironza Petris de Cruzate. He was named commander of the Flying Company on the spot. The Viceroy was off the hook and Jironza was back on the frontier to fight the same enemy on a new flank. Fuente scoffed at the prospects of the Flying Company. It was a paper army because it merely transferred title to a few men already on the frontier. The detachment from Sinaloa was to be increased to 20 men and 5 each were to be taken from Cuencame and Gallo where the Viceroy felt there was less need for the fifty men assigned. This actually increased the fighting force on the frontier by only five or ten men. Cruzat later complained to the Viceroy that he needed at least fifty men, if not seventy. And so the issue see-sawed between Sonora and Mexico City.
The decade of the 1690's was occupied by the Tarahumara rebellion. Units from all the presidios were engaged for long years in bringing the rebellious Indians to peace. All the great Indian fighters at one time or another were sent into the deep canyons and high mountains. Fuente, Rezabel Cruzate, and Retana each had his day in the hills. The major contention was whether to wage an offensive or defensive war. Captain Juan Fernandez Retana on detached assignment from San Francisco de los Conchos followed the orders of Governor Gabriel del Castillo in Parral and punished several rebellious ringleaders by executing them. Retana's action merely angered the rebellious tribes all the more, and Retana himself was accused of excessive cruelty. He was stripped of his command by the King and ordered out of the frontier in 1702. But the Viceroy intervened and laid the blame on the recently deceased Governor Castillo so the cedula was suspended. Retana was formally exonerated in 1704 by King Philip V.
At the beginning of the Tarahumara rebellion the Captain and Governor of the Presidio of Sinaloa, Manuel Agrament y Arce died in office. The Viceroy, the Conde del Galve, at the unanimous insistence of the frontier community appointed Captain Andres de Rezabel in his place. Rezabel was an unattached bachelor without lands or mines; he was the wholly dedicated Indian fighter. But no sooner did Rezabel take office than the Audiencia of Guadalajara intervened because one Don Jacinto de Fuensaldana paid 4,000 pesos for the privilege of being named to that command! While Rezaebel fought in the mountains, Fuensaldana fought in the courts for his post. Rezabel won out because he proved himself the indispensable leader needed. Fuensaldana was given command of Sonora's Flying Company. And in the fine tradition of the Sonoran military, Don Jacinto immediately put the men of his command into his own personal service.
He took command in 1701, just at the time Jironza had ordered some of the Flying Company to accompany Padre Kino and Salvatierra on a California expedition. By 1704 strong complaints were being registered in Mexico City that Fuensaldana never mounted one campaign against the Apache, Suma, Jocomes or anyone else. Whether the accusation was true or not is immaterial; Fuente was holding the frontier from his position at Janos and he received some help from Fuensaldana's contingent. After Fuensaldana was removed as Captain of the frontier guard, his nephew Captain Gregory Alvarez Tunon y Quiroz assumed command. This lad had plenty of frontier experience going back to the days when his uncle rode with Don Domingo Teran de los Rios who dominated the garrison at the Real de Guadalupe and Los Frailes. Tera'n learned early how to employ soldiers in private interests; so too did Tunon y Quiroz. Now the young Alvarez followed in their footsteps and resurrected the comment from the vecinos that they would just as soon suffer at the hands of the Apachos.
This embroiled, inefficient, and intolerable situation appeared just that way to the officials in Mexico. The expense was staggering and the results were non-existent. A thorough reform was in order, not only in Sonora but throughout all the frontier provinces.
The situation has reached such proportions by 1722 that when the new Viceroy the Marques de Casafuerte arrived, the outgoing Viceroy lamented corruption throughout the presidial system. Consequently Casafuerte recommended a reform to the King which he ordered on February 19, 1724. The Viceroy named Pedro de Rivera as field marshal and visitor to the presidios of New Spain. In 1723 the system, without affect, had cost 444,883 pesos plus the costs of the paz y guerra funds that paid Indian allies and scouts. Salaries were too high; costs were too high; inflation was compounded by the 18 percent discount rate in favor of the Captains of the pre'tidios who controlled all sales In the Company stores.
Pedro de Rivera regularized all the presidios, the salaries, the merchandise prices, the rules, in short, everything. His Reglamento was made effective July 1, 1729. Captain's salaries were set at 600 pesos, soldiers earned 350, and junior officers were given an extra 40 to 60 pesos for their positions of responsibility. An attempt was made to regularize equipment, powder allotments, and the number of horses for each man. Rivera saw the value of using the lance which was cheaper than guns and forced the soldier to be effective against the enemy by contact. Most of the presidios did not have and did not use the lance which was a favorite weapon in the battle-line wars of Europe. Some of the provincial governors objected bitterly to Rivera's introduction of the lance because It meant for them that much time would have to be spent in close order drill and tactics would have to be worked out to utilize the weapon in Indian warfare. Since the soldiers were being limited to six pounds of powder per year, however, there was reason to accept some of Rivera's demands.
Like all things Spanish, Rivera's reforms took time. He was three years on the trail of inspection and it took two more years before the reglamento and projecto were written and implemented. His inspection did settle one thing. The Flying Company of Sonora was to land. Its base of operations these many years had been in and around Santa Rosa de Carodeguachi, so the presidio which had been known so long as Santa Rosa de Corodeguachi Fronteras de Sonora just became, simply, Fronteras. The Rivera inspection also revealed the moral gap created by the demise of the Sobapuris perimeter at Quiburi and along the San Pedro. So motions were begun to establish another garrison west of Fronteras. This later became the presidio of Terrenate, which is the counterpart of Fort Huachuca on the other side of the mountain.