SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
Marksmanship, Flying Companies and Rangers. From its beginnings in the early 18th century on the Spanish frontera and its vast area known as the despoblado, during colonization and the years of Texas Independence, defense was a part of and integrated with daily activity. Landowners organized "flying companies" of local volunteers that in the late part of the century became more formally organized units under command of professional officers who were representatives of centralized government (companias volante). The Federalist structure of government in 1824 formalized by decree that local militias were to be under command of local alcaldes and ayuntamientos, properly armed and trained in cavalry methods, and responsible for regional defense and security. The Colonization Laws of Coahuila y Tejas of 1825 provided that the empresario was responsible for organization and command of the militia of the colony at the rank of Colonel until the minimum 100 families arrived to justify organization of an ayuntamiento.
DeWitt Colonists were superior marksman honed to perfection since wildgame provided a significant part of their daily fare. Consequently, most were accustomed to infantry tactics in the open field or largely defensive strategies behind thick woodland cover. Hispanic Tejano patriot Antonio Manchaca pointed out in his memoirs referring to skirmishes which preceded the main Battle of San Jacinto that
There were exceptions, for example, the authors ancestors, David Burket and Captain "Black" Adam Zumwalt, were skilled cavalryman who served in Captain Nathan Boones Company of Rangers in Missouri before immigrating to the colony. Out of necessity, DeWitt Colonists learned, adopted and combined their skills in marksmanship with the skills and tactics employed in the vast open plains by native Texan citizen soldiers and militia since the early 18th century. The unparalleled skills, tactics and traditions of the Tlascalan Compania Volante San Carlos de Parras, the Guardia Victoriana under Carlos de la Garza, the San Fernando Rangers under Mariano Rodriquez, Bexar squadrons under Juan Seguin and Salvador Flores and the Nacogdoches Vicente Cordova squadron became the template for the Gonzales Ranging Company of Mounted Volunteers and later the Texas Rangers. The "hit-and-run", "element of surprise" and guerilla tactics of the mounted plains Indians, particularly the Comanches, which the colonists encountered were also combined with the above skills to no small extent.
James W. Nichols in his journal describes the routine training sessions for rangers near Seguin in Capt. Jack Hay's company in 1843:
Captain William Banta in his memoirs Twenty-seven Years on the Texas Frontier describes a typical ranger scout in the period:
Indian Vandalism and Depredation. During the period of colonization before troubles began to mount with the centralist dictatorship which took over the Mexican government in 1835, life in the colony was generally peaceful allowing colonists to contend with the natural hurdles of building a new society. From its beginnings as the eastern and northern frontier of New Spain and Mexico and the western frontier of the United States until the Texas Revolution, DeWitt Colony defense was concerned with the random vandalism, theft and associated attacks on life and property of predatory bands of Indians and to a lesser extent, outlaws from the south and east who roamed and exploited the vast despoblado for subsistence. Overall DeWitt Colonists shared the bounty of the land in peace with the indigenous populations who had used it for their nomadic hunting grounds, only taking organized punitive action in response to the most savage acts of assault on life and property. In the colony and all of Texas in the period, total contact with Indians was limited and of low probability. At the peak in 1822, the highest number of Indians ranging between the Red and the Rio Grande Rivers at any one time ever to other inhabitants was one in seventy. It is estimated that during the period 1825 to 1836, no more than 100 persons died in confrontations with Indians in regions surrounding San Antonio, Goliad and the DeWitt Colony combined. The randomness of acts of vandalism and extreme savagery of the relatively rare depredations caused an aura of terror and fear in the period and amplification in subsequent histories out of proportion to the actual danger and number of incidents. However, the geographic location of the DeWitt Colony in the path of different tribal bands ranging through from different directions caused the colony to sustain more random harassment than other settlements of the period and to witness near their homes the violent inter-tribal encounters among ancient enemy bands that was more fierce than attacks on the colonists.
After independence, the area that was the DeWitt Colony continued to experience isolated acts of vandalism, theft and depredation from primarily nomadic Comanche bands from the hill country and West and North Texas, which intensified with their recruitment by the Mexican government in attempts to take back Texas. This culminated with the massive Comanche raid on Linnville on the coast in which the force unified from otherwise nomadic bands traveled through the former colony and back toward the hill country. The massive defeat of the force at the Battle of Plum Creek in 1840 was a turning point after which the serious threat from Comanches and aborigine bands to the area ended.