Las Provincias Internas
In 1776 the northern provinces of New Spain were reorganized. According to the reforms instituted by Charles III, the entire frontier was included in one administrative unit called the Provincias Internas. Charles named Teodoro de Croix, one of his ablest military men, commander general of the provinces. Croix arrived in Mexico City in December and remained there almost a year studying the reports of frontier governors and captains. He found a dismal scene, and decided that Oconor's reorganization was a mistake.
The governor of Coahuila reported that the number of raids had actually increased since construction of the new presidios. Jose Rubio, an experienced frontiersman, described soldiers and presidios in such miserable shape that it was difficult to tell which was a worse problem, the Indians or the soldiers. The troops' weapons were old and ineffectual, the officers were poorly prepared and corrupt, discipline was lax. Communication was slow, the soldiers' pay lagged behind schedule, and the officers extracted a percentage when it did arrive.
Croix hoped to implement an aggressive policy. He immediately requested an additional 12,000 troops for the frontier, then left on an inspection trip along with his chaplain, Father Juan Agustin de Morfi, who kept a detailed diary of the trip and later wrote a history of Texas. While circling the despoblado, Morfi noticed the situation was so desperate that many farmers had sentry boxes in their cornfields where they could hide in case of a sudden Indian attack. Croix and Morfi visited the Big Bend presidios of San Carlos and San Vicente in early 1778. After several conferences, Croix decided that the Rio Grande was ineffective as a defense line. Moving the presidios to the river left the settlements unprotected.
Several suggestions came out of Croix's talks. The frontiersmen urged the commander general to mount a 3,000-man campaign against the Apaches. The conferees suggested that detachments from Nueva Vizcaya be instructed to march into the despoblado, rout the Apaches, then turn northward to the presidios of San Carlos and San Vicente and meet troops from Coahuila, who, meantime, would have swept through the Sierra del Pino, and along the Rio de San Pedro, the Ojos de Ias Nuezes, and the Agua Amargosa.
Croix's officers also hoped to turn the Indians against each other by signing treaties with one faction or the other,thereby renewing old tribal hostilities, but they did not place as much confidence in this suggestion as in the offensive campaigns. Finally, Croix urged that the presidios again be relocated nearer the people. Croix's plans for a massive campaign against the Indians were doomed, however, when Spain entered the war against England in 1779.
With all his military might sequestered for the European conflict, the king ordered Croix to employ peaceful means to overcome his enemies in New Spain. The commander general was, nevertheless, allowed to modify the frontier defenses to suit his scheme. He was convinced that placement of San Carlos and San Vicente on the Rio Grande was an error that created an artificial frontier. There was little support for either fort,communications were poor, and they were isolated, even though they had been intended to guard two important fords. Croix suggested that the garrisons be moved, but that the physical plants of the two presidios be kept to serve as bases against the Indians. Only La Junta would remain in the Big Bend area.
Croix wanted to defend what he considered to be the real frontier, the area of the northernmost villages along the edge of the despoblado, not a false frontier created by bureaucratic decree.
Source: Author Unknown, Armadillo's WWW Server at http://www.rice.edu/armadillo/
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