Presidios of the Line

Michael R. Hardwick
In the latter half of the eighteenth century frontier conditions in northern New Spain had deteriorated to such an extent as a result of Indian depredations, management of presidios etc., that the Spanish crown found it necessary to order an examination of the entire frontier with the view of relocating presidios and making whatever other adjustments might be necessary to prevent further abandonment of the frontier settlements. The Marques de Rubi was given the assignment of investigating this problem. He began his investigation in 1766. Royal engineers Nicolas de La Fora and Joseph [José] de Urrutia assisted Rubi by drawing plans of presidios and drafting maps of the area traversed.

As a result of the Rubi recommendations, a new line of defense was established, uniform fortification plans were prescribed, and numerous changes were made in regulations governing military personnel. The new line of fortifications was to be composed of some fifteen presidios situated at about 40 league (or 120 mile) intervals extending from the Gulf of California on the west to the Gulf of Mexico on the east along what is now approximately the northern boundary of Mexico.

The order implementing the realignment of thePresidios of the Frontier Line was published in 1772:REGLAMENTO e instruccion para los presidios que se han de formar EN LA LINEA DE FRONTERA de la Nueva Espana.

Hugo O’Conor was named to the post of Commander-Inspector of the military forces of the frontier provinces and took over the command on 17 February 1772. Between 1773 and 1775, O’Conor succeeded in relocating 12 presidios that had to be moved and added two others. Detachments of troops were ordered to be stationed atSan Antiono de BejarandArroyo del Ciboloin Texas. These however were not considered to be Presidios of the Frontier Line.(pp 7-8,Spanish Presidios of the Late Eighteenth Centuryin Northern New Spain, Rex E. Gerald, Museum of New Mexico Research Records No. 7, Santa Fe, 1968).

Presidios of the Frontier Line (from west to east):

Santa Gertrudis del Altar,founded 1755 with 30 soldiers from the presidio of Sinaloa. Presidio was designed to restrain the Seris, Pimas and Papagos.

Tubac,founded 1753 following the Pima uprising of 1751. The garrison was moved to Tucson in 1777.

Terrenate, founded 1742 southwest of Huachuca mountains Sonora. Late in 1775Santa Cruz deTerrenatewas relocated near what is now Fairbank Arizona. Apache Indian attacks forced relocation of the of the presidio again in 1780 to a site near the arroyo ofLas Nutrias.

Fronteras,originally founded in 1692. It was located for a while to the north in the San Berardino Valley, possibly in Arizona. Later in 1780 it was moved south byTeodoro de Croix.

Janos, founded 1690.

San Buenaventura, founded in 1776 by troops from Guajoquilla.

El Paso del Norte, founded as a result of the Revolt of 1680 in upper New Mexico. Spaniards moved downriver (southward) and founded presidio at the site of present Juarez, Chihuahua. Presidio was constructed in 1683. In 1773, because the town of El Paso was well populated and could defend itself, the presidio was moved southward toCarrizal.

Guajoquilla, erected in 1752 on orders from the Viceroy Revilla Gigedo. Later known asSan Eleazario.

Julimes, located in 1777 at the former site of the presidio ofLa Juntaat the confluence of the Conchos and Del Norte (Rio Grande) rivers.

Cerro Gordo, founded after 1772 as part of the new frontier defense.

San Saba, San Saba-Aguaverdewas founded in the new presidial line after 1772.

Santa Rosa del Sacrament, nowCiudad Melcho Muzquiz, Coahuila. It was moved north after 1772.

Monclova, founded in 1674. The villa or town ofMonclovawas the capital ofCoahuilain 1780. At that time the presidio was located to the east nearer the Rio Grande.

San Juan Bautista, founded in 1699.

La Bahía del Espiritu Santo, founded in 1772 as the last and easternmost presidio of the line. The original site was where Fort St. Louis stood on Matagorda Bay. It was moved in 1726 to the Guadalupe River and later removed to the north bank of the San Antonio River at the site of the present town of Goliad, Texas.

San Antonio de Bejar, founded May 5, 1718 was not considered a presidio of the line, but it was defended by a detachment according to the regulations of 1772.

Arroyo del Cibolo, founded in 1771 as a detachment site. Presidio was deactivated in 1782 at orders of Teodoro de Croix,(pp.94,95,Lancers for the King, Brinckerhoff amd Faulk, Phoenix, 1965).

September 2, 1998