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Cattle Raids and Frontier Marauders

THE LARGE MEXICAN RANCHES on the southwestern frontier were broken up by the inroads of hostile Indians in 1834-1836; and, except for those in the vicinity of the Río Grande, their owners universally abandoned them after the defeat of Santa Anna at San Jacinto, fleeing hastily across the Río Grande, leaving thousands of head of cattle to run wild in the region, where the ranges had never been fenced and cattle[1]  and horses roamed as freely as the deer or buffalo. Although some of the ranchers returned after the "scare" subsided, many of the restored ranches, as well as those which had survived the earlier disasters, were broken up during the succeeding decade. The repeated incursions of hostile Indians in the area immediately to the north of the Río Grande, occurring at almost every full moon, compelled most of the frontier inhabitants "to abandon their stock farms and remove to the south side of the Río Grande"[2]  and even farther inland from the frontier line. In the latter part of July 1837, a party of Comanche Indians, numbering about a thousand warriors, approached to within a few miles of Matamoros; attacked an army outpost, killing a Colonel Cortina and eight or ten Cherokees; burned several ranchos; and escaped with a large quantity of mules, horses, and other plunder. About the middle of April 1840, the Comanches again raided to within two leagues of Matamoros, killed a number of the inhabitants on the Texas side of the river, and escaped with several captives, a number of horses and mules, and other loot.[3] 

1. The wild cattle were trimly made, with legs and feet built for speed, and horns "set forward to kill like the buffalo's." They were different from the domestic cattle in that they ran primarily to one color, that being black with brown backs and bellies. J. Frank Dobie, The Longhorns, p. 23.

2. D. W. Smith to John Forsyth, Matamoros, Aug. 4, 1837, Consular Dispatches (U.S.), 1837-1839, (Matamoros), no. 127, ms., microfilm; see also Telegraph and Texas Register (Houston), Aug. 22 and Sept. 16, 1837.

3. D. W. Smith to John Forsyth, Matamoros, May 26, 1840, Consular Dispatches (U.S.), 1840-1848 (Matamoros), no. 166, ms., microfilm.

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AFTER SAN JACINTO: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1836-1841
Joseph Milton Nance, 1963