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Cattle Raids and Frontier Marauders

frontier, often committing murder. "No doubt half of the cattle and horses that are stolen and charged upon the Indians," wrote a correspondent of the Telegraph and Texas Register,[51]  "are taken either by white men of the vilest class, or negroes." Cattle stealing was "by far the most remunerative industry of the day; though discountenanced by the respectable class of citizens."[52]  There were many clashes between the cowboys and the Mexicans, and bloody and horrible were their retaliations on each other.[53]  Such forays, however, were attended often with no other effect than that of irritating the peaceable inhabitants on both sides of the river. The earnest, hardworking farmer, cattleman, and merchant was usually the victim. He constantly demanded security for his home, his property, and his life. "I greatly fear," wrote a visitor to the lower Nueces valley, "the Government is chargeable with all the waste and desolation of this garden spot of Texas," and "I may almost say with the ruin of many individuals, who have struggled for the independence of the country, and whose fortunes and support depend upon the speedy settlement and tranquility of the western frontier."[54]  A garrison of fifty men stationed on the Nueces in the vicinity of San Patricio, he thought, would give

51. Dec. 4, 1840.

52. John J. Linn, Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas, p. 310; see also John J. Linn to Sam Houston, Victoria, July 6, 1838, in Domestic Correspondence (Texas), 1836-1846, ms.

53. Conditions had not materially changed a decade and a half later, in 1852, when Major William H. Emory visited the area as a member of the United States-Mexican Boundary Commission. Emory wrote:
Hunting the wild horses and cattle is the regular business of the inhabitants of Loredo and other towns along the river, and the practice adds much to the difficulty of maintaining a proper police on the frontier to guard against the depredation of Indians and the organization of fillibustering parties. In times of agitation and civil war on the Mexican side, parties assemble on the American side ostensibly to hunt, but in reality to take part on one side or other in the affairs of our neighbors. I heard a great deal of these wild horses, but on an examination of many hundred that had been caught, I never saw one good one. They are usually heavy in the forehead, cat-hammed, and knock-kneed. Their habits are very peculiar; they move in squads, single file, and seem to obey implicitly the direction of the leader. They evince much curiosity, always reconnoitring the camp of the traveller at full speed, and where there chances to be a loose animal, be he ever so poor and jaded, he is sure to run off with the crowd and disappear entirely.

Report on the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey, Made under the Direction of the Secretary of the Interior, I, 56-57, 61.

54. ________ to the Editor of the Telegraph, Nueces River, March 6, 1839, in Telegraph and Texas Register, April 10, 1839.

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