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Frontier Raids, Threats, and Counter-Threats of Invasion
trail and ascertain the movements of the marauders. Cairns' Company was composed of men originally belonging to the Minute Men of San Patricio County. These men had completed the term of service for which they had been enrolled under the law of February 4, 1841, and had been discharged, but with the attack on Refugio many of them had readily re-enlisted for the defense of their lives and property. Upon Cairns' return from his unsuccessful pursuit of Agatón, Bell reorganized his company for scouting purposes and arranged with Kinney and Aubrey to furnish them ammunition and subsistence. Cairns' Company, it was believed would be effective in breaking up small marauding parties, and, as long as the trade was permitted to continue, would afford some confidence to those engaged in it.
Cairns was instructed to select a convenient point on the east side of the Nueces, at or near the river, as a base for military operation on either side of that stream. He was cautioned to engage only in defensive operations and to "be careful to do no act or make any movement calculated to induce attack from the Mexican enemy," as "it was considered unnecessary and useless to invite attack without the capacity to repel it." He was to be constantly on the alert to intercept and break up all marauding parties, give protection to the traders going to and from the Río Grande, and to detail from his command scouts to gather "information of any suspicious bodies of men lurking on the Nueces, Agua Dulce, San Fernández or any watering places adjacent." Peace to the western frontier was desired, Bell informed Cairns,
. . . and it will be your duty, as far as practicable to promote it. You should at all times be ready to afford when called on, prompt assistance to the citizens; and to the civil authorities any aid necessary for their enforcing a due execution of the Laws. The Gov[ernmen]t expects that the irregularities and disorders heretofore common amongst volunteer commanders, on this frontier, will be avoided by you, by maintaining over your company a proper discipline.
Cairns was to make a monthly report of his operations and of frontier conditions to the Secretary of War.
22. P. Hansbrough Bell, Adjt. Genl. Militia, to Branch T. Archer, City of Austin, Oct. 4, 1841, in Army Papers (Texas), ms., copy.
23. Ibid.; P. Hansbrough Bell, Adjt. Genl. Militia to Capt. [W. J.] Cairns, Comdg. Minute Men, San Patricio County, San Patricio, Sept. 20, 1841, copy in ibid.