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Frontier Raids, Threats, and Counter-Threats of Invasion
Having instructed Cairns and made a visit to all the settled portions of the southwestern frontier -- Victoria, Lamar, Live Oak Point, La Bahía, San Patricio, Refugio, Lipantitlán, Corpus Christi, and other points, Colonel Bell returned to Austin to make his report to the War Department. He found that "the sum of the evils on the frontier, complained of from time to time to the . . . [War] Department, is far less, and of a character less aggravated than has been represented to you," he informed the Secretary of War; "it is nevertheless true that the condition of the western frontier is at this time such as to ask from your Department a serious consideration." Bell reported that there were no armed bands of Indians or Mexicans on the frontier, except an estimated 150 to 200 armed rancheros under Colonel Villareal stationed at the three principal crossings of the Arroyo Colorado, a small tidal creek, 125 miles from Corpus Christi, for the purpose of protecting the ranches in the neighborhood, and of intercepting the trade between the two countries.
Villareal's position and activities were deemed purely of a defensive nature and were expected to remain so. Several parties of "mustangers," of from fifty to one hundred men, were declared to be ranging chiefly the Palo Blanco, Santa Rosa, and Los Olmos streams, some sixty to one hundred miles south of San Patricio. "These parties," reported Bell, "though hostile to and injurious to the trade, do not excite any serious apprehensions, or threaten any danger to the citizens of the west. But there are," he said, other bodies of armed men, commanded by Agatón, Ramírez, and others
. . . of a different character . . . whose frequent attacks upon our citizens have and do yet excite the most serious alarm. There is little doubt but that they are Commissioned by the Commander[s], of the Mexican frontier, for the expressed and ostensible purpose of intercepting and breaking up the existing Trade, [if not at times turning it to their own personal advantage ] and indeed to stop all intercourse with the Río Grande; but they are held to no responsibility for plundering or butchering Texan citizens in their lawless excursions. They are equally the terror of all Mexican Traders, and our citizens upon the Nueces, of the Peninsular, Lamar, Copano, the Mission and San Antonio Rivers -- indeed the Guadalupe does not claim any exemption. Their object is plunder; no matter when, or where found; and there is no
25. P. Hansbrough Bell, Adjt. Genl. Militia, to Branch T. Archer, Secretary of War & Navy, City of Austin, Oct. 4, 1841, in ibid., ms., copy.
26. Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Mexico, V, 262 n; Telegraph and Texas Register, June 9, 1841.