Comanches and horses

Thomas Kavanagh, Curator (TKAVANAG@UCS.INDIANA.EDU)
Sun, 14 May 1995 14:02:53 EWT

Anita Cohen-Williams writes

> Just to inject a bit of history: during the Spanish period of the
>borderlands, the soldiers kept large horse herds around their presidios and
>other garrisoned places (flying company posts, fortified haciendas, etc.). The
>regulations called for each soldier to have six horses and a mule. These add
>up. So there was plenty of horses to be raided, and there are many Spanish
>documents chronicling such raids by both the Comanches and Apaches.

Yes, the regulations did call for each soldier to have such numbers, but that did not mean that each soldier was
always able to do so, and not just because of raids. We must also be very specific about *when* and *where*
on the borderlands. In New Mexico, a recurrent problem was the bad shape of the military and auxiliary forces,
caused in part by the difficulty in obtaining remounts. A telling example is from the Mexican period, but it is
representative of the periodic problems. In 1832, unique solution for the remount problem was suggested:

"Notwithstanding the disapproval of the commerce which is here customary, and which it is impossible to avoid
with the Comanche, and in view of the deplorable state of the remounts, it occurred to me to commission the
interpreter Juan Cristobal Tenorio, a Corporal, and six soldiers, who with four hundred pesos, more or less, in
goods . . . to buy horses from the Comanche" (Ronquillo 1832).

The outcome of the proposal is not known. In 1834 the entire military force of New Mexico consisted of 900
men all vecinos, badly armed, poorly equipped, and without instructions in handling arms (Abreu 1834).

And yes, there are plenty of horse raids, but we must also note the contexts within which those thefts occurred:
the Comanche horse trade. In my earlier post, I noted only the 1840s trade into Anglo-America. There were
also markets in Spanish America. In early September, 1831 a group of twenty Comanches, Kiowas, and
Pawnees, with two captives, came to Cuesta in the Pecos valley of New Mexico. They had eight horses, two of
which were branded, and were asking for powder, clothing, and serapes. One man bought a branded horse for
two serapes and six charges of powder; another gave a fringed blanket for the other marked horse. A widow
exchanged a gun for a horse, and her son bought a colt of one or two years with a blanket, two hands of
tobacco, and a three charges of powder. A man bought a young mare for a bit of powder and a serape; another
bought a mare for two hands of tobacco, and a third bought two horses (Ronquillo and Vigil 1831). On
February 3, 1835, a group of Comanches arrived in San Antonio with a herd of horses stolen in Chihuahua
(Jenkins 1973, 1:18); and in June the Mexican government wrote to the Texas governor urging him to stop his
people from buying branded horses obviously stolen in Chihuahua (Jenkins 1973, 1:149). The authorities were
constantly reprimanding Texas citizens for buying branded horses and mules (M#squiz 1834; Ugartechea 1835b;
Navarro 1835). A proclamation against that practice was read at two feast days and was posted in a public place
(J. M. Flores 1835).

At the same time, we must also not that there are many documents from the Spanish and Mexican periods
chronicling Comanche chiefs returning stolen horses.

For further details, we must wait for my book from U Neb press, due out this fall.