Society of the Old West

From early westward expansion through the early 20th Century.

Texas Ranger Major John S. Ford engaged the Mexican guerilla, Cortina on February 9, 1859.   A brief fight had claimed the life of a Texas Ranger named Woodruff. The Mexicans fired on the Rangers' steamboat, the Ranchero, sending a bullet through the flag on the masthead. Ford chose to cross over the border into Mexico to go after Cortina.  He had the vessel nose onto the beach and offloaded forty five men, including ten of Major Tobin’s.  They moved upstream until they approached the stockade where Cortina was holed up. Ford later related the fierce gun battle that followed.   In his own words, "They rushed upon the Mexicans, six-shooters in hand, drove them, rolled them up on the center, and routed them. The fleeing Mexicans were pursued by Texans."  Cortina had 200 to 400 heavily armed men, including cavalry. Yet they proved hopelessly ineffective before the small band of onrushing Texas Rangers.  Cortina was able to make his escape under cover of darkness on horseback. Ford continued to patrol the border and made a number of independent raids into Mexico, but Cortina had long since retreated to the safety of the Burgos Mountains. To avoid an international incident, the U.S. Secretary of War sent an emissary to Texas to confer with Ford about the necessity of ceasing his forays into the interior of Mexico. The emissary was the new commander of the Department of Texas--Colonel Robert E. Lee.

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