Military Career

 

Escandon was made Count of Sierra Gorda and Knight of Santiago in 1749. The titles were conferred by Philip IV in a recognition of his outstanding role in pacifying the long-hostile Indians of the Sierras. His record of quelling rebellions "without the shedding of blood" helped him get the much coveted contract to explore and colonize the Mexican Seno. This region, uninhabited except for Indian nomads, lay between the Panuco River (Tampico, Mexico) and the Guadalupe River in Texas and extended 150 miles inland.

Another factor influencing the Royal Commission to favor Escandon above other applicants for the post was his refusal to make use of enforced labor, a common practice with Spaniards in Mexico for two centuries. The congrega system which meant virtual enslavement, had been frightfully disastrous in the adjacent province of Nuevo Leon. The vast territory Escandon was to colonize had become the last refuge for wild and apostate Indians. Driven from the mountains of Mexico by the Spaniards, they now were being pushed from the north by fierce Apache, Lipan and Comanche tribes.

Besides his reputation for integrity and fairness, Escandon had another important prerequisite: wealth. The colonizer acceptable to the vice-regal commission would have to finance his villas for long periods before being reimbursed by the Crown. Though he held the rank of lieutenant-general, Escandon's pay as an officer was less than lucrative. But he had benefited financially from both of his marriages and also was aided in his undertakings by relatives of his respective spouses.

He applied the tactics of a military campaign to a brilliantly planned survey of potential sites for settlements along the Rio Grande. Carrying out his instructions as their superior officer, detachments of Spanish dragoons penetrated the wilderness region simultaneously from seven different outposts. Each captain mapped geographical features and recorded characteristic vegetation and the various groups of Indians encountered.

The detachment departing from San Juan de Bautista (Eagle Pass) was led by Captain Miguel de la Garza Falcon. He was a son of Governor Bias Maria de la Garza Falcon of Coahuila, who had 11 children. Captain Miguel, who had already traced the course of the Rio Grande upstream be-yond present Langtry, Texas, was ordered to follow the north bank of the river to Escandon's camp where the estuary emptied into the Gulf.

 

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