in the army to be furloughed to relieve the financial strain upon the treasury and to forestall any unauthorized attack upon Mexico, which might cause that country to renew its efforts to subjugate Texas. After the disbandment of the army the defense of the Republic came to rest upon a poorly organized militia, upon a series of ranger companies of short term enlistment, upon small "minute men" companies formed in the frontier counties, and upon a limited infantry and cavalry force enrolled for three years.
Upon the basis of a law enacted by the Texan Congress in December 1836, Texas claimed the Río Grande as her boundary, and Mexico, refusing to recognize the loss of Texas, was successful in keeping Texas from exercising its jurisdiction beyond the Nueces, even though her own authority could not be made effective over the area north of the Río Grande. As time passed, Mexico doubtless realized she could never reconquer Texas, and directed her energies toward preventing the new republic from annexing significant portions of the states of Tamaulipas and Coahuila. Thus, the area between the Nueces (the historic boundary of Texas) and the Río Grande became a sort of no-man's land which was traversed at great risk to life and property.
Nevertheless, by the spring of 1838 enterprising Texans and Mexicans had commenced a profitable smuggling trade across this area, a trade which was to expand during the French blockade of the Mexican coast late in 1838 and early 1839, and which persisted thereafter in spite of many handicaps. The frontier trade was complicated by the activities of the so-called Texan "cowboys" who robbed the Mexican ranches in the vicinity of the Sal Colorado, the Nueces, and the San Antonio rivers of their cattle and other livestock, and penetrated even to the Río Grande to get more. Their only excuse was that those whom they robbed were Mexicans, that the war had not ended, that the Mexican army in its retreat from Texas had carried off cattle and horses without remuneration as provided for in the treaty of Velasco (which, of course, had not been ratified by the Mexican government), and that their actions were only retaliatory. The "cowboys," however, were not always too careful about whose cattle they drove off, often stealing stock belonging to their fellow citizens for sale in the east.
While the Texan raiders forced the abandonment of many of the Mexican ranches between the Nueces and the Río Grande, Mexican gangs also penetrated the area and sometimes even crossed the Nueces to drive away cattle and horses. Mexican brigands and Texan cutthroats infested the frontier, robbed the traders, despoiled them of