Frontier Battalion

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: August 23, 2019

The Frontier Battalion, composed of six companies of Texas Rangers of seventy-five men each, was organized in 1874 as a result of a recommendation of Governor Richard Coke that Texas organize its own force to protect the frontier. On May 2, 1874, John B. Jones was commissioned major of the force. By July 10, 1874, all six companies were in service. Camps were established along the entire frontier line; Jones himself visited all of the companies, enforcing discipline, and, to tie the command together, established a line of couriers to ride from camp to camp to carry information and pick up Indian signs. By October 8, 1874, Jones reported the battalion in good working order. During the first seventeen months of its organization, the battalion had twenty-one fights with Indians; from September 1875 to February 1876 no Indians appeared on the border guarded by the battalion, and a new feeling of security resulted. The Frontier Battalion was established to control ordinary lawbreakers as well as for defense against Indians. This control was particularly necessary in the period of lawlessness and social collapse following the Civil War and Reconstruction. The situation was aggravated by the proximity of Texas to Mexico and the conflict between agrarian and cattle interests, as the farm frontier began to encroach on the ranching area. Men of the battalion made arrests, escorted prisoners, guarded jails, and attended courts; hundreds of lawless men were arrested; thousands fled. Among the special tasks assigned to the group were settling the Mason County War, cleaning outlaws out of Kimble County in 1877, ending the Horrell-Higgins Feud in Lampasas County, terminating the Salt War of San Elizario, and capturing Sam Bass. The breakup of the Frontier Battalion began with the death of Major Jones and the resignation of the principal captains in 1881. A court ruling in 1900 destroyed the authority of the force by allowing only commissioned officers to execute criminal process or make arrests. In reality the order destroyed the battalion. The work of the Frontier Battalion in making Texas "a fairly safe place in which to live" was largely responsible for the tradition which came to surround the term, "Texas Ranger."

T. R. Havins, "Activities of Company E, Frontier Battalion, Texas Rangers, 1874–1880," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 11 (1935). Walter Prescott Webb, The Texas Rangers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Law Enforcement Agencies
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Frontier Battalion,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

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August 23, 2019