Galvez Crossings On the Pecos River

By: Robert S. Weddle

Type: General Entry

Published: September 1, 1995

The early names of two crossings on the Pecos River, Paso de Matías and Paso de Gálvez, bespeak a 1770 Apache campaign led by Bernardo de Gálvez from Chihuahua. Gálvez, who is most familiar to Texans as the Spanish viceroy for whom Galveston Bay was named, had assumed the post of Chihuahua military commandant the previous month at age twenty-four. Guided by a Spaniard who had escaped Apache captivity, Gálvez's force of 135 soldiers and 50 Opata Indian auxiliaries crossed the Rio Grande at the abandoned Presidio del Norte (present-day Ojinaga, Chihuahua) on October 21, 1770. Thence, it directed its course across the usually dry country toward the Pecos in an icy downpour. Arriving at the Pecos on November 1, the soldiers found that the Indian encampment from which their guide had escaped had been moved. Their provisions were waterlogged and spoiled. Yet, spurred from their misery by Gálvez's eloquent appeal, they plunged their horses into the cold stream to continue their pursuit. Gálvez named the place of crossing Paso de Matías, for his father, Matías de Gálvez (New Spain viceroy, 1783–84); it was later known as Horsehead Crossing. After following the Indians' trail all day, Gálvez's scouts came upon the enemy horse herd at pasture in late afternoon. While the soldiers rested after dark in a fireless camp, the Opata auxiliaries located the Apache encampment. The troops surrounded it before dawn. In the surprise attack that followed, twenty-eight Apaches were slain, while the Spaniards counted only one man wounded. Recrossing the river with thirty-six prisoners and the Apache horse herd, the soldiers marched for Chihuahua. This second crossing over the Pecos River, probably near what is now Girvin in Pecos County, was named Paso de Gálvez. Five years later, Vicente Rodríguez of San Juan Bautista presidio, a field commander in the abortive Apache campaign of 1775, identified the two crossings by name-Paso de Matías and "Paso del Señor Gálvez"-and indicated their locations in the account of his march up the Pecos.

Bernardo de Gálvez, Diario, October 9-November 20, 1770, Archivo General de la Nación, Provincias Internas 97, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Vicente Rodríguez, Derrotero, November 1-December 2, 1775, Archivo General de la Nación, Provincias Internas 24, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Robert S. Weddle, "Campaigning in Texas, 1775," Texas Military History 6 (Winter 1967).

Time Periods:

  • Spanish Texas

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

Robert S. Weddle, “Galvez Crossings On the Pecos River,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 17, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995

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