Mexican and Indian Raid of 1878

By: John G. Johnson

Type: General Entry

Published: November 1, 1995

On Sunday, April 14, 1878, a band of about forty Mexicans and Kickapoo, Lipan Apache, and Seminole Indians crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into Webb County, Texas, about forty-five miles north of Laredo. After killing two vaqueros shortly after the crossing, the band headed south on the main road following the Rio Grande, murdered another man along the way, and stole his horses and equipment. Fourteen miles north of Laredo the band turned northeast toward the Nueces River. After stealing enough horses for everyone, they broke into small groups and began attacks on scattered ranches. A small party of Texans followed the raiders and requested help from Fort Ewell, but to no avail. By this time the band had turned east to La Salle County and then north to McMullen County. The raiders reached William H. Steele's ranch at 9 A.M. on April 17. There they murdered three men and two boys and mutilated the boys' bodies before plundering the ranch and stealing all the horses. They murdered people and stole mounts at other nearby ranches, then moved on to Duval County, killing and stealing as they went. About noon on April 18 they reached Rancho Soledad in Duval County. There they were only thirty miles from San Diego (then in Nueces County), where a company of cavalry had just arrived. Frank Gravis, a rancher, gathered a group to follow the raiders and sent to San Diego for the military. A second request was sent on the nineteenth, but help never came. On the morning of that day the raiders again broke into small bands for local raids. That evening they were back at the Rio Grande with 150 to 250 horses. Gravis attacked them but was easily driven off. Since he was only twenty-five miles south of Laredo, he had asked for help from the garrison there, but it was 4 P.M. on the twentieth before any soldiers left the post; by that time the killers were long gone. Military and law-enforcement bodies had made little attempt to respond to the raiders, who were in Texas for six days, during which they murdered at least eighteen people—men, women, and children.

"The Mexican and Indian Raid of '78," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 5 (January 1902).


  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Military
  • Campaigns, Battles, Raids, and Massacres
  • Mexican Americans
  • Boundary Disputes and Ethnic Conflict

Time Periods:

  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas

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

John G. Johnson, “Mexican and Indian Raid of 1878,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 21, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1995

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: