Rodriguez, Vicente (1699–1785)

By: Robert S. Weddle

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1995

Vicente Rodríguez, brother of Manuel Rodríguez, was involved in military affairs in Coahuila and Texas for more than fifty years. He was born in 1699 at Monclova and served in the presidios of San Francisco de Coahuila, Santa Rosa María del Sacramento, and San Juan Bautista. At the latter post, he was lieutenant while Manuel was captain and succeeded to command upon his brother's death. Although his brother's career often overshadowed his own, Vicente's role as a frontier officer closely rivaled it. His first campaign of note, against the Toboso Indians, was in 1721, when he marched with Coahuila governor Blas de la Garza Falcón. This was followed by frequent pursuit of the Tobosos until they were subdued in the mid-1730s. Rodríguez was wounded in the right hand and thigh in 1723, while serving under Alferez Diego Jiménez. From 1726 to 1732 Vicente Rodríguez was attached to the presidio at Monclova as a soldier. He then served three years as a soldier at San Juan Bautista before going to Santa Rosa del Sacramento as squad corporal. He was promoted to alférez in 1741. With the Apaches having succeeded the Tobosos as the principal menace, he led a squad into the Sierra Madre that year to punish a marauding band. In 1743, when his brother Manuel took command at San Juan Bautista, Vicente returned to that post as his lieutenant. He was immediately sent with a detail to assist Toribio de Urrutia of Presidio de San Antonio de Béxar on an Apache campaign that culminated in a successful engagement, probably near the San Saba River. In 1747 Rodríguez led the Rio Grande contingent supporting Coahuila governor Pedro de Rábago y Terán on his march to La Junta de los Ríos to reestablish the missions that had been abandoned because of Apache hostilities. Much of the area of present-day Big Bend National Park was explored for the first time. In 1753, when San Fernando de Austria (present Zaragoza, Coahuila) was founded, Governor Rábago y Terán made Rodríguez political and military chief of the settlement. Still nominally lieutenant of the Rio Grande post, he kept a detachment of San Juan Bautista soldiers at San Fernando for protection of its citizens.

While Manuel Rodríguez took part in the Ortiz Parrilla Red River Campaign in 1759 and remained in charge of San Luis de las Amarillas Presidio (San Sabá) for a year afterward, Vicente served in his stead at San Juan Bautista. During the next decade Vicente and the San Juan Bautista troop were kept continually on the move, making patrols, supporting the new Apache missions on the upper Nueces River in Texas, and pursuing hostiles. When the Marqués de Rubí visited the Rio Grande post on his inspection tour in 1767, he observed that the last three campaigns the younger Rodríguez had led against Lipan and Mescalero Apaches had been successful, helping to intimidate and contain the hostiles. In 1769 the lieutenant took twenty-two men from San Juan Bautista on a landmark exploration and Indian campaign led by his brother between San Juan Bautista and El Paso del Norte. When Manuel died in February 1772, Vicente became acting captain under the viceroy's interim decree until the king confirmed his appointment the following October. Rodríguez's first few months in office were busy ones. In November 1772 he received orders to transfer the two missions, San Juan Bautista and San Bernardo, from the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro to the province of Jalisco, which required taking inventory of all the mission property. The following May the massacre of seven cart drivers near San Fernando sent him into the field with 100 men gathered from his own and neighboring presidios. After a ten-day march from San Fernando, the troop crossed a flooding Rio Grande. It struck the Mescalero encampment in a predawn attack near the mouth of the Pecos River, killing or capturing most of the inhabitants, recovering 200 stolen horses, and rescuing three Spanish captives. Such campaigns coincided with efforts of Hugo Oconór, commandant-inspector of the Provincias Internas, to drive the Apaches north of the Rio Grande and establish the defense line decreed by the New Regulations for Presidios of 1772. Rodríguez's attack had temporarily averted a Mescalero-Lipan plan—revealed by the captives freed by Rodríguez—for a concerted attack on the Coahuila presidios and settlements. On guard, Rodríguez dispatched a force of thirty-eight men on a patrol toward San Vicente crossing, at the Big Bend. When the troop fell into an Apache ambush in Arroyo de la Bavia and lost twenty-one men, the blame was assigned to Rodríguez. If the captain's stature suffered from the denunciation heaped upon him by Rafael Martínez Pacheco, acting for Oconór, his duties were not curtailed.

With the new line of presidios nearing completion, Oconór in 1775 planned a sweeping campaign to punish the Apaches and drive them north of the Rio Grande. When the forces assembled in September, the intended nine military units dwindled to three. Rodríguez, at age seventy-six, marched with Coahuila governor Jacobo de Ugarte y Loyola as his principal field commander. On this his last campaign, he was to spend three months in the saddle in vigorous but fruitless pursuit of the natives. From the relocated Monclova presidio on the San Rodrigo River, Ugarte's force swept north to the Llano River, whence Captain Rodríguez proceeded to reconnoiter the abandoned San Sabá presidio. After returning briefly to Presidio de Aguaverde, the relocated Santa Rosa on the San Diego River, the troop recrossed the Rio Grande, tramped out the Devils River watershed, then turned west to the Pecos River. While Ugarte's main force bivouacked on the lower Pecos, Rodríguez followed the river upstream into New Mexico and reconnoitered the Guadalupe Mountains. The advance guard of the reunited force, returning toward Aguaverde, lost three men in an ambush on the Devils River. Pursuit was unavailing.

In February 1777 Vicente Rodríguez retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel and turned his post over to Manuel de Cerecedo y Velasco. Rodríguez had served the Rio Grande presidio for thirty-six years, the last five as captain. Upon his retirement, he sought permission to establish a village on his own hacienda of San Ildefonso, near Villa de San Fernando. Most of the inhabitants would have been the families of his children and grandchildren. His request was denied. Rodríguez remained active in the military affairs of the province, despite his retirement. When Teodoro de Croix, as commandant-general of the Provincias Internas, convened his first "council of war," at Monclova on December 11, 1777, Rodríguez was present. His inclusion among the "officers of highest rank, longest experience, and greatest knowledge" in Coahuila bespeaks the reputation he had acquired in his more than half a century of frontier service. He died on June 23, 1785.

Robert S. Weddle, San Juan Bautista: Gateway to Spanish Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968).

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, “Rodriguez, Vicente,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 24, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1995

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