Francisco Viana, assistant inspector of presidios and frequent commander of military outposts in the Spanish province of Texas, was born in Málaga, Spain, in 1750. He served as a cadet in the Malta Cavalry and the Queen's Dragoons before coming to the New World in 1776 with Teodoro de Croix, newly appointed commandant general of the Provincias Internas. Viana was commissioned a lieutenant on January 9, 1778, and advanced to captain on June 22, 1792. He led Mexican troops against marauding Apaches in Chihuahua and served as adjutant to his general on numerous occasions. He crushed the revolt of Zacualco and pursued smugglers and bandits in the Cañadas of Ceutla and Fistla. As interim corregidor of Real de Minas de Bolaños, he investigated complaints from the settlers against the Real Audiencia de Guadalajara in matters involving the militia and payment of tribute by the miners. Though he was an able and highly regarded soldier, his advancement was reportedly hindered by his outspokenness.
On April 4, 1806, Nemesio Salcedo y Salcedo, commandant general of the Provincias Internas, appointed Viana commander of the post at Nacogdoches. At this time Spain and the United States were in dispute over the western boundary of the Louisiana Purchase. When Viana learned, shortly after assuming his position in Nacogdoches, that the United States exploring party known as the Red River expedition had embarked on May 2, 1806, he protested the undertaking to the United States commander at Natchitoches, Louisiana, and to Salcedo. Salcedo concurred that the expedition was improper and authorized Viana to stop it. Concerned about designs on Spanish territory and the possibility of an invasion, Salcedo also ordered the reoccupation of territory from the Sabine River east to the Arroyo Hondo, an area that had been abandoned the previous February in accordance with a proposal to establish it as a neutral zone. Troops under orders from Viana consequently reoccupied Bayou Pierre in June and the abandoned mission of San Francisco de los Tejas in July. On July 28 Viana confronted the Red River expedition at a point on the Red River known as Spanish Bluff, in what is now Bowie County, and forced it to turn back. On September 27 Simón de Herrera, governor of Nuevo León, who had been ordered to East Texas to assist in its defense, ordered the withdrawal of Spanish forces to the west side of the Sabine. About five weeks later Viana served as the go-between in the negotiations of Herrera and Gen. James Wilkinson, which resulted in the Neutral Ground agreement of November 5, 1806. The route that Viana followed from Nacogdoches to his encounter with the Red River expedition is traced on two maps drawn by Father José María de Jesús Puelles, which were carried to Mexico City by Viana in April 1809 after his resignation as commander at Nacogdoches. The maps are now in the Barker Texas History Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Viana was gravely ill when he arrived in Mexico City and subsequently died there as a result of this sickness.