Strange but true – General Lopez de Santa Anna’s invasion of Texas in 1836 was not to be the last time that a Mexican Army crossed the border into Texas in full battle array – artillery, infantry, military band and all. Santa Anna may have been defeated at San Jacinto – but for the Napoleon of the west, that was only a temporary setback. In March of 1842 a brief raid by General Rafael Vasquez and some 400 soldiers made a lightening-fast dash over the Rio Grande, while another 150 soldiers struck at Goliad and Refugio. They met little resistance – and departed at speed before Texan forces could assemble and retaliate. All seemed to have quieted down by late summer, though: Texas had ratified a treaty with England, and the United States requesting that Texas suspend all hostilities with Mexico.
Most people accept as conventional wisdom about the Texas frontier, that Anglo settlers were always the consummate horsemen, cowboys and cavalrymen that they were at the height of the cattle boom years. But that was not so: there was a learning curve involved. The wealthier Texas settlers who came from the Southern states of course valued fine horseflesh. Horse-races were always a popular amusement, and the more down-to-earth farmers and tradesmen who came to Texas used horses as draft animals. But the Anglo element was not accustomed to working cattle – the long-horned and wilderness adapted descendents of Spanish cattle – from horseback. Their eastern cattle were slow, tame and lumbering. Nor were many of them as accustomed to making war from the saddle as the Comanche were. Most of Sam Houston’s army who won victory at San Jacinto, were foot-soldiers: his scouts and cavalry was a comparatively small component of his force. It was a deliberate part of Sam Houston’s strategy to fall back into East Texas, where the lay of the land worked in the favor of his army. The Anglos’ preferred weapon in those early days in Texas the long Kentucky rifle, a muzzle-loading weapon, impossible to use effectively in the saddle, more suited to their preferred cover of woods – not the rolling grasslands interspersed with occasional clumps of trees which afforded Mexican lancers such grand maneuvering room.