Historian Roland Rodríguez explores the military career of Captain Francisco Amangual (1739–1810) whose presence in the presidial hierarchy included active participation in convoys, skirmishes, and routine, day-to-day administration. The main thrust of the narrative examines Amangual’s tenure as the presidio paymaster (habilitado) for Béxar, Texas, from 1788 to 1793. Amangual and his cohorts generated voluminous documentation including stockpiles, litigious actions, correspondence, military service records, criminal investigations, and monthly company reports. Their interactions with Native polities, civilians, and fellow soldiers illuminate the overarching administrative functions fulfilled by the paymaster in New Spain’s Comandancia General. Drawn from a wide cross-section of archival sources, Rodríguez’s approach foregrounds the significance of the borderland’s operatives, documenting the seemingly mundane activities of life in the garrison and the more harrowing episodes of soldiering. What we are left with today from their writings is a unique body of literature about army life in the periphery. This case study aims to project onto the stage of presidio history one lesser-known actor’s role as an unapologetic navigator of complex bureaucratic obligations even as he soldiered on during the empire’s twilight.
A secondary but no less important focus of the book examines the evolution of the so-called flying squadrons (compañías volantes), a kind of make-ready cavalry unit in the Provincias Internas.
The volantes evolved as a specialized contingent charged with surveilling New Spain’s frontiers. Late in life, Amangual headed the San Carlos de Parras company. In much the same way as it brings Amangual’s multi-faceted career to light, the book assigns a cogent place to the complicated history of the flying squadrons. In doing so, the narrative presents a critical reevaluation of the colonial presidio experience.
Elma Dill Russell Spencer Series in the West and Southwest
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Published by Texas A&M University Press