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MeNELLYS RAIDING RANGERS by R. BOLON nthe year 1874 Texas was plagued by hostile Tndians in the west and by cattle rusting ban- dits on the Mexican border, especially in the Nue- ces Strip, that portion of territory that Ties be- tween the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Tt was in the above year that the Texas Legislature Under the leadership of Governor Coke created ‘ovo military divisions to bring law and order to the western portion of the state and the St "To police the Indians the Frontier Battalion un- der the command of Major John B. Jones was established. To throttle the bandits on the border a special Ranger force was organized, headed by Captain L. H. MeNely, a Civil War hero who had been a state policeman under the Davis regime in Texas in reconstruction days MeNelly proved a wise choice for the position as head of the special Ranger force. Just thirty years of age, small and frail and suifering from tubercilosis, he didn’t look like a hero but he led his force for two years and in that time with his daring, made history in the Nueces Strip. His most daring exploit was a raid into Mexico with thirty men to recover some 250 head of stolen Texas cattle, In that raid the big leader of Mexi- can cattle rustlers, Juan Flores Salinas, was slain and MeNelly recovered not just the origi, nal two hundred and fifty head of cattle but four hundred that had been stolen from Texas ranches in the border country Many accounts of this raid have been written : but in this writer’s opinion the best version is ay contained in the book, TAMING THE NUECES STRIP by George Durham as told to Clyde Want. land and published by the University of Texas Press in Austin, Texas. Durham was one of Me. - Nelly's men, in fact the youngest and was on the - raid into Mexico. Definitely the book belongs. in y any collection of Texicana. ‘This writer ie in, ebted to that book for this story. Tt was in 1875 that MeNelly with thirty ran- gers marched into the notorious strip which was that time known for its lawlessness. MeNelly's first act upon entering the strip was to organize an effective spy system to penetrate the ranks of the rustlers and enable him to learn the plana and the movements of the bandite who preyed tipon the Texas ranches along the Mexican bor- Rather than admit failure or ask for help he defied orders and told the Secretary of War to go to hell. He had crossed the Rio Grande to teach the rustlers a lesson and help or odds be damned! He was sickly, slight, but scrappy and mulish as they make them. 3s frontier, Bondit reids out of Mexico were @ constont source of harassment on the early Texas eae. Coptain Lee H. McNelly, Texas Ranger. der. At Palo Alto near Browns. ville he routed a gang of cattle thieves and drove them across the Rio Grande. The mild look- ing little captain was not in the strip long before the rustlers came to fear him. More than one abandoned his loot rather than tangle with MeNelly From June to October 1875 McNelly had no major trouble with the bandits. Around the first of October he took ill and went to his home in Washington County, leaving his men under the com- mand of Lieutenant Robinson in the brush near Edinburg, Texas, By the first of November he had recuperated sufficiently to return for duty. It was then that he learned via his spy system that two hundred and fifty head of Texas cattle had been stolen and were being herded for Las Cuer- vas Crossing, ten miles below Rio Grande City. MeNelly immediate- ly requested of head quarters in Austin to be allowed to cooperate with the U. S. Army. Fort Brown “ at Brownsville was under the command of Colonel Potter, Ma- ior Alexander was in command of Ringgold Barracks at Rio Grande City and Major Clendenin and Captain Rendlett were at Edin- burg with a detachment of Before MeNelly had started up- on the trail of the bandits a Mex. ican had ridden into Captain Randlett’s camp advising that cattle thieves were pushing a sto. len herd toward Las Cuervas Crossing. Randlett wired Colonel Potter of this and Potter had wired back that Randlett was to follow the rustlers into Mexico if necessary and to try to conn with MeNelly. Randlett enroute to the crossing stopped to wait for a courier to learn if more Soldiers were coming out of Ring. fold to aid him. The next day a customs inspector had inf, Randlett that the rustlers med Probably cross the Rio Grande at Las Cuervas Crossing the next day. Randlett delayed again and to arrive at the Saltre the, thieves ‘hed heir Toot across. He then gt layed further and did not crag by Colonel Potter. The next night Potter ordered mt troops out of Ringzold to crossing under Majors Alexa and Clendenin. Clendenin refyes, fo allow Randlett to cross Thus the rustler: were already in Mexico when Me Nelly arrived at Las Cuemg Crossing. He immediately rushe} back to Ringgold and senta tee gram to Austin advising that © party of raiders had crossed tyy hundred and fifty head of pay at Las Cuervas and that Ug Army Major Clendenin had rm. fused to cross after them without farther orders. McNelly further advised that he intended to cro the Rio Grande as soon as his men arrived. He then sent word to Lieutenant Robinson to bring the men into Ringgold Barry Robinson and the rangers made the fifty mile march in five hours Although warned by the mil tary officers that he was breaking the law, McNelly prepared to cross his thirty rangers. With the aid of a punt the captain and his nen crossed the Rio Grande. Las Cuervas Crossing was ten miles from Rio Grande City. In be tween the Las Cuervas and the river was another spre Las Cachattus, Owner of the L Cuervas and mayor of the village Flores Salinas. He w: 0 the leader of all the Mexican c rustlers, In Texas he was ott sidered a low down cow thief. 0 Mexico he was a hero and a big shot. Under the cover of night and & fog MeNelly led his men tovatd Las Cuervas Ranch, By his sile was a Mexican ranger Be the name of Old Casoose who knew the terrain in the vicinity, TH men silently followed MeNel¥ through heavy brush down 4 1” row cow trail. 2 Tt was not long before the were brought up short by 4 ™ fence. Old Casoose mistakenly sumed they had arrived at 1 Guervas. A ranger by the m=), Armstrong stepped out of fe brush and drew a shot fro" hind the fence. Immediatel¥ to Nelly shot the marksma! “)) (Continued on page