History Matrix
  - Sources
History of...
  - Ballooning
  - Civil War in Albuquerque
  - Land Grants
  - Neighborhoods
  - Place Names
  - Sports
  - Railroad Boom
  - New Deal Economy
  - Modern Economy
  - City History
  - Cultural History
  - Recommended Books
  - Task Force
Spanish Colonial Military
Spanish Colonial Military

From the founding of Alburquerque in 1706 until the beginning of the Mexican era in 1821, the settlers were not safe from Indian raids. Originally, 10 soldiers were assigned to the villa which gave the settlers a sense of security. However, attacks from Apache and Navajo tribes continued despite the soldiers’ presence. Small groups of Navajos and Apaches raided the Spanish farms and the Pueblos, killing settlers and Pueblo Indians, taking women and children captive, and stealing livestock. The Navajos attacked from the west and the Apaches attacked from the south and east.

Because the Villa of Alburquerque in this period was actually a string of farms covering a distance of two and a half miles along the river, defense proved nearly impossible.

In 1708, the new governor, Peñuela, moved Alburquerque’s 10 soldiers to Santa Fe, which increased his force there to 100 soldiers. This left the settlers to protect themselves. They organized a citizen militia, and all the men were required to maintain arms for defense, and Pueblo men often joined them. Albuquerque became a staging point for campaigns against hostile Indians in the area. The church square was a parade ground where volunteers and soldiers could muster.

Volunteers provided their own weapons, horses and mules and typically wore a padded leather vest.

In 1775, the Apaches pillaged the country below the villa leaving 15 dead. The following year, 10 men and a woman were killed. In the latter half of the 1700s, the Comanches also began raiding. Riding in groups of several hundred, the Comanches were so fierce they drove Apaches from the eastern Rio Grande Valley. Their attacks could be devastating. On June 18, 1774, 200 Comanches attacked Alburquerque. They killed two Spaniards and three friendly Indians. They also abducted four sheepherders and took the villa’s horse herd. They escaped easily because the militia was elsewhere. In June 1775 they attacked the area between Sandia and Alameda pueblos, killing 35 Pueblo men and driving off all the horses, cows, and sheep in the area.

In 1778, Don Juan Bautista de Anza was appointed governor. A seasoned Indian fighter, he reorganized the Spanish troops, including the citizens. He reduced the worst attacks by carefully assigning his soldiers. In 1779 de Anza organized an army of more than 600 men and defeated the Comanches in eastern Colorado. This reduced the Comanche threat, but because the military was stationed in Santa Fe, Alburquerque was still not a safe place until the early 1800s.

Spanish soldiers carried whatever arms and supplies they personally owned. Generally, the Spanish soldier wore a helmet and some type of body armor for protection. The weapons they carried were a sword, dagger, shield, and lance. They wore leather jackets and leather boots. This practice continued through the sixteenth century and possibly later.

The mounted Spanish soldier’s weapon of choice was the lance. Infantrymen were armed with pikes and halberds. The halberd, an axe-like long handled weapon, was carried as a mark of rank by sergeants. Shields made of leather and studded with brass nails were used by both cavalry and infantrymen as a defense against arrows.

  ©2008 All rights reserved