Dragons or Soldiers of Cuera Who were they?
Creole or mestizo soldiers in New Spain. It is surprising that few, but experienced and effective, respected by Apaches, Comanches, Pueblo, Navajo, Pima, etc., maintained order in these distant North American territories.
How could Spain keep an eye on that huge border?
+ Hispanic Footprints
Hispanic Soldiers: Leather soldier (Cuera Dragons)
Spanish troops on horseback. The Cuera Dragons were organized in small groups, companies of about 15 men, but heavily armed and with numerous horses.
Elite soldiers guarding centuries, the borders of North Ameri ca.New Spain and its Dragons de Cuera (Leather Coated Soldier), had contact with all indigenous tribes. The Border Guardians, for the most part, should have been born in the territory and know the country and its customs, for that reason they were Spanish Creoles or mestizos.
Guards and elite soldiers
On horseback, and armed with spear, shield, sword, dagger, musket and pistol. In open spaces they attacked in groups, overwhelming everything in their path.
To the soldiers of the country, sometimes even using the traditional weapons of that territory, such as bows, arrows and spears. And they were very useful, because firearms, in combat, could not always be reloaded, which could leave them in a situation of inferiority. A weapon for every need, you could say that was his motto. They were very few, but experienced, knowledgeable about the terrain and with the ability to adapt to circumstances.
The Watchers of New Spain
The Cuera Dragons guarded and defended the border of the territories of the current U. S.
The territories in the North of Mexico acted as a border. Especially in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada etc. Even in Kansas they have found a sword, as a sample of the weapons he used to carry.
They had to prevent indigenous tribes, from the area or others from more distant areas, from crossing the border, entering the territory, to attack or rob the ranches. The Cuera Soldiers of New Spain were the first to effectively confront Apaches, Comanches, Sioux, Ute, etc. in northern Mexico.
Cuera soldiers born in New Spain
They were all volunteers
They were already adapted to the harshness of the country and were hooked for 10 years
From the 16th to the 19th centuries they defended the many missions and forts in the area with great efficiency. These leather soldiers maintained Spanish sovereignty on the border of New Spain. They were rather defensive units in charge of monitoring populations and missions. Although they also supported the indigenous allies if they were attacked by other tribes.
It is almost incredible how such a small number of soldiers were able to maintain and expand the borders for more than 300 years.
Recruited between Mexicans and New Spain
Faced with such a harsh climate, it was decided to create a military body made up of recruits born in the country itself. Thus, future soldiers would not only be used to the weather, they would also know the territory and its customs. This made some of them also skillfully use weapons of the country such as bow and arrows.
While the soldiers had to be born in the territory, the officers were different. For the officers there was more flexibility. They were usually Spanish or from other parts of the Spanish Empire. For this reason, they could be from the Iberian Peninsula, from Italy and even Irish refugees from Spain, of the Catholic religion.
Dreaded Spear Horse Charges
Thanks to their galloping combat formations, and armed with spears and shields, they sowed confusion among the enemy ranks, breaking their lines.
Deployed mainly in Northern Mexico, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas they created a defensive line. They stopped the indigenous people of the north and the European powers that tried to settle in border areas.
However, its range of action extended to the northern provinces, Nevada, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and even if necessary to as far away as Montana or Dakota.
Group of Spanish soldiers on horseback from the last period of colonization
Staggered border, more than 6,000 km in the US zone
A huge frontier
The enormous extension of the border to guard was impressive at that time. From San Francisco in California to St. Augustine in Florida there are more than 3,000 km in a straight line. But this border was on a broken line that made it twice as long.
A frontier inhabited by Indian tribes that became famous, such as the Apaches, Comanches, Uta, etc. A very varied border with mountains, deep valleys, deserts, huge plains, swamps, huge rivers, etc.
His defense, the Cuera, armor of animal hides
Leather (Cuera), your protection
Fur coat made of several layers of tough leather, which resisted arrows
This coat, which at the beginning also covered the legs, was sleeveless and very resistant. Made with up to 7 layers of leather that was capable of stopping an Indian arrow.
Initially, it was only worn by the officers, then it was incorporated as clothing for the entire troop. It did not wear sleeves and over the centuries it was changed to a lighter model that only covered the torso as a cuirass.
Thanks to their knowledge of the terrain, their weapons and their protections, they were very effective. They managed to reach the most remote places. They always ended their pursuits, even if they had to access mountains, rugged areas or closed forests.
Spear, shield, sword
Some even carried bows and arrows like the Indians
They also carried a carbine and pistol for fighting at a distance. An abundance and combination of weapons that allowed them to adapt to the situation and use the best for the case.
They used some weapons apparently out of date in Europe. Weapons that were hardly used in the wars of the Old Continent. While in Europe these types of weapons had practically disappeared, in New Spain they were very effective.
Muskets, especially at the beginning, were complicated and slow to reload, so that the soldier after firing it was defenseless for too many minutes, before the enemy.
So it was easy to get to hand-to-hand fighting. The pike or spear and the shield (shield or round) accompanied with the sword were very effective to attack and defend against the Indians. His very presence made them think about it before approaching them
Defeat Comanche and kill Green Crow
Victory of Juan Bautista Anza
The Comanches caused great instability on the New Spain border. They were moving more and more to the South of their territories of the Platte River when they had horses.
Comanches vs. Cuera Dragons
To be well armed by the French with firearms they pushed other Indian tribes inland and to the South, as was the case with the Apaches.
In 1779 they attacked Taos repeatedly. New Spain decides to carry out a punitive expedition. Fed up with the Comanche attacks, the Spanish concentrated a large troop of Soldiers of Cuera. A great expedition, since the Spanish parties only in a few cases exceeded 200 men. More than 600 soldiers, assisted by 200 Apaches, begin the persecution of the Apaches in their territories.
Their same tactics were used to surprise them. The entire journey was made traveling at night, hiding and covering the hooves of their horses with rags to keep noise out.
After traveling almost 1000 km they reach them. The expedition arrives in Colorado after the Comanches. They locate their camp, raid it, and capture more than 100 of them. Although the Greenhorn boss manages to escape he is hit shortly after and dies.
This Spanish victory had great repercussion, since Green Horn had a lot of prestige among the tribes and was considered very skilled. He made all the Indian tribes soon ask for peace.
The decisive horse
Each had 6 horses
Capable of long chases, sometimes hundreds of km
During the long marches, through desert and very difficult terrain, the horses would burst. Each Cuera Dragon had to bring 6 horses to take turns and let them rest.
In the persecutions they were feared by the Indians who saw that little by little they were overtaken. They had no choice but to hide to avoid them. At first they went to places where the Cuera Dragons were at a disadvantage because of the heavy skins they carried. With time this trick also ran out.
Later, when the Flying Units were created, the leathers were reduced to the waist. This allowed them to be more free and comfortable on their expeditions. Thus they would be able to reach even the most inaccessible places.
Smaller leather cuffs
Improvements of the XVIII
They use the pike or spear and shield
The shield was special called adarga. Shield of Arab origin that was used in Spain for centuries. It has the appearance of a double shield joined with a space in which they could support the spear. For this reason, it made it very practical and effective in cavalry charges, since it served as a support for the lance and at the same time as protection. With technological changes there are improvements in firearms. Flying companies were created that could move quickly and fight on all types of terrain. From that moment on, lighter and shorter leathers are used, up to the waist.
The Presidios, its forts
The frontier fortresses
Following its traditional policy in North Africa, it was decided to fortify the northern border of New Spain. The Crown of Spain built a whole network of Presidios (forts) in the most remote areas of the territory of Mexico. These presidios were built mainly in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, California.
When an area had security problems, wanted to install a new Christian mission or was frequently attacked, a Spanish Presidio was built. It was a basic fortification, which served as the base for a group of Soldiers from Cuera. Normally a group of around 20 soldiers settled there. From there, if there were incidents, they would go to the area. Troops from various presidios were grouped to carry out expeditions.