Las Cuevas War was fought between a group of Texas Rangers and a small Mexican militia. It was a small-scale war which lasted very briefly during which the Texas Rangers stood victorious.
Texas had gained independence from Mexico early in the 19th century. However, tensions between Texas and Mexico continued even after Texas had become a state of the USA. This tension sometimes resulted in border skirmishes between the two sides. The Las Cuevas War was one of these instances where a dispute between the two sides resulted in a brief war.
In this case, the dispute was that hundreds of cattle from the Texan side of the border had been stolen. They were taken across the Rio Grande River to the Mexican side of the border. The bandits who had stolen the cattle believed they were safe now that they were in Mexico but a group of Texas Rangers decided to follow them.
The Las Cuevas War was fought in the Tamaulipas area of Mexico. It took place on November 20, 1875 and November 21, 1875.
The group of Texas Rangers was led by Captain Leander McNelly. The Mexican militia was commanded by General Juan Salinas.
The Texas Rangers under Captain McNelly entered the Mexican border on November 20, 1875. They hoped to quickly find the stolen cattle and haul them back to the U.S. side of the border. But while they attempted to do so, they had to confront a large Mexican militia under the command of General Juan Salinas.
The Texan Rangers saw that they were outnumbered and so they retreated to the back of the Rio Grande River. Here, they made their stand while they were supported by the artillery used by a group of U.S. Army on the other side of the border. This artillery helped kill nearly 80 of the militiamen in General Juan’s Mexican militia after which the militia retreated.
After the Mexican militia had retreated, Captain McNelly was asked by the commander of the U.S. Army at Fort Brown to return back the U.S. side of the border immediately. However, McNelly stated that he would not return without the stolen cattle which had had come to retrieve.
He was later instructed by the Secretary of War to return to the U.S. with his Rangers but Captain McNelly again refused. He briefly returned to the U.S. side of the border on November 21, 1875. Later on the same day, he and 16 other Texas Rangers once again went over to the Mexican side and demanded that the stolen cattle be returned.
When a Mexican captain in charge of the customs house stalled, the Rangers arrested him. Eventually, the stolen cattle were returned to the U.S. territory. In fact, although 250 cattle heads had been stolen from the U.S. territory, Captain McNelly and his Rangers brought back 400 cattle heads when they returned from the Mexican side.