Posse Comitatus

Curly Bill and Jim Wallace pen and ink by Joe Beeler

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 which limits the power of the federal government in the use of federal military personnel to enforce domestic policies within the United States. So the Army was handcuffed when it came to doing anything about the Curly Bill and the boys. On April 27th, 1881, several Cow-boys rustled fifty head of cattle from a ranch owned by Juan Vasquez near Fronteras. On May they returned and rustled ninety more and headed north for the border. They were spotted and Vasquez raised a posse and went in pursuit. They caught up with them Cajon de Santa Rosa a few miles from Fronteras. When Vasquez ordered the men to surrender the Cow-boys opened fire. The Mexicans surrounded them and fire. When the gun smoke cleared, three Cow-boys were dead and one seriously wounded and begging for water. Vasquez offered him a cup of water. The Cow-boy, Johnny Oliver, responded by pulling his pistol and killing the rancher. Vasquez’s men then finished off Oliver. They searched the bodies and found papers that identified them as George Turner, Miller McCallister, Hilario Garcia and Oliver.

When the word of the killings got out a large band of Cow-boys began making plans to ravage Fronteras in revenge for killing their cohorts.

While the Cow-boys were busy gathering friends, their ringleader, Curly Bill Brocius got into a fracas in Galeyville with fellow-rustler, Jim Wallace that resulted in his being shot in the jaw. Miraculously, Bill managed to survive the wound, but he was in no shape to lead the raid to Fronteras.

Matters were further complicated for the Cow-boys when, in June 1881, the Mexican government ordered Philippe Neri, commandant of the federal troops at Fronteras to fortify the border with 250 soldiers. The Cowboys wisely decided not to take revenge on the town of Fronteras. Then, in August 1881, Captain Alfredo Carrillo and fifty soldiers out of Fronteras caught up with another band of rustlers that included Old Man Clanton in Guadalupe Canyon and gunned down nearly all of them. The Cow-boys decided to confine their rustling to the American side of the border.

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