The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991

The Mexican Commission and Its Survey of the
Rio Grande River Boundary, 185o0-854
HARRY P. HEWITT *
AN INVESTIGATION OF THE HISTORIOGRAPHY CONCERNING THE MEXICO-
United States boundary survey following the Mexican War reveals
that no definitive work exists on the subject. This is particularly true of
the scientific work carried out on the Rio Grande (Bravo). The primary
reason is that the main territorial dispute between the two countries
over the southern boundary of New Mexico was settled by the Gadsden
Purchase in 1854. That treaty rendered previous issues moot, and
there has been little interest in pursuing a comprehensive study of the
controversies that arose earlier, or to explore the significant activities of
the two commissions responsible for carrying out the survey.
Several English publications touch on some aspects of the United
States commission's activities in carrying out its work on the river above
Ringgold Barracks (Rio Grande City), but less is known of the work in
the lower Rio Grande valley.' American and Mexican scholars usually
* Harry P. Hewitt is associate professor of history at Midwestern State University in Wichita
Falls, Texas Appreciation is extended to the Hardin Foundation for Wichita County and Mid-
western State University for financial assistance, and to Dr. Alfred Stewart and Nelda H.
Hewitt for their editorial advice.
' Wilham H. Goetzmann, Army Exploration in the American West, 1803- 1863 (Lincoln: Univer-
sity of Nebraska Press, 1979), 167-195, William H. Goetzmann, Exploration and Empire- The
Explorer and the Sczentist in the Winning of the American West (New York: Norton, 1978), 261- 263;
Wilham H. Goetzmann, "The United States-Mexican Boundary Survey, 1848-1853," South-
western Historical Quarterly, LXII (Oct., 1958), 164-190 (cited hereafter as SHQ); William H.
Goetzmann, "Science Explores the Big Bend: 1852- i853," Password of the ElPaso Historical So-
czety, III (Apr., 1958), 60-67. Also see Goetzmann's introduction in the Texas State Historical
Association's reprint of Wllham H Emory, Report on the United States and Mexican Boundary Sur-
vey ... (3 vols.; Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1987), I, ix-xvi Goetzmann is the
only author to deal with the whole of the boundary survey in a scholarly fashion and is one of
the few persons in recent years to gain access to Mexican documents. Lenard E. Brown, Survey
of the United States Mexico Boundary, 1849-1855 (Washington, D.C.: United States Department
of Interior, 1969), 0o- 30; Gladys Gregory, The Chamzzal Settlement: A View from El Paso (El Paso:
Texas Western College Press, 1963), - 11, Robert V. Hine, Bartlett's West. Drawing the Mexican
Boundary (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), 22-45; Francis C. Kajencki, "Charles Rad-
ziminski and the United States-Mexican Boundary Survey," New Mexico Historical Review, LXIII
(July, 1988), 21 1-240 (cited hereafter as NMHR); J Fred Rippy, The United States and Mexico
(New York: F. S. Crofts and Co., 1931), 10o6-125; J. Fred Rippy, "Border Troubles Along the
Rio Grande, 1848-186o," SHQ, XXIII (Oct., 1919), 91-111; Edward S Wallace, The Great
Reconnaissance: Soldiers, Artists, and Scientists on the Frontier, 1848- 861 (Boston- Little, Brown,

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101214/. Accessed July 11, 2014.