Hidalgo Co. Cemeteries of Tx

Submitted by Frances Isbell

With Permission  of Hidalgo Co. Historical Commission (2006)

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Location: Exact location unknown. Near Hidalgo-Cameron County line where it is crossed by Military Highway (US 281).

SURVEY: Mass burial. No headstones.

HISTORY: In 1860, Mexican bandit Juan Cortina established his men in La Bolsa (Sp. "pocket, bag") at a hairpin bend across the Rio Grande from Zacatal Ranch. He planned to attack the paddlewheel steamboat Ranchero, proceeding downriver from Fort Ringgold at Rio Grande City with an Army payroll. Warned of the planned ambush, soldiers rode in the steamboat, a company of Texas Rangers marched downriver along the north bank beside theamboat, and a cavalry troop rode upriver from Fort Brown.

As the steamboat was negotiating the tortuous bend of the Rio Grande, the bandits, forted up at La Bolsa, attacked. Rangers crossed the river to repel the attack. The skirmish left 29 Cortinistas and one American soldier dead on the field. Red-bearded Cortina survived and was last to leave the field.

Reportedly, the Cortinistas were buried where they lay. About 1890, the Rio Grande shifted course and left La Bolsa battlefield on the American side of the river.

When irrigation district workers were digging the Santa Maria Main Canal, they uncovered a mass burial. The workers covered over the graves and moved the canal farther east. The site is now within the Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge.

…Texas Historical Marker 1990