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Don Hugo O’Conor Named Commandant Inspector of New Spain

don-hugo-oconorDon Hugo O’Conor is named Commandant Inspector of New Spain on January 20, 1773. O’Conor, a descendant of king of Ireland Turlough Mor O’Conor, is born in 1732 in Ireland but is raised in Spain. The O’Conor family is also related to two officers in the Spanish army, Colonel Don Domingo O’Reilly and Field Marshal Alejandro O’Reilly. Originally, it is believed that the family name is most likely spelled “O’Connor” but is changed as the result of frequent misspellings by Spanish speakers.

In 1751, O’Conor follows his two cousins to Spain where they are already serving as officers in the Spanish Royal Army. He immediately joins the Regiment of Hibernia.

O’Conor serves in Spain’s war against Portugal in the early 1760’s and is then sent to the New World, serving in Cuba under his cousin, Field Marshal O’Reilly. O’Conor rises steadily through the ranks and in 1763 is made a knight of the Order of Calatrava.

In 1765, O’Conor is transferred to Mexico and serves on the staff of Don Juan de Villalba and shortly thereafter, to temporarily command the northern presidio of San Sabá. He goes to Texas to investigate a dispute around San Agustín de Ahumada Presidio between Governor Ángel de Martos y Navarrete and Rafael Martínez Pacheco, a future governor of Texas. During this time he obtains the title of inspector general of the Provincias Internas. In 1767, he is appointed governor of Texas, replacing Martos y Navarrete. When he takes office, he finds that one of its major cities, San Antonio, is shattered by frequent attacks of several Indian tribes. As a result, the new governor set up a garrison at Los Adaes to protect the city.

In 1771, O’Conor becomes the commander of the Chihuahua frontier and on January 20, 1773 is appointed Commandant Inspector of New Spain. Utilizing a system of frontier presidios, O’Conor fights a constant battle with numerous Indian tribes, primarily the Apaches, while helping reorganize and unify New Spain’s northern borders. He becomes the founding father of the city of Tucson, Arizona when he authorizes the construction of a military fort in that location in 1775.

In October 1776, O’Conor returns from the frontier and is appointed governor of the Yucatán, however at his station in Mérida his health begins to fail. On March 8, 1779, Don Hugo O’Conor dies at Quinta de Miraflores, just east of Mérida. O’Conor is only 44-years-old when he dies but has already risen to the rank of brigadier general. Had he lived to old age, Don Hugo O’Conor may well have risen to the highest ranks of Spain’s army or government.

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