Neutral Ground

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Location: Between Spanish Texas and the United States' Louisiana Purchasemap
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After the Louisiana Purchase, the United States and Spain were unable to agree on the boundary between Louisiana and Texas. The Neutral Ground - also known as the Neutral Strip, the Neutral Territory,[1] the Rio Hondo Strip[2], the No Man's Land of Louisiana, the Sabine Free State, the Bastard State[3], Stinking Hell[3], and the Devil's Playground[3] - became a disputed area between Spanish Texas and the America's newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. Specifically, it was comprised of the land located between the Sabine River on the west and the Arroyo Hondo ("Deep Stream") on the east.[3] Though it was not defined, it may be safely assumed that the Gulf of Mexico constituted the Neutral Ground's southern boundary and that the 32nd parallel of latitude formed the northern boundary.[4]

Local officers of Spain and the United States agreed to leave the Neutral Ground temporarily outside the jurisdiction of either country. The area, in what is now western Louisiana, had neutral status from 1806 to 1821.[1][5]

Areas of Texas Colony affected were the Eastern Counties of Texas, closely located to the Neutral Ground namely those later known as:

Cass County, Texas
Red River County, Texas
Marion County, Texas
Shelby County, Texas
Harrison County, Texas
Panola County, Texas
San Augustine County, Texas
Orange County, Texas
Newton County, Texas
Upshur County, Texas


In October 1806, American armed forces and the Spanish Empire forces faced off across the Sabine River. American Gen. James Wilkinson and Spanish Lt. Col. Simón de Herrera avoided war by coming to a compromise called the Neutral Ground Agreement. It called for Lt. Col. Herrera to keep his forces west of the Sabine River and for Gen. Wilkinson to withdraw American forces to east of the traditional French/Spanish boundary. The establishment of the Neutral Ground was formalized in writing, and it was agreed that, until the boundary question was resolved through diplomatic means, neither government would:

  • Attempt to assert sovereignty over the area,
  • Send troops into the neutral territory, or
  • Allow anyone (not already resident) to enter.
Spain and later Mexico would not agree on the boundary as both feared the French would invade Texas Colony!!

Consequently, the Neutral Ground existed outside the governance of either the United States or Spain until 1821.[6] Although it had been stipulated in the agreement that no settlers would be permitted in the Neutral Ground, settlers from both the Spanish and American territories moved in.[4]

Neutral Ground Timeline

  • 1806: The Neutral Zone is established. The Neutral Strip was land between the Arroyo Hondo and the Sabine River and between the Calcasieu River and Sabine River to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • 1812: Louisiana became a state.
  • 1819: The Neutral Zone is settled between Spain and the United States. Thus, in 1819, the Sabine River became the western boundary of the United States, and the west of the river (now East Texas) was Mexico.[3]
  • 1821: Ownership of the strip went to United States by the Adams-Onís Treaty.[4]
  • 1819-1836 According to Boundaries between 1819 and 1836 the Neches River was occasionally advanced as the eastern boundary of Texas.
  • July 5,1848 Following the Mexican-Americann war on July 5, 1848, the United States Congress passed an act giving its consent to the state of Texas to move its Eastern boundary from the west bank of the Sabine River (including Sabine Pass and Sabine Lake to the middle of that stream
  • November 24, 1849, the Texas legislature enacted a law to that effect. [7] [8]

Related Materials

  • Castañeda, Carlos E. The Mission Era: The End of the Spanish Regime, 1780–1810, Vol. 5 of the series Our Catholic Heritage in Texas, 1519–1936. Austin, TX: Von Boeckmann-Jones Company, 1942.
  • Cox, Isaac Joslin. “The Louisiana/Texas Frontier: The American Occupation of the Louisiana-Texas Frontier.” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 17, no. 1 (July 1913): 1–42.
  • “The Louisiana-Texas Frontier During the Burr Conspiracy.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 10, no. 3 (December 1923): 274–84.
  • Faulk, Odie B. A Successful Failure: The Saga of Texas, 1519–1810. Austin, TX: Stock-Vaugn Company, 1965.
  • Haggard, J. Villasana. “The Neutral Ground Between Texas and Louisiana, 1806–1821.” The Louisiana Historical Quarterly 28, no. 4 (October 1945): 1001–128.
  • Jackson, Jack. Los Mesteños: Spanish Ranching in Texas, 1721–1821. College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1986.
  • Kastor, Peter J. The Nation’s Crucible: The Louisiana Purchase and the Creation of America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.
  • Sternberg, Richard. “The Western Boundary of Louisiana.” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 35 (October 1931): 95–108.[6]
  • ""Neutral Ground": From the Political Geography of Imperialism to the Streets of New Orleans, a Fall 20015 article about Louisiana's on-going Neutral Ground ties[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Neutral Ground (Louisiana)." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 13 June 2017. Web. 17 July 2017.
  2. Jones, Sam H. The History of Louisiana and the Neutral Territory. Comp. Leora White. McNeese State University. Http://, 2008. Web. 17 July 2017. Originally presented on 18 Apr 1970.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Louisiana History Time Line for Central La. Louisiana College., n.d. Web. 17 July 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 J. V. Haggard, "The Neutral Ground between Louisiana and Texas, 1806–1821," Louisiana Historical Quarterly 28 (October 1945).
  5. LeJeune, Keagan. "Western Louisiana's Neutral Strip: Its History, People, And Legends." Folklife in Louisiana. Http://, 2015. Web. 17 July 2017.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Townes, J. Edward "The Neutral Strip." In Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010–. Article published July 12, 2011.
  7. Boundaries
  9. Campanella, Rich. “'Neutral Ground': From the Political Geography of Imperialism to the Streets of New Orleans.” Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, no. Fall 2015, 2015, pp. 66–67.

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Comments: 2

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Hi! I'm correcting the name of the Melungeon category to Melungeons - could you add an "s" to the category name?

Category: Melungeons


posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
The 's' is added to the Melungeons.


posted by Mary Richardson
edited by Mary Richardson