Second Battle of Adobe Walls

Second Battle of Adobe Walls

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Second Battle of Adobe Walls
partof=the Red River War

date=June 27, 1874
place=Adobe Walls
result=U.S. victory
combatant1=American hunters
(Bat Masterson,
William "Billy" Dixon and others significantly involved)
Quanah Parker
strength1=28 hunters
strength2=300 Comanche warriors
casualties1=4 killed
casualties2=16 killed
The Second Battle of Adobe Walls was fought on June 27, 1874 between Comanche forces and a group of 28 U.S. hunters defending the settlement of Adobe Walls in what is now Hutchinson County, Texas.

Settlement of Adobe Walls

Adobe Walls was the name of a trading post in the Texas Panhandle, just north of the Canadian River. In 1845, an Adobe fort was built there to house the post, but it was blown up by the traders three years later after repeated Indian attacks. In 1864, the ruins were the site of one of the largest battles ever to take place on the Great Plains. Colonel Christopher "Kit" Carson led 300 volunteers from New Mexico against a force of thousands of Indians; the results of the battle were indecisive, though Carson was acclaimed as a hero for successfully striking a blow against the Indians and for leading his men out of the trap with minimal casualties. This is known as the First Battle of Adobe Walls.

After the decimation of the buffalo herd in Kansas the hunters moved south and west to continue practicing their profession. In June 1874 (ten years after the first battle), a group of enterprising businessmen had set up two stores near the ruins of the old trading post in an effort to rekindle the 'town' of Adobe Walls. The complex quickly grew to include two stores, a corral, a restaurant, and a blacksmith shop, all of which served the population of 200-300 buffalo hunters in the area. By late June there had been talk of imminent Indian problems and, in recent weeks, hunters had actually been killed. Some 28 or 29 persons were present at Adobe Walls, including James Hanrahan the saloon owner, a 20-year old Bat Masterson, William "Billy" Dixon (of whose famous long-distance rifle shot effectively ended the siege), California Joe (according to a somewhat unreliable account of California Joe Milner's life, or he may have been at the First Battle of Adobe Walls), and one woman, the wife of cook William Olds.

The Native American Alliance

The remaining free-ranging Southern Plains bands (Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Arapaho) correctly perceived the post and the buffalo hunting as a major threat to their existence. That spring, the Indians held a sun dance. Comanche medicine man Isa-tai promised victory and immunity from bullets to warriors who took the fight to the enemy. At dawn on June 27, 1874, about seven hundred Indians under the leadership of Quanah Parker and Isa-tai attacked the post.

The Battle

The Comanches were led by Isa-tai and Quanah Parker. Despite being outnumbered, the hunters repelled the Comanche assault. After a four-day siege, reinforcements arrived and increased the garrison to about 100 men. The Comanches retired soon afterward.

"The battle was highlighted on the second day by the legendary shot of William "Billy" Dixon, who killed an attacker on a faraway hill using a Sharps buffalo rifle. Controversy prevails over the exact range of the shot; a post-battle survey set the distance at fifteen hundred yards, while Baker and Harrison set it at about one thousand yards. Casualty reports vary, and are not known with any great accuracy, although most agree that less than 30 total deaths would be a close number."

At two in the morning on June 27, 1874, the ridgepole holding up the sod roof of the saloon broke with a loud crack. Everyone in the saloon and several other men from the 'town' immediately set to repair the damage. Thus most of the inhabitants were already wide awake and up and about when, at dawn, a combined force of Comanche, Cheyenne, and Kiowa warriors {estimated in excess of 700 strong and led by Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, son of a captured white woman, Cynthia Ann Parker} swept across the plains, intent on erasing the populace of Adobe Walls.

The initial attack almost carried the day; the Indians were in close enough to pound on the doors and windows of the buildings with their rifle butts. The fight was in such close quarters the hunters' long range rifles were useless. They were fighting with pistols and Henry and Winchester lever-action rifles in .44 rimfire. After the initial attack was repulsed, the hunters were able to keep the Indians at bay with their Sharps rifles.

A search following the initial battle turned up the bodies of 15 warriors killed so close to the buildings that their bodies could not be retrieved by their fellows. The Indians rode out of range and camped in the distance while deciding how to handle the situation, effectively laying siege to Adobe Walls.

The hunters suffered four fatalities: two brothers asleep in a wagon failed to survive the initial onslaught, Billy Tyler was shot through the lungs as he paused in the doorway of a building to take a shot, and Mrs. Bill Olds accidentally shot her husband in the head as she handed a reloaded rifle up to him (the bullet entering under his chin and exiting out the top of his head).

The second day after the initial attack, fifteen warriors rode out on a bluff nearly a mile away to survey the situation. Some reports indicate they were taunting the Adobe Walls defenders but, at the distance involved, it seems unlikely. At the behest of one of the hunters, Billy Dixon, already renowned as a crack shot, took aim with a 'Big Fifty' Sharps (it was either a .50-70 or -90, probably the latter) he'd borrowed from Hanrahan, and cleanly dropped a warrior from atop his horse. This apparently so discouraged the Indians they decamped and gave up the fight.Two weeks later a team of US Army surveyors, under the command of Nelson A. Miles, measured the distance of the shot: 1,538 yards, or nine-tenths of a mile. For the rest of his life, Billy Dixon never claimed the shot was anything other than a lucky one; his memoirs do not devote even a full paragraph to 'the shot'. [ cite news | first=Mike | last=Coyote Creek | title=History of Adobe Walls | publisher=Faultline Shootist Society, San Jose CA | url= ]

"Forensic archaeologists have discovered several Richards' Colt conversions, some Smith & Wesson Americans, and at least one Colt .45 (then new on the frontier) pistol, along with numerous rifles (in calibers .50-70, .50-90, .44-77, .44 Henry Flat, and at least one .45-70, also very new) were in use at Adobe Walls."

Post Battle

The result of Adobe Walls was a crushing spiritual defeat for the Indians, though it was seen as a military victory. It also prompted the U.S. military to take its final actions to crush the Indians once and for all. Within the year, the long war between whites and Indians in Texas would reach its conclusion.

In September, just three months after Adobe Walls, an army dispatch detail consisting of Billy Dixon, another scout (Amos Chapman), and four troopers from the 6th Cavalry were surrounded and besieged by a large combined band of Kiowas and Comanches. They holed up in a buffalo wallow and, with accurate rifle fire, held off the Indians for an entire day. An extremely cold rainstorm that night discouraged the Indians, and they broke off the fight; every man in the detail was wounded and one trooper killed. For this action Billy Dixon, along with the other survivors of 'The Buffalo Wallow Fight', were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.


This fight is historically significant because it led to the Red River War of 1874-75, resulting in the final relocation of the Southern Plains Indians to reservations in what is now Oklahoma. A monument was erected in 1924 on the site of Adobe Walls by the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society.


Rupert N. Richardson, "The Comanche Indians at the Adobe Walls Fight," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 4 (1931).

G. Derek West, "The Battle of Adobe Walls," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 36 (1963).

T. Lindsay Baker and Billy R. Harrison, Adobe Walls: The History and Archaeology of the 1874 Trading Post (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986).

* [ The Battle of Adobe Walls myth vs reality]

* [ History of Adobe Walls - Faultline Shootist Society, San Jose CA]

* [ The Battle of Adobe Walls- Texas State Library]

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