- Texas–Indian Wars
The Texas-Indian Wars were a series of conflicts between settlers in
Texasand Plains Indians. These conflicts began when the first settlers moved into Spanish Texas, and continued through Texas's time as part of Mexico, as its own nation, Republic of Texas, and did not end until 30 years after Texas joined the United States. This article covers the conflicts from 1820, just before Mexico gained independence from Spain, until 1875, when the last free band of Plains Indians, the Comanches led by Quahadi warrior Quanah Parker, surrendered and moved to the Fort Sillreservation in Oklahoma.
The half-century struggle between the Plains Tribes and the Texans became particularly intense after the Spanish, and then Mexicans, left power in Texas, and the Republic of Texas, and then the United States, opposed the Tribes. Their war with the Plains Indians became one of deep animosity, slaughter, and, in the end, near-total conquest. [ [http://www.texancultures.com/publications/texansoneandall/nativeamerican.htm Native American Texans ] ]
Although the outcome was lop-sided, the violence of the wars were not. When he recovered Cynthia Ann Parker at Pease River, Sul Ross observed that her recovery would be felt in every family in Texas, as every one of them had lost someone in the Indian Wars. Exley, J.A.. “"Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family"] Indeed, during the American Civil War, when the army was unavailable to protect the frontier, the Comanche and Kiowa pushed white settlements back over 100 miles on the Texas frontier. [http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/forts/frontier.html Frontier Forts > Texas and the Western Frontier ] ]
The main adversaries in these wars were all relative newcomers to Texas, Europeans began permanently settling in Texas at
Nacogdochesaround 1721 [ [http://www.texancultures.utsa.edu/publications/timeline/timeline.pdf "Timeline of History". The University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio] ] , while the Plains Indians arrived about 1750.
Indians in Texas
Although the Comanche were by far the best known of the Native American Plains tribes living in what is now Texas, they were the last to arrive in the region. Their allies, the
Kiowaand Kiowa Apachelived in what is now West Texas; the Tonkawa, Delaware, Caddo, Wichita Indiansand the Cherokeepopulated eastern Texas. Until around 1650, the Comanche had been part of the Shoshonepeople living along the upper Platte Riverin Wyoming. The Comanche emerged as a distinct group around 1650, at about the same time they acquired the horse, which allowed them greater mobility in their quest for better hunting grounds. ["The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains". University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.] Their migration as Shoshone took them to the southern plains, from whence they moved southward into a huge region extending from the Arkansas Riverto central Texas. During that time, their population increased dramatically for three reasons: the abundance of buffalo as a reliable food source, an influx of Shoshone migrants, and the adoption of huge numbers of women and children taken captive from rival groups. Sultzman, Lee (2006). [http://www.tolatsga.org/ComancheOne.html] . "Comanche History: Part One." Accessed September 7 2007.] The Comanches never formed a single cohesive tribal unit but were divided into almost a dozen autonomous groups with as many as 45 distinct divisions among the 12 bands. [The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains. University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.] These groups shared the same language and culture but may have fought among themselves just as often as they cooperated.
Before 1750, the dominant Native American tribe in Texas were the
Apaches. But this changed with the Comanche conquest. ["The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains". University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.] Beginning in the 1740s, the Comanche began crossing the Arkansas River and established themselves on margins of the Llano Estacado. This area extended from southwestern Oklahoma across the Texas Panhandle into New Mexico. The Apaches were driven out in a series of wars, and the Comanche came to control the entire area, which became known as the Comancheria. Sultzman, Lee (2006). [http://www.tolatsga.org/ComancheOne.html] . "Comanche History: Part One. Accessed September 7 2007.] This domain extended south from the Arkansas River across central Texas to the vicinity of San Antonio, including the entire Edwards Plateauwest to the Pecos River and then north again following the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to the Arkansas River. ["The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains". University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.]
After driving out the Apaches, the Comanches were stricken by a smallpox epidemic from 1780 until 1781. As the epidemic was very severe, the Comanche temporarily suspended raids, and some Comanche divisions were disbanded. A second smallpox epidemic struck during the winter of 1816–1817. The best estimates are that more than half the total population of the Comanche were killed by these epidemics. Fehrenbach, T.R. "Comanches, The Destruction of a People"] Sultzman, Lee (2006). [http://www.tolatsga.org/ComancheOne.html] . "Comanche History: Part One. Accessed
September 7 2007.]
The Comanche effectively united with the Kiowa, and Kiowa Apache, after one Kiowa warrior spent a fall season with the Comanche in 1790. From this single incident, the three tribes eventually effectively united. Fehrenbacht believed the union came from the necessity to protect their hunting grounds from settler incursions. First, the Kiowa and the Comanche agreed to share hunting grounds and unite in war. The Kiowa Apache, as allies of the Kiowa, ultimately joined this alliance. Eventually, the three tribes agreed to share the same hunting grounds, and had a mutual self defense and war pact. Sultzman, Lee (2006). [http://www.tolatsga.org/ComancheOne.html] . "Comanche History: Part One. Accessed
September 7 2007.]
Anglo settlers had come to Texas prior to the end of Spanish rule, but they were not actively encouraged by the colonial authorities, and their numbers were extremely limited.
Stephen F. Austinwas one of the few Americans to be given a Spanish land grant in Texas. Sultzman, Lee (2006). [http://www.tolatsga.org/ComancheOne.html] . "Comanche History: Part One. Accessed September 7 2007.] When Mexico obtained its independence from Spain in 1821, the country was eager to settle its sparsely populated northern provinces, and eager to challenge the domain of the Comanche over the Comancheria. The government had difficulty convincing many Mexican immigrants to settle in the sparsely populated region, and so recruited Anglo-American settlers. [The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains. University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.]
Early Texas Settlement: Mexican-Texas 1821-1836
In the 1820s, seeking additional settlers as a means of stabilizing the area, Mexico reached an agreement with
Stephen F. Austinreauthorizing his Spanish land grants. That allowed several hundred Anglo families to move into the region. As word spread of rich lands in Texas, thousands of additional settlers from the United States flooded into Texas, many of whom were not interested in being ruled by the government of Mexico. In 1829, when Mexico abolished slavery throughout Mexico, the immigrants from the U.S. were exempted in some colonies or actively evaded governmental efforts to enforce the national abolition of slaveryin the territory. Theoretically, many slaves in Mexico at this time were indentured servants. This was coupled with complaints about the tightening political and economic control over the territory by the central government in Mexico City, leading to the Texas Revolution. Sultzman, Lee (2006). [http://www.tolatsga.org/ComancheOne.html] . "Comanche History: Part One. Accessed September 7 2007.]
In 1821, while settlers were still welcome,
Francisco Ruiznegotiated a truce with the Penatucka Comanche, the band closest to the settlements in East and Central Texas. Following that truce, he was able to finalize a treaty of peace and friendship, which was signed in Mexico City in December 1821. Within twelve months the Mexican Government failed to pay the presents promised the Pentucka, who resumed raiding at once. For the same reason, failure to pay promised tributes, the peace treaties signed for New Mexico broke down, and by 1823 war raged the entire length of the Rio Grande. Sultzman, Lee (2006). [http://www.tolatsga.org/ComancheOne.html] . "Comanche History: Part One. Accessed September 7 2007.]
Additional treaties were signed in 1826 and 1834, but in each case the Mexican government failed to meet the terms of the agreement. Comanche raiding parties found particularly easy prey in the new Anglo settlers in Texas, despite the Mexican government’s reauthorization of the bounty for Indian scalps in 1835. (Contrary to popular belief, it was the Spanish, with their bounty on Comanche scalps, who started the practice, which was continued by both Mexicans and Americans, and then adopted by the Indians!). Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "] [The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains. University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.] Having become used to more peaceful tribes in the Eastern
United States, Texan settlers were unprepared for the ferocious Comanche and Kiowa. The raids on the settlers were so severe that echos of the cries were heard in Washington, which attempted to interfere to protect American settlers in Texas. When Sam Houstonarrived in Texas in 1833 as a United States diplomatic representative to arrange a treaty with the Pentucka Comanche, outraged Mexican officials objected to an American diplomat in their country talking to their natives about a treaty. Houston was declared persona non grata and asked to leave the country. Sultzman, Lee (2006). [http://www.tolatsga.org/ComancheOne.html] . "Comanche History: Part One". Accessed September 7 2007.]
During the entire period of 1821 to 1835, settlers had difficulty with Comanche raids, despite the formation of the Texas Rangers in 1823. Tonkawa and Delaware Indians, deadly enemies of the Comanche, had declared themselves friends of the settlers, attempting to gain allies against their traditional enemies. The Comanche truly detested the Tonkawa in particular, for being
cannibals, which the Comanche regarded with horror. There is no record of Europeans criticising the Tonkawa cannibalism as long as the Tonkawa stuck to eating Comanches instead of settlers. Stephen F. Austin had recognized the need as early as 1823 to have specific forces ready to fight the Plains Tribes, especially the Comanche, who made no distinction between Hispanic and Anglo victims in their raids. Austin created the first Rangers by hiring 10 men who were paid to fight Indians and protect the frontier settlements. Soon the settlers were organizing other Ranger companies. After the Republic was created, this trend continued - without resources for a standing army, Texas created small ranger companies mounted on fast horses to pursue and fight Comanches on their own terms. Sultzman, Lee (2006). [http://www.tolatsga.org/ComancheOne.html] . "Comanche History: Part One. Accessed September 7 2007.]
Fort Parker Massacre
May 19, 1836, a huge war party of Comanches, Kiowa, Witchitas, and Delaware attacked the settler outpost Fort Parker. This fort, completed in March 1834, had been regarded by the settlers as a strongpoint sufficient to protect them from any Indians not observing the peace treaties Elder John Parker had negotiated with local Indians. Unfortunately for the settlers, none of the Comanche bands were among those Indians who were bound to observe the peace. The raid on Fort Parker, which resulted in the settlers' losses of 5 men killed and 2 women and 3 children kidnapped by the Comanches, produced shock throughout Anglo Texas. The attack was probably retaliation for the killing of a Delaware Indian and his sons for horse theft, a crime of which they were innocent, as well as for the placement of Rangers at Fort Parker, which the Comanche and Kiowa, in particular, regarded as making the residents party to the Rangers' actions against them. Exley, J.A.. “"Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family"]
The Parkers among the Comanches
Despite calls from the Parker family, especially from
James W. Parker, for vengeance, and assistance in recovering the lost women and children, there was not a lot the Texans could do to recover the victims, even had the Texas Revolution not occurred shortly thereafter. Sam Houstonpersonally paid for the ransom of one of the victims of the Fort Parker massacre, Elizabeth Duty Kellog, but two of the three children lived most of their lives among the Comanche: Cynthia Ann Parkerfor 25 years until she was recaptured at the Battle of Pease River; and John Richard Parkerwho was ransomed but returned voluntarily to the Comanche. His return to the Indians illustrates a little-understood phenomenon, that some captives adopted into the tribes did not wish to return to their original culture. At the time of Quanah Parker's surrender, 30 percent of remaining Comanche were white or Hispanic. Exley, J.A.. “"Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family"] Rachel Parker Plummer, James Parker’s daughter, was a slave among the Comanche for 21 months, and wrote the first book about being a prisoner among Plains Indians. She was ransomed in 1838 after her father’s efforts resulted in traders locating her and buying her back.
The Republic of Texas Era: 1836-1845
The Republic of Texas Era with the Indians has to be divided into three distinct phases. The Republic under Sam Houston made what historically appears to be a far cheaper choice to try to negotiate with the Comanche, who historically, were willing to be bought off by presents and cease raiding those who paid them. Houston, who enjoyed a good reputation among all Indians, believed as a matter of policy that it was cheaper to buy a few thousand dollars worth of presents than pay the huge cost of a standing army – which might not be able to defeat the assembled might of the entire Comanche-Kiowa alliance, especially with Mexican help. Sultzman, Lee (2006). [http://www.tolatsga.org/ComancheOne.html] . "Comanche History: Part One. Accessed
September 7 2007.] Lamar tried to fight the Comanche, and succeeded in getting a great many people killed, at the cost of bankrupting the fledgling Republic. When Houston was elected to his second term, the primary reason for his reelection was the complete failure of Lamar’s Indian policies. [The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains. University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.]
The First Houston Administration: 1836-1838
Houston’s first Presidency was focused on maintaining Texas as an independent state, and he had no resources to fight a war with the Plain’s Indians. While maintaining the Rangers to police rogue Indians and white outlaws, Houston used diplomacy and presents to keep the peace on the frontier with the Comanche and Kiowa. Although Houston had lived with the Cherokee, and had earned his reputation among Native Americans for fairness and decency due to his relations with the Cherokee, his administration’s only real Indian trouble was with the Cherokees. Kreneck, Thomas (2000). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/HH/fho73.html] . "Texas Handbook Online
September 7 2007.] He negotiated a settlement with the Cherokee in February 1836, and until the Cordova rebellion, had no further trouble with the “civilized” tribes, though he was unable to get the Legislature to ratify the portion of the treaty confirming the Cherokees land titles. This would not be the last time the legislature refused to ratify treaties Houston reached with the Indians, and it was always over land Kreneck, Thomas (2000). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/HH/fho73.html] . "Texas Handbook Online September 7 2007.]
The Indian problems of the first Houston administration were highlighted by the Cordova Rebellion. Evidence existed that a widespread conspiracy of Cherokee Indians and Hispanics had united to rebel against the new Republic of Texas, and rejoin Mexico. Houston refused to believe that his friends the Cherokee were involved, and refused to order them arrested. The Cordova Rebellion was highlighted by Houston’s ability to squash it without bloodshed or wide unrest Kreneck, Thomas (2000). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/HH/fho73.html] . "Texas Handbook Online
September 7 2007.] When Houston left office, the Republic was at peace with Native Americans.
The Lamar Presidency: Policy from 1838-1841
Mirabeau B. Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas, declared the policy of his administration in 1839: "The white man and the red man cannot dwell in harmony together", he said, "Nature forbids it." Siegel , Stanley. “The Poet President of Texas: The Life of Mirabeau B. Lamar, President of the Republic of Texas"] His answer to the “Indian Problem” was:
::"to push a rigorous war against them; pursuing them to their hiding places without mitigation or compassion, until they shall be made to feel that flight from our borders without hope of return, is preferable to the scourges of war." Dial, Steve (2005). [http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/forts/dieiscast.html] . "Texas Beyond History: The Die is Cast
September 7 2007.]
President Lamar was the first official of Texas to attempt "removal", the deportation of Indian tribes to places beyond the reach of white settlers. As carried out, the policy assumed there could be such a thing as a permanent Indian frontier, i.e., a line beyond which the various "removed" tribes would be able to carry on their lives free from white settlement or attacks. Dial, Steve (2005). [http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/forts/dieiscast.html] . "Texas Beyond History: The Die is Cast
September 7 2007.] . Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "]
Lamar became convinced that the Cherokees could not be allowed to stay in Texas after their part in the Cordova Rebellion. The Cherokee War and subsequent removal of the Cherokees from Texas began shortly after Lamar took office. Herring, Rebecca (2002). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/CC/jcc3.html] . "Texas Handbook Online
September 7 2007.]
The Cherokee War:1838-1839
Lamar demanded that the Cherokee, who had been promised title to their land if they remained neutral during the Texas War of Independence, voluntarily relinquish their lands and all their property, and move to the United States to the Oklahoma Indian Territories. Houston, who had promised them they would be given their promised titles during the Cordova Rebellion, protested, but in vain. Herring, Rebecca (2002). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/CC/jcc3.html] . "Texas Handbook Online
September 7 2007.]
After the discovery, in May 1839, of a letter in the possession of Manuel Flores, an agent of the Mexican Government, exposing plans by the Mexican government to enlist the Indians against the Texas settlers, Lamar, supported by popular opinion, determined to expel the East Texas Indians. When they refused, he used force to compel their removal. [http://www.forttours.com/pages/toccherokeewar.asp Fort Tours | Cherokee War and Battle of Neches ] ]
The Battle of Neches
July 12, 1839, the Militia sent a peace commission to negotiate for the Indians' removal. The Cherokee reluctantly agreed to sign a treaty of removal that guaranteed to them the profit from their crops and the cost of the removal. During the next 48 hours the Cherokee insisted they would leave peacefully, but refused to sign the treaty because of a clause in the treaty that would require that they be escorted out of Texas under armed guard. Herring, Rebecca (2002). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/CC/jcc3.html] . "Texas Handbook Online September 7 2007.] On July 15, 1839, under orders from the Militia, the commissioners told the Indians that the Texans would march on their village immediately and that those willing to leave peacefully should fly a white flag. On July 15and 16 of 1839, a combined Militia force under General K.H. Douglass, Ed Burleson, Albert Sidney Johnsonand David G. Burnetattacked the Cherokees, Delaware, and Shwanee under Cherokee Chief Bowles at the Battle of the Neches.
The Indians attempted to resist at the village, and when that failed, tried to reform, which also failed. Approximately 100 Indians were killed, to only three Militia. When killed, Chief Bowles was carrying a sword given to him by Sam Houston. After the battle, the Cherokee fled to Arkansas, and East Texas was virtually free of organized communities of Native Americans, and their lands were given to Anglo settlers. [http://www.forttours.com/pages/toccherokeewar.asp Fort Tours | Cherokee War and Battle of Neches ] ]
Lamar and the Plains Tribes
Lamar’s success in removing the Cherokee, a relatively non-violent tribe, from Texas emboldened him to do the same with the Plains Tribes. Lamar needed an army to carry out his Indian policies, and he set out to build one, at great cost. But at independence, the best estimates were that the Republic had 30,000 Anglo-Americans and Hispanic residents. Exley, J.A.. “"Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family"] The Cherokee had less than 2,000 tribesmen in Texas, so removal of them was not a terrible drain on the Republic, especially since the “Cherokee War” was relatively brief and bloodless.
The Comanche and Kiowa however, had about half the population of the Republic, or 15,000 combined. The Republic had a militia but no standing army, and its tiny navy had been greatly decreased during Houston’s presidency. Lamar had neither the manpower nor the money to pursue his policy after the Cherokee War, but was not deterred. Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "]
Lamar's two-year term was marked by escalating violence between the Comanche and setters. There were not enough Rangers to battle the Comanche at Palo Duro Canyon, for instance, where they could catch them during winter. Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "] At the end of 1839 however, some of the Comanche Peace Chiefs of the Penatucka Band had come to believe that they could not drive the settlers completely from their homes as the tribe had the Apache. In fact, Cheyenne and Arapaho attacks along the northern frontier of Comanche territory coupled with huge losses in the two preceding generations in several smallpox epidemics had the Penatucka Peace Chiefs convinced a treaty might be in their interests. They did not want to fight both the Rangers and their traditional enemies. They offered, therefore, to meet with the whites, in an effort to negotiate peace in return for a recognized boundary between the Republic and the Comancheria. Schilz, Jody (2002). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/CC/btc1.html ] . "Texas Handbook Online
September 7 2007.]
The most notable Penatucka War Chief,
Buffalo Humpdisagreed with this decision, and did not trust Lamar or his representatives. None of the other 11 Bands of the Comanche were involved in the peace talks at all.
For reasons not known to history, the decision of Peace Chiefs from one band of the Comanche to negotiate, against the advice of their most prominent War Chief, appears to have convinced Lamar that the Comanche tribe – his instructions appear to indicate he never understood they were not a distinct polity in total – was ready to surrender. His Secretary of War issued instructions which make clear that Lamar expected the Comanche to act as one people, and to yield to his threats of force. Schilz, Jody (2002). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/CC/btc1.html ] . "Texas Handbook Online
September 7 2007.]
To that end, Lamar’s Secretary of War, Albert Sidney Johnston, sent militia to San Antonio, with explicit instructions. Johnston, Secretary of War, wrote Lieutenant Colonel William S. Fisher, commanding the 1st Regiment of Infantry:
::"Should the Comanche come in without bringing with them the Prisoners, as it is understood they have agreed to do, you will detain them. Some of their number will be dispatched as messengers to the tribe to inform them that those detained, will be held as hostages until the Prisoners are delivered up, when the hostages will be released." [ [http://jack0204.tripod.com/gen/Heskew/council.htm Council House Fight ] ]
Council House Fight
None of the bands except the Penatucka were represented when the Comanche peace representatives arrived at San Antonio in January 1840. Following instructions from the Lamar administration, Commissioners of the Texas government demanded the return of all captives held by the Penatucka. In addition, Texas officials insisted that the Comanches abandon Central Texas, cease interfering with Texan incursions, and avoid all white settlements. Schilz, Jody (2002). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/CC/btc1.html ] . "Texas Handbook Online
September 7 2007.]
Nonetheless, lured by the offer of presents, thirty-three Penatucka chiefs and warriors, accompanied by thirty-two other Comanches, virtually all of whom were family members or retainers, arrived in San Antonio on
March 19, 1840. The prominent Penatucka Peace Chief Muk-wah-ruh was in charge of the delegation, which brought only a few prisoners, namely several Mexican children and Matilda Lockhart. Lockhart, a sixteen-year-old white girl who had been captured with her sister in 1838, claimed that she had been physically and sexually assaulted. Burn scars, coupled with the mutilation of her nose, seemed to bear out her stories, and no reputable historian has challenged her accounts. Lockhart said that 15 other hostages remained in Comanche hands, and that the tribe intended to ransom them one at a time. Schilz, Jody (2002). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/CC/btc1.html ] . "Texas Handbook Online September 7 2007.]
The Texans ordered the Comanche to free all hostages at once, which they could not have done had they wanted to. For instance, chiefs Buffalo Hump and Peta Nocona never agreed to return any captives. Both had European blood captives in their bands at the time of the Council House Fight, and neither had any intention of giving them up, since most of them were being incorporated into the Comanche, who made little distinction between birth and adopted members of the tribe. [ [http://www.dickshovel.com/ComancheOne.html Comanche ] ] At this point, the Militia threw open the doors of the Council House, where the talks were taking place, and ordered the astonished Comanches to surrender. Having left their bows, lances, and firearms outside – the Comanche considered any peace envoy inviolate – they had only their belt knives as weapons. Nonetheless, they drew their knives, and crying out to their tribesmen in the yard, they fought desperately. All but one were killed inside, and a total of 35 were killed, and 29 imprisoned. Schilz, Jody (2002). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/CC/btc1.html ] . "Texas Handbook Online
September 7 2007.]
Aftermath of the Council House Fight: The Great Raid and Plum Creek
As revenge for the killing of 33 Comanche chiefs at the Council House Fight, all but three of the remaining captives were executed slowly by torture; the three who were spared had been previously adopted into the tribe. [ http://jack0204.tripod.com/gen/Heskew/council.htm University of Texas] .] [http://or.essortment.com/commancheindian_rmlu.htm Comanche Nation] .] Buffalo Hump wished to extract further revenge and gathered his own warriors, and sent messengers to all the Bands of the Comanche, all the divisions of the Bands, and the Kiowa and Kiowa Apache. Gathering around 500 warriors and another 400 women and boys to provide comfort and do the work, Buffalo Hump took his gigantic war party and raided all the way from the Edwards Plateau to the sea.The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.] Burning and looting Victoria and Linnville, then the second biggest port in Texas, the Comanches gathered thousands of horses and mules, and a fortune in goods from the Linnville warehouses Roell, Craig (2002). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/LL/btl1.html] . "Texas Handbook Online
September 7 2007.] The population of Linnville prudently fled to the waters of the Gulf, where they watched helplessly while the Comanche looted the town and burned it.
At Plum Creek, near Lockhart, Texas, the Militia did what military historians say they never could have done under ordinary circumstances, which is catch up to the Comanche, who are considered the finest light cavalry of history. Several hundred Militia under Matthew Caldwell and Ed Burleson, plus all Ranger companies, engaged the war party in a huge running gun battle, as the Comanche tried to safeguard their loot, and the Militia tried to destroy the Indians. Ironically, again according to military historians, the same thing, greed, that had made the Comanche vulnerable, saved them. The Militia recovered mules with several hundred thousand dollars in bullion on them, and busy dividing their own loot, they forgot the Comanches, and went home. [The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains. University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.] The Militia reported killing 80 warriors, but only a dozen bodies were recovered. Both sides went home happy – the Comanche with 3,000 stolen horses and a horde of other loot, and the Militia with several hundred thousand dollars in bullion. [The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains. University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.]
The remainder of the Lamar Presidency was spent in an exhausting round of raids and attempts at reprisal, as Buffalo Hump continued his war against the Texans, and Lamar hoped for another pitched battle to use his Rangers and Militia to remove the Plains Tribes. The Comanche, however, had learned from Plum Creek, and had no intention of ever massing again for the Militia to use cannon and massed rifle fire on. Lamar spent an incredible 2.5 million dollars against the Comanche in 1840 alone – more than the entire revenue of the Republic during Lamar’s two year term. [The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains. University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.]
The Second Houston Presidency: 1841-1844
When Sam Houston left the Presidency of Texas the first time, the population seemed to support Lamar’s strong anti-Indian policies. After the Great Raid and hundreds of lesser raids, with the Republic bankrupt, Lamar's policies were repudiated and Houston was comfortably reelected. Kreneck, Thomas (2000). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/HH/fho73.html] . "Texas Handbook Online
September 7 2007.]
Houston's Indian policy was to disband the vast majority of the regular Army troops but muster four new companies of Rangers to patrol the frontier. Houston ordered the Rangers to protect the Indian lands from encroachment by settlers and illegal traders. Houston wanted to do away with the cycle of rage and revenge that had spiraled out of control under Lamar. Under Houston's policies, Texas Rangers were authorized to punish severely any infractions by the Indians, but they were never to initiate such conflict. When depredations occurred to either side, the troops were ordered to find and punish the actual perpetrators, rather than retaliating against innocent Indians simply because they were Indians Kreneck, Thomas (2000). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/HH/fho73.html] . "Texas Handbook Online
September 7 2007.] Houston set out to negotiate with the Indians. The Caddos were the first to respond, and in August 1842, a treaty was reached. Houston then expanded it to all tribes except the Comanche, who still wanted to see more. In March 1843, Houston reached agreement with the Delaware, Witchitas, and other tribes. At that point, Buffalo Hump, who trusted Houston, began to talk. In August 1843, a temporary treaty accord led to a ceasefire between the Comanches and their allies, and the Texans. In October 1843 the Comanches agreed to meet with Houston and to try to negotiate a treaty similar to the one just concluded at Fort Bird. (That this included Buffalo Hump, after the events at the Council House, showed extraordinary Comanche belief in Houston)The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.] In early 1844, Buffalo Hump and other Comanche leaders, including Santa Anna and Old Owlsigned a treaty at Tehuacana Creek in which they agreed to surrender white captives in toto, and to cease raiding Texan settlements. Comanches, The Destruction of a People,. Oxford Press. 1949.] In exchange for this, the Texans would cease military action against the tribe, establish more trading posts, and recognize the boundary between Texas and Comanchería. [ [http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/exhibits/indian/war/page3.html Treaty Negotiations - Texas State Library ] ] Comanche allies, including the Wacos, Tawakonis, Kiowi, Kiowi Apache and Wichitas, also agreed to join in the treaty. By the end of his second term as President, Houston had spent less than $250,000 but brought peace to the frontier, and a treaty between the Comanches and their allies, and the Republic awaited only the legislature’s ratification.The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.]
The Jones Presidency: 1845 to the end of the Republic
The remaining period of the Republic of Texas under President
Anson Jones, saw the government follow Houston’s policies, with the exception that Jones, like most Texas politicians, did not wish to put a boundary on the Comancheria, and thus he supported those in the Legislature who derailed that provision of the Treaty.
End of the Republic, beginning of the United States in Texas: 1845-1861
After the Texas Senate removed the boundary provision from the final version of the treaty, Buffalo Hump repudiated it and hostilities resumed.The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.] That was one of the last acts of the Senate, as Texas agreed to annexation by the United States.
February 28, 1845, the U.S. Congress passed a bill that would authorize the United Statesto annex the Republic of Texas. Texasbecame a U.S. stateon the same day annexation took effect, December 29 1845[ [http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/texan04.htm The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: Texas - From Independence to Annexation] ] . One of the primary motivations for annexation on the Republic of Texas side was that the Republic had incurred huge debts which the United States agreed to assume upon annexation. In 1852, in return for this assumption of debt, a large portion of Texas-claimed territory, now parts of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Wyoming, was ceded to the Federal government.
The entry of the Republic into the United States marked the beginning of the end for the Plains Indians. The United States had the resources and manpower to realistically apply a policy of “removal,” and they did so. Finally, in May 1846 Buffalo Hump became convinced that even he could not continue to defy the massed might of the United States, and the State of Texas, so he led the Comanche delegation to the treaty talks at Council Springs that signed a treaty with the United States. [ [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/BB/fbu12.html Handbook of Texas Online - BUFFALO HUMP ] ]
As war chief of the Penatucka Comanches, Buffalo Hump dealt peacefully with American officials throughout the late 1840s and 1850s. [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/BB/fbu12.html] , Texas Indians.] In 1849 he guided John S. Ford's expedition part of the way from San Antonio to El Paso, and in 1856 he sadly and finally led his people to the newly established Comanche reservation on the Brazos River. Continuous raids from white horse thieves and squatters, coupled with his band's unhappiness over their lack of freedom and the poor food provided on the reservation, forced Buffalo Hump to move his band off the reservation in 1858.
Murder of Robert Neighbors
It was during this period, when settlers began to actually attack the Indians on the reservations established in Texas, that Federal Indian Agent in Charge Robert Neighbors became hated among white Texans. Neighbors alleged that the United States Army officers located at the posts of Fort Belknap and Camp Cooper, near the reservations, failed to give adequate support to him and his resident agents, and adequate protection to the Indians. In spite of continuous threats of various people to take his life, Neighbors never faltered in his determination to do his duty, and carry out the law to protect the Indians. [ [http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/NN/fne8.html Handbook of Texas Online - NEIGHBORS, ROBERT SIMPSON ] ]
With the aid of federal troops, who he finally shamed and politically forced to assist him, he managed to hold back the white people from the reservations. Convinced however that the Indians would never be safe in Texas, he determined to move them to safety in the Indian territories. In August 1859 he succeeded in moving the Indians without loss of life to a new reservation in Indian Territory. Forced to return to Texas on business, he stopped at the village near Fort Belknap. On
September 14, 1859, while he was speaking with one settler, a man named Edward Cornett shot him in the back while he was talking to the first man, and killed him. Historians believe his assassination was a direct result of his actions protecting the Comanche. Neighbors probably did not even know his assassin. He was buried in the civilian cemetery at Fort Belknap. [ [http://www.dickshovel.com/ComancheThree.html Comanche-Part Three ] ]
Attack on Buffalo Hump's Camp
While camped in the Wichita Mountains, the remains of the once mighty Penatucka Band, under Buffalo Hump, were attacked by United States troops under the command of Maj.
Earl Van Dorn.http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/BB/fbu12.html, Texas Indians.] . Allegedly not aware that Buffalo Hump's band had recently signed a formal peace treaty with the United States at Fort Arbuckle, Van Dorn and his men killed eighty of the Comanches, mostly women and children.http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/BB/fbu12.html, Texas Indians.]
This attack on a peaceful camp, housing only Indians who had signed a peace treaty with the United States, which killed mostly children and women, was, nonetheless, reported by Van Dorn as a "battle" with the Comanche, and to this day is chronicled by some historians as the "Battle of Wichita Mountains." [http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/forts/frontier.html Frontier Forts > Texas and the Western Frontier ] ]
Nonetheless, despite this, an aged and weary Buffalo Hump led and settled his remaining followers on the Kiowa-Comanche reservation near Fort Cobb in Indian Territory in Oklahoma. There, in spite of his reported enormous sadness at the end of the Comanches' traditional way of life, he asked for a house and farmland so that he could set an example for his people. Attempting to live out his life as a rancher and farmer, he died in 1870. [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/BB/fbu12.html] , Texas Indians.]
The Antelope Hills Campaign and Little Robe Creek: 1858
The years 1856–1858 were particularly vicious and bloody on the Texas frontier as settlers continued to expand their settlements into the Comanche homeland, the Comancheria, and 1858 was marked by the first Texan incursion into the heart of the Comancheria, the so-called Antelope Hills campaign, marked by the Battle of Little Robe Creek. This battle signaled the beginning of the end of the Comanche as a viable people, as they were attacked in the heart of their domain, in force. Valuable Indian hunting grounds were plowed under, and grazing range for the Comanche horse herds lost. Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "] The Comanche realized their homeland of the Comancheria was increasingly encroached on by Anglo-Texas settlers, and incidents such as the attack on Buffalo Hump’s camp showed the Comanches off the reservation they could expect no protection on it - and they struck back with a series of ferocious and bloody raids into Texas.The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains. University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.]
By 1858, only 5 of the 12 Comanche bands still existed, and one, the Penatucka, had dwindled to only a few hundred people on the reservation. Realizing their way of life was disappearing, the remaining free Comanche struck back with incredible violence. Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "]
The U.S. Army proved wholly unable to stem the violence. Federal units were being transferred out of the area for reasons that seemed driven more by political than military considerations. At the same time, federal law and numerous treaties forbade incursion by state forces into the federally protected Indian Territories. The U.S. Army was likewise instructed not to attack Indians in the Indian Territories or to permit such attacks. Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "] The reasoning behind the order was that many native tribes, such as the
Cherokee, were engaged in farming, and living as peaceful settlers. While other tribes, such as the Comanche and Kiowa, continued to use that part of the Indian Territories that was the Comancheria to live in while raiding white settlements in Texas.The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.]
The relationship between the federal government, Texas and the native tribes was further complicated by a unique legal issue which arose as a result of Texas' annexation. The federal government is charged by the
U.S. Constitutionto be in charge of Indian affairs and took over that role in Texas after it became a state in 1846. But under the terms of Texas' accession to the Union, the new state retained control of its public lands. In all other new states, Washington controlled both public lands and Indian affairs and so could make treaties guaranteeing reservations for various groups. In Texas, however, the federal government could not do this. Texas adamantly refused to contribute public land for Indian reservations within the boundaries of Texas, meanwhile expecting the federal government to be responsible for the cost and details of Indian affairs. Since federal Indian agents in Texas knew that Indian land rights were the key to peace on the frontier, no peace could be possible with the uncooperative attitude of Texas officials on the question of Indian homelands. [ [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/II/bzi4.html "Handbook of Texas Online". Texas State Historical Association] ]
Campaign in the Antelope Hills: Texans invade the Comancheria, 1858
The loss of the 2nd Cavalry in Texas was a particularly bitter blow to settlers. Texas Governor
Hardin Runnelshad campaigned for office in 1856 on a platform to put an end to the raids. He publicly expressed astonishment and rage when the 2nd Cavalry was transferred to Utah, and ultimately disbanded altogether.The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.] Runnels determined to reestablish disbanded Ranger battalions which had been reduced after Texas' annexation by the United States. On January 27, 1858, Runnels appointed John Salmon "Rip" Ford, a veteran Ranger of the Mexican-American Warand frontier Indian fighter, as captain and commander of the Texas Ranger, Militia, and Allied Indian Forces, and ordered him to carry the battle to the Comanches in the heart of their homeland on the Comancheria. Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "]
Ford was known as a ferocious and no-nonsense Indian fighter. Ford had no trouble ordering attacks on villages which resulted in the wholesale slaughter of any Indian, man or woman, he could find. Fehrenbach, T.R. “Comanches, The Destruction of a People "] Ford’s reason for this was simple: Comanche raids were brutal in their treatment of settlers.The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.] Thus, Ford determined to meet brutality with brutality.The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.] Runnels issued very explicit orders to Ford, "I impress upon you the necessity of action and energy. Follow any trail and all trails of hostile or suspected hostile Indians you may discover and if possible, overtake and chastise them if unfriendly.The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.]
March 19, 1858, Ford went to the Brazos Reservation, near what today is the city of Fort Worth, Texas, and recruited the Tonkawa into his forces. Ford and the Tonkawa Chief, Placido, were determined to follow the Comanche and Kiowa up to their strongholds amid the hills of the Canadian river, and into the Wichita Mountains, and if possible, “kill their warriors, decimate their food supply, strike at their homes and families and generally destroy their ability to make war.”The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.]
In April 1858, Ford established Camp Runnells near what used to be the town of
Belknap. Ford, still operating under Runnell’s explicits orders to “follow any and all trails of hostile and suspected hostile Indians, inflict the most severe and summary punishment,” Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "] and to “allow no interference from any source.” (That source was interpreted to mean the United States, whose Army and Indian Agents might try to enforce federal treaties and federal statutory law against trespassing on the Indian territories in Oklahoma). Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "] On April 15, Ford's Rangers, accompanied by Tonkawawarriors, and Anadarkoand Shawneescouts from the Brazos Reservation in Texas, crossed the Red River into Indian Territory. The force then advanced into the portion of the Comancheria in the Indian Territories in Oklahoma. Ford led his men across the Red River, into the Indian Territory, violating federal laws and numerous treaties, but stating later that his job was to “find and fight Indians, not to learn geography.” Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "]
Battle of Little Robe Creek
At sunrise on
May 12, 1858. Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "] Ford and his joint force of Rangers and Tonkawa began an all-day battle with an attack on a Comanche village. The Battle of Little Robe Creekwas actually three distinct engagements over the course of a single day. The first was the attack on the first village discovered by the scouts of the Ranger force. The second was a follow-up attack on the larger village of chief Iron Jacket, somewhat farther up the Canadian River. Iron Jacket was killed in this exchange, and the remainder of his village was saved by the intervention of Peta Nocona with a third force of Comanche who arrived to engage Ford while all the villages along the Canadian made a swift withdrawal. Exley, J.A.. “"Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family"]
Peta Nocona knew that his warriors were no match for the Rangers in an even exchange of gunfire, and had no intention of engaging in such an exchange. He used every trick available to him, including attempting to lure the Rangers and Tonkawas into individual duals, to delay the enemy so the villages upriver would be able to withdraw safely. In this, he was successful. Exley, J.A.. “"Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family"]
The Battle of Little Robe Creek was notable in that the Texan forces first invaded the United States in violation of federal law and numerous Indian Treaties, attacked villages without warning, and allowed their allied Indians, the Tonkawa, to eat some of the Comanche killed in battle. Exley, J.A.. “"Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family"] Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "]
Aftermath of Little Robe Creek: 1858-1860
The Battle of Little Robe Creek epitomized Texas Indian fighting in its attitude towards women and children casualties. Ford, accused of killing women and children in every battle he fought against the Plains Indians, shrugged it off by stating it was hard to distinguish "warriors from squaws"—but morbid jokes of Ford's made clear he did not care about the age or sex of his victims. Ford considered the deaths of settlers, including women and children, during Indian raids, to open the door to make all Indians, regardless of age or sex, combatants. Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People”"]
The Tonkawa warriors with the Rangers celebrated the victory by decorating their horses with the bloody hands and feet of their Comanche victims as trophies. “The Rangers noted most of their dead foes were missing various body parts, and the Tonkawa had bloody containers, portending a dreadful victory feast that evening.” Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "] .” The coat of mail worn by old Iron Jacket covered his dead body "like shingles on a roof." The Rangers cut up the mail and divided the pieces as trophies. [ [http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ok/county/ellis/littlerobe.html The Battle of Little Robe Creek ] ]
The attacks in the Antelope Hills showed that the Comanche no longer were able to assure the safety of their villages in the heart of the Comancheria Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "]
Reward for the Tonkawa for their loyalty to the Texans at Little Robe Creek
Other Indians never forgot the Tonkawa’s loyalty to the Texans. Despite pleas from the aging Placido to protect his people from their enemies, the Tonkawa were moved from their reservation on the Brazos, and put on a reservation in Oklahoma with the Delaware, Shawnee and Caddo tribes. In 1862, warriors from these tribes united to attack the Tonkawas. 133 out of the remaining 309 Tonkawas were killed in the massacre. Included in the dead was the elderly Placido. Today less than 15 families of Tonkawa remain on their reservation in Oklahoma. [ [http://bellnetweb.brc.tamus.edu/res_grid/mspubs/TONKAWA.htm Tonkawas - Indians of Central Texas ] ]
Battle of Pease River, Recapture of Cynthia Ann Parker: 1860
There are two distinctly different stories about what happened on Mule Creek on
December 18, 1860, near the town of Margaret, Texas in Foard County, Texas, United States. The official version is that Sul Ross and his forces managed to catch the Noconi Band of the Comanche by surprise, and wiped them out, including their leader, Peta Nocona. According to Quanah Parker, however, his father (Peta Nocona) was not present that day, and the Comanches killed were virtually all women and children in a buffalo hide drying and meat curing camp. In any event, all parties agree that at sunrise on December 18, 1860, Rangers and Militia under Sul Ross found and surprised a group of Comanche camped on Mule Creek, a tributary of the Pease River. Almost all were killed except one woman, who being recognized as a white woman, was allowed to live. She was later discovered to be Cynthia Ann Parker. The only other known survivors were a 10 year old boy saved by Sul Ross, and Cynthia Parker’s infant daughter, “Prairie Flower.” Exley, J.A.. “"Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family"]
Cynthia Ann Parker was returned to her white family, who watched her very closely to prevent her from returning to her husband and children. After her daughter died from influenza, she starved herself to death when her guardians would not allow her to return to the Comanche to attempt to find her lost sons.
The Civil War Years on the Plains: Delay of the Inevitable: 1861-1865
The Civil War brought incredible bloodshed and chaos to the plains. As the cavalry left Indian Territory for other battles, and many Rangers enlisted in the Confederate Army, The COmanche and other Plains tribes began to push back settlement from the Comancheria. The frontier was eventually pushed bac over convert|100|mi|km, and the Texas plains were riddled with abandoned and burned out farms and settlements. [http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/forts/frontier.html Frontier Forts > Texas and the Western Frontier ] ] The Indian population was not high enough, however, to restore control over all of the Comancheria. [http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/forts/frontier.html Frontier Forts > Texas and the Western Frontier ] ]
The Elm Creek Raid
In the late fall of 1864 in Young County, Texas, a war party of between 500 and 1,000 Comanche and Kiowa raided the middle Brazos River Country, stealing virtually every cow, horse, and mule in the area, and besieging the citizen stronghold of Fort Murrah. The homeguard managed to hold the Fort, and the war party returned north with 10 women and children captives. [http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/forts/frontier.html Frontier Forts > Texas and the Western Frontier ] ]
First Battle of Adobe Walls
The first battle of Adobe Walls occurred on
November 26, 1864, in the vicinity of Adobe Walls, the ruins of William Bent's abandoned adobe trading post and saloon near the Canadian River in Hutchinson County, Texas. The battle was one of the largest engagements in terms of numbers engaged between whites and Indians on the Great Plains. It came about because Gen. James H. Carleton, commander of the military district of New Mexico, decided to punish Comanche and Kiowa attacks on Santa Fe wagon trains. The Indians saw the wagontrains as trespassers who killed buffalo and other game the Indians needed to survive. Trosser, John (2004). [http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasPanhandleTowns/Adobe-Walls-Texas.htm] . "Adobe Walls Texas” September 7 2007.]
Col. Christopher (Kit) Carson, was given command of the First Cavalry, New Mexico Volunteers, and told to proceed and campaign against the winter campgrounds of the Comanches and Kiowas. The campgrounds in question were reported to be somewhere on the south side of the Canadian River. On
November 10, 1864Carson started from Fort Bascom with 335 cavalry, and seventy-five Ute and Jicarilla Apache scouts. Those Carson had recruited from Lucien Maxwell's ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico. On November 12, 1864, Carson’s force, supplied with two mountain howitzers under the command of Lt. George H. Pettis, twenty-seven wagons, an ambulance, and forty-five days' rations, proceeded down the Canadian River into the Texas Panhandle. Carson had decided to march first to Adobe Walls, which he was familiar with from his employment there by Bent over 20 years earlier. Inclement weather, including an early snow storm, caused slow progress, and on November 25, 1864, the First Cavalry reached Mule Springs, in Moore County, approximately 30 miles west of Adobe Walls. Scouts reported the presence of a large Indian encampment at Adobe Walls, and Carson ordered his cavalry forward, to be followed by the wagons and howitzers. Trosser, John (2004). [http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasPanhandleTowns/Adobe-Walls-Texas.htm] . "Adobe Walls Texas” September 7 2007.]
Approximately two hours after daybreak on
November 26, 1864, Carson's cavalry attacked a Kiowa village of 150 lodges. The Chief, Dohäsan, and his people fled, passing the alarm to allied Comanche villages nearby. Marching forward to Adobe Walls, Carson dug in there about 10am in the morning., using one corner of the ruins for a hospital. Carson discovered to his dismay that there were numerous villages in the area, including one very large Comanche village, with a total of between 3-5,000 Indians, far more opposition than Carson had anticipated. The Kiowa led the first attack, by Dohäsan assisted by Stumbling Bear and Satanta, (Sitting Bear). Reportedly Satanta was said to have sounded bugle calls back to Carson's bugler. Beginning to run low on supplies, Carson ordered his forces to withdraw in the afternoon. The angry Indians tried to block his retreat by firing the grass and brush down near the river. Carson however set back fires and retreated to higher ground, where the twin howitzers continued to hold off the Indians. When twilight came, Carson ordered part of his scouts to burn the lodges of the first village. The Kiowa-Apache chief, Iron Shirt, was killed when he refused to leave his tepee. The army declared Carson’s mission a victory, despite his having been driven from the field. Trosser, John (2004). [http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasPanhandleTowns/Adobe-Walls-Texas.htm] . "Adobe Walls Texas” September 7 2007.]
The Final Years of the Plains Tribes: 1865-1875
The end of the Civil War effectively brought the end of the Plains Tribes. The United States had millions of men under arms, and was able to bring virtually unlimited manpower and resources to subduing what was left of resistance on the Plains. It was simply a matter of time before the last of the Plains Tribes surrendered. Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "]
The Buffalo Hunters
The buffalo was not only the primary source of food for the Plains Tribes, but it provided virtually everything they needed to survive on the Great Plains. The Plains Indians had developed their culture, and their very way of life around the buffalo. Thus, at the time of the Civil War, the entire way of life of the Plains Tribes was dependent on a single animal:
::“24 to 28 Plains tribes had figured out how to use the buffalo in 52 different ways for food, supplies, war and hunting implements, things like that. And so, the hooves, for example, are boiled to use as glue. The hump back is, that part of the buffalo is really kind of sturdy, and so it's used for making shields, the hides for making a teepee, for example. It took about 12 to 14 hides to do that.” [ [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/tcrr/sfeature/sf_interview.html#g American Experience | Transcontinental Railroad | Special Features ] ]
The army knew that the easiest and quickest way to drive the Plains Tribes onto reservations was to destroy their supply of buffalo thus killing their way of life. The Indians depended on the buffalo for literally their housing, tools, and clothing as well as food. Thus, when the buffalo hunters killed off the buffalo, they effectively killed off the Plains Indians. There were somewhere between 15 and 60 million buffalo when the white man arrived on the Great Plains. By 1899, there were less than 1,000 buffalo left alive.
Warren Wagon Train Raid
In 1871 Kiowa War Chief
Satantaled several attacks on wagon trains in Texas. His undoing came with the Warren Wagon Train Raidon May 18, 1871. Immediately prior to that attack, the Indians had allowed an Army Ambulance with a small guard to pass unharmed. In it was General William Tecumseh Sherman.
The wagon train had attempted to fight the war party by shifting into a ring formation, and all the mules were put into the center of the ring. Despite this, the warriors captured all of the supplies in the train, killing and mutilating seven of the wagoneer's bodies. Five men however, managed to escape. As soon as Col.
Ranald S. Mackenzielearned of the incident, he informed Sherman. Sherman and Mackenzie searched for the warriors responsible for the raid. Satanta foolishly bragged of his, Satank (Sitting Bear), and Addo-etta(Big Tree)’s involvement of the raid, and Sherman personally arrested him.
First Indian Leaders Tried In State Court
General Sherman ordered the trial of Satanta, Satank, and Big Tree, making them the first Native American Leaders to be tried for raids in a US Court. [http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/SS/fsa33.html Handbook of Texas Online - SATANTA ] ] Sherman ordered the three Kiowa sub-chiefs taken to Jacksboro, Texas, to stand trial for murder. Satank attempted escape and was killed while traveling to Fort Richardson for trial. He began singing his death song, and managed to wrestle a rifle from one of his guards, and was shot to death before he could manage to fire. His body lay unburied in the road, with his people afraid to claim it, though Col.
Ranald S. Mackenzieassured the family they could safely claim Satank’s remains.
When General Sherman decided to send the Kiowa War Chiefs to Jacksboro for trial, he wanted an example made. What he did not want, and what happened, was that the trial became a circus. First, the two attorneys appointed to represent the two Kiowa actually represented them, instead of participating in the kind of civics lesson which the Army had wanted. Their trial strategy of arguing that the two Chiefs were simply fighting a war for their people's survival attracted worldwide attention, and galvanized opposition to the entire process. Morever, the Bureau of Indian Affairs also opted to oppose the entire process, and also argued that the two Chiefs were not subject to civilian jurisdiction since their people were at war with the United States. Nor were the Indians apologetic. At his trail Satanta warned what might happen if he was hanged: " I am a great chief among my people. If you kill me, it will be like a spark on the prairie. It will make a big fire - a terrible fire!" Satanta was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, as was Big Tree; but Edmund Davis, the Governor of Texas, under enormous pressure from leaders of the so-called Quaker Peace Policy, decided to overrule the court and the punishment for both was changed to life imprisonment. Satanta and Big Tree were freed after two years of imprisonment at the
Huntsville State Penitentiaryin Texas. [http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/SS/fsa33.html Handbook of Texas Online - SATANTA ] ]
Release, Recapture, and Death of Satanta at Huntsville
Satanta was released in 1873 and was alleged to be soon back attacking buffalo hunters and was present at the raid on Adobe Walls. But the Kiowa People deny he was involved in that battle, other than being present. He yielded up his war lance and other symbols of leadership to younger, more aggressive men. But his very presence at the Battle violated his parole, and the government called for his arrest. He surrendered in October 1874, and was returned to the state penitentiary. Forced to work on the road, guards reported that Satanta would stare for hours at the traditional hunting grounds of his people, and seemed to wither away. In his book, the "History of Texas", Clarance Wharton reports of Satanta in prison:::After he was returned to the penitentiary in 1874, he saw no hope of escape. For awhile he was worked on a chain gain which helped to build the M.K. & T. Railway. He became sullen and broken in spirit, and would be seen for hours gazing through his prison bars toward the north, the hunting grounds of his people."
Satanta killed himself on
11 October 1878, by jumping from a high window of the prison hospital. [ [http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/WWsatanta.htm Satanta ] ]
Big Tree was also rearrested, but unlike Satanta, he was not sent back to Huntsville. Noone would swear they had seen him, as they had Satanta, on the battlefield. [http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/SS/fsa33.html Handbook of Texas Online - SATANTA ] ]
The Battle of the North Fork of the Red River
In 1872 the so-called Quaker Peace Policy had completely failed, but legally it was still law, so troops out of Fort Sill could not officially be deployed against the Comanche. However, the army was eager to attack the Comanche in the heart of the Comancheria, on the Staked Plains, and in July 1872, did so.
A captured comanchero, Edwardo Ortiz, had told the army that the Comanches were on their winter hunting grounds along the Red River on the Staked Plains. Gen.
Christopher C. Augur, commander of the Department of Texas sent a detachment from Fort Concho, Texas, under Capt. Napoleon Bonaparte McLaughlin on a two-month reconnaissance patrol in the spring of 1872. He returned to the fort, confirming that the main force of the Comanches were in camps on the Staked Plains. Ortiz further claimed that army columns could successfully maneuver in that country. General Augur then summoned Colonel Ranald Mackenzie to San Antonio where they held a strategy meeting. Out of this meeting, the army developed a campaign against the Comanche in their strongholds in the Staked Plains.The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.]
September 28, 1872, near McClellan Creek, Texas in Gray County, Texas, United States, an army unit of cavalry under Colonel Ranald Mackenzie, attacked a village of Comanche Indians under Kai-Wotcheand Mow-way. The "battle" was really a massacre and slaughter of the Indians, men, women, and children as the Army managed to catch the camp totally by surprise.The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains. University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.]
Most of the village's inhabitants were captured. The Comanche prisoners were kept under guard and were transferred to Fort Concho, where they were kept prisoner through the winter. Mackenzie used the captives as a bargaining tool to force the off-reservation Indians back to the reservation, and to force them to free white captives. cite web|url=http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/NN/qfn2.html|title=Battle of the North Fork|accessdate=2007-07-15 |last=Hosmer |first=Brian C. |work=Handbook of Texas Online ] Mackenzie’s stratagem worked, for shortly after the battle Mow-way and Parra-o-coom (Bull Bear) moved their bands to the vicinity of the Wichita Agency. The Nokoni chief, Horseback, who himself had family members among the Indian prisoners, took the initiative in persuading the Comanches to trade stolen livestock and white captives, including Clinton Smith, in exchange for their own women and children. cite web|url=http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/NN/qfn2.html|title=Battle of the North Fork|accessdate=2007-07-15 |last=Hosmer |first=Brian C. |work=Handbook of Texas Online ]
This marked the first time the United States had successfully attacked the Comanches in the heart of the Comancheria, and showed that the Stalked Plains were no longer a safe haven. Further, this battle emphasized if the army wished to force the wild Comanches onto reservations, the way to do it was destroy their villages and leave them unable to survive off reservation. Mackenzie's tactics were such a success that Sherman empowered him to use them further during the
Red River Warof 1874. His attack on the village at Palo Duro Canyon, and his destruction of the Comanche horse herd at Tule Canyon, both in 1874, mirrored this battle in their entirety.The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains. University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.]
The Red River War
In history books, the Red River War officially began on
July 20, 1874. On that day, General Sherman telegraphed General Philip Sheridanto begin an offensive against the Kiowa and Comanches on the plains of West Texas and Oklahoma, and either kill them or drive them to reservations. The army essentially adopted Mackenzie's tactics of the 1872 campaign at North Fork in their entirety - attack the Comanche in their winter strongholds, and destroy their villages and ability to live independently off the reservation. During the summer of 1874, the United States, through the army, launched a campaign to remove the Comanche, Kiowa, Kiowa Apache, the Southern band of the Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indian tribes from the Southern Plains. This campaign was meant to enforce their removal to reservations in Indian Territory. The campaigns of 1874 were unlike any prior attempts by the Army to pacify this region of the frontier. The “Red River War,” as it was called, led to the end of the culture and way of life for the Southern Plains tribes and brought an end to the Plains Tribes, as a people. The campaign of the Red River War was fought during a time when buffalo hunters were hunting the great American Bison nearly to extinction. Both the Bison and the people who lived off it nearly became extinct at the same time [ Close, George (2000). [http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/redriver/index.html] . "Texas Beyond History September 7 2007.]
There were perhaps 20 engagements between army units and the Plains Indians during the Red River War. The well-equipped and well-supplied army simply kept the Indians running, and in the end, they simply ran out of food, ammunition, and the ability to fight any longer. [http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/redriver/index.html]
The Second Battle of Adobe Walls
The Second Battle of Adobe Walls came during the Red River War, as the Plains Tribes realized, with increasing desperation, that the Buffalo Hunters were killing off their food supply, and the very means of survival for their people. A combined force of Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyanne, and other Plains Tribes raised almost 700 warriors, and made an attempt to attack the Buffalo Hunters encamped at the old ruins at Adobe Walls. On
June 27, 1874, the allied Indian force attacked the 28 hunters and one woman encamped at Adobe Walls. Had the defenders been asleep, as the attackers hoped, they would have been overrun at once, and all killed. Had the attackers followed Quanah Parker’s plan to simply accept losses and rush the buildings, the defenders would again, have been overrun. But the defenders were awake, and their long-range buffalo guns rendered the attack useless. Billy Dixon made perhaps the most famous rifle shot in the old west when he killed an Indian sitting on a bluff a mile away from the buildings. At that point, with Quanah Parker wounded, the Indians gave up the attack. It was the last great attempt to defend the Plains by the Indians, and the difference in weapons was simply too great to overcome. [ Campbell, Edward (2005). [http://www.tsl.state.tx.us/exhibits/indian/showdown/page2.html] . "Texas State Library: The Battle of Adobe Walls September 7 2007.]
Mackenzie’s Campaign against Quanah Parker
Colonel Mackenzie and the 41st Cavalry pursued Quanah Parker and his followers all through late 1874 into 1875. He led a 5-unit movement to converge on the Indian hideouts along the eastern edge of the Llano Estacado. Mackenzie, in the most daring and decisive battle of the campaign, destroyed five Indian villages on
September 28, 1874, in Palo Duro Canyon. His destruction of the Indians' horses, 3,000 of them in Tule Canyon, destroyed the Indians' resistance by taking the last of their prized possessions, their horses, along with destroying their homes and food supplies. On November 5, 1874, Mackenzie’s forces won a minor engagement, his last, with the Comanches. In March 1875 Mackenzie assumed command at Fort Sill and control over the Comanche-Kiowa and Cheyenne-Arapaho reservations.
urrender of Quanah Parker and End of the Texas-Indian Wars
Mackenzie sent Jacob J. Sturm, a physician and post interpreter, to negotiate the Quahada's surrender. Sturm found Quanah, whom he called "a young man of much influence with his people", and made his case for yielding peacefully. Mackenzie had sent his personal word if Quanah surrendered, all his band would be treated honorably, and none charged with any offense. (The arrest and trial of Kiowa leaders in 1871 had made that a real possibility) Contrawise, Sturm carried Mackenzie’s personal vow to hunt down every man, woman, and child who refused to yield. Quanah later said he was ready to die, but was loathe to condemn the women and children to death. Quanah believed Colonel Mackenzie when he promised that if the Quahada did not surrender, every man, woman, and child, would be hunted down and killed. Quanah rode to a mesa, where he saw a wolf come toward him, howl and trot away to the northeast. Overhead, an eagle "glided lazily and then whipped his wings in the direction of Fort Sill", as Jacob Sturm reported later. This was a sign, Quanah thought, and on
June 2, 1875, he led his band to Fort Sill in present-day Oklahoma, and surrendered. On that day, the Plains Indians were extinct as a separate people, their way of life completely destroyed. Exley, J.A.. “"Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family"]
Quanah Parker, who had led the last campaign of the Plains Tribes against the U.S. Army, then went tirelessly to work to help his people adapt to the Anglo world which had crushed them. Appointed by his old enemy Colonel Mackenzie as sole Chief of the Comanches, he worked hard to bring education and the ability to survive in the white man's world to his people. He attempted to keep his people's land together, and when that became politically impossible, he tried to get the best bargain for his people he could. Exley, J.A.. “"Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family"]
Disease brought largely by Europeans caused a dramatic decline of the Native population. Anthropologist John C. Ewers has identified no fewer than thirty major epidemics, consisting mainly of smallpox and cholera, which took place between the years 1528 and 1890, which he believes responsible for wiping out close to 95 percent of Texas Indians. Close, George (2000). [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/tools/article_extracts/bzi4_cherokee.html] . "Texas Handbook Online
September 7 2007.]
Over half of the Comanche population was wiped out in just two epidemics, of 1780-81 and 1816-17. Many historians believe their population went from over 20,000 to less than 8,000 in just these two rounds of disease. Fehrenbach, T.R. "“Comanches, The Destruction of a People "] Thus, while technology and warfare with Anglo-Texans may have completed the process, the foremost cause of the decline of the Plains Indians was disease.
At the time of the Texas Revolution, there were 30,000 Anglo and Hispanic settlers in Texas, and approximately 15,000 Plains Indians. The settlers were armed with single shot weapons, which the Comanche, in particular, had learned very well to counter.
Certainly the Spanish, then the Mexicans, and later the Texans had learned that single-shot weapons were not enough to defeat the deadly Comanche light horse, whose mastery of
cavalry tacticsand mounted bowmanship were renowned. The Comanche's constant movement caused many of their opponent's older single shot weapons to miss their target in the chaos of battle. The Comanche could then easily kill their enemies before they had a chance to reload.The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.] And though it was understated, the Comanche learned to use single shot firearms quite well, though they found bows superior in terms of fire rate. The Comanche put an end to Spanish expansion in North America. They did what no other indigenous peoples had managed, defending their homeland – even expanding their homelands, in the face of the best military forces the Spanish could bring against them. In the late 18th century, the Comanche were said to have stolen every horse in New Mexico.The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.]
Up until the introduction of repeating rifles and revolvers, weapons and tactics were definitely on the side of the Plains Indians, most especially the Comanche. It was not until the
Battle of Bandera Pass, where revolvers were used for the first time against the Comanche, that the Texans began to gain a clear military advantage due to superior weaponry. Despite that disadvantage, it was disease and pure numbers which probably ended the Plains Tribes.The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.]
By 1860, there were less than 8,000 Indians, and 600,000 Anglo settlers in Texas. The Texans further had access to repeating rifles and revolvers. Many military historians believe the defining moment in the Texas-Indian Wars came with the introduction of the revolver. In any event, pure numbers and better weapons ended any chance the Plains Indians ever had of holding on to their land.The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier. Arthur H. Clarke Co. 1933.]
Ward Churchill, a former professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, calls the reduction of the North American Indian population from an estimated 12 million in 1500 to barely 237,000 in 1900 a "vast genocide . . ., the most sustained on record." Churchill, Ward. "A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas: 1492 to Present (1998)"] By the end of the 19th century, writes David E. Stannard, a controversial historian at the University of Hawaii, native Americans had undergone the "worst human holocaust the world had ever witnessed, roaring across two continents non-stop for four centuries and consuming the lives of countless tens of millions of people." Stannard, David. "American Holocaust "]
In his book “"The Conquest Of Texas: Ethnic Cleansing In The Promised Land, 1820-1875"” Gary Anderson says “the “Texas Creed” was enshrined in the Texas Rangers. According to Anderson, the Rangers believed the Indians were at best subhumans who “had no right of soil” and savaged pure, noble, and innocent settlers. Killing Indians became government policy when second Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar prescribed “an exterminating war” of “total extinction.”
* Exley, Jo Ella Powell, "“Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family"",
* Fehrenbach, Theodore Reed "The Comanches: The Destruction of a People". New York: Knopf, 1974, ISBN 0394488563. Later (2003) republished under the title "The Comanches: The History of a People"
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* Frazier, Ian. "Great Plains". New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1989.
* Lodge, Sally." Native American People: The Comanche". Vero Beach, Florida 32964: Rourke Publications, Inc., 1992.
* Lund, Bill. "Native Peoples: The Comanche Indians". Mankato, Minnesota: Bridgestone Books, 1997.
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* [http://www.nativeamericans.com/Comanche.htm Native Americans: Comanche] (
August 13, 2005).
* Richardson, Rupert N. "The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing White Frontier". Glendale, CA: Arthur H. Clark Company, 1933.
* Rollings, Willard. "Indians of North America: The Comanche". New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989.
* Secoy, Frank. "Changing Miliitary Patterns on the Great Plains". Monograph of the American Ethnoligical Society, No. 21. Locust Valley, NY: J. J. Augustin, 1953.
* Streissguth, Thomas. "Indigenous Peoples of North America: The Comanche". San Diego: Lucent Books Incorporation, 2000.
* [http://www.texasindians.com/comanche.htm "The Texas Comanches" on Texas Indians] (
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* Wallace, Ernest, and E. Adamson Hoebel. "The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains". Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1952.
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