Today in Texas History – September 28

From the Annals of the Llano Estacado –   In 1874, the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon put an end to most of ongoing conflict between the last of free-ranging Plains Indians and the U.S. Army.   After the battle, most of the remaining  southern Plains Indians (Comanches, Kiowas, Kiowa Apaches, Cheyennes and Arapahos) settled in reservations in Indian Territory.   These tribes had camped in Palo Duro Canyon a regular wintering ground.  Col. Ranald Mackenzie led his Fourth Cavalry Unit in the attack.  Mackenzie reached the edge of Palo Duro Canyon on September 28 guided by the Tonkawas under Chief Johnson.  Mackenzie planned to take the encampment by surprise at sunrise on September 28.  Comanche leader Red Warbonnet, however, discovered the soldiers and fired a warning shot and was killed by the Tonkawas.  The camps were scattered over the vast canyon floor.  Mackenzie picked them off one by one with  the Indians unable to rally together.  The battle was really a series of skirmishes against a number of war parties from various tribes.

The battle resulted in very little loss of life as many of the outnumbered warriors and followers fled the canyon. One soldier and three Indians were killed.  The main effect of the battle was to capture the winter supplies and an estimated 1400 horses.  Without supplies and horses, the tribes were in an untenable position and were forced to return to the Indian Territory.

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