Tag Archives: Comanche

Today in Texas History – February 19

Plummer, Rachel Biography

From the Annals of the Captives – In 1838, Rachel Plummer was reunited with her husband after spending over a year as a Comanche captive. She and her son and three others were kidnapped in a raid on Fort Parker at the headwaters of the Navasota River.  Plummer was taken along with the most famous Texas captive her cousin Cynthia Ann Parker.   Plummer wrote that “one minute the fields (in front of the fort) were clear, and the next moment, more Indians than I dreamed possible were in front of the fort.”  After being returned to her family, Plummer wrote a book about her experience entitled Rachael Plummer’s Narrative of Twenty One Months Servitude as a Prisoner Among the Commanchee Indians. Plummer’s book is considered one of the most insightful accounts of Comanche culture and mindset while still at the height of their powers.  Sadly, Plummer died shortly after her reunification with her family.

Today in Texas History – November 16

From the Annals of the Treaties –  In 1845, the Republic of Texas signed its final Indian treaty. The agreement came at the end of the Tehuacana Creek Councils, which had commenced in the spring of 1843.  Pioneer Jesse Chisholm had worked to convince a number of Indian groups, including the Caddos, Tawakonis, Delawares, Lipan Apaches, and Tonkawas, to meet on the Tehuacana Creek near the Torrey Brothers trading post south of Waco.

The next council met at Fort Bird on the Trinity River in the fall of 1843. These councils resulted in a peace treaty between the Republic and the Wacos and Caddos.  The failure to reach an accord with the Comanche caused President Sam Houston to call another council to meet at Tehuacana Creek in April 1844.  The Comanche were yet again missing.  In October 9, 1844, Houstonnegotiated a treaty with a part of the southern Comanche, Kichais, Waco, Caddos, Anadarkos, Hainais, Delawares, Shawnees, Cherokees, Lipan Apaches, and Tawakonis. At the November 1845 council the Wacos, Tawakonis, Kichais, and Wichitas agreed to the treaty of October 9, 1844.  The Comanche continued fighting for another 30 years.

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.

Today in Texas History – January 24

From the Annals of Best Intentions –  In 1845, the Texas Senate ratified a peace treaty between Anglo settlers and 11 Native American tribes.  The treaty was negotiated by Sam Houston whose attitudes towards Native Americans was markedly different than that of the general public based on his years of living with the Cherokee.  Houston hoped that the treaty would usher in a new era of peaceful relations between the Anglo-Texan settlers and the tribes still in control of vast areas of the Republic.  Had Texas remained an independent country the outcome could have been different.  However, with statehood all Indian affairs became the responsibility of the federal government and any chance of peace with the most aggressive tribes such as the Comanche, Kiowa and Wichita was gone.

Image of Sam Houston in Cherokee clothing.

Today in Texas History – October 7

From the Annals of the Red River – In 1759, Spanish soldiers under the command of Diego Ortiz Parilla fought a losing battle near a fortified Taovaya village on the Red River.  Ortiz Parilla was leading an expedition to punish the Indians responsible for the embarrassing destruction of Santa Cruz de San Sabá Mission in March 1759.  The Spaniards faced a combined force of  Comanches, Yaceales, and Tawakonis who outsmarted the Spaniard.  Ortiz Parilla did not know exactly how close he was to Indian village.  When his forces were  charged from woods by sixty or seventy warriors who quickly withdrew, he ordered a pursuit not realizing that the purpose of the attack was to lead the Spaniards into a well-laid trap. Pursuing their attackers, the troop found itself sinking in a sandbank at the edge of the Red River, before the Indian fortifications. As darkness fell, Ortiz Parilla led an orderly withdrawal from his difficult position.  However, he was forced to leave a pair of cannons behind  on the river sandbank where the Spaniards had found themselves pinned down.  And more critically lost nineteen men killed, fourteen wounded, and nineteen by desertion.  The humiliating defeat led to his replacement as commandant of San Luis de las Amarillas Presidio by Felipe de Rábago y Terán.  The Spaniards held onto the fort near present-day San Saba for another decade but failed to make any significant inroads into north central Texas for almost 50 years.

Painting of the destruction of the San Saba Mission.

Today in Texas History – September 28

From the Annals of the Panhandle    In 1874 Col. Ranald Mackenzie and the Fourth U.S. Cavalry attempted a surprise attack on Comanche, Cheyenne and Kiowa encampments in Palo Duro Canyon.   Although known as the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon, the attack involved little loss of life as it was primarily a raid to seized Indian horses and property.  Assisted by Tonkawa scouts, the cavalry wanted to surprise the Indians who were settling into their winter camps.   However, the Indians were warned by the Comanche leader Red Warbonnet, who discovered the soldiers and fired a warning shot before being killed by the Tonkawas.  Cheyenne chief Iron Shirt, Comanche leader Poor Buffalo, and the Kiowa chief were left in charge.  The camps were located in various parts of the vast canyon which did not allow the Indians to mount a united defense.  As a result most of the Indians retreated leaving behind over 1400 horses and most of their winter stores.  Only three Comanche were killed as was one soldier.  The BOPDC was the last major event in the Red River Wars and resulted in the confinement of southern Plains Indians in reservations in Indian Territory.

Today in Texas History – June 20

From the Annals of the Horse Troopers –   In 1852, Fort Clark was established by two companies of the First Infantry under the command of Major Joseph H. LaMotte along with an advance and rear guard of U.S. Mounted Rifles.  The U.S. Army post was located at the site of Las Moras Springs just outside of present-day Bracketville.   The site was a favorite camp ground for Comanche, Mescalero, Lipan and other Native Americans.  The enormous spring was a stopping place on great Comanche War Trail leading into Mexico.  The Fort was an important link in the line of defense against raiding war parties.   It also served as a base for the famous Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts and served as an active post through World War II.

Today the site is most famous for its fabulous spring fed swimming pool – the third largest pool in Texas.  Legend has it that the commander of the fort sent a requisition to create the pool at the request of his wife and was turned down.  He resubmitted it as a requisition for a horse-watering trough and was approved.  The 100 yard long pool is an ideal spot for summer recreation under the towering cottonwood and oak trees and a must-do for Texas swimming hole aficionados.

Photo from fortclark.com.

Today in Texas History – May 18

From the Annals of the Comanche – In 1871, a war party of more than 100 Kiowas, Comanches, Kiowa-Apaches, Arapahoes, and Cheyennes from the Fort Sill Reservation in Oklahoma attacked Henry Warren’s wagon train on the Butterfield Overland Mail route.  The raiders killed the wagon master and six teamsters, but five others escaped.  The raiders lost one dead and five wounded and returned to the reservation. One of the survivors reached Fort Richardson.  When General Sherman and Colonel Ranald Mackenzie heard his first hand account, the Army moved to arrest the leaders of the raid, Chiefs Satank, Satanta, and Big Tree. Satank was killed while trying to escape.  Chief Satanta and Big Tree were tried by civil courts in Texas (the first time Indians had been tried in civil courts), found guilty, and sentenced to hang. Governor Edmund Davis commuted the Indians’ sentences to life imprisonment. The raid caused General Sherman to change his opinion about conditions on the Texas frontier, thus ending his own defensive policy and the Quaker peace policy as well. Sherman ordered soldiers to begin offensive operations against all Indians found off the reservation, a policy that culminated in the Red River War of 1874-75 and the resulting end of Indian raids in North Texas.

Today in Texas History – February 26

In 1871, Clint and Jeff Smith were abducted as young boys from their home on Cibolo Creek, and lived as  Indian warriors for years. They returned to white society, married and had children, but always held on to some part of that life. Their story, “The Boy Captives,” first published in 1927, continues to be available. It is a first-hand account of their incredible, and sometimes horrifying, experiences.

From the Annals of the Captives – In 1871, Clinton and Jefferson Smith were captured by Lipan and Comanche raiders.  The brother, eight and ten at the time, were taken while herding sheep on Cibolo Creek near Boerne.  Initial efforts to find the boys failed.  Their father, Capt. Henry Smith, and his cousin Capt. John W. Sansom, of the Texas Rangers and numerous other Rangers combined with a volunteer posse led by Capt. Charles Schreiner, in an effort to rescue the boys.  The large group pursued the Indians from near Kendalia to Fort Concho in West Texas but never recaptured the boys.  Clint and Jeff were not returned to their family for several more years.

In his 1927 book, “The Boy Captives,” Clinton gave a first hand account of his and his younger brother Jeff’s time with the Comanche.   Clint’s roamings with the Comanches took him  into Utah, over the Rocky Mountains,as far west as the Pacific coast. After a period of adjustment, Clint said he became nearly indistinguishable from any other young warrior, as he chased Rangers and soldiers with his adopted family.  He remained in captivity for five years.  Jeff was sold to Geronimo who branded him for identification. time. Clint begged his Indian father, Tasocowadi, to bring Jeff back, even offering to trade all his belongings.  Geronimo, however, would not agree to the deal.

The Indians gave their captives native names. Clint became “Backecacho” (End of Rope), while Jeff was called “Catchowitch” (Horse Tail), and also “Na-i-Flink.” They were often used as bait on bear hunts, and mocked as they were made to exhibit feats of prowess such as fighting other Indian children or, as Jeff once described, being tied to a wild buffalo and made to ride it.

After being ransomed back and returning to Anglo culture, the brothers somehow successfully re-integrated.  They both married, raised children and took up ranching. As with many other returned captives, their experiences with the Indians never left them completely.  Clint and Jeff both expressed that they felt bound to their native brothers and each other in ways only they understood.

Today in Texas History – December 18

From the Annals of the Comanche – In 1860, Cynthia Ann Parker was captured by a group of Texas Rangers under the command of Sul Ross.  The so-called Battle of the Pease River was actually an attack on a Comanche hunting camp at Mule Creek in Foard County.  The Rangers completely surprised the Comanche and most were slaughtered including women and children.  During the raid the rangers found Parker who had been kidnapped from Fort Parker by Comanche warriors on May 19, 1836.  Parker had no desire to be “rescued” as she was completely socialized as a Comanche with a war chief husband in Pete Nocona and three children – including Quanah and Topasannah (Prairie Flower).  Sul Ross did his best to glorify the battle including making the disputed claim that the famed warrior Nocona had been killed in the “battle.”  Quanah Parker claimed that his father was not killed at the Pease River, but died years later from his many war wounds.  Hiram B. Rogers, a Ranger who joined the Ross command in October 1860, said, “I was in the Pease River fight, but I am not very proud of it. That was not a battle at all, but just a killing of squaws.”