Tag Archives: Comanches

Today in Texas History – December 17

From the Annals of PTSD –  In 1883, Col. Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, a veteran U.S. Army Cavalry officer, was diagnosed as suffering from “paralysis of the insane.”  Mackenzie was from New York and graduated first in his class from West Point in 1862.  He served with great distinction in the Union cavalry during the Civil War, ending the conflict as a brevet major general.  After the war he was stationed in Texas at various times in command of the Fourth United States Cavalry.  He was largely forgotten to history until publication of Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S. C. Gwynne.   Gwynne’s book focused on the Comanches but also told the story of Mackenzie who was almost single-handedly responsible for bringing an end to the Comanches reign of terror over the vast expanse of territory in which their warriors operated.  Mackenzie is best known for his victory against the Comanches at Palo Duro Canyon and for the extralegal Remolino raid into Mexico in pursuit of Kickapoo raiders.  But is was his incredible determination that finally put an end to the Comanches’ raids. Mackenzie had planned to marry and to retire near Boerne, Texas.  However, it seems likely that he suffered from severe undiagnosed PTSD and he was committed to a New York asylum in 1884.  He died on Staten Island in 1889.

Today in Texas History – October 7

From the Annals of the Red River – in 1759, a Spanish troop led by Diego Ortiz Parrilla was defeated by a group of Native Americans at a fortified Taovaya (Wichita) village near Spanish Fort. Parrilla’s expedition was intended to punish the Norteños (in this case the Tawakonis, Tonkawas, and Wichitas) for their destruction of Santa Cruz de San Sabá Mission in1758. Parrilla’s force consisted of 400 troops from the provinces of northeastern Mexico and the Texas presidios and 176 mission Indians and Apaches.   The need for retribution was reinforced by continuing attacks.  In December 1758, a Comanche band accompanied by members of eleven other groups surprised a group of Apaches near the presidio and killed twenty-one. In March a native force reportedly made up of the same tribes responsible for the mission attack massacred nineteen men guarding the presidio’s horse herd, leaving only one survivor.

On October 7, the troop was attacked by sixty or seventy warriors who led the Spaniards into a well-laid trap.  In pursuit, the troop was led to a sandbank at the edge of the Red River, before the fortified Taovaya village.  The Spaniards attempted to withdraw to regroup but found the road cut off by mounted Indians firing muskets. The Spaniards were trapped in the sand with horses sinking up to their knees.  The resulting 4 hour battle went badly for the force.  Facing a superior force of Comanches, Yaceales, and Tawakonis, and Taovayas, the Spaniards were attacked from the fort and the field.   The troop eventually unlimbered two cannons but they did not affect the course of the engagement. The Apaches, Mission Indians and a number of Spaniards deserted. As darkness fell, Ortiz Parrilla managed an orderly withdrawal, leaving the cannons on the field but with losses of nineteen men killed, fourteen wounded, and nineteen by desertion.

Ruins of San Saba Mission from Texas Escapes.

Today in Texas History – September 14

From the Annals of the Assassins –  In 1859, Indian Agent Robert Simpson Neighbors was assassinated by Edward Cornett. As a Federal Indian Agent for the Comanches, he employed the “field system” which involved actually visiting the Indians in their homes, and learning their language and culture. This was unique for its time and likely criticized by white settlers as Neighbors spent much time far beyond the then frontier.  However, in the opinion of many historians, Neighbors exercised greater influence over the Indians in Texas than any other white man of his generation.  As with Sam Houston he was one of the few white men to bother to learn Indian languages and almost uniquely would travel to the heart of the feared Comancheria.  Despite many relocations of the tribes, white settlers and renegade bands were still in conflict.  Neighbors was dedicated to protecting the “surrendered” tribes from attacks by the settlers.  As a result, Neighbors had become hated among white Texans because of his support for the tribes.

The events leading to his death concerned the Penateka Comanches who were settled on the Comanche Indian Reservation on the  Clear Fork of the Brazos River near present day Throckmorton.  Neighbors alleged that the Army officers from 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 and settlers alike.  With some justification, the Army and settlers believed the reservation Indians were committing continuing raids on white settlements.

John R. Baylor, the former Comanche agent, led the opposition to Neighbors and the reservation policy.  Baylor blamed Neighbors for his dismissal and resented him bitterly.  With the aid of federal troops, Neighbors managed to protect the Indians on the reservations, successfully thwarting an attack in May of 1859 by Baylor and 250 marauders.  The raid convinced Neighbors that the Comanches would never be safe in Texas and in August he succeeded in moving 1420 Indians, without loss of life, to a new reservation in the Indian Territory.  Attacked while returning to Texas, Neighbor’s party headed for Fort Belknap.  Neighbors proceeded to the nearby village of Belknap the next morning to “wind up his accounts as superintendent of Indian affairs”, where while speaking with two men, he was shot in the back by Edward Cornett.

Today in Texas History – August 12

From the Annals of the Indian Wars –   In 1840, the Battle of Plum Creek was fought between a Texas army comprised of militia, Rangers and Tonkawa Indians and several allied bands of Comanches.  The battle occurred in the aftermath of the Council House Fight.  The CHF had resulted in the deaths of several Comanche chiefs who had met with Texans under a flag of truce to exchange white prisoners.  The Comanches felt betrayed and Chief Buffalo Hump organized a retaliatory raid through the Guadalupe River valley east and south of Gonzales. Hump had several hundred warriors and a band of almost one thousand including families who followed the fighting to tend to the fighters and seize plunder.  In a series of raids, the Comanches moved through the Gonzales area killing settlers, stealing horses, and making off with whatever they could carry.  One raid sacked the town of Linnville.  The Texans were led by  Gen. Felix Huston, Col. Edward Burleson and Ben McCulloch.  Much of the fight was a running battle with the Comanches.  However, when the Texans finally caught up with the Comanches on Plum Creek a showdown finally occurred.  The Comanches likely would never have been caught except for the tremendous success of the raid.  They were bogged down by attempting to herd several hundred horses and plunder laden mules back to the Llano Estacado.  The actual battle took place near present-day Lockhart and reportedly resulted in the deaths of 80 Comanches – an unusually large number for such fights.

Image from texasbeyondhistory.net.

Today in Texas History – May 18

From the Annals of the Depredations –  In 1871, more than 100 Kiowas, Comanches, Kiowa-Apaches, Arapahoes, and Cheyennes from the Fort Sill Reservation in Oklahoma attacked Henry Warren’s wagontrain on the Butterfield Overland Mail route.  The attack ended with the wagonmaster and six teamsters dead while five others managed to escape.  The raiding party suffered one killed and five more wounded.  One of the escaped teamsters related his story of the attack to Gen. Sherman and Col. Ranald MacKenzie at Fort Richardson. As a result the leaders of the raid, Chiefs Satank, Satanta, and Big Tree, leaders of the raid, were arrested. Satank attempted to escape and was killed. Satanta and Big Tree were tried for murder in Texas which was reputed to be the first use of Texas courts to try Indian for criminal acts.  They were found guilty and sentenced to death, but had their sentences commuted to life by Gov. Edmund Davis.   The raid restarted U.S. military operations against the Comanches and their allies who remained at large.

Photo of Chief Satanta from http://www.Kansas.com