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Old September 26th, 2012, 12:53 PM   #1

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Red River War


While in Austin last week I took opportunity to view the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Very nice place and worth a look anytime you can.

The Story of Texas - About the Museum


That said, I bought a book at the gift shop. Bottom line, I am momentarily distracted into the Red River War of 1874. And so it shall be for the readers here.

Battles of the Red River War: Archeological Perspectives on the Indian Campaign of 1874: J. Brett Cruse,Robert M. Utley,Martha Doty Freeman,Douglas D. Scott: 9781603440271: Amazon.com: Books
Battles of the Red River War: Archeological Perspectives on the Indian Campaign of 1874: J. Brett Cruse,Robert M. Utley,Martha Doty Freeman,Douglas D. Scott: 9781603440271: Amazon.com: Books


This week marks the anniversary of the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon. On the 26th of September, Colonel Mackenzie and his 'southern' column camped at the top of Tule Canyon deep in the Texas Panhandle. There were eight cavalry companies and five infantry companies. Total of 560 enlisted men with an extra 32 scouts. Most of the scouts were Seminole-negroes and Lipan or Tonkawa Indians.

Indians tried to raid the camp and stampede the horses during the night but failed to cause much delay. Come morning of the 27th, Mackenzie ordered the troops down into Tule canyon toward much larger Palo Duro Canyon. Near bottom, they began a charge with the scouts leading.

Three Indian villages lay along the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River close to the junction of Palo Duro and Tule canyons. Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Comanche tribes each had winter quarters at the site which included over 1100 horses. Alarm sounded quickly and the people retreated up the canyon for safety. Unfortunately, they were without time and had no choice but to leave the horses and their winter food supplies behind. Even though one soldier was wounded and very few Indians were caught, the defeat was near total. The tribes lost over 1,000 horses and their ability to survive the winter. Mackenzie allowed his scouts and cavalry the best 360 horses and then killed the rest. They burned all the food and supplies found in the villages.

This defeat so demoralized the Indians that most of them simply went to the agency and surrendered. The Cheyenne at the battle were led by Chief Iron Shirt. Comanche's under O-ha-ma-tai, and Kiowah led by Mamanti (the Owl Prophet). Quanah's band was not present.

The battle of Palo Duro Canyon is considered a turning point in the Red River War. Although, I do not know what point it was considered to be in the Indians' favor so I'm not sure how much 'turning point' was necessary.
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Old September 26th, 2012, 02:27 PM   #2

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Maps for the campaign


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RED RIVER WAR | The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)


RED RIVER WAR (1874-1875)



A map for perspective and a couple of web pages with pretty good overviews of the war.
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Old September 26th, 2012, 03:20 PM   #3

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Palo Duro Canyon - Albee 1874 account


Less than a month after the battle of Palo Duro Canyon, George Albee (who won the Congressional Medal of Honor against the Comanche 5 years earlier) wrote a piece for the New York Herald. Of the night raid prior to the battle;

"On September 26 a few Indians appeared and skirmished with the outposts at Tule Canyon, after which that detachment pulled up stakes and joined the main camp at Boehm's Canyon. That night everyone lay down to sleep with his clothes on, fully expecting an attack before morning - and it came. At 10:15 P.M. several parties of from ten to thirty Indians dashed up on different sides of the camp, firing in among the men and horses and yelling like bloodthirsty demons, as they are - peace commissioners and Indian agents to the contrary notwithstanding - in a vain attempt to stampede the stock; for every horse and pack mule was 'staked, corss-sidelined, and hobbled' and could not run if they would. * * * The Indians charged around the camp a few times until they found that the stock was not likely to change ownership, after which they selected a position below, in the canyon, from which they kept up a desultory fire until daylight, doing no damage, except shooting Lieutenant Thompson's horse through the neck and putting another ball through his saddle pockets, while the return fire killed and wounded several horses at least, for they were found in the reavine next morning."


The next morning, 150 Indians "came boldly out on the hill for a fight." Captain Boehm and Lieutenant 'Hurricane Bill' Thompson of the scouts led a charge that killed one Indian and drove the others off. The Comanche was killed when one of the Seminole shot his horse and left him afoot. One of the Tonkawas "then ran his horse upon him and gave the coup de grace with his six-shooter, the pistol being so near his head that the powder burned his skin."

Knowing better than to follow the retreating warriors, Mackenzie led his men into the canyon where he "expected to find their villages, and he was not disappointed. Looking far down into the valley beneath their feet, the troopers could see the lodges stringing for miles down the river, and the Indian herds grazing in all directions."

Mackenzie followed the canyon's edge until "at last a narrow, dizzy, winding trail was found, such as a goat could hardly travel, and the cavalry started down the sides of the precipice. The Comanche took the alarm at once." It took an hour to reach the bottom but then Captain Boehm "charged the village with such impetuosity that the Indians ran in every direction. AFter a short but sharp fight, the companies charged on down the canyon through the village. * * * It was a running fight for the entire distance (3 miles)."

Five Indians were killed and probably 10 or 12 wounded. One trooper wounded, "the ball passing through the body, leaving an ugly wound, but at this writing he is doing well, with a fair prospect of recovery." They captured some 1400 horses of which 360 were kept as replacements and 1000 were "shot to prevent the possibility of their again falling into the hands of the hostile Indians".

"Taken all in all, this is believed to be the most effective blow dealt the Comanches and Kiowas on this frontier during the last two years."
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Old September 26th, 2012, 05:20 PM   #4

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Palo Duro Canyon - Hatfield


Charles Hatfield was a scout with Mackenzie at Palo Duro, Canyon. His account came out years later. He provides a good account with some excellent detail. However, I think this thread can focus on a portion happening even earlier. On the afternoon of the 26th as they first arrived in the area of Tule Canyon. Yes, I feel like I'm building the story backwards.

"An hour before sundown, we came to Tule Canyon, where an old road crossed where it was shallow and wide, and intended to camp but found insufficient grass.
While we were still mounted, a party of thirty or forty Indians came over a slight ridge one thousand yards to the south of us as a challenge. Doubtless the main body of Indians were waiting for us just over the ridge. Colenel Mackenzie, an experienced Indian fighter, had another scheme than desultory fight in the open, and marched his squadron back five miles to good grass on a small rainy-season stream. Expecting a night attack, the horses were doubly secured on full lariats, with hobbles and sidelines. All of us went to rest on our blankets outside of the horses."

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Looking down on the village site from canyon rim



"Colonel Mackenzie had sent out a spy, a half-breed Mexican named Johnson, several days before to locate the main winter camp of the Indians. Johson found the permanent camp thirty miles to the northwest of us, in the Deep Palo Duro Canyon of Red River, and had returned to report only twenty minutes before the night attack commenced." One interesting item that recurs in Hatfield's account is the lack of proficiency with firearms in the soldiers. The ex-scout complained twice that "for the total lack of target practice in those days, would have emptied their (Indians) saddle."

That is probably enough from Hatfield. In a later part of the story he admits to using an article from an old New York Herald to refresh his memory. I'm sure that would be the George Albee account in the post above.

Last edited by Baltis; September 26th, 2012 at 06:17 PM.
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Old September 26th, 2012, 05:47 PM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baltis View Post
While in Austin last week I took opportunity to view the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Very nice place and worth a look anytime you can....
I have taken several class field trips down there when I teach Texas
History. It is indeed a nice place to get lost within. It is about a
2 1/2 hour drive from my home.
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Old September 27th, 2012, 08:41 AM   #6

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Palo Duro Canyon - Charlton 1924


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The next morning, 150 Indians "came boldly out on the hill for a fight." Captain Boehm and Lieutenant 'Hurricane Bill' Thompson of the scouts led a charge that killed one Indian and drove the others off. The Comanche was killed when one of the Seminole shot his horse and left him afoot. One of the Tonkawas "then ran his horse upon him and gave the coup de grace with his six-shooter, the pistol being so near his head that the powder burned his skin."

This same episode is a lot more colorful when told by John Charlton in 1924 issue of Frontier Times. Probably should be considered legend instead of fact but:

"At dawn the following day, the Indians left us. A laughable incident occurred about this time. As the Indians disappeared, the attention of the troops was attracted by the sight of a solitary Comanche riding a brown pony. He was on a little rise out of range of our rifles, and appeared nonplussed as to the direction taken by his companions, from whom he had evidently been cut off. He scanned the horizon for a moment, then attempted a shortcut in the direction taken by the other Indians. This brought him in range of our rifles, when Henry, a Tonkawa, shot his horse dead, and the horse, in falling, threw the rider. Henry then rode forth against his fallen foe. Now, in those days, an Indian wore his blanket hin this fashion: Taking the blanket lengthwise, he wrapped it around his body. His cartridge belt, with pistol in holster, was buckled around his waist, and the top part of the blanket then turned down over the belt.

The Comanche had risen to his feet, but was somewhat dazed from the fall when Henry arrived upon the scene. Henry's rifle was strapped to his saddle, and he was so sure of victory that he had neglected to draw it until it was too late. He fumbled desperately for his pistol, which still remained entangled in the folds of his blanket. In the meantime, the Comanche, fully recovered, had made a spring for the Tonkawa, dragged him from his horse, and drawing his bow, began to give him the trouncing of his life. At every cut of the bow, Henry leaped about three feet in the air, making frantic gestures toward the troops and yelling, "Why you no shoot? Why you no shoot?" The whole command was laughing, but we had enjoyed the fun long enough, so somebody shot the Comanche, and Henry took his scalp with great satisfaction, but he nursed a grudge against the whole bunch of us for several days."


While his account greatly exaggerates casualties (and takes big liberties with other facts), the battle section is actually kind of exciting:

"The smoke from our rifles settled down, adding further obscurity to the darkness of the canyon. But I could hear Colonel Mackenzie's voice giving orders somewhere in the thickest of the fray.

The Indian warriors held their ground for a time, fighting desperately to cover the exit of their squaws and pack animals, but under the persistent fire of the troops, they soon began falling back, slowly at first, toward the head of the canyon.

The herd of Indian ponies, frightened by the uproar, fled first to one pass and then to another, only to have their leader shot down by a trooper, thereby blocking the trail. The main body of Indians retreated in the open along the banks of the stream. Here the troops suffered their greatest casualties, being subjected to a crossfire from numerous snipers hidden in the timber on both sides."

Charlton goes on to later say, "Upon reentering the canyon, we passed over dead Indians everywhere." Yes, clearly Mr. Charlton took a few liberties with the truth for Frontier Times.

Last edited by Baltis; September 27th, 2012 at 10:35 AM.
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Old October 1st, 2012, 06:04 PM   #7

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Still at Palo Duro Canyon - Robert Carter's account


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This same episode is a lot more colorful when told by John Charlton in 1924 issue of Frontier Times. Probably should be considered legend instead of fact but:

"At dawn the following day, the Indians left us. A laughable incident occurred about this time. As the Indians disappeared, the attention of the troops was attracted by the sight of a solitary Comanche riding a brown pony. He was on a little rise out of range of our rifles, and appeared nonplussed as to the direction taken by his companions, from whom he had evidently been cut off. He scanned the horizon for a moment, then attempted a shortcut in the direction taken by the other Indians. This brought him in range of our rifles, when Henry, a Tonkawa, shot his horse dead, and the horse, in falling, threw the rider. Henry then rode forth against his fallen foe. Now, in those days, an Indian wore his blanket hin this fashion: Taking the blanket lengthwise, he wrapped it around his body. His cartridge belt, with pistol in holster, was buckled around his waist, and the top part of the blanket then turned down over the belt.

The Comanche had risen to his feet, but was somewhat dazed from the fall when Henry arrived upon the scene. Henry's rifle was strapped to his saddle, and he was so sure of victory that he had neglected to draw it until it was too late. He fumbled desperately for his pistol, which still remained entangled in the folds of his blanket. In the meantime, the Comanche, fully recovered, had made a spring for the Tonkawa, dragged him from his horse, and drawing his bow, began to give him the trouncing of his life. At every cut of the bow, Henry leaped about three feet in the air, making frantic gestures toward the troops and yelling, "Why you no shoot? Why you no shoot?" The whole command was laughing, but we had enjoyed the fun long enough, so somebody shot the Comanche, and Henry took his scalp with great satisfaction, but he nursed a grudge against the whole bunch of us for several days."


While his account greatly exaggerates casualties (and takes big liberties with other facts), the battle section is actually kind of exciting:

Yes, clearly Mr. Charlton took a few liberties with the truth for Frontier Times.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Baltis View Post

The next morning, 150 Indians "came boldly out on the hill for a fight." Captain Boehm and Lieutenant 'Hurricane Bill' Thompson of the scouts led a charge that killed one Indian and drove the others off. The Comanche was killed when one of the Seminole shot his horse and left him afoot. One of the Tonkawas "then ran his horse upon him and gave the coup de grace with his six-shooter, the pistol being so near his head that the powder burned his skin."
How about a third look at this incident just to see if we think the Frontier Times story has any merit. This quote is from On the Border with Mackenzie by Robert Carter. Carter was one of Mackenzie's younger officers having joined the outfit in 1871.

"E" Troop being nearest to the General it was mounted and started off towards the position held by the Indians, who, when they saw the troop coming towards them, ran to their poinies, mounted and galloped off in a body on to the high and level ground, there being at a rough guess, about 300 of them. E Troop, Captian P M Boehm, and H Troop Captain S. Gunther, charged and the Indians fled. some few shots were exchanged, and a couple of our Ton-Ka-way scouts, or "trailers," caught one Comanche who got separated from the rest, whom the "Tonks" killed and scalped."

On the Border with Mackenzie; or,Winning West Texas from the Comanches (Fred H. and Ella Mae Moore Texas History Reprint Series): Robert G. Carter: 9780876112465: Amazon.com: Books
On the Border with Mackenzie; or,Winning West Texas from the Comanches (Fred H. and Ella Mae Moore Texas History Reprint Series): Robert G. Carter: 9780876112465: Amazon.com: Books


Apparently, the Tonkawas were fairly ferocious folk. A later incident in the same battle at Palo Duro Canyon:

"Near where the command halted a badly wounded Indian lay on the slope of an embankment. One of the Ton-Ka-way squaws who had accompanied her scout husband approached him. He spoke to her. She flew into a rage, calling him vile names and dismounting from her pony, finished him."

I also think Carter's description of the action in the canyon itself is worth a quick look:

"As our skirmish line advanced, the Indians retired, springing from one rock to the protection of another, until finally they took to the inaccessible sides of the canon once more; then, in order to hold the large number of ponies captured the command commenced to withdraw from the Canon, which was finally vacated between 3 and 4 o'clock PM. The whole command, now assembled, with the immense herd of captured ponies, on the high prairie ("Staked Planes"). A "hollow square" or huge parallelogram was formed as follows: * * * It was a living corral and our march was nearly 20 miles."

He goes on to describe the sad episode whereby the decision was made they needed to kill the horses. "it was found impossible to take along and properly guard them, or to take them into the nearest military post - the nearest being nearly two hundred miles away. The Indians would follow us and be upon us every night in an effort to stampede and recapture them. Experience had been our lesson."
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Old October 3rd, 2012, 08:02 AM   #8

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It's interesting that the battles seemed to take place on the Texas Panhandle. My dad was a student of the American West and mentioned a few times how much trouble Texans had out on the panhandle with Native Americans.
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Old October 3rd, 2012, 09:56 AM   #9

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The Panhandle and Palo Duro Canyon represented the very heart of Comancheria. The Staked Plains filled with buffalo and the Canyons mostly unknown to any but the Comanche and Kiowa.

delighted to have you visit the thread, hoping to go backwards in time next and discuss the beginnings of the Red River War.
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Old October 3rd, 2012, 10:56 AM   #10

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A visual
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