Black Seminole Scouts of Texas

The history is long and cruel for the Black Seminole Scouts of Texas. Their ancestors––slaves on English plantations in the Carolinas and Georgia––began fleeing in the 1600s to the protection of the Spanish crown in northern Florida. The runaways, known as maroons, joined

Seminoles, a confederation of several Indian tribes to whom the Spanish had given land as a bulwark again British incursion. Life for the Maroons improved, but freedom was not part of the deal. They were allowed to form their own communities, elect their leaders, farm their land, and use firearms, but they had to pay an annual tribute to the Seminole Indians, which was usually a percentage of their crop.

Over the years, the two cultures lived alongside each other––each race calling itself Seminoles. They rarely intermarried because the Blacks were monogamous, but the Seminoles relied on them as English interpreters during negotiations with the whites. The United States’ effort to relocate all the Seminoles to the West, triggered the Seminole Wars in which the Black Seminoles proved to be excellent guides, spies, and fierce fighters. The U.S. Army began a program to separate the two groups, by offering the Black Seminoles their freedom if they agreed to be removed to Indian Territory (present Oklahoma). The Seminoles resented U.S. interference because they felt betrayed by the Blacks and cheated them out of their property by the U.S.

When 500 from both groups reached Indian Territory in 1838, the Black Seminoles discovered they had been placed under the jurisdiction of Creek Indians who considered them slaves and did not allow them to own property or weapons. The U.S. Army refused to keep its bargain to free the Black Seminoles, which led members of both races to head to Mexico where slavery had been outlawed for years.

Mexico offered the Seminoles a large land grant near the Texas-Coahuila border in exchange for the newcomers serving as a buffer against raiding Apaches and Comanches. In Mexico, the Maroons were called Mascogos, and they settled into farming in El Moral, a village that became a haven for runaway slaves. Pressure from slaveowners and the U.S. to return the escaped slaves finally led to officials moving the Black Seminoles to Nacimiento in the Mexican interior.

In 1870 the U.S. Army needed scouts for the Texas Indian Wars and made a deal with the Black Seminoles to relocate to Fort Duncan near Eagle Pass and Fort Clark near Brackettville in exchange for land. The Black Seminole Scouts proved their value to the army as fierce fighters and for their knowledge of English, Spanish, and several Indian dialects. Four of the scouts were awarded Medals of Honor.

Despite their valiant service, controversy arose over their ethnicity. The army classified the Seminoles as Indians and planned to relocate them on Indian lands. Indian agents argued that they were Blacks. During the back and forth, conditions worsened. The Black Seminole Scouts had trouble raising crops on military reservations and they were often denied sufficient rations. In 1876, they were told to leave Fort Duncan and Fort Clark. Finally, some returned to Nacimiento in Mexico, some traveled to the Seminole Nation in Indian Territory, and others remained at Fort Clark.

By 1912, when the scouts were disbanded, about 200 to 300 Black Seminoles moved from the fort into Brackettville where they continued to maintain their cemetery. Each year in September, descendants of the Black Seminole Scouts from all over the country gather in

Last of the Seminole Scouts about 1913.

for an Annual Celebration

Black Seminole Scout Cemetery, Brackettville

Campaign to Open the West

After the Civil War, views differed about what should be done about the Southern Plains Indian’s often-vicious determination to keep their hunting grounds free of white settlement. The Texas government wanted to see the Indians exterminated, while the federal government planned to move them to two reservations established in Indian Territory (present Oklahoma).

Two turbulent chapters in history came together in the 1870s to subdue and contain what the white man called the “Indian threat.” The first transition followed the completion in 1869 of the Transcontinental Railroad, which opened the east coast and European markets to commercial shipment of buffalo hides from the Great Plains. An avalanche of professional buffalo hunters swarmed onto the Southern Plains where tens of millions of buffalo grazed on the rich grassland. The second upheaval, the Red River War, began in 1874 as a campaign of the United States Army to forcibly move the Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes to the reservations in Indian Territory.

Bison sustained the life of the nomadic tribes who used every part of the buffalo for survival. Hides provided housing and clothing; brains soften the buffalo skin; bones could be scraped into brushes and awls; hair made excellent ropes, stuffing, and yarn; sinew served as thread and bowstrings; and dung became fuel. Every part of the animal, even the nose gristle, fetus, and hump contributed to the Indian diet.

Indians hunted with bows and spears, killing only the number of bison they needed for survival, whereas a good buffalo hunter made a stand downwind from a herd and could shoot as many as 100 in a morning and 1,000 to 2,000 in a three-month season.

The teams varied in size from one hunter and two skinners to large organizations of hunters, skinners, gun cleaners, cartridge reloaders, cooks, wranglers, and wagons for transporting equipment and supplies. After skinning a beast, which weighed up to 2500 pounds and stood

Buffalo hunters used a tripod to steady their aim.

six feet tall at its shaggy shoulders, the men ate the delicacies—hump and tongue. They hauled hides and bones to the railroad and left the carcass to rot on the prairie. This careless slaughter almost completely exterminated the buffalo

Buffalo hides waiting for shipment to the railroad.

and observing the demise of their livelihood infuriated the Indians.

Charged with harassing the agile bands of Indians until they gave up and moved to the reservations, several army columns crisscrossed the Texas Panhandle searching for the Indians as they moved entire families to various campsites. When the army units discovered a group of Indians, few casualties resulted, but the army destroyed the supplies and horses, slowly reducing the size and force of the roaming Indian population.

In retaliation for the army’s tactics of search and destroy, coupled with Indian anger over the destruction of the buffalo, in June 1874, Comanche Chief Quanah Parker and a spiritual leader named Isa-tai led 250 warriors in an attack on Adobe Walls, a small outpost of buffalo hunters in the Texas Panhandle. The hunters, using large caliber buffalo guns, held off their attackers, but the violence surprised government officials. As the warriors continued raiding along the frontier, President Grant’s administration authorized the Army to use whatever means necessary to subdue the Southern Plains Indians.

With firm directions from Washington, the Red River War began with a fury as five army columns swarmed across the Texas Panhandle from different directions. Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie’s scouts found a large village of Comanche, Kiowa, and Cheyenne hidden in their winter quarters on the floor of Palo Duro Canyon, a 6,000-foot-deep gorge stretching almost three hundred miles across the Texas Panhandle.

Palo Duro Canyon

At dawn on September 28, 1874, Mackenzie’s troops hurtled down the steep cliff wall, surprising the Indians who tried to protect their squaws and pack animals as they fled from the persistent army fire. Nightfall found four Indians dead, 450 lodges burned to the ground, and the winter supply of buffalo meat destroyed. The army rounded up 1,400 horses, shared some with their guides, and shot the remaining.

MacKenzie Raid at Palo Duro Canyon

Out of food and housing, without their horses, and facing winter, the Indians had no choice but to walk to the Fort Sill reservation.

The Red River War ended the following June when Quanah Parker and his band of Comanches—the last of the southwestern Indians––surrendered at Fort Sill. The almost complete devastation of the buffalo and the persistent military attacks successfully ended the Indian presence on the High Plains and opened settlement to white farmers and ranchers.

Story of the Buffalo Soldiers

Buffalo Soldier Memorial of El Paso, Fort Bliss. Wikipedia

Buffalo Soldier Memorial of El Paso, Fort Bliss.
Wikipedia

During the Civil War, more than 180,000 black soldiers served in segregated Union Army regiments, and many of those units achieved outstanding combat records. After the war, the U.S. Congress reorganized the peacetime army to include black enlisted men in the Ninth and the Tenth United States Cavalry. By 1869 Congress added the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth United States Infantry—all under the leadership of white officers. As these soldiers moved to posts in Texas and across the Southwest and the Great Plains, the Indians began calling them “Buffalo Soldiers.” Most accounts claim they earned Indian respect––and the moniker––for their fierce fighting ability. Others say the title came from the Indians’ regard for the black soldiers’ tightly curled hair that resembled the hair on the bison’s face. Accepting the respect of their adversaries, the Buffalo Soldiers adopted the image of the bison on their regiment crest.th

The army paid the black recruits $13 a month plus food, clothing, and shelter—more than most freedmen could earn after the Civil War. The five-year enlistment meant that they took part in most of the major Indian campaigns in Texas. Buffalo Soldiers were stationed at almost every fort on the frontier from the Rio Grande to the Panhandle—helping to build and repair the outposts. They escorted mail teams, stagecoaches, cattle herds, and survey crews. They built roads, strung miles of telegraph lines, and performed ordinary garrison duties in the isolated western outposts. They recovered thousands of head of stolen livestock and spent months on the trail of horse thieves and Indian raiders.

Thirteen enlisted men and four regiments earned the Medal of Honor by the end of the Indian Wars in the 1890s. Many went on to serve in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, and Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico against Pancho Villa.

Participated in the Spanish-American War Wikipedia

Participated in the Spanish-American War
Wikipedia

By the turn of the 19th century, the Buffalo Soldiers faced increasing racial prejudice. Resentment and anger that developed during Reconstruction in the South drove a wedge between citizens and anyone in a Federal uniform, especially a black man transformed from slave to person of authority. Buffalo Soldiers were stationed outside segregated communities and were subjected to increasing harassment by local police, beatings, and occasional sniper attacks. One example of the increasing tensions between white citizens occurred in Brownsville in 1906 when the newly arrived Twenty-fifth regiment was falsely accused of a murder. When members of the unit could not name the culprits, President Theodore Roosevelt followed recommendations to dishonorably discharge 167 men because of their “conspiracy of silence.” It was 1972 before an inquiry found them innocent, and President Nixon granted the two surviving soldiers honorable discharges––without backpay. When Congress finally passed a tax-free pension the following year, only one Buffalo Soldier survived. He received $25,000 and was honored in ceremonies in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles.

Buffalo Soldier regiments were not called to duty during WWI, however, many of the experienced personnel served in other black units. After the Ninth and Tenth cavalries were disbanded, their men served in other WWII units. The Twenty-fifth saw combat in the Pacific before being deactivated in 1949. The Twenty-fourth, the last Buffalo Soldier regiment to see combat, served in the Pacific during WWII and in the opening days of the Korean War, before being deactivated in 1951.

In 1948 President Truman issued an executive order abolishing racial discrimination in the United States Armed Forces, but it was another fifteen years before Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara issued a directive obligating military commanders to stop discrimination based on sex or race in facilities used by soldiers or their family.

Buffalo Soldier National Museum in Houston Wikipedia

Buffalo Soldier National Museum in Houston
Wikipedia

El Paso Mission Trail

My long-range plans call for finding a book publisher interested in my Texas history blogs. With that goal in mind, I’m expanding my Texas coverage with a series of West Texas and Panhandle stories. This blog post was to be about the founding of the oldest Spanish mission in Texas and the first thanksgiving in the United States, both of which I thought had occurred near El Paso, a city on the far western edge of Texas. Immediately, I uncovered a wide range of stories that I have decided to share.

We often think of Spanish activity in Texas getting underway when the Frenchman René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de LaSalle landed on the Texas coast in 1685. Concern that the French might have an eye on Texas prompted the government of New Spain to construct six missions in East Texas to Christianize the Indians and to serve as a buffer against encroachment from the French in neighboring Louisiana. In fact Spanish explorers started coming into Texas at present-day El Paso in the early 1580s, a century before the East Texas missions were built.

King Phillip II of Spain made Don Juan de Oñate the governor of New Mexico, before the territory

Don Juan de Onate

Don Juan de Onate

had been conquered. In search of riches, adventure, and political power Oñate personally financed an expedition, or entrada, meant to “pacify” the natives in New Mexico. He assembled 400 soldiers, 130 families and thousands of head of cattle, sheep, and other livestock. In early 1598 Oñate led his entourage on what he thought was a shortcut across the Chihuahuan Desert in Northern Mexico in search of a pass through the mountains into New Mexico. In late April, after four days of walking without food or water, the desperate travelers reached the Rio Grande where Oñate claimed all the surrounding land for King Phillip II of Spain. A few days later, they met native people who called themselves Manos, “peaceful one.” The friendly Indians led the Spanish to the place where the Rio Grande cut through the mountains forming El Paso del Rio del Norte—the pass of the north—the Spanish entryway to the West. The Mansos, who wore very little clothing, provided fresh fish for the Spanish and received clothing in return. Oñate invited the Mansos to be guests at a feast on January 26, 1598, celebrating the travelers’ amazing survival. The huge display of wild game and other food stuffs from the expeditions’ supplies created a feast of thanksgiving, which seems to be the second to be celebrated in the present United States. The first thanksgiving is claimed by St. Augustine, Florida, where on September 8, 1565, the Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez held a feast of thanksgiving with the Timucua.

The entrada moved on into New Mexico, but when scouting parties failed to find gold and silver,

Acoma Pueblo

Acoma Pueblo

Oñate’s troops began demanding payments from the Pueblo population. The Acoma pueblo refused to comply and in 1599 the Acoma Wars ended with Oñate’s orders to kill 800 people, enslave another 500, and cut off the left foot of all men older than twenty-five. Numbers of amputees vary from twenty-four to eighty. The young women were sent into slavery. Oñate continued his exploratory travels as far as present Kansas, returned to found the town of Santa Fe, and was finally called back to Mexico City in 1606 to answer for his conduct. Although he was tried and convicted of cruelty to the Spanish colonists and to the natives, he was later cleared of all charges.

His treatment of the native peoples set the pattern of Spanish cruelty that continued until the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 when the natives rebelled against their overlords. The Pueblos drove out the soldiers and the Spanish authorities, killed twenty-one Franciscan priests, and sacked mission churches. More than 400 Spanish colonists and 346 native people were killed, which sent hundreds of Indians and Spanish fleeing for their lives to the south. The Tigua (Tiwa) people were among the refugees who reached safety at the Paso del Norte. In order to serve the displaced population, Franciscan friars established the first mission and pueblo in Texas, Corpus Christi de la Isleta, in 1682 on the south bank of the Rio Grande. That same year Nuestra Señora de la

Ysleta Mission

Ysleta Mission

Concepción del Socorro was established for other native people who had fled from the Pueblo Revolt. Over the years, the Rio Grande flooded many times, changing course, and moving the communities that grew up around the missions to both sides of the river, even isolating them for a time on an island between two channels of the Rio Grande.

Socorro Mission

Socorro Mission

Despite the construction of the Spanish missions, the Indians from New Mexico brought their own way of life with them, and continued to control the political and economic activities of the new mission communities. The Franciscan friars were allowed authority only over the Indians’ spiritual life.

Into this mix of missions, native peoples, and Spanish settlers, San Elizario settlement was established, and the Presidio de San Elizario was built in 1789 to protect the area missions and the travelers on the Camino Real (Royal Highway) that ran from Mexico City through Paso del Norte to Santa Fe. While it was never a mission, the presidio boasted a chapel to serve the military personnel.

San Elizario Chapel

San Elizario Chapel

Today’s Ysleta church was completed in 1907 and the Isleta community was annexed into El Paso in 1955. The present Socorro Mission was completed in 1840, replacing the 17th-century structure destroyed by Rio Grande floods. The current church retains many of its original decorative elements, including the original beams, or vigas, which were salvaged from the old flooded church. Both missions and the San Elizario Chapel are on the El Paso Mission Trail.

El Paso Mission Trail

El Paso Mission Trail

Buffalo Soldiers in Texas

During the Civil War more than 180,000 black soldiers served in segregated Union Army regiments.  Realizing that many of the black units had achieved outstanding combat records, the U.S. Congress reorganized the peacetime army to include black enlisted men in the Ninth and the Tenth United States Cavalry and by 1869 the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth United States Infantry—all under the

Buffalo Soldier National Museum

Buffalo Soldier National Museum

leadership of white officers. As these soldiers moved to posts in Texas and across the Southwest and the Great Plains, several explanations surround the Indians’ calling them “Buffalo Soldiers.”  Most accounts claim they earned Indian respect for their fierce fighting ability.  Others say the title came from a combination of the Indians’ regard for the buffalo and the black soldiers’ tightly curled hair that resembled the hair on the bison’s face. Accepting the respect of their adversaries, the Buffalo Soldiers

Crest of the Buffalo Soldier

Crest of the Buffalo Soldier

adopted the image of the bison on their regiment crest.

The army paid the black recruits $13 a month plus food, clothing, and shelter—more than most black men could earn after the Civil War.  Their enlistment was for five years and when they reached Texas they took part in most of the major Indian campaigns.  They were stationed at almost every fort on the frontier from the Rio Grande to the Panhandle—helping to build and repair the outposts.  They escorted mail teams, stagecoaches, cattle herds, and survey crews.  They built roads, strung miles of telegraph lines, and performed ordinary garrison duties in the isolated western outposts.  They recovered thousands of head of stolen livestock and spent months on the trail of horse thieves and Indian raiders.

Although thirteen enlisted men and four regiments earned the Medal of Honor by the end of the Indian wars in the 1890s, and many went on to serve in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, and Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico against Pancho Villa, by the turn of the last century the Buffalo Soldiers faced increasing racial prejudice.  Resentment and anger that developed during

Texas forts served by Buffalo Soldiers

Texas forts served by Buffalo Soldiers

Reconstruction in the South drove a wedge between citizens and anyone in a Federal uniform, especially a black man transformed from slave to person of authority.  Buffalo Soldiers were stationed outside segregated communities and were subjected to increasing harassment by local police, beatings, and occasional sniper attacks.  One example of the increasing tensions between white citizens occurred in Brownsville in 1906 when the newly arrived Twenty-fifth regiment was falsely accused of a murder.  When members of the unit could not name the culprits, President Theodore Roosevelt followed recommendations to dishonorably discharge 167 men because of their “conspiracy of silence.”  It was 1972 before an inquiry found them innocent, and President Nixon granted the two surviving soldiers honorable discharges, without backpay.  When Congress finally passed a tax-free pension the following year, only one Buffalo Soldier survived, and he received $25,000 and was honored in ceremonies in Washington, DC and Los Angeles.

Buffalo Soldier regiments were not called to duty during WWI, however many of the experienced personnel served in other black units.  After the Ninth and Tenth cavalries were disbanded, their men served in other units during WWII.  The Twenty-fifth saw combat in the Pacific before being deactivated in 1949.  The Twenty-fourth, the last Buffalo Soldier regiment to see combat, served in the Pacific during WWII and in the opening days of the Korean War, before being deactivated in 1951.

In 1948 President Truman issued an executive order abolishing racial discrimination in the United States Armed Forces, but it was fifteen years later before Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara issued a directive obligating military commanders to stop discrimination based on sex or race in facilities used by soldiers or their family.

The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum was founded in 2000 as “the only museum dedicated primarily to preserving the legacy and honor of the African-American soldier.”  It is located in Houston and will honor military heroes at the 14th Annual Gala on February 28, 2014.

PLAINS INDIANS BOW TO WHITE SUPREMACY

After the Civil War, views differed about what should be done about the Southern Plains Indian’s often-vicious determination to keep their hunting grounds free of white settlement.  The Texas government wanted to see the Indians exterminated, while the federal government planned to move them to two reservations established in Indian Territory (present Oklahoma).

Two turbulent chapters in history came together in the 1870s to subdue and contain what the white man called the “Indian threat.”  The first transition followed the completion in 1869 of the Transcontinental Railroad, which opened the east coast and European markets to commercial shipment of buffalo hides from the Great Plains.  An avalanche of professional buffalo hunters swarmed onto the Southern Plains where tens of millions of buffalo grazed on the rich grassland.  The second upheaval, the Red River War, began in 1874 as a campaign of the United States Army to forcibly move the Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes to the reservations in Indian Territory.

Bison sustained the life of the nomadic tribes who used every part of the buffalo for survival.  Hides provided housing and clothing; brains soften the buffalo skin; bones could be scraped into brushes and awls; hair made excellent ropes, stuffing, and yarn; sinew served as thread and bowstrings; and dung became fuel.  Every part of the animal, even the nose gristle, fetus, and hump contributed to the Indian diet.

Indians hunted with bows and spears, killing only the number of bison they needed for survival, whereas a good buffalo hunter made a stand downwind from a herd and could shoot as many as 100 in a morning and 1,000 to 2,000 in a three-month season.

Buffalo hides waiting for shipment

The teams varied in size from one hunter and two skinners to large organizations of hunters, skinners, gun cleaners, cartridge reloaders, cooks, wranglers, and wagons for transporting equipment and supplies.  After skinning a beast, which weighed up to 2500 pounds and stood six feet tall at its shaggy shoulders, the men ate the delicacies—hump and tongue—sold what they could, and left the remaining carcass to rot on the prairie.  This careless slaughter almost completely exterminated the buffalo, and observing the demise of their livelihood infuriated the Indians.

Bison Skulls

Charged with harassing the agile bands of Indians until they gave up and moved to the reservations, several army columns crisscrossed the Texas Panhandle searching for the Indians as they moved entire families to various campsites.  When the army units discovered a group of Indians, few casualties resulted, but the army destroyed the supplies and horses, slowly reducing the size and force of the roaming Indian population.

In this climate of search and destroy by the Army, coupled with Indian anger over destruction of the buffalo, in June 1874, Comanche Chief Quanah Parker and a spiritual leader named Isa-tai led 250 warriors in an attack on Adobe Walls, a small outpost of buffalo hunters in the Texas Panhandle.  The hunters, using large caliber buffalo guns, held off their attackers, but the violence surprised government officials.  As the warriors continued raiding along the frontier, President Grant’s administration authorized the Army to use whatever means necessary to subdue the Southern Plains Indians.

With firm directions from Washington, the Red River War began with a fury as five army columns swarmed across the Texas Panhandle from different directions. Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie’s scouts found a large village of Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne hidden in their winter quarters on the floor of Palo Duro Canyon, a 6,000-foot-deep

Palo Duro Canyon

gorge stretching almost three hundred miles across the Texas Panhandle.

At dawn on September 28, 1874, Mackenzie’s troops hurtled down the steep cliff wall, surprising the Indians who tried to protect their squaws and pack animals as they fled from the persistent army fire.  Nightfall found four Indians dead, 450 lodges burned to the ground, and the supply of buffalo meat destroyed.  The army rounded up 1,400 horses, kept all they could use, and shot the remaining.

Out of food and housing, without their horses, and facing winter, the Indians had no choice but to walk to the Fort Sill reservation.

The Red River War ended the following June when Quanah Parker and his band of Comanches—the last of the southwestern Indians–surrendered at Fort Sill.  The almost complete devastation of the buffalo and the persistent military attacks successfully ended the Indian presence on the High Plains and opened settlement to white farmers and ranchers.

The Battle at Plum Creek

In 1977, I wrote my first Texas Historical Marker for the Battle at Plum Creek. The marker stands in the Lockhart Lions Club City Park on US 183, about a mile from the battle site. Even if you stop and read the account of 200 Texans waiting in ambush for over 600 Comanches, you will miss the full significance of this painful chapter in Texas history.
In 1840, when Texas was still a Republic, its second president Mirabeau B. Lamar maintained a harsh anti-Indian policy, in fact, like many of the folks that elected him, Lamar claimed that the only good Indian was a dead Indian.
White settlement moved steadily westward into Indian homeland, Texas Rangers patrolled throughout the region to protect white residents, and smallpox swept through Comanche tribes at the same time as Cheyenne and Arapaho attached them from the north. In that climate leaders of the Penateka Comanche felt pressured to seek a peace agreement with Texas government officials that recognized the borders of the Comancheria—the Indian homeland.
On March 19, after receiving promises for their safety, thirty-three chiefs and warriors along with over thirty others including women and children arrived at the Council House in San Antonio. After being told in advance to bring in all white prisoners, the delegation arrived with several Mexican children and Matilda Lockhart, a sixteen-year-old girl that had obviously been abused. Chief Muk-wah-ruh tried, unsuccessfully, to explain to the white officials that he did not have authority over prisoners held by other Comanche bands.
When it became clear that the Indians would not, or could not, produce the other white captives, Texas soldiers entered the Council House, and the commissioners informed the Indians that they were being held hostage until all white captives were returned. Suddenly realizing they had been tricked, the Comanches shouted for help to those waiting in the outer courtyard and tried to fight their way to freedom. Thirty of the chiefs and warriors were killed as well as about five women and children. Most of the others were taken prisoner with only one woman being released to deliver the message that all Comanche prisoners would be held hostage until all whites captives were returned.
The Indians that escaped headed back to their homeland to grieve and plot their revenge for what they considered a bitter betrayal. In early August under the leadership of the only surviving chief, Buffalo Hump, over 600 Comanche and Kiowa including women and children swept down from far West Texas and across Central Texas in the “Great Comanche Raid.”
At Victoria they killed several people and stole about 1,500 horses and mules corralled in town for a sale. They raced on to Linnville, a prosperous seaport village on Lavaca Bay. Residents clambered into boats anchored in the shallow water, and watched in horror for an entire day as the warehouses, businesses, and homes burned while the Indians—warriors, women and children–shrieked in glee as they gathered all the loot they could carry from the burning structures. Three people were killed and three taken hostage; the plunder valued at $300,000 consisted of goods intended for San Antonio that had just arrived from New Orleans.
By the time the Indians retreated only one structure remained. Residents that did not abandon the coast moved three miles down the bay and began the town of present day Port Lavaca. The Indians, joyous in their triumph, began the long trek back across Central Texas as word of the raid spread among white settlements.
On August 12, a volunteer militia and a company of Texas Rangers gathered at a crossing on Plum Creek, 120 miles inland from the coast. The whites watched the approaching army of Indians and horses stretching for miles across the prairie, singing and gyrating and adorned in the booty from Linnville. Brightly colored ribbons waved from the horses’ tails; one chief wore a silk top hat and a morning coat turned backward with shiny brass buttons glistening down his back.
Claims vary as to the outcome of the ensuing battle. The Indians, hampered by the enormous load of plunder, lost over 80 chiefs and warriors. Some accounts claim that the whites found stolen bullion on some of the mules and abandoned the fight. The Battle of Plum Creek succeeded in ending the Comanche presence in settled regions of Texas. Indians were finally driven out of Texas in the campaigns of 1874-75–another story for another day.