James T. De Shields.

Border wars of Texas ; being an authentic and popular account, in chronological order, of the long and bitter conflict waged between savage Indian tribes and the pioneer settlers of Texas ... online

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Online LibraryJames T. De ShieldsBorder wars of Texas ; being an authentic and popular account, in chronological order, of the long and bitter conflict waged between savage Indian tribes and the pioneer settlers of Texas ... → online text (page 6 of 34)
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towering trees of the east, he beheld the red men of Tennes-
see and the red men of Texas in deadly strife. But the
bows and arrows of the "Wacos could not compete with the
unerring rifles of the Cherokees. The Wacos were falling
rapidly, while the Cherokees were unharmed.

"After half an hour's strife, amid y^ells and mutual
imprecations, the Wacos signalled a retreat, and they fell
back in confusion, taking refuge in the fortified sinkhole.
Here, though hemmed in, they were quite secure, having a
great advantage. Indeed they could kill every Cherokee
who might peradventure, risk his person too near the brink.

"The Cherokees had already killed many, and now
held a council, to consider what they should do. It was
proposed by one brave that they should strip to a state of
nature, march into the sink-hole in a body, fire their pieces,
then drop them, and with tomahawks alone endieavor to- kill
■every man, woman and child among the Wacos. A half
breed named Smith, who was in favor of this desperate
measure, as an incentive to his comrades, stripped himself,
fastened a dozen horsebells (which he had picked up in
camp) around his waist, and commenced galloping and yell-
ing around the sink-hole, now and then jumping on the em-
bankment and then cursing the Wacos lustily. The arrows
were hurled at him by the score, but he fell not.

"Just as the Cherokee council was coming to a close,
at about an hour after sunrise, they heard a noise like dis-
tant thunder on the opposite side of the river, and delayed
a few moments to discover its cause. Very soon they dis-
covered a large body of mounted Indians rising the river
banks a little below them. What could it mean? they
murmured one to another. The story is soon told. A
messenger had rushed from the Wacos in the outset, for
the Tehuacana village, begging help, and now two hundred
Tehuacana warriors, mounted and ready for the fray, were
at hard. The whole aspect of the day was changed in a


moment. To conquer this combined force was impossible —
to escape themselves would require prudence. The Tehua-
caras, in comirg up, cut off a Cherokee boy, twelve years
eld, killed and scalped him, and placed his scalp, and held
it up defiantly to the \iew of the Cherokees. The boy was
an only child, and his father beheld this scene. The brave
man's eje glared with fury. Without a word he threw
from his bccy every piece of his apparel, seized a knife in.
one hand, a tomahawk in the other. 'What will you?' de-
manded the chief. 'Die with my brave boy. Die slaying
the wild men who have plucked the last rose from my bos-
om!' The chief interceded and told him it was madness ;^
the Cherokee listened not ; with rapid strides he rushed
among the Tehuacanas, upon certain death; but ere death
tad seized its victim, he had killed several and died shout-
ing defiance in their midst.

"The TcKuacanas occupied the post oaks just below the.
Cherokees, and kept up a lusty shouting, but ventured not
within rifle shot. The latter seeing that on an open field
they could not resist such numbers — having taken fifty-five
Waco scalps, (equal to their own number) and having lost
two men and the boy — now^ fell back into the cedar brake
and remained there till night. They were convinced that
their safety depended upon a cautious retreat, for if sur-
rounded on the prairie, they would be annihilated. When
night came on they crossed the river, traveling down the
eand bank a mile or two, as if they were going down the
country, thence, turning up the stream, waded up the edge'
of the w^ater some six or seven miles, (the river being low
and r€anarka;bly even), and thus eluded pursuit. In due
time they reached their Red River villages, without the
thousand horses they anticipated, but with fifty -five Waco,
iiealps — glory enough in their estimation. The entire band,
•was now speedily collected and amid much rejoicing and
■with great noise, it is said, indulged in one of the grandest
"war dances ever witnessed in Texas." ...



**The Cherokees, it seems, did not forget the Tehuacanas,
but held them to strict account — determined to take re-
venge on them for their interference in the engagement
with the Wacos — as the sequel will show. To this end it ap-
pears, early in the summer of 1830, they armed and equipped
one huncied and twenty cf their bravest and best
fighters, who marched upon one of the principal villages
of the enemy.

"The Tehuacanas, like the "Waccs, had several princi-
pal villages, favorite resorts, from some peiculiarity, as fine
springs of water, abundance of buffalo, etc. One of them,
and perhaps their most esteemed locality, was at the south-
ern point of the hills of the same name, now in the upper
edge of Limestone County. Around these springs there is
a, large amount of loose limestone on the surface, as well as
in the hills, and the whole surrounding country is one of
rare beauty and loveliness.

"The Tehuacanas had erected several small enclosures
of these loose stones, about three feet high, leaving occas-
ional spaces some two feet square, resembling the mouths
of furnaces. Over the tops they threw poles and spread
buffalo hides, and when attacked, their women, old men and
children, would seek refuge in the same, and lying flat on
the ground, would send their arrows and bullets through
these apertures whenever an enemy came in range. From
the attacks of small arms, such a protection, however primi-
tive, was generally quite effective.

"This party of Cherokees, having been informed of the
locality of this place, and the value set upon it by the Te-
huacanas, and knowing that it was a considerable distance
from the Wacos, determined to seek it out and tliere wreak
vengeance upon those who had by their own act called
forth feelings of hostility. Guided by an Indian who had
explored the country as a trappper, they reached the place
in due season. When discovered, the Tehuacanas were en-
gaged at a play of ball around the little fort. The Chero-


kees stripped fcr action at once, while the ball players,
promptly ceastd that amusement, rushed their women and
children into the retreats, and prepared fcr defense. They
had quite a large village, and outnumhered the Cherokees in
fighting men.

"A random fight commenced, the Cherokees using the
surroundirg trees as protectiou, and takiug the matter as
a business transaction, made their advances from tree to
tree with prudence. Their aim, with the 'rest' against the
trees, told with effect, and one by one, notwithstanding
their hideous yells and capering to and fro, the Tehuaca-
nas were biting the dust.

"The moment one was wounded, unless a very brave fel-
low, he w^ould crawl into the hiding place among the women
and children, unless, perchance, on his way, a Cherokee
ball brought him t€ the tjround

"The fight continued this way an hcur or more, when,
upon a signal, the whole hody retired within the breastworks.
At this time the Cherokees, elated by what they supposed
to be a victory, charged upon the open holes, ringing their
victorious war-v,hc€p most furiously. But they were soon
convinced that though concealed, the besieged were not
powerkss, for here they received a shower of arrows and
balls from the hidden enemy which tumbled several of their
braves alongside of those they killed en the other side. Yet,
excited as they had become, they were not easily convinced
that prudence in that case was the better part of valor. On
the contrary, they maintained the unequal contest for some
time, until one of their old men advised a talk.

"They withdrew a short distance and held a consulta-
tion. Their leaders said they had come there for revenge
and they would not relinquish their design so long as a
Cherokee brave was left to fight — that to go back to their
people and report a 'defeat, would disgrace them — they
would die en the field rather than beiir such tidings.
'Where there's a will, there's a way' is a trite old adage,
and at this juncture of affairs, it was verified .by the Chero-
kees, The eld man who had advised the 'talk.' now made


a s"uggesticii, which was seconded by all. He proposed that
a party should be sent off a short distance to cut dry grass
and bring a load'; that nuen, loaded with this material, should
cautiously approach each hole in the breastworks, fromi the
sides, using the grass as a shield on the way; that the door
hoks f^hculd be stopped up with it, (with new supplies con-
stantly arriving), and set on fire, by which very simple pro-
cess the inmates would be suffocated or compelled, to throw
off the hides and leap out, breathless and more or less
blinded through the smoke, while the Cherokees, stationed
around in circles, would, have an easy time in butchering
their astonished red brethren. This was a rich idiea and. de-
lighted with the anticipated fun on their part, and
misery among their enemies, the Cherokees speedily made
all their arrangements and disposed of their fighting men
to the best advantage. The grass was placed in the re-
quired position, and at the same moment, set on fire. For
a moment or two no response was heard fiHjm within; but
very soon the smoke was seen escaping through the rocks
and from under the skins, proving that each little refug«
was full of the strangulating exhalation. To endure such
a torture long, was beyond human power; and in a little
while a dolefuL howl issued forth, followed by a signifi-
cant upheaving of the buffalo-skin roofs, and a rush of the
gasping victims, blinded by smoke, leaping over the walls,
they knew not where. To render the picture more appal-
ling, the exulting Cherokees S; t up a terrible yeDing, and
dealt death to the doomed creatures with their guns, toma-
hawks and scalping knives until all were slain, or had made
their escape from the dreadful sacrifice by headlong flight.
Quite a number of squaws and children, and perhaps a few
men, had been unable to rise, and died from suffocation
inside the w'orks."

And thus ended this tragic scene in the course of our
Indian warfare. Comparatively few of the'Tehuacanas es-
caped. The surviving women and children were preserved
prisoners, and a considerable number of horses, blankets,
skir.R, and indeed the entire tauip equipage, fell into the


hands of the victors, who returned to their people on Red
River in triumph, displaying not only their booty, but a
large number of the greatest of all Indian symbols of
gloiy, scalps.

While no serious troubles from Indians appear to have
been committed during this and the succeeding year or
two, the isolated and. extreme border settlers suffered froiu
occasional thieving forays of tlie Wacos and Tahuacanas.

In November, a party of eleven Wacos entered the
settlements some twenty miles west of San Felipe. They
were on foot, and w^U supplied with ropes and bridles. -A
party consisting of Adam Lawrence, Thomas Stevens,
Abner Kuykendall, Charles Gates, B. Kuykendall, George
Ecbinson, William Cooper and five others, were soon col-
kcted to intercept the Indians. Discovering them camped near
the house of John Stevens, on Caney Creek, the Bettlers
inad€ a surprise attack at dawn.

"Favored by a gully and a dense fog, we approach^
within thirty feet of the Indians (part of whom had not yet
risen), before they perceived us, at which moment we de-
livered cur fire." As the Indians fled one of them shot
William Cooper through the l^eart, killing him instantly.
This caused considerable confusion and delay on the patt
of the settlers. ''Late in the morning," says Kuykendall,
"the trail of the Indians was followed as far as the bottom
of Caney Creek, five or six hundred yards, some red strips
marked their course across the prairie and two or thre€
conical shaped pieces of rotton wood, with which these In-
dians are generally provided, to plug their wounds, were
picked up on the trail, saturated with blood." The carcass
of one of these Indians was found in the bottom, and from
the Mexicans at Tenoxtitlan, some two weeks later, it was
learned that seven of them died from their wounds before
reaching their homes.

1831 — Despite the prohibitory decree of the previous year
and the forebodings of political troubles, the American
population of Texas continued to increase — numbering abotit
twenty thousand. The most part of these prohibited • .emi-


grants came, however, under the general prvovisions of the
law, on th^ir own account, halting east of the Trinity, where
they fixed homes.

Having designated their lands, these settlers were an-
xious for legal possession, and, to that end, "in 1831 the
Governor of the State had commmissioned Don Francisco
Madero as commissioner to issue titles to the settlers on.
and near the region of Liberty." Justly exercising the
authority of his position, and most gratifying to the people
of that section, Madero created he municipatlity of Liber-
ty, appointing Hugh B. Johnson as Alcalde.

But for this, the Commissioner was arrested and im-
prisoned, the Alcalde removed and the municipality of
"Libertad" dissolved — a new Ayuntamiento being set up
by the despotic and obdurate military satrap, Bradburn,
with its seat at Anahuac under his immediate surveillance.
Thus far, this suffices to show the general trendi of the
€vents transpiring in, and most affecting, the colonies.

Fortunate for the otherwise vexed colonists, no serious
depredaticns by Indians appear to have been committed at
this time. However, the year 1831, says Yoakum, did not
pass away without being witness to a battle, which, consid-
ering the number engaged and its results, was the hardest
contested field in 'Texas.

One of the early and unique pioneer characters of Tex-
as, was Caiaphas K. Ham, born in the year 1803. He was
an intimate friend and associate of the Bowies in Louisiana,
and came to Texas in 1830, residing with Colonel James
Bowie and his beautiful Spanish wife — the daughter of Vice
Governor Veramendi — at the Mission of San Jose, on the
San Antonio River some four miles below the city.

Scon after his arrival in Texas, Mr. Ham decided to
join the Comanche Indians for the purpose of buying horses
for tl-e Louisiana market. At that tinve, 1830, this tribe
was at peace with the Texans. "Being in San Antonio
f roquenitly, " isays Ham's narrative, "on almost every occa-
sion I saw parties of Comanche Indians who came in to
trade. My desire was to know something of them and the


country they wandered over. Cclcnel Bowie at first op-
posed the scheme, but finding I was determined, he assisted
me in getting things in goad shape. A Comanche chief
named Incorroy, came in. An interpreter was employed
and a treaty made. I was adopted into the chief's family,
with an assurance that I could return to the whites when-
ever I chose. A supply of powder, balls, butcher knives
and brass rings, was laid in." The object in adverting to
this freak will be seen farther on, when it will be discover-
ed that this trading expedition had an important bearing
upon an affair affecting Colonel Bowie.

"We left San Antonio," continues Ham's narrative,
"and started for the chief's camp. I had no care on my
mind; in the morning I saddled one horse and packed anoth-
er — the latter being turned over to the care of my Indian

"About this time a party of Wacos were encamped
near us. They wanted to trade, and had good horses. In-
corroy instructed me how to trade — I gave one pint of pow-
der, eight balls, one plug of tobacco, one butcher knife,
and two brass rings, for a horse."

After some five months, Ham received a message
from Colonel Bowie advising him to return to San Antonio
at once, as the Mexican Government was preparing to make
war upon the Indian tribes; and that if found among the
Comanches he would be killed with them. During his stay
with the Indians, Ham had gained their friendship com-
pletely, and had himself become attached to his red friends.
When he left the chief, twenty-five warriors escorted him
to San Antonio. Mr. Ham was convinced that the real mo-
tive for his recall from the Indians was an intention on the
part of the Bowies to re-visit the celebrated silver mine near
Sasn Saba, which had been discovered, and partially examin-
ed by Bowie, it appears, siome time previous to 1831.

The shaft was about eight feet deep ; the bottom was
reached by means of steps cut in a live oak log. Bowie
used his tomahawk in getting possession of some of the ore;
which he carried to New Orleans, had it assayed, and it


"paEEed cut" rich. He soon retiuxcd to San Antonio and
quietlyi set about organizing a select little party to revisit
and examine the mine. Mr. Ham was one of the party se-

These facts are deemed permissible in this connection as
shedding some light on the thrilling episode to follow.


Perhaps the celebrated engagement known as "Bowie's
Indian Fight" is without a parallel on this continent; cer-
tainly a more skillful and heroic defense against such fear-
ful odds was never made on Texas soil.

Organized, equipped and led by the Bowie brothers, the
little exploring party consisting of Rezin P. and James
Bowie, David Buchanan, Robert Armstrong, Jesse Wallaee,
Matthew Doyle, Thomas McCaslin, C. K. Ham, James Cor-
yell, (for whom Coryell county was named), and two ser-
vant boys, Charles, a negro, and Gonzales, a Mexican, set
out from San Antonio on November 2, 1S31, to locate and
re-open tbe long abandoned and lost silver mines of Alma-
gres, SOMEWHERE, in the vicinity of the old San Saba
Mission. The secret of the location of this celebrated and
rich silver mine was well guarded by the Indians, who
wished to prevent another influx of miners and adventurers
into their hunting grounds — a condition that brought
about the fate of the San Saba Mission, when its inmates,
the miners, and people there congregated, were suddenly
fell upon and all massacred by the incensed Indians in 1758.

The little party traveled out and met with no adven-
ture of note until the 19th, when they were overtaken by a
party of friendly Comanches, who informed Bowie that a
large body of hostile Indians were on his trail swearing
that they would take the scalp of every white man in the
party. The hostile Indians were tlie Tehuaeanas, Waeos
and Cadd'os, numberiing 1G4 well armed' braves. They
•were too strong for Bowie to risk a figlit, and.! even
■when the Comanche chief offered to join Bowie with has


band of sixteen men, the odds were so fearful that Bowie
declined the generous offer and pressed forward with the
intention of reaching the old fort on the San Saba before
night. But the Texans soon struck a rocky road, and
their horses' feet were so worn and sore that they were
compelled to step for the night in a small grove of live
oaks. This grove was in an open prairie, interspersed with
rocks and clumps of trees. Near it, on the west, was a
stream of water, and on the north, a thicket of small trees
about ten feet high. Into this thicket, and through prick-
ly pears, the Texans cut a road, in order that they might
he prepared for defense in case of an attack by the Indians.
They then posted sentries and hobbled their horses, but
they were not molested until the next morning, when they
discovered Indians on their trail before they could get
ready to depart for the fort. One of th»e Indians was some
distance in advance of his comrades. He was on foot with
his head to the ground, following the trail of the Texans.
Bowie and his men fkw to arms. The red men gave aloud
warwhccp and began their preparations for an attack.
"While some of the bucks on horseback were reconnoitering
the ground, the Texans decided, on account of the fearful
odds, against them — 164 to 11 — to avoid, if possible, a fight
«o unequal and desperate. It was agreed that Rezin Bowie
ehould go out and parley with the Indians and try to make
terms of peace. He went, accompanied by David Buchan-
an. They walked to within forty yards of the enemy's
line and invited the Indians to send out their chief, so that
they could have a talk with him. The Indians who had
been addrCiSsed in their own tongue replied with a
•**How do! How do!" followed by a volley of rifle
shots, one of which wounded Buchanan in the leg.
Bowie replied with the contents of his double bar-
reled shot gun, and pistol, then taking his wounded com-
rade on his back, started for the camp. The Indians fired
another volley, and Buchanan was wounded twice more,
but not mortally. The savages then pursued with toma-
hawks and were close upon Bowie and his unfortunate


companion, when the Texans charged them with rifles, kill-
ing four and putting th€ others to flight. Bowie and his
men then returned to their positions and for five minutes
all was quiet.

Then there came fierce yells from a hill red with In-
dians, and so near that the Texans could hear the voice
of the chief as he urged his men to charge. "Who is load-
ed?" cried the Texan leader. "I am," answered Cephas
Ham. "Then shoot that chief," said Bowie, and Haim
fired, breaking the leg of the Indian and killing his pony.
As the wounded chief went hopping around his horse, four
of the Texans, who had reloaded, fired, and he fell. Sev-
eral of his men, who advanced to bear his body away, were
killed, and the whiole band fell back beyond the hill. But
they soon covered the hill again, bringing up their women,
and there was rapid firing on both sides. Another chief,
advancing on horseback and urging his men forward, was
killed by James Bowie. Meanwhile a number of the In-
dians succeeded in getting under the creek bank in the rear
of the Texans. They opened fire at forty yards distance
and Matthew Doyle w^as shot through the breast, and Thom-
as McCaslin, running forward to avenge him, was shot
through the body. The firing then became general from
all quarters and the Texans, finding themselves too much
exposed, retreated to the thicket, where they were in point
blank range of the riflemen under the creek bank and soon
dislodged them.

In the thicket the Texans wer'C not only well screen-
ed, but had a clear view of the Indians on the prairie.
Th'Cy baffled the savages in their shots, by moving six
or eight feet the moment they fired, for the only mark for
the red men was the smoke o^ the Texans' guns, and they
would immediately put a shower of balls on the spot where
they saw the smoke.

After the fight had continued in this way for two
hours, the Indians saw that they could not dislodge the
Texans with bullets, and they resorted to fire. By this
they expected to rout the little party and secure an oppor-


tunity of carrying off th^eir dead and wounded under cov-
€r of the smoke, for the rifles of the rangers had brought
down several at every round. They set fire to the dry grass
to the windward of the thicket. The flamie® SK>ared hi^h
and rushed forward with great fury. The Texans cleared
away the grass around their wounded comrades and made
whatever barriers they could against the flames by piling
up rock and bushes to make a flimsy breastwork. Mean-
while the Indians, who had succeeded in carrying off their
dead and wounded under cover of the smoke, returned
again to the attack. The wind suddenly shifted to the
north and the red men quick to see the advantage it gave
them, seized their chance and again set fire to the grass.
The flames went roaring ten feet high toward the thicket,
while the shouts and yells of the savages rent the air.

This was the critical moment in the fight. The sparks
began to fly so fast that no man could open his powder
horn without danger of being blown to pieces. In case the
Indians should make a charge under cover of the smoke,
which was expected, they could give only one effectual
fire and then rely on their knives. Besides, there was great
danger from the flames, but as they came to the edge of
the cleared space around the wounded, those stalwart men
smothered them with buffalo hides, bear skins and blank-

The savages did not charge, but the fire left so little of
the thicket that the 'Texans took refuge in the ring they had
made around the wounded, and began raising their breast-
works higher with earth and loose rocks. The Indians, who

Online LibraryJames T. De ShieldsBorder wars of Texas ; being an authentic and popular account, in chronological order, of the long and bitter conflict waged between savage Indian tribes and the pioneer settlers of Texas ... → online text (page 6 of 34)