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fullness, fairness and historical accuracy. These
remarks are justified by the false statements in
" Dewees' Letters from Texas," giving the credit
of fighting the battle of Plum Creek to four com-
panies of citizen volunteers, he claiming to have
been Captain of one of them, when in fact not one
of such companies was in the fight or even saw the
Indians. Tliis falsehood was exposed by the writer
hereof, on the appearance of Dewees' book, in the
Indianola Bulletin of January, 1853, an exposure
unanswered in the intervening thirty-five years.

At the time of this raid the country between the
Guadalupe and San Marcos, on the west, and the
Colorado on the east, above a line drawn from Gon-
zales to La Grange, was a wilderness, while below
that line it was thinly settled. Between Gonzales
and Austin, on Plum creek, were two recent set-
tlers, Isom J. Goode and John A. Neill. From
Gonzales to within a few miles of La Grange there
was not a settler. There was not one between Gon-
zales and Bastrop, nor one between Austin and San
Antonio. A road from Gonzales to Austin, then in
the first year of its existence, had been opened in
July, 1839.

This Indian raid was known to and encouraged
by Gen. Valentin Canalizo, commanding in
Northern Mexico, with headquarters in Matamoras.
The Comanches were easily persuaded into it in
retaliation for their loss of thirty-odd warriors in
the Council fight in San Antonio during the previous
March. Renegade Mexicans and lawless Indians
from some of the half-civilized tribes were induced
to join it. Dr. Branch T. Archer, Secretary of
War, from information reaching him gave a warning
to the country two months earlier ; but as no enemy
appeared, the occasion became derisively known as
the " Archer war."


On August 5, 1840, Dr. Joel Ponton and Tucker
Foley, citizens of the Lavaca (now Hallettsville)
neighborhood, en route to Gonzales, on the road
from Columbus and just west of Ponton's creek,
fell in with twenty-seven mounted warriors, and

were chased about three miles back to the creek.
Foley was captured, mutilated and killed. Ponton
received two wounds, but escaped, and during the
following night reached home. The alarm was
given, and next day thirty-six men, under Capt.
Adam Zumwalt, hastened to the scene, found and
buried Foley, and then pursued the trail of the

In the meantime the mail carrier from Austin
arrived at Gonzales and reported a large and fresh
Indian trail crossing the road in the vicinity of
Plum creek, bearing towards the coast. Thereupon
twenty-four volunteers, under Ben McCuUoch, has-
tened eastwardly to" the Big Hill neighborhood,
about sixteen miles east. This is an extended
ridge bearing northeast and southwest, separat-
ing the waters of the Peach creeks of the Guad-
alupe from the heads of Rocky, Ponton's, and
other tributaries of the Lavaca and the latter
stream itself. Indian raiders, bound below,
almost invariably crossed the Columbus and
Gonzales road at the most conspicuous elevation
of this ridge — the Big Hill. Hence McCul-
loch's haste to that point. On the 6th McCuUoch
and Zumwalt united on the trail and rapidly fol-
lowed it in the direction of Victoria. Some miles
below they fell in with sixty-five men from the
Cuero (now De Witt County) settlements on the
Guadalupe, and some from Victoria, commanded
by Capt. John J. Tumlinson. The latter assumed
command of the whole 125 by request and the march
was continued.

On the same afternoon the Indians approached
Victoria. At Spring creek, above the town, they
killed four negroes belonging to Mr. Poage. On
the Texana road, east side of town, they met and
killed Col. Pinkney Caldwell, a prominent cit-
izen and soldier of 1836. They chased various
persons into the town, killing an unknown Ger-
man, a Mexican, and three more negroes. A
party hastily repaired to the suburbs to confront
the enemy. Of their number Dr. Gray, Varlan
Richardson, William McNuner and Mr. Daniels
were killed, a total of thirteen.

The Indians retired and passed the night on
Spring creek, having secured about fifteen hundred
horses and mules on the prairie in front of Victoria,

* Arthur Foley was killed in the Fannin massacre,
March 27, 1836; James Foley was killed by Mexican
marauders west of the Nueces in 1839; Tucker was the
third brother to fall as stated. They were the sons of
an eccentric but wealthy planter (Washington Green Lee
Foley), who died in Lavaca County some years ago.
The father of Dr. Ponton was killed ijy Indians near his
home, on Ponton's creek, about 1834-35.



a large portion of which, belonging to " Scotch"
Sutherland, had just arrived en route east. On
Friday, August 7, the Indians reappeared, made
serious demonstrations, but were held in checlc by
citizens under cover of houses. Securing several
hundred more horses, they bore down the country
to Nine Mile Point, where they captured young
Mrs. Crosby, a granddaughter of Daniel Boone,
and her infant. They then deflected to the east,
across the prairie in the direction of Linnville.
They camped for a portion of the night on PlaciJo
creek, killed a teamster named Stephens, but failed
to discover a Frenchman ensconced in the moss
and foliage of a giant live oak over their heads.

Moving before dawn on Sunday, August 8, as
they approached Linnville, its inhabitants entirely
unconscious of impending danger, they killed Mr.
O'Neal and two negro men belonging to Maj. H.
O. Watts. The people, believing the enemy to be
friendly Mexicans with horses to sell, realized the
fearful truth only in time to escape into the sail-
boats anchored in shoal water about one hundred
yards from shore. In attempting this, Maj.
Watts was killed in the water. His young bride,
negro woman, and a little son of the latter were
captured. There was an immense amount of goods
in the warehouses destined for San Antonio and
the Mexican trade. Rapidly were these goods
packed on horses and mules, but it consumed the
daj', and late in the afternoon every building but
one warehouse was burned, the citizens, becalmed
all day in their boats, witnessing the destruction of
their homes and business houses.

During the night the jubilant savages began their
return march for their mountain homes, taking a
route that passes up the west side of the Garcitas
creek, about fifteen miles east of Victoria.

On the 8th of August (Sunday) while Linnville
was being sacked, Tumlinson reached Victoria
about sunset, rested for a time, received some sup-
plies, left about twenty-flve men and received about
an equal number, continuing his effective force at
125 men. They moved east on the Texana road
and at midnight camped on the Casa Blanea creek,
a small tributary of the Garcitas from the west.
George Kerr was dispatched for recruits to
Texana, but at Kitchen's ranch, on the east side of
the Arenoso, near tidewater junction with the Gar-
citas, he found Capt. Clark L. Owen of Texana
with forty men. It was then too late to unite with
Tumlinson. The enemy in force had come between
them. Owen sent out three scouts, of whom Dr.
Bell was chased and killed, Nail escaped by the
fleetness of his horse towards the Lavaca, and the
noble John S. Menefee (deceased in 1884) escaped

in some drift brush with seven arrows piercing his
body, all of which he extracted and preserved to
the day of his death.

Thus Tumlinson early in the day (August 9) eon-
fronted the whole body of the Indians with their
immense booty, on a level and treeless prairie.
He dismounted his men and was continually
encircled by cunning warriors, to divert attention
while their herds were being forced forward.
McCulloch impetuously insisted on charging into
the midst of the enemy as the only road to victory.
The brave and oft- tried Tumlinson, seeing hesitancy
in his ranlfs, yielded, and the enemy, after immate-
rial skirmishing, was allowed to move on with herds
and booty. Later in the day Owen's party joined
them and desultory pursuit was continued, but the
pursuers never came up with the Indians, nor did
any other party till the battle of Plum creek was
fought by entirely different parties. In this skir-
mish one Indian was killed and also Mr. Mordecai
of Victoria.

On reaching the timber of the Chicolita, some
twenty miles above the Casa Blanea, writhing
under what he considered a lost opportunity, Ben
McCulloch, accompanied by Alsey S. Miller,
Archibald Gipson, and Barney Randall, left the
command, deflected to the west so as to pass the
enemy, and made such speed via Gonzales that
these four alone of all the men at any time in the
pursuit, were in the battle of Plum creek. The
pursuers, however, were gallant men, and many of
them reached the battle ground a few hours after
the flght.

Let us now turn to the series of movements that
culminated in the overwhelming overthrow of the
Indians at Plum creek, and of much of this the
writer was an eye-witness. On the night of
August 7, advised by courier of the attack on
Victoria twenty-two volunteers left the house of
Maj. James Kerr (the home of the writer) on the
Lavaca river. Lafayette Ward was called to the
command. The writer, then a boy of nineteen, was
the youngest of the party. Reaching the Big
Hill, heretofore described, and finding the In-
dians had not passed up, the opinion prevailed that
they had crossed over and were returning on the
west side of the Guadalupe. They hastened on
to Gonzales where the old hero, Capt. Matthew
Caldwell, had just arrived. He adopted the same
view, and announced that the Indians would
recross the Guadalupe where New Braunfels now
stands. In an hour he was at the head of thirty-
seven men, making our united number fifty-nine
We followed his lead, traveled all night, and at
sunrise on the 10th, reached Seguin. As we did so



" Big" Hall, of Gonzales, on foaming steed, over-
took U3 with the news from Victoria and Linnville,
and that the Indians, pursued, were retreating on
their downward made trail. The old veteran Cald-
well at once said we mustmeet and fight them atPlum
creek. After rest and breakfast, and strengthened
by a few recruits, we moved on and camped that
night at the old San Antonio crossing of the San
Marcos. The 11th was intensely hot, and our
ride was chiefly over a burnt prairie, the flying
ashes being blinding to the eyes. Waiting some
hours at noon, watching for the approach of the
enemy after night, we arrived at Goode's cabin, on
the Gonzales and Austin road, a little east of Plum
creek. Here Felix Huston, General of militia, with
his aide, James Izard, arrived from Austin about
the same time. We moved two or three miles and
camped on Plum creek, above the Indian trail.
Here we met the gallant Capt. James Bird, of
Gonzales, with about thirty men, who had come up
the road directly from that place, and with the
indefatigable Ben McCulIoch and his three com-
rades. Our united force was then one hundred
men.. We camped at midnight and sent pickets to
watch the trail. Men and horses were greatly jaded,
but the horses had to eat while the men slept.

At daylight the pickets dashed in and
reported the Indians advancing about three
miles below. In twenty minutes every man
was mounted and in line. Capt. Caldwell, in
the bigness of his heart, rode out in front and
moved that Gen. Felix Huston take command.
A few responded aye and none said nay, but in
fact the men wanted the old Indian fighter Caldwell
himself to lead. They respected Gen. Huston
as a military man in regular war. They knew he
had no experience in the business then in hand, but
they were too polite to say nay, having a real
respect for the man. The command moved forward
across one or two ravines and glades till they entered
a small open space hidden from the large prairie
by a branch, thickly studded with trees and bushes.
At this moment the gallant young Owen Hardeman,
and Reed of Bastrop dashed up with the infor-
mation that Col. Edward Burleson, with eighty-
seven volunteers and thirteen Toncahua Indians
(the latter on foot) were within three or four miles,
advancing at a gallop. They were too invaluable
to be left. A halt was called. Gen. Huston
then announced his plan : a hollow square, open in
front, Burleson on the right, Caldwell on the left,
Bird and Ward forming the rear line, under Maj.
Thomas Monroe Hardeman. During this delay we
had a full view of the Indians passing diagonally
across our front, about a mile distant. They were

singing and gyrating in divers grotesque ways,
evidencing their great triumph, and utterly ob-
livious of danger. Up to this time they had lost
but one warrior, at the Casa Blanca ; they had
killed twenty persons, from Tucker Foley, the first,
to Mordeeai-, the last ; they had as prisoners Mrs.
Watts, Mrs. Crosby and child, and the negro
woman and child ; they had about 2,000 captured
horses and mules, and an immense booty in goods
of various kinds. Before Burleson arrived the
main body had passed our front, leaving only
stragglers bringing up bunches of animals
from the timber in their rear. It must be under-
stood that the whole country, about forty miles
from the Big Hill to the north side of Plum creek,
is heavily timbered, while beyond that it is an open
prairie to the foot of the mountains, with the Clear
Fork of Plum creek on the left and parallel to the
Indian trail.

Here is an appropriate place to speak of the
number of Indians. Their number was variously
estimated, but from all the facts and the judg-
ment of the most experienced, it is safe to say
they numbered about 1,000. Our force was: —

Number under Caldwell, including Bird and

Ward 100

Under Burleson, 87; and 13 Indians..-. 100

Total 200

As soon as Burleson arrived the troops were
formed as before mentioned, and the advance made
at a trot, soon increasing into a gallop. The main
body of the Indians were perhaps a mile and a
half ahead. As soon as we ascended from the
valley on to the level plain, they had a full view of
us, and at once prepared for action. Small par-
ties of their more daring warriors met and eon-
tested with a few of our men voluntarily acting as
skirmishers, and some heroic acts were performed.
I remember well the gallantry of Capt. Andrew
NeiU, Ben McCulloch, Arch. Gipson, Reed of
Bastrop, Capt. Alonzo B. Sweitzer (severely
wounded in the arm), Columbus C. DeWitt, Henry
E. McCulloch, and others then personally known
to me.

The Indians, as we neared them, took position
in a point of oaks on the left, with the Clear Fork
in their rear, and a small boggy branch on their
left, but in the line of their retreat. It was only
boggy a short distance, and was easily turned on
our right advance.

When within about two hundred yards of the
enemy we were halted and dismounted on the open



plain. Bands of warriors then began encircling us,
firing and using their shields with great effect.
From the timber a steady fire was kept up, by
musljets and some long range rifles, while about
thirty of our men, still mounted, were dashing
to and fro among the mounted Indians, illustrating
a series of personal heroisms worthy of all praise.
In one of these Eeed of Bastrop had an arrow
driven through his body, piercing his lungs, though
he lived long afterwards. Among the dismounted
men several were wounded and a number of horses
were killed. In all this time the herds and pack
animals were being hurried onwards, and our oldest
fighters, especially Burleson, Caldwell, Ben Mc-
CuUoch, and others, were eager for a charge into
the midst of the savages. At last, perhaps half an
hour after dismounting, an Indian chief, wearing a
tremendous head dress, who had been exceedingly
daring, approached so near that several shots struck
him, and he fell forward on the pommel of his
saddle, but was caught by a comrade on either
side and borne away, evidently dead or dying, for
as soon as he was led among his people in the oaks
they set up a peculiar howl, when Capt. Caldwell
sang. out, " Now, General, is your time to charge
them! they are whipped!" The charge was
ordered, and gallantly made. Very soon the
Indians broke into parties and ran, but ran fight-
ing all the time. At the boggy branch quite a
number were killed, and they were killed in clusters
for ten or twelve miles, our men scattering as did
the Indians, every man acting as he pleased.
There was no pretense of command after the
boggy branch was passed. A few of our men pur-
sued small bodies for twelve or more miles. In
one of these isolated combats it fell to my lot to
dismount a warrior wearing a buffalo skin cap sur-
mounted with the horns. He was dead when I dis-
mounted to secure the prize, which was soon after-
-wards sent by Judge John Hayes to the Cincinnati
museum, and was there in 1870.

During the running fight Mrs. Watts was severely
wounded in the breast by an arrow, but fell into
our hands. The negro woman shared a similar
fate, and her little son was recovered without
wounds. Mrs. Crosby, by some means (probably
her own act), was dismounted during the retreat
near a small thicket, and sought to enter it, but in
the act a fleeing warrior drove a lance through her
heart. With several others, at about a hundred

yards distance, I distinctly witnessed the act ; but
though at full speed none of us could overtake the
bloody wretch.

The heroic action of Placido, chief of the Ton-
cahuas, attracted universal praise. He seemed
reckless of life, and his twelve followers, as rapidly
as mounted, emulated his example. All being on
foot, they could only be mounted by each vaulting
into the saddle of a slain Comanche, but they were
all mounted in a marvelously short time after the
action commenced.

Great numbers of the loose and pack animals
stampeded during the engagement, and were seen
no more ; but large numbers on the return were
driven in, and about the middle of the afternoon the
men had generally returned to the point where the
action began, and near which a camp was pitched.
A welcome shower proved refreshing about this
time. Later in the afternoon Col. John H. Moore,
of Fayette, Capt. Owen, previously mentioned,
and in all about 150 men arrived on the ground,
having followed the trail that far.

The trophies, during the next day, were classi-
fied, numbered, and drawn by lot. I only remember
that a horse, a fine mule, $27 worth of silk, and
about foO worth of other goods fit for ladies' use
fell to my lot, and the latter were so donated. I
gave the horse to a poor man as a plow horse, and
sold the mule for $100 on trust to a stranger whose
horse died on the road, and never received a cent
thereof ; and although he so treated me, an inex-
perienced boy, I was very sorry some years later
when the Indians shot on arrow through his breast.
It was impossible to determine how many Indians
were killed. They sank many in the creek, and
many died after reaching their haunts, as was
learned from prisoners afterwards reclaimed. From
this source of information it was ascertained that
fifty-two so died in a few days, and I became sat-
isfied by the after discovery of secreted and sunken
bodies and the number found on the field that at
least eighty-six were killed in the action, being a
total of 138 certainly killed.

The Indians lost everything. The defeat was
unexpected — a surprise, complete and crushing.
Followed by a great victory over them in the fol-
lowing October, near where Colorado City now
stands, won by Col. John H. Moore and his brave
volunteers, the Comanches were taught lessons
hitherto unknown to them.



Moore's Great Victory on the Upper Colorado, in 1840.

Following Col. Moore's defeat on the San Saba
in January, 1839, came the Cherokee battles, of
July and December, and many engagements or
calamities of lesser magnitude during that year,
including the massacre of the Webster party of
fourteen men and one child and the capture of
Mrs. Webster, her other two children and negro
woman, on Brushy creek, in what is now William-
son County. In March, 1840, occurred the
Council House fight, in San Antonio, and in Au-
gust the great Indian raid to the coast, the rob-
bery and burning of the village of Linnville, two
miles above the present Lavaca, and the final defeat
and dispersion of the Indians in the decisive battle
of Plum Creek, on the 12lh day of that month.

Following this last raid the veteran soldier, Col.
John H. Moore, of Fayette, sent forth circulars
calling for volunteers to again penetrate the country
of the hostiles, on the upper waters of the Col-
orado, as another lesson to them that the whites
were determined to either compel them to abstain
from robbing, murdering and capturing their fel-
low-citizens or exterminate them. A prompt
response followed, and about the first of October
the expedition left Austin, at once entering the
wilderness. Col. Moore commanded, with S. S. B.
Fields, a lawyer of LaGrange, as Adjutant. Capts.
Thomas J. Rabb and Nicholas Dawson, of Fayette,
■commanded the companies, the latter being the
same who commanded and fell at the Dawson
massacre in 1842. There were ninety men in all.
Clark L. Owen, of Texana (who fell as a Captain,
at Shiloh, in 1862), was First Lieutenant in Rabb's
Company. R. Addison Gillespie (who fell as a
Captain of Texas rangers in storming the Bishop's
palace at Monterey, in 1846), was one of the
■lieutenants, his brother being also along. Nearly
all the men were from Fayette and Bastrop, but
there were a few from the Lavaca, among whom I
remember Isaac N. Mitchell, Mason B. Foley,
Joseph Simons, of Texana, Nicholas J. Ryan and
Peter Rockfeller (Simons and Rockfeller both
dying in Mexican prisons, as Mier men in 1844 or
1845.) I started with these young men, then my
neighbors, but was compelled to halt, on account
of my horse being crippled at the head of the
Navidad. Col. Moore also had with him a detach-
ment of twelve Lipan Indians, commanded by Col.
Castro, their principal chief, with the famous
young chief Flacco as his Lieutenant.

The command followed up the valley of the
Colorado, without encountering an enemy, till it
reached a point now supposed to be in the region of
Colorado City. The Lipan scouts were constantly
in advance, and on the alert. Hastily returning,
while in the vicinity mentioned, they reported the
discovery of a Comanche encampment fifteen or
twenty miles distant, on the east bank and in a
small horseshoe bend of the Colorado, with a high
and somewhat steep bluff on the opposite bank.

Col. Moore traveled by night to within a mile or
two of the camp, and then halted. It was a clear,
cold night in October, and the earth white with
frost, probably two thousand feet above the sea
level. The men shivered with cold, while the un-
suspecting savages slept warmly under buffalo-
robes in their skin-covered tepees. In the mean-
time Moore detached Lieut. Owen, with thirty
men, to cross the river below, move up and at dawn
occupy the bluff. This movement was success-
fully effected, and all awaited the dawn for sufficient
light to guide their movements.

The stalwart and- gallant old leader, mounted
on his favorite steed, with a few whispered words
summoned every man to his saddle. Slowly,
cautiously they moved till within three hundred
yards of the camp, when the rumbling sound of
moving horses struck the ear of a warrior on watch.
His shrill yell sounded the alarm, and ere Moore,
under a charge instantly ordered, could be in their
midst, every warrior and many of the squaws had
their bows strung and ready for fight. But pell-
mell the volunteers rushed upon and among them.
The rifles, shot-guns and pistols of the white man,
in a contest largely hand-to-hand, with fearful
rapidity struck the red man to the earth. Sur-
prised and at close quarters, the wild man, though
fighting with desperation, shot too rapidly and
wildly to be effective. Seeing their fate a consid-
erable number swam the narrow river and essayed
to escape by climbing the bluff. Some were shot in
their ascent by Moore's men from across the
stream and tumbled- backwards. Every one who
made the ascent to the summit of the bluff was
confronted and slain by Owen's men. At the onset
two horses were tied in the camp. On these two
warriors escaped. Besides them, so far as could be
ascertained, every warrior was killed, excepting a
few old men and one or two j'oung men, who sur-

Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 15 of 135)