John Henry Brown.

Indian wars and pioneers of Texas online

. (page 4 of 135)
Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 4 of 135)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

town of San Antonio de Bexar for the silver mines
on the San Saba river ; the party consisting of the
following named persons : Rezin P. Bowie, James
Bowie, David Buchanan, Robert Armstrong, Jesse
Wallace, Matthew Doyle, Cephas D. Hamm, James
Coryell, Thomas McCaslin, Gonzales and Charles,
servant boys. Nothing particular occurred until



the 19th, on which day, about 10 a. m. we were
overhauled by two Comanche Indians and a Mexican
captive, who had strucli our trail and followed it.
They stated that they belonged to Isaonie's party,
a chief of the Comanche tribe, sixteen in number,
and were on their way to San Antonio with a drove
of horses, which they had taicen from the Wacos
and Tawaclianies, and were about returning to
their owners, citizens of San Antonio. After smok-
ing and talking with them about an hour, and
making them a few presents of tobacco, powder,
shot, etc. , they returned to their party, who were
waiting at the Llano river.

'■'■ We continued our journey until night closed
upon us, when we encamped. The next morning,
the above named Mexican captive returned to our
camp, his horse was much fatigued, and who,
after eating and smoking, stated that he had been
sent by his .chief, Isaonie, to inform us we were
followed by one hundred and twenty-four Tawac-
kanie and Waco Indians, and forty Caddos had
joined them, who were determined to have our
scalps at all risks. Isaonie had held a talk with
them all the previous afternoon, and endeavored to
dissuade them from their purpose ; but they still
pers'sted, and left him enraged and pursued our
trail. As a voucher for the truth of the above, the
Mexican produced his chief's silver medal, which
is common among the natives in such cases. He
further stated that his chief requested him to say,
that he had but sixteen men, badly armed and
without ammunition ; but if we would return and
join him, such succor as he could give us he would.
But knowing that the enemy lay between us and
him, we deemed it more prudent to pursue our
journey and endeavor to reach the old fort on the
San Saba river before night, distance thirty miles. ■
The Mexican then returned to his party, and we
proceeded on.

" Throughout the day we encountered bad roads,
being covered- with rocks, and the horses' feet be-
ing worn out, we were disappointed in not reaching
the fort. In the evening we had some little difficulty
in picking out an advantageous spot where to en-
camp for the night. We however made choice of
the best that offered, which was a cluster of live-
oak trees, some thirty or forty in number, about
the size of a man's body. To the north of them a
thicket of live-oak bushes, about ten feet high, forty
yards in length and twenty in breadth, to the west,
at thie distance of thirty-five or forty yards, ran a
stream of water.

"The surrounding country was an open prairie,
interspersed with a few trees, rocks, and broken
land. The trail which we came on lay to

the east of our encampment. After taking the
precaution to prepare our spot for defense, by cut-
ting a road inside the thicket of bushes, ten feet
from the outer edge all around, and clearing the
prickly-pears from amongst the bushes, we
hobbled our horses and placed sentinels for the
night. We were now distant six miles from the
old fort above mentioned, which was built by the
Spaniards in 1752, for the purpose of protecting
them while working the silver mines, which are a
mile distant. A few years after, it was attacked
by the Comanche Indians and every soul put to
death. Since that time it has never been occupied.
Within the fort is a church, which, had we reached
before night, it was our intention to have occupied
to defend ourselves against the Indians. The fort
surrounds about one acre of land under a twelve-
feet stone wall.

"Nothing occurred during the night, and we
lost no time in the morning in making preparations
for continuing our journey to the fort ; and when
in the act of starting, we discovered the Indians on
our trail to the east, about two hundred yards dis-
tant, and a footman about fifty yards ahead of the
main body, with his face to the ground, tracking.
The cry of ' Indians ' was given, and ' All hands to
arms.' We dismounted, and both saddle and pack-
horses were made fast to the trees. As soon as
they found we had discovered them, they gave the
war whoop, halted and commenced stripping, pre-
paratory to action. A number of mounted Indians
were reconnoitering the ground ; among them we
discovered a few Caddo Indians, by the cut of
their hair, who had always previously been f i iendly
to Americans.

"Their number being so far greater than ours
(one hundred and sixty-four to eleven), it was
agreed that Rezin P. Bowie should be sent out to
talk with them, and endeavor to compromise with
them rather than attempt a fight. He accordingly
started, with David Buchanan in company, and
walked up to within about forty yards of where
they had halted, and requested them in their own
tongue to send forward their chief, as he wanted to
talk with him. Their answer was, "how-de-do?
how-de-do?" in English, and a discharge of twelve
shots at us, one of which broke Buchanan's leg.
Bowie returned their salutation with the contents of
a double barreled gun and a pistol. He then took
Buchanan on his shoulder, and started ])ack to the
encampment. They then opened a heavy fire upon
us, which wounded Buchanan in two more places
slightly, and pierced Bowie's hunting shirt in sev-
eral places without doing him any injury. When
they found their shot failed to bring Bowie down.



eight Indians on foot took after him with their
^tomahawks, and when close upon him were dis-
covered by his party, who ruslied out with their
rifles and brought down four of them — the other
four retreating back to the main body. We then
returned to our position, and all was still for about
five minutes.

" We then discovered a hill to the northeast at
the distance of sixty yards, red with Indians who
opened a heavy fire upon us with loud yells, their
chief, on horseback, urging them in a loud and
audible voice to the charge, walking his horse per-
fectly composed. When we first discovered him,
our gans were all empty, with the exception of Mr.
Hamm's. James Bowie cried out, ' Who is
loaded?' Mr. Hamm observed, 'I am.' He
was then told to shoot that Indian on horseback.
He did so, and broke his leg and killed his horse.
We now discovered him hopping around his horse
on one leg, with his shield on his arm to keep off
the balls. By this time four of our party being re-
loaded, fired at the same instant, and all the balls
took effect through the shield. He fell and was
immediately surrounded by six or eight of his tribe,
who picked him up and bore him off. Several of
these were shot by our party. The whole party
then retreated back of the hill, out of sight, with
the exception of a few Indians who were running
about from tree to tree, out of gun-shot.

"They now covered the hill a second time,
bringing up their bowmen, who had not been in
action before, and commenced a heavy fire with
balls and arrows, which we returned by a well
directed aim with our rifles. At this instant,
another chief appeared on horseback, near the spot
where the last one fell. The same question of who
was loaded, was asked; the answer was nobody;
when little Charles, the mulatto servant, came run-
ning up with Buchanan's rifle, which had not been
discharged since he was wounded, and handed it to
James Bowie, who instantly fired and brought him
down from his horse. He was surrounded by six
or eight of his tribe, as was the last, and borne off
under our fire. During the time we were engaged
in defending ourselves from the Indians on the
hill, some fifteen or twenty of the Caddo tribe had
succeeded in getting under the bank of the creek in
our rear at about forty yards distance, and opened
a heavy fire upon us, which wounded Matthew
Doyle, the ball entering the left breast and passing
out of the back. As soon as he cried out he was
wounded, Thomas M'Caslin hastened to the spot
where he fell, and observed, ' Where is the Indian
that shot Doyle?' He was told by a more
experienced hand not to venture there, as, from

the report of their guns, they must be riflemen. At
that instant they discovered an Indian, and while
in the act of raising his piece, M'Caslin was shot
through the center of the body and expired.
Robert Armstrong exclaimed, ' D— n the Indian
that shot M'Caslin ! Where is he? ' He was told
not to venture there, as they must be riflemen ; but,
on discovering an Indian, and while bringing his
gun up, he was fired at, and part of the stock of
his gun cut off, and the ball lodged against the
barrel. During this time our enemies had formed a
complete circle around us, occupying the points of
rocks, scattering trees and bushes. The firing then
became general from all quarters.

" Finding our situation too much exposed among
the trees, we were obliged to leave it, and take to the
thickets. The first thing necessary was to dislodge
the riflemen from under the bank of the creek, who
were within point-blank shot. This we soon suc-
ceeded in, by shooting the most of them through
the head, as we had the advantage of seeing them
when they could not see us.

' ' The road we had cut around the thicket the
night previous, gave us now an advantageous situ-
ation over that of our enemies, and we had a fair
view of them in the prairie, while we were com-
pletely hid. We baffled their shots by moving six
or eight feet the moment we had fired, as their only-
mark was the smoke of our guns. They would put
twenty balls within the size of a pocket handkerchief,
where they had seen the smoke. In this manner
we fought them two hours, and had one man
wounded, James Coryell, who was shot through
the arm, and the ball lodged in the side, first cut-
ting away a bush which prevented it from penetrat-
ing deeper than the size of it.

"They now discovered that we were not to be
dislodged from the thicket, and the uncertainty of
killing us at a random shot ; they suffering very
much from the fire of our rifles, which brought a
half a dozen down at every round. They now
determined to resort to stratagem, by putting fire
to the dry grass in the prairie, for the double pur-
pose of routing us from our position, and under
cover of the smoke, to carry away their dead and
wounded, which lay near us. The wind was now
blowing from the west, they placed the fire in that
quarter, where it burnt down all the grass to the
creek, and bore off to the right, and leaving around
our position a space of about five acres that was
untouched by fire. Under cover of this smoke they
succeeded in carrying off a portion of their dead
and wounded. In the meantime, our party were
engaged in scraping away the dry grass and leaves
from our wounded men and baggage to prevent the



fire from passing over it ; and likewise, in pulling
up rocks and bushes to answer the purpose of a

" They now discovered they had failed in routing
us by the flre, as they had anticipated. They then
re-occupied the points of rocks and trees in the
prairie, and commenced another attack. The firing
continued for some time when the wind suddenly
shifted to the north, and blew very hard. We now
discovered our dangerous situation, should the
Indians succeed in putting flre to the small spot
which we occupied, and kept a strict watch all
around. The two servant boys were employed in
scraping away dry grass and leaves from around
the baggage, and pulling up rocks and placing them
around the wounded men. The remainder of the
party were warmly engaged with the enemy. The
point from which the wind now blew being favora-
ble to fire our position, one of the Indians succeeded
in crawling down the creek and putting flre to the
grass that had not yet been burnt ; but before he
could retreat back to his party, was killed by
Robert Armstrong.

" At this time we saw no hopes of escape, as the
flre was coming down rapidly before the wind,
flaming ten feet high, and directly for the spot we
occupied. What was to be done? We must either
be burned up alive, or driven into the prairie
among the savages. This encouraged the Indians ;
and to make it more awful, their shouts and yells
rent the air, they at the same time flring upon us
about twenty shots a minute. As soon as the
smoke hid us from their view, we collected together
and held a consultation as to what was best to be
done. Our first impression was, that they might
charge us under cover of the smoke, as we could
make but one effectual fire, the sparks were flying
about so thickly that no man could open his powder
horn without running the risk of being blown up.
However, we finally came to a determination had
they charged us to give them one fire, place our
backs together, and draw our knives and fight
them as long as any one of us was left alive.
The next question was, should they not charge us,
and we retain our position, we must be burned up.
It was then decided that each man should take
care of himself as best he could, until the fire
arrived at the ring around our baggage and
wounded men, and there it should be smothered
with buffalo robes, bear skins, deer skins, and
blankets, which, after a great deal of exertion, wu
succeeded in doing.

"Our thicket lieing so much burned and scorched ,
that it afforded us little or no shelter, we all got
into the ring that was around our wounded men

and baggage, and commenced building our breast-
work higher, with the loose rocks from the inside,
and dirt dug up with our knives and sticks.
During this last flre, the Indians had succeeded
in removing all their killed and wounded which
lay near us. It wa.s now sundown, and we
had been warmly engaged with the Indians
since sunrise, a period of thirteen hours; and
they seeing us still alive and ready for fight,
drew off at a distance of three hundred yards,
and encamped for the night with their dead and
wounded. Our party now commenced to work in
raising our fortification higher, and succeeded in
getting it breast high by 10 p. m. We now filled
all our vessels and skins with water, expecting
another attack the next morning. We could dis-
tinctly hear the Indians, nearly all night, crying
over their dead, which is their custom ; and at
daylight, they shot a wounded chief — it being
also a custom to shoot any of their tribe that are
mortally wounded. They, after that, set out with
their dead and wounded to a mountain about a
mile distant, where they deposited their dead in a
cave on the side of it. At eight in the morning,
two of the party went out from the fortification to
the encampment, where the Indians had lain the
night previous, and counted forty-eight bloody
spots on the grass where the Indians had been lying.
As near as we could judge, their loss must have
been forty killed and thirty wounded. [We after-
wards learned from the Comanche Indians that
their loss was eighty-two killed and wounded.]

" Finding ourselves much cut up, having one man
killed, and three wounded — live horses killed,
and three wounded — we recommenced strength-
ening our little fort, and continued our labors
until 1 p. m., when the arrival of thirteen Indians
drew us into the fort again. As soon as they
discovered we were still there and ready for action
and well fortified they put off. We, after that,
remained in our fort eight days, recruiting our
wounded men and horses, at the exijiration of
which time, being all in pretty good order, we set out
on our return to San Antonio de liexar. We left
our fort at dark, and tr.iveled all night and until
afternoon of the next day, when we picked out an
advantageous spot and fortifuid ourselves, (ex-
pecting the Indians would, when recruiled, follow
our trail; but, however, we saw no more of them.

" David Buchanan's wounded leg hero mortified,
and having no surgical instruments, or medicine of
any kind, not even a dose of salts, wc boiled some
live oak bark very strong, and thickened it with
pounded charcoal and Indian meal, made a poul-
tice of it, and tied it around his leg, over which we



sewed a buffalo skin, and traveled along five days
without looking at it ; when it was opened, it was
in a fair way for healing, which it finally did,
and the mortified parts all dropped off, and his

of the party but had his skin cut in several places,
and numerous shot holes through his clothes.

" On the twelfth day we arrived in good order,
with our wounded men and horses, at San Antonio

leg now is as well as it ever was. There was none de Bexar."

The Scalping of Wilbarger and Death of Christian and

Strother, in 1833.

In the year 1828, Josiah Wilbarger, recently
married to a daughter of Leman Barker, of Lin-
coln County, Mo., arrived at Matagorda, Texas.
The writer of this, then in his eighth year, knew
him intimately. The Wilbarger family adjoining
the farm of my parents, lived on a thousand arpents
of the richest land, one mile east of the present
village of Ashley, Pike County, Missouri, sixteen
miles from the Mississippi river and seventy-five
miles above St. Louis. In the autumn of 1826,
Capt. Henry S. Brown, father of the writer, tem-
porarily returned home from Texas, after having
spent two years in that then terra incognita and
Northern Mexico. His descriptions of the country
deeply impressed young Wilbarger, as well as a
large number of persons in the adjoining county of
Lincoln, whose names subsequently shed luster on
the pioneer life of Texas. The remainder of the
Wilbarger family, or rather two brothers and three
sisters of their number, came to Texas in 1837.
Josiah spent a year in Matagorda, another in Col-
orado County, and in J.831 settled on his headright
league, ten miles above Bastrop on the Colorado, with
his wife, child and two transient young men. He
was temporarily the outside settler, but soon others
located along the river below and two or three
above, the elder Reuben Hornsby becoming the
outer sentinel, and so remaining for a number of
years. Mr. Wilbarger located various lands for
other parties in that section, it being in Austin's
second grant above the old San Antonio and Nacog-
doches road, which crossed at Bastrop.

In August, 1833, accompanied by four others,
viz., Christian a surveyor, Strother, Standifer and
Haynie, Mr. Wilbarger left on a land-locating
expedition, above where Austin now is. Arriving
on the ground and on the eve of beginning work,
an Indian was discovered on a neighboring ridge,
watching their movements. Wilbarger, after vainly

beckoning to him to approach, rode toward him,
manifesting friendship, but the Indian, pointing
toward a smoke rising from a cedar brake at the
base of a hill, in plain view, indicated a desire for
his visitor to go to camp and galloped away. The
party, after a short pursuit, became satisfied there
was a considerable body of Indians, hostile la feel-
ing, and determined at once to return to the settle-
ment. They started in, intending to go directly to
Hornsby' s place, but they stopped at a spring on
the way to take lunch, to which Wilbarger objected,
being quite sure the Indians would pursue them,
while the others thought otherwise. Very soon,
however, about sixty savages suddenly charged,
fired and fell back under the protection of brush.
Strother fell dead and Christian apparently so.
Wilbarger's horse broke away and fled. He fol-
lowed a short distance, but failed to recover him.
Hastening back, he found the other two men
mounted and ready to fiee, and discovered that Chris-
tian, though helpless, was not dead. He implored
the two mounted men to stay with him in the ra-
vine, and endeavor to save Christian. Just then
the Indians renewed the fire at long range and
struck Wilbarger in the hip. He then asked to be
taken behind one of the men, but seeing the
enemy approaching, they fled at full speed, leaving
him to his fate. The Indians, one having mounted
Christian's horse, encircled him on all sides. He had
seized the guns of the fallen men and thus with
these partly protected by a tree just as he was
taking deliberate aim at the mounted warrior, a
ball entered his neck, paralyzing him, so that he fell
to the ground and was at once at the mercy of the
wretches. Though perfectly helpless and appar-
ently dead, he was conscious of all that transpired.
A knife was passed entirely around his head and
the scalp torn off. While suffering no pain, he
ever asserted that neither a storm in the forest nor



the roar of artillery could have sounded more
terrible to a sound man than did this scalping pro-
cess to him. The shrieks and exultant yells of the
brutes were indescribable.

Christian's life ebbed away, all three were
stripped and scalped ; the savages retired and Wil-
barger lay in a dreamy state of semi-consciousness,
visions flitting through his mind bordering on the
marvelous and the supernatural.

The loss of blood finally aroused him and he
realized several wounds unknown to him before.
He crawled to a limpid stream close by and sub-
merged his body in it both to quench a burning thirst
and stop the flow of blood, and succeeded in both ;
but in an hour or two became greatly chilled and
crawled out, but was so weak he fell into a sound
sleep — for how long he knew not — on awakening
from which he found his wounds covered with
those disgustinginsects, " blowflies." Occasionally
refreshing himself in the pool, the hours sped and
night came. He had realized that the escaped men
would spread the news and as soon as the few
settlers below could collect, rehef might come.
After dark and many efforts he was able to rise and
stand — then to stagger along — and resolved to
make an effort to reach the Hornsby place. He
traveled about a quarter of a mile, utterly failed
in strength and sank under a large tree, intensely
suffering with cold. When morning came he was
unable to move and his suffering, till the sun rose
and warmed him, was intense. He became able to
rise again, but not to walk. He affirmed that while
reclining against the tree his sister, Margaret,*
vividly appeared before him, saying, " Brother
Josiah! you are too weak to go in by yourself!
Remain here and before the sun sets friends will
take you in." She disappeared, going directly
towards the settlement. He piteously called to her :
"Margaret, my sister, Margaret! stay with me
till they come! " But she disappeared, and when
rehef did come he told them of the vision and
believed till that time that it was a reality.

During the day — that long and agonizing day —
between periods of drowsy slumber, he would sit
or stand, intensely gazing in the direction Margaret
had taken.

The two men who fled gave the alarm at
Hornsby' s, and runners were sent below for aid,
which could not be expected before the next day ;
and here occurs one of those incidents which,
however remarkable, unless a whole family and
several other persons of unquestionable integrity

* This sister was Mrs. Margaret Clifton, who had died
the day before at Florissant, St. Louis County, Missouri.

were themselves falsifiers, is true, and so held by
all the early settlers of the Colorado. During the
night in which Wilbai-ger lay under the tree, not-
withstanding the two men asserted positively that
they saw Wilbarger, Christian and Strother killed,
Mrs. Hornsby, one of the best of women and
regarded as the mother of the new colony, about
midnight, sprang from bed, aroused all the house
and said: "Wilbarger is not dead! He sits
against a large tree and is scalped ! I saw him
and know it is so! " Those present reassured and
remonstrated, even ridiculed her dream, and all
again retired. But about three o'clock, she again
sprang from the bed, under intense excitement,
repeated her former statement and added : "I saw
him again ! As sure as God lives Josiah Wilbarger
is alive, scalped and under a large tree by himself !
I saw him as plainly as 1 now see you who are
present ! If you are not cowards go at onco or he
will die! " " But," said one of the escaped men,
" Mrs. Hornsby, I saw fifty Indians around his
body and it is impossible for him to be alive."

" I care not what you saw," replied the seem-
ingly inspired old mother, "I saw as plainly as

Online LibraryJohn Henry BrownIndian wars and pioneers of Texas → online text (page 4 of 135)