Native American History In Texas
 

Frontier Defense in the Civil War

Comanche Indian Reservation

Reservations in Texas


 

Frontier Defense in the Civil War  When Texas seceded from the Union at the beginning of the Civil War, the new government created a Committee of Public Safety to organize a defense against Unionists from within the state. The Committee seized all military equipment in Texas held by the United States Army and forced a withdrawal of all Union forces from the forts in Texas.


The Confederate government now faced the task of participating in the war while still defending the Texas frontier from the Comanches and their allies. The First Regiment, Texas Mounted Riflemen, was organized in the spring of 1861 and became the first regiment in Texas in Confederate service. The ten companies of the regiment occupied the old Army forts and made expeditions into Indian areas in northwest Texas as a show of strength. By the spring of the following year, the regiment was disbanded, with most of its members eventually becoming part of the Eighth Texas Cavalry, known as Terry's Texas Rangers. They saw action in many of the major battles of the Civil War.


They were replaced by the Frontier Regiment, made up of nine companies of volunteers. The regiment established patrols from sixteen forts from the Red River to the Rio Grande. By this time, the Indians realized how lightly guarded the frontier was and increased the boldness and frequency of their raids. Eventually, the Frontier Regiment was transferred to Confederate rather than state control and was used less often to fight Indians than to enforce the draft, track down deserters, and combat renegades and outlaws.


The third organization to deal with the Indian menace during the Civil War was the Frontier Organization, established in 1864. The Frontier Organization was a militia of able-bodied male citizens who lived in frontier counties and were not otherwise serving in the Confederacy. The militia was purely defensive and had neither the manpower nor the leadership to mount offensives against the Indians. By 1864, the Indians were conducting large raids against forts and settlements all along the frontier.


The Ellison Springs Indian Fight was typical of frontier engagements during the Civil War. On August 8, 1864, a small force of about a dozen troopers intercepted about thirty Indians carrying blankets and bridles for the horses they were planning to steal from the whites. The Indians easily repelled the soldiers, killing three of them, and went on to steal fifty horses near Stephenville. The Texans pursued them and managed to recover eighteen of the horses. Several days later, another militia patrol encountered the same group, fought a one-hour battle in which two Indians were killed, and captured the Indians' horse herd and supplies.


The most controversial Indian incident in Texas during the war was the Battle of Dove Creek. On January 8, 1865, about 160 Confederate soldiers and 325 state militiamen attacked 600 Kickapoos near present-day San Angelo. The Kickapoos were conducting a peaceful migration from Kansas to Mexico but were mistaken by the troopers for Comanches and Kiowas. The battle turned into a desperate struggle. Three militia officers and sixteen men were killed in the first few minutes of the battle. Many of the poorly trained militiamen simply deserted. The Army forces were more disciplined but were routed by the Indians after an all-day fight. The final death toll included twenty-two whites and fourteen Indians.


The consequences of the Dove Creek fiasco would be felt for years to come. The Kickapoos were embittered by the unprovoked attack and launched devastating raids from their Mexican stronghold for the next decade.
 


RESERVATIONS IN TEXAS 
In the more settled east and north-central parts of the state, the remaining Indians were generally peaceful, but they were unhappily hemmed in by white settlers and other tribes. The different cultures living closely to each other brought renewed of violence to these areas. As in other parts of the United States, the decision to create separate lands, or reservations, seemed like an obvious solution.


When Texas was annexed to the United States, it retained control of its public lands. As a result, the Texas Legislature had the authority to set aside land for Indian reservations. Under the so-called "Location Bill," the legislature set aside twelve leagues of land for the use of the United States government for Indian reservations. These lands would revert to Texas when no longer needed for use by the Indians. Explorer and Army officer Randolph Marcy teamed up with Indian agent Robert S. Neighbors to locate and survey northwest Texas for suitable sites for these reservations.


Two major Indian reservations were built as a result of the Location Bill (a third was planned for the Apaches but never built). The Brazos County Indian Reservation was located below Fort Belknap near present-day Graham. About 2000 Indians moved to the reservation, including Caddo, Anadarko, Waco, and Tonkawa. One of the main motives for these Indians in taking up reservation life was to gain protection from the Comanches. The Indians raised corn, wheat, vegetables, and melons and lived at peace with most of their white neighbors. However, some whites were implacably hostile, going so far as to publish a newspaper called White Man to whip up hatred against the Indians. By 1858, the Brazos agency was on the verge of an explosion.


The Comanche Indian Reservation, sometimes called the Clear Fork reservation, was located about forty miles away. About 450 Penateka Comanches agreed to settle in the area. The reservation lands had good hunting. Farming was not part of the Comanche culture, but they agreed to learn. Their first crops were a surprising success, producing corn, melons, beans, peas, pumpkins, and vegetables. But the Comanches too faced hostility from neighboring whites, as well as many temptations to leave the reservation and return to their old raiding way of life. The hardships of reservation life, including drought and grasshoppers, soured the Comanches on farming, and a large number returned to the plains.


In a separate effort, the Alabama-Coushatta, unique among Texas tribes in their ability to maintain peace with whites, moved to a reservation in Polk County. These people managed to avoid becoming involved in the warfare that was about to engulf their fellow Texas Indians.
 


COMANCHE INDIAN RESERVATION.
The Texas legislature passed a law on February 6, 1854, that established the Brazos Indian Reservation for the Caddos, Wacos, and other Indians, and also provided four square leagues of land, or 18,576 acres, for a Comanche reserve to be located at Camp Cooper on the Clear Fork of the Brazos in Throckmorton County. In compliance with the treaty of August 30, 1855, about 450 of the Penateka or southern Comanches settled on the reservation and were to be taught farming. The location had good hunting and water and had been selected by Maj. Robert S. Neighbors. The principal Indian village, established in a bend of the river, consisted of several hundred Indians and their chief, Ketumse, who lived there with his wives and many children.


Until the arrival of troops of the Second United States Cavalry, the Comanches were restive and difficult to control, but thereafter they acceded to the suggestion of Indian agent John R. Baylor to begin their farming effort. Baylor sent a farmer and laborer to assist them, and the first crops were planted-corn, melons, beans, peas, pumpkins, and other vegetables. The Comanches cultivated the crops remarkably well, but extreme drought kept them from producing all they needed.


A number of other factors prevented the Comanche reservation from being as successful as the one on the Brazos: the Kickapoos and northern Comanche bands raided the settlements, and the reservation Indians received the blame; the Penateka band itself was divided, Chief Sanaco leading away from the reservation a larger group than that which remained under Chief Ketumse; the reservation was too near the old Comanche trails to Mexico and to the west, and loiterers and troublemakers intruded from those trails; the reservation Indians left the reservation on hunting expeditions or to join marauding bands; unprincipled traders sold whiskey to the Comanches; the Indians were inadequately protected by federal troops, largely infantry untrained in Indian warfare; state troops were slow to intervene when federal aid was insufficient; and white settlers were hostile to the Indians.


On March 29, 1858, therefore, Major Neighbors recommended the abandonment of the Comanche reservation (as well as the Brazos reservation) and removal of the Indians to Indian Territory. Orders for their complete removal were issued on June 11, 1859. The two groups were consolidated at the Red River, and on September 1 Neighbors delivered them to agency officials in Indian Territory.



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