Mackenzie Destroys Comanche Village on North Fork of Red River, 1872


The new commander of the Department of Texas, Gen. C. C. Aguar, sent a detachment from Fort Concho under Capt. Napoleon Bonaparte McLaughlin on a two-month reconnaissance patrol. He returned to confirm captured comanchero Ortiz's assertions that the main force of the Comanches were in camps located in the Staked Plains and that army columns could successfully maneuver in that country. Aguar then summoned Mackenzie to San Antonio where they held a strategy meeting where they developed a campaign against the Comanche in their stronghold in the Staked Plains.

McLaughlin's recounter revealed a band of Comanche containing over two hundred lodges, with a herd of well over one thousand horses, was camped somewhere on the Staked Plains. Ortiz speculated that it would probably be found in either Cannon Blanco Mucha Que Valley, North Fork of the Red River or Palo Duro Canyon.

Mackenzie reestablished Camp Supply on Duck Creek, where he concentrated his command and dispatched several scouting parties, one of which discovered a well used road with hoof prints of a large herd of cattle stretching west toward the Staked Plains. This news peaked Mackenzie's interest and on July 28th he marched two hundred forty troopers west. August 7th, the men resupplied and rested at Ft. Sumner, New Mexico and then marched north to Ft. Bascom, New Mexico, arriving August 16th.

Ortiz, who accompanied Mackenzie, directed the return route east, skirting Palo Duro Canyon. Mackenzie split off detachments to search possible locations of the Indian camp but with no success. They returned to Camp Supply on August 31st. The expedition had marched over 640 miles over the last month and had traversed the Staked Plains by two new routes, These routes were both shorter and better watered than the Goodnight-Loving trail that was currently being used to drive cattle to markets in New Mexico.

Mackenzie rested his men until September 21st when he marched his command north to search the last potential lair of the Comanche, the North Fork of the Red River. On September 28th, a scouting patrol, under Boehm, discovered a large Kotsoteka Comanche village. The command moved within a half mile of the village before they were spied by the Indians. From there they charged the village, overtaking it after a half-hour battle. Mackenzie lost three men and had three wounded. The Comanche lost an estimated fifty or more including Chief Kai-Wotche and his wife. Mow-way (Shaking Hand) escaped.

Mackenzie had to promise his Tonkawa scouts their pick of the Comanche horses, which were estimated to be a herd of 3,000, for them to desist mutilating and scalping the Comanche victims. Mackenzie also took one hundred thirty women and children prisoner and had all their property gathered up and burned. He made camp two miles from the smoking village. It took the Comanche two attempts that night to stampede their herd. The soldiers were able to recapture only fifty horses. Mackenzie returned to Ft. Richardson on October 23. Nine Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded for gallantry during this campaign.