The Big Raid into Montague and Cooke Counties, During December 1863
Approximately two hundred and fifty Indians crossed Red River about two p.m. on the 22nd of December, 1863, at a place northward of the present town of Montague. The Indians then turned down the river, and in a short time were killing, stealing, destroying, and burning almost every living thing and object found along their bloody trail.
Frontier Regiment, which was stationed at Red River Station, a few miles west of where the Indians crossed the river, soon heard of their bloody raid and hastily dispatched about twenty-five men to pursue them. When the Indians reached the Illinois bend, several citizens had "forted-up" there at a place known as Fort Illinois Bend. Here they first appeared at the home of Joe Anderson. He and son, William, belonged to Capt. J. T. Guinn's Company, then stationed on Parmer's Creek, about ten or fifteen miles away, and were away at the time, and Mrs. Anderson was home. Mrs. Anderson, herself, was the first to be killed. They next appeared at the home of John Willet. Here they murdered his sick mother. John, at the time, was away for he had gone for a doctor. Two children at Fort Illinois Bend were, also, seriously wounded, and thrown in the yard for dead. Here they, also, maimed Rufus Anderson. The Indians then appeared at the home of G. L. Hatfield, but he, and his family successfully made their escape. Before they were out of sight of their house, however, it was in flames and almost all of their worldly possessions burned.
This gigantic raid necessarily moved somewhat slowly. Nevertheless, the Indians were making good time, and everywhere blazing their trail with the blood of frontier citizens, and with the smoke of burning homes. Needless to say, there were no telephones in existence at that time, so runners were soon dispatched to other settlements further down the river.
The remaining portion of their raid is vividly described in the following quotation which is taken from the Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas, by John Henry Brown. Mr. Brown said:
"Settlements at this time along the Red River border were quite spare and what was then known as the Wallace settlement, in Sadler's Bend in Cooke County, was the next settlement below Hatfield's and was some twelve or fifteen miles distant. The Indians started in the direction of this settlement when they left the Hatfield place, but they were closely pursued by Capt. Rowland with about twenty-five men. The Indians were (now) between two and three hundred strong. Before reaching the Wallace settlement the savages re-crossed Red River and this led Capt. Rowland to believe that they had abandoned the raid, as it was their custom to make these sudden inroads upon the settlements and then make their escape under cover of night. Capt. Rowland and his men had ridden very rapidly-the Indians had so much of the start of them, that their horses were completely wearied out, so he thought it was best to turn into Capt. Wallace's and rest his men and horses for the night, and renew the pursuit early next morning. The news of the raid and the massacre of the Willett family with the usual exaggerations, had already been carried to the Wallace settlement, by some terrified settler, and when Capt. Rowland reached Wallace's he found that the whole settlements had forted there as a means of protection. The news had also been conveyed to what was known as the Elmore settlement, on the head of Fish Creek, about six miles east of Wallace's; also to what was known as the Potter settlement, some four miles southeast from Elmore's, and a fleet courier had also carried the news to Gainesville. During the night of the 22nd, the few families that composed the settlement around Capt. C. Potter's were also gathered in there before daylight of the morning of the 23rd. Many of these families were simply women and children, the husbands and fathers being in the Confederate Army, and the few men in the county were armed with the poorest class of firearms, all the best guns having been given to those who joined the Confederate Army.
"When Capt. Twitty heard the news of the raid, which reached him at Gainesville, in the early part of the night of the 22nd, of December, he immediately dispatched about twenty-five men from Capt. S. P. C. Patton's Company, to the scene of the raid. These men, after a hard ride, reached Capt. Wallace's a short time before daylight on the morning of the 23rd. Capt. Rowland who was not expecting reinforcements, and taking these men for the enemy, came near firing upon them before the mistake was discovered. But the Indians, confident in their superior numbers, determined to do more devilment before leaving early next morning, recrossed Red River and went in below Capt. Wallace's. At sunrise they were scampering over the prairies stealing horses, shooting cattle, and burning houses. They soon came to the Elmore place and their number was so unprecedentedly large, that they struck terror to the hearts of the men and women crowded in the house, and they at once fled to the woods, scattering in every direction. Some were killed , others were chased for miles-but most of them made their escape, though they lay in the woods all that day and the following night. Many thrilling incidents could be related of this fight. Among others, a Mr. Dawson, when the stampede began from the house, seized a babe about six months olds, but not his own. When he reached a spot where he thought he could safely hide, the child began to cry and would not be comforted. Dawson could see the Indians coming in his direction and knew that they must soon hear the screams of the child, if they had not already done so. So he ran deeper into the woods, seeking the most inaccessible places. The Indians continued to follow and the child to cry, as poor Dawson thought louder than ever. In utter despair of ever making his escape with the babe, he laid it down in a deep dry branch and covered it with leaves. The little thing went to sleep in a moment. Dawson thus made his escape and when the Indians left he went back, got the babe and carried it to its almost frenzied mother. After the people left Elmore's house the Indians plundered it, took what they wanted, and set fire to it. The people, "forted up" at Capt. Potter's soon saw the flames at Elmore's house and knew that the Indians were coming on in their direction. About a mile and a half south of Capt. Potter lived the families of Ephraim Clark and Harrison Lander. These families, contrary to their usual custom failed to go to Capt. Potter's, as their neighbors had done when they received the report of the raid. When the people at Potter's saw Elmore's house burning they knew that it was too late to get Clark's and Lander's families to Potter's. Hence they concluded that it was best to go to Clark's or Lander's, as they lived very near together. About the time they left Potter's house, James McNabb, who had left Potter's early that morning to go to his home a mile away to look after his stock, came flying back, hotly pursued by a squad of Indians who were in advance of the main body. McNabb made a narrow escape. Before his dismounted, the Indians surrounded the house and tried to cut him off from his horse, but he made his escape by making his horse jump the fence. The people forted at Capt. Potter's, as well as his own family, made a hasty retreat to Lander's house going by Clark's and getting his family. Many of the children were taken from bed and without being dressed, were hurried into a wagon and driven rapidly away. They had not reached Lander's house before they saws the flames bursting from the roof of Capt. Potter's house. Mr. Lander's house was situated on a prairie knoll near a very high and precipitous bluff. Here the frightened women and children were gathered in the house, while four men and three boys, with poor and uncertain guns in their hands, stood in the yard and about the outhouses ready to protect, as best they could, all that was dear to them. Soon the Indians came in sight and a sight it was. They came not in a body, but in squads and strings. They had bedecked their horses with the bed clothing, sheets, quilts, counterpanes, tablecloths, ladies wearing apparel, etc.
"The women gathered in the house were frantic. It was supposed that all had been killed at Elmore's as the house had been seen to burn. It was known that they had as much or more fighting force at Elmore's than they had at Lander's and when the overwhelming force of Indians came in sight strung out for a considerable distance, with their yells and queer decorations, all hope sank. Some women prayed, others screamed and cried, while others held their children to their bosoms in mute despair. Soon the Indians were around the place and had driven off the loose horses that had been driven along by the fleeing people with the hope of saving them. The horses that had been ridden and driven, were brought inside the yard fence and tied. It was some time before all the Indians congregated and , as they would come up, they would stop near the house, shoot arrows at the men in the yard, occasionally fire a gun or pistol, and at times some daring fellow would come within gunshot, but the citizens were too experienced in Indian warfare to fire until it had to be done to save the dear ones in the house. The Indians were so slow about making an attack upon the house that it was thought that the women and children might be hurried over to the steep bluff that was just north of the house and down this the Indians could not follow them on their horses and if the bluff could be reached escape was certain to most of the party. A plan was soon arranged; the Indians were south of the house and the main body of them was three hundred yards away. The bluff was north of the house and one hundred and fifty yards away. The men and boys with guns were to mount their horses and form a line for the protection of the women and children, who were to make a break for the bluff. The men were soon on their horses and the women and children started, but as they poured out of the house and out of the yard, the Indians set up an unearthly yell, and all the women and children ran back into the house. After some further delay, another effort was made to carry out this scheme. It might not have been successful, but about the time the women and children got out of the yard, the soldiers came in sight upon the brown of a high hill a mile away to the north, and this gave the Indians something else to do. They at once took to their heels and ran for two miles to the highest point of the divide between Fish and Dry Elm Creek and then halted.
"The soldiers seen were Capt. Rowland's with that part of his company that was with him the day before, and that part of Capt. Patton's Company that had joined them the night before at Wallace's as already related. They had learned early on the morning of that day that the Indians had again crossed Red River and were continuing their depredations. Capt. Rowland immediately ordered a pursuit and he found it no trouble now to trail the Indians as he could follow them by the burning houses. But they had so much of the start and traveled so rapidly that long before Capt. Rowland came in sight of them the horses of many of his men were completely worn out and they could go no farther. By the time the soldiers reached Lander's, Capt. Rowland's own horse had given out, but he was furnished another by Clark. Some of his men also obtained fresh horses from the citizens who were only too glad to show favors to those who had just saved them and their families from death. Some of the citizens joined the soldiers in pursuit of the Indians. The Indians were overtaken near the high point where they had first stopped. Indeed they showed no disposition to get away when they ascertained the small number of whites. Capt. Rowland led his men through Capt. Potter's prairie farm, and, in going out on the south side, the rail fence was thrown down and left down, in several places. This fact proved most fortunate to the whites, as will hereafter appear. After going some three hundred yards south of the fence. Capt. Rowland halted his command, but it was with great difficulty that he got them into a tolerable line. The Indians soon seemed to divide into two wings, one starting east and the other west around the soldiers, to surround them. The troops, without waiting for command, commenced firing, but at such long range as to do little damage. As the Indians got closer and began to fire upon the line, many of the soldiers thinking the odds too great, broke line and started to run. Capt. Rowland did all in his power to stop this and to rally the men, but the panic soon became general and the whole command fled. The object seemed to be to go through the gaps left in the fence and turn and fight the Indians from behind the fence. The Indians at once began a hot pursuit of the flying men, and with their guns, and pistols, bows, arrows and spears, they did fatal work on the men whose tired horse could not carry them out of reach of the Indians. Before the fence was reached three men were killed and several others were wounded. Mr. Green, of Capt. Pollard's Company, also another man, whose name is not remembered, were killed. Mr. Pollard, an officer in Rowland's Company, was severely wounded, having four arrows shot into his back, which were pulled out by Capt. Rowland after the men had reached the inside of the field, but the spikes from some of the arrows were left in his body. S. B. Potter, a son of Capt. Potter, was also wounded in the head by an arrow that struck the skull and then turned to one side. There was quite a rush among the men to get through the gaps in the fence to a place of security behind it, as the Indians were pressing them hard. Men rode at full speed against the fence, endeavoring to get through the gaps. Capt. Rowland was about the last man to pass through the gaps. He had purposely kept near the rear, and did what he could to protect the hindmost of the men, reserving his fire until a shot was absolutely demanded. Just before riding into the field, he fired his double barrel shotgun at an Indian not more than thirty yards from him, and at the fire the Indian dropped his shield and gave other signs of being badly hurt. It was afterwards learned that his shot killed him and that he was the chief. When the Indians saw the men forming behind the fence they precipitately fled. Capt. Rowland attempted to encourage his men to again attack them, but they were too much demoralized to renew the fight against such odds. Capt. Rowland, finding that he could not hope to again fight the Indians with the force he then had, dispatched couriers to different points to give the alarm and with a few men he went to the head of Elm in Montague County were there were a few families without protection. The Indians soon continued their raid, going south and east, and soon reached the Jones' settlement on Dry Elm. Here they came upon the mortally wounded Mr. White and dangerously wounded his step-son, young Parker. Mr. Jones, their companion, escaped. Parker belonged to Wood's Company of Fitzhugh's Regiment. He had been severely wounded in the battle of Millican's Bend, June 7, 1863, and was home on a suck furlough.
"The Indians beat a hasty retreat that night and cross Red River with a large number of stolen horses before daylight next morning. Small squads of Indians would scatter off from the main body and commit all sorts of depredations. One of their parties came upon Miss Gouna, who was carrying water from a spring some distance from the house. They thrust their spears into her body in several places and cut off her hair, but she escaped and finally recovered from her wounds.
"Young Parker, above alluded to, saw the Indians and heard the shooting in their fight with Capt. Rowland, but did not believe it was Indians and kept riding towards them, against the protests, too, of his companion, Mr. Miles Jones. He did not discover that it was Indians until a squad of them dashed upon and mortally wounded him. He died in ten days.
"The following additional facts are taken from a letter written by me at the time to the 'Houston Telegraph.'":
"'At every house burned, the savages derisively left hanging a blanket, marked "U.S. ". During the night of the twenty-third, they made a hasty retreat, left about fifty Indians saddles, numerous blankets, and buffalo robes, and considerable amount of the booty they had taken from houses.
"In the meantime nearly a thousand men had reached Gainesville and made pursuit the next day as soon as the trail could be found; but a start of twenty-four hours by fleeing savages cannot be overcome in the short and cold days of winter, when they could travel at night and only be followed in daylight. The pursuit though energetic under Maj. Diamond and aided by Chickasaws, was fruitless.
"As soon as the news reached Col. Bourland, at Bonham, that old veteran spared neither himself not horse till he was on the ground doing his duty. "
Note: Author personally interviewed W. A. (Bud) Morris, Joe Bryant, Charlie Grant, and others who lived in Montague and Cooke Counties when this raid occurred.
The above story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.
The following story is from the book Frontier Defense in the Civil War by David Paul Smith: