Captain Barry

We are fortunate to have Captain Barry's firsthand account of his service with the Frontier Regiment, from the book, Indian Depredations In Texas, by J. W. Wilbarger.

A badly mauled detachment who had been sent to escort wagons from Camp Cooper returned to Captain Barry's Company.

    "The sergeant reported Corporal Miller as having acted mutinously. Corporal Miller said that during the hottest part of the contest, while surrounded on all sides in the open prairie and Indians cross firing at them from every direction, he (Sergeant Erhenback) had ordered a retreat, to what he thought a better position. Corporal Miller persuaded the boys to fight it out where they were, as they had several dead horses for shelter, and he called the sergeant a coward, whereupon they attempted to shoot each other, but were prevented from doing by the others.

    "The fight lasted until the Indians had used up all their ammunition (so they supposed) and fell back. It began at nine a.m. and continued until three p.m., and extended over five miles of open prairie. The wounded men rode such horses as were able to trail, whilst the rest fought around them on foot against four times their number. We learned from some of the reservation Indians that their wild friends lost eight of their warriors in this fight."

Captain Barry describes what happened two days later when his Company caught up with the same Indians.

    "Their force had been increased to about one hundred warriors, and they were making their way toward the settlement. Willie Biffle, who was a long way from the command on the right flank, came in and reported Indian signs. I halted the command and sent twelve men back after the pack mules that had stampeded. They had scarcely gone out of sight over the divide when we heard firing. We hurried to their relief, but not in time to save three of the twelve men from being killed and others wounded. A general fight then ensued. After a short time the Indians began to fall back, notwithstanding they had three to our one. The fight extended over some ten or twelve miles of ground across the divide, and between the Little Wichita and the Red Fork of the Brazos. Whenever we became somewhat scattered in the chase the Indians would turn and check our advance for a while. They were well armed and equipped and wore a great many savage ornaments. The one the chief wore was composed of feathers, stripped from the quills and tied to his hair, as long as there was a place to tie one, which increased the size of his head until it looked like a large wash tub. He was quite a brave man, but we made his hair and feathers both fly. Many bullets were thrown from their course by his shield, and many were embedded in it. A chance shot from the gun of John L. Hardigree eventually just missed the top of his shield and struck his head, but did not inflict a wound sufficient to kill him. As soon as they perceived that their chief was wounded his warriors rallied around him and moved him away.

    "Many of our men who were on slow horses had fallen behind, but coming up just then with loaded guns they soon set the Indians traveling again.

    "We lost three killed in this fight, to wit, Thomas J. Weathersby, Lip Conley and Bud Lane. Two men were wounded. We only killed seven of the Indians that we know of. The next morning our horses were so stiff that we had to help them upon their feet. Lieutenant Bushong's horse was unable to stand, and we were compelled to leave him, expecting he would be devoured by wolves, but when we returned to camp we found him there. We buried our comrades with our butcher knives, placing their bodies in a deep buffalo trail, and carrying earth in our blankets to cover them from the nearest bluff, where it was readily scooped out. After we had thus covered their bodies as well as we could with earth, we laid heavy stones on top of all to prevent wolves from scratching them up. This was in July, 1861. We moved a short distance that day, and the next day our spies on the right flank reported they had seen Indians chasing buffalo. We started out for them at once, but only succeeded in running our horses down. Thinking the Indians would follow us, I left two men on good horses on our trail three miles from where we intended to camp, to keep watch, instructing them to remain there until dark. After night they came in and reported that the Indians were following us. That night I divided my whole force into fives, and placed them in squads around our horses, with orders that no one was to speak above a whisper. Twice during the night the Indians attempted to get the horses, but failed both times. Some shots were fired at us but none of us were hurt. It was a dark night, though clear, and the bushes and vines hanging over from the banks of the ravine where we were encamped, made it still darker. Some of the men were encamped below and some above in the ravine. I inquired if there was any one who was willing to go into the dark hole or canon near by to ascertain if there were any Indians secreted there. Aaron Burr Brown, an eighteen year old boy, said. "Captain, suppose you go yourself, as you are getting the biggest pay for hunting Indians, and here is a good chance to find one if it is dark." I replied, "you go in with me," and in we went. We felt along the side of the bank where there was a hole in which we thought Indians might have secreted themselves, but did not discover any, although we found a horse. The next day we continued our route up the Brazos. We found fresh signs of Indians, and I am satisfied they would have attacked us had it not been that they discovered Major Burleson's command on the opposite side of the river.

    "Two of our men who had been wounded and lost during our chase after the Indians, supposed, it appears, that the rest of us had been killed. They made their way to Camp Cooper and reported that they were the only survivors of the fight. It was a long time before the report was corrected, as we were forty days in getting back to camp. I kept one scouting party out during the balance of that year. No conflicts with the Indians of any importance occurred until the winter set in. The Indians were depredating all the time on the settlements, but the settlers found it a very difficult matter to catch them, as well as we. They almost invariably managed to elude pursuit."