Bloody Fight Near Comanche During February of 1861
During February of 1861, just at the outbreak of the Civil War, Indians made their appearance on Rusk Creek in Comanche County. They were stealing all the horses that could be found and chasing every person that came into their path. The warriors continued their raid to the Leon, then up Indian Creek, and late in the evening made their appearance near Comanche. By this time, five men from the Rush Creek community were following their trail. E. L. Deaton joined the pursuing citizens near Comanche. E. L. Deaton, A. J. Stewart, James and Kenneth McKenzie, Bailey Marshall, James Wilson, now numbered among the scouts. When the sun went down the citizens camped near the mountains, and all night could hear the bawling of cattle. It was therefore reasonably certain the Indians were somewhere in the vicinity. No fires were made, although the night was extremely cold. The following morning the frontiersmen climbed in their saddles and followed the Indians' trail. They soon found where the savages had killed several head of cattle. A mule and cow had been skinned alive and turned loose, a steer's tail cut off, and others found dead. The Indians had camped nearby and left considerable luggage, but the warriors themselves had gone. Several stolen horses were hobbled and grazing not far distant.
The citizens took the hobbled horses, a part of the luggage and again started on the Indians' trail, which was now leading toward the settlements. The raiding warriors, however, had divided into different bands, and each squad was depredating and stealing all the horses they could find. Late in the evening the Comanche minutemen had in their possession about thirty-five head of horses. Since there were only six of the citizens and were a long way from the settlements, they now started with their spoils toward Comanche. When the rangers reached the county seat, they were informed that Jim Tankersley was encamped on Duncan Creek with a scout of men. A courier was dispatched to him and them, requesting that they join Mr. Deaton and his associates. It was their plan to return to the Indians' camp and await the arrival of the savages. The two squads were to meet at a ranch about two miles from town. Mr. Deaton and his companions arrived in advance of the others and since the night was cold, they built their fires back of a field, and permitted their horses to graze. The guards soon discovered horsemen coming up the valley and when the alarm was given, all were in readiness. When the horsemen reached a point about one hundred yards from the fire, they made a low whistle which was answered by the citizens. The answer disclosed the identity of Mr. Deaton and his associates. So the horsemen who were Indians came storming through the night, but since the Texans could not be dislodged, the savages soon retreated toward Comanche. Tankersley and his men had been delayed, because it became necessary for them to go by Comanche for supplies, but were now leaving town to join the others. When they reached a point in the suburbs of the frontier village, they accidentally ran into the same Indians, who had charged the camp two miles from town. But they thought the Indians were the other citizens, and the savages, no doubt, mistook the Texans for members of their own race. So in the darkness, the Indians and citizens were soon mixed up together so badly, that one could not be told from the other. The savages, however, fired first and a bloody fight followed in the very edge of the little village of Comanche, which was then far out on the frontier. The firing could be plainly heard and the people of Comanche became extremely alarmed. Kenneth and James McKenzie and others were wounded; but the two McKenzie brothers received the most severe wounds. Kenneth died the next morning and although James recovered, he was an invalid ever afterwards.
Mr. Deaton and his companions, who were at the ranch two miles away, heard the firing and since it seemed to be at town where the women and children were located, no time was lost in reaching the little village. A halt was made, however, at the identical spot where the firing occurred, and the Indians were then hidden not a great distance away. Their presence, however, was unknown to the Texans. When Mr. Deaton and his companions reached Comanche, the citizens had "forted up," and James Tankersley and his men on guard. But Mr. Deaton's voice was recognized and their arrival welcomed by the citizens.
The Indians on this foray stole practically all the horses in that section of the country and the citizens left stranded far out on the frontier. Supplies were soon exhausted and distressing times prevailed. It was nearly a year before the people were protected by the frontier regiment, mentioned in the preceding section.
Ref.: Indian Fights on the Texas Frontier, by E. L. Deaton. Author also personally interviewed Joel Nabers, Dave and Dick Cunningham and others who were living in Comanche County when this fight occurred.
The above story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.
J.W. Wilbarger gives a brief description of the incident in his book, Indian Depredations in Texas.