Dove Creek Battle

The following is Captain R. B. Barry's first hand account of his patrol of the Civil War.

    Another incursion was made by the Indians in the winter of 1863, while I was at Fort Belknap in command of six companies. Captain Guilentine, of the frontier militia, reported that the Kickapoos were in full force, and were passing up the Clear fork of the Brazos, near Phantom Hill.

    At that time the Confederate authorities were pressed for soldiers and there was no force to spare for frontier service, but my command. The State of Texas exempted the frontier counties from conscription and organized all the citizens able to bear arms, for their defense, who scouted in companies by turns, the whole being placed under the command of Brigadier General James W. Throckmorton.

    Captain Guilentine sent an express to the nearest militia captains at once. I dispatched one hundred and ten Confederates under Captain henry Fossett from the nearest Fort. Captain Totten, of Bosque county, being the senior captain of militia, hurried to the objective point with what men he could collect, numbering over three hundred, making in all about four hundred and fifty men. This force pursued the Indians and followed their trail notwithstanding the ground was covered with snow, from a fearful snow storm. They crossed the Colorado and Concho rivers, and overtook the Indians at Dove Creek. The Kickapoos, together with refugees from other tribes, numbered as estimated, about nine hundred. They took their position in a dense thicket, a deep ravine on one side and Dove creek on the other with its high bluffs. This left but few places open to attack.

    Our officers held a consultation and the plan agreed upon was that Captain Totten, with the militia, should charge the thicket, and that Captain Fossett with his one hundred and ten men was to approach on horseback, take possession of the Indians' horses, if possible, and avail himself of any other advantages that might present themselves. Captain Fossett and his men captured all the Indian horses, with the exception of about fifty that were near the camp. They numbered between six hundred and one thousand head.

    Captain Totten meeting with some delay in getting his men across the deep ravine, got them somewhat out of order. Just then the Indians opened a heavy fire upon them from the thicket. The whites being in open prairie, across the ravine, were thrown into confusion. The most of the officers, with some of the men, having gained the thicket across the gulch, were nearly all killed or wounded. The Indians would have followed up their advantage with heavy slaughter to Captain Totten's men, but at that critical moment Captain Fossett, seeing the situation, left the herd of horses he had just captured and charged upon the thicket at the opposite side, right amongst the tents, wigwams, women and children, thus drawing the attention of the Indians and preventing them from following up the advantage they had gained over the militia. Their lodges extended along the bank of Dove creek for about a quarter of a mile, and Captain Fossett charged the whole length of the encampment, firing at whatever could be seen from the brush. The Indians, hearing the firing in the direction of their camp, hastened thither and came near cutting off all retreat from the thicket. Captain Fossett's men had discharged all their guns and there was no time to reload. They were compelled to retreat, in many places in single file, and they suffered considerably. Among the killed of the Confederates was Lieutenant Giddeon, of Captain Rowland's company.

    The Indians, having no other force to contend against, pursued them until they reached the open prairie, where another desperate struggle ensued around the horses, extending over several miles of ground. Captain Fossett, having to cover the retreat of the militia, was compelled to abandon a portion of the captured horses, but he succeeded in carrying off about three hundred head. When he came up to where Captain Totten had rallied the militia some ten or twelve miles from the scene of action, they halted there and laid on their arms until the next morning with the determination of renewing the fight next day, but a heavy snow storm set in during the night, which put an end to all further hostilities.

    It continued snowing until the ground was covered three or four feet deep. Some of the men came very near freezing to death. Some of the horses, those that had been greatly fatigued in the fight, froze during the night.

    Captain Totten returned to the battle ground and buried the dead. There were about fifty whites killed in this fight and probably about as many Indians. The Indians evidently thought themselves badly whipped, as they left their camp equipage and dead on the battle field. They fled across the Rio Grande into Mexico.

    Among the last visits the Indians made to this (Bosque) county they stole many horses, and they also raided at the same time several of the adjoining counties. A good many small parties of citizens scoured the mountains in pursuit of the Indians, one of which, my neighbor, Bill Erwin, commanded, having with him his sons and stock hands, together with my sons and stockmen. He stopped one night near the Leon bottom. He put out two of the youngest boys, Will Barry and Jim Erwin to guard the horses, thinking there would be but little danger while cooking and eating supper, but the boys discovered some Indians reconnoitering the camp. They reported the fact to Captain Erwin, who took the older men and placed them in ambush near the horses. He then made the young men build up big fires and dance, sing and wrestle around them for about an hour and a half to make the Indians believe they had not been discovered. They all then laid down around the fires as if they were going to sleep. The ruse had the desired effect. The temptation to steal horses was too strong. About two hours afterwards the Indians crawled up noiselessly and approached the horses. When very near Captain Erwin and his men fired upon them and killed one of the Indians. They think they killed another but supposed he was carried off by his comrades.

    Another party of Indians went out through the mountains and crossed the Paluxy into Hood county. When on the divide between the Paluxy and Brazos they were discovered by a party of whites from Hood and Erath counties. They pursued the Indians, who, after quite a race, took position in a thicket on a small branch. The creek had a hole of water in it about waist deep. The brush and vines hanging over this hole of water from the banks hid the Indians from view, and the whites were compelled to approach within a few yards of them before they could be seen. This gave them a great advantage over the whites. But, after some maneuvering, the whites obtained a favorable position and picked off the Indians one by one, until there was none left to inform Brother Tatum, of the Sill agency, of the massacre.

    It finally reached his ears, however, through some cow hunters who were driving beeves to the agency to feed the squaws and papooses while the warriors were plundering and murdering the settlers. Brother Tatum told the cow men that it was an outrageous act to have killed such an innocent party of Indians; that they were merely a doctor and his escort who were going into the settlements to get roots and herbs for sick Indians, which grew there in greater abundance than anywhere else. This may have been so, but the settlers did not understand what benefit the sick Indians would derive from their stolen horses. There were seven Indians in the doctor's party, and all of them were killed. Two of the whites were killed and several wounded.

    About the same time this fight took place, twenty Indians were discovered on the Paluxy. Fifteen citizens, under Haley and McDowell, pursued them. They overtook the Indians, and a sharp skirmish ensued which lasted some time, and resulted in the recapture of all the horses they had stolen. Several of the whites were wounded, but none killed. Several Indians were also wounded, but none killed, as far as known. The Indians fled in haste to some place of safety. This was near Hanna's mill, in Hood county.

    [Note.-It is but proper to say that the Kickapoo Indians, who were attacked on Dove creek, afterward claimed that they were on their way to Mexico with their families, and that the attack made upon them was unjust and uncalled for.]

The above story is from the book, Indian Depredations In Texas, by J. W. Wilbarger.

The following story is from the book, West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.

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