Army Returns

The army still needed time to reorganize and a new treaty was needed to correct flaws in previous agreements. Another council was called in 1868 at Medicine Lodge. General Sherman replaced Hancock with Sheridan, who at first meeting developed such a low opinion of the Kiowas that he refused to take part in further negotiations. Naturally the Kiowa's continued to act as principal spokesman through the remainder of the conference. Their eloquence, and in Satanta's case, physical appearance, brought them to the forefront of the nation's attention.

Satanta Lecturing Sheridan

Sir Henry Morton Stanley, of "Livingston I presume," rode with Sheridan's column as field correspondent and wrote admiringly about Satanta's appearance and capabilities as well as his intelligence. The chief already had a fearsome reputation on the frontier but was best known for carrying a captured bugle into battle and blowing, contramanning orders, throwing the cavalry into chaos.

Sir Henry Morton Stanley

Post-war America was divided on the Indian issue. Newspapers, magazines and dime novels were full of stories about the Wild West, and though most citizens favored western expansion, many felt sympathy for the Indian's plight. President Grant was compelled to bar his army from the reservations and installed Quakers as agents.

Lawrie Tatum

Lawrie Tatum was assigned to the Wichita agency. Soon after his arrival, a handful of Kiowas burst into his office and held their weapons on him. Satanta put his hand on the agent's heart to see if he was afraid. He proved brave but completely ineffective at controlling the Plains tribes.

Kiowa Children

The reservations remained a sanctuary for captured wives, children, and livestock; and a situation that naturally enflamed Texas tempers to the south.

Post Civil War Frontier

Colonel George Armstrong Custer

Complaints of Indian depredations across the plains poured into army headquarters and Sheridan ordered Colonel George Armstrong Custer to lead his troopers in search of raiders. In the winter of 1868, he had his only Indian victory at the Battle of the Washita where he attacked the same peaceful Cheyenne tribe victimized at Sand Creek. His Seventh Cavalry managed to kill a few dozen startled, half-awake Indians including Chief Black Kettle and his wife. Custer ordered retreat when his scouts reported thousands of Cheyenne, Arapaho and Kiowa lodges further upstream. Soon after, he arrested Satanta and Lone Wolf, ignoring their white flag of truce and holding them in captivity for several months. Actually the ordeal doesn't seem to have been so unpleasant. Satanta charmed Custer, and the chief even had his son, Gray Goose, brought in to join them. Custer maintained amicable relations with the Kiowas long after the tribes actions should have merited otherwise.

Gray Goose
(Photo from the book, Carbine & Lance, The Story of Old Fort Sill, by Colonel Nye)

The army built a new line of forts including Sill, Richardson, Griffin and Concho, providing a sense of security that lured settlers back onto the frontier. Actually Plains Indians had rarely attacked forts, preferring friendly visits involving trading or better yet, a little gambling. In his book, Our Wild Indians, Colonel Richard M. Dodge attached to Fort Chadbourne a tale told throughout the Great Plains frontier.

    Indians were fond of both horse racing and gambling, and not infrequently officers and troops stationed at the various frontier posts would engage in some competition with them. On one particular occasion, a band of Comanches under Mu-la-que-top camped near Fort Chadbourne. During the course of their stay, some officers from the post challenged the Indians to a bit of horse racing. The Indians accepted the challenge with the result that their somewhat inferior, and often pathetic looking, entry bested a magnificent Kentucky mare owned by one of the soldiers. The Comanche rider added insult to financial injury by riding the last fifty yards of the race mounted face to tail, beckoning the rider of the mare to come on.
    Occasionally large forces of hundreds, if not thousands, of Comanche and Kiowa would sweep through the settlements. The Sixth Cavalry and several infantry companies posted at Fort Richardson were woefully ineffective as McClellan's defeat at the Battle of the Little Wichita proved. Thirteen deserving troopers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their bravery in that fight but the toll on the settlements in loss of livestock and loved ones continued to increase steadily.

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