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 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.
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.
(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
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.
Back to Table of Contents