Lone Wolf's Revenge Raid

The following story is from the book, The Men Who Wear the Star, by Charles M. Robinson, III. Over the last decade, this young historian has authored engaging and informative works dealing with this region's history including Bad Hand, Satanta and The Men Who Wear The Star. It is because of the exceptional readability of his piece covering this famous fight that it is offered here.

    Jones, with an escort of about twenty-five men, arrived at the headquarters of Capt. G. W. Stevens's Company B, at the old Ranger post of Fort Murrah, on June 10. The following day he ordered the entire company to move about ten miles east to Salt Creek, where the grass and water were better. There they received word that a band of Comanches had attacked and killed a cowboy named Heath at Oliver Loving's corral, and tracks were plainly visible.

    Gui-tain, nephew of Chief Lone Wolf
    (Photo from the book, Carbine & Lance, The Story of Old Fort Sill, by Colonel W. S. Nye; Copyright © 1937 by the University of Oklahoma Press. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

    The next morning Jones sent a scouting detail consisting of two men from his own escort along with two from Stevens's company under the command of Lt. Tom Wilson. They reported a large trail heading southeast, out toward the dangerous Salt Creek Prairie. Jones broke camp immediately, taking Stevens, Wilson, and thirty-three members of the battalion to follow the trail. The group also probably included several volunteers drawn from Loving's cowboys. Unknown to the Rangers, however, this was not the trail of the Comanches who had hit Loving's corral-it belonged to a much larger party of about fifty Kiowas, including some of that nation's greatest warriors. It was a murder raid, organized by Paramount Chief Lone Wolf to avenge the deaths of his favorite son and nephew, both killed the year before in a fight with federal cavalry in south Texas. The party was led by Maman-ti, the wily and gifted medicine man responsible for the most successful Kiowa raids. Before leaving the Indian Territory, Maman-ti had consulted his oracles and predicted a successful expedition in which at least one white would die without any losses to the Kiowas. None of the warriors had any reason to doubt him.

    The Salt Creek Prairie, isolated but well traveled, had always been good raiding ground for the Kiowas. Almost as soon as they came out onto the prairie, they jumped four cowboys, but the cowboys, mounted on fresh horses, escaped; the Kiowa ponies, exhausted by the long trip from Oklahoma, were unable to keep up. The failure to take the cowboys, along with the incredible, windswept loneliness of the prairie, discouraged some of the younger warriors. Sitting on a hill overlooking the valley, they began muttering among themselves, and Lone Wolf gave them a dressing-down.

    "Don't be scared," he commanded. "If any Texans come and chase us, don't be afraid. Be brave. Let's try and kill some of them. That's what we came here for."

    At that moment, one warrior spotted the glint of the sun on metal off in the distance, a sign more whites were coming. Maman-ti led them along the ridge where they could get a better view and saw a large party of well-armed men, all wearing white hats.

    The Rangers had already followed the trail some fifteen miles. Now it was very fresh, and they estimated at least fifty warriors. They found where the Indians had stopped to water their horses, and where they had killed and roasted some cattle. They rode past the rough monument that soldiers had erected over the mass grave of the teamsters massacred during Sherman's 1871 visit, and but lost the trail as it led into rough and rocky ground approaching the hill. Some of the younger, more inexperienced men rode ahead to find it again.

    As the Rangers continued into Lost Valley, expecting to see the Indians ahead on the open plain, the Kiowas backtracked, crossing the Ranger trail and circling around above them, keeping under the cover of the hills. Maman-ti had worked out a trap. He concealed most of the Kiowas in a gorge in the hills, then he and another warrior rode down into the valley and dismounted to lead their horses where they would be in plain view. Spotting them, Jones led his men straight into the snare as the other warriors charged out from among the boulders and mesquite thickets. The major held his men together as the Indians circled. Ranger Lee Corn received a gunshot wound that broke his shoulder and nearly took off his arm. Separated from the rest, he managed to crawl into the brush and hide. Another Ranger named Wheeler stayed with him and helped bandage the arm. Most of the Rangers were caught in the open, and Stevens told Jones, "Major, we will have to get to cover somewhere or all be killed."

    Jones ordered a charge that broke through the Indian line, and the Rangers managed to get into a thicket in a gully but were cut off from water. Several had lost their horses in the charge, and Ranger George Moore had a flesh wound in the lower leg. William "Billy" Glass was shot down and left for dead. The Indians, Jones noted, "are all well armed with improved breech loading guns (they used no arrows in the fight) all well mounted, and painted, and deck [sic] out in gay and fantastic style." There was no question in his mind that they were out for blood.

    The two sides began sniping at each other, with Billy Glass lying out on the plain between them. Terrified of what would happen if he was captured alive, he called out, "Don't let them get me. Won't some of you fellows help?" The Rangers responded with a heavy covering fire while three men dashed out and brought him in.

    The Indians were making trouble along a ridge to the rear, and Rangers William Lewis and Walter Robertson volunteered to hold that position while the others held the front. Jones took them to find the best spot, and as they settled down he told them, "Boys, stay here until they get you or until the fight is over."

    Later, during a lull in the shooting, Lieutenant Wilson went to see how they were doing. He was sitting under a tree fanning himself with his hat and describing the Kiowas in the strongest Anglo-Saxon terms when Lewis said, "Lieutenant you ought not to swear like that. Don't you know that you might be killed at any minute?"

    "That is just so, boys," Wilson agreed and became quiet. A few minutes later, a Kiowa bullet cut a limb overhead, bringing it down on the lieutenant's bare head. As the blood poured down, he momentarily thought he had been shot. A later examination of the tree showed it had been shot to pieces on the side facing the Indians.

    The Kiowas, meanwhile, were settling down for a siege. In a murder raid, the purpose was enemy scalps with no losses to their own side, and they were taking no unnecessary chances. The day was hot and the Rangers were about a mile from the nearest water. The Indians decided to wait them out. None of their own had been hurt. The wounded whites were calling for water, but Jones had forbidden anyone to try to reach the creek. Finally, as the sun began to go down and the firing slacked, Ranger Mel Porter said, "I'm going for water, if I get killed."

    "And I'm with you," David Bailey replied.

    They mounted and dashed for the creek. The others could see Bailey sitting on his horse by the bank keeping lookout while Porter filled the canteens. Suddenly, about twenty-five Indians moved in on them. The Rangers in the gully tried to signal by firing their guns, and Bailey shouted for Porter to flee. The two men took off in different directions.

    Porter was caught by two warriors near the water hole. Keeping his nerve, he fired at them until his pistol was empty, then threw it at one of the warriors. Using his lance, the warrior levered Porter off his horse, but before he could kill him, firing from the injured Lee Corn and Wheeler drove off the two Indians. They were content to take Porter's horse, while the Ranger dove into the creek and swam underwater until he came up by Corn and Wheeler. They stayed together until after dark, when they made their way to Loving's ranch. Bailey was cut off, surrounded, and levered off his horse with a lance. Lone Wolf himself chopped his head to pieces with his brass hatchet-pipe, then disemboweled him.

    The Kiowas were satisfied. They had killed at least one Ranger (actually two, because Billy Glass had died), and they began to leave. The badly mauled Rangers tied Glass's body to a horse and rode back to Loving's ranch. The Kiowas did not admit to any losses, although Jones claimed at least three had been killed. Glass was buried at Loving's ranch. About 3 A.M. the next day, they returned to Lost Valley under cover of darkness and recovered Bailey's horribly mutilated body. At sunup, a detachment of cavalry arrived from Fort Richardson, and the Rangers and soldiers spent the rest of the day looking for the Indian trail before the Rangers returned to camp.

    Continuing his inspection tour after the Lost Valley fight, Jones came to Camp Eureka on the Big Wichita River, where he found Capt. E. F. Ikard's Company C "too far out to render the most effect service" and ordered it into closer proximity to Stevens, so the two companies could come together in an emergency. Meanwhile, scouting parties from both Ikard's and Stevens's companies were in the field, keeping pressure on the Indians, and a party from Company C had actually raided a camp and captured forty-three horses and mules, some of which were claimed by citizens from whom they had been stolen.

From Ty Cashion's book, A Texas Frontier:

...in the spring of 1874, the legislature created the Frontier Battalion, composed of Texas Rangers. Its services, combined with those of federal troops and a small army of buffalo hunters, placed irresistible pressure on the Comanches and Kiowas. Just before the force took the field, war parties had roamed the Clear Fork country seemingly at will. In February they had stolen stock within a mile of Fort Griffin and had stripped the horses from settlers attending a revival at Picketville. By the end of the year, however, Indian depredations had all but ceased, and the Texas Rangers claimed no small part in the improved conditions.

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