Ranald S. Mackenzie

Sherman invested a large effort in the protection of his former enemies since the end of the Civil War. He assigned his best cavalry officer, Ranald S. Mackenzie, to command the Texas frontier. The Indians called him "Bad Hand" due to his loss of several fingers in a Civil War battle. His hand was just the most visible of dozens of wounds he'd received and though young, he was as grouchy as the most cantankerous old man. The colonel effectively saw to the construction and manning of Forts Concho, Griffin and Richardson but the soldiers thought of him mainly in the capacity of dispensing discipline.

Mackenzie's raiders, as the grateful citizens soon referred to the Fourth Cavalry , began to strike deep into the Plains in the early 1870s. Here the troops found conditions harsher than their commander's temper. Their objective was to strike Comanche winter camps where the warriors were practically immobile due to the lack of grass for their ponies. Ironically victory was achieved because the ornery colonel successfully utilized stubborn army mules to resupply his men and horses on the battlefield.

Mow-way (Shaking Hand)
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 Fourth had their first important victory when they attacked Mow-way's Comanche band on the North Fork of the Red. Previously at Blanco Canyon, near Lubbock, Mackenzie's nemesis, Quanah Parker, led a night raid on the army's horse herd.

Mackenize relocated his headquarters to Fort Concho but left a large portion of his troops stationed at Fort Richardson and Fort Griffin. His troops rendezvoused at his main supply camp on Duck Creek (Freshwater Fork of the Brazos) where he successfully commanded the southern prongs of the Red River War and personally led the coup de grace against the Qua-ha-das in Palo Duro Canyon.

Adjutant R. G. Carter describes Quanah:

"...A large and powerfully built chief led the bunch, on a coal-black racing pony. Leaning forward upon his mane, his heels nervously working in the animal's side, with six-shooter poised in air, he seemed the incarnation of savage brutal joy. His face was smeared with black war paint, which gave his features a satanic look. A large, cruel mouth added to his ferocious appearance. A full-length headdress or war bonnet of eagle's feathers, spreading out as he rode, and descending from his forehead, over head and back, to his pony's tail, almost swept the ground. Large brass hoops were in his ears; he was naked to his waist, wearing simply leggings, moccasins and a breechclout. A necklace of bear's claws hung about his neck. His scalp lock was carefully braided in with otter fur, and tied with bright red flannel. His horse's bridle was profusely ornamented with bits of silver, and red flannel was also braided in his mane and tail, but, being black, he was not painted. Bells jingled as he rode at headlong speed, followed by the leading warriors, all eager to outstrip him in the race. It was Quanah, principal war chief of the wild Qua-ha-das."


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