Moore Leads Republic's First Ranger Attack Against Indians

Fort Tours chief scout, Steve "Cougar" Nichols, summarizes the records of Robertson Colony.

The Robertson colonists employed a friendly Caddo chief named Canoma to go among the savages in 1835 and endeavor to bring them in for the purpose of making a treaty and recovering two children of a Mr. Moss who were then prisoners in their hands. This same chief had pursued some Indians who had murdered H. Reed near Tenoxtitlan in 1832 and recovered Reed's horse and saddle and returned them to his father.

    Canoma left two of his children as hostages, undertook the mission, and visited several tribes. When he came back he reported that those he had seen were willing to make a treaty with the Brazos people but that about half of them were bitterly opposed to forming friendly relations with the settlers along the Colorado. In fact, at that very moment, he said, a party of the irreconcilable Indians was making a descent on Bastrop. The people at the Falls of the Brazos sent a runner, Samuel McFall, to warn the people of Bastrop but by the time he got there the Indians had already entered the settlement, and on June 1, 1835 they had attacked a wagon on the road from San Felipe to Bastrop on the waters of Cummins Creek and killed Amos Alexander and his son and escaped with the goods from the wagon.

    In the meantime, two immigrants named Warnick and Elam had stopped at the Falls of the Brazos and while there they were both taken sick and their horses, turned loose to graze, ran away across the Brazos and Little River and on down to Brushy Creek. Mr. Marlin employed two Caddo chiefs, Canoma and Dorcha (or Douchey) to retrieve the horses if possible. When they started, Mr. Marlin presented each with a new shirt.

    The Indians trailed the horses to Brushy Creek where a short time before this, Indians from other tribes had been committing depredations on the settlers around Bastrop. Some of these settlers, under Colonel Edward Burleson, had decided to follow the Indians that had been troubling them. The trail led to Brushy Creek where they found Canoma and Dorcha with the American horses in their possession.

    The posse immediately thought these were the Indians who had been troubling them and in their rage and excitement decided to kill the two chiefs forthwith. The two Caddos told them that Marlin had sent them after the horses and showed them the new shirts Marlin had given them and begged the settlers to go with them to the Falls, less than thirty miles distant, where their story could be verified but this request was denied.

    Moses Cummins wrote Empresario Robertson relating these events. He recommended that Robertson write Burleson a letter and have someone carry it to him immediately before these citizens, in their rage, could do violence "to those innocent Indians." The Burleson party had gone up to the country taking Canoma and Dorcha with them and Cummins said that their trail could be easily found somewhere between the heads of Cow Bayou and the Leon River. Burleson had agreed not to harm the Indians without bringing them into the settlement for a hearing but his men were enraged and crying for blood. "Such men," Cummins wrote, "in such a state of mind, are not apt to discriminate between guilt and innocence."

    Cummins was right in his prediction. Colonel Burleson was unable to control the mob psychology of his men. They tied Canoma and his son to trees and shot them, leaving his wife to get home as best she could. Stephen Townsend and John Rabb, two members of the party opposed to the killing but unable to prevent it, left the company rather than witness what they deemed to be murder.

    Canoma's wife wasted no time getting back to the settlement where she reported the facts exactly as they had happened. This so incensed the remainder of Canoma's people, who were still at the Falls, that Choctaw Tom, the principal man left amongst them, stated that they could not blame the people at the Falls, but that all the Indians would now make war on the settlers along the Colorado. With all the band, he left for Indian country.

    The young warriors notified the settlers near Mr. Marlin that they were going to make war on the whites but promised that they would never molest the whites in that locality. They kept this promise for about twelve months. Then the name of Chief Dorcha turned up in the attack on Fort Parker on May 19, 1836. Later, the Caddos, Ionis, Anadarkos and Kichais united under Chief Jose Maria and their terrible butchery and pillaging began. One of the first families murdered was one of those whom the Caddos had promised not to molest, the George Morgan family, whose home they attacked on January 1, 1839.

The following is from the book, The Men Who Wear the Star, by Charles M. Robinson, III:

    In July, 1835, a company of men under Capt. Robert M. Coleman attacked a Tawakoni village in what is now Limestone County, east of Waco. Though surprised, the Indians outnumbered the whites, forcing them to retreat to Parker's Fort, seat of the Parker clan, some forty miles east of Waco. Coleman sent for help and was reinforced by three companies under Col. John H. Moore. The Indians retreated. Moore's Rangers combed the countryside as far as the present site of Dallas before returning home. These various skirmishes, insignificant on their own, would have far-reaching repercussions, not only with the local tribes but with the powerful Comanches of the Plains.


    George Erath

In early August of 1835, Colonel Moore's Ranger's responded to Coleman's bloody July encounter with the Tonkawas. The Colonel led Ranger Captains Williamson, Barnett, Coe, Goheen and Coleman and their companies northwest from Parker's Fort to even the score. Ranger George Erath later wrote:

    After waiting for the swollen Navasota to run down, we marched on to the village. Texas Indians never allowed themselves to be attacked by a hundred men together; they had evacuated the village, and we had nothing to do but occupy it. We found sixty acres in corn, which was just hard enough to be gritted, and by making holes in the bottom of the tin cups we carried we fashioned graters, and supplied ourselves with bread. There were also numbers of pumpkins, watermelons, muskmelons, peas and other vegetables, such as were then raised by Indians in their primitive agriculture.

Two days later the troops were on Post Oak Creek when scouts reported Indians ahead. Erath comments that Moore "took as much precaution as if we were about to fight such formidable foes as Creeks, Cherokees, and Seminoles-foes the two had faced in their younger days under Jackson." Battle lines were formed. Erath further wrote:

    I was riding a young horse which had been caught a colt from the mustangs, that was fiery. When the order came to charge, it darted forward ahead of all the rest, and I found myself alone in the advance. Next came McFall, who was also on a wild horse, too eager for the fray. The officers shouted to us to come back into line, but our efforts to obey were in vain. Our steeds had determined to give us a reputation for bravery which we did not deserve.

The incident also earned Erath the nickname, "The Flying Dutchman". The battalion trudged on northwest until the end of August when the Rangers enlistments began to expire and many chose to return to their families. Erath continues:

    The main body of the Indians were never overtaken; but several small scattering parties were met, with which there was some skirmishing. The Texan forces kept daily diminishing, and in two months the expedition closed.

Moore led the remaining volunteers to the forks of the Trinity, where Dallas now stands, before turning back to the southeast, passing through the future site of Fort Graham. The force returned to Moore's Fort in Mina (present day Bastrop) and disbanded.


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