Indians Attack the Warren Train
The following story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.
May 18, 1871, the next day after General Sherman, Gen. Marcy, and their escorts passed over the road between Fort Belknap and Fort Richardson, and two years and two days after the famous Salt Creek Fight, a wagon train, loaded with corn, and belonging to Capt. Henry Warren, who was a contractor at Ft. Griffin, was attacked by Chief Satanta, Satauk, (Satank), Big Tree, and perhaps other chiefs in command of about 100 warriors, not a great distance from Flat Top Mountain, about half-way between Fort Richardson and Fort Belknap, and on the identical road over which Gen. Sherman, Gen. Marcy and others passed during the preceding day. The train, when attacked, was under the command of Nathan S. Long, wagon-master. Many warriors were armed with the most modern rifles, known at that time. The teamsters were as helpless as children, Nathan Long, John Mullins, J. S. and Samuel Elliot, B. J. Baxter, Jesse Bowman, and James Williams, were killed. Thomas Brazeale was seriously wounded, but escaped, and R. A. Day, and Charles Brady, escaped unharmed. Samuel Elliott was burned to death. The savages chained him to the wheel of a wagon so he could not move, and then built a fire around his feet. It was difficult for Gen. Sherman, Gen. Mary and others to believe that the Indians had committed such crimes. After making a personal investigation, Col. McKenzie reported to Gen. Sherman that the report was true, as related. Thomas Brazeale, the wounded man, also found his way to Jacksboro, and related how the savage tigers from the reservation near Ft. Sill sprang upon the defenseless teamsters, killed seven of their number, one of whom was burned to death, and carried away about forty mules, as well as such other things that seemed to suit their fancy.
This example of savage butchery has often been referred to as the Monument Fight, for after it happened, Capt. Henry Warren erected a nicely painted wooden monument where the tragedy occurred. We are told that this monument decayed and disappeared many years ago.
William Tecumseh Sherman, General of the Army, traveled north on an inspection tour of the forts. He was accompanied by Inspector General Randolph B. Marcy, who had been retained by United States government twenty years prior for several explorations, including, blazing a southern route to Santa Fe, locating the head waters of the Brazos and the -Red Rivers and, with Major Neighbors, establishing suitable locations for the Indian Reservations. Sherman and Marcy were accompanied by two staff members and only fifteen calvary men.
Mackenzie dispatched his Adjutant, R. G. Carter, and a detachment to intercept and escort the General and his party. This precaution was prudent, considering the 80 plus miles the party traveled between Ft. Griffin and Ft. Richardson, at its midpoint, crossed the Salt Creek Prairie, considered one of the most dangerous places on the entire United States frontier. These were the closest settlements to the Indian Territory (United States Indian Policy did not allow pursuit of the Indians onto the Reservations) so they were not only most convenient targets of short raids-, but also the first and last targets of opportunity for longer raids.
Sherman gracefully declined Carter's assistance indicating an air of nonchalance which suited his political philosophy about the degree of danger presented by Indians. When Marcy pointed out to Sherman that the area was dramatically less inhabited than it was when he had passed through there twenty years prior, Sherman pointed out the houses were spaced far apart and did not indicate serious concern on the part of the builders for Indian defense.
Sherman believed a large portion of the raiders to be ex-Confederate renegades, and he had written to General J. J. Reynolds, commander of the department of Texas:
"I have seen not a trace of an Indian thus far, and only hear stories of people which indicate that what ever Indians there be, only come to Texas to steal horses... and the people within a hundred miles of the frontier ought to take precautions such as all people do against all sort of thieves... but up to this point the people manifest no fears or apprehensions, for they expose women and children singly on the road and in cabins far off from others as though they were in Illinois."
Sherman's party crossed Salt Creek unaware that they were being watched by a Kiowa raiding party of one hundred fifty warriors, led by Chiefs Satank and Satanta, accompanied by the mysterious medicine man, Maman-ti. Upon their ascension to the top of the hill, Maman-ti consulted with his owl, a symbol of death to the Kiowa. They feared even to look at an owl, which was fortunate for Maman-ti because his was only an owl skin with button eyes; he could blow air into the owl skin causing the wings to flap. He told the braves the owl warned against attacking the first target they saw, but glory would be theirs if they waited for the second. Luckily for Sherman, they saw his party first. Sometime later, traveling in the opposite direction towards Ft. Griffin, the Warren wagon train and its teamsters were the unfortunate ones.
Satanta (White Bear) blew his trumpet signaling the attack. As they charged, the drivers attempted to circle their wagons. Addo-etta (Big Tree) and Yellow Wolf cut off the lead mules, scoring the first two coup. The teamsters opened fire, wounding --Red War Bonnet, a Kiowa, and killing Or-dlee, a Comanche. Big Tree shot one of the drivers out of his seat. Light-Haired-Young-Man, a Kiowa-Apache, was knocked off his horse and carried from the fight.
The warriors circled the train, their fire killing three more drivers and wounding a fourth. The remaining seven bolted through a gap in the -circling Indians and sprinted -toward the timber around Cox Mountain. Two more died as they ran and a third was injured. The Indians didn't pursue them into the timber, returning to their primary interest, the booty in the wagons. They continued circling the train, unsure of the number of defenders still remaining. An inexperienced young Kiowa, named Hautau (Gun Short), charged a wagon. As he touched the canvas to claim it, Samuel Elliott, lying wounded inside the wagon, shot him in the face. Elliott was overtaken and chained, face down, to a wagon tongue and roasted over a slow fire.
At this time in Ft. Richardson, Sherman was receiving local citizens who related their individual accounts of the Indian atrocities they had encountered. The settlers recounted hundreds of deaths, and kidnappings in the depredations which had occurred over the last decade. Sherman was polite but unmoved, and spent the evening at a reception in his honor attended by the officers and their wives. Later that night he was awakened from his sleep and informed of the fate of the wagon train on the road he had just crossed. Now visibly moved, he ordered Mackenzie to take a detachment to investigate the report, and if true, to pursue the raiders even to the Reservation.
Mackenzie departed with four cavalry companies consisting of over two hundred men, and headed west along the Butterfield Road in a heavy rain storm. Confirming the report, Mackenzie searched to the north for over 20 days with no success. On June 4th, the detachment arrived at Ft. Sill to find the leaders of the raid in chains and Sherman already departed, continuing his inspection tour into Missouri.
A Quaker Indian agent, Lauwrie Tatum and Colonel Grierson, commander of Ft. Sill, greeted General Sherman upon his arrival at the fort on May 23. When informed about the wagon train massacre at Salt Creek, Tatum stated that Satanta's tribe was reported off the reservation and he would make inquiries, several days later when Indians picked up their rations. When asked, Satanta, in a proud statement, had not only condemned himself, but also Big Tree, Satank and Eagle Heart as accomplices.
When given the information, Sherman, lacking authority to make arrest on the reservation, asked Tatum to call the chiefs to a meeting on the porch of Colonel Grierson's home at the Fort Sill. A large number of chiefs gathered and Satanta again confirmed that it was he that had led the raid, and if anyone said different, they would be a liar. Sherman stated that Satanta, Satank, Big Tree and Eagle Heart were under arrest and would be sent to Texas to stand trial for murder, and that the Kiowa tribe would be responsible for returning the mules stolen in the raid.
Satanta then changed his story, saying he only went along to blow his bugle (signaling commands to his warriors and confusing the commands given by the army) and observe the young men learning to be warriors. Kicking Bird offered to produce a large number of mules in retribution, but pleaded that they not arrest the chiefs.
Then the shutters around the porch banged open and dozens of previously concealed soldiers brought their rifles to bear on the gathered Indians who had weapons concealed beneath their blankets. In the next few seconds, one warrior was killed and Eagle Heart escaped. The remaining three suspects chiefs were arrested and put in irons and confined awaiting their deportation to Texas.
On the morning of June 8th, Mackenzie and his troops left Ft. Sill, escorting the wagon containing the three manacled chiefs on their way to stand trial in Jacksboro. Satank told a Caddo scout "Tell my people I died beside the road. My bones will be found there. Tell my people to gather them up and carry them away." The old chief then covered his head with a blanket and began his death song.
Over the next mile he had chewed enough of his hand off to escape a manacle. With a concealed knife, he stabbed one of the guards in the wagon and grabbed a rifle but before he could fire, Corporal John B. Charlton killed him. The soldiers left his body by the road approximately where he predicted he would be, and proceeded to Jacksboro with the surviving two chiefs.
The trial was a nationwide media event, as it was the first time raiding Indians had been made to stand trial for their deeds in the community where they committed their crimes. Newspapers across the country carried headlines stating that twelve Jacksboro jurors had found them guilty of murder -and that Judge Charles Soward sentenced them to be hanged.
Governor Edmund J. Davis was ultimately pressured to overturn the sentence. He was swayed by two sound arguments, first that the Kiowa would be easier to control if there existed a possibility of the Chiefs being returned, and second that Indians feared confinement more than death. Thus, on August 2, 1871, he commuted their sentences to life imprisonment.
The chiefs were sent to the Huntsville State Penitentiary and paroled in 1873. They immediately violated their parole by leading new raids into Texas and both were eventually rearrested. Satanta died of a fall from an upper story window while in prison. Big Tree was eventually released and helped establish and became a deacon in a Baptist church in Oklahoma.
Mrs. Barbara Belding-Gibson points our in her book, Painted Pole, that the freeing of Satanta and Big Tree was a successful ploy by Lone Wolf to get them released. He represented himself to the U. S. as premier chief of the Kiowa and one who could speak for the Comanche. He insisted he would have to confer with Big Tree and Satanta before he could go to D. C. and make a treaty. The Indians were transported to St. Louis to meet with Lone Wolf then returned to Huntsville while he went to Washington. There he declared he couldn't control his young warriors without the aid of Big Tree and Satanta. If they weren't going to be released, he promised there would be open warfare. The United States representatives agreed without authority and then pressured Governor Davis to release the Indians.
An Indian's Account of the Warren Wagon Train Massacre
Unaware of the advent of General Sherman the Indians also were planning brilliant affairs-though of a somewhat different nature. At their camp on the North Fork of Red River, near the present site of Granite, they were sitting around the council fire passing the war pipe from one brave to another. Kiowas, Kiowa-Apaches, and Comanches were invited to participate in a great raid against the Tehannas. A hundred chiefs and lesser warriors accepted the pipe.
At this point a sinister figure emerges from the obscurity of the past. It is Do-ha-te (Medicine Man), the Owl Prophet. This Kiowa war chief and medicine man was one of the strongest personalities the tribe produced. Though scarcely known to the whites, he was the secret instigator and directing spirit of nearly every major raid made by the Kiowas in the early seventies. Known vaguely to the authorities under his real name, Maman-ti (Touching-the-Sky, or Sky-Walker), this dread personality is scarcely mentioned in written history. But today ask any old Kiowa who was the leader of the great raid in 1871, when the wagon-teamsters were killed, and the answer is, invariably, "Do-ha-te!"
If you know your history you ask, "but wasn't Satanta the leader on that raid?"
Again the reply: "Oh, Satanta. Yes, he was there. He took a leading part. But Do-ha-te was the leader."
Maman-ti was not sinister to his own people. They saw him as a person of authority and wisdom-tall, straight, kindly, and generous. Through superior intellect he could influence the tribe, and pretend to foretell events by occult mens; he was relied upon to bring to a successful conclusion any warlike effort.
About the middle of May, while Sherman was riding along the Butterfield Trail, skeptical of Indian peril, this great war party led by Maman-ti rode south toward the Texas Settlements. The Indians crossed Red River between the sites of Vernon and Electra. Here at a place they call Skunk Headquarters, on account of the prevalence of skunks in the vicinity, they cached their saddles, blankets, and other unnecessary impedimenta. The spare horses also were left here, hobbled to prevent their straying away. A few young boys remained to guard the headquarters; the main body pushed rapidly toward the inhabited districts. Since they hoped to bring back many horses and mules, some of the men were without mounts. They rode double, or ran along holding to the tails of other animals. Extra bridles and lariats were taken along for the stock they expected to steal.
On May 17 the Indians entered Young County and headed for the Butterfield Trail, about halfway between Forts Belknap and Richardson. This was a favorite place. Sooner or later some white man would be sure to ride along the road, and the locality was remote from any town or military post.
After dark Maman-ti consulted his oracle. He sat apart on the side of a hill while the rest of the warriors crouched in silence listening for the voice of a dead ancestor. Soon it came in the cry of a hoot owl: "Hoom-hoom, hoom-hoom,"-several times repeated. The soft rustle of wings was heard. Then all way quiet. The medicine mad stood up, raised his arms, and, slowing intoning, interpreted the message of the owl.
"Tomorrow two parties of Tehannas will pass this way. The first will be a small party. Perhaps we could overcome it easily. Many of you will be eager to do so. But it must not be attacked. The medicine forbids. Later in the day another party will come. This one may be attacked. The attack will be successful."
At daybreak the Indians took position on a conical sandstone hill which commanded a long stretch of the stage road from where it crossed the head of the north branch of Flint Creek to a point some three miles east thereof, where it disappeared around the end of Cox Mountain. Between this hill and Cox Mountain was a broad open plain, sometimes called Salt Creek Prairie (though Salt Creek lies eight miles to the west). This field was at that time sparsely dotted with mesquite, with a few trees lining Flint Creek at the foot of the hill, and a heavier growth of scrub oak near Cox Mountain, where the timbered area begins. It was an ideal place for an ambush. The leader planned to allow the enemy to reach the middle of the plain, far from the shelter of the woods, then sweep down upon them from the hill.
Toward noon some of the scouts, who were peering through the brush on the north shoulders of the hill, saw a vehicle, preceded by a small group of mounted men, trot smartly through the trees near Flint Creek and head east across the plain. At once there was a great deal of excited whispering. The enemy were too far away to determine how strong they were. Some of the young braves wanted to attack. But the medicine man obstinately refused to permit it. Perhaps through experience or native cunning he was aware that white soldiers traveled with advance parties thrown out in front. Or maybe he had genuine faith in his powers as a prophet. At any rate the Indians allowed General Sherman (for it was Sherman's party they saw) to ride safely past, all blissfully unaware that a hundred pairs of savage eyes observed his passage.
Two or three hours passed. No other quarry appeared. Some of the young men became impatient. They had come for action, and were not getting it. They wanted to leave the band and set out for themselves. But Maman-ti held them there. Finally, toward mid-afternoon, a wagon train was seen approaching from the east. The Indians watched eagerly as ten lumbering, white-topped vehicles crawled around the north end of Cox Mountain and moved across the open plain toward them. With heels raised to prod their ponies they waited for the signal to charge.
Maman-ti waited until the wagons were in the center of the plain. Then he motioned to Satanta, who sat with a bugle in his hand. Satanta raised the instrument to give the signal. But even as it touched his lips the Indians were away at a mad gallop.
Down the slope they swept. It was a race to see who should win first coup. Second, third, and fourth coups counted also. To kill an enemy counted much. But to touch him first meant more. Several coups made a man a chief. A fast horse was a tremendous advantage. So was reckless daring.
Yellow Wolf had both. He was in the lead, closely followed by the renowned young chief, Big Tree. The rest of the horde thundered in the rear. The warriors were strung well out, with the old plugs and dismounted men toiling in the dust far behind. As the Indians emerged from the mesquite along the dry watercourse of Flint Creek the white men saw them coming. Hastily they turned off the road and began to corral their wagons.
The Indians commenced yipping shrilly and shooting off their guns at every jump. They were upon the wagon train before the corral was finished. Yellow Wolf rode between the last wagon and the others, cutting it off. The teamsters were on the ground, snatching at rifles carried in the leather boots fastened to the wagon bodies. Big Tree made a first coup. Yellow Wolf made second. Two Kiowa-Apaches were close after. Then as Yellow Wolf wheeled to the west again the firing commenced. Indians and whites were running here and there in the dust and smoke. Yellow Wolf saw a man jump off his horse and come running forward to engage in a hand-to-hand fight with the teamsters. It was Or-dlee, A Comanche. Suddenly, he dropped, shot dead. Red Warbonnet, a Kiowa chief, was wounded in the thigh. The whites were shooting "dangerously." Suddenly the Indians became wary. They pulled off and commenced whirling round and round the wagons in a yelling, shooting, pinwheel of color. Scarlet-and-white war bonnets mingled with cotton-like puffs of white smoke, yellow dust, and navy-blue loin cloths. Overhead black storm clouds were gathering across the sky. They held up the sun, whose divergent fingers reached down through gaps to touch as with a golden spotlight the fury below. It shone from polished bow, lance and carbine. It fell unheeded on desperate, frightened white men.
Three or four teamsters were killed in the first rush. The Indians did not know how many more there might be. As they rushed around and round the wagons they saw others kneeling on the grass firing from under the wagons, through the wheels. As Yellow Wolf made his second circle he saw Tson-to-goodle (Light-haired Young Man), a Kiowa-Apache, wounded in the knee. The Apache slipped from his horse and bounced in the dust. Two companions dragged him away. Several hundred yards to the west stood two women, Yo-koi-te, and another whose name is forgotten, lustily participating in the fight with shrill "tongue-rattling." Satanta may have been blowing signals on his bugle. Yellow Wolf doesn't remember. But, he says, even if the bugle had blown, no one would have paid any attention to it.
Yellow Wolf, galloping around to the east, saw a little group of white men cut out of the corral on foot and start to run towards Cox Mountain. There happened to be an opening in the savage circle on the east; they broke through it. One was shot down after running a little way. Six more kept going. Only a few Indians pursued. They thought there were plenty more whites still in the corral. Near the timber one other white was killed. The remaining five disappeared in the blackjacks. The Indians turned back; they were afraid they would lose their share of the plunder. The Indians continued to circle, watching closely. No firing was coming from the corral. Maybe it was some kind of trap. Yellow saw one of the whites, the one who had been with the last wagon, lying in the open gap between that wagon and the corral. This was the one Big Tree had killed. The one Eagle Heart killed was lying close to the corral on the north side. Yellow Wolf also saw a dead man on the ground just inside the corral. Did he kill this man? Yellow Wolf does not say. In the excitement he did not see any other bodies. The Indians were using Spencer carbines, breech-loading rifles, pistols, and bows. Most of the firearms had been purchased from Caddo George, at his "store" near Anadarko. Yellow Wolf had a gun he had captured that year from a settler in Texas.
The sky was growing darker. A big storm was coming. The Indians were anxious to finish the work and get away. But no one dared approach the wagons too soon. Some of the whites might be waiting for them.
"Keep back! It's too dangerous!" shouted the older man. "Let's get them from behind."
Hau-tau (Gun-shot) would not listen. It was his first battle, his first chance to win a point in the race for chieftainship. He ran toward the wagons. No enemy appeared. He retired a few steps in indecision. White Horse and Set-maunte, more experienced, tried to hold him back. He evaded their grasp. He rushed to another wagon, touched it.
"I claim this wagon, and all in it, as mine!" he shouted in exultation.
At that moment a wounded teamster inside the wagon lifted up the canvas sheet and shot Hau-tau full in the face. The young Kiowa fell to the ground, horribly wounded. White Horse and Set-maunte were laying their hands on the mules to claim them. They ran to pick up Hau-tau. He was still breathing. They dragged him out of the way. At this point the Indian account breaks off abruptly. Yellow Wolf declines to say more except that the Indians, enraged by the shooting of Hau-tau, proceeded to "tear up everything." After the affair was over the Indians went back to the hill from which they had started their charge, driving with them the captured mules. The placed Or-dlee, the dead Comanche, in a crevice on the south side of the hill, and piled rocks over him. Then they tied the wounded men to horses and rode north. Soon a general storm broke. The heavy rainfall turned the streams into floods. The Indians made slow progress.
No white man survived to describe the last tragic moments of the massacre. What occurred must be pieced together from the descriptions of the scene written by Mackenzie and his officers. The advance detachment of soldiers arrived before dark on May 19. The rain was still coming down in torrents. The bodies of the teamsters, swollen and bloated beyond recognition, were lying in several inches of water. The place was a litter of opened grain sacks, broken wagons, pieces of harness, arrows, and bits of cloth. Mackenzie's surgeon made the following report of what he found:
Colonel R. S. Mackenzie,
I have the honor to report that in compliance with your instructions I examined on May 19, 1871, the bodies of five citizens killed near Salt Creek by Indians on the previous day. All the bodies were riddled with bullets, covered with gashes, and the skulls crushed, evidently with an axe found bloody on the place; some of the bodies exhibited also signs of having been stabbed with arrows. One of the bodies was even more mutilated than the others, it having been found fastened with a chain to the pole of a wagon lying over a fire with the face to the ground, the tongue being cut out. Owing to the charred condition of the soft parts it was impossible to determine whether the man was burned before or after his death. The scalps of all but one were taken.
"I have the honor to be, colonel, your obedient servant,
(signed) "J. H. Patzki, "Asst Surgeon, U.S.A."
Mackenzie had the corpses placed in one of the wagon bodies and buried near the road. The soldiers set up two small stones over the grave, cut with seven marks to indicate the number of bodies. The grave may still be seen, a mile west of Monument School, in the field owned by Mr. James Barnett.
The floods hampered Mackenzie in his pursuit of the Indians. Furthermore he was twenty-four hours' march behind them, and the trail had been obliterated by the rain. On the twentieth Mackenzie was on the south bank of the Little Wichita, waiting for the water to subside. The Indians were farther north, crossing the Big Wichita. They made crude boats from willow branches covered with canvas. In these they placed their guns, plunder, and wounded men. They propelled the craft across the swift river by swimming on either side and pushing.
Quitan and Tomasi, Mexican-captive members of the Kiowa tribe, were great buffalo hunters. Together with two other Kiowas they lingered behind the main body to kill some buffalo, which then were running in from the west and swimming the river. They had slaughtered twelve or more, and were engaged in cutting them up when they were surprised by twenty-five men of the Fourth Cavalry under Lieutenant Peter M. Boehm. Boehm was returning to Fort Richardson after a thirty-day scout. In the sharp exchange of shots which followed, one trooper and two horses of Lieutenant Boehm's detachment were wounded. Tomasi and his horse were killed. The other Indians sprang on their ponies, mingled with the buffalo herd, and swam the river. When the main body of Indians heard the shots and saw the fugitives flying toward them they raced away. Quitan brought up the rear. The ground was soft and muddy. When the Indians stopped to catch their breath Quitan arrived, covered with mud thrown up by the flying hoofs. They gave him a big laugh and went on their way north. Boehm's men scalped Tomasi. They took the scalp to Fort Richardson, where Boehm presented it as a souvenir to the regimental adjutant, Lieutenant Carter.
Although the Kiowa raiders were burdened with the wounded Hau-tau, they moved rapidly across Red River and regained their village safely. A few days later Hau-tau died. "The screw worms got into his head," they explain. The death of Hau-tau brought the Indian fatalities to a total of three: Or-dlee, Tomasi, and Hau-tau. But the Indians were more than satisfied. They had killed seven whites, captured forty-one mules, and brought back much other plunder. They felt full of pride and importance.
The above story is 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.