Antelope Creek

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Comancheria

July 23, 1843; Roll, Oklahoma: The expedition under Jacob Snively was now reduced to about 140 men, divided into two commands under Snively and Eli Chandler. A lack of horses and the difficulty of transporting wounded men slowed their progress. Near the Antelope Hills the company camped on Antelope Creek, a small stream flowing into the Canadian River in present-day Roger Mills County, Oklahoma.

Frontiersman James O. Rice moved ahead to scout a path across the boggy creek when five Indians, probably Comanches or Kiowas, surprised him. They chased Rice into a dogwood thicket and captured his mule. While the warriors kept Rice pinned down, a few hundred more Indi­ans attacked the camped Texans. Snively and Chandler were prepared, however, having built a solid defensive perimeter around the camp. The Indians circled the Texans, keeping up a desultory fire, but then pulled back. During the lull in the fighting, Rice crept out of the dogwoods and made it back to the camp, where the Texans cheered him--having seen his riderless mule return to camp, they had assumed he was dead.

The Texans repulsed a second attack from the Indians, after which a chief advanced with a flag, indicating he wanted to talk. Snively met with him, and the conference was friendly. They talked, smoked a pipe, and shook hands, then the chief walked away. The Texans had hardly heard the news of "peace" when the Indians charged them once more. The renewed fighting led to more deaths for the Indians. A chief again signaled for a parley, and Snively went out for another talk while the Indians removed their dead and wounded from the field. Immediately after the parley, however, the Indians launched yet another attack. The alternate shooting and talking went on until sunset, when a chief called out to the Texans: "We all now go to sleep--you go to sleep, and in the morning we get up--all have big smoke and all go home."

Snively correctly figured that the chief only meant to delay things so the Indians could fetch reinforcements. Snively tried to move the company out that night, but the Indians heard them and attacked, though the Texans drove them off. Finally Snively sent Rice to find a quiet escape route, then, as silently as possible, the Texans crept away in single file. Upon reaching a grassy, open plain, they double-timed their way south. In the distance they could hear the Indians yelling at the discovery that the Texans were gone. The exhausted men made it to Bird's Fort, on the Trinity River, on 6 August.

During the repeated fights, the Texans suffered only a few men wounded. Although the Indians' losses were uncertain, their casualties must have been significant considering all the charges the warriors made.

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