Burleson’s Fight

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

Ca. 23 December 1850; Loma Alta, Texas: Lt. Edward Burleson was taking his company of Texas Rangers to Fort McIntosh at Laredo. A few miles from the Nueces River in McMullen County, Burleson spotted some Comanches riding about a mile off the road between San Antonio and Laredo. He took nine men with him to investigate while the rest of the command continued along the road. When they were 50 yards from the mounted Comanches, the Indians wheeled around to expose another 13 of their number, who had been walking unseen in single file in front of the horses. Burleson reined up and called out, "Well, boys, you see what it is, what do you say?" The men were outnumbered two to one, but they told him to make the call. "Well, boys, light in," Burleson ordered.

Both sides dismounted and advanced, firing continuously. Burleson took an arrow through his hat that creased his skull. Jim Carr was hit four times. One arrow pierced his hand and pinned it to the stock of his gun. The fight was hand-to-hand, and almost every man on each side was hit. Interpreter Warren Lyons heard the Comanches calling among themselves. "Lieutenant," Lyons shouted to Burleson, "they are whipped, they are saying to one another they will have to retreat."

The Indians put their most seriously wounded on the horses while the few who remained unhurt covered the retreat. Burleson could not pursue, for every one of his men was dead or wounded. The rest of the command reached the scene as the fight ended, and they packed up the wounded and dead and set out for water. Burleson sent a courier to Laredo for an ambulance and brought his men to the fort, but in rather poor shape for the Christmas festivities.

The fight had lasted barely three minutes, yet about 23 out of 26 combatants were killed or wounded. Two hundred arrows were later retrieved from a half acre of ground. Burleson lost 2 men and 8 were wounded. The Comanches' casualties were 13 killed and wounded.

From: Encyclopedia of Indian Wars by Gregory F. Michno

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