Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Comancheria
3 March 3, 1850; Eagle Pass, Texas: Troops were spread thin in south Texas in the early 1850s, with only 1,868 in the entire state. Fort Duncan, in present-day Eagle Pass, was home to four companies of the First Infantry, and Fort Inge, near present-day Uvalde, housed two companies of the Eighth Infantry and several companies of the Second Dragoons.
In late February 1850, four men of Company C, Second Dragoons, under a Private Phitzeer escorted a merchant train from Fort Inge to Fort Duncan. As they prepared to return, Lt. Charles J. Whiting placed in their charge his ambulance wagon, for use by the Mexican wife of an unarmed, discharged soldier who rode along with the dragoons.
On 3 March, the party reached Chacon Creek, about midway between the two forts. Here more than fifty Lipans, most on horseback, attacked them. At the first fire, a Private Cater was shot through the head and killed. The Mexican woman got out of the ambulance wagon and ran, only to be captured. The four remaining dragoons, unable to control the mules, abandoned the ambulance and ran for their lives.
About six miles up the road, the survivors came upon a detachment under Capt. Charles G. Merchant, Eighth Infantry, escorting a civilian family to Fort Duncan. Keeping three of the dragoons to augment his force, Merchant unsuccessfully chased the Lipan raiders while Phitzeer went on to Fort Inge to report the attack.
20 June 20 1862; Devine: Early one morning in June 1862, Hondo Valley, Texas, settler Jerry Bailey went to see his neighbor, Rube Smith, about some business. Smith's wife told Bailey that Rube had gone out to get his horse and would be back shortly. After a long wait, Bailey went out to look for him. On his way out he saw another neighbor, Manuel Wydick, running toward him. Wydick told him that Smith had been caught and killed by Indians. The Indians, probably Kickapoos or Lipans, were raiding down Hondo Creek and attacking homesteads in the Hondo Valley.
Bailey and Wydick rushed to where Smith had last been seen. They found fresh horse tracks, footprints, and evidence that a man had been tied up and dragged behind a horse. Investigating further they found Smith's body in the bushes, lanced and mutilated. Nearby lay the body of a dog belonging to another neighbor, James McCombs.
All the families living in the area gathered at Smith's house, and the men prepared to pursue the Indians. Nine men joined the posse: Bailey, Wydick, William Mullins, Nathan Davis, West McCombs, Lewis McCombs, Sam McCombs, Monroe Watkins, and John Brown. They followed a trail leading south. On the second day, the posse caught sight of about forty Indians, but they could not catch up with them. They were too outnumbered to take the Indians on, anyway, so Lewis McCombs and John Brown rode off for San Antonio to try to enlist the help of a ranger company there.
When the Indians slowed down, the remaining members of the posse caught up with them. The seven decided to fight, regardless of the odds. The Indians, seeing the small number of pursuers, holed up in a small grove of timber on Chacon Creek, just above its junction with the San Miguel River. Bailey led the charge, but he was the only one to rush into the trees -- his men veered off to shoot from a cover of boulders. Bailey blasted away with his shotgun, to little effect. As the Indians moved closer, Bailey called to Wydick to help him, but Wydick refused.
Finally, Nathan Davis convinced the men to follow him across the open ground to Bailey. Several horses were hit in the charge, but the men reached Bailey unscathed. Both sides fired steadily, from about sixty yards apart. An arrow pierced Davis's shoulder and came out his back. Mullins came to his aid, cutting off the arrowhead and pulling the shaft through. The posse's remaining horses were all hit in the fighting. Mullins eventually got a good look at the Indian they believed to be the chief. Mullins's well-aimed shot got the chief through the heart, and when their leader dropped, the other Indians appeared to lose their nerve. The Texans charged, and the Indians broke and fled, unable to take their dead chief with them. The posse scalped the chief and waved the bloody trophy at the Indians, then placed Rube Smith's hat on a stick and held it up where all could see it.
Join the discussion