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.

Tarrant County, Texas

The following information is from the book, Fort Worth, A Frontier Triumph, by Julia Kathryn Garrett.

In September, John H. Dyer, brigadier general of the Fourth Brigade, raised a company of volunteers and moved against the Indians on the Trinity. When the expedition approached this river, Captain Henry Stout and his brother were sent ahead to reconnoiter. At Elm Fork, they battled with eight Indians, killing one. From there, Captain Stout moved towards the East Cross Timbers. Meeting a band of Kickapoos, he was informed that this whole area was full of Caddoes and that he should leave in haste. He did. After he returned to the main camp with the message, General Dyer ordered most of the men to return home. His reason for this order: the season was so dry and the grass was without nourishment.

    Then General Dyer with Captain Stout and a small band, rode to join a group of men from Fannin County, commanded by Daniel Montague. They were camped on Pilot Grove Creek, a headwater tributary of the East Fork of the Trinity. The party, according to Captain Stout, "went high up the Trinity and searched the areas for Caddoes, but found none. They rode down the Clear Fork on their return, and finding a small encampment, killed three Indians." The men were destitute of provisions, and returned home with small reward for their venture into the Trinity wilderness.

    The cold, dry winter of 1838 bore down on the northern frontier. With winter came hostilities. As early as October, the Wacos murdered citizens in the streets of Bastrop. During the winter, they made frequent raids to steal horses. As cold weather advanced, Indian hostilities increased, along with a growing opposition to President Houston's Indian policy. No one expressed more ably this opposition to Houston's pipe of peace offer than did General Hugh McLeod. A tall, gaunt warrior, weather-beaten by steaming prairie heat and piercing cold winter winds, McLeod had lived and toiled with Indian problems, such as were now harassing Texans.

    The vice-president of Texas, Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamare, on December 10, 1838, succeeded Houston as president. From Lamar's campaign speeches, made in the summer of 1838, McLeod no doubt understood that there would be a change in the Republic's Indian policy. In an official report to Lamar, there was little restraint as McLeod poured out his dissatisfaction with the condition of Indian affairs.

    Headquarters near Port Caddo
    December 1, 1838

    Dear General [Lamar]
    General Rusk has returned from a campaign against the Caddoes. He disarmed a part of the Caddoes near Red River and returned them to their United States agent at Shreveport, Louisiana. The Caddoes pledged good behavior until the Caddo tribes in Texas also should make peace.

    So stands that matter, but you must understand these are not all the Caddoes. By far the larger portion of the tribe are under Tarshar, the Wolf, camped among the wild Indians of Texas at the three forks of the Trinity. We start immediately for the three forks of the Trinity and the Cross Timbers. The Fourth Brigade under general Dyer will have 400 men ready as soon as we get to Clarksville. Let us drive these wild tribes of and establish a line of block houses. If the United States will not remove their own Indians (Cherokees, Shawnees, Delawares, Kickapoos, Choctaws, Alabamas and Coshattees [Coushattas]) to say nothing of these Caddoes who they have literally driven into our country-I Say if the United States is faithless enough to refuse to remove them, we must await a more auspicious moment than the present to exterminate them.

    The auspicious moment of extermination would come, no doubt, when Lamar's administration was in full sway. McLeod had forsaken the policy of President Houston, the great brother of red men. Rangers, trading houses, gifts, treaties-what had been the harvest of such a policy? In the mood of an Indian fighter, McLeod laid aside his pen and portfolio. He spent the month of December in the saddle as a member of the first large military expedition of Anglo-Americans into the area which a decade later was to become Tarrant County.

    In the early days of January 1839, an exhausted McLeod again took out his portfolio and pen.

    Red River County, Below Clarksville, 60 miles, Dear General [Lamar], We are recruiting our broken down horses and equally exhausted selves after a march in my opinion, unparalleled since that of de Soto's.

    McLeod with General Rusk and a company of soldiers, had ridden from Clarksville to the Clear Fork of the Trinity in the sever cold of December. There they warmed themselves by the campfires of General Dyer. McLeod had left Clarksville on November 24, 1838, with 500 men. No doubt, before the expedition ended, McLeod and the men believed their experience comparable to that of de Soto's men. They were adventuring in a wilderness, inhabited only by wild beasts and Indians. These Texans were ignorant of de Mezieres' records.

    In December 1838, in the wilderness of the Clear Fork was pitched the first large military camp in what is now Tarrant County. In the next century, on these same prairies would be erected military camps for World Wars I and II.

    Leaving a company of men with the baggage at the camp, Generals Dyer and Rusk led the army through the East Cross Timbers. Soldiers found silent, wooded thickets and empty villages. It was evident that Caddo scouts had discovered the approach of the largest military expedition their eyes had ever beheld in this northern section. They deserted their villages in a headlong rush.

    After scouring the area which yielded small prizes of blankets, guns, and buffalo hides, the military company burned every Caddo village. With the Cross Timbers cleared of Caddoes, the expedition traveled west across a barren prairies to the Red Fork of the Brazos. Weariness and low rations sent them back to the camp on the Clear Fork.

    Here, too, food was a problem. Captain Edward H. Tarrant, whom General Rusk had left at headquarters on Red River with instructions to gather beef cattle and to drive them to the camp on the Clear fork, had failed to arrive with beeves. General Rusk waited. The men suffered much weariness, hunger, and the very cold weather. In dire need of food, General Rusk decided to abandon his wagons and eat the oxen.

    Strength renewed, the army began the return journey. Leaving the wagons on the banks of the Clear Fork to the ravages of weather, they crossed the Trinity northeast of the present town of Arlington, proceeded eastward to the head of the Neches and Sabine rivers, and rode on the Clarksville.

    McLeod's official report of the expedition written to Lamar, reveals how greatly he was impressed with the East Cross Timbers and prairies flanking the Clear Fork. He wrote:

    That section of the country and particularly the Cross Timbers, frequently represented as a sterile waste, is the finest portion of Texas as a body-and its bottoms are equally as fine as the Brazos.

    We saw large droves of buffalo and wild horses, by the latter I do not mean mustangs, such as are found in western Texas-The Ukraine [Russia] cannot excel these prairies in the beauty, and fleetness of its wild horses. They are said to be derived from various sources, but however derived, the mustangs bear no proportion to them, and they sell when caught, persons follow it as a business, for $300 to $500. The weather was so severe, we could not enjoy the sport [of catching them].

    Nine days elapsed between McLeod's first official report and his final report of the expedition to East Cross Timbers and the Clear Fork of the Trinity. At Nacogdoches, in better spirits after a rest, he was able to analyze the results of the expedition. On January 18, 1839, he wrote Lamar that, in his opinion, the expedition was worth the cost. For the Indians of the upper Trinity Valley never knew they had an enemy beyond the neighborhood of east Texas, nor did they believe a white man could go to the prairie. And when they find a wide road from Clarksville to the Brazos and learn from the Kickapoos that five hundred men built the road, they will perceive the hopelessness of contesting with the white man for this finest portion of Texas.

    McLeod was a militarist, not a prophet. The East Cross Timbers and the lands about the forks of the Trinity were to be purchased for settlements by conflicts…

    "Let the sword do its work," a favorite slogan of David G. Burnet, the provisional president of the Texas republic during its revolution for independence, became the policy of President Lamar in his administration of Indian affairs.

    Lamar was not his red brother's keeper. He reversed President Houston 's Indian policy. In his inaugural address in December 1838, as the second president of Texas, Lamar called for the following: The total expulsion of United States Indians domiciled in North Texas, the establishment of a line of military posts along the frontier, and organization of a strong military force.

    Congress promptly compiled. Laws were passed which provided for the construction of a military road from the Red River to the Nueces River; the creation of more than ten companies of Rangers of fifty-nine men each; and the organization of a mounted regiment of 840 men. Soldiers were to enlist for three years at sixteen dollars a month, and to receive a bounty of thirty dollars and a land certificate.

    Provision for the establishment of troop headquarters for this mounted regiment reveals that the center of danger was in North Central Texas and included the present counties of Dallas, Tarrant, Johnson, Hood, Hill, and Bosque. The law provided that the largest number of men, 168, were to be stationed at or near the three forks of the Trinity, and 112 at or near the Brazos. Under the Indian threat, settlers from the Red River to the older settled areas about Bastrop on the Colorado lived in a world of uneasiness. Many people had accepted as fact the surmises which were abroad in Texas. It was estimated that there were some 45,000 warriors concentrated in Indian Territory whom the settlers feared would cross the Red River to make murderous and thieving incursions into Texas. To the fear of these savages was added the dread of the wild tribes of the prairies who, unopposed, were well entrenched in woodlands of the Trinity.

    The secretary of war of the Texas Republic, Albert Sidney Johnston, had proof that the Cherokees and other agricultural Indians of East Texas were cooperating with the prairie Indians to drive the white men from North Texas. So Lamar, in line with his extermination policy, declared that the Cherokees were not entitled to land in East Texas. He offered to compensate them for the land on which they were living, and ordered them to withdraw from Texas. This, they refused to accept, and ignored the order to leave their homes.

    Land titles for the Cherokees became a sharp political issue. In the meantime, the white settlers of East Texas, uncomfortable under the July sun of 1839, were further disturbed by warfare. The Cherokees fought the troops sent by Lamar to expel them. Most of the warriors were slain along with their famous Chief Bowles, the beloved friend of Sam Houston. Survivors of this Cherokee conflict were driven into Arkansas.

    Like a volcanic eruption, the so-called "Cherokee War" shook the other Indian camps from the Red River to the Rio Grande. The tribes of North Central Texas feared that, like the Cherokees, they too would be expelled from their homes. They took up their tomahawks. A list of disastrous raids was recorded by the War Department of the Republic during 1839 and 1840. But the settlers from the Red River to the newly founded settlement of Austin were more fortunate than the North Central Anglos, for they lived within easy reach of barricades.

    A second incident, the Council House Fight, incited the Indian's anger and increased their fear, for in March 1840, Lamar had invited the Comanches to San Antonio for a peace council to which they were to bring their white prisoners. This terminated in a massacre at the Council house. The deaths of twelve chiefs, sixty-five warriors, and several female tribespeople unleashed a torrent of vengeance.

    In the summer of 1840, Comanches and Kiowas, 1000 strong, rode in fury from their northern homes to answer Lamar's policy of the sword.

    Their anger carried their raids as far as Victoria and Linnville on the Gulf Coast. Settlers were slain, towns were captured, thousands of horses were stolen, and children were carried away. As the Indians retired from their destructive raids, they were pursued by volunteers under General Felix Houston and Edward Burleson. At Plum Creek, near present-day Lockhart, the Indians were defeated. In the fall of 1840, Colonel John H. Moore destroyed a Comanche camp on the Colorado River near present Colorado City. Comanches took refuge in the northern wilderness.

Join the discussion

Further reading

Recent Comments