Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Comancheria
The following story is from the book, Charles Goodnight, Cowman and Plainsman, by J. Evetts Haley.
With the Confederacy too busy to defend the frontier, the Legislature saw that more permanent organization was needed. On December 21, 1861, a law was passed creating the famous Frontier Regiment of ten companies of rangers, to be stationed along the front from Brownsville to Red River, and discontinuing the Minute Men after the first of March.
Governor F.R. Lubbock appointed Colonel James M. Norris, of Waco, to its command. Many seasoned old Indian fighters on the outer edge, beyond the plantation and slaveholding regions, being less enthusiastic over secession than Texans to the east, decided as did Goodnight and Lane. Captain Jack Cureton immediately went into the service and settled down to fight Indians for the period of the war.
Norris placed half of Goodnight's company at Camp Cureton, on the Trinity, and the other half remained in camp near Belknap. Throughout most of the war, Goodnight was to be located at the old army post. By March, 1862, Cureton's company was well organized; in April he had one hundred and twelve men, and J.A. Hall and Joe A. Woolfork became first and second lieutenants. The 'cream of the frontier' joined, and the company was sworn in at Belknap by J.W. Trockmorton.
To the south, Captain John Salmon's company occupied Camp Breckenridge, upon Gunsolus Creek, and about a day's ride below was another camp, and so the line ran into the south until it abutted against Mexico, station after station for Indian fighting men. It was a line much shorter than that laid out by Van Dorn, and constituted the first chain of defense since the Federal troops had been withdrawn.
Only nine companies were enlisted, but with 1089 men the line from end to end was to be patrolled at least every other day. Along this patrol the rangers were to report any ingoing Indian trail, and arouse the forces up and down the line, while a party pursued the Indians. It was not a sure defense, for raiders sometimes came into the settlements on foot, leaving no trail for a jogging horseman to catch, and, once mounted on fresh horses inside, cut loose their hounds of war and hell and hit a high lope for the open country. Not often were they caught.
Accompanying Norris upon his first survey of the line of defense were Lieutenant-Colonel A.T. Obenchain and Major J.E. McCord. Norris was not a fighting man and was a misfit in the service. McCord, located at Camp Colorado, rarely if even came north. Though Obenchain wished an active part in handling the regiment-particularly Cureton's company-Cureton himself was the strength of the northwest fringe, being referred to as the 'Jack Hays of the frontier.' Goodnightdescribed him as 'a splendid frontiersman who had no military training except what he had picked up. But he was a fine man, an excellent Indian fighters, and a very popular commander.'
The organization was effected, and when Cureton left the settlements and headed into Indian country, in advance of his column scouted Charlie Goodnight, straight, slim, and strong. Across the fork of his saddle swung his fine long rifle, and engraved upon its barrel was his appropriate sentiment:
'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.' But at which end of the gun did the legend apply?
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