Spencer O’Neill and Geo. Tackett

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.

Stephens County, Texas

    It was, perhaps, during the month of August, 1863, that Spencer O'Neill and Geo. Tackett, (who belonged to Company G, then stationed at Belknap, and commanded by Capt. Newt White) were detailed to perform "Pataroll duty" from Fort Belknap to Camp Salmon, which was then stationed near Picketville, in Stephens County, and commanded by Capt. N.B. Lloyd.

    Spencer O'Neill was riding a mule, and Geo. Tackett mounted on a horse, which could always run faster. When the two started on the return trip toward Belknap, after crossing a prairie, and were going down a hill into a valley about nine miles north of Picketville, near the present city of Breckenridge, five Indians were seen in the valley ahead. For some reason, to them unknown, these savages displayed unusual bravery, and came charging toward Tackett and O'Neill. There was considerable timber to the right, in a little draw, and ordinarily would have been the logical place to retreat, for elsewhere was more or less open. Spencer O'Neill suggested that a retreat be made to the timber, but Geo. Tackett replied, "We can whip five Indians, so let's fight." The savages were already charging toward the whites. When O'Neill and Tackett turned their direction toward the five Indians, the latter discovered they could not bluff the rangers, so they circled and rode around, for seldom would an Indian fight at close range, unless they had overwhelming numbers. Spencer O'Neill again suggested that he and his companion retreat to the brush, but Tackett replied that if we run, the Indians will kill us. O'Neill, who may have suspicioned the presence of other Indians, concealed nearby, stated, "They will also kill us if we remain, so I am going to the brush." The two rangers then started for the timber, and about that time, were suddenly fired upon ten or twelve times by a new band of Indians who were concealed in the timber to the right. The Texans now saw that a trap had been pre-arranged. No doubt, it was a plan of the Indians to have the five warriors make a charge, and cause the two rangers to hurriedly retreat to the timber, only to be ambushed by another band of Indians. The large band of Indians concealed in the brush, now came charging forth like wild demons. Their hideous yells, and the report of their guns, could be heard for many miles. Spencer O'Neill, riding the mule, was wounded early, and after running for two or three hundred yards, fell from his saddle. The rangers had been separated by the savages' charge, and George Tackett was attempting to join O'Neill again. About the time the latter fell from his mule, five savages charged toward Tackett, who now realized he should run. These five Indians followed Geo. Tackett about four miles, and until he ran his horse across a deep creek and rode up on the opposite side, where he stopped in a dogwood thicket. The Indians would not run their horses across this stream. Geo. Tackett told them to come on. But the Indians turned and went back toward their main command. Spencer O'Neill was killed about nine o'clock in the morning, and Geo. Tackett safely reached Belknap about 1:00 p. m. the same day.

    Soldiers at Belknap went back to the scene of the fight and buried O'Neill.

    Note: Before writing this section, the author personally interviewed Geo. Tackett, who was with Spencer O'Neill when killed, James Wood, who belonged to Capt. Newt White's company, and stationed at Fort Belknap at the time, F.M. Peveler, and others who then lived in that section.

The above story is from the book, The West Texas Frontier, by Joseph Carroll McConnell.

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