Famous Packsaddle Mountain 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.

Llano County, Texas

    Late one evening when Deve Herrington and Wm. George turned in the milk cows to their calves, they noticed an animal wearing a bell, had a blunt arrow sticking in her side. That, of course, was sufficient warning that the Indians were raiding through the settlements. Early the next morning, James R. Moss, Wm. B. Moss, Stephen B. Moss, Dever Herrington, Rob't. Brown, Eli Lloyd, Arch Martin and Pink Ayres were in their saddles and soon on the Indian trail. According to reports, the savages were followed until about noon of the succeeding day, when the Indian's trail ascended the Packsaddle Mountain in the southern part of Llano County. James R. Moss, the leader, said, "Boys, we are going to catch these Indians, and if there is a man in this bunch that doesn't want to fight, here is the place to turn back." One young man, who was inexperienced in Indian warfare, said, "I am untried, but don't want to turn back."

    When the citizens reached the summit of this famous mountain, they found the Indians encamped near the cliff, where they had stopped to rest. The Indians' horses were grazing in a little flat, only a short distance away. When first discovered, some of the Indians were lying down and others were barbecuing meat. But it seems, an Indian spy, who was some distance to the southwest, had fallen asleep, perhaps because of unusual fatigue. For the citizens were able to take the Indians completely by surprise and were able to plan the battle before the warriors knew they were around. The Texans, who had been walking up the mountain and leading their ponies, hurriedly mounted their steeds and charged between the hostile Indians and their horses. This first onslaught left the savages afoot. But the fighting was intense and stubbornly waged by both sides. In a short time, all the citizens dismounted, except the fellow untried, and left their saddle ponies with the Indian ponies. But the young fellow who said he was inexperienced in Indian warfare seemed to have lost complete control of his mental faculties and remained on his mule, which became unmanageable, and ran directly into the Indians. And just why the inexperienced young man was not many times mortally wounded, no one knows. But he was well-bathed and baptized in Indian warfare, for the barbarians particularly directed their fire toward him. This, of course, turned the Indians' attention away from the remaining seven citizens, and as a consequence, enabled James R. Moss and his men to thin the ranks of the twenty Indians. In fact, their firing was so effective the Indians seemed to realize their situation and made a hasty retreat. After they were gone, one of the Moss boys caught the inexperienced Indian fighter's mule by the reins and ordered the rider to dismount. The rider replied that he was wounded and James R. Moss said, "Yes, I know you are wounded, but you are not hurt bad. Dismount and stand behind this tree and every time you see an Indian, shoot to kill him." The wounded rider on the mule replied that he hadn't seen an Indian today. James R. Moss said, "You have been among them for the last few minutes and you will see them again in a very short time."

    And about that time, the Indians made a second charge and intended to dislodge the citizens, who had already captured their horses, camp equipment and other articles. But the brave citizens, excepting perhaps, W.B. Moss, who was badly wounded, fought stubbornly and as a consequence of their deadly aim, several Indians were seen to fall. One Indian, however, before he was discovered, did some effective firing from the side. No doubt, it was this Indian that wounded Eli Lloyd through both wrists. Perhaps he also dangerously wounded W.B. Moss, toward whom the warriors were this time, directing their fire. This Indian, however, was finally discovered, and in a short time, his firing was silenced by one of the citizens. After the Indians had swallowed all of the lead their appetites craved, again they retreated, and left the handful of cowboys in charge of the battlefield. James R. Moss and his men, however, continued to fire at the Indians as long as they could be seen. But since a majority of the citizens were wounded, they were unable to follow the retreating red men, who were perhaps, Apaches from the west. In a short time, one lone Indian approached the citizens, and perhaps, thought his comrades would follow. But this wild warrior of the plains soon lay on the ground, mortally wounded. The scatteNative Americans, who had been completely crushed by a mere handful of citizens, were then seen in the distance moving toward more healthful quarters. For the war gods of Packsaddle Mountain did not welcome their presence.

    The citizens were complete masters of the field, recovered about twenty head of Indian ponies, their camp equipment, saddles, bridles, rope and other articles. An inspection of the battlefield was made, and as many as three dead Indians were found, but no doubt, at least three or four others were mortally wounded. The citizens also found the dead body of the Indian spy, who was, perhaps, asleep on his blanket when Capt. James R. Moss and his men arrived. Four of the cowboys were wounded; Arch Martin was shot in the left groin; Eli Lloyd had three slight wounds in the arm; and Pink Ayres was twice wounded in the hip. But Wm. B. Moss received the most serious wound. He recovered but for more than fifteen years, carried an Indian bullet in his body.

    This spectacular fight was fought sometime during the first part of August, 1873. Some accounts place the date of the fight as August 4, another August 11, and Asa Arnold placed it August 15. Arnold based his opinion on the fact that one of his father and mother's children was born the same day. But regardless of whether this fight was waged on the 4th or 15th, this particular engagement, fought on the summit of the famous Packsaddle Mountain in Llano County, was one of the most fiercely contested and dramatic fights ever fought along the frontier.

    Note: Author personally interviewed: Several of the surviving old settlers of that section and was furnished with a written account of the fight by W.H. Roberts, an early settler, who heard James Moss and others detail this particular fight.

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

The following account of the famous fight is from Indian Depredations in Texas by J.W. Wilbarger.

Packsaddle by Wilbarger

Packsaddle story by Wilbarger

Packsaddle story by Wilbarger

Packsaddle Mountain story by WIlbarger

Packsaddle Mountain story by Wilbarger

Join the discussion

Further reading

Recent Comments