Battle of Little Wichita

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.

Kicking Bird

Kicking Bird initiated this raid to save face (his advocacy for making peace with the white man brought accusations of cowardice). Thirteen deserving troopers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor (the army did a little face saving too), but the toll on the settlements in loss of livestock and loved ones continued to steadily increase.

In fairness, there is another side to this story. McClellan rode in pursuit of the Kiowas after he was informed of the attack on the stage station on Salt Creek Prairie. He confronted Kicking Bird's main force of three hundred and was prepared to charge when he realized he was flanked by an equally large force. He ordered retreat and from ten o'clock in the morning until after dark, he maneuvered expertly by the numbers. One troop laid down fire allowing another troop to backtrack, then vice versa. The next morning, a small band of raiders resumed the battle and McClellan, fearing he was about to be overwhelmed by the entire force, ordered all unnecessary provisions destroyed and continued his orderly retreat. He returned to Fort Richardson, sustaining only two casualties and twelve wounded. In fact, the Sixth Cavalry's brave performance bolstered their reputation as a fighting force.

The following story is from the book, Carbine & Lance, The Story of Old Fort Sill, by Colonel W. S. Nye; Copyright © 1937 by the University of Oklahoma Press. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

    ...Kicking Bird led a hundred warriors south across Red River in one of the most important raids of the season. Kicking Bird made this expedition because he had been accused of cowardice. His tribesmen thought that he was consorting too much with the whites at Fort Sill. On account of this criticism he organized a foray for the purpose of recovering his lost "face." It was a war party pure and simple; the object was to have a fight. The braves rode their best racing ponies. They were painted and decorated in their finest costumes. No one was supposed to leave the party to steal stock or to depredate. Nevertheless, shortly after crossing the river, several braves separated from the group and robbed a mail stage at Rock Station, near the present town of Jermyn, Jack County. This episode aroused the troops at Fort Richardson. Captain Curwen B. McClellan, Sixth Cavalry, was sent with fifty-three troopers and one civilian scout to intercept the raiders.

    McClellan located Kicking Bird at 10 o'clock on the morning of July 12, several miles east of the site of Seymour, Texas, and commenced an attack. He quickly changed to the defensive when he saw that he was outnumbered and that the Indian leader was throwing out flanking parties to cut off his retreat. Then Kicking Bird made an assault. Riding at the head of his warriors he personally impaled a trooper on his lance. The soldiers retreated all afternoon in the heat of the July sun. Kicking Bird used his men skillfully to harry the cavalrymen from all sides, forcing them to abandon their dead. Three troopers were killed and twelve wounded. McClellan made his men dismount and lead their horses, in order to prevent them from fleeing in disorder. Toward evening the Indians disappeared. The soldiers were reinforced by twenty cowboys who were camped near the site of Jean. In the morning the troop returned to Fort Richardson.

    Captain McClellan, in his report of the engagement, paid compliment to the Indian leader for his superior generalship during the fight. But it was the last time that Kicking Bird fought the whites. He expressed regret that he had been forced to lead the expedition. From that time on he devoted himself to promoting peaceful relations with the authorities. As a result he made powerful enemies among the war chiefs of the tribe. In the end he suffered martyrdom for his friendship with the whites.

    In another raid made in Texas that summer the eldest and favorite son of Satank was killed. With several other young Kiowas he approached a picket farmhouse on the northern Texas frontier. The settlers fired from the shelter of the building. Young Satank sat down suddenly, mortally wounded. His companions fled without him. Then they recovered their pride and rode back to rescue the body. They concealed it among some rocks.

    Old Satank went to the scene to recover the remains. Crows and buzzards had reduced them to a heap of bones. When the chief saw what was left of his beloved son, his friends had to tie him with a lariat to prevent him from committing suicide. Then they allowed him to gather the bones, wash them, and bundle them in a new blanket. Satank carried these bones with him wherever he went. It became a familiar sight in the Kiowa tribe to see the chief riding along in sorrow, leading a gentle horse laden with the skeleton of his son. When he camped he constructed a special tepee for his son, with food and water placed therein for the spirit. Satank was inconsolable.

The following story is from the book, On the Border with Mackenzie, by Captain R. G. Carter.

    In July, 1870, Captain McClellan of the Sixth Cavalry, while on a scout towards the Little Wichita, not far from where the small settlement of Henrietta was burned that year, and near where the present town is now located, discovered a large body of Indians, estimated at about three hundred, who, seeing that they outnumbered him about six to one, proceeded to attack him. This was said to be a war party of Kiowas under one of their principal war chiefs, "Kicking Bird." McClellan dismounted his men and seeing the overwhelming odds began retreating slowly, the men fighting between their horses, which were led by No. 4, leaving but three fourths of the men engaged. The Indians divided into three parties, one party fighting at a time, the others relieving each other in the attack while the balance endeavored to outflank and surround our line. The heat was intense, our men had not water, and, as it was on an open prairie there was no shelter. The action lasted about eight hours and several times the Indians had McClellan's men practically surrounded. Having reached the West Fork of the Trinity and night coming on the Indians discontinued their offensive and withdrew having suffered a heavy loss. By their not renewing the attack the next morning it was apparent that they had had enough. Captain McClellan's loss was two men killed, who could not be taken from the field as he had no ambulance; fourteen wounded, some severely, including Dr. Hatch, his surgeon; and eighteen horses killed and abandoned, besides some of the pack mules. During the night he sent a courier into the post for medical aid and ambulances, and at dawn the next day, July 12, resumed his march into Fort Richardson. These Kiowas were armed with breech loading rifles and only one man was wounded by an arrow. It was positively ascertained that this war party was from the Fort Sill reservation. A classmate of the writer's, Lieutenant H. P. Perrine, was in this action. Several of McClellan's men who distinguished themselves in this action were awarded medals by the War Department and "Jim" Doshier, the post guide, by his coolness, bravery, skill and good judgment in advising Captain McClellan as to the ground, positions to take, line of retreat, etc., was also awarded a medal He had been on the frontier a long time and knew every landmark from Jacksboro to the Red River. Cool, self-reliant, modest, sober, tireless, he was a most competent and thorough guide and a brave, intelligent man. Many men who hung around frontier posts and called themselves "guides" were frauds and were not only of no value to our scouting columns but became a drag and a nuisance because they had no more knowledge of the country or the habits of Indians than many of the cattle men who had been rounding up cattle in the near vicinity of the post. "Jim" Doshier was not one of this kind; he was a guide in fact

Capt. McLellan and Men Fight Indians About Six or Nine Miles Northeast of the Present Town of Archer City

    July 7, 1870, Capt. McLellan, in command of approximately sixty soldiers, left Ft. Richardson, at Jacksboro, for a scouting expedition. After traveling many miles, and killing no Indians, the cavalrymen came upon Dave Terrell's cow outfit, camped about two miles east of the present town of Jean, in Young County. Capt. McLellan told the cowmen that he didn't think there were any Indians. But he was assured by the citizens, the savages were not all gone. J. B. Terrell, Scroggins, Bob Durrett, Pat Sanders, Price Bird; Geo. Terrell, numbered among the cowmen, who first thought the soldiers were Indians.

    The cavalrymen proceeded on their scouting expedition, and during the morning of July 11, the advance guard discovered two hundred and fifty warriors in a valley, only a short distance away. When Capt. McLellan saw the Indians were going to assume the offensive and charge the soldiers, he ordered his cavalrymen to dismount. Because of their superior horsemanship, the Indians invariably preferred fighting from their steeds, and always elected to met the enemy mounted on horses.

The results of the encounter were related by H. H. McConnell in his Five Years a Cavalryman, as follows:

      "On came the Indians, the prairie literally covered with them, having apparently divided into three parties of perhaps one hundred each, one party fighting at a time, the others hovering on the flanks of our men, and relieving each other in the main attack. Capt. McLellan retreated slowly, the man fighting between the horses, which were led by the fourth file of each flank, leaving three-fourths of the men disengaged. The heat was intense under the July sun, and no water, and for about eight hours of the long summer day the soldiers slowly retreated and fought the overwhelming odds, until the approach of night and the proximity of a considerable stream deterred the Indians from continuing the pursuit. Two soldiers were killed and left where they fell, and fourteen others, including Dr. Hatch, the surgeon, were wounded. Some of them very severely; and eighteen of the cavalry horses were killed and abandoned in the fight, besides some of the pack animals. The loss inflicted on the Indians, was, of course, never ascertained, but was known at the time to have been considerable, and was so admitted by them afterward at Fort Sill, when Capt. McLellan passed through that post on our march to Kansas."

    For fear of an attack, the cowmen gathered in at old Fort Belknap and placed their favorite horses in the rock stable. That night, when some soldiers arrived from this expedition, again they thought they were Indians, and ordered a halt, but the cavalrymen replied that they were soldiers. The cowmen then suggested, "Then if you are soldiers, two of you meet two of us," and they did.

    Capt. McLellan and his men, are deserving of the highest praise for if they had not encountered the Indians when they did, these 250 savages may have made a major raid somewhere on the upper settlements, equal to the Big Young County Raid. On this occasion, practically all of the Indians were well armed with high-powered rifles.

    Note: Author interviewed: J. B. Terrell, mentioned above; Hen Williams, Mann Johnson; A. M. Lasater; Mrs. Ed Wohlfforth; and others.

    Further Ref.: Five Years a Cavalryman, by H. H. McConnell, who was a cavalryman at Ft. Richardson at the time.

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

Loftin's Battle of Little Wichita

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