Order from claycoppedge.com
for autographed copy:
last Comanche raids in Texas of
any consequence occurred in late 1876 and into 1877 when a group of
renegades who didnít accept the news that the war with the white man
was over remained on the Plains, pillaging and plundering as in days
The Nolan Expedition, which actually consisted of two expeditions,
was formed to find and punish the marauders. Two dozen buffalo hunters
formed the first expedition and set out across the Llano Estacado
in May of 1877. A more official group consisting of troops from the
10th U.S. Cavalry division, made up of black buffalo soldiers
and under the command of Nicholas Nolan, who was white, set out from
in July of 1877.
The two groups inadvertently met up on the Llano Estacado later that
month. Neither group had actually seen any Comanches but had no doubt
that Comanches had seen them. The hunters had been close a couple
of times but the Indians vanished like smoke when the hunters were
ready to strike.
The two groups joined forces and did find some Comanches but not the
ones they were after. The band they encountered was a small one and
included women but also the great chief Quanah
Parker. That peaceful meeting would be their undoing and one
reason why the Nolan Expedition is one of several such forays
that are invariably described as ďill-fated.Ē
The Nolan Expedition was doomed not so much by its mission or the
mettle of the men involved but by geography. The Llano Estacado had
just about done in Col. Ranald Mackenzie when he ventured there
to take on Quanah
Parker and his tribe of Quahadis, the last remaining obstacle
to Anglo settlement but a formidable one.
Mackenzie commanded the Red River War and finally convinced
and his people to submit to a life on the Fort Sill reservation
in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). One band of warriors remained
on the prowl, however, and they turned their most murderous attention
to the buffalo hunters who were, in front of their eyes, exterminating
the basis of their existence.
The Comanches had a big fight with buffalo hunters near present-day
Post. They killed
a buffalo hunter near Double Mountain and raided Rathís store,
a supply post for the hunters. The buffalo hunters, the government
and Mackenzie all agreed something needed to be done.
So did Quanah
Parker. As a favor to Mackenzie, Quanah
set out across the Llanos with (five other people) to find that same
marauding band of Comanches. His mission was to talk them into going
back to the reservation peacefully.
This was not the mission of the soldiers or the buffalo hunters. For
them, it was not only a matter of public safety but also a chance
for military glory. They saw themselves as the last of the Indian
fighters. Once they captured or preferably killed this one last band,
there would be precious few Indians left to fight.
Of course, Quanah
knew this. Thatís why when he encountered the expeditions he told
Nolan he knew where the renegades were and said he was on his way
to meet with them. He said they were camped out at a place called
Mustang Springs. The soldiers and hunters soon headed off in
and his band of peacemaker watched them go, might have wished them
good luck, and then headed for the banks of the Pecos
River, where the marauders actually were. Quanah
found them and convinced them to surrender.
Meanwhile, the men of the Nolan Expedition were having an exceedingly
a rough go of it. They did catch a glimpse of some Indians who gleefully
led them on a chase across some of the driest terrain the Llanos had
to offer but letís be clear: the Comanches werenít the ones being
When the trails split and the expeditionís scouts became confused,
the two groups split up. The buffalo hunters head southwest and found
water some 36 hours later. Nolan and his men doubled back toward their
camp at Double Lake, near present-day Tahoka.
They went 86 hours without water and were reduced to drinking urine
Ė their own and that of their horses Ė with sugar mixed in to make
it more palatable. The blood of the horses also provided some liquid
Nolan lost four men, 25 horses and four mules on his expedition but
did not find any Comanches. By the time the expedition was over, Quanah
was leading the renegades to Oklahoma Territory and the Indian wars
in Texas were over.
© Clay Coppedge
December 4, 2013 Column
Author's Note:[This story] recently appeared in Texas Co-op Power
from Central Texas"