Battle of Walker's Creek was more of a minor skirmish than a battle, but
thanks to Sam Colt the outcome of the fight had pivotal consequences in the long-running
struggle between the Comanches and the Texas Rangers. Given enough men, the Rangers
could always dismount and keep the Comanches at bay by firing in accurate, well-coordinated
volleys; some men firing while others reloaded. However, prior to Walker's
Creek, the Texans were at a distinct disadvantage when it came to fighting
A Comanche warrior on horseback could shoot five or six arrows
from his powerful short bow in the time it took a Ranger to dismount and reload
his rifle, and reloading a rifle while mounted was an even slower and more cumbersome
process. Moreover, the accuracy of the bow and arrow in the hands of a mounted
warrior was unquestioned, while a Ranger firing his percussion rifle or pistol
from horseback was unlikely to hit anything. Darting in and out and slipping off
to the sides of their ponies, the Comanches would tempt the Rangers into firing,
then charge in for the kill.
During the Battle of Walker's Creek
the Comanches attempted to use their traditional style of mounted warfare, but
this time thanks to Sam Colt, each of the Rangers was armed with two rapid firing
Paterson revolvers. One Comanche who took part in the fight complained that the
Rangers "had a shot for every finger on the hand."
19th Century Engraving
|The basic idea of
a revolving cylinder had been around for a long time. However, it took a combination
of Samuel Colt's genius and the emerging technology of percussion caps to bring
to life the concept of the first multiple-shot revolver using a percussion cap
to ignite a charge of powder that in turn fired a round lead ball from the cylinder.
Colt obtained a patent for a repeating firearm in 1836, and began manufacturing
the Colt Paterson model revolver in 1837, in his Paterson, New Jersey workshop.|
Sam Colt produced several models of the Paterson, but model No. 5 was a five-shot
.36 caliber percussion revolver with a nine inch barrel and a folding trigger
that only emerged when the hammer was cocked; a feature common to all Paterson
Colts. The revolver was a bit fragile and the barrel had to be removed to switch
cylinders, but the weapon came with an extra cylinder or two, giving the user
from ten to fifteen shots before reloading was necessary. Colt's model No. 5 was
referred to as the "Texas" Paterson because of its use by the Texas Rangers
at Walker's Creek. How the Rangers got their hands on the weapon is a story
After the United States Army rejected the Paterson as being
too impractical after all, who needed a sidearm that could fire five times
without reloading Sam Colt turned to the new Republic of Texas. In 1838,
he sent a pair of the revolvers to President Sam
Houston, but the Texas Army rejected the weapon, thinking the barrel would
get too hot to handle, and that "the whole formation seems to be too complicated
for use in the field." Then a Washington hotel owner whose son was serving
in the Texas Navy wrote to the Secretary of the Navy, praising the merits of Colt's
revolver, and in 1839, the Secretary ordered 160 of the new weapons.
|The story turned full
circle when a January 16, Act of the Texas Congress authorized Captain Jack Hays
to raise a new Ranger company of forty privates that was to operate from Bexar
County to Refugio County and points west. While meeting with President Houston
to discuss his assignment, Hays was informed the soon to be decommissioned Texas
Navy had received a shipment of the new Colt five-shooters, and that he could
place an order with the Secretary of War to equip his new company with the revolvers.
After personally securing the weapons from a Galveston
warehouse, Hays returned to San Antonio
and issued each of his new Rangers two Patersons.|
The remainder of the
winter of 1844 passed quietly, but after an uneventful spring, word reached San
Antonio during the first week in June that a good sized Comanche war party
under the leadership of a war chief named Yellow Wolf was raiding the settlements
in the northern and western reaches of Bexar County. In the first week of June
1844, Hays rode out of San Antonio
at the head of fourteen Rangers, all of them eager to put their new Colts to the
The Rangers thoroughly
scoured the hills as far as the Pedernales River without discovering any Comanche
sign and reluctantly turned back, following the Pinta Trail to the ford on the
in the area of present day Kendall County. There they set up camp near Walker's
Creek. One of the Rangers, Noah Cherry, spotted a bee tree, and he was half
way up to seize his prize when he called out, "Jerusalem, captain, yonder comes
a thousand Indians!"
Private Cherry scrambled back down the trunk
of the bee tree, quickly joining the other Rangers as they saddled up and mounted.
The war party, numbering between seventy and eighty warriors, withdrew to some
wooded terrain from which they apparently hoped to initiate the ambush. Hays got
the Rangers on line and advanced to within a few hundred yards of the woods when
fifteen or twenty warriors rode out into the clear and began to badger them for
a fight. The rest of the war party remained hidden in the woods.
too much experience dealing with Comanches to fall into such an obvious trap,
and he waited patiently until the entire war party emerged from the woods and
formed a line of battle. A dry ravine ran to the rear of the Comanche line, and
beyond the ravine rose a high, timber and brush covered hill strewn with rocks.
Hays gave the signal for his Rangers to advance at the trot, and the Comanches
fell back through the ravine and took cover on the hill.
From behind the
rocks and trees, the warriors taunted the Rangers in Spanish, hoping to lure them
into making a frontal assault on the formidable defensive position. However, instead
of attacking, Captain Hays cleverly used the cover of the dry ravine to move his
Rangers around the hill and come up behind the Comanches. After quickly forming
his men into a wedge formation, Hays led the attack on the rear of the Indian
Ben McCulloch, a veteran Ranger and Hays's second in command, later
wrote that the fight for the top of the hill was hand-to-hand, and "they took
it rough and tumble." Fighting fiercely even though heavily outnumbered, the
Rangers drove off two counterattacks on their flanks with the firepower of the
Colt Patersons before the Comanches finally fled the field.
Jack Hays led the pursuit for three miles, making sure his Rangers kept the warriors
under heavy fire with their revolvers. "Crowd them! Powder-burn them!"
were Hays's shouted orders.
During the running, three-mile, hour-long
Comanche retreat, Yellow Wolf rallied his warriors for three separate counterattacks
with the Rangers fighting in relays one group quickly switching the cylinders
of their Colts while the other engaged the Comanches. Just as Yellow Wolf was
haranguing his warriors into making one more attack, Ranger Ad Gillespie shot
him in the head at thirty yards. Now thoroughly demoralized, Comanches fled the
Sam Walker |
In the intense
struggle, Comanche casualties were estimated at from twenty to more than fifty
wounded or killed, including Yellow Wolf. One Ranger was killed and four were
seriously wounded. Among the latter was Sam Walker, his body pierced by the thrust
of a Comanche war lance. Although not expected to live, Walker survived to become
a national hero during the Mexican American War and the co-designer along with
Sam Colt, of the famous "Walker" Colt revolver.
The fight at Walker's
Creek, also known as the battle of Pinta Trail Crossing, the battle of Asta's
Creek, or the battle of Sisters Creek, was characterized by the Houston Morning
Star as "unparalleled in this country for the gallantry displayed on both sides,
its close and deadly struggle, and the triumphant success of the gallant partisan
captain of the west."
Walker's Creek marked the first time
that an entire company of Texas Rangers armed with Colt revolvers participated
in combat. Jack Hays later attributed the victory solely to the Patersons, and
in fact, the weapons were so deadly the Rangers fired only 150 shots during the
entire engagement. Later model Colt Paterson revolvers were adorned with an engraving
of the battle scene on the cylinder. The engraving, based on a sketch by Sam Walker,
shows Rangers chasing Comanches, with Jack Hays mounted on a white horse and Sam
Walker mounted on a black one.
The Colt Paterson revolver caused a revolution
on the Texas frontier as the pendulum of warfare swung in favor of the Rangers.
While Sam Colt may well have invented the five-shot and later six-shot repeating
revolvers, the Texas Rangers certainly discovered their utility. Mounted warfare
between the Comanches and the Rangers would never be the same.
"A Glimpse of Texas
March 11, 2011 Column
by Jeffery Robenalt - Order Here >|
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by Jeffery Robenalt