Battle of Brushy Creekby
A little-known fight between Comanche warriors and Texas Rangers
than a decade before Texas celebrated a centennial
of independence from Mexico by putting up hundreds of historical markers across
the state, the school children of Taylor
collected money for a stone marker commemorating a little-known fight between
Comanche warriors and Texas Rangers called the Battle of Brushy Creek.|
Walter Prescott Webb, then doing research that would lead to a book on the Rangers,
traveled the 30 miles from Austin to
present the keynote speech when Williamson County residents gathered to dedicate
the monument on Nov. 5, 1925.
on private property off Circle G Ranch Road just to the west of State Highway
195, four miles south of Taylor,
the monument is a tombstone-sized slab of red granite bearing a bronze plaque
| In Grateful
To Those Who
Gave Their Lives
Battle of Brushy
Friends and Students
Taylor Public School
bird-dogging political news in the Capital City, neither of Austin’s two daily
newspapers covered Webb’s talk. Had reporters been there, they would have heard
him explain to those on hand that the fight on Brushy Creek had been the culmination
of a series of events that began the month before.|
On Jan. 26, 1839, La
Grange plantation owner John H. Moore led 63 volunteers and nearly a score
Lipan Apache scouts on an expedition against a large party of Comanches camped
on the upper San Gabriel River. A fight on February 15 proved indecisive, but
like most conflicts, spilled blood soon brought more spilled blood.
retaliation, a Comanche war party with as many as 300 warriors swept down the
Colorado River into the settlements of Central Texas, killing Elizabeth Coleman
and two of her children on February 24 in Bastrop
County. The raiders also struck the nearby cabin of Dr. James W. Robertson.
Luckily for the doctor and his family, they were not at home, but the Indians
captured seven of his slaves – a woman, five children and an old man.
As word of the Indian incursion spread, fourteen Bastrop
County men under Capt. John J. Grumbles saddled up to pursue the raiders.
They soon overtook the war party but pulled back when they realized they had bitten
off more than they could chew. Following the arrival of an additional 52 men,
the volunteers resumed the pursuit under the command of Jacob Burleson.
Twenty-five miles from the scene of the Coleman massacre, Burleson and his volunteers
overtook the Comanches on the prairie near Brushy Creek. As the Indians tried
to reach a line of timber that would have afforded them a more easily defended
position, Burleson ordered his men to gallop between the Indians and the trees.
Fourteen-year-old Winslow Turner and veteran Indian-fighter Samuel Highsmith did
as they were told and dismounted to face the Indians. But the other volunteers,
realizing they were seriously outnumbered, wheeled their horses to flee.
Knowing he could not face the Comanches with only one man and a boy, Burleson
shouted to the pair to get back on their horses and retreat as well. Just as Burleson
started to spur his horse into a run for safety, he saw that the teenager was
having trouble getting back astride his nervous mount. Burleson jumped out of
his saddle to lend a hand and caught an Indian bullet in the back of his head.
Edward Burleson, a brigadier general in the militia, soon arrived with
reinforcements. Assuming overall command, the general rode after the Indians who
had killed his brother.
The Houston Telegraph offered this account of
the fight that followed:
“General Burleson, at the head of about 70 men,
recently encountered a large body of Indians on the Brushy, and, after one or
two skirmishes, finding the enemy numerous, retreated to a ravine in order to
engage them with more advantage; but the Indians, fearing to attack him in his
new position, drew off and retreated into a neighboring thicket.
unable to pursue them, he returned to Bastrop.
It is reported that he has lost three men in this engagement; the loss of the
Indians is not known; it, however, must have been considerable, as most of the
men under Burleson were excellent marksmen, and had often been engaged in Indian
The newspaper had it mostly right. When the Indians fell back
into the woods, Burleson and his men got what sleep they could overnight and charged
the thicket early on the morning of Feb. 25. But they found the Indians had decamped.
They had left behind one of Dr. Robertson’s slaves, an old man who told Burleson
the Rangers had killed about 30 of the Indians. If that number was correct, Burleson’s
losses were minor in comparison – only three men (Ed Blakey, John Walters and
James Gilleland) killed or mortally wounded. But he also had lost a brother.
Wilbarger devoted four-and-a-half pages to the fight in his 1889 classic book,
“Indian Depredations of Texas.” Noah Smithwick, who participated in Moore’s expedition
but missed the Brushy Creek fight, later termed the battle “disastrous,” the result
of a “badly managed pursuit.”|
In the end, the only accomplishment attributable
to the fight on Brushy Creek was that it further fueled the animosity between
Comanche and Texans. The war would continue for nearly another 40 years.
Tales"February 2005 column