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The Battle of Walker Creek

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox

A viscious and bloody fight, the Battle of Walker Creek certainly does not rank as one of Texas’s largest or better-known engagements, but the affair has a significance beyond its numbers.

On June 8, 1844, returning from a fruitless scout for Indians, a company of Texas Rangers under John Coffee “Jack” Hays camped at a point he later described as “four miles east of the Pinto trace . . . nearly equally distant from Bexar, Gonzalez and Austin.”

Wise in the ways of the Comanche, Hays had detailed one of his men to lag behind, alert to the possibility of their being backtracked. The rear guard rode into the ranger camp and told Hays he had found 10 sets of Indian pony tracks following the rangers’ trail. Looking in the direction his ranger had ridden in from, Hays soon spotted several Indians in the distance, but they quickly faded into the brush.

Ordering his men to mount, Hays rode toward the trees. As the rangers advanced, three or four warriors emerged from cover and made a show of surprise at seeing the rangers. Then they fled back into the brush on the east bank of what is believed to be Walker’s Creek in present Kendall County.

“Hays, however, was too old an ‘Indian fighter’ to be caught by such traps and made no efforts at pursuit,” the Clarksville Northern Standard later reported. “As soon as the Indians saw this strategy was of no avail, they came out of the timber and displayed their whole force in line, some 75 in number.”

The ranger captain had only 15 men, but each of them carried a new five-shot Patterson Colt revolver. Slowly, the rangers advanced. Having higher ground behind them, the Indians fell back, moving to an even more advantageous position. At the crown of the hill, the Comanches dismounted. Brandishing their lances and raising and lowering their buffalo-hide shields, some of them knew enough English to taunt the rangers with cries of “Charge! Charge!”

Rather than charge uphill, which was precisely what the Indians wanted, unseen by his foe, Hays spurred his horse and wheeled around the rocky prominence. The rangers followed, circling to the Comanche’s exposed flank.

Now the Indians got their charge, but from an unanticipated direction. Seeing the Texians galloping toward them on level ground, the warriors remounted. The shock of the charge broke the Indian line, but only for a moment. Regrouping, they split and attacked from two sides.

“Back to back, the Texians received them and the close and deadly fire of their pistols emptied many a saddle,” the Clarksville newspaper reported. “Thus, hand to hand the fight lasted fifteen minutes, the Indians using their spears and arrows, the Texians their repeating pistols. Scarcely a [ranger]… was not grazed . . . their gun stocks, knife handles and saddles perforated in many places.”

At the end of a two-mile running fight, the chief rallied his warriors, enjoining them to turn and face the Texans. Like the rangers, the Indians also had a brave leader.

“[One of their chiefs] dashed backward and forward amongst his men to bring them back to the charge,” the newspaper continued. “The Texians had exhausted nearly all their shot. Hays called out to learn who had a loaded gun. [Robert] Gillespie rode forward and answered he was charged. ‘Dismount and shoot the chief,’ was the order. At a distance of thirty steps, the ball performed its office and, madly dashing a few yards, the gallant Indian fell to rise no more.”

When the last white clouds of gun smoke blew away, 20 Comanches lay dead. Another 30 Indians had suffered wounds. Only three rangers had been wounded, including slim, red-headed Samuel Walker, pinned to the ground with a Comanche lance through his body.

The rangers remained in the area, nursing their wounded. Three days later, four Indians probably intent on reclaiming their dead showed up at the battleground, where the rangers remained in camp. Hays attacked again, killing three more warriors. During this clash, German-born ranger Peter Fohr suffered a wound from which he died three days later, the only fatality among Hays’s men.


So what were the consequences of the fight?

First, Walker’s Creek showed the Comanches that they could never prevail against the growing number of Texans and the technology they could bring to bear.

Second, the fight changed ranger tactics in dealing with Indians. Rangers now knew they could successfully take the fight to the Indians and engage them on horseback.

Third, during the Mexican War, fight survivor Samuel Walker met with Samuel Colt and persuaded him to improve his revolvers by adding a sixth cylinder chamber. A military contract Walker helped make possible kept Colt in business, and resulted in the prototype of the handgun that helped win the west.

Fourth, the fight near Walker Creek went a long way toward establishing the enduring reputation of Hays as an extraordinary captain and the Texas Rangers as an organization not to be underestimated.

As Yellow Wolf supposedly later said, “I will never again fight Jack Hays, who has a shot for every finger on the hand."



© Mike Cox - June 12, 2014 column
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