and the Battle of Plum Creek
few years ago, I obtained a copy of the new book, They Rode for the Lone Star
by Thomas W. Knowles. This saga of the Texas Rangers was the first of a
two-part volume with the second book due to be published at a later date.|
first volume takes the Rangers through what Knowles describes as a "unique cultural
evolution." The book addresses the story of the Texas Rangers from the colonial
era in Texas (under Mexican rule) to the time of the Civil War.|
book has been endorsed by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. It is being
promoted as the definitive testament to the brave men of the Texas Rangers. I
am inclined to agree. It is apparent that the author has done considerable research
about the citizen-soldier and lawman of frontier Texas.
Knowles does a good job telling the story about a battle with the Comanche Indians
on Plum Creek. This event happened near Lockhart,
Texas, and men from what would later become Lavaca and Gonzales Counties were
involved in the fight. |
The Plum Creek confrontation was the climax of
events that began in early August of 1840. It seems that a large band of Comanches,
estimated at 600 to 1000, slipped down from the plains towards the South Texas
coast with the intentions of raiding the town of Victoria.
That place was one of the major settlements - it was also an important trade and
The Texas defenders kept the Indians from reaching the
downtown section and the attackers had to be content with looting the outskirts
and making off with a huge herd of horses. The raiders moved on to the port village
of Linnville where most
of the inhabitants managed to escape to the bay in boats. From here they watched,
in horror, as the Comanches butchered a few unfortunate stragglers.
looting Linnville of
goods from the warehouses, the Indians torched the settlement and began their
trek back to the plains with a number of captives - most of them women and children.
the Indians were creating havoc on the coast, word of the attack was racing through
the settlements. The Comanches had left an easy trail across the prairie and volunteer
forces from around the area were gathering for an attack of their own.
McCulloch gathered up 24 volunteers from Gonzales
and joined up with Capt. John J. Tumlinson's force of 100 militiamen. Other groups
lead by Adam Zumwalt and Clark Owen were also involved in the action.
Texans first encounter with the raiders occurred on August 9, 1840, at the Casa
Blanca River crossing. Here after a heated battle, one Texan was killed. Despite
the objections of McCulloch, Tumlinson decided to withdraw and wait for reinforcements
Col. Edward Burleson's militia force finally arrived with a
group of Tonkawa scouts led by Chief Placido. The scouts traveled on foot for
thirty miles running along side the militia's horses. It was Burleson's plan to
attack the Comanches at Plum Creek.
they arrived at the creek, they found 117 men from Gonzales
waiting for the Comanches. These men were led by Capt. Matthew Caldwell and Capt.
James Bird. Later, more soldiers arrived from Port
Lavaca and Jack Hays brought in a company from Béxar. About 200 strong, this
was reported as the largest group of militia gathered in one place since the Texas
Revolution. Gen. Felix Houston arrived and took over sole command of the unit.
The trap was set. As the Comanches continued their ride north, they soon
found themselves confronting a long line of vengeful Texans - the battle began
on August 12, 1840.
According to some witnesses, a brave warrior who
seemed to have his own magic way of avoiding the Texan's bullets led the Comanches.
Adorned with loot from the raid he charged towards the militia until his tall
silk hat and silk umbrella was completely shot away. The grim frontiersmen were
impressed with the bravery of the Indians and were astonished at the way they
seemed to dodge their bullets.
The Comanche leader was finally killed and
the others retreated in the face of a ferocious Texan charge into the main formation
of the Indians. After the smoke had cleared, 87 of the Comanche raiders lay dead.
The Texans lost only one man with seven being wounded.
The Comanche attack
on the South Texas coast has long been known as the last great raid by the Indians.
The Texan's had hoped that their victory at Plum Creek would teach the Comanches
a lesson and would put a stop to the raids on the Texas settlements.
was only wishful thinking however, as the Indians would continue with smaller
lightning-fast raids along the frontier from Gonzales
to the northern settlements. The war with the tenacious Comanche would continue
on for several decades.