SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
1997-2010, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved

 

DeWitt Colony Indian Encounters, Depredations and Tales 2

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William P. Brashear in the Lavaca River Valley, 1839.  From Indian Depredations in Texas by J.W. Wilberger.   Some very remarkable escapes have been made from Indians in Texas, of which I will mention one or two instances.  Mr. Brashear was one of the very few men I have met with in my life who never took any precautions against danger, and yet was perfectly cool and collected when danger came.  I do not believe he ever felt the sensation of fear.   He had a brother killed at Fannin's massacre, and, in consequence, he entertained the most inveterate hatred towards the Mexicans, and especially for Santa Anna.   After the Battle of San Jacinto [21 Apr 1836], and while Santa Anna was a prisoner at Velasco, Brashear went there as he told me himself, for the express purpose of shooting him on sight, but General Houston, in anticipation of some such attempt upon the life of the illustrious prisoner, had him surrounded constantly with a strong guard, whose orders were that no one with arms should have access to him; consequently, when Brashear applied for permission to see him, he was searched, and the pistol with which he had intended to revenge the death of his brother was found upon his person, and his request to see Santa Anna being refused, he remained at Velasco until Santa Anna left for the "States," hoping by some means to get a pop at him, but the opportunity never occurred. 

In 1839, Brashear went to Lavaca county for the purpose of locating lands, and whilst there he boarded at the house of a gentleman by the name of Henseley, who resided at one of the extreme frontier settlements.  Although that section of country was frequently visited by marauding bands of Indians, Brashear would often, in spite of Henseley's warnings, go out alone, and unarmed, to examine land, ten, fifteen, or twenty miles from the settlement.  Whenever Henseley told him he ran a great risk of having his hair lifted in riding about the country alone, his reply invariably was that he had no fear, as there was not an Indian in Texas who could catch him when he was mounted on "Get Out" as he called his half-bred Mexican horse.  One morning he left Henseley's with the intention of examining a tract of land ten miles west of the settlement, and, as usual, he had no arms with him more formidable than a pocket knife.   He reached the locality he wished
to examine, and was busily engaged in tracing a line with a pocket compass, when, on turning a point of post oak timber, he discovered about twenty Comanche warriors mounted upon their mustang ponies not more than a quarter of a mile distant.  As soon as the Indians saw him, they gave their war whoop and came swooping down upon him.  Brashear instantly wheeled his horse and started towards the settlement, the Indians following him and yelling and whooping like so many devils.  Brashear said that he was not at all frightened although he was unarmed, as he felt confident that "Git Out" could easily run away from the Indians on their ponies, but to his astonishment, before he had gone a mile he found the Indians were gaining upon him, and if something was not done and that pretty quickly they would overtake him long before he could reach Henseley settlement. 

About a mile ahead, he knew there was a creek called Boggy, which could only be crossed at a few localities.  He therefore determined to push "Git Out" to his utmost speed until he touched Boggy six or seven hundred yards below the crossing, and as soon as he was hid from view by the skirt of timber bordering the creek, to make a crossing and get back as quickly as possible opposite the point where he had entered the timber.  He therefore plied whip and spurs to "Git Out," in order to carry his plan into execution, and soon had the satisfaction of seeing that he was rapidly forging ahead of the Indians.  The moment he struck the timber on Boggy and his movements could not be seen by the Indians, he made for the ford, crossed it, and galloped down the creek until he supposed he was about opposite the place where the Indians had lost sight of him.  He had hardly reached this point when the Indians made their appearance, and seeing Brashear going off in a direct line, they naturally concluded he had crossed at that place.  Without halting for a moment, they plunged into the creek, and instantly their horses went down to their necks in the treacherous quicksand. While the Indians were vainly endeavoring to extricate their horses from the bog, Brashear said he could not resist the inclination to crow over them a little, which he did with some very expressive pantomime.  This made the Indians furious, and one or two who had scrambled out of the bog commenced shooting at him, whereupon Brashear bid them adieu and rode off leisurely, as he knew it would take some time to extricate their horses from the embraces of old Boggy. 

On another occasion, Brashear had a very close call from Indians while out hunting.  He had just killed a deer and had dismounted from his pony for the purpose of butchering it.  He was in the act of doing so, when he discovered a party of Indians half a mile distant coming towards him on their ponies at full speed.    Leaving his deer to be butchered at a more convenient opportunity, he hastily mounted his pony (he was not riding the redoubtable "Git Out" on that occasion) and started toward home, but he soon found the Indians were overhauling him.  About a half a mile ahead, there was a considerable elevation of the prairie, covered in places with a thick growth of chaparral, and Brashear made for it with all the speed he could get out of his pony with whip and spur.  As soon as he entered this chaparral and was hid from the view of his pursuers, he hastily dismounted, tied his pony to a bush and continued his retreat on foot.  His idea was, when the Indians came up and discovered his pony, they would naturally conclude he was secreted somewhere in the vicinity, and that before they found out their mistake, he would have sufficient time to make his escape.  His plan worked admirably and Brashear reached the settlement without seeing anything more of the Indians.  Then next morning in company with five or six men from the settlement, he went to the place where he had left his pony and found him still there.   It was evident, as Brashear had anticipated, that the Indians, when they came up and discovered the pony, supposed that his rider was concealed nearby, and knowing that he was armed, they had not dared venture within gunshot. 


Scalped by Proxy from Indian Depredations in Texas by Wilberger, 1838.  The following narrow escape by our old friend, John C. Duval, is given in bis own language:

In the spring of 1838, my friend W. P. Brashear and myself left the city of Houston for the purpose of locating lands in the southwestern part of the State. At that time the whole country, from the very suburbs of Houston to the Rio Grande, was infested by marauding parties of Comanches and other Indians, and we knew that our trip would be a dangerous one, but as we were both well mounted and armed, we concluded that with proper caution we could save our scalps, either by fighting or running, if we should encounter one of these hostile bands. The day before we reached Goliad we encamped at a deep, clear pool of water, some twelve or fifteen miles to the east of that place. I told Brashear I thought we would run great risk in stopping there, as I had been informed it was a favorite camping ground with the Indians, and proposed that we should travel on until night and then leave the road before we encamped. But Brashear, who had but lately recovered from a severe attack of fever and was still very weak, said it was impossible for him to travel any further, and that he would have to camp there and take the chances. This, of course, settled the matter, and we dismounted and staked our horses upon the grass that grew luxuriantly in the vicinity of the pool. As the sun was still more than an hour high, by way of passing the time I improvised some fishing tackle out of a bent pin and a few hairs out of my horse's tail and amused myself in catching perch, with which the pool was litpratly swarming. In less than half an hour I had as many as I wanted, and, returning to camp, I broiled them on the coals, and they made a very welcome addition to our hard tack and cup of black coffee.

After supper, while we were lazily reclining upon the green turf smoking our pipes, I happened to look toward a slight elevation a hundred yards or so from our camp, and I perceived some dark object cautiously creeping behind a tuft of bushes growing on top. At first I took it to be a wolf or some other wild animal, but I kept my eyes fixed upon the spot, and in a few moments I saw an Indian slowly raise his head above the top of the bushes. "Look at that little hill to the west," said I to Brashear, "and tell me what you see." Brashear turned his eyes in the direction indicated: "By Jove, there's an Indian there watching us from behind that clump of bushes," and he made a movement as if he was about to get up. "Keep quiet," said I; "and don't let him suspect we have discovered him. There is no doubt a band of Indians somewhere in our vicinity and they have sent that fellow to spy out our position. As soon as he leaves we will determine upon the best course to pursue. In the meantime," I added, "to convince him that we intend camping here for the night, I will go out and restake the horses upon fresh grass." Saying this, I leisurely got up, threw a quantity of wood on the fire and then went out and restaked the horses. Having done so, I returned to camp, took a seat near Brashear and began puffing away at my pipe.

"Now," said I, "that fellow watching us out yonder is satisfied we are going to remain here for the night, and he will soon leave to join his comrades and report to them what he has discovered." And, in fact, I had scarcely spoken when we saw his head slowly descend behind the bushes, and in a few moments his crouching form disappeared behind the hill. As soon as he was out of sight Brashear said: "Now, let's bring in the horses and leave here as quickly as possible." "No," said I, "that spy will report we are encamped here for the night, and our best plan will' be to remain here until dark, when we can leave without any fear of being seen." Brashear agreed to this, and while we were talking the matter over I said to him: "When I was a boy, my father once toll me how some hunters in the early settlement of Kentucky outgeneraled a party of Indians who were in pursuit of them." He said by some means the hunters had found out the Indians were following them, and a little before night they encamped near a dense thicket. After they bad eaten supper, they wrapped their blankets around them and lay down before the fire as if they had no suspicion of danger, and had fixed themselves for the night. But as soon as it was dark they quietly got up, and each one placed a log of wood where he had been lying, and covered it with his blanket in such a way as to make a pretty good imitation of a man asleep on the ground. They then hid themselves in the edge of the thicket and waited patiently for the denouement.

For more than two hours not a sound was heard except the distant howling of a pack of wolves, and the hunters finally came to the conclusion that the Indians, from some cause, had abandoned the idea of attacking them. But just as they were about to return to camp they descried a dozen dusky forms creeping stealthily towards it. The Indians approached to within a few yards of the camp, and until they could distinctly see (as they thought) by the light of the fire, that the hunters were all fast asleep, when they suddenly rose to their feet, fired a volley at the logs and then rushed upon their supposed victims with tomahawks and knives. Before they discovered their mistake and, while they were crowding around the camp fire, the hunters rose up from their ambuscade and poured a deadly volley in their midst, killing all but two, who made their escape under cover of the darkness.

"Now," said I, ' `I am going to see if we can't play the same game upon the rascals who are plotting to get possession of our scalps, but as there are only two of us and we do not know how many Indians may be in the vicinity it will be more prudent for us to change our base as quickly as possible after night sets in." We therefore went to work, and among some fallen timber we found a couple of logs of the requisite size which we laid near the fire and covered them with leaves and several old newspapers so as to resemble somewhat the bodies of men sleeping on the ground. As soon as it was dark we brought iri the horses, saddled them and took the road with as little noise as possible. We had traveled perhaps a m le or more when we heard a half dozen guns go off in the direction of our camp.

"The boys are catching it now," said Brashear, as he pushed ahead at a lively gait and I followed his example. When we had gone perhaps six or seven miles we turned off from the road, where it passed through a body of timber and where we knew it would be impossible for the Indians to follow our trail in the night. In half an hour or so we came to a dense growth of chapparal, through which we forced our way until we reached a small open piece of ground, where we dismounted and staked our horses. After we had fixed ourselves comfortably for a snoose on the soft green grass Brashear said: "Your old Kentucky plan of being shot and scalped by proxy is an admirable one and I shall recommend it to all those who are compelled to travel in this wooden country." "Yes," said I, "it is, and I have no doubt that hundreds who have been burnt or hung in effigy, would concur in the same opinion."  Three years ago I was traveling with a party of friends in southwest Texas and I proposed we should encamp on a certain night at the "watch hole," from which the Indians had routed Brashear and myself in 1838. I told them the pool was deep and clear and filled with fish. What was my astonishment when we came to it, or rather the place where it had been, to find it overgrown with weeds and as dry as a doodle bug's hole, with the exception of a small muddy puddle in the center filled with tadpoles instead of fish. The tramping of numerous herds of stock had entirely destroyed the beautiful clear pool that existed there in 1838. But it's an ill wind that blows no good and if we had no fish for supper and nothing but muddy water to drink we were not compelled, like Brashear and myself, to change our base for fear of Indians.


Moore's Great Victory on the Upper Colorado in 1840.  (From John Henry Brown's, The Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas).   Following Col. Moore's defeat on the San Saba in January, 1839, came the Cherokee battles, of July and December, and many encragements or calamities of lesser magnitude during that year, including, the massacre of the Webster party of fourteen men and one child and the capture of Mrs. Webster, her other two children and negro woman, on Brushy creek, in what is now Williamson County. In March, 1840, occurred the Council House fight, in San Antonio, and in August the great Indian raid to the coast, the robbery and burning of the village of Linnville, two miles above the present Lavaca, and the final defeat and dispersion of the Indians in the decisive battle of Plum Creek, on the 12th day of that month.

Following this last raid the veteran soldier, Col. John H. Moore, of Fayette, sent forth circulars ,calling for volunteers to again penetrate the country of the hostiles, on the upper waters of the Colorado, as another lesson to them that the whites were determined to either compel them to abstain from robbing, murdering and capturing their fellow-citizens or exterminate them. A prompt response followed, and about the first of October the expedition left Austin, at once entering the wilderness, Col. Moore commanded, with S. S. B. Fields, a lawyer of LaGrange, as Adjutant. Capts. Thomas J. Rabb and Nicholas Dawson, of Fayette, commanded the companies, the latter being the same who commanded and fell at the Dawson massacre in 1842. There were ninety men in all. Clark L. Owen, of Texana (who fell as a Captain, at Shiloh, in 1862), was First Lieutenant in Rabb's Company.  R. Addison Gillespie (who fell as a Captain of Texas rangers in storming the Bishop's palace at Monterey, in 1846), was one of the lieutenants, his brother being also along. Nearly all the men were from Fayette and Bastrop, but there were a few from the Lavaca, among whom I remember Isaac N. Mitchell, Mason B. Foley, Joseph Simons, of Texana, Nicholas J. Ryan and Peter Rockfeller (Simons and Rockfeller both dying in Mexican prisons, as Mier men in 1844 or 1845.) I started with these young men, then my neighbors, but was compelled to halt, on account of my horse being crippled at the head of the Navidad. Col. Moore also had with him a detachment of twelve Lipan Indians, commanded by Col. Castro, their principal chief, with the famous young chief Flacco as his Lieutenant.

The command followed up the valley of the Colorado, without encountering an enemy, till it reached a point now supposed to be in the region of Colorado City. The Lipan scouts were constantly in advance, and on the alert. Hastily returning, while in the vicinity mentioned, they reported the discovery of a Comanche encampment fifteen or twenty miles distant, on the east bank and in a small horseshoe bend of the Colorado, with a high and somewhat steep bluff on the opposite bank.  Col. Moore traveled by night to within a mile or two of the camp, and then halted. It was a clear, cold night in October, and the earth white with frost, probably two thousand feet above the sea level. The men shivered with cold, while the unsuspecting savages slept warmly under buffalo robes in their skin-covered tepees. In the meantime Moore detached Lieut. Owen, with thirty men, to cross the river below, move up and at dawn occupy the bluff. This movement was successfully effected, and all awaited the dawn for sufficient light to guide their movements.

The stalwart and gallant old leader, mounted on his favorite steed, with a few whispered words summoned every man to his saddle. Slowly, cautiously they moved till within three hundred yards of the camp, when the rumbling sound of moving horses struck the ear of a warrior on watch. His shrill yell sounded the alarm, and ere Moore, under a charge instantly ordered, could be in their midst, every warrior and many of the squaws had their bows strung and ready for fight. But pellmell the volunteers rushed upon and among them. The rifles, shot-guns and pistols of the white man, in a contest largely hand-to-hand, with fearful rapidity struck the red man to the earth. Surprised and at close quarters, the wild man, though fighting with desperation, shot too rapidly and wildly to be effective. Seeing their fate a considerable number swam the narrow river and essayed to escape by climbing the bluff. Some were shot in their ascent by Moore's men from across the stream and tumbled backwards. Every one who made the ascent to the summit of the bluff was confronted and slain by Owen's men. At the onset two horses were tied in the camp. On these two warriors escaped. Besides them, so far as could be ascertained, every warrior was killed, excepting a few old men and one or two young men, who surrendered and were spared.  Many of the Indian women, for a little while, fought as stoutly as the men and some were killed, despite every effort to save them.

In the charge Isaac Mitchell's bridle bit parted asunder and his mule rushed ahead into the midst of the Indians then halted and it sulked -- refused to move. A squaw seized a large billet of wood and by a blow on his head tumbled him to the ground; but he sprang to his feet, a little bewildered, and just as his comrades came by, seeing the squaw springing at him knife in hand, they sang out, "Kill her, Mitchell!"  With a smile, not untinged with pain, he replied:  "Oh, no, boys, I can't kill a woman!" But to prevent her killing himself, he knocked her down and wrenched the weapon from her hands.  A hundred and thirty Indians were left dead on the field. Thirty-four squaws and children and several hundred horses were brought in, besides such camp equipage as the men chose to carry with them, among, which were goods plundered at, Linnville the previous August.


Gonzales Raid of May 1841, Capt. Ben McCulloch in Pursuit (From John Henry Brown's, The Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas). Late in April, or early in May 1841, a party of twenty-two Indians made a night raid into and around Gonzales, captured a considerable number of horses and, ere daylight came, were in rapid flight to their mountain home. It was but one of oft-recurring inroads, the majority of which will never be known in history. In this case, however, as in many others, I am enabled to narrate every material fact, and render justice to the handful of gallant men who pursued and chastised the freebooters.

Ben McCulloch called for volunteers; but not, as was most usual, to hurry off in pursuit. He knew the difficulty and uncertainty of overhauling retreating savages, with abundant horses for frequent change, and preferred waiting a few days, thereby inducing the red men, who always kept scouts in the rear, to believe no pursuit would be made, and in this he was successful.

When ready, McCulloch set forth with the following sixteen companions, every one of whom was personally well known to the writer as a brave and useful frontiersman, viz: Arthur Swift, James H. Callahan (himself often a captain), Wilson Randle, Green McCoy (the Gonzales boy who was in Erath's fight in Milam County in 1837, when his uncle, David Clark, and Frank Childress, were killed), Eli T. Hankins, Clement Hinds, Archibald Gipson (a daring soldier in many fights, from 1836 to 1851,) W. A. Hall, Henry E. McCulloch, James Roberts, Jeremiah Roberts, Thomas R. Nichols, William Tumlinson, William P. Kincannon, Alsey S. Miller, and William Morrison.

They struck the Indian trail where it crossed the San Marcos at the mouth of Mule creek and followed it north westwardly up and to the head of York's creek; thence through the mountains to the Guadalupe, and up that stream to what is now known as Johnson's Fork, which is the principal mountain tributary to the Guadalupe on the north side. The trail was followed along, this fork to its source, and thence northwestwardly to the head of what is now known as "Johnson's Fork" of the Llano, and down this to its Junction with the Llano. Before reaching the latter point McCulloch halted in a secluded locality, satisfied that he was near the enemy, and in person made a reconnaissance of their position, and with such accuracy that he was enabled to move on foot so near to the encampment as, at daylight, to completely surprise the Indians. The conflict was short. Five warriors lay dead upon the ground. Half of the remainder escaped wounded, so that of twenty-two only about eight escaped unhurt; but their number had probably been increased after reaching that section. The Indians lost ever thing excepting their arms. Their horses, saddles, equipages, blankets, robes, and even their moccasins were captured. It was not only a surprise to them, but a significant warning, as they had no dread of being hunted down and punished in that distant and remarkably secluded locality. In March and April, 1865, in command of 183 men, the writer, as a Confederate officer, made a campaign through and above that country, following the identical route from the mouth of Johnson's Fork of the Guadalupe to the spot where this conflict took place twenty-four years before, and found it still a wild mountain region---still a hiding-place for savage red men, and at that particular period, for lawless and disreputable white men.


SONS OF DEWITT COLONY TEXAS
1997-2010, Wallace L. McKeehan, All Rights Reserved