Report of the Council House Fight, 19 March 1840 by Commissioner McLeod. Increasing resistance of Republic of Texas minutemen to Comanche theft, vandalism and depredation in the Republic led to a proposal of Comanche chiefs for a lasting peace. The Chiefs and Republic of Texas officials, Col. Hugh McLeod and William S. Fisher agreed to a meeting in San Antonio in which 13 known kidnap victims held by Comanches would be released. For security, two companies of Col. Fisher's Regulars were placed at the site. The Comanches arrived with only hostage Matilda Lockhart who had been captured in 1838 (see Putman-Lockhart Kidnappings). They were asked why the others were not brought in as had been agreed upon. The leading chief of the Comanches replied that Matilda Lockhart was their only prisoner and that the others were scattered among other tribes. This was disputed by Matilda Lockhart. She quietly informed Colonel Karnes and the commissioners that the other prisoners were left in the Indian camp and were planned to be used for ransom payments. The chiefs were told by Colonel Karnes and should be kept as prisoners until all the commissioners that they had violated their pledge and that they the women and children held by them were brought in, according to agreement; that they might send their young men to the tribe for the other captives and as soon as they were delivered, his juncture Captain Howard they would be liberated. At posted sentinels at the doors and drew up his men across the room. Commissioner McLeod reported the event as follows:
"We told the Indian chiefs that the soldiers they saw were their guards, and descended from the platform. The chiefs immediately followed. One sprang to the back door and attempted to pass the sentinel who presented his musket, when the chief drew his knife and stabbed him. A rush was made to the door. Captain Howard collared one of them and received a severe stab from him in the side. He ordered the sentinel to fire upon him, which he immediately did, and the Indian fell dead. They then all drew their knives and bows and evidently resolved to fight to the last. Colonel Fisher ordered his men to fire if they did not desist. The Indians rushed on, attacking us desperately, and a general order to fire became necessary. After a short but desperate struggle every one of the twelve chiefs and captains in the council lay dead upon the floor, but not until, in the hand to hand struggle, they had wounded a number of persons. The indoor being finished, Captain Howard's company was formed in front to prevent retreat in that direction, but in consequence of his wound he was relieved by Captain Gillen, who commanded the Company until the close of the action. Captain Redd whose company was formed in the rear of the building, was attacked in the yard by the warriors who fought like wild beasts. The Indians took refuge in some stone buildings from which they kept up a galling fire with bows and arrows and a few rifles. Their arrows, wherever they struck one of our men, were driven to the feathers. A small number of Indians escaped across the river, but they were pursued by Major Lysander Wells with a few mounted men, and all killed. The only one of the warriors in the council house who escaped was a renegade Mexican. He was among those who slipped away unobserved. A single warrior took refuge in a stone building refusing every overture sent him by squaws and succeeded in killing and wounding several until after nightfall when a bag of rags soaked in turpentine and ignited, was dropped through the smoke escape in the roof onto his head. Thus in a flame of fire he sprang through the door and was riddled with bullets. In such an action---so unexpected, so sudden and terrible---it was impossible at times to distinguish between the sexes and three squaws were killed. The short struggle was fruitful in blood. Our losses were, killed: Judge Hood, San Antonio; Judge Thompson, Houston; a Mr. Carey of Matagorda County; Lieutenant W. Al. Dunilington, first infantry; privates Kaminske and Whitney, and a Mexican. The wounded were: Captain George F. Howard, Lieutenant Edward A. Thompson, Private Kelley, Captain Mathew Caldwell, Judge James W. Robinson, and Messrs. Morgan, Carson and Higginbotham. The Indian loss was thirty chiefs and warriors, three squaws and two children killed. Prisoners taken included twenty-seven women and children and two old men. Over a hundred horses and a large quantity of buffalo robes and peltries remained for the victors. By request of the prisoners an old squaw was released, mounted, provisioned and allowed to go to her people and say to them that the prisoners would be released whenever the Texas prisoners held by the Indians were brought in. A short time afterwards, a party of Comanches displayed a white flag on a hill some distance from town, evidently afraid to come nearer. When a flag was sent out, it was found that they had brought in several white children to exchange for the imprisoned Indians. The exchange was made and the Indians hurried back to their camps."
Description of The Council House Fight, Mary A. Maverick, 1896. [Photo: Mary A. Maverick and children]. A DAY OF HORRORS. On Tuesday, 19th of March, 1840, "dia de San Jose" sixty-five Comanches came into town to make a treaty of peace. They brought with them, and reluctantly gave up, Matilda Lockhart, whom they had captured with her younger sister in December 1838, after killing two other children of her family. The Indian chiefs and men met in council at the Court House, with our city and military authorities. The calaboose or jail then occupied the corner formed by the east line of Main Plaza and the north line of Calabosa (now Market) Street, and the Court House was north of and adjoining the hall. The Court House yard, back of the Court House, was what is now the city market on Market Street. The Court House and jail were of stone, one story, flat roofed, and floored with dirt. Captain Tom Howard's Company was at first in the Court House yard, where the Indian women and boys came and remained during the pow-wow. The young Indians amused themselves shooting arrows at pieces of money put up by some of the Americans; and Mrs. Higginbotham and myself amused ourselves looking through the picket fence at them. This was the third time these Indians had come for a talk, pretending to seek peace, and trying to get ransom money for their American and Mexican captives. Their proposition now was that they should be paid a great price for Matilda Lockhart, and a Mexican they had just given up, and that traders be sent with paint, powder, flannel, blankets and such other articles as they should name, to ransom the other captives. This course had once before been asked and carried out, but the smallpox breaking out, the Indians killed the traders and kept the goods---believing the traders had made the smallpox to kill them. Now the Americans, mindful of the treachery of the Comanches, answered them as follows:
"We will according to a former agreement, keep four or five of your chiefs, whilst the others of your people go to your nation and bring all the captives, and then we will pay all you ask for them. Meanwhile, these chiefs we hold we will treat as brothers and 'not one hair of their heads shall be injured.' This we have determined, and, if you try to fight, our soldiers will shoot you down."
This being interpreted, the Comanches instantly, with one accord raised a terrific war-whoop, drew their arrows, and commenced firing with deadly effect, at the same time making efforts to break out of the council hall. The order "fire" was given by Captain Howard (photo), and the soldiers fired into the midst of the crowd, the first volley killing several Indians and two of our own people. All soon rushed out into the public square, the civilians to procure arms, the Indians to flee, and the soldiers in pursuit. The Indians generally made for the river-they ran up Soledad, east on Commerce Street and for the bend, now known as Bowen's, southeast, below the square. Citizens and soldiers pursued and overtook them at all points, shot some swimming in the river, had desperate fights in the streets and hand to hand encounters after firearms had been exhausted. Some Indians took refuge in stone houses and fastened the doors. Not one of the sixty-five Indians escaped-thirty-three were killed and thirty-two were taken prisoners. Six Americans and one Mexican were killed and ten Americans wounded. Our killed were Julian Hood, the sheriff, Judge Thompson, advocate from South Carolina, G. W. Cayce from the Brazos, one officer and two soldiers whose names I did not learn, nor that of the Mexican. The wounded were Lieutenant Thompson, brother of the Judge, Captain Tom Howard, Captain Mat Caldwell, citizen volunteer from Gonzales, Judge Robinson, Mr. Morgan, deputy sheriff, Mr. Higginbotham and two soldiers. Others were slightly wounded.
When the deafening war whoop sounded in the Court room, it was so loud, so shrill and so inexpressibly horrible and suddenly raised, that we women looking through the fence at the women's and boy's marksmanship for a moment could not comprehend its purport. The Indians however knew the first note and instantly shot their arrows into the bodies of Judge Thompson and the other gentleman near by, instantly killing Judge Thompson. We fled into Mrs. Higginbotham's house and I, across the street to my Commerce Street door. Two Indians ran past me on the street and one reached my door as I got in. He turned to raise his hand to push it just as I beat down the heavy bar; then he ran on. I ran in the north room and saw my husband and brother Andrew sitting calmly at a table inspecting some plats of surveys-they had heard nothing. I soon gave them the alarm, and hurried on to look for my boys. Mr. Maverick and Andrew seized their arms, always ready, Mr. Maverick rushed into the street, and Andrew into the back yard where I was shouting at the top of my voice "Here are Indians!" "Here are Indians" Three Indians had gotten in through the gate on Soledad street and were making direct for the river! One had paused near Jinny Anderson, our cook, who stood bravely in front of the children, mine and hers, with a great rock lifted in both hands above her head, and I heard her cry out to the Indian "If you don't go 'way from here I'll mash your head with this rock!" The Indian seemed regretful that he hadn't time to dispatch Jinny and her brood, but his time was short, and pausing but a moment, he dashed down the bank into the river and struck out for the opposite shore. As the Indian hurried down the bank and into the river Andrew shot and killed him, and shot another as he gained and rose on the opposite bank, then he ran off up Soledad street looking for more Indians. I housed my little ones, and then looked out of the Soledad Street door. Near by was stretched an Indian, wounded and dying. A large man, journey-apprentice to Mr. Higginbotham, came up just then and aimed a pistol at the Indian's head. I called out: "Oh, don't, he is dying," and the big American laughed and said: "To please you, I won't, but it would put him out of his misery." Then I saw two others lying dead near by.
Captain Lysander Wells, about this time, passed by riding north on Soledad Street. He was elegantly dressed and mounted on a gaily caparisoned Mexican horse with silver mounted saddle and bridle-which outfit he had secured to take back to his native state, on a visit to his mother. As he reached the Verimendi House, an Indian who had escaped detection, sprang up behind him, clasped Wells' arms in his and tried to catch hold of the bridle reins. Wells was fearless and active. They struggled for some time, bent back and forward, swayed from side to side, till at last Wells held the Indian's wrists with his left hand, drew his pistol from the holster, partly turned, and fired into the Indian's body-a moment more and the Indian rolled off and dropped dead to the ground. Wells then put spurs to his horse which had stood almost still during the struggle, dashed up the street and did good service in the pursuit. I had become so fascinated by this struggle that I had gone into the street almost breathless, and wholly unconscious of where I was, till recalled by the voice of Lieutenant Chavallier who said: "Are you crazy? Go in or you will be killed." I went in but without feeling any fear, though the street was almost deserted and my husband and brother both gone in the fight. I then looked out on Commerce street and saw four or five dead Indians. I was just twenty-two then, and was endowed with a fair share of curiosity. Not till dark did all our men get back, and I was grateful to God, indeed, to see my husband and brother back alive and not wounded.
Captain Mat Caldwell, or "Old Paint," as he was familiarly called, our guest from Gonzales, was an old and famous Indian fighter. He had gone from our house to the Council Hall unarmed. But when the fight began, he wrenched a gun from an Indian and killed him with it, and beat another to death with the butt end of the gun. He was shot through the right leg, wounded as he thought by the first volley of the soldiers. After breaking the gun, he then fought with rocks, with his back to the Court House wall. Young G. W. Cayce had called on us that morning, bringing an introductory letter from his father to Mr. Maverick, and placing some papers in his charge. He was a very pleasant and handsome young man and it was reported, came to marry Gertrudes Navarro, Mrs. Dr. Alsbury's sister. He left our house when I did, I going to Mrs. Higginbotham's and he to the Council Hall. He stood in the front door of the Court House, was shot and instantly killed at the beginning of the fight, and fell by the side of Captain Caldwell. The brother of this young man afterwards told me he had left home with premonition of his death being very near. Captain Caldwell was assisted back to our house and Dr. Weideman came and cut off his boot and found the bullet had gone entirely through the leg, and lodged in the boot, where it was discovered. The wound, though not dangerous, was very painful, but the doughty Captain recovered rapidly and in a few days walked about with the aid of a stick.
After the captain had been cared for, I ran across to Mrs. Higginbotham's. Mr. Higginbotham, who was as peaceful as a Quaker to all appearances, had been in the fight and had received a slight wound. They could not go into their back yard, because two Indians had taken refuge in their kitchen, and refused to come out or surrender as prisoners when the interpreter had summoned them. A number of young men took counsel together that night, and agreed upon a plan. Anton Lockmar and another got on the roof, and, about two hours after midnight dropped a candlewick ball soaked in turpentine, and blazing, through a hole in the roof upon one Indian's head and so hurt him and frightened them both that they opened the door and rushed out to their death. An axe split open the head of one of the Indians before he was well out of the door, and the other was killed before he had gone many steps thus the last of the sixty-five were taken. The Indian women dressed and fought like the men, and could not be told apart. As I have said thirty-three were killed and thirty-two taken prisoners. Many of them were repeatedly summoned to surrender, but numbers refused and were killed. All had a chance to surrender, and every one who offered or agreed to give up was taken prisoner and protected.
What a day of horrors! And the night was as bad which followed. Lieutenant Thompson, who had been shot through the lungs, was taken to Madam Santita's house, on Soledad Street, just opposite us, and that night he vomited blood and cried and groaned all night. I shall never forget his gasping for breath and his agonizing cries. Dr. Weideman sat by and watched him, or only left to see the other sufferers, nearby; no one thought he would live till day, but he did, and got to be well and strong again, and in a few weeks walked out. The captive Indians were all put in the calaboose for a few days and while they were there our forces entered into a twelve days truce with them---the captives acting for their Nation. And, in accordance with the stipulations of the treaty, one of the captives, an Indian woman, widow of a chief, was released on the 20th, the day after the fight. She was given a horse and provisions and sent to her Nation to tell her people of the fight and its result. She was charged to tell them, in accordance with the truce, to bring in all their captives, known to be fifteen Americans and several Mexicans, and exchange them for the thirty-two Indians held. She seemed eager to effect this, and promised. to do her best. She said she would travel day and night, and could go and return within five days. The other prisoners thought she could in five days return with the captives from the tribe. The Americans said "very well we give twelve days truce and if you do not get back by Thursday night of the 28th, these prisoners shall be killed, for we will know you have killed our captive friends and relatives."
(Left: 1837 watercolor of the Alamo by Mary Adams Maverick, wife of Samuel Maverick). In April, as I shall mention again, we were informed by a boy, named B. L. Webster, that when the squaw reached her tribe and told of the disaster, all the Comanches howled, and cut themselves with knives, and killed horses, for several days. And they took all the American captives, thirteen in number, and roasted and butchered them to death with horrible cruelties; that he and a little girl named Putman, five years old, had been spared because they had previously been adopted into the tribe. Our people did not, however, retaliate upon the captives in our hands. The captive Indians were all put into the calaboose, corner Market Street and the public square and adjoining the courthouse, where all the people in San Antonio went to see them. The Indians expected to be killed, and they did not understand nor trust the kindness which was shown them and the great pity manifested toward them. They were first removed to San Jose Mission, where a company of soldiers was stationed, and afterwards taken to Camp "Cook," named after W. G. Cook, at the head of the river, and strictly guarded for a time. But afterwards the strictness was relaxed, and they gradually all, except a few, who were exchanged, escaped and returned to their tribe. They were kindly treated and two or three of them were taken into families as domestics, and were taught some little, but they too, at last, silently stole away to their ancient freedom.
Miscellaneous Reports of Raid on Linnville and Plum Creek from Lavaca River Men under Capt. "Black" Adam Zumwalt.
On Plum Creek, Aug. 12, 1840
I arrived here yesterday evening and found Captain Caldwell encamped on Plum Creek with about one hundred men. This morning I was requested to take command, which I did with the consent of the men. I organized them into companies, under command of Captains Caldwell, Bird and Ward, About six o'clock the spies reported that the Indians were approaching Plum Creek. I crossed above the trail about three miles and passed down on the west side; on arriving near the trail I was joined by Colonel Burleson with about one hundred men, under the command of Colonel Jones, Lieutenant-Colonel Wallace and Major Hardeman. I immediately formed into two lines, the right commanded by Colonel Anderson and the left commanded by Captain Caldwell, with a reserve commanded by Major Hardeman, with Captain Ward's company. On advancing near the Indians they formed for action, with a front of woods on their right (which they occupied), their lines nearly a quarter of a mile into the prairie. I dismounted my men and a handsome fire was opened-the Indian chiefs cavorting around in splendid style, in front and flank, finely mounted, and dressed in all the splendor of Comanche warfare. At this time several Indians fell from their horses, and we had three or four of our men wounded. I ordered Colonel Burleson, with the right wing, to move around the point of woods, and Captain Caldwell, with the left wing, to charge into the woods; which movements were executed in gallant style. The Indians did not stand the charge, and fled at all points. From that time there was a warm and spirited pursuit for fifteen miles, the Indians scattered, mostly abandoning their horses and taking to the thickets. Nothing could exceed the animation of the men, and the cool and steady manner in which they would dismount and deliver their fire. Upwards of forty Indians were killed, two prisoners (a squaw and child) taken---we have taken upwards of two hundred horses and mules, and many of them heavily packed with the plunder of Linnville and the lower country. There is still a large number of good horses and mules which are not gathered up. Of the captives taken by the Indians below we have only been able to retake one---Mrs. Watts of Linnville, who was wounded by the Indians with an arrow when they fled. Mrs. Crosby was speared and we understand that all the others were killed. We have lost one killed and seven wounded, one mortally. I cannot speak too highly of the Colorado, Guadalupe and Lavaca militia, assembled so hastily together and without organization. I was assisted by Major Izod, Colonel Bell, Captain Howard and Captain Nell, as volunteer aids, all of whom rendered essential service. Colonel Burleson acted with that cool, deliberate and prompt courage and conduct which he has so often and gallantly displayed in almost every Indian and Mexican battle since the war commenced. Captain Caldwell, also a tried Indian fighter, led on his wing to the charge with a bold front and a cheerful heart. Colonel Jones, Lieutenant-Colonel Wallace, Major Hardeman, and each of the captains commanding companies, acted with the utmost courage and firmness.
To conclude, I believe we have given the Comanches a lesson which they
will long remember; near four hundred of their brave warriors have been defeated by half
their number, and I hope and trust that this will be the last of their depredations on our
frontier. On tomorrow I contemplate embodying as many men as can, and if we have a
sufficient number of good horses, pursue the Indians in the hopes that we may overtake
them before they reach the mountains. Colonel Moore joined us this evening with about one
hundred and seventy men; horses very hard ridden. I have the honor to be your most
The Battle of Plum Creek from Life of Robert Hall by "Brazos" 1898: The greatest battle that we ever had with the Comanches was the battle of Plum Creek. The generals of the little Texas army in this short campaign exhibited military ability of the very highest order, while the soldiers exposed themselves with reckless daring and charged at the word of command like Grecian heroes. Every man did his duty. The Comanches were greatly superior to us in number, but the battle was a crushing defeat, and was the end of the long reign of terror of these terrible red devils in Texas.
About five hundred Comanches, well armed and mounted on their best horses, slipped over the border and suddenly appeared in the vicinity of Victoria. They plundered and sacked the little town of Linnville and robbed every store and every house of everything valuable. Their dash into this part of the country was a complete surprise. As the long column marched across the prairies it presented a ludicrous sight. The naked warriors had tried to dress themselves in the clothing they had stolen. Many of them put on cloth coats and buttoned them behind. Most of them had on stolen shoes and hats. They spread the calico over their horses, and tied hundreds of yards of ribbon in their horses' manes and to their tails. These Indians had been preparing for this raid for a long time. They all had new white shields, and many of the warriors had long tails to their headgear.
We got the news at Gonzales that a strong column of Comanches had passed into the lower country, and we at once got into the saddle and marched to the rescue of our friends. We camped at Isham Good's first, and, not hearing any news, we were about to return home, when Ben McCulloch rode into camp. Goat Jones was with him. They reported that the Indians had plundered the lower country, and were returning on the same trail. Capt. Caldwell asked me to take a good man and scout to the front and see if I could see anything of the Indians. I took John Baker, and we rode all night. About daylight we came in sight of the Indians, about seven miles from our camp. We rode back and reported.
During my absence Gen. Felix Huston had been elected to the command of the army, and Ed Burleson had joined us with about one hundred men, including some fifteen Tonkaways. Gen. Huston asked me to take five picked men and ride to the front and select a good position to make the attack. I came in sight of them. They were on the prairie, and the column looked to be seven miles long. Here I witnessed a horrible sight. A captain and one man rode in among the Indians. The captain escaped, but I saw the Indians kill the private. I ordered my men to keep at a safe distance and pick off an Indian as the opportunity presented.
We skirmished with them for about two miles, when our army came up in fine and opened fire. It looked as if we were taking desperate chances, for I am sure that we only had 202 men, but every man was a veteran. Gen. Huston deserves great credit for the courage he displayed in this battle. He rode right with the fine, and never flinched under the most galling fire. At the first volley the Indians became demoralized, and it was easy to see that we had them beat just as we rode against them I received a bullet in the thigh. It made a terrible wound, and the blood ran until it sloshed out of my boots. I was compelled to dismount, or rather I fell off of my horse. After a moment I felt better and made an effort to rejoin the line of battle. I met an Indian, and was just in the act of shooting him when he threw up his hands and shouted "Tonkaway!"
While on the skirmish fine, an Indian dashed at Mr. Smitzer with a lance. I fired right in the Indian's face and knocked him off his horse, but I did not kill him. However, I got the fine hat he had stolen. While I was scrambling about, trying to staunch the blood that was flowing from my leg, I came across a great big fat negro woman, who was hiding in the grass. She no sooner saw me than she exclaimed: "Bless God, here is a white man once more." Her little child was hiding in the grass just like a frightened animal. If it had been big enough it would have run from me like a deer. Not far from the old Negro I found the body of Mrs. Crosby. There were two arrows in her body. They had passed clear through her. She was just gasping in death. She had been a prisoner, and the red devils had killed her when they saw they were defeated.
A little further on I found Mrs. Watts. They had shot an arrow at her breast, but her steel corset saved her life. It had entered her body, but Isham Good and I fastened a big pocket knife on the arrow and pulled it out. She possessed great fortitude, for she never flinched, though we could hear the breastbone crack when the arrow came out. She turned over on her side and bled a great deal, but she soon recovered. She was the wife of a custom house officer, and I think her maiden name was Ewing. She asked for poor Mrs. Crosby and told us that the Indians whipped the poor woman frequently and called her a "peon," because she could not read. They had stolen several books, and when in camp at night they would gather around Mrs. Watts and ask her to explain the pictures and read to them. Mrs. Watts' husband had been killed when the Indians sacked Linnville. She afterwards married Dr. Fretwell, and resided in Port Lavaca.
It has always been a mystery to me why the Indians became so terribly demoralized in this battle. It was fought on the open prairie, and they could easily see that they greatly outnumbered us. It is rather strange that they did not make a stand. It was one of the prettiest sights I ever saw in my life. The warriors flourished their white shields, and the young chiefs galloped about the field with the long tails streaming from their hats and hundreds of vari-colored ribbons floating in the air, exhibiting great bravado. Some of them dashed courageously very close to us, and two or three of them lost their lives in this foolhardy display of valor. Our boys charged with a yell and did not fire until they got close to the enemy. The Indians were panic stricken, and fled at once. The Texans followed them over the prairies for fifteen or twenty miles.
That night, around the camp-fire, many strange stories were told. One of the strangest was of an old black chief, whose head looked as if it had been nearly blown off. He gripped the horn of his saddle with his hands, and dozens of the boys declared that they struck him on the head with the butt of their muskets as they passed him. No blow could make him release his hold. Though dead and stiff, he remained on his war-horse. There was a good deal of talk of it at the time. I had almost forgotten the incident when I read the story of the headless rider of Woerth. This occurred during the Franco-German war. Newspaper readers will remember that a French colonel had his head shot off with a cannon ball, but he did not fall from his horse. The furious animal galloped about over the field during the whole battle, carrying on his back the headless colonel. Scientists talked and wrote about the affair and offered some sort of an explanation. I think they sald that the muscles in death became so rigid that no earthly power could cause them to relax. This must have been the case with the old Indian, for dozens of truthful men declared that he was as dead as a door nail, but that he still clung to his horse. The horse ran off in the woods with him, and his body was never found.
From the best information I could gather I think the boys killed about forty of the Comanches. We lost not a man, but seven were wounded: Robert Hall, Henry McCulloch, Arch Gibson, Columbus DeWitt, Dr. Smitzer, and two others, whose names I don't remember. The Tonkaways brought in the dead body of a Comanche warrior, and they built a big fire not far from where I was lying. My wound had begun to pain me considerably, and I did not pay much attention to them for some time. After awhile they began to sing and dance, and I thought that I detected the odor of burning flesh. I raised up and looked around, and, sure enough, our allies were cooking the Comanche warrior. They cut him into slices and broiled him on sticks. Curiously enough the eating of the flesh acted upon them as liquor does upon other men. After a few mouthfuls they began to act as if they were very drunk, and I don't think there was much pretense or sham about it. They danced, raved, howled and sang, and invited me to get up and eat a slice of Comanche. They said it would make me brave. I was very hungry, but not sufficiently so to become a cannibal. The Tonkaways were wild over the victory, and they did not cease their celebration until sunrise.
The boys captured the war chiefs cap. It was a peculiar affair, made of the finest of furs, and it had a tail attached to it at least thirty feet long. Several other fine caps were picked up on the field. About fifteen miles from Plum Creek the soldiers heard a child crying in a thicket. All were afraid that the noise was some ruse of the Indians to induce the Texans into an ambush, but finally one fool fellow declared that he would go in and see what it was. He found a little child, a boy, lying on the leaves by itself. The soldier brought it out, and it proved to be a child of the head chief of the Comanches. They brought it to camp, and old judge Bellinger adopted it. The little Indian did not live but three or four months.We captured the Indian pack train. The mules were loaded with household furniture, wearing apparel, and general merchandise. There were five hundred of these pack mules. The government had just received a supply of stores at Linnville, and the Indians had captured these. We hardly knew what to do with all this stuff, and we finally concluded to divide it among ourselves. Some days after I reached home the boys sent me a pack mule and a pack. In the pack there was a pillow and a bolster of home-made cloth and considerable dry goods. There were also coverlets, sheets, quilts, and clothing. If I had known who the stuff belonged to I would have, of course, returned it.
After some days my friends got an old buggy and hitched an old horse to it and made an effort to get me home. At the crossing of the San Marcos the old horse balked and refused to pull the vehicle up the hill. That made me mad, and I got out of the buggy and walked on home. I was tired and hungry, and I wanted to see Polly and get something to eat and have her dress my wound. Polly was glad to see me, for she thought I was dead. Old man King had gone home, and, from some cause, he had carried my shoes. He told Polly I would be home in a few days, but during the evening she found my shoes, full of blood, and she began to scream and upbraid her father. He then had to tell her the truth, but he insisted that I was only slightly wounded. Polly did not believe him, but when she saw me walking home she ran to meet me and declared that she never intended to let me go to fight Indians any more. This battle was fought on the 12th of August, 1840.
From Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas by John J. Linn 1883. We of Victoria were startled by the apparition presented by the sudden appearance of six hundred mounted Comanches in the immediate outskirts of the village. The first supposition was that they were Lipans, who occasionally paid us friendly visits, but soon the intelligence came that the Indians had killed Mr. McNuner a mile north of town, and Dr. Gray, and also had wounded a boy. By these unmistakable tokens we were made aware of the fact that we were about surrounded by overwhelming numbers of these implacable enemies of the human race. The men of Victoria, some 50 in number, collected such arms as they could, but the folly of attempting anything against such numbers, and on foot, were apparent to all. The Indians were engaged in gathering up horses, as we could plainly see. Some Mexican traders were in Victoria at the time, and had about five hundred head of horses on the prairie in the immediate vicinity of town. All these the Comanches captured, besides a great many belonging to the citizens of the place.
A Mr. Crosby, who lived a mile below town, had come in in the morning, leaving his wife and little child at home. The Indians took Mrs. Crosby and the child prisoners. It was thought according to custom, that, having satisfied themselves with plunder, the Indians would retire toward their usual haunts before a force could be assembled to attack them. With this object in view about 50 of the best men in Victoria were mounted and dispatched to the settlement near Cuero Creek in DeWitt County, to get reinforcements and meet the Indians on their return. The Indians retired to Spring Creek near the mouth, in the timber, and so passed the Comanche encampment unobserved, and proceeded on their way. The Indians killed a white man on Spring Creek, named Vartland Richardson, and two Negro men, and took a negro girl prisoners. Contrary to all expectation, and at variance with their usual custom, the Indians did not retreat, but threatened the town again the next day. They dispersed themselves over the whole country and almost surrounded the town.
Four men returning from Jackson County encountered the savages a mile or two out of town. Pinknay Caldwell, who was riding a mule, made no effort to escape and was lanced to death on the spot. Another of the four, a Mexican, was overhauled and killed. Joseph Rodgers and the late Jesse O. Wheeler put spurs to their horses and won the race for life by the veriest good fortune; so close was Captain Wheeler pursued that his enemy did not draw rein until he had entered the streets of the town. The Indians burned a house on the outskirts of the town. The panic-stricken citizens all collected at the public square, and all were speculating with agonizing suspense upon the fate that would probably befall us. But fortunately for us, as it was fatal for others, the Indians passed Victoria and proceeded toward the bay, literally sweeping the whole country of horse stock as they went. They camped for the night on the Benavides Ranch, on the Placido Creek, distance 12 miles from Linnville. They intercepted two wagoners here, one of whom concealed himself in the high grass and saved his life by fleeing to Victoria under cover of the darkness. The other was killed, and in such close proximity to his hidden friend that he could hear him begging for his life. One of the wagons was loaded with two hogsheads of bacon. These the Comanches opened, but not fancying the contents, where fresh meat was so plentiful, unfastened the oxen that were attached to the wagon, and left it and the cargo untouched.
Mr. W. G. Ewing, a merchant of Linnville, en route to Victoria, passed these wagons on the roadside and saw the campfires of the Comanches on the creek close at hand, not dreaming of the gauntlet that he was unconsciously running. He imagined the Indian camp was some large Mexican train of wagons going to Linnville for goods. On reaching Victoria the next morning he was much surprised at the revelations that greeted his ears, and considerably troubled at the thought that six hundred hostile Indians interposed between himself and his home. His sister, Mrs. H. O. Watts was in Linnville. In three miles of Linville the Comanches killed two Negro men whom they found cutting hay. They immediately proceeded to surround the town and to pillage the stores and houses. The people took refuge on a lighter in the bay, and were soon aboard a schooner lying at anchor and safe from the Indians. Major Watts (H. O. Watts, the collector of customs) and Mr. O'Neill were killed and Mrs. Watts taken a prisoner. While the Indians were cutting up fantastic antics before high heaven in Linnville, the refugees on the schooner were the spectators, and witnessed with whatever feelings they could command the wanton destruction of their property.
Judge John Hays, however, became so exasperated that he vowed he would have one shot at the red devils anyway. So, grabbing a gun, the judge jumped overboard---the water was not over three or four feet deep---and waded to the shore, where, gun in hand, he stood upon the beach anxiously waiting for a Comanche to come within range of his gun. But the Indians imagined the judge was a 'big medicine' or something of the sort, and so steered clear of the awful fate in store for him who should invite the judge's fire. Finally the earnest petitions of his friends on the boat availed and the judge returned to them. Now, upon examining the old 'fusee' which threatened so lately to consummate such slaughter, it was discovered that the piece was not loaded! In my warehouse were several cases of hats and umbrellas belonging to Mr. James Robinson, a merchant of San Antonio. These the Indians made free with, and went dashing about the blazing village, amid their screeching squaws and little Injuns like demons in a drunken saturnalia, with Robinson's hats and Robinson's umbrellas bobbing about on every side like tipsy young balloons. In the afternoon the Comanches began to retire. They crossed the bayou near the old road, and there encamped for the night.
The Victoria men had now returned with some reinforcement from the Cuero settlement. On the morning of the 7th these fell in with a company of 120 men, commanded by Captain Zumaldt, of Lavaca County, and the whole encountered the Indians 12 miles east of Victoria, on a creek called the Mercado, where some skirmishing was indulged in, the whites losing one man, Mordeci. A few of the Indians used guns, the primitive bow and arrow being the arm mainly relied on. It is thought some of the Indians were killed and thrown into the creek to conceal the bodies. Some of Captain Zumaldt's men were anxious to charge them; and, when the disparity of arms is considered, the result must have been the rout of the Indians and their subsequent capture and annihilation. While this skirmish was in progress the Indians had scouts out in all directions; some of them crossed the Arenosa and killed Mr. Bell, taking his horse and equipment. In the afternoon the Indians called in their scouting parties by making a black smoke, and proceeded to the Casa Blanca, a branch of the Garcitas, where they encamped for the night. Zumaldt's men also went into camp, not far distant from the Indians, and despatched runners to Victoria for ammunition and provisions.
The wily Indians silently folded their tents in the night and stole away. Zumaldt saw no more of them until he ran into their rear as, they were crossing Plum Creek, and taking position in the post oak point beyond, on what was destined to be a fatal battle ground for them. Felix Huston, Ben McCulloch, and others had gathered a force of some four hundred volunteers, and the Indians should have been annihilated. Ewing came up with his sister, Mrs. Watts, just as an Indian boy had discharged, as he imagined, an arrow into her body. Fortunately she wore a steel corset, and the arrow, striking one of the broad bands of this, did her but little injury. Less fortunate was Mr. Crosby, who reached the side of his wife just in time to soothe with endearing offices her last moments. Despairing of effecting an escape with the prisoners, these inhuman monsters had resolved to kill them. The infant of Mrs. Crosby had been killed near Linnville and thrown on the roadside. The Indians were defeated in the engagement that ensued, and left some 25 dead on the field. But encumbered with plunder as they were, and principally armed with bows and arrows, they should have been entirely destroyed.
Several hundred head of horses and mules were recaptured, as were also immense quantities of dry goods. 'To the victors belong the spoils, and the Colorado men appropriated everything to themselves. Ewing recognized many of his goods in the captured property, but identification did him no good. Captain J. O. Wheeler, though 150 of the recaptured horses bore his brand, obtained with the greatest difficulty a horse to ride home. Mrs. Watts---later Mrs. Fretwell---states that she was taken under the protection of an old chief who placed her in charge of an ancient squaw. She relates that the Indians brought her a book from which to read to them the "laws of Texas," and upon her prompt compliance they laughed immoderately. When they started from Linnville they strapped her securely upon the back of a mule to prevent her falling off or attempting an escape. Such was the battle of Plum Creek.