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The Battle of Adobe Walls

Quanah ParkerAdobe Walls was the name of a trading post in the Texas Panhandle, just north of the Canadian River. In 1845, an adobe fort was built there to house the post, but it was blown up by the traders three years later after repeated Indian attacks. In 1864, the ruins were the site of one of the largest battles ever to take place on the Great Plains. Colonel Christopher "Kit" Carson led 300 volunteers from New Mexico against a force of thousands of Indians; the results of the battle were indecisive, though Carson was acclaimed as a hero for successfully striking a blow against the Indians and for leading his men out of the trap with minimal casualties.

Ten years later, merchants from Dodge City, Kansas, set up a large trading post about a mile from the old ruins. The complex quickly grew to include two stores, a corral, a restaurant, and a blacksmith shop, all of which served the population of 200-300 buffalo hunters in the area.

The remaining free-ranging Southern Plains bands (Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Arapaho) correctly perceived the post and the buffalo hunting as a major threat to their existence. That spring, the Indians held a sun dance. Comanche medicine man Isa-tai promised victory and immunity from bullets to warriors who took the fight to the enemy. At dawn on June 27, 1874, about seven hundred Indians under the leadership of Quanah Parker and Isa-tai attacked the post. (See Texas Treasures for more on the life of Quanah Parker.) The defenders numbered only 28 white men and one woman. However, Isa-tai's prophecy proved to be an illusion. The hunter's superior weapons enabled them to fend off the attackers. As many as seventy Indians were killed and many others, including Parker, were wounded. The Indians were forced to retreat.

The result of Adobe Walls was a crushing spiritual defeat for the Indians. It also prompted the U.S. military to take its final actions to crush the Indians once and for all. Within the year, the long war between whites and Indians in Texas would reach its conclusion.

View of Adobe Walls, 1957

View of Adobe Walls, 1957

In the 19th century, the ruins of the old adobe fort at Adobe Walls were a familiar landmark to white and Mexican traders who ventured into Comanche country. After the 1874 battle, the post was abandoned by buffalo hunters. In later years, a few homesteaders who worked for the nearby Turkey Track Ranch settled near the old fort. In 1978 Adobe Walls was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

View of Adobe Walls, June 1957. Fred A. Burmeister, Claflin, Kansas. Prints and Photographs Collection.


Frontier Battalion Organized, 1874

In 1874, Governor Richard Coke and the Texas Legislature responded to the situation on the frontier by providing for a Texas force to augment the U.S. Army. The Frontier Battalion was composed of six companies of Texas Rangers. Coke received numerous letters from constituents offering to raise companies to fight the Indians.

Records of Richard Coke, Texas Office of the Governor, August 8, 1874.

E. Dawson to Richard Coke, 1874
G. Whitehill to Richard Coke, 1874

"Do You Want Any Indian Fighters?"

In this letter, a man calling himself "Comanche Charley" offers his services on the frontier. Under Major John B. Jones, the Frontier Battalion became a highly disciplined force. In addition to fighting Indians, it pursued outlaws and ended the blood feuds that plagued many Texas communities. The exploits of the Frontier Battalion provide much of the mystique that still surrounds the term "Texas Ranger."

Records of Richard Coke, Texas Office of the Governor, August 17, 1874.


The hostility felt by white Texans towards the Indians by 1874 is perfectly captured in this candid letter from Governor Richard Coke to his friend General Samuel Bell Maxey, soon to become a United States Senator. Coke was one of the most important leaders of Texas after the Civil War. A lawyer, he was nicknamed "Old Brains" for his mastery of legal detail. Coke first became involved in Indian affairs in 1859, when he served on the commission that recommended the closure of the Brazos Indian Reservation and the removal of the Indians to Oklahoma. During his tenure as governor, the Comanches and Kiowas would be driven from the plains.


Records of Richard Coke, Texas Office of the Governor, September 7, 1874.

Richard Coke to Samuel Bell Maxey, 1874

Illustration from Pearson's Magazine, 1909

Looking Back, 1908

Thirty-four years after the Battle of Adobe Walls, the long war between whites and Indians for control of Texas was already passing from daily reality into myth. When this article appeared in Pearson's Magazine, many of the participants of the battle, from Bat Masterson to Quanah Parker, were still alive to comment on what they had experienced.


"The Battle of Adobe Walls," Pearson's Magazine, January 1908. Edward Campbell Little Literary Production.

In This Section: The Salt Creek Massacre -The Battle of Adobe Walls -
The Red River War - Aftermath
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