Frontier Defense in the Civil WarTexas Settlers Pursuing the Indians

When Texas seceded from the Union at the beginning of the Civil War, the new government created a Committee of Public Safety to organize a defense against Unionists from within the state. The Committee seized all military equipment in Texas held by the United States Army and forced a withdrawal of all Union forces from the forts in Texas.

The Confederate government now faced the task of participating in the war while still defending the Texas frontier from the Comanches and their allies. The First Regiment, Texas Mounted Riflemen, was organized in the spring of 1861 and became the first regiment in Texas in Confederate service. The ten companies of the regiment occupied the old Army forts and made expeditions into Indian areas in northwest Texas as a show of strength. By the spring of the following year, the regiment was disbanded, with most of its members eventually becoming part of the Eighth Texas Cavalry, known as Terry's Texas Rangers. They saw action in many of the major battles of the Civil War.

They were replaced by the Frontier Regiment, made up of nine companies of volunteers. The regiment established patrols from sixteen forts from the Red River to the Rio Grande. By this time, the Indians realized how lightly guarded the frontier was and increased the boldness and frequency of their raids. Eventually, the Frontier Regiment was transferred to Confederate rather than state control and was used less often to fight Indians than to enforce the draft, track down deserters, and combat renegades and outlaws.

The third organization to deal with the Indian menace during the Civil War was the Frontier Organization, established in 1864. The Frontier Organization was a militia of able-bodied male citizens who lived in frontier counties and were not otherwise serving in the Confederacy. The militia was purely defensive and had neither the manpower nor the leadership to mount offensives against the Indians. By 1864, the Indians were conducting large raids against forts and settlements all along the frontier.

The Ellison Springs Indian Fight was typical of frontier engagements during the Civil War. On August 8, 1864, a small force of about a dozen troopers intercepted about thirty Indians carrying blankets and bridles for the horses they were planning to steal from the whites. The Indians easily repelled the soldiers, killing three of them, and went on to steal fifty horses near Stephenville. The Texans pursued them and managed to recover eighteen of the horses. Several days later, another militia patrol encountered the same group, fought a one-hour battle in which two Indians were killed, and captured the Indians' horse herd and supplies.

The most controversial Indian incident in Texas during the war was the Battle of Dove Creek. On January 8, 1865, about 160 Confederate soldiers and 325 state militiamen attacked 600 Kickapoos near present-day San Angelo. The Kickapoos were conducting a peaceful migration from Kansas to Mexico but were mistaken by the troopers for Comanches and Kiowas. The battle turned into a desperate struggle. Three militia officers and sixteen men were killed in the first few minutes of the battle. Many of the poorly trained militiamen simply deserted. The Army forces were more disciplined but were routed by the Indians after an all-day fight. The final death toll included twenty-two whites and fourteen Indians.

The consequences of the Dove Creek fiasco would be felt for years to come. The Kickapoos were embittered by the unprovoked attack and launched devastating raids from their Mexican stronghold for the next decade.

W.S. Delany to Governor Lubbock, 1860

Frontier Counties Exempted from Confederate Draft, 1862

More than 25,000 Texans had joined the Confederate Army by the end of 1861. In spite of these numbers, Governor Francis R. Lubbock was asked by Confederate authorities to raise more troops. Lubbock was known as a stickler for enforcing the draft and requiring all able-bodied men to serve in the cause, but he exempted frontier counties so the men could defend their settlements against Indian attack.

 


Texas Indian Papers Volume 4, #37. Letter from William S. Delaney to Governor Lubbock, April 1862.

 

Oliver Loving to Governor Lubbock, 1862

Oliver Loving was a pioneering cattle driver. During the Civil War he drove cattle from Texas to feed Confederate forces along the Mississippi River, a service that left him in enormous debt when the war ended. In this letter, Loving proposes to raise several companies of men to make war on the Indians. In later years, Loving and Charles Goodnight became famous for their cattle drives from Texas to Santa Fe. Loving was killed by Indians in 1867 while on the trail. The character of Augustus McCrae in Larry McMurtry's classic novel Lonesome Dove was partially based on his life.


Records of Francis Richard Lubbock, Texas Office of the Governor, 1862.

Oliver Loving to Governor Lubbock, 1862
J.N. Bourassa to Colonel Barry, 1866

"A Party of Our People Went South"

In this letter, Joseph N. Bourassa, a Potawatomi Indian who served as the U.S. interpreter at the Topeka Indian agency, writes to Colonel James B. "Buck" Barry of the Texas Rangers to ask for particulars on the Dove Creek Fight. Barry was a famous Indian fighter. He was part of the Ross expedition in 1860 that led to the recovery of Cynthia Ann Parker. During the Civil War, he led rangers on the frontier.


Texas Indian Papers Volume 4, #78A. Letter from J.N. Bourassa to Colonel James B. "Buck" Barry, September 8, 1866.

"No One Knows What the Frontier People Have Suffered"

In this letter, Gainesville settler W.H. Whaley pleads with Governor James W. Throckmorton to intervene with the federal government to provide protection for the frontier. Raiding, which had been continuous during the Civil War, grew even worse when the Confederacy collapsed. Federal officials returned to the area to negotiate treaties with the Kiowas, Comanches, and Apaches, but Texans refused to grant the treaty lands that the government wished to give the Indians. Instead, Texans continued to call for military action to defeat the Indian menace permanently.


Texas Indian Papers Volume 4, #81. Letter from W.H. Whaley to J.W. Throckmorton, September 29, 1866.

W.H. Whaley to Governor Thockmorton, 1866

R.W. Black to Governor Thockmorton, 1867

Trouble with the Kickapoo, 1867

Kickapoo raiding along the Rio Grande was a problem for both Texans and Mexicans. In this letter, Reading Wood Black proposes to negotiate a treaty to persuade the Kickapoos to leave the area. Wood was one of the founders of Uvalde in the 1850s. A Quaker, he became friendly with the local Indians and had helped facilitate several treaties before the Civil War. Black was disgusted by the violence in Texas during the war, especially the murder of German settlers by Confederate thugs at the so-called Battle of the Nueces. He moved to Mexico for the duration of the war. Back in Uvalde at war's end, he was an outspoken Unionist, which led to his murder in October, 1867.

 


Texas Indian Papers Volume 4, #96A. Reading Wood Black to Governor Throckmorton, January 6, 1867.


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