Military Rolls Reflect Alliances Between American Indian Tribes and the Republic of Texas

By Caroline Jones, Reference Archivist

Some may be surprised to know that during the Republic of Texas era (1836-1845), American Indians served as Texas Rangers. Here at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), we have military rolls for three American Indian units: Mounted Rangers 3rd Brigade, Texas Militia, commanded by James H. Durst; Company of Shawnee Indians, 3rd Brigade, Mounted, commanded by Panther; and volunteers (against Comanches) commanded by Lipan Apache Chief Castro. Letters from the Andrew Jackson Houston collection provide background and context for the arrangements.

Under a September 1836 agreement between President Sam Houston and the Cherokee and Shawnee chiefs, the tribes were to provide 25 rangers to patrol the northwest regions of their villages in order to keep members of the Caddo and Wichita tribes away. The Texas government would pay each ranger $10 a month and they would also be allowed to keep any goods they acquired from assaults on tribes that were considered “wild.” For others to distinguish these rangers from the “wild Indians,” they were instructed to wear a white feather on their head. Such arrangements are detailed in the letters of Sam Houston, part of our Andrew Jackson Houston collection at TSLAC. During the Second Congress of the Republic of Texas on June 12, 1837, lawmakers authorized the hiring of members of the Shawnee, Delaware, Cherokee and other tribes as scouts and spies for the Texas government.

Letter from Sam Houston to Captain of the Cherokee Rangers, September 23, 1836, authorizing him to recruit 25 Cherokees to range for $10 a month, Page 1. Document 548, Andrew Jackson Houston collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

At the age of 20, James H. Durst led a company of 58 Anglo-European and American Indian Texas Rangers into battle against the Cherokees. Durst’s unit of mounted Texas Rangers was mustered into service December 1, 1838 and mustered out January 25, 1839.  Durst is considered to be among the first official Texas Rangers.

Muster Roll of Capt. James Durst Company of Mounted Rangers. Durst, James H.–Mounted Rangers [3rd Brigade, Texas Militia]: [Indians] December 1, 1838-January 25, 1839, Republic of Texas Militia military rolls, Republic of Texas military rolls, Military rolls, Texas Adjutant General’s Department. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Within our Andrew Jackson Houston Collection, we have several letters between Sam Houston and young James H. Durst, his uncle John Durst, and his father Joseph Durst who was serving as Indian Commissioner at the time.

Letter from James Durst to Sam Houston regarding dealings with members of American Indian tribes. Document 2637, Andrew Jackson Houston collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

A leading member of the Shawnees, Captain Panther also led a unit of mounted Texas Rangers. They were mustered into service November 25, 1838 and mustered out January 25, 1839. Panther served alongside Durst and fellow Shawnee interpreter Spy Buck. These Shawnee mounted rangers were paid $25 a month, the same as other Texas Rangers. Panther was paid the same rate as other captains at $60 a month.

Panther–Company of Shawnee Indians [3rd Brigade] [mounted]: November 25, 1838-January 25, 1839, Republic of Texas Militia military rolls, Republic of Texas military rolls, Military rolls, Texas Adjutant General’s Department. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Castro’s volunteer unit of Lipan Apaches served between January 25 and February 25, 1839. The unit was organized specifically to fight against Comanches. Lipan Apaches were often involved in military campaigns of the Spanish, Mexican, Tejano, and Anglo groups. Castro and Lipan Apache Chief Flacco helped Captain James H. Moore destroy a Comanche village in 1840. The Lipan Apache had been pushed out of the Texas prairies by the Comanche and were seeking revenge.

Castro (Captain)–Indians who volunteered (against Comanches): January 25-February 25, 1839, Republic of Texas Militia military rolls, Republic of Texas military rolls, Military rolls, Texas Adjutant General’s Department. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

These are only a few examples of the complex relationship between local tribes and Texans during the Republic era. For more reading on American Indian Rangers and Texas politics, see the following list of resources available through TSLAC:

TITLE AUTHOR CALL NUMBER COLLECTION
The conquest of Texas : ethnic cleansing in the promised land, 1820-1875 Anderson, Gary Clayton 305.8 An235c Main (non-circulating)
The Armstrong chronicle : a ranching history Smith, Diane Solether 929.2 AR57S Main (non-circulating)
Indian exodus: Texas Indian affairs, 1835-1859 Neighbours, Kenneth F. 970.464 N316 Main (circulating)
Texas Indian papers Texas State Library. Archives Division. 970.5 T31 V.1-4 Main (circulating)
Tracking the Texas Rangers : the nineteenth century Glasrud, Bruce A. editor of compilation. Z N745.8 G463tr Texas Documents (circulating)
Savage frontier : rangers, riflemen, and Indian wars in Texas Moore, Stephen L. Z N745.8 M786SA V.1-2 Texas Documents (circulating)
Single star of the West : the Republic of Texas, 1836-1845 Howell, Kenneth Wayne Z N745.8 Si64 Texas Documents (circulating)

Andrew Jackson Houston collection legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/30197/tsl-30197.html

Texas Comptroller’s Office, Republic Claims Index: www.tsl.texas.gov/app/arc/repclaims/

“Native American Relations in Texas”: www.tsl.texas.gov/exhibits/indian/index.html

Outside Sources:

Hispanic and American Indian Texas Rangers: www.texasranger.org/texas-ranger-museum/researching-rangers/hispanic-and-american-indian-texas-rangers/

James H. Durst: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdu54

Chief Castro: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fca92

Shawnee Indians: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bms25

Apache Indians: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bma33

Indians: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bzi04

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