last Comanche raids in Texas of any consequence
occurred in late 1876 and into 1877 when a group of renegades who didnít accept
the news that the war with the white man was over remained on the Plains, pillaging
and plundering as in days of yore.|
The Nolan Expedition, which
actually consisted of two expeditions, was formed to find and punish the marauders.
Two dozen buffalo hunters formed the first expedition and set out across the Llano
Estacado in May of 1877. A more official group consisting of troops from the
10th U.S. Cavalry division, made up of black buffalo soldiers and
under the command of Nicholas Nolan, who was white, set out from Fort
Griffin in July of 1877.
The two groups inadvertently met up on
the Llano Estacado later that month. Neither group had actually seen any Comanches
but had no doubt that Comanches had seen them. The hunters had been close a couple
of times but the Indians vanished like smoke when the hunters were ready to strike.
The two groups joined forces and did find some Comanches but not the ones
they were after. The band they encountered was a small one and included women
but also the great chief Quanah
Parker. That peaceful meeting would be their undoing and one reason why
the Nolan Expedition is one of several such forays that are invariably
described as ďill-fated.Ē
The Nolan Expedition was doomed not so
much by its mission or the mettle of the men involved but by geography. The Llano
Estacado had just about done in Col. Ranald Mackenzie when he ventured
there to take on Quanah
Parker and his tribe of Quahadis, the last remaining obstacle to Anglo settlement
but a formidable one.
Mackenzie commanded the Red River War and
finally convinced Quanah
and his people to submit to a life on the Fort Sill reservation in Indian
Territory (now Oklahoma). One band of warriors remained on the prowl, however,
and they turned their most murderous attention to the buffalo hunters who were,
in front of their eyes, exterminating the basis of their existence.
Comanches had a big fight with buffalo hunters near present-day Post.
They killed a buffalo hunter near Double Mountain and raided Rathís store,
a supply post for the hunters. The buffalo hunters, the government and Mackenzie
all agreed something needed to be done.
So did Quanah
Parker. As a favor to Mackenzie, Quanah
set out across the Llanos with (five other people) to find that same marauding
band of Comanches. His mission was to talk them into going back to the reservation
This was not the mission of the soldiers or the buffalo hunters.
For them, it was not only a matter of public safety but also a chance for military
glory. They saw themselves as the last of the Indian fighters. Once they captured
or preferably killed this one last band, there would be precious few Indians left
Of course, Quanah
knew this. Thatís why when he encountered the expeditions he told Nolan he knew
where the renegades were and said he was on his way to meet with them. He said
they were camped out at a place called Mustang Springs. The soldiers and
hunters soon headed off in that direction.
and his band of peacemaker watched them go, might have wished them good luck,
and then headed for the banks of the Pecos
River, where the marauders actually were. Quanah
found them and convinced them to surrender.
Meanwhile, the men of the Nolan
Expedition were having an exceedingly a rough go of it. They did catch a glimpse
of some Indians who gleefully led them on a chase across some of the driest terrain
the Llanos had to offer but letís be clear: the Comanches werenít the ones being
When the trails split and the expeditionís scouts became
confused, the two groups split up. The buffalo hunters head southwest and found
water some 36 hours later. Nolan and his men doubled back toward their camp at
Double Lake, near present-day Tahoka.
They went 86 hours without water and were reduced to drinking urine Ė their own
and that of their horses Ė with sugar mixed in to make it more palatable. The
blood of the horses also provided some liquid refreshment.
Nolan lost four men, 25 horses and four mules on his expedition
but did not find any Comanches. By the time the expedition was over, Quanah
was leading the renegades to Oklahoma Territory and the Indian wars in Texas
December 4, 2013 Column
Author's Note:[This story] recently appeared in Texas
"Letters from Central Texas"
| Columns | Texas
Town List | Texas |