viscious and bloody fight, the Battle
of Walker Creek certainly does not rank as one of Texas’s largest
or better-known engagements, but the affair has a significance beyond
On June 8, 1844, returning from a fruitless scout for Indians, a
company of Texas Rangers under John
Coffee “Jack” Hays camped at a point he later described as “four
miles east of the Pinto trace . . . nearly equally distant from
Wise in the ways of the Comanche, Hays had detailed one of his men
to lag behind, alert to the possibility of their being backtracked.
The rear guard rode into the ranger camp and told Hays he had found
10 sets of Indian pony tracks following the rangers’ trail. Looking
in the direction his ranger had ridden in from, Hays soon spotted
several Indians in the distance, but they quickly faded into the
Ordering his men to mount, Hays rode toward the trees. As the rangers
advanced, three or four warriors emerged from cover and made a show
of surprise at seeing the rangers. Then they fled back into the
brush on the east bank of what is believed to be Walker’s Creek
in present Kendall
“Hays, however, was too old an ‘Indian fighter’ to be caught by
such traps and made no efforts at pursuit,” the Clarksville Northern
Standard later reported. “As soon as the Indians saw this strategy
was of no avail, they came out of the timber and displayed their
whole force in line, some 75 in number.”
The ranger captain had only 15 men, but each of them carried a new
five-shot Patterson Colt revolver. Slowly, the rangers advanced.
Having higher ground behind them, the Indians fell back, moving
to an even more advantageous position. At the crown of the hill,
the Comanches dismounted. Brandishing their lances and raising and
lowering their buffalo-hide shields, some of them knew enough English
to taunt the rangers with cries of “Charge! Charge!”
Rather than charge uphill, which was precisely what the Indians
wanted, unseen by his foe, Hays spurred his horse and wheeled around
the rocky prominence. The rangers followed, circling to the Comanche’s
Now the Indians got their charge, but from an unanticipated direction.
Seeing the Texians galloping toward them on level ground, the warriors
remounted. The shock of the charge broke the Indian line, but only
for a moment. Regrouping, they split and attacked from two sides.
“Back to back, the Texians received them and the close and deadly
fire of their pistols emptied many a saddle,” the Clarksville newspaper
reported. “Thus, hand to hand the fight lasted fifteen minutes,
the Indians using their spears and arrows, the Texians their repeating
pistols. Scarcely a [ranger]… was not grazed . . . their gun stocks,
knife handles and saddles perforated in many places.”
At the end of a two-mile running fight, the chief rallied his warriors,
enjoining them to turn and face the Texans. Like the rangers, the
Indians also had a brave leader.
“[One of their chiefs] dashed backward and forward amongst his men
to bring them back to the charge,” the newspaper continued. “The
Texians had exhausted nearly all their shot. Hays called out to
learn who had a loaded gun. [Robert] Gillespie rode forward and
answered he was charged. ‘Dismount and shoot the chief,’ was the
order. At a distance of thirty steps, the ball performed its office
and, madly dashing a few yards, the gallant Indian fell to rise
When the last white clouds of gun smoke blew away, 20 Comanches
lay dead. Another 30 Indians had suffered wounds. Only three rangers
had been wounded, including slim, red-headed Samuel
Walker, pinned to the ground with a Comanche lance through his
The rangers remained in the area, nursing their wounded. Three days
later, four Indians probably intent on reclaiming their dead showed
up at the battleground, where the rangers remained in camp. Hays
attacked again, killing three more warriors. During this clash,
German-born ranger Peter Fohr suffered a wound from which he died
three days later, the only fatality among Hays’s men.
what were the consequences of the fight?
First, Walker’s Creek showed the Comanches that they could never
prevail against the growing number of Texans and the technology
they could bring to bear.
Second, the fight changed ranger tactics in dealing with Indians.
Rangers now knew they could successfully take the fight to the Indians
and engage them on horseback.
Third, during the Mexican War, fight survivor Samuel
Walker met with Samuel Colt and persuaded him to improve his
revolvers by adding a sixth cylinder chamber. A military contract
Walker helped make possible kept Colt in business, and resulted
in the prototype of the handgun that helped win the west.
Fourth, the fight near Walker Creek went a long way toward establishing
the enduring reputation of Hays as an extraordinary captain and
the Texas Rangers as an organization not to be underestimated.
As Yellow Wolf supposedly later said, “I will never again fight
Jack Hays, who has a shot for every finger on the hand."
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" -
June 12, 2014 column