few years ago, I obtained a copy of the new book, They Rode for
the Lone Star by Thomas W. Knowles. This saga of the Texas
Rangers was the first of a two-part volume with the second book due
to be published at a later date.
first volume takes the Rangers through what Knowles describes as a
"unique cultural evolution." The book addresses the story of the Texas
Rangers from the colonial era in Texas (under Mexican rule) to the
time of the Civil War.
Knowles' book has been endorsed by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and
Museum. It is being promoted as the definitive testament to the brave
men of the Texas Rangers. I am inclined to agree. It is apparent that
the author has done considerable research about the citizen-soldier
and lawman of frontier Texas.
Knowles does a good job telling the story about a battle with the
Comanche Indians on Plum Creek. This event happened near Lockhart,
Texas, and men from what would later become Lavaca
and Gonzales Counties
were involved in the fight.
The Plum Creek confrontation was the climax of events that began in
early August of 1840. It seems that a large band of Comanches, estimated
at 600 to 1000, slipped down from the plains towards the South Texas
coast with the intentions of raiding the town of Victoria.
That place was one of the major settlements - it was also an important
trade and shipping center.
The Texas defenders kept the Indians from reaching the downtown section
and the attackers had to be content with looting the outskirts and
making off with a huge herd of horses. The raiders moved on to the
port village of Linnville
where most of the inhabitants managed to escape to the bay in boats.
From here they watched, in horror, as the Comanches butchered a few
After looting Linnville
of goods from the warehouses, the Indians torched the settlement and
began their trek back to the plains with a number of captives - most
of them women and children.
While the Indians were creating havoc on the coast, word of the attack
was racing through the settlements. The Comanches had left an easy
trail across the prairie and volunteer forces from around the area
were gathering for an attack of their own.
McCulloch gathered up 24 volunteers from Gonzales
and joined up with Capt. John J. Tumlinson's force of 100 militiamen.
Other groups lead by Adam Zumwalt and Clark Owen were also involved
in the action.
The Texans first encounter with the raiders occurred on August 9,
1840, at the Casa Blanca River crossing. Here after a heated battle,
one Texan was killed. Despite the objections of McCulloch, Tumlinson
decided to withdraw and wait for reinforcements to arrive.
Col. Edward Burleson's militia force finally arrived with a group
of Tonkawa scouts led by Chief Placido. The scouts traveled on foot
for thirty miles running along side the militia's horses. It was Burleson's
plan to attack the Comanches at Plum Creek.
they arrived at the creek, they found 117 men from Gonzales
waiting for the Comanches. These men were led by Capt. Matthew Caldwell
and Capt. James Bird. Later, more soldiers arrived from Port
Lavaca and Jack Hays brought in a company from Béxar. About 200
strong, this was reported as the largest group of militia gathered
in one place since the Texas Revolution. Gen. Felix Houston arrived
and took over sole command of the unit.
The trap was set. As the Comanches continued their ride north, they
soon found themselves confronting a long line of vengeful Texans -
the battle began on August 12, 1840.
According to some witnesses, a brave warrior who seemed to have his
own magic way of avoiding the Texan's bullets led the Comanches. Adorned
with loot from the raid he charged towards the militia until his tall
silk hat and silk umbrella was completely shot away. The grim frontiersmen
were impressed with the bravery of the Indians and were astonished
at the way they seemed to dodge their bullets.
The Comanche leader was finally killed and the others retreated in
the face of a ferocious Texan charge into the main formation of the
Indians. After the smoke had cleared, 87 of the Comanche raiders lay
dead. The Texans lost only one man with seven being wounded.
The Comanche attack on the South Texas coast has long been known as
the last great raid by the Indians. The Texan's had hoped that their
victory at Plum Creek would teach the Comanches a lesson and would
put a stop to the raids on the Texas settlements.
This was only wishful thinking however, as the Indians would continue
with smaller lightning-fast raids along the frontier from Gonzales
to the northern settlements. The war with the tenacious Comanche would
continue on for several decades.
February 19, 2006 Column