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Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

Eyewitness to the
Council House Fight

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery

The overall attitude and determination of Texans to make the best of a bad situation is well known throughout the world.

It is amazing when you stop and think about the many hardships they endured to settle a very hostile territory many years ago.

As summer rolls around, I think about how a normal day might have been spent back then. Chances are the settlers went about their daily routine with a firearm close by. They had to be wary of any rider that might appear on the horizon — never knowing if it was friend or foe.

And after spending a scorching day in the Texas sun under those conditions, they had to close themselves up inside a hot cabin for the night — they dared not leave windows open in Indian country.

On March 19, 1840, an event happened in San Antonio that would help diminish the Indian threat to this part of Texas. That event, known as the Council House Fight, was witnessed by Mrs. M.A. Maverick — her story was published in The Gonzales Inquirer on January 12, 1933.

Excerpts of her eye-witness account appear below.

The Gonzales Inquirer
[Headline: ‘Council House’ Fight at San Antonio]

Mrs. M.A. Maverick, a resident of San Antonio in pioneer days, was an eye-witness to the Council House fight that took place in San Antonio, March 19, 1840, between the Comanche Indians and citizens and soldiers of San Antonio.

It was a memorable battle and broke the power of the Comanches in that part of the State.

“The fight was precipitated,” says Mrs. Maverick, “during negotiations for peace with the Comanches at the old courthouse, which stood on the corner of what is now Market Street and Main Plaza and which was recently torn down in order to widen Market Street.

“There were 65 of these picked Comanche warriors who came to San Antonio with their chiefs; in the battle 32 of them were killed and the remainder captured. Six Americans and one Mexican were killed and ten Americans wounded.

“This was the third time the Indian delegation had come to San Antonio for a council with local authorities looking to cessation of Indian depredations in the surrounding country. The day of the fatal fight they brought with them Matilda Lockhart, whom they had taken captive in 1838 after killing the other members of the Lockhart family.

“The Indians wanted to exchange Matilda for ransom, having previously dickered for trades of this nature, only to make captive the white men who were sent to their camps to negotiate for return of white prisoners.”

According to Mrs. Maverick, two of the Comanche chiefs came to the courthouse with their warriors to start negotiations. Julian Hood, the sheriff, delivered an ultimatum to the Indians to the effect that the two chiefs would be detained as prisoners until the Comanches returned and delivered to all the white families their white captives.

“Immediately following this ultimatum,” says Mrs. Maverick, “the Comanches launched a hand-to-hand attack against the whites in the courthouse. They raised a terrible warwhoop, drew their bows and arrows and commenced shooting indiscriminately and with deadly effect, at the same time endeavoring to break out of the council hall.

“Captain Howard and a detachment of soldiers had been stationed in the courthouse as a precaution in the event of hostilities. At Howard’s command the soldiers fired into the crowd, the first volley killing several of the Indians and two white men.

“The Indians fled, with the soldiers and civilians in close pursuit. Most of the Indians struck out for the San Antonio river; some fled southeast toward Bowen’s Island; some ran east on Commerce Street, and some north on Soledad Street.

“Soldiers and citizens continued to pursue the Indians, overtaking, killing and capturing them at all points. Some of the savages were shot while crossing the river and some were killed in the streets. Several hand-to-hand encounters took place. Many Indians sought refuge in stone houses and closed the doors, but not one of these escaped.”

“When the Indian warwhoop resounded in the courthouse it was so loud and shrill, so sudden and horrible that we women, looking through the fence cracks, could not for the moment comprehend its purport,” recites Mrs. Maverick, “but the Indians knew its meaning, and turned their arrows upon Judge Robinson and other gentlemen standing nearby, instantly killing them on the spot.

“Three Indians had entered our back gate on Soledad street and were making toward the river. One had stopped near Jenny Anderson, our Negro cook, who stood bravely in front of my children and her children. She held a big rock in her hands, and lifted it high above her head and said to the Indian: ‘Go away from here or I’ll mash your head with this rock.’

“The Indian seemed to regret that he hadn’t time to dispatch Jenny and the children, but his time was limited; he hesitated a moment, then turned and rushed down the bank, jumping into the river. As the Indians hurried down the river bank and struck out for the opposite shore, my brother, who came in answer to my call, brought two of them down with his rifle.”

Mrs. M.A. Maverick had lived in San Antonio since it was a struggling village. The facts of the Council House fight have been taken from her original memoirs. She died in 1893.

© Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary March 23 , 2014 column

[ The San Antonio Council House Fight by Jeffery Robenalt]

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