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Chapter 7: Secretary of War.

  • Embarrassed condition of Texas in 1839.
  • -- scant material resources. -- Hopefulness of the Administration. -- Mirabeau B. -- Lamar. -- his policy, financial and educational. -- vast and organized schemes of fraud arrested by the Government. -- foreign relations. -- energetic policy toward Mexico. -- letter from General Johnston on the situation. -- attempt to create a diversion by encouragement to the Federalists. -- the opposition organized under General Houston. -- Cherokee War. -- General Houston's resistance to it. -- vindication of the good faith of the Texan Government. -- settlement of the Cherokees in Texas. -- the colonists no party to it. -- perfidious policy of Mexico in the matter. -- Colonization act of 1825. -- Indian irruption of 1832-88. -- remonstrances. -- solemn Declaration of the Consultation. -- Houston's treaty with Indians. -- its Nullity. -- Houston's failure to get it ratified. -- his relations with the Indians. -- bad faith of the Indians. -- their conduct in the Revolution. -- kept down by the presence of United States forces. -- Yoakum's testimony. -- secret alliance with Mexico. -- continued hostilities. -- plan for a General revolt of the Indians. -- their butcheries. -- General Johnston organizes troops. -- General Edward Burleson. -- Flores killed. -- proofs of alliance between Mexico and the Cherokees. -- the case summed up. -- how the Cherokee question was met. -- report of General Johnston, Secretary of War. -- troops sent forward, and unavailing negotiations. -- Tlim. -- battle of the Neches. -- pursuit. -- expulsion of Indians from Texas. -- Redemption of all Northern Texas from the savages. -- General Douglass thanks the Vice-President and Secretary for exertions on the field. -- incident. -- the fugitive emboldened. -- joy and gratitude of Texas. -- site of the capital. -- Austin selected. -- laid out in August, 1839. -- its frontier position. -- the Comanches. -- their Fierceness and perfidy. -- alarm of the settlers. -- a band of Comanches visits San Antonio. -- treaty. -- San Antonio massacre. -- its dramatic and deadly features. -- Comanche War. -- defeat of the Indians.

The outlook of Texas seemed anything but bright at the beginning of Lamar's administration. Fortune, which at first appeared to smile upon the rising republic, finding her favors neglected, had now begun to turn away her face. Nearly three years had passed since San Jacinto, and yet no government, except the United States, had acknowledged the independence of Texas. The European powers refused recognition, and pointed to the claim of title maintained by Mexico, with an annual invasion that disputed possession of the soil and pretended to imperil the national existence. The navy, created by the Texan Congress in 1836, had disappeared in 1837: of its four vessels, two had gone down at sea, one had been sold, and one captured. The army had been disbanded, and Mexican machinations had been allowed to mature, drawing the wild tribes and the Cherokees into an alliance which was drenching the defenseless border in blood, and now loomed up into the larger proportions of a general war. The whole policy of President Houston had been to postpone the evil day, and to evade difficulties instead of meeting them. Time is so important an element in setting straight the crooked things of this world, and was, especially, of such moment in the affairs of Texas, that the President's [93] procrastination appears pardonable; but its sole advantage turned out to be the personal one of shifting the accumulated burden upon his successor. Yet Providence had supplied the defects of human foresight, and stood friend to the struggling young nation.

In 1837 the Mexican army of invasion, after surveying the attitude of the Texan force on the Coleto under General Johnston, concluded to retire; and in 1838 it retreated, as has been narrated, before a shadow. In the same year the French blockade of the Mexican ports ended the Mexican blockade of the coast of Texas, and supplied the loss of the fleet; but on the 9th of March, 1839, the French blockade was raised by the peace between France and Mexico. The Treasury was empty, the paper-money much depreciated, and public credit gone. No army, no navy, no money, no credit, and no national recognition; with Mexico relieved of French invasion, and an Indian war ready to burst upon the country-what was left? Hope, God's gift to the young-men or nations-hope, destined to many disappointments, but still buoying them up.

The youthful statesmen who now guided the republic fortunately felt an enthusiasm that was neither turned aside by obstacles nor dismayed by dangers. The future greatness of the country inspired them, and they opposed to the odds against them the intrepidity, the energy, and the intellectual resources, of the martial race they represented. Imagination, displaying itself in action, lent a certain grandeur to the designs of the President and cabinet-heroic wills grappling with an adverse fate.

General Johnston, writing to Mr. George Hancock, from Houston, April 21, 1839, says, “There is now nothing doubtful in the stability of our institutions or in our ultimate success in the establishment of the independence of the country upon a most auspicious basis.”

Mirabeau B. Lamar was born in Jefferson County, Georgia, August 16, 1798. He was of Huguenot stock, and of a family which has produced men of note as orators and statesmen. He was already distinguished for eloquence when he came to Texas, in 1835, to aid the constitutional cause; and is said to have been the first to declare publicly for independence. He was not less ardent as a soldier than as a speaker; and, in the cavalry-skirmish on the day before the battle of San Jacinto, saved the life of General Rusk by a free exposure of his own. He was conspicuous for gallantry at San Jacinto, was soon after appointed Secretary of War by President Burnet, and was elected Vice-President in 1836. His impetuous valor, enthusiastic temper, and unselfish aspirations for the honor and welfare of his country, made him the fit choice of Texas as her President. Lamar was a man of high, unbending honor; his native gifts were fine-largeness and brilliancy of conception, fancy, eloquence, readiness, and courage. Though ardent, impulsive, and open to present impressions, sometimes, especially in [94] seasons of ill-health, he gave way to the reaction that displays itself in waywardness, dejection, and lassitude. But he was brave, affectionate, open as the day, lofty, and magnanimous. Among his chosen friends and counselors were men of purpose as high as his own, and of more exact modes of thought. Judge Lipscomb and Mr. Webb were able lawyers, Cook was a man of fine talents, and Dr. Starr has through a long life justified both his financial ability and his perfect uprightness.

The Administration accepted the trust imposed upon it, with the full purpose and reasonable expectation of carrying out a broad plan for the security and greatness of the country. It achieved much; and even where it fell short of the design, as is apt to be the case in a free government whose legislation is based upon compromise, it laid the foundation of future power and progress for the State. The financial policy proposed by the President was rejected by Congress. While, of course, it cannot be asserted that a national bank, which he recommended, with its credit based upon the public domain and the public deposits, would have created financial confidence and maintained values in those distressed times, still the adherence to a system of unlimited, unguaranteed, irredeemable issues was not the device nor the choice of this Administration. Bankruptcy could not be arrested by it, and indeed was certain under it. It is doubtful, however, whether any prudence or wisdom could have averted the result. The recommendation of a national bank was, however, used as a handle of prejudice among those who, under entirely different circumstances, had learned to distrust the United States Bank.

To the eloquent appeals of Lamar are due the foundation of the educational system of Texas, and the consecration of noble grants of public lands to the School and University Funds. By him, too, a great tide of corruption and public plunder was suddenly stopped. An Auditorial Court had been established, which by some legislative inadvertence was almost compelled to approve all claims presented, on the flimsiest proof. The court was overwhelmed with fabricated claims against the Government, when it was suspended by the President until the meeting of Congress, which ratified his action and corrected the evil. The existence of an organized system of public robbery was discovered, by which a vast number of fraudulent land-certificates had been issued and circulated, evidently through the collusion of dishonest local land commissioners. The President again interposed to check this manufacture, and end the reign of bribery, perjury, and forgery; and, on his recommendation, Congress took such action as broke up the system and saved the republic from enormous losses. The land-pirates and bogus-claim swindlers, forming a numerous and adroit class, were roused into an active and bitter hostility, which was not without effect in hampering the measures of the Administration. [95]

The foreign relations of Texas were now put upon an entirely new footing. Her independence was acknowledged by France, England, Belgium, and Holland; treaties of amity and commerce were made, and diplomatic relations were established which, by alternately piquing the pride and the interest of the great powers, eventually led to annexation to the United States. The two subjects most pressing, however, were the defense of the frontier and the settlement of the Indian question. A navy was put upon the Gulf, which not only secured the coast of Texas but annoyed that of Mexico, lent aid to her rebels, and helped to embarrass her counsels. By judicious encouragement to the Federalists, and by letting loose upon her the more restless spirits of the border, Mexico was kept busy in defense of her own soil, so that, during this Administration, Texas was not invaded by land or sea-the best justification of its foreign policy. This energetic line of action was stigmatized as a war policy; but it was, in fact, the only true peace policy, since it transferred the theatre of war to the enemy's territory, gave to foreign countries an assurance of strength, and by an exhibition of internal security, unknown before, invited capital and population. Moreover, Texas showed an earnest desire for peace, seeking the mediation of friendly nations, and sending Mr. Bee as envoy to Vera Cruz to try to open negotiations. Though spurned by Mexico, these overtures, seconded by warlike preparations, helped to gain the respect of civilized peoples.

The conduct of military affairs was intrusted by the President to the Secretary of War, whose wish was to raise a small regular force, which, thoroughly armed, drilled, and disciplined, would serve, as the nucleus and example for a volunteer army. General Johnston's views to this effect were laid before the President in the following letter:

War Department, December 18, 1858.
I have the honor herewith to submit for your consideration views with reference to the measures which, in my opinion, should be adopted to maintain the attitude assumed by this republic, and lead to a prompt adjustment of the difficulties existing with the Government of Mexico, and to more amicable relations with the Indians on the northern frontier. Menaced by powerful, vindictive, and unrelenting enemies, the wisdom of experience dictates that the preparations should be ample and adequate in all respects to meet all emergencies. In the previous invasions by the enemy this country presented everywhere abundant resources for the subsistence of troops and for mounting and equipping them, which do not now exist. They have long since been exhausted, and it is believed that they do not exceed the wants of the inhabitants. In former emergencies the vast means always available facilitated the rapid concentration of the force of the country, and enabled it to meet the enemy with promptitude in advance of the frontier. With the same patriotic devotion and zeal for the cause, with the same eager desire to turn out for defense with which they were inspired on former occasions, is it not manifest that, without depots of provisions [96] and military stores, without means of transportation of any kind, the call for aid in defense must be feebly responded to? There is another consideration which will contribute powerfully to render this resource for defense precarious, which should under favorable circumstances constitute the main dependence of the Government. It is the apprehension of attack from hostile Indians, founded in evidence which they cannot reject. The advance of a Mexican army would be the signal for the active cooperation of the unfriendly tribes; and, whether it took place or not, the anticipation of such an event among a sparse population, feeling the necessity of the utmost vigilance and activity for their own protection, would produce the same result — a strong diversion in favor of the enemy, which our knowledge of the Indian character inclines us to believe would not be the case if we had an army in position on the border. If this be the true condition of things, and I think no one informed on the subject will differ with me, I should ill discharge the high obligations of duty were I to delay making them known, or deserve the confidence of the intelligent, bold, and patriotic population of the republic, who do not desire to be flattered with deceptive accounts of their power where circumstances prevent its efficient application, or with illusive hopes of peace founded on no just expectations. We cannot conceal from ourselves that we are at war with a powerful nation, however much leisure his supineness has left us for the pursuits of peace. The example of all nations teaches the necessity of active, vigorous and unremitted preparation till the termination of the contest; the greatest and most powerful nations do not disdain it. I do not hesitate, therefore, from the conviction that peace will be most easily and readily obtained by making ample preparations for war, to recommend that, besides the measures in progress for the defense of the coast, the force authorized by the act to fix and establish the military force of the republic, of November, 1836, be raised and equipped for immediate service, with such additional force as may be found necessary. I also recommend that the officers and soldiers now on the rolls of the army, except those of the regiment recently authorized for the protection of the frontier and of the advance corps, be disbanded in anticipation of the new organization which I have the honor to suggest. I have the honor to be, with great respect, your Excellency's obedient servant,

A. Sidney Johnston, Secretary of War. To his Excellency Mirabeau B. Lamar, President of the Republic of Texas.

It was proposed then to cross the Rio Grande in aid of the Federalists, who sought the alliance, until that party prevailed throughout Mexico, or at least established an independent republic of its northern States, which would interpose a friendly nation as a barrier to centralist aggression. This hope does not seem chimerical, when we recollect how near the Federalists were to success; nor does there seem much reason why such an army, under an able leader, might not in such an undertaking have dictated the terms of peace in the city of Mexico. There was no wish or intention, however, to form any political union with any Mexican State. When this was strongly urged by General Anaya, the Federalist envoy, upon the consideration of General Johnston, [97] on the ground that all republics ought to be federal in their organization, General Johnston replied that “every nation ought to choose its own form of government, and be a good neighbor; that Texas could exist alongside a monarchy if it treated her well.”

To carry out so large a plan as the invasion of Mexico would have required great unanimity of sentiment among the people in favor of aggressive war; in fact, a vigorous and undivided national feeling. Without this, it was vain to hope that the Government could obtain the men and means at home, or the credit abroad, necessary to prosecute it with energy. But for the first time an opposition was organized against the Administration. President Houston had been able to tide over his two years of office without encountering one. Though he had his embarrassments, it was from independent resistance to particular measures, and not in the desire to thwart or impede his executive action. There was at that time neither the material nor the temper for an opposition. Everybody wished to make the best of what happened; errors and faults were condoned; and the power of patriotism and good feeling in the first flush of victory, together with the prestige of San Jacinto, prevented any combination to thwart the Executive. A negative policy, if it effected nothing, at least offered nothing tangible to resist; so that, if there was much to complain of, there was little to undo or overthrow, and dissatisfaction effervesced in grumbling. Now, however, it was different. Opinions had crystallized, and politics was becoming a profession. The elements of party, personal, local, and sectional considerations, as well as those springing from honest differences of opinion, only waited the call of a leader to marshal in strong array. Such a leader was soon found in the late President. Whatever view may be taken of General Houston in other respects, it is idle to deny him superior talents in the management of men. His temper was not such as to be satisfied with a subordinate position; and he beheld with impatience and anger a course of proceeding which, reversing his own, seemed a tacit rebuke to him, which, if successful, would eclipse San Jacinto, and if it failed would injure the country. With such alternatives, he was unwilling it should be tried. He soon gathered all the discontented into a well-knit party, who made his name its watchword. All who differed with the Administration were taught where they would find sympathy for their opinions and their grievances; and following these was a mighty contingent of the inert, the timid, and the short-sighted, who were willing to trust all to chance, to whom was added the compact phalanx of land-swindlers and claim-forgers, eager for revenge. Of course the body of the party was honest; but, whatever its material, or motives, it hung with such a dead weight upon the measures of the Administration as to prevent the realization of its plans.

But the event which gave General Houston the deepest offense, and [98] most sorely wounded at once his self-love and his affections, was the Cherokee War. After that, reconciliation was impossible; and he always cherished the bitterest hostility to the authors and principal actors in it. Whoever else made their peace with him, he never forgave General Johnston. It was natural, and not discreditable to General Houston, that he should resent a line of conduct which reversed his Indian policy, and treated as enemies a tribe to which he was under the deepest personal obligations. It was not in his nature to discriminate between his personal relations and the public policy, and there can be no doubt that he felt the warmest indignation at the repudiation of his acts, which he identified with those of the republic.

The causes which led to the Cherokee War, as well as an outline of the events, will be related here; not only because General Johnston, as Secretary of War, made the issue with the Indians and superintended the conduct of the campaign, but because it is necessary to the vindication of a whole people, to whom it has been imputed as a national crime, to be pardoned, however, in view of the strong temptations to which they were subjected. This seems to be the view of Yoakum, their most elaborate historian, who, representing the opinions and justifying the action of General Houston, has so recorded the events, and with such inferences as to lead to the most erroneous conclusions. As the whole matter is a question of good faith, which must be kept sacred with savages as well as with others, the reader will pardon a complete though succinct statement of all the facts, cleared from the confusion of outside considerations.

A small band of Cherokees, led by Richard Fields, a half-breed, emigrated from the United States to Texas in 1822. They easily extorted a permission to settle from the Mexicans of Nacogdoches, who had been dispersed and cowed by the recent invasions of Colonel Long. Fields is said to have visited the city of Mexico to obtain a grant of lands, and to have returned satisfied with some vague and illusory promises. In 1825 he was joined to John Hunter, a white man, who, whether fanatic or impostor, had varied experience and much address, and who went to Mexico on the same mission. The constitutional right to make such a grant residing in the State, and not in the Federal Government, his request was refused. Fields and Hunter made a treaty with the “Fredonian” insurgents, in the winter of 1826; but a rival faction of the Cherokees murdered Hunter, and, led by Bowles, aided in putting down the revolt. Bowles became the war-chief of the Cherokees, and the leading spirit of the Texas Indians.

The first concession by the Government to the Cherokees was an order, made August 15, 1831, to the local authorities, to offer them an establishment on a fixed tract of land, which the Political Chief at Bexar afterward reported that they had selected. When it is borne in mind [99] that the chief motive of Mexico, in the colonization of Texas, had been to oppose the organization and valor of white men as a barrier between the restless and predatory Indians and interior Mexico, it seems a curious coincidence that the Government should begin to accord rights and privileges to savages, just when it was denying them to white men. The usurping Central Administration of Bustamante had, on April 6, 1830, absolutely forbidden the immigration of citizens of the United States, and was then trying to carry out its plan of arbitrary government in Texas.

On the 22d of March, 1832, Colonel Piedras was commissioned “to put the Cherokee families into individual possession of the lands they possessed ;” so natural is it for despotism to ally itself with barbarism, and to seek to depress its intelligent opponents by the aid of an inferior race. That the order to Piedras was obeyed, either technically or substantially, is not probable, as the Indians would not have been satisfied with an allotment of lands in severalty in lieu of the range of country which they hunted over. It served the purpose intended, however; and 50 or 100 Shawnees and Cherokees followed Piedras, the next June, to aid Bradburn, at Anahuac, against Austin's colonists. In the Declaration of Grievances, by the Ayuntamiento of Nacogdoches, the colonists complained that “Colonel Piedras had called in and employed Indians, in his meditated warfare on their rights ;” and “had insulted them by saying that he held Americans and Indians in the same estimation, and as standing on the same footing.” 1

The Colonization Act of March 24, 1825, admitted Indians as settlers, “when any of them, after having first declared themselves in favor of our religion and institutions, wish to establish themselves in any settlements that are forming.” It has been pretended that the emigrant United States Indians were entitled to lands as colonists under this act; but, when we consider that its intention was to induce white men to come in for the purpose of keeping Indians out, it cannot be considered an invitation, but a conditional permission, to a certain class of Indians. It was framed in a spirit of equity, and plainly intends the case of Indians willing to become civilized and to settle in the colonies of Austin and other empresarios. The Cherokees did not comply with either the legal formalities or other prescribed conditions; nor, indeed, did they wish to acquire any rights under the law. In point of fact, the republic of Texas, in 1839, would not have denied reasonable allotments of land to any resident Indians wishing in good faith to try the experiment of civilization.

Up to 1832 the intruding Indians had been stragglers or discontented bands, which had broken away from the great tribes in the United States. Now, however, under the aggressive policy of that Government, [100] forcing them westward, the emigration assumed a new phase. In spite of treaty stipulations to the contrary between the United States and Mexico, a formidable body of Cherokees, Shawnees, Kickapoos, Delawares, and Quapaws, numbering 1,530 warriors and five times as many souls, entered Texas in the winter of 1832-33-about the time of General Houston's arrival in the State.

No people could suffer such an invasion without disquietude; and accordingly we find that the empresarios, Messrs. Austin, Milam, and Burnet, early in 1833, addressed a memorial to General Bustamante, calling attention to the facts. Colonel Bean, too, commanding the Eastern Department, made a similar complaint to General Cass, United States Secretary of War, remonstrating against this breach of the treaty of 1831, by which “both parties bind themselves expressly to restrain by force all hostilities and incursions on the part of the Indians living within their respective boundaries.” It is hard to see how any rights accrued to these Indians, constituting fifteen-sixteenths of the intruding bands, from their incursion, when colonists and authorities alike attempted to prevent it. The centralists wanted a sprinkling of savages, not a deluge; the colonists objected to their neighborhood altogether.

Here the matter seems to have rested until September 11, 1835, when Colonel Bean addressed another letter to the President of the United States, referring to his former communication, and the frequent breaches of the treaty already mentioned; adding, “The annoyance to the community, as well as the danger, which has resulted from the fact of their incursion, was clearly anticipated at the time of my letter to the Secretary of War.” He then requests that the Government will prevent the execution of a contract for the introduction of 24,000 Creeks into Texas.

On the same day, the Committee of Vigilance for Nacogdoches also wrote to President Jackson, giving the details of the aforesaid contract, pointing to its violation of the treaty of 1831, and soliciting the interference of the United States Government; praying that “a sparse and defenseless population be protected from the evils that were so tragically manifested on the frontiers of Georgia and Alabama.” 2 This letter was signed by Sam Houston and five others. Mr. Castello, Mexican charge d'affaires, offered the same remonstrance, October 14, 1835. President Jackson took the steps necessary to prevent the threatened irruption.

In the beginning of the Texan Revolution, the Consultation, a provisional government, representing the municipalities, met November 3, 1835. On November 13th, on the motion of Sam Houston, it made a “solemn declaration” to the Indians, “that we will guarantee to [101] them the peaceable enjoyment of their rights to their lands, as we do our own. We solemnly declare that all grants, surveys, or locations of lands, within the bounds herein before mentioned, made after the settlement of said Indians, are, and of right ought to be, utterly null and void.” Lieutenant-Governor Robinson, a member of the committee that reported this declaration, says that General Houston assured the committee that he had himself seen the grant from the Mexican Government to the Cherokees, and that it was in the hands of Captain Rogers, at Fort Smith, in Arkansas; and avers that these assurances constrained the committee to unite in, and the Consultation to adopt, the report. Judge Waller, another member, confirms Lieutenant-Governor Robinson's statement. It is not now pretended that there was any such grant extant.3

Sam Houston, John Forbes, and John Cameron, were appointed commissioners to negotiate with the Cherokees. But the Legislative Council, apparently distrusting this action, passed a resolution, December 26th, instructing the commissioners “in no wise to transcend the declaration, made by the Consultation in November, in any of their articles of treaty; .... and to take such steps as might secure their” (the Indians') “effective cooperation when it should be necessary to summon the force of Texas into the field.” 4 Houston and Forbes made a treaty, February 23, 1836, ceding to the Indians a large territory.

It has been objected to the Declaration that “it was an ill-advised, disingenuous, if not subtle and sinister measure, null and void for want of fundamental authority, of no moral or political obligation, and only calculated to embarrass any future transactions with these obtruding savages.” 5 Vice-President Burnet, acting Secretary of State, says that the provisional government was acting outside the sphere of its legitimate power, “and could not, in a matter so extraneous to the avowed purposes of its creation, impose any moral or political obligation upon the independent and separate Government of Texas.” 6 It will be observed that the Consultation, by its very name, was provisional, and professed to act under the Mexican Federal Constitution of 1824. That its powers were considered merely provisional seems evident from the action of General Houston, who, having been appointed commander-in-chief by it, demanded another election when the convention met in the following March.

It was also charged that the commissioners transcended their powers, ceding a vast and undefined territory to the Indians, “without securing their effective cooperation,” according to the restriction of the Council in their instructions to the agents. Vice-President Burnet further [102] says :7 “That pretended treaty was never ratified by any competent authority on the part of Texas. On the contrary, when it was submitted to the Senate of the republic, which was the only power authorized to confirm, it was rejected by a decisive vote of that body, and no subsequent action of the Government has been had upon it.”

General Houston tried once and again to secure the constitutional approval to his action; but even his great personal popularity and political power failed in this. It is not improbable that his peculiar relations to the Cherokees had something to do with the rejection of the treaty by the Senate. A friendly biographer says that he passed “the moulding period of his life,” between fourteen and eighteen, with the Cherokees. When he abandoned his family, his home, his high office, in Tennessee, and the habits of civilized life, in 1829, it was to seek a refuge in this tribe, which adopted him into full citizenship. He lived with them, as an Indian, three years, and is supposed to have entered Texas on some mission connected with their interests. Ho then located himself at Nacogdoches, near the Texas branch of the Cherokees, and always showed for them an interest and affection which, if it clouded his judgment, was at least creditable to his heart.

When this treaty was made Texas was still nominally a State of Mexico, and Houston was still a Cherokee, if indeed he ever renounced that affiliation. Such complicated relations unfitted him to act as agent where the parties had conflicting interests; but he, nevertheless, showed an eagerness to complete this negotiation, that induced him, while commander-in-chief, to leave Refugio for that purpose, as the enemy was advancing. Thus the same day witnessed the conclusion of the treaty and the appearance of Santa Anna before San Antonio; and this ill-omened, futile, and wasteful compact was linked with the fall of the Alamo and the massacre of Fannin's men. Thus, too, it came to be regarded as General Houston's personal act, and as an agreement not binding on the State.

The treaty, which was to have engaged the effective cooperation of the Indians, is claimed by Yoakum to have secured their neutrality at least, thus imposing a moral obligation upon Texas to perform it; but his own pages dispel this slender claim. J. H. Sheppard says 8 that on the retreat in April, 1836, he was sent by General Houston to summon the Coshatties to his aid. Though long domiciled in Texas, and the most friendly of all the tribes, they would not even consider the request. It may be assumed that General Houston did not spare even more strenuous efforts to enlist the powerful Cherokees, with whom he was familiar. Though the Coshatties stood aloof and were sometimes [103] implicated in acts of hostility, yet, because their rights were prescriptive, they were treated with indulgence and allowed to retain their foothold when the immigrant Indians were expelled.

Of the Cherokees, Shawnees, Kickapoos, etc., “recent intruders,” it is said “they were restless and discontented,” and in 1836 “they gave unmistakable signs of hostility to the colonists by acts of depredation and murder.” 9 Yoakum says that the Indians were kept quiet by the assurances of the committees of San Augustine and Nacogdoches, September 18, 1835, that their just and legal rights would be respected, and that “no white man should interrupt them on their lands.” 10 Yet a different inference might be drawn from one of his anecdotes. He says that (in October or November, 1835) “the appearance of Breese's company at Nacogdocheb had a fine effect on the Cherokee Indians, a large number of whom were then in town. Their fine uniform caps and coats attracted the notice of the chief Bolles. He inquired if they were Jackson's men. ‘Certainly they are,’ said Stern. ‘Are there more coming?’ ‘Yes,’ was the reply. ‘ How many more?’ asked Bolles. Stern told him to count the hairs on his head and he would know. In twenty minutes the Indians had all left town.” 11

It is quite evident indeed from Yoakum's own account that the Indians were not restrained by treaty obligations, but by the presence of a competent force, and that the cause of Texan independence was put to the utmost hazard from the necessity of retaining troops to watch them. Both Texans and Indians knew, in April, 1836, that General Gaona, one of Santa Anna's lieutenants, with a well-appointed column, was moving on Nacogdoches under orders to kill or drive out the colonists.

Yoakum says: “The country through which he marched was thronged with Indians, already stirred up by the emissaries of the Mexicans, and naturally disposed to join them.... The people of Eastern Texas then felt that their danger was imminent. This apparent danger was increased by the threats and movements of the Indians. To ascertain the facts, the Committee of Vigilance at Nacogdoches dispatched agents to the Indians. C. H. Sims and William Sims, who were sent to the Cherokees, reported them to be hostile and making preparations for war; that they were drying beef and preparing meal, and said they were about sending off their women and children; that they had murdered Brooks Williams, an American trader among them; that they said a large body of Indians, composed of Caddoes, Keechies, Ionies, Tawacanies, Wacocs, and Cornanches, were expected to attack the American settlements; that the Cherokees gave every [104] indication of joining them; that the number of warriors embodied on the Trinity was estimated at 1,700; and that Bolles, the principal Cherokee chief, advised the agents to leave the country, as there was danger. M. B. Menard, who was sent to the Shawnee, Delaware, and Kickapoo tribes, reported that, while these tribes were friendly, they had been visited by Bolles, who urged them to take up arms against the Americans.” 12

In consequence, three companies, numbering 220 men, were detained, and three more were delayed in completing their organization, until it was too late to aid the retreating army under Houston. The women and children were hurried across the Sabine, and a panic paralyzed the action of these hardy men. The detention of the volunteers, General Gaona's change of route and failure of support, and especially the presence and attitude of United States troops, repressed the rising of Bowles and his followers. General Gaines, with fourteen companies of United States troops, took position on the Sabine, under orders to execute the treaty of 1831, and prevent. hostilities by the emigrant United States Indians. A hearty sympathizer with Texas, he used with energy his influence and power to keep the Indians peaceable. He sent Lieutenant Bonnell to inform them of his instructions, and of his intention to use force if necessary to carry them out. Bonnell found that Manuel Flores, a Mexican agent, had been among them, exerting every effort to induce them to declare war on Texas.13

General Gaona, at the head of a motley host of Mexicans and Indians, did not debouch from the forests of the Upper Trinity, but was making his way from Bastrop to San Felipe. Bolles, the Cherokee chief, indignant at the supposed suspicion of his good faith and pacific intentions, sent in his denial.” 14 Yoakum adds (vol. II., page 170): “There is no doubt but that the savages were collected in large numbers on the frontier, were greatly excited, and that nothing but the defeat of the Mexicans prevented them from making an attack upon the settlements. As it was, they did not disperse without committing an act of barbarism.” He then narrates the massacre of the settlement at Fort Parker, May 19, 1836. This plain summary shows that the treaty was entered into by the Indians with no intention of performing it, and while they were under conflicting engagements with the Mexicans; that it served merely as a cloak to cover their hostile designs, and was perfidiously violated in letter and spirit; and hence that it was not binding in conscience on the people or Government of Texas. [105]

The Indians continued in this hostile disposition. Yoakum says: “The frontiers of Texas, during the winter and spring of 1837, had been unsettled. The Indians, actuated by the persuasions of Mexican agents, and the imprudence of many white people living near them, kept up a very annoying predatory warfare. They began their depredations by the murder of three men on the Trinity at Fort Houston; then by the murder of two more on the Neches; and these were followed by numbers of others along the frontier. Besides these outrages, many horses were stolen. The Government did what it could to make treaties with the savages, and to keep up a vigilant ranging service, but still, while the Mexican emissaries were among them, they could not be quieted.” 15 Though these outrages were attributed to the prairie Indians, they were committed on the edge of the Cherokee district, and pointed suspicion to that tribe. “Every day or two, during the year 1837, some murdered citizen or stolen property attested their hostile feeling.” 16 The Mexican emissaries promised the Indians “arms, ammunition, and the plunder and prisoners-women and children included-taken during the war; also the peaceable possession of the country then held by them.”

In August, 1838, “Cordova's rebellion” occurred. In this abortive insurrection the Mexicans about Nacogdoches disclaimed their allegiance to Texas, and collected a force reported 600 strong, three-fourths of whom were Indians; but on the approach of the Texan volunteers under Rusk they retreated to the Cherokee country, and thence, when pressed by him, to the Upper Trinity, whence they dispersed. The Indians continued their hostilities, and later in the season, October 16th, General Rusk had a sharp combat with them at Kickapoo Town. Yoakum says the Mexican Government had commenced a system whose “object was to turn loose upon Texas all the Indian tribes upon her borders from the Rio Grande to Red River. Of this fact the Texan Government had undoubted evidence.” 17 This secret league against the Texans seems to have existed at least as early as 1835, and to have continued unbroken, The United States Government received information from Colonel Mason, at Fort Leavenworth, in July, 1838, confirmed by General Gaines, that the Cherokees were arranging for a council of all the tribes on the frontier, “preparatory to striking a simultaneous blow upon the settlements of Arkansas and Missouri, from Red River to the Upper Mississippi,” instigated and organized by the agents of Mexico. One of these emissaries, Don Pedro Julian Miracle, was killed near the Cross Timbers, in Texas; and his journal also confirmed the suspicions of the conspiracy against Texas at least. The Cherokees and Caddoes visited [106] Matamoras in June, and obtained large quantities of ammunition from the authorities there.18

On November 26, 1838, Mr. Jones, Texan minister, complained to the United States Government of the continual removal of discontented Indians from Arkansas to Texas, and of their marauding war. Under instructions from the Administration of President Houston, he represented that “murders and other hostile aggressions were committed by these Indians, and that a combination is now formed between most of these tribes .... for the purpose of commencing a general warfare. For this object large numbers of Caddoes, Kickapoos, Choctaws, Coshatties, Cherokees, Tawacanies, and a few from several other tribes, are now collected upon the river Trinity, from which point they are preparing to assail the settlements of the whites.” In November, 1838, General Rusk felt obliged to raise a force in Eastern Texas, disarm the Caddoes, numbering about 300 warriors, and force them to return to the United States.

Nevertheless, in spite of the rejection of the treaty by the Senate, and the Indian havoc on the border, President Houston, in the fall of 1838, directed Colonel Alexander Horton to run the lines he had designated in the treaty. As it was an act of arbitrary authority on the part of the Executive, and in defiance of legislative action, it was clearly null.19

Affairs stood thus when Lamar was inaugurated. The Hon. James Webb, Secretary of State, writing to the Texan minister at Washington, March 13, 1839, says: “The report of Major-General Rusk, together with the accompanying affidavit of Mr. Elias Vansickles, will show that the Cherokees, Delawares, Shawnees, Choctaws, Coshatties, Boluxies, and Hawanies, have all either been directly engaged in committing murders and other depredations in Texas, or are contemplating a war on the country and making preparations for it.” Early in January a series of butcheries on the border called attention to the Indians. General Johnston, who was now Secretary of War, at once undertook a more thorough organization of the frontier troops, and new vigor was imparted to their operations. The prairie Indians were severely punished in a series of combats, in the most memorable of which Burleson, Moore, Bird, and Rice, were the leaders.

General Edward Burleson was born in North Carolina, in 1798. He married at seventeen, tried farming in several States, and finally removed to Texas in 1830. Though a farmer, his tastes and aptitudes were all for military life; and he was constantly called to high command in repelling the Mexicans and Indians, in which service he always acquitted himself well. He had the qualities that make a successful [107] partisan leader-promptness, activity, endurance, enterprise, and heroic courage. His manners and habits were simple and unpretending, yet marked by native dignity. He filled many important stations, and in 1841 was elected Vice-President of Texas.

In the active campaign under Burleson against the prairie Indians the line of communication was cut between Mexico and the Cherokees, and the noted emissary Manuel Flores was killed and his papers captured. These contained convincing proofs of the alliance between the Mexicans and Cherokees. Yoakum infers that the acquaintance between them was slight, because General Canalizo addresses Big Mush as the “Chief Vixg Mas,” and Bowles as “Lieutenant-Colonel Vul,” when Bowles, as war-chief, was so much more important than the civil chief. But the Mexican spelling and pronunciation of the names count for nothing as an argument; and General Douglass, the Texan commander, styles the Cherokee chief Colonel Bowles. Then, too, among nations with crude ideas of civil liberty, there is no inconsistency in the supreme power being lodged in some military underling, the chief civil functionary being subordinated in fact to a lieutenant-colonel or a lieutenant-general, as the case may be.

The case, then, stands thus: The Cherokees, originally intruders, show no evidence of title prior to General Houston's treaty, except certain promises by Centralist commanders, as inducement or reward for services against the Texan colonists. They themselves were in no sense colonists, but a host of invading savages, who entered the Territory against the wishes and remonstrances of the inhabitants, and maintained possession by the show of force. They had no equity of long residence, for, with the exception of the pioneer band under Fields, far the greater part had immigrated since 1832, against the protests of the inhabitants. The treaty of 1836 was held void for want of authority in the Consultation, for want of verity in the “Solemn Declaration,” for want of propriety, want of consideration, and overstepping of the powers delegated, in the execution of its articles. It was rejected by the Senate, the constitutional tribunal for its ratification. But, had it been valid, the steadfast friendship of the Indians was its condition, and this condition was broken as soon as made. Indeed, the treaty was used as a mere cover for warlike preparation and a secret league with the enemy. Instead of adhering to Texas, they were, at the crisis of San Jacinto, the clandestine ally of the foe, only awaiting his appearance to strike, and requiring the whole strength of Eastern Texas and the interference of the United States Army to keep them in check. Afterward, with a settled purpose of eventual war, they had continually instigated and often enacted hostilities and outrages against the whites. They now laid claim to exclusive political sovereignty over Northern and Central Texas, and prepared to maintain it by force of arms. Had the [108] treaty been ratified with the most solemn sanctions known to international law, the failure of every consideration, the breach of every condition, and the utter disregard by the Indians of its letter and spirit, would have absolved Texas from its performance. But it was a dead letter from the beginning. The “legal and equitable title” of the Cherokees to the heart of Texas, summoned into being by General Houston, and incorporated into history by Yoakum, vanishes into thin air.

President Lamar's Administration found a host of haughty and cunning savages, occupying and claiming the best part of the republic, engaged in actual hostilities against Texas, and threatening a devastating war. Whatever might have been their original rights, the law of necessity and self-preservation must finally have led to their expulsion; but, in truth, they were treated with forbearance, though with firmness; and, if the present possessors of the soil have a title adjudicated by the sword, yet this remedy was tried only when all others failed. How the Cherokee question was met will, perhaps, be best explained in the report of the Secretary of War, November, 1839:

The reason for the adoption of more summary measures in the settlement of the Cherokee question, than was originally intended, is found in the knowledge of the facts (displaying their settled hostility and treachery toward this Government) acquired since the mild course intended to be pursued toward them was fixed upon.

During the summer and fall of 1838 many of the inhabitants residing among and in the vicinity of the Cherokee settlements were murdered and plundered, and in one instance a family of eighteen persons, consisting of men, women, and children, was barbarously massacred by them, which, by their cunning representations, were supposed to be the acts of the Indians of the prairies and malcontent Mexican citizens; but circumstances have since been made known which leave no doubt that the Cherokees themselves were the perpetrators of these atrocities. Also, early in December last, evidence of an undoubted character was placed on file in the War Department that the Cherokees had held constant correspondence with the Mexican Government since the commencement of our revolution, and during that time had made treaties, offensive and defensive, with that Government. With a knowledge of these things, it became the duty of the Government to watch narrowly the movements of the Cherokees, and to preserve, if possible, peaceable relations with them, and to prevent the destruction of the lives and property of the citizens living in their neighborhood, until the wisdom of Congress should devise the best method of relieving them from their annoying and dangerous proximity. Accordingly, under your instructions, in the month of February last, Martin Lacy was appointed agent for the Cherokees and other tribes of that district of country, with instructions to preserve friendly relations between the Cherokees and whites until the peculiar situation of the Cherokees could be brought under the consideration of Congress.

In furtherance of these intentions Major Walters was authorized to raise two companies of six-months' men to occupy the Saline of the Neches. At [109] this point it was thought that all intercourse might be cut off between the Cherokees and the Indians of the prairies, who were known to be hostile; and that the adoption of this measure would give protection to that portion of the frontier, and leave no pretext for attributing any depredations committed to the Indians of the prairies, while it would be no inconvenience to the Cherokees. Having raised one company, Major Walters marched to the Saline. On his arrival he was informed by Bowles, through the agent, that any attempt to establish the post in obedience to his orders would be repelled by force. Under the advice of the agent, as he conceived his force too small to make the attempt, he crossed to — the west bank of the Neches and there established his post. This assertion of claim to exclusive jurisdiction could not be disregarded, when considered in connection with the abundant evidence in possession of the Department of the treacherous and unfriendly designs of that tribe and their associate bands. Colonel Burleson, who was then organizing a force on the Colorado to march against the hostile Indians on the Brazos and Trinity, was therefore ordered to direct his march lower down the country, after crossing the Brazos, so as to be in position to enter the territory claimed by the Cherokees on the shortest notice. A few days after these orders were transmitted a dispatch was received from Colonel Burleson announcing the interception of letters from General Canalizo, commander of the Central forces at Matamoras, to the chiefs of the Seminoles, Caddoes, Biloxies, Kickapoos, and to Bowles and others, with instructions for them and the plan of operations to be pursued against the Texans, which intercepted letters were at the same time forwarded to the Department.

On their reception, Colonel Burleson was instructed — to raise his force to 400 men, and to march into the Cherokee district. He was advised at the same time that a volunteer force had been called for in the eastern counties to act with him. Some greater delay took place before the troops under the command of Colonel Burleson took the route for the Cherokee district than was anticipated by him, which it is scarcely necessary to mention, as no embarrassment was occasioned by it in the subsequent operations. He was not able, however, to cross the Neches until about the 14th of July; about which time the regiment of Landrum arrived from the counties of Harrison, Shelby, Sabine, and San Augustine. The regiment from Nacogdoches, which was under the command of General Rusk, had arrived some days before and taken a position near the camp of the Cherokees. The promptitude with which these movements were executed at that season of the year (early in July), and the spirit manifested on all occasions by the troops, claim the greatest praise. On the arrival of the regiments of Burleson and Landrum, the whole force was placed under the orders of Brigadier-General Douglass.

Pending these movements, Commissioners Eon. David G. Burnet, Thomas J. Rusk, J. W. Burton, James S. Mayfield, and myself, appointed at the instance of Bowles, had been engaged for several days in endeavoring to bring about an arrangement, under your instructions, on an equitable basis for the peaceable removal of the Cherokees. We had been instructed to allow a fair compensation for their improvements, to be ascertained by appraisement, and to be paid for in silver and goods before their removal. The commissioners, in several talks held with them, essayed every means to effect a friendly negotiation, but without success, and at noon on the 15th of July announced their failure. [110]

Orders were immediately given by me to General Douglass to put the troops in motion and to march against the camp of the Cherokees, but not to attack them until they had been summoned to submit to the terms proposed by the Government for their removal, and had refused. On the arrival of the troops at their camp it was found that they had retreated from it some hours previous. Their route was taken, and in the evening they were discovered in a strong position near a Delaware village, from which they fired on the advanced guard. They were immediately attacked and beaten. The next morning, July 16th, the troops were marched in pursuit, and near the Neches another conflict ensued in which the Cherokees and their allies were again defeated and driven from the field; for the particulars of which engagements I refer you to the extracts from the official reports of the commanding general, marked 8 and 16. After the affair of the Neches the Cherokees made no stand against our troops, but fled with great precipitation from the country, thus terminating this vexed question of claims to soil and sovereignty, which our laws do not in any wise concede to any Indian tribe within the limits of the republic.

The Hon. Thomas J. Rusk and James S. Mayfield, Esq., were appointed commissioners to arrange for the removal of the Shawnees. Stipulations on the same just basis as those made to the Cherokees were agreed upon, and they have received the compensation for their improvements and have been removed in accordance with the agreement entered into between the commissioners and their chiefs.

Dr. Starr, explaining these transactions, says:

The Government at once resolved to remove them. To this end means were provided to purchase from these Indians whatever personal property they might wish to dispose of, and troops were assembled to enforce, if need be, the measures of the Government. To insure success, and at the same time avoid harshness in the character of the proceedings, General Johnston, aided by Vice-President Burnet, took personal supervision of their removal and proceeded to the Indian country with the Government forces. In a friendly but firm manner he made known to the chiefs the object of his visit .... The Cherokees attempted diplomacy, with a view to procrastination and ultimate resistance. Their civil chief, Big Mush, favored removal; but Bowles, a half-breed, who had long held the first position of his tribe as war-chief, a cunning, bad man, relying upon expected aid from Mexico and the Indians of the prairies, to whom he had sent runners, prevaricated and resorted to many ingenious excuses and devices to gain time. The magnanimity of the Secretary of War indulged the chiefs for a few days, hoping to avoid bloodshed; but this lenity was probably construed into timidity by Bowles, and it soon became apparent that he must be undeceived. A peremptory demand for immediate removal was made; no response came, and our troops moved forward.

In the rough draft of the report of the commissioners, part of which is now in the writer's possession, it is stated that on the morning of the 9th of July they dispatched from Kickapoo Town Colonel McLeod, John N. Hensford, Jacob Snively, David Rusk, Colonel Len Williams, Moses L. Patton, and — Robinson, with a communication to Bowles. The [111] party was directed to carry a white flag and proceed to the Indian camp, fifteen or twenty miles distant; but, “about five miles from the Indian encampment they met Bowles and twenty-one of his warriors, who came up, whooping and painted, and surrounded the messengers.” While Bowles and his warriors were conversing with the messengers, six more Indians joined them and announced the advance of General Rusk's regiment-“upon which the whole party of Indians rallied around our messengers in a hostile attitude, and deliberated some time whether they would or would not kill them. The result of the interview, however, was that Bowles and his head-men would meet the Indian commissioners next day at a creek about two miles above Debard's.” When the commissioners arrived at the place appointed to hold the talk, they were met by a message that Bowles could not come that day, but would meet them next day at a creek five miles from their general encampment. “At the appointed hour the commissioners proceeded to the place appointed, sending James Durst and Colonel Williams in advance to notify the Indians of their approach. On their arriving in sight Bowles and some of his men were discovered on the bank of the creek, and twenty-five warriors painted, armed with guns, war-clubs, etc., posted behind trees, with their arms in readiness.” Durst rode back and informed the commissioner of these facts, and “that the whole body of Indians was posted back of a hill some three hundred yards from the place for holding the talk.” Rusk's regiment was immediately ordered up, and posted about a quarter of a mile off. “The commissioners invited Bowles, Spy Back, and a Delaware who represented the Delawares, to take seats. General Johnston opened the talk.” The hostile feelings of the Indians were clearly indicated in this conduct.

In the detailed report of General K. H. Douglass it appears that, on the failure of the negotiation, the whole force was put in motion, under orders from General Johnston, toward the encampment of Bowles on the Neches; Landrum moving up the west bank. The regiments of Burleson and Rusk found the Indians about six miles beyond their abandoned village, occupying a ravine and thicket. The Texans charged these, and after a sharp skirmish drove the enemy from the field. The Indians left eighteen dead upon the field, carrying off their wounded. They abandoned their baggage and much property, ammunition, horses, cattle, and corn.

The engagement, having taken place late in the afternoon, was not resumed until the next day. On the 16th the troops took up the trail about ten o'clock, and pursued it some five miles, when the Indians were again encountered. As soon as the enemy was discovered, the following order of battle was adopted: “Burleson, with one battalion of his command, was ordered to move forward and sustain the spy company in the event the enemy made a stand; and Rusk, with one battalion [112] of his regiment, to move up and sustain in like manner Burleson and the spy company if the enemy engaged and made a stand against them; one battalion of each regiment to be kept in reserve, to act as occasion might require.” This order was handsomely obeyed. Burleson, leading two of his companies against the Indians, drove them back upon the main body, which was strongly posted in a ravine and thicket. The rest of the troops were brought into action in good order, and were briskly engaged for about an hour and a half, when upon a concerted signal a charge was made which drove the enemy from their stronghold. The Indians retreated precipitately to a swamp and thicket in the “bottom” of the Neches, about half a mile distant, from which they were again driven by a general charge. About 500 Texans and 700 or 800 Indians were engaged. The loss of the former was two killed and thirty wounded-three mortally; of the latter, about 100 killed and wounded, according to their own report. Among those left dead on the field was the noted war-chief Bowles, the arch-enemy of Texas, and the central figure of the Indian conspiracy.

The army followed the Indians for a week, destroying their villages and cornfields, capturing cattle, and killing a few warriors who were overtaken. At last it was discovered from the trails that the organized Cherokees and their allies had scattered, and, as no resisting force was left, further pursuit was unavailing. The troops were immediately turned against the Shawnees, who, disheartened by the defeat of their brethren, submitted to the terms imposed upon them. They were promptly returned “from whence they came” --the United States-having been fairly paid “a full and just compensation for their improvements, crops, and all such property as they left through necessity or choice.”

“ This single measure,” says Dr. Starr, “relieved the frontier of the entire east, carried forward the settlements at least one hundred miles, and gave to our citizens permanent occupancy of a region not surpassed in fertility and all the elements for successful agriculture by any portion of the State. The counties of Rusk, Cherokee, Anderson, Smith, Henderson, Van Zandt, Wood, Upshur, Hunt, Kaufman, Dallas, and others, were subsequently formed from territory which could not be safely peopled by whites till these treacherous Indians were expelled.” The counties named above contained in 1870 a population of 116,370, with property assessed at $15,857,191. The faults charged against the white race in its dealings with inferior races must, in this case, be laid at the door of the United States, if anywhere, and not of Texas. The savages were subject to the United States, which, contrary to natural right and treaty stipulations, permitted them to invade a weaker neighbor, and did not, on proper remonstrance, compel them to return.20 [113] Texas communicated to the United States her intention to protect herself from the active hostilities and dangerous neighborhood of these savages by their expulsion,21 and drove them back to the territory of the United States, without protest from that Government,--which thus tacitly admitted the propriety of these transactions.

General Douglass's report of the battle of the Neches presents the odd feature of a return of thanks to the Vice-President and Secretary of War for “active exertions on the field in both engagements,” and for having “behaved in such manner as reflected great credit upon themselves.” Honorable mention by this gallant soldier was grateful to both the gentlemen named.

General Johnston mentioned to the writer his seeing a boy, who was shot through the face, riding about on the next day attending to his duties. His hardy life, and the dry, wholesome air, prevented any further inconvenience than the healing of the wound. General Johnston also related the following: In the main charge, as he was riding a little behind the line of battle, he encountered a young man retreating and evidently panic-stricken. He stopped him, and asked where he was going. The young man, much confused, replied that he was looking for his horse. “My young friend,” said General Johnston, calmly, “you are going the wrong way. Think a moment. Rejoin your command and do your duty.” The soldier hastily answered, “You are right, sir,” and, turning, ran forward until he overtook his comrades. After the battle, as General Johnston was retracing his steps, he came upon a squad of wounded, and among them this youth. He dismounted and said a few kind words to him. The soldier smiled, and pointed to his wound. I asked General Johnston if he knew the man. “No,” replied he. “I was glad not to know his name. There would have been a painful association with it. I avoided learning it. I only knew him as a young man who had retrieved himself.”

The joy and relief of the people of Eastern Texas were very great, and General Johnston was welcomed everywhere as a public benefactor. Public dinners were tendered him, most of which he was compelled to decline because the duties of his office required his presence at the capital.

Congress passed an act, January 14, 1839, appointing five commissioners to select a site for the capital of the republic. They fixed upon its present location — a position central to the boundaries of the country, secure in all the conditions of health and growth, and marked by picturesque beauty. The Government obtained the title, laid out a city, and named it Austin, in honor of the “Father of the republic.”

To the situation there were objections not to be disregarded, except by men mindful not of themselves but of posterity only. It was an [114] outpost, within the range of the fierce Comanches, 35 miles beyond Bastrop, the extreme settlement in that direction. Houston was 200 miles to the east; San Antonio, 80 miles southwest; the Gulf, 150 miles distant, with only two intervening stations; and Red River, the only inhabited frontier, 400 miles away. General Johnston wrote, May 9, 1839, to a friend in Kentucky, “The agent has gone forth with his workmen armed, under the protection of a company of riflemen, to begin the new city of Austin.” The commissioners, truly representing the spirit of the people, put aside all considerations of personal discomfort, privation and social isolation, the actual distribution of population, and the danger of Indian and Mexican enemies upon a long and exposed frontier, and looked only to what an accomplished destiny would require as the proper conditions of the capital of a great republic. Their wisdom has been justified by the event; but what buoyancy of hope, what confidence in the future and in themselves, must have inspired these men! General Johnston, who was a citizen of Austin in the first month of its existence, said to the writer fifteen years afterward: “I believe the foundation of this town has no precedent in history. The Government placed itself on a frontier open to its foes, and fixed there the centre of its future dominion. By doing so it secured the desired result. Where the American has planted his foot he will not go back.”

In August, 1839, the new capital was laid out; in September the government offices were removed from Houston; on the 1st of October the officers of government resumed their duties, “as directed by law, with very little inconvenience to themselves and no derangement of the public business beyond its temporary suspension.” 22 The venerable Dr. Starr, then Secretary of the Treasury, writing to the author, in 1869, says: “We there took position on the very verge of the territory in our actual possession, the Comanches disputing our advance by frequent raids into the immediate vicinity of the capital. There your father and I had our rooms in the same double log-cabin down to the time of his resignation in the spring of 1840; and, though the claims of the offices we filled allowed no relaxation, and our time and energies were taxed to the utmost extent, my memory rests upon the incidents of that period as among the most interesting reminiscences it is capable of recalling.” In 1840 a stockade was placed around the capital.

It has been seen that General Johnston, while never an aggressor in his dealings with the Indians, believed in such a policy as would protect the white people and compel the savages to observe peace by severely punishing its infraction. This decisive treatment led to a short but bloody struggle with the Comanches, ending in their severe chastisement and in comparative security to the harassed frontier. In May, 1839, Charles Mason, Assistant Secretary of War, writing to General [115] Johnston, says: “Colonel Karnes gives a deplorable account of the west; and I believe thinks, of the two, the marauding parties of the Americans are worse than the Mexicans or Indians. This, of course, will be relieved by the command of Captain Ross.” While the brigands were readily put down, the prairie warriors called for more vigorous measures of repression.

The Comanches, the fiercest and most cruel of the savage tribes, take no adult male prisoners, and subject captive women to every hardship and outrage. They are not excelled in the world as horsemen, and such is their skill with the bow that they can shoot their arrows unerringly and more rapidly than a dragoon can discharge his revolver. The Lipans probably belong to the same race, but were finer men physically, and were generally at war with the Comanches. Hence they were often used by the Texans as scouts. The Tonkaways, the best warriors of all, and much feared by the other tribes, were friendly to the whites. Their chief, Placidor, had a handsome, peaceful face, and was much trusted, The Comanches had always been the scourge of neighboring peoples. General Houston, who was extremely solicitous for the alliance of the Indian tribes, had made several treaties with them. Under his instructions General Johnston had in February, 1838, arranged the preliminaries of a treaty with them, and in May they had come into the town of Houston, under protection of a white flag, at the President's invitation, had made a treaty and received presents. Nevertheless, as they retired, still under the white flag, they killed two men in sight of the town, and while passing Gonzales carried off Bird Lockhart's daughter, a girl fourteen years old. Shortly afterward they killed a party of six men near San Antonio.

Louis P. Cooke, one of the commissioners to select the site of the capital, writing to General Johnston from the frontier, March 12, 1839, says: “The people of both the Brazos and the Colorado sections of country are in a continual state of alarm; and I am convinced that speedy relief must be had, or depopulation will necessarily soon ensue. The whole country is literally swarming with red-skins. I received an order at Bastrop, directing the organization of the militia, which I delivered to Judge Cunningham. He commenced his duty immediately. The people, so far as I have had an opportunity of observing, appear quite willing to comply with anything that may be desired of them for the defense of their frontier, or the systematizing of the militia.” Though the militia organization was necessarily imperfect, yet its increased efficiency led to satisfactory results.

In the autumn of 1839 some Comanches came to San Antonio and informed Colonel Karnes that all the bands had held a grand council and wished to make a treaty. Karnes informed them, by General [116] Johnston's orders, that no further treaty would be made with them until they brought in all their white prisoners, and that they must not come again to San Antonio without them. Colonel Fisher, who succeeded Karnes as commandant, received the same orders, and was also told not to give presents or pay any ransom, which only encouraged the Comanches to renewed depredations. Colonel Fisher conveyed his warning to them in February, 1840, on which they agreed to bring in their prisoners, and “talk.” Colonel Hugh McLeod and Colonel William G. Cooke were appointed commissioners to assist Fisher at the meeting; and Captain Thomas Howard, with five companies of rangers, was sent to protect the commissioners.

The narrative herein given of the occurrences at San Antonio is somewhat different from, and more detailed than, any account given elsewhere, and is derived from notes of conversations held with General Johnston twenty years ago, and taken down at the time. General Johnston had resigned before the catastrophe ; but there was no caution which could have effectually prevented the result, precipitated as it was by the perfidy and ferocity of the savage character. On March 19th a party of thirty-two warriors and thirty-three women and children entered San Antonio. Major Howard arrived at the same time, rather unexpectedly to the Comanches. Twelve chiefs met the commissioners in the stone council-house; and the “talk” was opened by the surrender of Lockhart's daughter, the only prisoner they had brought in. This poor child bore every mark of brutal treatment; all her hair had been singed off, and she had suffered cruelly from other ill-usage.

Colonel Fisher began by reminding them that he had forbidden them to come to San Antonio without their prisoners, thirteen of whom they were holding back, and asked why they had disobeyed this positive order. They replied that they had brought in the only prisoner they had, and that the others were with other bands whom they could not control. They were told that they were known to have thirteen other prisoners; and Miss Lockhart, being confronted with them, stated that she had within the last few days seen several of these in camp who were held back to extort a larger ransom by bringing them in one at a time. Fisher, who was a patriot and a good soldier, and likewise of a kind and generous though high temper, was moved with indignation at this conduct, and also at the treatment Miss Lockhart had endured. He reproached them with these things, and with their perfidy in former treaties, and asked if they recollected murdering two men and stealing Miss Lockhart while under a white flag. A Comanche chief arose, and, with an insolence of manner and tone scarcely conceivable by those who have not witnessed their audacity, replied, “No, we do not recollect!” He then seated himself after the Indian fashion, but again rose up and asked, with an air at once contemptuous and threatening, “How do [117] you like our answer?” Fisher said: “I do not like your answer. I told you not to; come here again without bringing in the prisoners. You have come against my orders. Your women and, children may depart in peace, and your braves may go and tell your people to send in the prisoners. When those prisoners are returned, your chiefs here present may likewise go free. Until then we will hold you as hostages.”

Besides the commissioners and the chiefs, there was present in the room a crowd of by-standers, drawn together by curiosity; and at this moment Captain Howard: marched in a company of soldiers. But, if the commissioners hoped to overawe these indomitable savages by a show of force, they were mistaken. If the Comanches do not spare, neither do they ask mercy nor submit to captivity. When they had heard Fisher's speech, they strung their bows, gave the: war-whoop, and sprang for the door. Howard tried to halt them, motioning them back with a gesture of his hand. The reply was a knife-thrust, stabbing him seriously, and the sentinel was also cut down. He then ordered the soldiers to fire, and, immediately a desperate conflict ensued, in which all the chiefs were killed.

When the Comanches outside the building heard the war-whoop within, they at once attacked the people; but Captain Redd's company coming up promptly, they retreated, fighting, toward a stone house, which only one of them succeeded in reaching. All the other warriors, except one renegade Mexican, were killed. Wishing to spare the warrior in the house, the commissioners sent in an Indian woman to tell him: to retire peaceably. This he refused to do ; and, as he could not be safely left where he was, holes were picked in the cement roof, and burning pitch thrown in until he was forced: to leave the house. He stepped out with his bow strung and arrow ready, but, before he could aim it, was shot down. Three women and two boys, who, as is their custom, took part in the fray, were also slain. One of the lads was amusing some idlers, shooting at small: silver coins which rewarded his skill, when the war-whoop was raised. Quick as thought, the arrow upon his string was sent through the heart of the nearest white man — a very mild and peaceable citizen. Seven Texans were killed and eight wounded. Twenty-eight Indian women and children were detained as prisoners until the Comanches brought in their captives in exchange.

This sudden affray, ending in such: a massacre, was a heavy blow to the Comanches. They made extensive preparations to avenge it, and in August 400 warriors swept down to Lavaca Bay, butchering and plundering as they went. Twenty or thirty persons were killed, and great booty taken. But the time was gone when these forays could be made with impunity. A militia as hardy, as daring, and more intelligent than themselves, was on their track. It rallied, following and attacking whenever it could overtake them. While they contended [118] with the rangers who were harassing their flanks and rear, they were intercepted at Plum Creek by other militia, under Felix Huston and Burleson, and routed with heavy loss. In the raid they lost about eighty warriors and most of their booty.

In October severe retaliation was meted out to the Comanches by Colonel Moore, with a force of ninety Texans and twelve Lipans. He fell upon their village on the Red Fork of the Colorado, 300 miles above Austin, and killed 130 Indians and captured thirty-four, together with about 500 horses. This was the end of Comanche incursions for a long time. Finding war with the Texans so unprofitable, they turned their arms against their late allies of Mexico, and thus became to all intents the unpaid auxiliaries of Texas. Judge Love, writing June 4, 1840, says, “The situation of the frontier proves the correctness of the Indian policy.” This was the general sentiment, which was strengthened by the Plum Creek victory and Moore's reprisal. Though all the combats with the Comanches herein narrated took place after General Johnston's resignation, their success was the direct result of his more efficient organization of the militia, and the active policy he had inaugurated. General Johnston resigned the War office about the 1st of March, 1840.

1 Texas Almanac, 1869, p. 39.

2Niles's Register,” vol. XLIX., p. 16Q.

3Texas Almanac,” 1860, p. 44.

4 Kennedy, “History of Texas,” vol. II., p. 159.

5Texas Almanac,” 1859, p. 18.

6 Dispatch, May 30, 1839, to General Dunlap, Texan minister to the United States.

7 Dispatch, May 30, 1839, to General Dunlap, Texan minister to the United States.

8Texas Almanac,” 1872, p. 101.

9Texas Almanac,” 1858, p. 174.

10 Yoakum, “History of Texas,” vol. i., p. 858.

11 Ibid., vol. II., p. 23.

12 Yoakum, “History of Texas,” vol. II., pp. 125-127,

13 Ibid., vol. II., p. 167.

14 Ibid., vol. II., p. 157.

15 Yoakum, “History of Texas,” vol. II., p. 213,

16 Ibid., vol. II,, p. 228,

17 Ibid., vol. II,, p. 251,

18 Report of the Secretary of State (Texas), November, 1839, p. 22.

19 Ibid,, November, 1839, Document A, p. 13.

20 Report of the Secretary of State of Texas, 18839, Documents A and B.

21 Report of the Secretary of State of Texas, letter of March 10, 1839.

22 President Lamar's message, 1839.

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