Plains Indians Lost Twice at Adobe Walls

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Quanah Parker on horseback wearing eagle feather headdress and holding a lance bottom-up.

Native American warriors won many battles they fought with the U.S. cavalry, white settlers and buffalo hunters, but lost twice at almost the same place; Adobe Walls.

In October, 1864, the U.S. Army sent 335 men, both cavalry and infantry, with famed Indian scout Kit Carson, and about 70 Ute and Apache Indian scouts, to attack marauding Comanches and Kiowas at their winter quarters south of the Canadian River, near the Texas-Oklahoma line.

Carson and the scouts first led the soldiers to a Kiowa village near the Canadian, where they attacked. The battle went so well, the Kiowas retreated four miles, near abandoned and ruined trading post; Adobe Walls.

At first, the soldiers faced about 200 mounted warriors, but about 1,000 warriors were waiting to attack and a 500-lodge Kiowa village could clearly be seen in the distance.

Luckily, the cavalry brought howitzers, short cannons, giving them an advantage.

But in the meantime, the Indians were reinforced by Comanches, and the soldiers now faced up to 3,000 warriors.

The soldiers retreated to the Kiowa villlage and destroyed it, with the Indians’ winter food stores, ammunition, clothes, buffalo robes and blankets.

The Army lost two soldiers in the fighting, with 21 wounded, but about 60 warriors were killed or wounded. The exact numbers are unclear.

Second Battle of Adobe Walls

Ten years later, about 700 Comanche (one of them Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, son of white captive Cynthia Ann Parker), Cheyenne and Kiowa warriors attacked about 30 Adobe Walls residents and visiting buffalo (hide) hunters and others, including famed Western guman Bat Masterson.

The Plains Indians were outraged white buffalo hunters were killing off their main food supply and source of clothes and warm robes.

So the Indians vowed to destroy the new Adobe Walls (now located about a mile from the old site and containing four buildings and a corral), where hunters bought supplies, drank at the saloon and sold their hides.

About 2 a.m., on June 27, 1874, the hunters and residents woke up to a shot (which they initially believed was a breaking ridge pole). A saloon keeper had been worried about Indian attacks and decided to wake everyone within ear shot.

Around the same time, hide hunter Billy Dixon was loading his wagons and saw warriors galloping toward the buildings.

The whites fought from the buildings while the Indians circled. An Indian bugler (hard to believe, but true) directed the Indian attack with bugle calls. Unfortunately for the warriors, many of the hide hunters had been in the U.S. Army and understood the signals.

Sharps Rifle Helped Hide Hunters

But the warriors had (at the urging of Isatai, a Comance medicine man, who promised the warriors would be protected with magic paint) chosen the wrong place, and the wrong men, to attack. The hunters were good shots and had long-range, extremely accurate, rifles: Dixon killed a warrior at more than 1,500 yards, using a Sharps .50.

The whites lost five men in the Second Battle of Adobe Walls, but it’s uncertain how many Indians were killed.

Although the whites technically won the battle, the final victory went to the Indians, because the residents decided to abandon Adobe Walls, and the Indians then burned the buildings. The settlement was never rebuilt.

Sources:

  1. Great Western Indian Fights, by Members of the Potomac Corral of the Westerners, University of Nebraska Press, 1960
  2. Eyewitness to the Old West, Edited by Richard Scott, Roberts Rinehart Publishers, 2002