Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dove Creek Fiasco: Texas Confederates Attack Traveling Kickapoo

Dove Creek, Texas, January 8, 1865. In the waning months of the American Civil War, a combined force of Texas State and Texas Confederate frontier troops, about 500 men, attacked a band of Kickapoo (with some Pottawatomie) led by No-ko-aht that was traveling from Kansas Territory toward Nacimiento, Coahuila, Mexico, where they'd been granted land by the Mexican government in exchange for protection of the area. 

In a report following the ensuing Dove Creek fiasco, Brigadier General J. D. (John David) McAdoo, commander of the 2nd and 3rd Frontier Districts, Texas State Troops, noted the recklessness of the attack:

The two commands halted but a few minutes, during which a brief conversation was had between the two commanders [Henry Fossett and S.S. (Silas S.) Totten], after which, without any formation of a line of battle, without any preparation, without any inspection of the [Kickapoo] camp, without any communication with the Indians or inquiry as to what tribe or party they belonged to, without any knowledge of their strength or position, the command 'forward' was given, and a pell-mell charge was made for three miles.

The Kickapoo had sent out truce parties to both commands, an elderly man with a hunting pass, and a squaw -- both were allowed to parley and then shot dead, one by Fossett and the other by Totten. Fossett's words: "We take no prisoners here." Totten's men then made a frontal assault on the Kickapoo camp while Fossett's wheeled around its flank, aiming to capture as many horses as they could.

The Kickapoo band, with about 500 fighting men (probably including escaped slaves) and an equal or larger number of  women and children to fight for, laid down a withering fire on Totten's men, killing four of his lieutenants and about a dozen men in the first major exhange of gunfire. Meanwhile, Fossett's men grabbed horses and ponies and began taking them off the field, but a Kickapoo detachment recpatured most of them and drove the attackers away in a running gun battle that turned into a Texas Confederate rout. That night, it snowed hard, three feet in some places; Fossett and Totten's surviving men huddled together, trying not to freeze to death. No-ko-aht's band continued on toward Mexico, not in the least amused.

In Texas, you often hear the phrase, "Remember the Alamo!" That's fine and dandy, but I'll add here and now: "Remember Dove Creek!"

Sources: McAdoo's report of February 20, 1865, in The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 48, Part 1.

"No-ko-aht's Talk," edited by George A. Root, Kansas Historical Quarterly, February 1932 (Vol. 1, No. 2), pages 153-159.

Today's Rune: Signals.    


Charles Gramlich said...

Hard to call people who would do that kind of thing soldiers. Glad to hear they got their ass handed to them, though sorry to hear any one on the peaceful Kickapoo side had to die.

Johnny Yen said...

Wow! Hubris rarely works out well in war.

Johnny Yen said...

Wow! Hubris rarely works out well in war.