Thursday, January 08, 2015

Battle of Dove Creek, Texas: 150th Anniversary (1865-2015)

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 led by No-ko-aht traveling from Kansas Territory (with some Pottawatomie) 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 exchange of gunfire. Meanwhile, Fossett's men grabbed horses and ponies and began taking them off the field, but a Kickapoo detachment recaptured 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.

"Remember Dove Creek:" surreal fight between Texas Anglo Confederates and migrating Native Americans. 

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.


Johnny Yen said...

I like it when the good guys win!

Charles Gramlich said...

sounds like a battle that had more greed at the heart of it than any real military objective. Jeez

the walking man said...

If only that had been repeated two or three hundred times we'd be living in a different America.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I had no idea. What an amazing history.