Comanche War: Misconceived Perceptions about Texan Intentions

Native American Relations in Texas

Henry W. Karnes to Albert Sidney Johnston, January 10, 1840. Asking for permission to meet with the Comanche indians to negotiate for their prisoners 

A group of indians on the Central and Western Texas plains, called the Comanche Indiands, iived for centuries in Texas. Their nomadic, herding style was perfectly suited for the large expanses of the Texan plains, where they were free and able to pursue game and the land. As white settlers started encroaching onto their land, however, problems ensued. In the earlier part of 1840, the Comanche indians, who were having small skirmishes with the white settlers and authorities in and around San Antonio. They had captured some white settlers some weeks before, and "At the urging of Colonel Henry W. Karnes, this band traveled to San Antonio to meet with commissioners of the Texas government to negotiate a peace settlement and the return of white captives" (Texas State Library). However, what they did not know is that the authorities were assembling a large grouping of men to arrest the comanches if they did not agree to the peace agreements. In all, when they were returning the prisoners back to the authorities, tensions rose over the apparent scars and bruises on the prisoners - signs of possible torture. Texas soldiers came into arrest the Comanche leaders, which sparked a large brawl in the city, with more Comanche fighters being brought in to aid in the fight. "The Comanches believed they had been deliberately lured into an ambush and planned a revenge campaign of unprecedented scale" (Texas State Library), and thus began the Comanche War with the Texans. Peace was impossible to seek out once the natives believed that they were set up for an ambush all along, though the Texans had the right intentions in mind, it was hard to avoid the impending battles and war even if the Texan's intentions were not to ambush the Comanches, but to literally seek peace. It was only until when they saw their captives were tortured did it change a tone.

Felix Houston to Branch Archer

Felix Huston to Branch Archer on the Battle of Plum Creek and how the Texas forces rounded up the Natives, killed children and took back the plunder the Comanches took when they raided nearby villages. August 12, 1840 after the battle

This started what can be regarded as one of the bloodiest and most pointless wars of the Native American wars. Revenge upon revenge, the Comanches and the Texas soldiers burned countless villages and plundered many towns, resulting in the death of thousands of citizens in Texas and native tribespeople. The Battle of Plum was one of the more major battles of the Comanch war, and it is important to note the magnitude of this battle. "The Texans organized a volunteer army under Gen. Felix Huston, Col. Edward Burleson, Capt. Mathew Caldwell, and others and with Texas Rangers under Ben McCulloch overtook the Indians at Plum Creek in the vicinity of the present town of Lockhart on August 11, 1840. There a decisive defeat on the following day pushed the Comanches westward" (Texas State Historical Association) and many battles like this carried on thorughout the entire war. The natives were attempting to move out with the hundreds of horses and mules that they had taken captive, until the Texas Rangers found them at Plum Creek and gave them a decisive blow (de Shields), killing women and children in the Comanche train as well. It is important to note that some historians would prefer to include the Texas Indian Wars within the Comanche wars, however it has proved useful to split them into more distcint sections as to speak on certain instances where native relations were broken down and drawn out.

1. de Shields, James, 1885. "INDIAN WARS IN TEXAS.: V. OUR INDIAN AFFAIRS DURING LAMAR'S ADMINISTRATION (CONTINUED).--1840-41." United Service; a Quarterly Review of Military and Naval Affairs (1879-1905), 12, 688.

2. Andrew Jackson Houston Papers #1966, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

3. Texas State Library, Online format source, Paper document, letter to Comanche Indians Henry Karnes

Comanche War: Misconceived Perceptions about Texan Intentions