The Warren Wagon Train Massacre –
White Man's Version
There were many Indian massacres or atrocities committed in the nineteenth
century that resulted in many more deaths to whites and Indians.
This story tells of an incident that was particularly brutal.
There were many Indian massacres or atrocities committed in the nineteenth century that resulted in many more deaths to whites and Indians. This story tells of an incident that was particularly brutal.
18, 1871, the next day after General Sherman, Gen. Marcy, and their
escorts passed over the road between Fort Belknap and Fort Richardson, and
two years and two days after the famous Salt Creek Fight, a wagon train,
loaded with corn, and belonging to Capt. Henry Warren, who was a
contractor at Ft. Griffin, was attacked by Chief Satanta, Satauk,
(Satank), Big Tree, and perhaps other chiefs in command of about 100
warriors, not a great distance from Flat Top Mountain, about half-way
between Fort Richardson and Fort Belknap, and on the identical road over
which Gen. Sherman, Gen. Marcy and others passed during the preceding day.
train, when attacked, was under the command of Nathan S. Long,
wagon-master. Many warriors were armed with the most modern rifles, known
at that time. The teamsters were as helpless as children, Nathan Long,
John Mullins, J. S. and Samuel Elliot, B. J. Baxter, Jesse Bowman, and
James Williams, were killed. Thomas Brazeale was seriously wounded, but
escaped, and R. A. Day, and Charles Brady, escaped unharmed. Samuel
Elliott was burned to death. The savages chained him to the wheel of a
wagon so he could not move, and then built a fire around his feet.
was difficult for Gen. Sherman, Gen. Marcy and others to believe that the
Indians had committed such crimes. After making a personal investigation,
Col. McKenzie reported to Gen. Sherman that the report was true, as
related. Thomas Brazeale, the wounded man, also found his way to
Jacksboro, and related how the savage tigers from the reservation near Ft.
Sill sprang upon the defenseless teamsters, killed seven of their number,
one of whom was burned to death, and carried away about forty mules, as
well as such other things that seemed to suit their fancy.
example of savage butchery has often been referred to as the Monument
Fight, for after it happened, Capt. Henry Warren erected a nicely painted
wooden monument where the tragedy occurred. We are told that this monument
decayed and disappeared many years ago.
Tecumseh Sherman, General of the Army, traveled north on an inspection
tour of the forts. He was accompanied by Inspector General Randolph B.
Marcy, who had been retained by United States government twenty years
prior for several explorations, including, blazing a southern route to
Santa Fe, locating the head waters of the Brazos and the Red Rivers and,
with Major Neighbors, establishing suitable locations for the Indian
Reservations. Sherman and Marcy were accompanied by two staff members and
only fifteen cavalry men.
dispatched his Adjutant, R. G. Carter, and a detachment to intercept and
escort the General and his party. This precaution was prudent, considering
the 80 plus miles the party traveled between Ft. Griffin and Ft.
Richardson, at its midpoint, crossed the Salt Creek Prairie, and
considered one of the most dangerous places on the entire United States
frontier. These were the closest settlements to the Indian Territory
(United States Indian Policy did not allow pursuit of the Indians onto the
Reservations) so they were not only most convenient targets of short
raids-, but also the first and last targets of opportunity for longer
gracefully declined Carter's assistance indicating an air of nonchalance
which suited his political philosophy about the degree of danger presented
by Indians. When Marcy pointed out to Sherman that the area was
dramatically less inhabited than it was when he had passed through there
twenty years prior, Sherman pointed out the houses were spaced far apart
and did not indicate serious concern on the part of the builders for
believed a large portion of the raiders to be ex-Confederate renegades,
and he had written to General J. J. Reynolds, commander of the department
have seen not a trace of an Indian thus far, and only hear stories of
people which indicate that what ever Indians there be, only come to Texas
to steal horses... and the people within a hundred miles of the frontier
ought to take precautions such as all people do against all sort of
thieves... but up to this point the people manifest no fears or
apprehensions, for they expose women and children singly on the road and
in cabins far off from others as though they were in Illinois."
Sherman's party crossed Salt Creek unaware that they were being watched by a Kiowa raiding party of one hundred fifty warriors, led by Chiefs Satank and Satanta, accompanied by the mysterious medicine man, Maman-ti.
their ascension to the top of the hill, Maman-ti consulted with his owl, a
symbol of death to the Kiowa. They feared even to look at an owl, which
was fortunate for Maman-ti because his was only an owl skin with button
eyes; he could blow air into the owl skin causing the wings to flap. He
told the braves the owl warned against attacking the first target they
saw, but glory would be theirs if they waited for the second. Luckily for
Sherman, they saw his party first. Sometime later, traveling in the
opposite direction towards Ft. Griffin, the Warren wagon train and its
teamsters were the unfortunate ones.
(White Bear) blew his trumpet signaling the attack. As they charged, the
drivers attempted to circle their wagons. Addo-etta (Big Tree) and Yellow
Wolf cut off the lead mules, scoring the first two coups. The teamsters
opened fire, wounding --Red War Bonnet, a Kiowa, and killing Or-dlee, a
Comanche. Big Tree shot one of the drivers out of his seat.
Light-Haired-Young-Man, a Kiowa-Apache, was knocked off his horse and
carried from the fight.
The warriors circled the train, their fire killing three more drivers and wounding a fourth. The remaining seven bolted through a gap in the -circling Indians and sprinted -toward the timber around Cox Mountain. Two more died as they ran and a third was injured.
Indians didn't pursue them into the timber, returning to their primary
interest, the booty in the wagons. They continued circling the train,
unsure of the number of defenders still remaining. An inexperienced young
Kiowa, named Hautau (Gun Shot), charged a wagon. As he touched the canvas
to claim it, Samuel Elliott, lying wounded inside the wagon, shot him in
the face. Elliott was overtaken and chained, face down, to a wagon tongue
and roasted over a slow fire.
this time in Ft. Richardson, Sherman was receiving local citizens who
related their individual accounts of the Indian atrocities they had
encountered. The settlers recounted hundreds of deaths, and kidnappings in
the depredations which had occurred over the last decade. Sherman was
polite but unmoved, and spent the evening at a reception in his honor
attended by the officers and their wives. Later that night he was awakened
from his sleep and informed of the fate of the wagon train on the road he
had just crossed. Now visibly moved, he ordered Mackenzie to take a
detachment to investigate the report, and if true, to pursue the raiders
even to the Reservation.
departed with four cavalry companies consisting of over two hundred men,
and headed west along the Butterfield Road in a heavy rain storm.
Confirming the report, Mackenzie searched to the north for over 20 days
with no success. On June 4th, the detachment arrived at Ft. Sill to find
the leaders of the raid in chains and Sherman already departed, continuing
his inspection tour into Missouri.
Quaker Indian agent, Lawry Tatum and Colonel Grierson, commander of Ft.
Sill, greeted General Sherman upon his arrival at the fort on May 23. When
informed about the wagon train massacre at Salt Creek, Tatum stated that
Satanta's tribe was reported off the reservation and he would make
inquiries, several days later when Indians picked up their rations. When
asked, Satanta, in a proud statement, had not only condemned himself, but
also Big Tree, Satank and Eagle Heart as accomplices.
given the information, Sherman, lacking authority to make arrest on the
reservation, asked Tatum to call the chiefs to a meeting on the porch of
Colonel Grierson's home at Fort Sill. A large number of chiefs gathered
and Satanta again confirmed that it was he that had led the raid, and if
anyone said different, they would be a liar. Sherman stated that Satanta,
Satank, Big Tree and Eagle Heart were under arrest and would be sent to
Texas to stand trial for murder, and that the Kiowa tribe would be
responsible for returning the mules stolen in the raid.
then changed his story, saying he only went along to blow his bugle
(signaling commands to his warriors and confusing the commands given by
the army) and observe the young men learning to be warriors. Kicking Bird
offered to produce a large number of mules in retribution, but pleaded
that they not arrest the chiefs.
the shutters around the porch banged open and dozens of previously
concealed soldiers brought their rifles to bear on the gathered Indians
who had weapons concealed beneath their blankets. In the next few seconds,
one warrior was killed and Eagle Heart escaped. The remaining three
suspect chiefs were arrested and put in irons and confined awaiting their
deportation to Texas.
the morning of June 8th, Mackenzie and his troops left Ft. Sill, escorting
the wagon containing the three manacled chiefs on their way to stand trial
in Jacksboro, Texas. Satank told a Caddo scout "Tell my people I died
beside the road. My bones will be found there. Tell my people to gather
them up and carry them away." The old chief then covered his head
with a blanket and began his death song.
the next mile he had chewed enough of his hand off to escape a manacle.
With a concealed knife, he stabbed one of the guards in the wagon and
grabbed a rifle but before he could fire, Corporal John B. Charlton killed
him. The soldiers left his body by the road approximately where he
predicted he would be, and proceeded to Jacksboro with the surviving two
trial was a nationwide media event, as it was the first time raiding
Indians had been made to stand trial for their deeds in the community
where they committed their crimes. Newspapers across the country carried
headlines stating that twelve Jacksboro jurors had found them guilty of
murder and that Judge Charles Soward sentenced them to be hanged.
Edmund J. Davis was ultimately pressured to overturn the sentence. He was
swayed by two sound arguments, first that the Kiowa would be easier to
control if there existed a possibility of the Chiefs being returned, and
second that Indians feared confinement more than death. Thus, on August 2,
1871, he commuted their sentences to life imprisonment.
chiefs were sent to the Huntsville State Penitentiary and paroled in 1873.
They immediately violated their parole by leading new raids into Texas and
both were eventually rearrested. Satanta died of a fall from an upper
story window while in prison. Big Tree was eventually released and helped
establish and became a deacon in a Baptist church in Oklahoma.
Mrs. Barbara Belding-Gibson points our in her book, Painted Pole, that the freeing of Satanta and Big Tree was a successful ploy by Lone Wolf to get them released. He represented himself to the U. S. as premier chief of the Kiowa and one who could speak for the Comanche. He insisted he would have to confer with Big Tree and Satanta before he could go to D. C. and make a treaty.
Indians were transported to St. Louis to meet with Lone Wolf then returned
to Huntsville while he went to Washington. There he declared he couldn't
control his young warriors without the aid of Big Tree and Satanta. If
they weren't going to be released, he promised there would be open
warfare. The United States representatives agreed, without authority, and
then pressured Governor Davis to release the Indians.
© Contributed by Dennis Muncrief - 2009