Saga of a Texas Ranger–Series by Jeff Robenalt

Texas history and then some.

The Council House Fight!-background history for “Saga of a Texas Ranger”

Written By: admin - Nov• 08•10

The Council House Fight

The council House

The Council House Fight

By: jeffery robenalt

      Unlike the first President of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston, who believed in arriving at peaceful settlements with the country’s Native American population, Houston’s successor, Mirabeau Lamar wanted to either kill the Indians outright or expel them entirely from the Republic. After assuming the Presidency, Lamar began to implement this policy of eradication with a vengeance. His first move was to order Chief Bowles to lead the Cherokeesout of Texas. When Bowles refused, Lamar authorized militia General Kelsey Douglass to use force to drive the Cherokees out of the country. 
     On July 16, 1839, the militia attacked the main Cherokee village located on the Nueces River. Chief Bowles was killed during the fighting, and the Cherokees were forced to hurriedly pack up a meager portion of their belongings and move to present-day Oklahoma, leaving behind their homes, their livestock, and their crops ripening in the fields. However, General Douglas refused to limit Lamar’s policy to the Cherokees alone, and by July 25, the Caddo, Kickapoo, Muskogee, Creek, Delaware, Shawnee, and Seminole tribes had also been driven into Oklahoma or across the Arkansas line. Only the small and inoffensive Alabama and Coshatta tribes were permitted to remain, and they were moved to less fertile lands on what was to become one of Texas’ few permanent Indian reservations. 
     President Lamar hoped to deal with the Comanches in a similar fashion, but the fierce Lords of the Plains were a far cry from the weak and nearly civilized tribes of east Texas. In fact, the Penateka Comanches had been waging continuous, bloody hit and run warfare for years against the settlers living along the frontier north and west of Austin. In turn, companies of Texas Rangers had begun to carry the fight into the Comancheria. In January, 1839, Colonel John Moore led three companies of volunteers in an attack on a Comanche village located on a small creek in the valley of the San Saba River, and in May, 1839, Captain John Birdwith some fifty men fought an engagement on the Little River north of Austin against a large party of warriors hunting buffalo. Even though the Penetaka had proven to be a formidable enemy, such attacks on their way of life eventually convinced them that the cost of continued fighting would be much higher than they were willing to pay. 
     As a result, on January 9, 1840, several Penetaka war chiefs rode boldly into San Antonio seeking a parley with the commander of the Texas Rangers, Colonel Henry Karnes. At the meeting, the chiefs told Karnes that all the bands of the Penateka had agreed to ask the Texans for peace. Karnes consented to their request on the sole condition that the Comanches return all their white captives, believed to have numbered around two hundred at the time. The war chiefs agreed and promised to return to San Antonio in twenty days. 
     Fearing that the Comanches would fail to keep their promises, Colonel Karnes wrote to General Albert Sidney Johnston, the commander of the Texas Army, recommending that the General send three peace commissioners and enough troops to capture the Indians who came to San Antonio and hold them as hostages if the white captives were not returned. Johnston agreed and dispatched three companies of the first regiment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Fisher. Fisher was also appointed as one of the three commissioners along with the Texas Adjutant General and the Acting Secretary of War. 
     On March 19, 1840, sixty-five Comanches including men, women, and children rode into San Antonio. The brightly painted and attired contingent was led by twelve war chiefs and the great peace chief, Muguara, or Muk-wah-rah, the Spirit Talker. Unfortunately, the Comanches arrived with only two captives; a sixteen year-old girl, Matilda Lockhart and a young Mexican boy the Texans didn’t even count. To make matters worse, the young girl’s condition was abhorrent. Her face and body were covered by bruises and sores, and the end of her nose had been burnt off down to the bone by the malevolent Comanche squaws who had routinely awakened her from sleep by sticking a hot coal against her flesh, especially to the tip of her nose. Matilda had been with the Comanches for nearly two years and she understood some of their language. She told the Texans that the Indians had thirteen more captives in their camp, but that they hoped to get a higher price by returning them one at a time. 
     The meeting took place in the court house on the corner of Main Plaza and Market Street, a small, one-story limestone building known as the Council House. Chief Muguara and the other war chiefs entered, and Muguara began the talk by demanding higher prices for the remaining captives held by the Comanches. Ignoring the Peace chief’s outrageous demands, the commissioners insisted on knowing why the other prisoners had not been returned as promised. Muguara arrogantly answered that they were being held by other bands, but that they could be purchased for the right price. 
     After seeing the mutilation of the young Lockhart girl, the commissioners were furious, and Colonel Fisher ordered some of the soldiers who had been surrounding the outside of the council house to enter the meeting room. Next, a reluctant interpreter was ordered to tell Muguara that he and the war chiefs would be imprisoned until the remainder of the white captives were released. After delivering the threat, the frightened interpreter turned and fled from the room. 
     Pandemonium ensued as the Comanches responded with shrill war cries and rushed for the door. A war chief stabbed a soldier in the chest who attempted to block the door with his body, and Fisher gave the command to open fire. Muguara was killed instantly, and in the confusion caused by echoing blasts of gunfire, the howls and screams of the Comanches, and thick clouds of swirling black powder smoke, the surviving Comanches broke out of the building. Even the young Comanche boys who had been playing outside during the meeting joined in on the fight, firing arrows in all directions. Indians, soldiers, and spectators alike were killed and wounded in the general melee that followed, and in the end, none of the Comanches escaped the deadly trap set by Colonel Fisher. Muguara and all twelve war chiefs were killed along with many of the Comanche women and children. About thirty women and children were taken prisoner. The Texans suffered only six killed and ten wounded. 
     After the smoke had settled, Colonel Fisher ordered that a squaw be given a horse and sent to the Comanche camp with a warning; unless the white captives were returned within twelve days all the Comanche prisoners being held in the San Antonio jail would be killed. The squaw never returned to San Antonio, but eventually a young white boy who had been adopted into the tribe told the terrible tale of what had happened when the war chief’s wife reached the camp. 
     The loss of so many warriors and leaders was a serious blow for any Comanche band to suffer, and the Penateka went into a frenzy of mourning. Women screamed and howled as they slashed at their arms and legs with razor-sharp flint knives, and men sacrificed many valuable horses to honor the brave dead. However, all of this was nothing compared with the ghastly fate suffered by the thirteen white captives. They were either roasted alive or tortured to death in hideous and lingering ways that only a fierce and vengeful people like the Comanches could devise. 
     The results of the Council House fight ensured that there would be no lasting peace between the Republic of Texas and the Comanche nation. For several months after the incident people in and around San Antonio lived in a state of terror, but when nothing of note had occurred by midsummer, they assumed the Comanche threat was gone. This assumption could not have been further from the truth. The Penateka had simply melted away deep into the northern reaches of the Comancheria where they held council with all the other Comanche bands. Under a brilliant August moon the Comanches would return in a force heretofore unknown, and Texas would eventually pay a terrible price in blood and suffering during the Great Comanche Raid of 1840. 
**** If you enjoyed reading this article, you will love my book, “Saga of a Texas Ranger”; historical fiction at its finest! To find out more about the book, go to ABOUT THE BOOK and BOOK REVIEW on this web site. To order either the hardback or kindle edition, go to ABOUT THE BOOK on this web site or click on . The second book in the series, “Star Over Texas”, is due to be released soon along with the soft cover edition of “Saga of a Texas Ranger.” ****
About the Author


Jeffery Robenalt was born and raised in Tiffin, Ohio. He served in Vietnam as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and later served as a Platoon Leader and Executive Officer with the 101st Airborne Division. He has a BS in Sociology from Troy University, a BA in History from New York University, and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Texas Tech University. After earning his law degree, Mr. Robenalt was an Attorney for the State of Texas for ten years. Saga of a Texas Ranger is his first novel, however, the second volume in the saga, Star Over Texas, will soon be ready for publication. Mr. Robenalt currently resides in Lockhart, Texas where he teaches Texas history at Lockhart Junior High School.

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Article Source: Council House Fight

tagwords–saga of texas ranger, jeff robenalt, texas history, texas rangers

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