Saga of a Texas Ranger–Series by Jeff Robenalt

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Victory on the Upper Colorado: The Expedition of Colonel John Moore-backround history for “Saga of a Texas Ranger”

Written By: admin - Nov• 08•10
texas comanche, background history for "saga of a texas ranger"

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Victory on the Upper Colorado: The Expedition of Colonel John Moore

By: jeffery robenalt

      In spite of the punishing defeat the Comanches suffered at the conclusion of the Great Raid of 1840, the President of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau Lamar, and the majority of his supporters believed that the Indians had not been punished severely enough for their devastating invasion of the lower settlements. The Texans agreed that further chastisement was in order to clearly demonstrate to the hostiles that the Republic would no longer tolerate such belligerent activity. Therefore, following the Battle of Plum Creek and at the behest of President Lamar, Texas Ranger Colonel John Moore began circulating advertisements in local newspapers and throughout the small towns and homesteads of frontier Texas seeking volunteers willing to join an expedition for the purpose of carrying the fight against the Comanches into the heart of the Comancheria
      Colonel Moore had led just such an expedition the previous February, attacking a Comanche village on Spring Creek in the valley of the San Saba River. After an initial success, the attack ended in disaster when Moore ordered an unexpected retreat. In the report he rendered on the affair, Moore stated that the retreat was necessary because of poor visibility and the need for his men to reload their weapons. However, some of the men who had been ordered to retreat bitterly opposed Moore’s decision. The Lipan Chief Castrohad gone so far as to withdraw his warriors from the Colonel’s command and set out for home. To make matters worse, the Comanches conducted a well-planned midnight raid on the expedition’s remuda, and ran off with more than half the horses, forcing many of the men to return to Austin on foot. Moore was determined such a folly would not occur again. 
      The ads and circulars Colonel Moore posted brought a prompt response, and by early October nearly ninety volunteer Texas Rangers, mostly from Fayette and Bastrop counties gathered at Walnut Creek a few miles from Austin. Having been over much of the same terrain the year before, Moore decided to use pack mules to carry the expedition’s supplies instead of wagons. A small herd of cattle to be used as a mobile commissary would also trail along behind the pack mules. 
      On Monday, October 5, the expedition, accompanied by Chief Castro and seventeen Lipan Apachescouts, moved north to the San Gabriel River. Bearing west, they followed the San Gabriel to its headwaters and then moved cross country to the Colorado River, thus avoiding the worst of the rugged Texas hill country. After fording the Colorado, the expedition moved northwest, crossing the San Saba and Llano rivers. Along the way Colonel Moore ordered the Lipan scouts to spread out and thoroughly scour the countryside for any sign of the Comanches. Moore was one of the first white men to travel so deep into the western reaches of the Colorado River, and in his later report he stated that he “found the country rich and beautiful, abundant in game, and covered with a waving sea of grass broken only by occasional rivers and canyons, with tremendous vistas.” 
      As the expedition approachedthe Concho River, the weather took a severe turn for the worse when a Texas “blue norther” unexpectedly blew in bringing torrential freezing rain and near gale force icy winds. It was impossible to stay dry, and a number of the Rangers became ill as the column plodded on through miles of deep mud and standing water. One young Ranger, Garrett Harrell, drowned while the Rangers were fording the flooded Concho. Beginning to grow discouraged after so many days on the trail with no sign of the Comanches and little letup in the gloomy weather, Colonel Moore ordered the column to follow the Concho back to its confluence with the Colorado where he planned to return to Austin if nothing turned up and the dismal weather conditions failed to improve. 
      However, the rain abated somewhat as the Rangers neared the Colorado, and more importantly, the Lipan scouts found the tracks of a large number of unshod horses mixed in with the drag marks of many travois and the footprints of women and children. The trail was the clear sign of a village on the move. The Rangers followed the tracks northwest along the Colorado, and on October 23, they came across a large grove of pecan trees where the Comanches had stopped to gather nuts for the winter. Most of the nuts had been harvested, and with such a heavy extra load to carry, the scouts were sure the Comanche encampment would not be too far off. After ordering the men undercover in a brushy thicket on the reverse side of a hill sheltered from the icy blast of the north wind, Colonel Moore called on his two best scouts to ride ahead and locate the village. The scouts rode out at mid-morning and did not return until near sundown, but they brought welcome news. The Comanche village was located on a gentle bend of the Colorado less than twenty miles distant. 
      The news of the discovery energized the Rangers, and in spite of the freezing temperatures, they were eager for an engagement. After eating a cold supper, Colonel Moore led the column about ten miles up the Colorado where they secured their small herd of cattle in a mesquite grove near the river and continued on for a few more miles. Halting the march at midnight, Moore ordered the men to dismount and rest the horses while he dispatched the same two Lipan scouts to determine the exact location of the village and gather an estimate of the Comanches’ strength. The scouts returned about 3:00 A.M. and reported that a village of approximately sixty buffalo hide lodges and an estimated one hundred and twenty-five warriors was located no more than four miles ahead on the south bank of the Colorado. The column continued its advance for another two miles where they secured their pack animals in a wooded hollow and waited for daylight. 
      Near sunrise on October 24, Colonel Moore gave the long-awaited order to mount and move forward. As the Rangers slowly approached the sleeping village, Lieutenant Clarke Owen was given fifteen men and told to ford the Colorado somewhere below the camp and be prepared to deal with any Comanches who managed to make it across the river. Captain Thomas Rabb and his command were on the right, Captain Nicholas Dawson and his men were on the left, and Colonel Moore took a position in the center along with the remainder of Lieutenant Owens’ men. The Rangers moved to within two hundred yards of the encampment without being detected and silently went on line. 
      When all was in readiness Colonel Moore gave the signal and the entire command charged the village. The Comanches were taken by complete surprise, stumbling out of the snug warmth of their buffalo robes only to be greeted by the howling screams of the Rangers and the thunder of galloping horses. Nearly naked and weaponless, they fled for the perceived safety of the ford that crossed the Colorado. 
      The Rangers rained down a hail of gunfire on the retreating and confused Comanches as they charged into the middle of the buffalo hide lodges. Halfway through the camp Moore called for the men to dismount and continue their deadly fire. Many Indians were killed before they reached the river, and a large number were brutally gunned down as they attempted to flounder across the ford, their bodies swirling away with the current. Those Comanches who were fortunate enough to run the deadly gauntlet of fire and reach the far bank fled across the open prairie only to be ridden down by Lieutenant Owens and his men who had been eagerly awaiting just such an opportunity. 
      Meanwhile, the Rangers in the village advanced on the river and continued to fire at the fleeing Comanches for the next thirty minutes, proving the accuracy of their long rifles by hitting many of the Indians as they emerged from the river on the opposite bank. The scene was one of carnage. Bodies of dead, dying, and wounded Comanche men, women, and children lay sprawled across the village and both banks of the river. Although an honest effort had been made by most of the Rangers to spare the lives of the women and children, a good number of them were killed in the confusion of the fight. Colonel Moore later reported that forty-eight Comanches had been “killed upon the ground, and eighty killed and drowned in the river.” Many of the Rangers believed this estimate was too low. Thirty-four Comanche prisoners were taken during the fight. None of the Rangers were killed and only two suffered minor wounds. 
      Colonel Moore’s victorywas undoubtedly the most severe punishment the Comanches had ever received at the hands of the Texas Rangers. In addition to the many casualties and prisoners the Indians suffered, all the property and food in the village was either confiscated or destroyed, including much of the loot that had been carried away from the raid on Linnville. More than five hundred Comanche horses were also rounded up. 
      The Rangers returned to Austin on November 7 with the welcome news of their victory, and the citizens of Austin held a dinner and celebration in their honor. The power of the southern Penateka Comanches was forever broken, and although they remained a nuisance, they were never able to fully recover from the results of the devastating defeat. However, the Texans and the northern Comanche tribes had not yet come into any meaningful contact, and the struggle for the western frontier would continue for many more years.
 **** 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.

(ArticlesBase SC #3621140)

Article Source: on the Upper Colorado: The Expedition of Colonel John Moore

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