Description of Research
The intent of my research is to understand the Red River War on the southern Great Plains between the last hostile plains Indians and the American military, 1874-1875. The primary and secondary sources used all paint a vivid image of the era and the people in it, describing the desperate situation that lead the plains Indians into a revolt, the battles they fought, the major people involved, and the immediate effects of the outcome. The Red River war was the last large conflict America would have with plains Indian tribes such as Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne and Arapahoe. A bulk of mainly Comanche and Cheyenne warriors would follow the command of medicine man Isa-tai into battle with the buffalo killing hide-men at Adobe Walls, and the Indian’s subsequent defeat would spread waves of violence across the frontier for the summer. The American federal military was then called in under the command of Gen. Ranald Mackenzie, and five columns of cavalry then spread across the plains, chasing the tribes for a long winter that the Indians knew as the “Wrinkled Hand Chase.” Finally, the bulk of the Indians would be caught by Mackenzie at Palo Duro Canyon. Although they were few casualties, the loss of almost all of their supplies, homes, horses and tools would lead to the surrender of the last hostile Comaches at Fort Sill. The Red River War would usher out the era of the “last frontier,” and soon the barbed wire of the ranching era would span the plains.
Carter, Robert, On the Border With Mackenzie (J.M. Carroll and Company) Mattituck, New York, 1935
Captain Robert Carter served in the American Federal Military under General Mackenzie during the Indian wars of the late 1800s. His firsthand account of the frontier from the perspective of a cavalryman is fascinating, and his presence at Palo Duro Canyon makes his text an invaluable source.
Dixon, Olive, The Life of Billy Dixon (P.L. Turner Company) Dallas, Texas, 1927
Billy Dixon was one of the larger than life characters of the American west. His biography, dictated on his deathbed to his wife, depicts his adventures as a hide-man, soldier and frontiersman. He gained legendary status after his participation in Adobe Walls and the battle of Buffalo Wallows, where he famously accomplished “the long shot,” 7/8ths of a mile. His depiction of the battle for adobe walls is vivid and engrossing.
Hatfield, Charles, The Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne campaign in northwest Texas and Mackenzie’s fight in the Palo Duro canyon, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
This firsthand account of the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon by Col. Hatfield is a vital manuscript in regards to the Red River War. In it, he describes the event in full—Mackenzie’s approach, military intelligence, the descent into the canyon and the subsequent firefight. His explanation includes fascinating details and an insight into the goals and opinions of the American military at the time.
Gwynne, S.C., Empire of the Summer Moon (Scribner) New York 2010
This is an excellent secondary source for any topic related to the Comanche Indians. Gwynne has compiled a stunning amount of research in a very concise, yet detailed, account of the Comanches and their last chief Quanah Parker. His two chapters relating to the Red River War have helped me immeasurably, and his extensive list of excellent sources has been a great asset.
Haley, James, The Buffalo War: The History of the Red River Indian Uprising of 1874 (Doubleday and Company) Garden City, New York, 1976
If there is any all-inclusive source to the effects of buffalo hunting on the plains Indians, this is it. Haley’s detailed recollection of the “buffalo wars” allows for a complete picture of the effects of mass hunting on a nomadic population. His incredibly thorough research has revealed interesting facts, stories and characters from this turbulent time on the frontier and has been a major asset in filling the details of the uprising.
Cruse, Brett, Battles of the Red River War: Archeological Perspectives on the Indian Campaign of 1874, (Texas A&M University Press), Galveston, Texas, 2008
This book contains archeological proofs and explorations of the Red River war—it is a useful source for the technical aspects of the encounter, and one of the most complete descriptions of the actual military movements during the war, an aspect of the campaign that is often ambiguous, poorly recorded, or thoroughly ignored. His book allows insight into the challenges the campaign would entail for both sides.
Robinson, Charles, Bad Hand: A biography of General Ranald S. Mackenzie (State House Press) Abilene, Texas, 1993
Robinson’s biography of Mackenzie is complete. His crippling involvement in the civil war, his campaign on the plains, his defeat of an enemy no one had gained the upper hand on before, and his shamed descent into madness most likely due to PTSD. Although he was infinitely more competent and honorable then his contemporary Custer, Mackenzie would be doomed to obscurity. The book’s chapter on the Red River uprising is a good account of the military movements involved with the chase.
James L. Haley, "RED RIVER WAR," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qdr02), accessed April 26, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
A short article summarizing the Red River War, covering the basic events and people involved. A very good secondary source to understand the scope of the event in brief.
"ADOBE WALLS, SECOND BATTLE OF," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bta01), accessed April 26, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association
This is a very short article on the second battle of Adobe Walls. It describes the battle in brief, Indian reasons for attack and the reasons why the post was successfully defended.
Gaines Kincaid, "ISA-TAI," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fis05), accessed April 26, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
This article covers the character of Isa-tai and his influences on the Comanche Indians during 1874. It describes how he gathered followers with feats of prophecy, and held the first Comanche Sun Dance. He then went to lead the Indians in a failed battle, and was ostracized.
Thomas F. Schilz, "PALO DURO CANYON, BATTLE OF," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/btp03), accessed April 26, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association
This briefly describes the actual event of Palo Duro Canyon. Mackenzie lead his troops down the steep walls of the canyon, and after a series of pot shots from either side, captured and destroyed the bulk of Indian supplies and horses.
John C. Hutchinson