So the other day while doing research for the "Did you know Texas had it's own Army Infantry regiment"  I came upon something called the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon. And of course me being the Amarillo native that I am I had to look in to this. And after researching this more I decided to share what I've learned because it's a interesting story to hear.

The Red River Territory
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The Red River War

The battle of Palo Duro Canyon was a part of the war for the red river led by Colonel Ranald S Mackenzie. Late in the summer of 1874, a number of Comanche, Southern Cheyenne, Arapaho and Kiowa warriors led by Lone Wolf had left their assigned reservations and were hiding out in Palo Duro Canyon located in the Texas Panhandle. As part of the Red River War of 1874-75, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie was ordered by General Christopher C. Augur to find the Indians and force them back onto their reservations. Mackenzie, leading the 4th U.S. Cavalry, departed Fort Clark, Texas on August 15, reached Fort Concho on the August 21st and the mouth of Blanco Canyon on the August 23rd with eight companies plus three from the 10th Infantry and one from the 11th. By September 25th, Indians began to gather around Mackenzie’s troops and on the night of September 26 and 27, the Indians were attacked near Tule Canyon and Boehm’s Canyon, resulting in the deaths of 15 warriors including the Kiowa chief Woman Heart.

Michael J. Rivera/TSM
Michael J. Rivera/TSM

The battle of Palo Duro Canyon

Early on the morning of September 28, two of Mackenzie's Tonkawa scouts found a "fresh trail" and Mackenzie resumed the march, reaching a "wide and yawning chasm" at dawn, where they could see the Indian lodges. Mackenzie's cavalry dismounted and led their horse’s single-file and descended the steep slopes to the valley floor 700 feet below along a narrow zig-zag path. Here at least five Indian villages were hidden. Mackenzie first hit Chief Lone Wolf's Kiowa camp and routed it. Taken by surprise the Indians abandoned their camps and with the people scattering it left Indian leaders like Chief Iron Shirt of the Cheyenne, Chief Poor Buffalo of the Comanche, and Chief Lone Wolf of the Kiowa unable to mount a united defense. The Indians did not have time to gather their horses or supplies before retreating. Sergeant John Charlton wrote of the battle:

“The warriors held their ground for a time, fighting desperately to cover the exit of their squaws and pack animals, but under the persistent fire of the troops, they soon began falling back.”

Only four Indians were killed, but the loss was devastating. Mackenzie's men burned over 450 lodges and destroyed countless pounds of buffalo meat. They also took 1,400 horses, most of which were subsequently shot to prevent the Indians from recapturing them.

Comanche Chief Parker
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The End of a War

Except for its unusually large size, the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon was typical of the war. Most encounters produced few or no casualties, but the Indians could not afford the constant loss of food and mounts. Even if it escaped immediate danger, an Indian band that found itself on foot and out of food generally had no choice but to give up and head for the reservation. The Red River War officially ended in June 1875 when Quanah Parker and his band of Quahadi Comanche entered Fort Sill and surrendered; they were the last large roaming band of southwestern Indians. Combined with the extermination of the buffalo, the war left the Texas Panhandle permanently open to settlement by farmers and ranchers. It was the final military defeat of the once powerful Southern Plains tribes and brought an end to the Texas–Indian Wars.

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