The following is an excerpt from the book "Indian Wars Of Texas" By Mildred P. Mayhall. The refrences to Ms Thomas Higgenbotham are note worthy in that after Thomas Higgenbotham died in 1842, Levicy married Moses Hesskew
Indian Wars Of Texas
Mildred P. Mayhall
The Council House Fight
We have set up our lodges in these groves and swung our children from these boughs from time immemorial. When the game beats away from us, we pull down our lodges and move away, leaving no trace to frighten it and in a while it comes back. But the white man comes and cuts down the trees, building houses and fences and the buffaloes get frightened and leave and never come back, and the Indians are left to starve, or, if we follow the game, we trespass on the hunting ground of other tribes and war ensues.
Chief Muguara, Penateka Comanche to Noah Smithwick during peace negotiations, 1837
Following the wars against the Cherokees in 1839 (July 16-17, in Cherokee County and December on the San Saba River), and the expulsion of one and The killing of another of the Mexican agents among the Indians, Vicente Cordova and Manuel Flores, with subsequent attacks against the Comanches, the Republic of Texas decided to treat with the Comanches, secure the white captives, and keep the Indians north and west of the frontier line above Austin and San Antonio.
The capital of Texas at Austin, far north of the center of population, laid out according to the wishes of President Mirabeau B. Lamar, was established in 1839, actually in view of the Comanches, hunting and camping in the hills along the Colorado overlooking the site of Austin from the north and west. Former President Sam Houston was disgusted with the new frontier town as a capital, open to attack by the Comanches and their allies. Houston favored the new and prosperous town named after him and later when he regained the presidency of the Republic, removed the seat of government to Houston temporarily. Lamar wanted a centrally located capital for the expanded Republic, from the Rio Grande to the Sabine and claimed (but did not control)
all the area east of the Rio Grande, a long stretch of land embracing a large part of New Mexico and extending up to the 42nd Parallel. Squarely in the way of that expansion were the Lipans, Mescaleros, and other Apaches, the Comanches and their allies, the Kiowas and the Kiowa-Apaches, the southern Cheyennes, and some of the Arapahoes.
Texas decided to make a peace with the Comanches. Word was sent to the civil chiefs, Mocochocope (Old. Owl) and Muguara, of the Comanches, who wished a peace or truce because they were losing too many of their young war chiefs in the constant Ranger wars directed against them in the area north of San Antonio and over to the Brazos.
The Legislature established the Rangers by law in 1839, an effective small fighting force designed to fight the Indians in the Indian manner, travelling as fast as the Indians did, and virtually copying all of the Indian tactics. One point of superiority for the Texans was the deft use of the gun. The Comanches had fleeter horses but their arms were still the bow and arrow, tomahawk, and lance; they had some guns and they wanted more.
On January 30, 1840, Albert Sidney Johnston, Secretary of War, notified Lieutenant Colonel William S. Fisher, commanding the 1st Regiment of Infantry, that Colonel H. W. Karnes reported that a group of Comanches visited San Antonio on January 9, soliciting peace and offering to return their American captives. In thirty days they promised to bring in their principal chiefs to make the arrangements. Fisher was told that if they brought in the prisoners, such was to be regarded as a sincere desire for peace and that he was to state to them that their happiness depended on good conduct shown toward the Texas citizens and that they must stay in prescribed limits and abstain from hostility on the frontier. Johnston said that citizens had a right to occupy vacant land of the government and were not to be interfered with by the Comanches. The Comanches were to understand that they
were prohibited from entering the settlements. He said:
Should the Comanche come in without bringing with them the Prisoners, as it is understood they have agreed to do, you will detain them. Some of their number will be dispatched as messengers to the tribe to inform them that those detained, will be held as hostages until the Prisoners are delivered up, when the hostages will be released. It has been usual heretofore to give presents; for the future, such custom will be dispensed with.
You will designate and take command of three companies of the 1st Regiment, who will be immediately marched, to San Antonio.
President Lamar appointed commissioners and an interpreter to meet with the Comanches in San Antonio on Tuesday,
March 19, 1840. Colonels William G. Cooke (Quartermaster General and acting Secretary of War) and Hugh McLeod (Adjutant General of the Texas Army) were deputized by the government to conduct the treaty, assisted by Lieutenant Colonel Fisher of the regular infantry. The Comanches had been expressly told to bring in all of their white captives. It was estimated that there were over two hundred captives among the various Comanche bands, but the northern Comanches had not agreed to treat. On March 19, the Comanches rode into San Antonio, brightly painted and attired to attend the council -- in all sixty-five Comanches -- men, women, and children led by twelve chiefs and among them was the civil chief, Muguara. This was the third time that the Comanches had come in to talk about having traders sent to deal with them in exchange for giving up captives. Traders who had gone among them earlier had been killed because the Comanches thought they had brought the smallpox to them, but the goods were kept. The Comanches brought in only two prisoners: one young white girl about sixteen years old and one small Mexican boy.
The Court House, called the Council House, a one-story stone building with a flat roof and an earth floor, adjoined the stone jail on the corner of Main Plaza and Calaboza (Market) Street. The yard back of the Court House was later the City Market on Market Street. The Indians and the
Commissioners met in a council in the Court House with city and military authorities while the Indian women and children remained in the Court House yard. Here Captain Tom Howards (George T. Howard, later Indian Agent) Company of Texas Rangers was stationed before the council met. Captain Howard went into the building to watch the proceedings. 3
While the council inside proceeded, the Indian boys amused themselves and casual onlookers by shooting arrows at coins tossed by some of the Texans. Watching the group were two women who lived near the Plaza, Mrs. Samuel Maverick and her neighbor, Mrs. Higginbotham. (Who later married Moses Heskew)
The Indians demanded high prices for their prisoners, specifically ammunition, vermilion, flannels, blankets and other goods, with the promise of traders to be sent to them. The Commissioners suspected treachery and were incensed over the plight of Matilda Lockhart, the white girl captive.5 The Commissioners told the interpreter to tell the Comanches that they would keep some of the chiefs as hostages, according to a former agreement with Chief Muguara (Spirit Talker), until all the captives were brought in, then all the captives would be ransomed. The hostages would not be harmed, but if the Indians started a fight, the soldiers would open fire. The interpreter refused to do so, saying a fight would ensue. The Commissioners insisted and the interpreter did so, then left the room.
As soon as the interpreter conveyed this information, this ultimatum, to the Comanches, the Indians shouted their war-whoops, drew their bows, started shooting and tried to get out the doors. Captain Howard ordered his soldiers (who had been ordered into the Council room) to fire and Indians and whites rushed into the square. Captain Howard was attacked
at the door by the Chief Mue-war-rah (Muguara), who inflicted upon him a severe wound in the side. The Indian, while endeavoring to kill Capt. Howard, was shot down by the sentinel.
The Indians tied in all directions with the Texans pursuing them. The soldiers fired into the crowd and killed both Indians and whites. Men ran to get guns while the Indians dashed to the river. Some sought safety in houses. Fights in the street resulted in death. None escaped. All of the Comanches were accounted for thirty-three killed and thirty-two caught and imprisoned. Among those killed were the twelve chiefs including Chief Muguara. One of the chiefs killed was the father of Sanaco (Buffalo Tar or Asphaltum), later chief of the group of Peneteka Comanches who visited the Clear Fork Reservation in 1856. Six Americans and one Mexican were killed and ten Americans were wounded. The Council House meeting ended tragically for both sides. It was a sorry blunder, as the Texans were to learn later.
The dead were Sheriff Julian Hood, Judge Thompson of Houston, C. W. Cayce, Lieutenant William M. Dunnington, Privates Kaminske and Whiting, and a Mexican. The wounded were Lieutenant Edward A. Thompson, Captain George Tom Howard, Captain Mathew (Old Paint) Caldwell,7 a citizen from Gonzales, James W. Robinson, Deputy Sheriff Morgan, Thomas Higginbotham, and two soldiers. Several others were slightly wounded.
Mrs. Maverick said that as soon as the Indians in the Courtyard heard the war-whoops inside, they realized what was happening and turned their arrows against the crowd. Arrows were shot into Judge Thompson and others near him before the crowd knew what it meant. The two women fled and one Indian followed Mrs. Maverick to her door. As she the door, she shouted to her husband and her brother, are Indians." She said:
Three Indians had gotten in through the gate on Soledad Street and were making direct for the river. One had passed near Jinny Anderson ( Negress) our cook, who stood bravely in front of the children, mine and hers, and I heard her cry out to the Indian, "If you dont go way from here Ill mash your head with this rock!" The Indian .. . dashed down the bank into the river. 8
There Mrs. Mavericks brother followed, shot, and killed him and shot another Indian who gained the far bank.
On Soledad Street, Mrs. Maverick saw one Indian wounded and dying and two dead nearby. Captain Lysander Wells rode north on Soledad on a gaily-caparisoned horse and as he reached the Veramendi House, an Indian sprang up behind him on his horse and tried to snatch the bridle reins. The two men fought on the horse. Wells finally placed his pistol against the Indians body and shot; the Indian tumbled off the horse, dead. Wells took out after other fleeing Indians. The frightened Mrs. Maverick was admonished to get in the house before she was killed.
Captain Mathew Caldwell, a famous Indian fighter known as "Old Paint," was injured inside the Court House when the affray began. He was unarmed, but he grabbed a gun from a Comanche and killed him with it, then beat another to death with the butt of the gun. He was shot in the right leg by the soldiers first shots. After breaking the gun, he backed up against the Court House wall and continued to fight with rocks. In a few days, recuperating at the Mavericks home, Old Paints leg was healed and he was walking again.
Two Indians sought refuge in the kitchen house of the Higginbothams back yard. They bolted the door and refused to surrender. In the night, they were frightened out by balls of cotton soaked in turpentine and ignited, being lowered from a hole made in the roof. As one rushed out the door, his head was split with an ax; the other was killed as he ran.
The Indian women dressed and fought like the men, and could not be told apart ... Many of them were repeatedly summoned to surrender, but numbers refused and were killed.
It was, said Mrs. Maverick, a "day of horrors.
The Council House Fight
Dr. Weideman, a German settler in San Antonio, spent the night treating the injured. Lieutenant Thompson, shot through the lungs, groaned all night and vomited blood. He was not expected to live the night but he did and in a few weeks was up walking about.
The captured Indians were put in the jail, the Calaboza. The day after the fight, a truce was made and a Comanche woman, widow of a chief, was placed on a horse, given provisions and sent to the Comanches to tell them of the fight and the truce. She was told to tell them to bring in all their captives, about fifteen Americans and several Mexicans according to the information of Matilda Lockhart, in exchange for the Imprisoned Comanches. The Comanche woman agreed and said that she would return in five days, but the Americans allowed twelve days, to the 28th. If she was not back with word by then, all the hostages were to be executed.
Later the Comanche prisoners were removed from the jail and taken to San Jose Mission where soldiers were stationed. They did not suffer retaliation, although they expected death and distrusted any who showed them kindness. After a time they were removed to Camp Cooke (named after W. G. Cooke) and were kept under guard. The guard was not strict and the Indians fled as opportunities arose. A few were exchanged for a couple of captives later. Some were taken into homes as servants, but they, too, watched for an opportunity to run away, and soon they were all gone, on their way back to their tribe.
A captive white boy, Booker L. Webster, was returned to the whites by the Comanches in April. He and a five-year-old white girl named Putnam had been adopted by Comanche families. He related what happened when the Comanche squaw returned to the tribe with the news of the fight at the council. The Comanches cried and howled, cut themselves with knives in mourning for their dead, and sacrificed horses for several days. Then as a climax to their mourning, they
Indian Wars Of Texas
killed thirteen captives, sparing only the adopted children, among them the Webster boy and the Putnam girl. The captives were roasted over fires and tortured to death with exquisite cruelties which the Comanches knew so well how to inflict.
On March 28, Chief Isimanica (Hears the Wolf, Howard calls him Isamini) and about 300 Comanches appeared at the edge of San Antonio. Accompanied by one brave, Chief Isimanica, almost naked and painted for war, rode into the square, circled it, and rode down and back up Commerce Street, shouting insults and challenging any one to fight. At Blacks Saloon, he stopped, stood in the stirrups, and shouted his defiance. An interpreter told him that the soldiers were at San Jose Mission, to go there and find Colonel Fisher if he wanted a fight.
Chief Isimanica and his Comanches then went to San Jose There they challenged Colonel Fisher, sick in bed, and Captain Read, next in command, to a fight. The captain explained that a twelve-day truce had been made to exchange prisoners and would not be broken. If the Comanches wished to remain three days, when the truce was over, they would furnish them a fight. The chief voiced his insults and then left. The soldiers could hardly be restrained and some were ordered into the mission church to keep them from starting a fight with the Comanches.
Hearing of this, Captain Lysander Wells called Captain Read a coward. The result was a duel in which both men were shot and killed. Read died immediately and Wells, in great pain, died after some days.
The harshness shown the Comanches in the council powwow was largely occasioned by the treatment they had given Matilda Lockhart. When she was captured by the Comanches, she was thirteen years old and her little sister, also captured, was three. She had been with the Comanches two years. When the Indians brought her into San Antonio to exchange
The Council House Fight
her for a large ransom, she was serving as a herder, driving the extra Indian ponies.
While she waited for her brother to come and take her home, she told the friendly women who helped bathe and dress her and care for her some of her experiences as a captive. She said that she felt utterly degraded," could never hold up her head again, and that she wanted to hide away from curious eyes. She said that there were fifteen other captives among the same Comanche band. Two of these had been adopted and were treated well, her little sister and Booker Webster.
Matilda Lockhart had been mistreated. Mrs. Maverick said
Her head, arms and face were full of bruises, and sores, and her nose actually burnt off to the bone -- all the fleshy end gone, and a great scab formed on the end of the bone. Both nostrils were wide open and denuded of flesh. She told a piteous tale of how dreadfully the Indians had beaten her, and how they would wake her from sleep by sticking a chunk of fire to her flesh, especially to her nose, and how they would shout and laugh like fiends when she cried Her body had many scars from fire. . . 10
In a few days, Matilda was taken to her home by her brother. Another Comanche captive came into San Antonio on March 26. Mrs. Webster escaped from the Comanches, carrying her three-year-old child on her back. As she appeared on the street, people began to shout, Indios." But she shouted her story so all could hear. She had been captured after an attack on Brushy Creek (north of the site of Austin) in August of 1839. She corroborated the facts given by Matilda Lockhart.
On April 3, two Comanches, a chief (Piava, a crafty and treacherous Indian, according to Captain Tom Howard) and a squaw, rode into San Antonio to the public square and
Indian Wars Of Texas
called out that the Comanches were holding captives three miles from town and invited the Americans out to complete the proposed exchange agreed upon in the twelve days of truce. Scouts were sent out and reported that the Indians were numerous and had only a few captives. The chief was given gifts of bread, brown sugar candy cones (peloncillo) and a beef and told that talks would continue the next day.
On April 4, the chief Piava returned and agreed to exchange two captives for two Indians. He was told that he would be met at the edge of town. The captives were the Putnam girl and a Mexican boy. These were exchanged for two Indians. The Americans asked why they had not brought all the captives (not knowing then of their death) and the Indians said they had only one more. If they gave him up, they wanted to make a choice of the Indians. The boy turned out to be Booker Webster, son of Mrs. Webster already in San Antonio, who had escaped from the Comanches. With him, they brought another Mexican boy and said that these were all that they had. The chief then selected a woman whose arm had been broken in the fight. He said that he wanted her for his squaw, that her husband had been killed in the fight, and that she owned many mules. The squaw refused this offer of marriage, so the Texans refused to turn her over to him. The chief was displeased with the Texans for so favoring a mere woman but he finally selected another woman. For good measure, a child went with her and also a blind Indian and the chief took them off.
Captain Howard said that Dr. Booker and Mr. C. Van Ness accompanied him (Howard) and several citizens, mounted and armed, out to within three hundred yards of the Indian camp. There they were met by Piava and Isamini (one of the principal chiefs who had been to San Antonio in 1838 when General Johnston was in command) and five or six warriors with bows strung.
The Council House Fight
Five prisoners were shown them and at times, the consultation "almost reached blows." Finally they agreed to exchange Mrs. Websters son, a Mexican girl, and one other captive. They separated with the understanding that the Indians would bring in the other prisoners and their captives would be returned. 12
Then the Webster boy told the Texans of the murder of the captives.
All told, seven captives had been returned to San Antonio. Later one of the Mexican boys ran off and returned to the Comanches. The Putnam five-year-old girl could not speak English and cried to return to her Comanche mother. She, too, had been mistreated. She was bruised and her nose was partly burned off. After April, the Comanches who were imprisoned were not carefully watched and they stole away and returned to their tribe.
The Council House Fight left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Comanches. San Antonio depended on its "Minute Men" to chase the Comanches whose reprisals were many and constant for their losses in the Council House. The Minute Men had been organized in San Antonio by Jack Hays to combat the constant Comanche raids. Volunteers to pursue the Indians were notified by a flag that waved on the Plaza In front of the CourtHouse and by the ringing of the Cathedral bell.
They continued to hold their horses ready, just as they had done in 1838 and in 1839.
Mrs. Maverick described the Minute Men thus:
In the stable we built on our house lot, Mr. Maverick kept a fine-blooded horse, fastened by a heavy padlocked chain to a mesquite-picket. The door of the stable was securely locked also, for every precaution was necessary to prevent his being stolen. This was the "war horse." Mr. Maverick was a member of the Volunteer Company of "Minute Men" commanded by the
Indian Wars Of Texas
celebrated Jack Hays ... Each volunteer kept a good horse, saddle, bridle and arms, and a supply of coffee, salt, sugar and other provisions ready at any time to start on fifteen minutes warning, in pursuit of marauding Indians. At a certain signal given by the Cathedral bell, the men were off, in buckskin clothes and blankets responding promptly to the call 13
The Council House Fight in the spring of 1840 was a fiasco. It resulted in no bettering of relations with the Comanches and caused the loss of thirteen white captives. It was later followed by a Comanche and Kiowa raid that extended to the Gulf Coast with depredations against Linnville and Victoria. This in turn resulted in more fights with the Comanches.
More on the Higgenbotham family and Levicy Heskew here | Moses and Wm Heskew fought at the Battle of Salado in 1842.
William Alexander Hesskew