The Battle of Palo Duro Canyon, September 28, 1874
Posted by: trailhound1
N 34° 55.889 W 101° 38.091
14S E 259335 N 3868614
Quick Description: Historical marker at the site of the battle of Palo Duro Canyon, Texas
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 7/9/2011 8:50:22 PM
Waymark Code: WMC02H
Ever since the summer of 1874 the Comanches, Cheyenne and Kiowas had sought refuge in Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas panhandle. There they had been stockpiling food and supplies for the winter. Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, leading the 4th U.S. Cavalry, moved up from the south intending to trap the whole force in their Palo Duro Canyon holdout. Fighting several skirmishes with Comanche warriors along the way Mackenzie reached Palo Duro in late September.
Early in the morning of September 28, one of Mackenzie's scouts found the Indian camp and notified the colonel. Mackenzie brought the whole regiment to the edge of the canyon and planned a surprise attack. Comanche Chief Red Warbonnet discovered the U.S. soldiers and fired off a warning shot, but was quickly killed. Mackenzie's troopers were unable to find a suitable path down, so instead plunged straight down the steep canyon cliffs. Mackenzie first hit Chief Lone Wolf's Kiowa camp and routed it. Chiefs Poor Buffalo and Iron Shirt managed to effect some resistance but since the camps were so spread out over the canyon floor, a unified resistance was impossible. Many of the Indians fled leaving behind their possessions and headed for the open plains. Few warriors remained sniping at the soldiers but by nightfall, the canyon belonged to Mackenzie and the villages were destroyed.
The loss of the Palo Duro camp meant the loss of the Indians' safe haven and all their winter supplies. Some horses fled with the Indians onto the plains but Mackenzie was able to capture 1,400 ponies. The horses Mackenzie did not need were slaughtered to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Indians. Casualties were light in the engagement since it had been a complete rout, but without sufficient mounts or winter supplies the tribes could not hold out over the winter and many returned to the Fort Sill reservation by November 1874. Lone Wolf's Kiowas did not return until February 1875.
Marker Number: 5290
One of the most significant battles of 1874-75 Indian campaign; columns of troops converging from five directions harassed Indians on the Panhandle Plains for over six months. The 4th Cavalry under Colonel Ronald S. Mackenzie, moving north from Fort Concho, tracked a large band of Indians to their secret canyon camp. Moving silently at dawn down a perilous path on the south rim, the first troops reached the floor of the canyon before the aroused camp fled. Some of the warriors took up positions on the canyon walls from which they fired on the troops, seeking to give their families time to escape. Realizing his tactical disadvantage, Mackenzie ordered the Indian camp and supplies burned and withdrew, taking along 1,400 captured horses (1,000 of which he later destroyed). The cavalry suffered no causalities in the fight and only four Indian dead were counted. Having lost half their horses as well as all their supplies and shelter, the Indians drifted back to their reservations at Fort Sill and Fort Reno. (1967)
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