High adventure against Indian tribes and Confederate forces
Although every eyewitness account is important some, by virtue of the unusual and highly daring nature of the events described, are truly exceptional. This remarkable book by James Pike is surely one of these and it is highly recommended for any reader interested in the history of the Texas Rangers, the conflicts with the Indian tribes of the American south-west in the pre-Civil War period, the activities of Union Army cavalry and those of cavalry scouts during the war in particular. The first third of this remarkable book is about Pike’s service with the Rangers in Texas and covers many astonishing adventures, campaigns and battles against the Comanche and Kiowa Indian tribes of the region. This alone makes Pike’s narrative essential; but when civil war broke out between the northern and southern states the author found that his convictions placed him on the wrong side of the battle lines. Pike’s attempts to reach Union territory make riveting reading. Once among those who shared his principles concerning the maintenance of the Union he immediately enlisted in the Ohio cavalry. His talents and abilities to operate independently were soon recognised and put to good use. Pike found himself moving behind and through the battle lines either gathering intelligence or carrying vital dispatches. This book delivers a non-stop ride of action and adventure as well as an eyewitness record of great events in the history of the United States of America.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
The greater portion of the night wore away without anything to disturb its quiet; at about two hours before daylight, and just before the moon went down, Pete Ross was aroused by the clattering of horses’ hoofs. Ross sprang to his feet, and awakened his men, just in time to get the first shot. As for the other companies—they needed not to be awakened by their officers; the wild, piercing war whoop sounded in their ears, and each man in an instant had his hand upon his trusty rifle. There was no mistaking the shout—it was the war whoop of the wild Comanche; and no sooner had its echo died away in the distance, than the whole body of warriors charged down upon our horses, and stampeded them; and but for the presence of mind of a few of the rangers, all of them must have escaped. However, about twenty of the men ran in among them, and by constant firing, got up a counter fright, and saved about half our animals.<br>
The savages, having thus obtained possession of a part of our horses, rode away in triumph. Capt. Fitzhugh at once gave orders to his men to mount, and pursue; but before he was off, another party of Comanches raised a demoniac yell, and came down upon us; but discovering that we were prepared to receive them, they retired out of gunshot range; but they kept up such a noise, during the balance of the night, that further sleep was impossible, and we stood by our arms till daylight, by which time the last savage had disappeared.<br>
The first party numbered about sixty, and were splendidly mounted—some of them on fine American horses of great size; the second gang chiefly riding ponies. They were armed with rifles, bows, lances and pistols, which they used promiscuously—some being busily engaged shooting arrows, though at the same time they had six-shooters dangling to their wrists and fastened by a string. They were for the most part naked, except that they wore breech clouts, though some sported leggins, and all had head dresses and moccasins. A few only were in full dress.<br>
The Comanche people wore the buffalo scalp, while most of the stampede party sported Kiowa feather caps, some of which fell into our hands. They were very nicely made of long white plumes, like swan feathers, and beautifully coloured at the tips with red, yellow and black. The quill part is sowed to a close fitting skull cap made of buckskin, and they are set so close together that when it is drawn over the head the plumes stand out in every direction, giving to the wearer a terribly hideous appearance. The buffalo scalp is worn with horns, and it is so arranged that these protrude from the top of the head, they being scraped so thin that they are very light. The skin of the nose is cut off above the eyes, while that of the neck and hump hangs down the back, the whole being softly dressed with the hair on; and as an additional ornament it is often artistically beaded. The faces of the savages were painted in the most hideous style; black, red, yellow and white being the prevailing colours.<br>
Part of the time our struggle was a hand to hand fight, and the savages succeeded in carrying off seven of our men, and all their own killed and wounded; so that it was impossible for us to ascertain their loss, though it must have been severe, notwithstanding it was a night struggle and the moon was low. We judged from appearance that there were about seven hundred Indians altogether, and this was perhaps rather below than above the truth.<br>
Our loss in the fight was seven men, forty-six horses, and seven pack mules. It would have been useless for us to have attempted to follow up the savages in the dark as soon as the fight had closed, and by morning the marauders were far away; and long before we could overtake them, we knew we would be surrounded, and “wiped out” by superior numbers. Nevertheless, the colonel did reconnoitre for some ten miles, but learned nothing, except that was an unhealthy locality for Texas Rangers.<br>
We now destroyed all our baggage and cooking utensils—everything save what was absolutely necessary to preserve life, and started for Belknap. Tents, saddles, pack saddles, everything that would burn was committed to the flames; while kettles, plates and pans were broken, and our axes buried in the quicksand. As many of our men were now without horses, we were compelled to adapt ourselves to circumstances. By the order of march, the footmen moved first, and then the cavalry close upon them; and in this manner we made our way across an immense plain, which seemed to be one solid city of prairie dogs. A few of these animals were killed and eaten; but our ammunition was nearly exhausted, and consequently no shot was fired, unless under the most pressing circumstances.<br>
This section was almost entirely destitute of water, and we suffered intensely from thirst. Indeed the whole plain was one broad, barren waste; and over it at least one hundred miles of our journey lay. The sufferings of the men were so great, that on the second day after the disaster, the command was threatened with open mutiny, the soldiers demanding to be allowed to scatter; and it required all the address of the officers to prevent them from dispersing over the plain in search of water and food. Major Fitzhugh threw himself down and begged that someone would shoot him and thus put an end to his misery; while Captain Wood sank down exhausted, and urged us to go on and leave him to his fate.