Married life with the Texas Rangers on the old frontier
Accounts of the lives of the Texas Rangers and of the early frontier days of the untamed American South-West are never less than fascinating. This special ‘two-books-in-one’ Leonaur edition is of particular interest because the authors whose works appear within it were a married couple. So the reader has the opportunity to view these essential accounts, which cover an identical time period and touch upon many of the same events, from two closely associated, but different perspectives. D. W Roberts, the Ranger, was born in Mississippi in 1841 though his father had come to Texas in 1836 taking part in the battles for the Republic and the Plum Creek Fight. Roberts was member of Company ‘D’ and saw much action on the Texas frontier of the post-Civil War period, taking part in his first Indian fight in 1873 at Deer Creek. Many more fights with the native Indian tribes of the region followed, though the rangers were also perpetually engaged in hunting down and bringing outlaws to summary justice including the infamous Sam Bass. Despite the unusual title of Roberts’ book, all these experiences are recounted in riveting detail in these pages. Mrs. Roberts’ work is, predictably, of a markedly more gentle and domestic nature. In her writings we learn of the life of a Ranger’s bride, living in camps and of daily life on the frontier for a Ranger’s wife in the latter half of the 19th century. Highly recommended.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
A few days had elapsed after the skirmish on Saline Creek, when Major Jones reached Company “D”, encamped on Elm Creek near its junction with the San Saba River, Menard County. The major struck camp within 200 yards of Company “D” and the “boys” that were on the escort detail were “home again”. They told us all about the Lost Valley Fight.
Next morning Major Jones’ escort were all saddled and ready to mount, when two men whom Captain Perry had sent up Elm Creek to get a beef came “sailing” into their camp and informed the Major that Indians had attacked them about five miles from camp. One of them continued on a dead run to Company “D” camp and told me what had occurred. Captain Perry was up at the major’s camp, and I did not wait for any orders from superior officers, but told the man to go “flying” to the horse herd and tell the horse guard to get the horses to camp as quickly as it could be done. In the meantime, I detailed a squad of nine men to go with me. John Staggs, a young man who lived in Menard County, was in our camp at the time and accompanied the detail. He was armed and took an active part in the fight which followed.
Major Jones’ escort had moved out, with a man to show them the trail, and were half an hour ahead of me. As soon as we could saddle our horses we mounted and struck a gallop, taking a course a little south of the direction the escort had taken. I had flankers out on each side, so that we could not run over the trail without seeing it. We kept this speed for a distance of about eight miles when we came in sight of men riding briskly to the south, and near the head of Saline Creek. I thought we had sighted the Indians, but when I got nearer I saw that it was the escort, under command of Lieutenant Best, and on the trail of the Indians. I thought they were going a little too slow, as the Indians would soon reach a shelter of thickets and timber unknown to Lieutenant Best.
Since Lieutenant Best was my superior officer, I put my wits to work quickly, to master the situation. He had two men ahead of him trailing the Indians, but I thought them too slow a “fuse” to fire in time. I rode up to the side of Lieutenant Best and asked him if I might assist those men in trailing, to which he replied “Certainly, do so”. Then I had my cue. I lost no time in getting to them and struck a gallop on the trail. I knew what would follow and looked back and saw my men coming after me like stampeded cattle. I have never been quite able to justify my rude conduct toward a superior officer, but I knew something had to be done quickly. The clatter of hoofs was so fast that escort did not know whether they were on the Indian trail or not.
The trail went down a tributary of the Saline about two miles and turned abruptly up another tributary of the same stream, making a V, and leading back northwest to the prairie again. Within two miles of their turn, I came in sight of them. They were riding leisurely and saw us coming about the time we discovered them, but did not attempt to run. I saw they were going to give us a fight. I had time to talk my men down into perfect calmness. I impressed upon them not to over shoot the enemy, but rather to aim low and kill the horses in preference to missing entirely.
When we reached nearly within firing distance of them, their commander was riding with their rear file and quickly gave his horse a cut and raced to the head of the column. Facing the men about, left into line, they were spaced at proper intervals. It was as pretty a military movement as I ever saw. At that moment I broke column left into line and took intervals, but did not check my speed.
They fired on us, but I did not return the fire, but kept on the charge until we were in easy pistol shot of them, when I ordered a halt and dismounted. They expected us to charge into them, as that is their favourite way of fighting, horseback.
Our respective positions threw their commander on the right of his men and myself on the left of mine. I did not dismount myself, and seeing the Indian commander make a movement toward me, I met him halfway, but before we got together he shot my horse in the shoulder, and thinking my horse might fall and catch me under him, I jumped clear of the saddle to the ground. Just at that moment he jumped off his horse and we came together on foot. He tried his ‘‘war dance” on me to draw my fire, but I held my gun on him until he would settle down so I would not miss him. Seeing that his tactics would not work with me, he tried to get a little further from me. In my eagerness to “fix” him I did fire and missed him, but before he could straighten for position to shoot, I put a bullet in the right place. Corporal Thurlow Weed, seeing I was in a tight place, was the first man to get to me. There was another Indian close to me, shooting at me with the same kind of a gun that I was using. I pointed him out to Weed and he came down upon his knee with his rifle in deadly aim, as though he was shooting for beef, and at the fire of his gun the Indian sprang into the air and flattened out, face foremost. The Indians seeing this, and that their commander was gone, showed signs of retreat and I “yelled” to my men to charge them.
Then the race began. My poor old horse stood trembling, close to me, and I examined his wound hastily and saw that the ball had struck pretty high up in the shoulder, and thought he might carry me a little further, so I mounted to follow the chase. My horse staggered off with me a short distance and gradually recovered until within a short distance further he was at his best speed again; within one mile I was in the lead again. Private George Bryant was riding the shabbiest looking horse in the company, but he had the blood of a “stayer” and he kept by my side until we reached gunshot of the two rear Indians, both riding one horse.