The Quahada Chief on a Black Pony.
I was born and raised in Central Texas where the Comanche Indians often ranged and plundered. Being an early student of their history, and an avid collector of their clothing, weapons, and photographs, my imagination long ago fell prey to their way of life. Historians call them the “Lords of the Plains,” and that name is well-merited because no other tribe could sit a horse and ride with such a handsome manner.
Of special interest to me is the Quahada band, and Quanah Parker especially. His father was Peta Nakona, chief of the Quahadas, and his mother was Cynthia Ann Parker, a white woman who, in 1836, was captured by the Comanches. She lived with them for 24 years, and had three children. When she was “rescued” by Sul Ross, a Texas Ranger, and returned to her people, Cynthia Ann couldn’t speak the language. She yearned to go back, a plea that was repeatedly denied. After a few years she stopped eating and died. The doctors said it was influenza.
On October the 10th, 1871, during the Battle of Blanco Canyon, Quanah Parker rode up to Trooper Gregg of the 4th US Cavalry and shot him with a Smith and Wesson American. The trooper was interred where he fell and rocks were placed on his grave.
Captain R.G. Carter, a witness to the event, said Gregg’s horse was faltering, and gave this written account:
A large and powerfully built chief led the bunch, on a coal-black racing pony. Leaning forward upon his mane, his heels nervously working in the animal’s side, with six-shooter poised in air, he seemed the incarnation of savage brutal joy. His face was smeared with black war paint, which gave his features a satanic look. A large, cruel mouth added to his ferocious appearance. A full-length headdress or war bonnet of eagle’s feathers, spreading out as he rode, and descending from his forehead, overhead and back, to his pony’s tail, almost swept the ground. Large brass hoops were in his ears; he was naked to his waist, wearing simply leggings, moccasins and a breechclout. A necklace of bear’s claws hung about his neck. His scalp lock was carefully braided in with otter fur, and tied with bright red flannel. His horse’s bridle was profusely ornamented with bits of silver, and red flannel was also braided in his mane and tail, but, being black, he was not painted. Bells jingled as he rode at headlong speed, followed by the leading warriors, all eager to outstrip him in the race. It was Quanah, principal war chief of the wild Qua-ha-das.
Captain Carter, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his action in the fight, drew a map of the battle, which loosely identified the burial location. Ninety-five years later, when I was stationed in Lubbock, a friend, Bill Griggs, and I searched relentlessly for the trooper’s grave. The evidence showed it to be somewhere about 46 miles north of where I lived.
With Captain Carter’s original map in hand (I didn’t want to carry a copy.) Bill and I hiked on weekends. Back and forth across the grassy rises and rugged dips we walked, binoculars in hand. We were ever watchful for the errant pile of rocks that were deliberately placed to keep scavenging animals from digging.
Twenty days or more we did that, often finding remnants of the fight, a canteen, a rusty knife, a brass cavalry uniform button, lots of bullet casings, but no pile of rocks. We replaced everything as it lay, lest we betray the sanctity of that battle ground.
We didn’t locate Trooper Gregg’s resting place. My wish now is that the chaparral and long-living creosote bushes will protect that soldier and permit him to rest in the dignity of the North Texas soil where Mother Wind will forever wail the long mournful sound of Taps.
My motive for searching was important to me. I just wanted to stand there and render one last salute to the fallen fighter, and to “watch” as hundreds of yelping natives and Army troopers fought one of the most decisive battles of the Indian Wars. I would like to have thrown a rock at Quanah as he sped by on his “coal-black racing pony.”
Please allow me to explain something.
I would like to have known R. G. Carter, but he died when I was 5 years old. I collected his personal papers, letters, documents, and books, so I probably have more information about him than anyone alive today
Now, about Quanah Parker. J. Evetts Haley and I went to the spot in the Palo Duro Canyon where, in 1874, General Mackenzie routed the Comanches, including Quanah. Visiting his gravesite at the Ft. Sill Indian Cemetery where he’s buried beside his mother and daughter (Prairie Flower), was a spiritual experience for me. I just love the Indian history of this country. Thank you. f