Posts Tagged ‘scalping’

"Comanche War Party on the March, Fully Equipped," oil painting by George Catlin, 1846-1848. By the time Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836, the frontier war between the settlers and the Comanche Indians was at full throttle, with brutal attacks being waged on both sides.

Here is an article that appeared in an 1840 Texas newspaper:

A little remedy against Indian arrows:

Take about 16 or 24 sheets of common blotting paper; lay between them some thin layers of cotton or silk; make a kind of jacket of it to be put on in the moment of danger, and you will be invulnerable from the chin to the leg, from the most of Indian arrows and even bullets. It is no more cowardice than to stand behind a tree or to be a cuirassier [a mounted soldier wearing armor]; and in our big European wars, the lives of many thousands of brave soldiers were thus preserved. I recommend it by experience.

H. Mollhausen, captain of artillery                          

Texas Sentinel, March 1840

Readers, other posts of similar interest are:

The Scalping of Robert McGee

“The Scalping of Josiah Wilbarger”

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Robert McGee

Robert McGee

In my last post, I wrote about the scalping of Texas settler, Josiah Wilbarger, who lived to tell the tale. I’ve come across another scalping survivor account, that of teamster Robert McGee, who agreed with Josiah Wilbarger who said the scalping sounded like “distant thunder. The following is excerpted from the blog, The Road to Samarkand:

Somewhere on the plains of western Kansas in the summer of 1864, a wagon train was carrying supplies to Fort Union, New Mexico. As they stopped for an evening meal, they were attacked by a group from the Brule Sioux Indians allegedly led by Chief Little Turtle himself. The soldiers charged with protecting the wagon train had been held up and consequently the wagon teamsters were entirely unprepared for such an attack. Every member of the caravan was brutalized and executed in various grisly ways. When a government scouting party found them, they discovered that Robert McGee, a 13 year old driver, had miraculously survived. He was whisked off to an infirmary where he gradually recovered and became one of the few people in history to have survived being scalped.

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The following is an excerpt from my book, Get Along, Little Dogies: The Chisholm Trail Diary of Hallie Lou WellsAlthough it is fiction, the book is historically authentic, and the event it recounts really did happen in August, 1844, outside Austin, Texas, near Pecan Springs. The narrator is a young woman named Hallie Wells who is traveling up the Chisholm Trail on a cattle drive with some cowboys: 

Get Along, Little Dogies by Lisa Waller Rogers

Get Along, Little Dogies by Lisa Waller Rogers

Sunday, May 12, 1878
Northeast of Austin at Wilbarger Creek

Late at night

This was a golden day. I want to write about it before the memory fades. The lamplight already grows dim.

Today we didn’t travel. It was a true Sabbath, a day of rest – except for Mrs. Bubbies, our bell cow. She gave birth to two heifers this morning. When we resume travel, Joe One-Wing will toss the calves into the supply wagon with the other calves born on the trail. He’ll put loose sacks on them so that their scents won’t get mixed with the other calves as they jostle along the trail. In that way, Mrs. Bubbies will recognize her young and give them milk every evening when we break for camp.

We’re starting to feel like a family. Tonight, after dinner, the off-duty cowboys hung their saddles in the low live oak branches and spread bedding for us to sit on. We sat around the campfire. Cookie even got in the mood and passed around tin plates of “bread and lick” (molasses). John R. read a Bible passage aloud. Will and Henry serenaded us with banjo and a fife. Jeb played “Get Along, Little Dogies” on his harmonica. Will took my hand and we danced a slow waltz. The cows loved the music. They made a soft lowing sound. It was like a big city symphony! We wanted to laugh but that would have made those crazy cows stampede for sure.

The Scalping of Josiah Wilbarger, a woodcut by T.J. Owen, AKA O. Henry, found in Indian Depredations in Texas, 1889

The Scalping of Josiah Wilbarger, a woodcut by T.J. Owen, AKA O. Henry, found in Indian Depredations in Texas, 1889

Joe One-Wing told a scary story. We’re camped beside Wilbarger Creek, named for a brave pioneer named Josiah Wilbarger. Just a few miles from here, Josiah was attacked by Comanches and scalped. The Indians left him for dead.

The Indians were mistaken. Josiah was not dead. He managed to drag himself to some springs, drink, and bath his aching head. With his fingernails, he dug until he found some snails to eat. Then he crawled over to a live oak and collapsed.

Around midnight, he heard a voice softly calling his name. He awoke to see his dear sister, Margaret, walking toward him. “Josiah,” she said, pointing to the southeast. “Help will come from that direction.” Then she vanished into thin air.

At that same moment, six miles to the southeast, Sarah Hornsby, was having a strange dream. In the dream, she saw her neighbor, Josiah Wilbarger, leaning against a an oak tree, soaked in blood and dying. She awakened her husband, Reuben, and told him her incredible vision. Reuben immediately organized a search party.

The men found Josiah exactly where Sarah had said. He was taken home and nursed back to health. Slowly, Josiah began to recover from his many injuries. Three months passed. One day, a letter arrived for him from Missouri. The letter told him that his sister, Margaret, had died. The mail had been very slow. Margaret had died three months before. She had died the very night she had appeared to Josiah at midnight. It had been her spirit that gave Sarah Hornsby the marvelous dream that saved her brother.

Josiah’s wound never really healed. His wife made him little caps to cover the hole in his head. However, he lived another eleven years until one day he bumped his head on the door frame. Wilbarger County, Texas, was established in 1858 to honor Josiah and his brother Mathias. The bodies of Josiah Wilbarger and his wife are buried in the State Cemetery at Austin.

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