Antelope Hills Expedition: Reasons for the expedition

Published on October 19, 2014 by Carol

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Comanches of West Texas in war regalia.
Painting by Lino Sánchez y Tapia, circa 1830s

The years 1856 to 1858 on the Texas Frontier were particularly vicious and bloody as the settlers continued to encroach into the Comancheria. They plowed under valuable hunting grounds, and the Comanche lost grazing land for their herds of horses. In addition, the United States had done a great deal to block the Comanche’s traditional raids into Mexico. Finally, the Comanches struck back with a series of ferocious and bloody raids against the settlers.

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The Army proved wholly unable to stem the violence. Not only were units being transferred, but federal law and numerous treaties barred the Army from attacking Indians in the Indian Territories. Although many Indians, such as the Cherokee, were trying to farm and live as settlers, the Comanche and Kiowa continued to live in that part of the Indian Territories which was traditionally the Comancheria, while raiding into Texas.

As the American Civil War drew closer, federal forces were moved about even more and the 2nd Cavalry was transferred from Texas to Utah. (Eventually the US Army disbanded the 2nd Cavalry as it fell apart when the War began in 1860). The loss of federal troops led Governor Hardin R. Runnels in 1858 to reestablish disbanded battalions of Texas Rangers. Thus, on January 27, 1858, Governor Runnels appointed John Salmon “Rip” Ford, a veteran Ranger of the Mexican-American War and frontier Indian fighter, as captain and commander of the Ranger, Militia, and Allied Indian Forces, and ordered him to carry the battle to the Comanches in the heart of the Comancheria.

Ford, whose habit of signing the casualty reports with the initials “RIP” for “Rest In Peace,” was known as a ferocious and no-nonsense Indian fighter. Commonly missing from the history books was his proclivity for ordering the wholesale slaughter of any Indian, man or woman, he could find. Governor Runnels issued very explicit orders to Ford, “I impress upon you the necessity of action and energy. Follow any trail and all trails of hostile or suspected hostile Indians you may discover and if possible, overtake and chastise them if unfriendly. Ford then raised a force of approximately 100 Texas Rangers and State Militia. Realizing that even with repeating rifles, buffalo guns, and Colt revolvers, he needed additional men, he set out to recruit ones he did not have to pay, as he did his Rangers and Militia.

Source: wikipedia

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}
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