Published on June 15, 2012 by Amy
The Battle of Walker’s Creek was a turning point in the struggle between the Indians and the Texas Rangers. Before Samuel Colt invented the Patterson “five-shooter” revolver, the Rangers were at a decided disadvantage against the Indians because their weapons were single-shot. While a Ranger was reloading, a well-trained Comanche could have five or six arrows in the air toward him. The Paterson revolver was first used in the pivotal battle of Walker’s Creek on June 8, 1844. After this battle, warfare would never be the same. The Paterson revolver changed everything and the pendulum swung in favor of the Rangers.
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Captain John Coffee Hays of the Texas Rangers left his headquarters at San Antonio on or about June 1, 1844, with fourteen men of his ranger company to scout the hills to the north and west for a Comanche war party led by Yellow Wolf, which had recently been raiding into Bexar County. The party rode as far as the Pedernales River without encountering hostiles and turned back, following the Pinta Trail to its crossing of the Guadalupe River near its confluence with West Sister Creek, in the area of present Kendall County.
The rangers camped there on June 9, 1844 and had begun to fell a bee tree when Private A. Coleman descried a body of Indians following Hays’ trail. A moment later Noah Cheery called from atop the bee tree, “Jerusalem, captain, yonder comes a thousand Indians!” The rangers quickly saddled and mounted, while the Comanches, whose numbers were variously estimated at from forty to upwards of 200 warriors, fell back into a thicket from which they apparently hoped to spring an ambush. As the rangers-drawn forward by a single horse left out as “bait”-advanced to within a few hundred yards of the hidden Indians, approximately twenty warriors revealed themselves, bantering Hays men for a fight. The rest of the war party remained concealed in the woods.
The rangers, however, refused to fall into the trap. The entire Indian force then rode forward in line of battle to draw the ranger attack. To the Comanches’ rear ran a dry ravine, and beyond that rose a high hill covered with timber and brush and strewn with rocks. Hays’ men advanced at the trot while the Indians fell back onto this superb defensive position. From behind rocks and trees they taunted the rangers in Spanish, hoping to provoke a frontal assault. Hays, however, led his men around the hill. His movement was shielded by the ravine, and he attacked the Indian line from the rear. The fight for the hill top, wrote Ben McCulloch, was soon hand-to-hand, and “they took it rough and tumble.”
The rangers repulsed two counterattacks on their flanks, after which the Indians fled the field and were pursued for three miles under heavy fire from the rangers’ revolvers. “Crowd them! Powder-burn them!” were Hays’ orders. At the end of the hour-long battle, Indian casualties were estimated at from twenty to more than fifty killed and wounded, with Yellow Wolf among the slain. Ranger losses amounted to one killed and four seriously wounded. Among the latter were Samuel Walker and Robert A. Gillespie, both thrust through the body with lances. Walker was not expected to live, but he and Gillespie both survived to become highly effective ranger captains in the Mexican War.
The Houston Morning Star characterized the Walker’s Creek fight, also known as the Battle of Pinta Trail Crossing, the Battle of Asta’s Creek, or the Battle of Sisters Creek, as “unparalleled in this country for the gallantry displayed on both sides, its close and deadly struggle, and the triumphant success of the gallant partisan captain of the West.”
This fight is considered to be the first in which revolvers were used in combat. Before this battle, the Comanche warriors would attack in groups of three, fully expecting that the warrior in the lead would be wounded or killed. However, since the Rangers’ guns were a single shot weapons, the other two warriors would be able to lance him while he was reloading. The Rangers were at a decided disadvantage against the Indians because their weapons were single-shot, and in the time it took for a Ranger to reload, a well-trained Comanche could have five or six arrows in the air headed toward him.
In the Battle of Walker Creek the Comanches used their traditional strategy, but this time the Rangers had revolvers and extra loaded cylinders that could be inserted quickly. One Comanche who had taken part in the battle later complained that the rangers “had a shot for every finger on the hand.” The battle was a disaster for the Comanches, and it forever changed their strategy in fighting the Rangers.
The Paterson revolver was first used in the pivotal battle of Walker’s Creek on June 8, 1844. The battle was not named after Sam Walker but he participated under Jack Hays’ command. This minor battle between the Texas Rangers and the Comanches may have been nothing but a little skirmish, but it was significant because of the new weapon.
After this, war the world over would never be the same again. The Paterson Colt revolver changed warfare, and the pendulum swung in favor of the Rangers. According to Josiah W. Wilbarger, it is the Walker’s Creek fight that was depicted on the cylinder of the 1847 Walker Dragoon model Colt revolver.