About twenty-five miles from where I live, is the site of an event on the American Frontier that inked a permanent red stain on history.
The date was September 28, 1874. The man was Colonel Ranald Mackenzie.
A month or two before this, the Comanche, Apache, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa led by Lone Wolf had gathered in the bottom of Palo Duro Canyon seeking refuge. They’d been pushed from every corner of Indian Nation and were hunted like animals.
Surely, the soldiers wouldn’t find them in a place where trails were few and hidden well. The canyon’s steep walls protected them. Here they could rest and heal.
But Colonel Mackenzie had a fire in his belly to destroy the Indians. He’d marched several army regiments across Texas, intent on driving the Indians onto their reservations. However, the Indians had won almost every skirmish and that deeply angered him. He was determined to get them this time and be the one to end the Texas Plains wars.
He could see their camp from above and ordered his men to find a way down. They did. An Indian guard fired a warning signal right before the soldiers shot him. The tribes scattered, escaping up the walls of the canyon to safety and few were killed. Mackenzie made a huge bonfire of all their belongings they had to leave behind.
Then Mackenzie turned to their horses of which there were somewhere around 2,000. He ordered the horses shot.
Two of the majestic animals fell to their guns every minute—125 an hour.
Their screams echoed off the canyon walls. Once they were all dead, Mackenzie rode off and left the carnage with never a backward glance. Their bones lay in the same spot for dozens of years until the bone pickers came and picked them up to sell.
To this day people claim that when the wind shrieks down the walls of the canyon, they can still hear the horses screams.
In the fall of 1995, U.S. Calvary reenactors met with members of the Comanche tribe in Palo Duro and gave them 2 horses as an apology.
Some things you can’t fix and some wrongs you can never right. This was one in my opinion. Regardless of Mackenzie’s hate toward the Indians, killing the horses ranked him below the lowest of the low. Nothing on earth justifies what he did.
I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to someone. Tell me what you’d like more blogs about. People? Events? Old West towns? Food?
Next Monday I’ll post a happier subject– the release of Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms and give two away. So tell your friends.