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Great Battle on the Concho in 1875 by John Warren Hunter

2015 January 5

Our Menard County area of Texas is in the heart of Texas history. You don’t have to go far to find great stories and one place is in the Frontier Times magazine. In the September 1954 issue there are two different stories written by John Warren Hunter. The first was originally published in 1906 and is titled Nine Years With the Indians, which is about Herman Lehmann and his brother Willie’s capture by Indians from their family home in Loyal Valley, Texas in 1869.

The second story was told to Mr. Hunter in 1907, which also coincides with the accounts from Captain Lamb Sieker (Lamartine “Lamb” Pemberton Sieker), Ed Sieker (Edward Armon Sieker Jr.), and Captain Dan Roberts as told to John Warren Hunter.

Thomas P. Gillespie, member of Captain Dan Roberts’ company of Rangers,

gives the following account of the fight on the Concho Plains west of

Fort Concho, in which Herman Lehmann narrowly escaped capture by the Rangers:

In August, 1875, while scouting in the upper San Saba valley,

we discovered an Indian trail on Scalp Creek, a tributary of the

San Saba in Menard county. The trail was comparatively fresh,

and indications were that it had been made by a band of twelve

or fifteen Indians with a bunch of forty of fifty head of horses.

Our command consisted of Captain Roberts, Mike Lynch, Jim

Trout, Jim Hawkins, Ed Sieker, Jim Gillett, Andy Wilson, Henry

Matamore, myself and one or two others whose names I have

forgotten, but I think those mentioned were all that was present

on this chase. Our horses were in bad condition for a long pursuit,

but there was no alternative and we began the chase without delay.

The trail led out across the head of Dry and Rocky

Creeks in to the north part of Menard county and on in the

direction of Kickapoo Springs, crossing the Ft. McKavett and Ft.

Concho road about nine miles south of Kickapoo Springs. It was

nearly night when we reached this road and our horses being

very much jaded and suffering for water, we left the trail and

went to the springs where we remained over night. As many of

our horses had flung their shoes and were lame in consequence

we went to a ranch the next morning and reshod our stock, after

which we resumed the pursuit. Some twelve or fifteen miles

above the head of the South Concho we again came upon the

trail and followed it to the top of a mountain where the Indians

had halted and had removed the shoes from their stolen horses.

Just why they should want to pull the shoes from their stock has

always been a mystery. Several theories have been advanced by

the rangers and frontiersmen but none hold good. These horse

shoes were left where they had been pulled off and in addition

the Indians had torn two long strips from a blanket and had

placed these strips in the form of a cross on the ground, and in

this condition we found them. It was about 2 p.m. when we discovered

this sign on the mountain, the weather was dreadfully

hot, but we took up the trail and pushed on as fast as our jaded

horses could carry us. We knew from those signs so familiar

to a ranger that the Indians could not be far away and that they

were moving leisurely along and we hoped to overhaul them

before nightfall. We followed the trail, which led in a southwest

course, until we came out on the plains after which the trail

led due west. About half an hour by sun we came to a pond

where the Indians had watered their stock. The water in the

horses’ tracks was yet muddy and the grass on the margin where

the horses had come out was still wet, showing that we were

close at their heels. It being nearly night Captain Roberts said

we had better cook supper here and give our horses a brief rest,

which we proceeded to do, and after supper we remounted and

followed the trail as long as we could see. It becoming too dark

to distinguish the trail we lay by until dawn, giving our horses

a good rest which they sorely needed. By the time it was light

enough to see we were in the saddle and expecting every minute

to come in sight of the enemy. We rode at a moderately brisk

gait until 7 o’clock, when Captain Roberts suddenly halted and

said: “Boys I believe I see them. “Far ahead in the plain we could

see a few dark objects but not sufficiently to tell whether they

were horsemen or other objects. Unslinging his field glass, Roberts

got a good view of them and said: “Boys, there they are.

They are riding slowly. They have not discovered us yet. Now

you fellows close up behind me in single file. The sun is at our

backs and by following my directions we can get close in on

them before they see us.”

We were all keen for the fight and the captain’s orders were

obeyed to a letter. We rode in the manner indicated and were

within 600 yards of the Indians before they discovered us. There

were eleven of them and as to numbers we were about equally

matched. Besides the eleven, there were two riding along at a

considerable distance to the left and these two were the first

to see us and gave the alarm. We broke rank and raised the

yell “every man for himself”, making full tilt for the savages. The

Indians began rounding up the herd and mounting fresh horses

and when we got near enough to do execution they scattered

and each sought safety in tall running. However; when we got

in about 150 yards of them they rallied on a small elevation and

opened fire on us. This was evidently for the purpose of giving

some of their numbers time to catch and mount fresh horses.

We killed three or four horses and probably killed or wounded

an Indian or two before this crowd broke and ran. We carried

Winchesters and needle guns and every man in the company

was a crack shot. A running fight followed and our men singly

or in pairs, selected their game and put in after them. The Indians

scattered in pairs and when our men killed a horse, the

rider would hop up behind his comrade and continue the flight.

After a run of 500 or 600 yards they brought down one of the

horses and as quick as a flash the Indian was up behind his

mate and the race continued until the horse ridden by the two

Indians began to lose his wind and began to circle a maneuver

often practiced by the Indians when cornered under like circumstances.

The boys had fired at least a dozen shots at these two Indians

during this run, but on account of their shields had failed to

bring them down. Seeing this circling ruse, Jim Gillett dismounted

and with his needle gun took deliberate aim and broke the horse’s

neck and then sprang back into his saddle

and dashed forward alongside with Ed Sieker. When the horse

fell, the Indian mounted on behind hit the ground a-running, still

holding the shield over his back, while the horse in his fall had

pinned the other Indian to the ground. The boys dashed up to

the fallen horse and Jim Gillett threw his pistol on the Indian

lying pinned under the horse, and was in the act of shooting

him when Ed Sieker shouted: “Don’t shoot him! Don’t you see

that he is a white boy?” Gillett lowered his pistol and a bare

glance showed that the boy was closely held by the body of the

horse and, even if foot loose, he could not escape, they hurried

on after the fleeing Indian whom they overtook and killed after

a race of about 300 yards. After having killed this Indian they

tarried a short while to get his scalp and to gather up his bow,

quiver, shield and other accoutrements worth carrying away as

trophies and when they returned to where they had left the

boy under the dead horse, he was gone! At this they were

puzzled beyond expression. The scene of the fight and the chase

was an open plain with nothing to obstruct the view for miles

and from the moment the horse was killed until their return to

the spot they had been in full view of the surroundings and the

boy could not have gotten away without their having seen him

start. There were a few scattered mesquites but none large

enough to offer concealment. The grass was green and seven or

eight inches high and into this he must have crawled off and

secreted himself. The search began and in a short time the entire

company came up and joined in the search. Every square rod

for a mile around was gone over and every bush and tuft of

grass was examined but no boy was found and we gave up the

search as hopeless and went away completely mystified as to

what became of him.

Some years later I learned that this boy was the captive,

Herman Lehmann, who when a child, was stolen from his

parents in Mason county and kept nine years, during which time

he became thoroughly Indianized, joined his adopted people in

their wars and horse stealing raids, but at length was restored

to his mother and became in the course of time, a good citizen.

In this fight we captured thirty head of horses which we drove

to Mason county and delivered to their owners. At the first

onset, we crowded the Indians so close that in mounting fresh

horses they had to abandon their saddles which we captured, but

being old and worthless we cast them aside.

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