Depredations, the Civil War, and Indian
Policy on the North Texas Prairies
Laymen tend to argue that southern states seceded from the Union in 1860 and 1861 because the Confederacy
was defending its respective states' rights, but that's not the whole picture. In reading the
original secession
documents, it becomes clear that southern states were galled that the Union wasn't enforcing, and in many
cases allowing northern states to supersede, federal laws such as the fugitive slave acts. Most southern states
actually demanded a stronger federal government that would protect their right to keep slaves. So, the "states'
rights" is a double-edged sword of an argument. But there was a whole 'nother agenda that one particular
secession document addressed as well.
Texas argued in its Declaration that the US was not doing enough to protect
the slave system, or defending civilians against Indian depredations. The
"frontier" - an imaginary boundary where Anglo settlements collided with
Comanche and Kiowa territorial claims - was a dangerous place, with very
few forts built for protection and too friendly an Indian policy, so Texans
claimed. Many Texans even resented the fact that they were not allowed to
settle inside Indian Territory - it was, they claimed, as if the United States
liked Indians better than its white children!

The Texan "whine" regarding what was fair was not very palatable
(especially to those whom Anglo Texans were unfair to), but the
Declaration
of Secession did have a point: raids on settlements and homesteads were
not uncommon, but the United States Army lacked urgency to build more
forts. In fact, the few federal, antebellum
forts that had been erected tended
to act more as places where supplies could be bought, troops could be
mustered to build roads and serve as guides, prostitutes and card sharps
could ply their trades, and the occasional peace be fostered. Very few
problems between settlers and Native Americans seemed to arise, so the
government in Washington just didn't see the need to build a line of forts
along a relatively peaceful frontier. (Oddly, the same argument of "lack of
protection against Indians" was raised by colonists against the British
before the Revolutionary War).
Robert S. Neighbors was born in Virginia but sought
adventure as an Indian agent in the "old southwest" of
Louisiana, Texas, and Indian Territory. His dedication to
protecting Native American tribes was punished in 1859,
when Edward Cornett, a white settler, shot and killed him.
North Texans, however, saw things a little differently. Raids and attacks between
settlers and Native Americans were on the rise, and federal Indian agent,
Robert S.
Neighbors, seemed to favor Comanches and Tonkawas more than the white men (he
was eventually murdered for protecting Comanche bands against Texans by bringing
them into Indian Territory). Neighbors, who oversaw the Brazos Indian Reservation,  
believed the reports of misdeeds against the whites to be exaggerated, and he
based his views on reason, too. Texans, he knew, had an almost puerile hatred
against Indians. In Jack County, for example, locals published a newspaper called
"The White Man" in which reports of Indian attacks were often overblown or
completely made up. Some of the supposed raids might have actually been
perpetrated by Anglos who wanted to spur either the extinction or removal of the
Native Americans at the Brazos Indian Reservation. Sam Houston even called these
perpetrators "white Indians," a nod to the derogatory use of the word "Indian."

The "depredations" were finally acknowledged after the Civil War, when the US would
use the "Indian menace" as an excuse to force all Native American tribes onto
reservations so that the country could expand unhindered. The attacks on settlers
became fodder for the "Quaker Peace Policy" (a pejorative used to describe the
Medicine Lodge Treaty).

Following are a few examples of the depredations in North Texas that were used as
evidence to change federal policy towards the southern Plains Indians.
J. W. Wilbarger's book, "Indian Depredations in
Texas" (1890) chronicles and condemns the raids
against white settlers. In a drawing accompanying
the book, white child captives are rescued by
yelling "We are white children!" (courtesy Texas
State Library and Archives)
Warren Wagon Train Raid - Young County
William Tecumseh Sherman, who had once trained at Camp Cooper in Thorckmorton
County, visited Texas in 1871 to witness these so-called "depredations." A day after he
traveled on the road from Fort Griffin to Fort Belknap, Kiowa, Apache, and Comanche
warriors from Fort Sill ambushed a wagon train on that very road, killing six men.
Sherman decided that the men responsible for the raid should stand trial for murder.
This decision changed Indian Policy, as raids had been previously viewed as acts of
war, not as crimes. Satank, Satanta, Big Tree, and Skywalker were arrested at Fort Sill
and brought to trial in Jacksboro (Satank was killed in an escape attempt on his way to
Jacksboro). This raid brought an end to the "Quaker Peace Policy" and immediately
impacted the
Red River Wars.
Warren Wagon Train Raid site on the
Salt Creek Prairie, Young County
Elm Creek Raid - Young County
in 1864, Kiowa and Comanche warriors
descended on settlers near Fort Belknap,
where they scalped a young woman, killed an
enslaved boy, and kidnapped the Fitzpatrick
and Johnson families. Several settlers,
soldiers, and warriors were killed in rescue
attempts following the ambush. Comanche
Chief Asa-Havey, of a different Comanche
band, brokered peace by ransoming  the
captives and returning them to their families
(legend has it that Britt Johnson, an enslaved
man, rescued both families instead).
Lost Valley Raids - Jack County
In the 1860s and 1870s, several raids took
place between Kiowas, who had been forced
onto reservations in Indian Territory, and
Anglo settlers. Many of the attacks focused on
stealing or spooking cattle. Texas Rangers
tended to patrol the valley.
Flag Springs - Young County
The first permanent Anglo settlement in Young
County was also home to various Indian tribes,
as the springs provided a steady supply of
water. Several raids took place around Flag
Springs in the 1860s and 1870s, including a raid
on horses and cattle.
You may ask: Why did you put quotation marks around the word "frontier"? I did that to
show understanding that the word has some contentious history: the idea that a line
separated "civilized" Americans from "savage" Indians is rooted in racism.