As I described in my post of March 15, the situation for the plains Indians changed rapidly during the 1840's and '50's. Their profitable trade in horses stolen from Texas settlements was virtually halted by the admission of Texas to the Union, and by the United States' victory over Mexico, which had been subsidizing their raids. Their hunting lands were rapidly diminishing with the immigration of the Indian settlers from the southwest. The discovery of Gold in California was attracting thousands of settlers to cross the Indians' land, and the slaughter of buffalo for fur, for meat and just for sport, was eliminating their main source of food, clothing and shelter. They had sought advice from the eastern tribes, the so called Five Civilized Tribes, who had told them to give up their nomadic life and to settle down on farms.
There was a drought in 1854 and it was especially hard on the plains tribes. In March of 1855, 4000 were starving in camps west of the Creek settlements on the Arkansas River. The Comanche Chief Tibbalo came to the Creeks for assistance. He said that he had seen how prosperous they were on their farms, and he asked them to intercede for him with the United States' officials to obtain land for his tribe.
The Creeks took Chief Tibbalo to Fort Smith where he delivered his request. Jefferson Davis, the Secretary of War, recommended that the Department of the Interior set aside land as a home for the plains tribes, and so the department negotiated a treaty with the Chickasaws and Choctaws to lease part of their land for this purpose. In spite of this agreement, raids into Texas by bands of Comanches and other tribes continued, sometimes by Indians living on reservations in Indian Territory.
The Texans had given up negotiating with Indians, and they had given up deciding which Indians were their friends and which foes. They just wanted them out of Texas. In 1858, Texas requested the permission of Congress to pursue horse thieves into Indian Territory. Their request was denied but in May of 1858 a unit of Texas Rangers under John S. Ford crossed the Red River into the Wichita Mountains anyway. When he came across a Comanche camp whose warriors were out hunting, he attacked, killing 76 men women and children. He took several prisoners and 300 horses. Among those killed was Iron Jacket, grandfather of Quanah Parker. (See post of Feb. 20, 2011)
This indiscriminate attack by the Texans enraged the Comanche. They had pursued Ford's force and recognized among them a Keechi warrior whom they had seen living with the Wichita, so they assumed that the Wichita had sided with the Texans against them. As a result, the Comanche began to steal horses from the Wichita, as well as from Chickasaw and Choctaw settlers, to prepare for war against the Texans.
In April of 1858 when the troops stationed in Indian Territory were ordered to Utah to confront the Mormons (see post of March 19, 2011) the Comanche saw their opportunity. They began planning an attack on Fort Arbuckle, in order to obtain its store of guns, ammunition and other supplies. Smith and Ellen Paul, my great great grandparents, lived right next to the fort, now defended by only five soldiers.
To be continued.