Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


A battle between Kiowas, Comanches, Cheyennes, and 400 troopers of Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie's Fourth U.S. Cavalry took place early on the morning of Monday, September 28, 1874, deep in this great canyon of the Red River, 1,000 feet below the level plains of the Texas Panhandle. Some Tenth and Eleventh U.S. Infantry assisted Mackenzie's command at a base camp. His command comprised part of a five-pronged campaign against several bands of Native Americans who either had left their reservations in Indian Territory for hideouts in the Staked Plains or who had not yet submitted to reservation life. The Palo Duro Canyon fight was the largest engagement in the Red River War and marked the end of the Southern Plains Indians' military resistance.

Led by Tonkawa scouts, Colonel Mackenzie marched his men most of the night, arriving at the rim of the canyon at daybreak. They made their way to the floor of the canyon and attacked. Indian women and children retreated up the canyon, while the men engaged the soldiers in combat to allow their families to escape. The Kiowa band was led by Mamanti, the Comanches by O-ha-ma-tai, and the small band of Cheyennes by Iron Shirt. By noon the Indians had escaped, leaving their lodges and horses behind. Mackenzie ordered the lodges searched, then burned. The next day he had his men shoot 1,048 horses to prevent the Indians from recovering them. The Indians straggled into the reservations, having been left with no supplies for the approaching winter. Mackenzie reported that three Indians and one cavalry trooper died.

See also PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT: Caprock Canyonlands.

J'Nell L. Pate Tarrant County Junior College, Fort Worth

Carter, Robert G. On the Border with Mackenzie. Washington DC: Eynon Printing Co., Inc., 1935.

Pate, J'Nell L. "Colonel Ranald Slidell Mackenzie's First Four Years with the Fourth Cavalry in Texas, 1871–1874." Master's thesis, Texas Christian University, 1964.

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