Vantine::TJ Vantine

Pioneer Days in the Southwest
from 1850-1879:
Thrilling Descriptions of Buffalo Hunting, Indian Fighting and Massacres,
Cowboy Life and Home Building


Edited by some spelling and punctuation changes, and paragraphing for readability on the web.

No text omitted.

Contributions by
Charles Goodnight, Emanuel Dubbs,
John A. Hart, and others

Published: The State Capital Company; Guthrie, Oklahoma; 1909

pp. 301-318 Chapter XVI
by T.J. Vantine, Quanah, Texas
page 301 I went out in the spring of 1860 under Bill Fitzue as Captain, from McKinney, Collins county, Texas; we went by way of Jonesboro, and from there to Ft. Belknap, where we joined M.T. Johnson's regiment and then moved out about 12 miles north of Ft. Belknap. The first night on guard were Ed Mires, Bill Tight and myself. Ed Mires was standing under a pecan tree, our stands were about 75 yards apart.

I left my stand on some account and went to Bill Mires' stand and when I got to Ed's stand I found Bill Right there. As I sat down against the pecan tree Ed was standing under, my horse took a scare and jerked me down and then Ed Mires hallooed "Indians," and began to shoot. I got up and saw the Indian that was behind the tree from Ed and then I began to shoot with a Navy 6 and Bill Right and Ed Mires said for Lord sake don't leave us. Bill came back and the Indians shot a dozen or so arrows, and we kept firing until we exhausted our ammunition, saving only one round for future use. By that time our captain and the rest of the company came to our aid and then the Indians left us. It was so dark that we couldn't follow them. The
page 302 next morning we started a scout after them.

We were in a thin oak thicket and the Indians had a good hiding place in there. We found much blood next morning after the shooting, but no dead Indians. They stampeded our horses, and it took us two days to get them together. Then we moved about fifteen miles farther on towards the Brazos river and camped about two weeks there. Then we went out on a two weeks' scout and traveled about two days west, close to the Brazos river, and then we camped on a small prairie that was surrounded by tall, thin oaks. We put out our guards about seventy-five yards apart and along about 10 or 11 o'clock at night the Indians began to show up in five or six different places around our camp. The boys began to shoot, four or five at a time. They kept it up all night. That was the first trip for some of the boys, and they were all excited.

There were about seventy-five Texas rangers in that scout, who wanted to move the camp that night. The others did not want to go because they were afraid the Indians would molest us. If we stayed till morning we would have a chance to get out, but the next morning the captain said we had better go back to the regiment. There wasn't enough of us to fight them then, and when we got back to camp we were ordered out on another scout at the head of the Washita river. A large number of Indians were headed for the Wichitas. We at once went after them but didn't strike their trail. We were out ten days before we turned back to camp. Then
page 303 we moved camp and started for the Wichita mountains, and camped on the west prong of Otter creek at Colonel Van Daran's old camp.

We scouted that country about two months and killed buffalo and antelope and hunted Indians for pastime. The Indians were reported to be there and threatening our camp. We had been hunting for them about a week and couldn't find them. Dave Wash and I were out hunting bear one day and we found a mountain where the rocks were broken open and made an opening where one could walk in about seventy yards, and there was a bear den in there and we went back to camp and our colonel, M.T. Johnson, gave us orders for no one to leave camp without orders, but I wanted to kill a bear by myself, so the next morning about the break of day I slipped out through the guards and struck out for the bear den about four miles away. I got about three miles but there were many coyotes and lobo wolves howling. I heard one that howled different from the rest of them I began to hunt to see what it was, and I saw a big Indian standing on the bank of East Otter creek.

I drew my gun down to fire. I thought that I could hit him, but I missed, the ball striking right at the left of where he stood. I had a muzzle loading Mississippi rifle which threw an ounce ball. I went through the motion of loading right quick and threw my gun down on him again, and he ran into the brush. I turned then and ran behind a hog back mountain and ran about half a mile to where I left my horse. I had gained the spur of the mountain when I
page 304 looked to see if the Indians were coming on the other side, but I saw none. When I looked back I struck my foot against a rock, but I lost no time in the fall. I ran against my lariat pin and knocked it out and done my rope up as I ran and jumped on my horse and went back to camp. I didn't let any grass grow under his feet.

When I got to camp my captain came out and took hold of my horse and asked me what was the matter. I told him I shot at an Indian up on East Otter creek. I said I might consider myself under arrest and he took me to the colonel's headquarters and they assessed my fine at ten days on guard duty, two hours on, and four hours off. I stood two turns. On the third turn I called up the corporal of the guard that my time was up, and he started around with the relief, and before he got to me I laid down and went to sleep, and the fellow that was going to stand where I stood, begged them to let me lay there for company, and so they assessed me ten days more, two hours on and four hours off.

They started a scout after the Indians the day I came in, and found fifty of them close to where I shot at that one. They ran them up about Fort Cobb and the Indians all scattered and they couldn't follow them any farther. Then we moved camp about fifteen or twenty miles on the south prong of Red river, and that night they put me on guard, right close to a big slew, and the guards were about seventy-five or eighty yards apart.

About 10 o'clock that night a big bear came splashing
page 305 through the water. He passed a man by the name of Vanvaris then by me, and then by a fellow by the name of Van Winkel. The bear had caught a mussel and was sitting upon his haunches eating it. He was a fair target for Van Winkle, and he fell dead right there. Van Winkle hallooed "Indians," and ran into camp but I didn't believe it was and stayed at my station. When Van Winkle ran into the camp the whole company came out they asked me where the Indians were, and I told them I hadn't seen any, and didn't think there were any Indians here. Then they asked me where Van Winkle stood, and I went down and showed them where he stood. Then I looked over the weeds and water and saw the bear lying where he had given him a dead shot, and they went back to camp. That was the last night of my sentry duty.

We scouted around there about two weeks longer and then we started out on the famous scout. We crossed the South Canadian where that emigrant train was captured by the Indians in 1849, and the people all murdered; it was not very far from the old Adobe fort. We went on and crossed the North Canadian, then we struck across the plains to the Cimarron river. When we got to the river we traveled its banks four days and a half. We ran out of provisions the day before we struck the Cimarron; then we traveled up the river four days and a half, then we lay idle a half day. Every Indian camp we struck the ashes was full of beads.
page 306 A man by the name of John Huff and I were out hunting; we both had big guns; he claimed he had the best gun and I claimed I had the best. We were standing on the side of the mountain and there was a stump on the other side of the valley on a mountain, we shot at the stump to see who had the best gun. John Huff shot first and he hit right at the root on the left had side; I shot and hit right at the root on the left had side; then we went over to the stump and called it a tie shot.

While we were up there looking around there was in a big crevice in a rock and an old dead Indian lay in there wrapped in a blue blanket, and I wanted Huff to go down and get him but he wouldn't do it, so I told him that I would go down; that I wasn't afraid of a dead Indian, so I went down and unwrapped him. There was nothing there but the bones and hide, so we just took a little bone off the shoulder and left the rest lay. We went back to camp and told the boys and a good many of them went and got a bone to take home with them. One Indian guide said this Indian was a brother of a Chickasaw Chief.

After that we started on another scout, four of us. We went up into the mountains and saw a Mexican lion laying upon a rock jutting over four or five feet, and we took a shot at him, and he came rolling down nearly to where we were before he stopped and he showed fight at sight of us and nearly scared our horses. We couldn't get within fifty yards of him. We shot him several times, but he didn't die, and we
page 307 were afraid to go to him on foot.

We then took our scout about half a mile further and saw three Indians. We were afraid to follow them on account of running into a big bunch of them, and also getting cut off from the camp; so we went back to camp. There were fifteen men out that never came back and they fared worse than we did. They traveled all day and didn't get anything to eat. They killed a wild cat and ate it and the next day after they eat the wild cat they killed an Indian pony. The Indian had just gotten off of him and went to the brush. After they killed him [pony] they cut out of him what they wanted and went on about five miles and stopped and got supper. They went on again until away after dark so as to dodge the Indians; that was the way we all traveled, so we would not have any fire where we camped.

Those men traveled straight for the Wichita mountains. Before they got to the mountains they ran onto part of their own regiment and took them to be Indians, and their regiment also took them to be Indians, and they all began to shoot and broke for the brush. When they got together they were surprised but there was great rejoicing. They all went to the mountains with the regiment; they got through two days before we did.

Now I will refer back to our camp on the Cimarron river. We started the next morning traveling east up a big level flat. There was a rock about ten miles ahead of us that was fifteen feet high and as a house. It was flat on top, and was called the
page 308 Indian rock. When the Indians were traveling through the country and came to that rock they all left something -such as rings, ear rings, and beads. It seemed as though they worshipped that rock. After we got there our Indian guide didn't know the road any farther, and so we traveled through an unknown country without any guide for four hundred miles.

We traveled that day about ten miles farther and camped for the night with but little to eat or drink. Next morning we started about sunrise and traveled about five miles and came across an Indian trail going east. Then we went ten miles farther and camped. We had killed three deer that day and some rabbits, so we fared pretty well for supper and breakfast. We started pretty early next morning and traveled about fifteen miles and struck the brakes, and there we struck another Indian trail about the same size as the first one going the same direction.

Traveling on about five miles farther we struck a stream which we took to be the North Canadian river; there we saw quite a few Indian signs and traveled on about six miles and camped for the night; then we went through a smooth prairie for about fifteen miles. Our hunters had killed some deer that day so we had plenty to eat. That day we traveled about ten miles farther. That evening as the hunters came in they saw three Indians right south of us; that was all the Indians we saw that day. We camped there that night but was off next morning by daylight. We went ten miles
page 309 and crossed a stream that we took to be the South Canadian. We traveled all that day and didn't have much to eat that night.

The next day we traveled through a rough country and killed a bear and two deer and one or two turkeys. We ate the deer meat for breakfast and the bear meat for supper and camped for the night again. We started about two o'clock in the morning and traveled over a pretty level country for ten miles. We stopped then to let our horses graze and eat breakfast; it was about eight o'clock when we ate. We started on the march again about ten o'clock; we traveled till about two o'clock and then we let our horses graze an hour or so; some of them had little to eat and most of them didn't have anything. We traveled on about seven miles farther, when there was a bunch of about one hundred head of wild horses ran through our ranks. As we were marching there was a colt that joined us from the bunch of wild horses and we let him follow along with us.

We traveled about five miles and came across a lone buffalo: they killed and skinned him and took his hide for moccasins and bridle reins. We went down to the creek and camped. There was plenty of wild grapes and nice running water. Three men and myself went a quarter of a mile below the rest of them and got our suppers. Later the three men saddled their horses and rode off, leaving me alone. About ten o'clock at night I thought I heard the Indians hello right close to me. I took my horse and moved
page 310 him about a hundred yards farther up the creek, closer to where the company was camped.

I ran onto a man in a ditch asleep. I woke him up and told him I heard Indians, and that we would have to stand guard, and he agreed to stand guard two hours off and two hours on till daylight. I stood the first two hours and woke him up and he was to stand two hours. In about an hour I woke up and he was asleep, so we both stood guard from then until morning.

About four o'clock in the morning those three men who left me alone came back and camped right close to where they had eaten their suppers that night, camping by an old dry stump about twenty feet high; it was covered with old dry vines and they built a fire by the stump and the vines caught fire and made a big light, they could see it for miles and we thought it was Indians, and we were as still as death for about five minutes, till the fire went down and we hailed them before we went up to the fire, and when we went up we saw that they were the men who left me that night, and they asked me if I hadn't followed them all night. I told them no, that they had traveled all night and had come back to where they had eaten their suppers the night before. I told them I would show them when daylight came where they had eaten their suppers.

We ate our breakfast, then about sunrise and started on our journey east, right down the creek that we were camped on; traveled about three miles, rode up on a high rocky mountain to look around and see if we could see
page 311 any Indians or the rest of the company coming, but we didn't see any Indians anywhere; then we looked west and saw our company coming. We waited till they were within four hundred yards of us to see if they were Indians or our boys. We saw they were our boys and we came down to fall in line with the company.

The three men I camped with the night before were aiming to leave the company and go to Fort Belknap by themselves, but got lost and came back to where they started that night. We traveled on till about eleven o'clock that day and stopped to graze our horses a couple of hours when our hunters came in. They reported seeing five Indians about a half a mile south. All we had for dinner was Mesquite beans and hack-berries and a few prickly-pear apples. We started again on the march about one or two o'clock and traveled about ten miles. We came to what they called Dog Town or Red river, about half of us camped on one side and about half on the other side. We had nothing to eat or drink when we camped. We dug a down about three feet in the river and found a little alkali salt water. The party that camped on the west side of the river then sent us word that they had killed three buffaloes and found water. We all went over there and camped with them. We had plenty of meat to eat and plenty of water to drink; we laid down and all went to sleep, and our officers were all out and we didn't put out any guards.

About four o'clock in the morning, just as the moon was going down
page 312 we heard two shots, and then the Indians began to yell and ran through our camp, taking sixty-two head of our riding ponies and pack mules. Captain Sull and Pete Ross fired at the Indians as they passed right over them. I heard the captain say to shoot at the yelling Indians and to shoot downward. The yelling and shooting scared me so I couldn't keep my hat on my head. There was a pond of water close, and two or three of our boys were scared so bad that they ran and jumped into that pond of water.

I had turned my horse loose that night and just left him drag his lariat and I had to go and hunt him up myself, because I wouldn't ask anybody else to go with me. I went up the river about six hundred yards with my army six in my hand. I found my horse, got on him and looked around and saw another horse. I went and got him and took him to camp with me. The owner of the horse came to me when I got to camp and said he wouldn't have went out after him for a dozen horses. When daylight came our colonel called for all of those who had good horses to follow the Indians, and I was one of the men that went with the detail after the Indians. We went about six miles when we found the Indian Chief's head dress. It was fine polished buffalo horns and covered with velvet and painted feathers and beads; then we went on about half a mile farther and came to a hill.

We sent four or five men to look over the hill and saw our horses; the streams forked there. There were two tribes of Indians;
page 313 one tribe camped on one side and one on the other. They were herding our horses between the two tribes, and there were so many of them we didn't tackle them. We went back to camp and the orders were that we wouldn't travel any that day. Some of the boys who lost their horses cried.

We stayed there all day, and along about three or four o'clock in the afternoon there were a few shots fired through our camp. We had lost fifteen men on the Cimarron and Major Fitzue thought it was them shooting through our camp, thinking we were Indians. So Major Fitzue went out about five hundred yards and hallooed at them and waved his hat, and he said they shot so close to him that he knew it wasn't our boys.

Then we stayed there until dark and piled our saddles and pack saddles and everything we couldn't carry with us and burned them up. We threw our cooking utensils into a hole of water. We traveled right down the bed of the river ten miles and went up in the sand hills about three miles and camped. Most of us had no water or anything to eat that night. The next morning we traveled till about 11 o'clock and got off and left our horses graze and the men on foot have a rest, and we had nothing to eat or drink. We started again and traveled two miles and left Joe and John England under a mesquite bush, played out. We traveled about a mile further and left Frank Hunter another bush.

I was carrying a man behind me and I stopped to get him on my
page 314 horse, and the man that was on behind me objected and hallooed at Major Fitzue that I was going to get off and make him get off and take Frank Hunter on. Major Fitzue said to tell me to get on and come on or he would have me dismounted in half a minute. I told Frank if we found water anywhere close I would come back and get him.

We went about six miles and found water, but it was so salty we could not drink it. The officers was quarreling down in the bed of the river, and there were about twenty-five men who got down along the side of the banks and began to pray. Word came down the river that there was plenty of nice water about four hundred yards above. We all started up the river to the water, and when we got there it was alkali or jip, and they drank so much of it that it made them all sick. The man who was riding behind me jumped off into the water, clothes and all. There was a man who came down the river and told us that about a quarter of a mile above was nice stream of water and a good nice fortification.

We all went up there and found it all O.K., and then sent back and got the boys we left and sent out hunting parties. My mess didn't kill any game. I was at Captain Burlson's company, and his company had killed three deer, and he gave me half a deer to take to Major Fitzue, and told me to tell Major Fitzue to divide it among his men that had nothing to eat. I had two shirts on, so I cut off all the flesh I could and poked it in between
page 315 my shirts, and told the major that Captain Burlson told him to divide it among the men who had nothing to eat. The major told me to cut me a piece and say nothing, So I cut it in two and went to my mess and told them how I treated the major, and they said it was all right, that the major was always a rascal, so we ate our supper and when night came we all went on guard.

We carried rocks and logs and made a fort. They put fifty men in about two hundred feet, and none of us slept that night. Our lieutenant-colonel, Smith, went up and down the lines and talked to every man. He told them they would have to stand and fight as though they knew no danger. Then the guard sent word down the river that there was a large force of Indians coming down the river, and Colonel Smith kept going up and down the lines telling his men not to shoot until they could kill an Indian. He told them if they ran they were gone, but if they stood they had a good chance to save themselves.

The Indians came up on the other side of the river from us, and the moon was shining as bright as day, when all at once the Indians made the awfulest whistle I ever heard. I thought sure they were coming, so I braced up to face the storm. They turned back, and Smith told us to hold our places, for they might come from some other direction, but they never came in that night; we stayed there and didn't sleep any that night. The next morning we found that about half a dozen
page 316 men had their horses saddled to get away, while we did the fighting.

We got our breakfast and started out about sunrise and traveled about ten or twelve miles and found a pretty good place and thought we would stay all night, and sent out hunting parties to get game to strengthen the boys up a little. We got enough game for our supper and breakfast. We had to travel slow on account of our men on foot. We started the next morning after breakfast and traveled about twelve miles farther. That day our south guard saw Indians about half a mile away, but as there were only two, we paid not the least attention to them.

We traveled until we came to a good camping place where we had plenty of water, but we had very little to eat, traveled on ten or twelve miles again, and our men on foot got so they could walk better than they did all forenoon. They picked mesquites, beans and prickly-pear apples as they went along for their breakfast. Nothing of note happened for four or five days. When we got to the river we got some buffalo and steers that had strayed off from the settlers. Before we got there we killed three or four bears in one place, and up in the shinoaks [thin oaks?] we saw some musk hogs.

When we got to the river we found out where we were. Some of the boys had been there before. We crossed Peas river about twenty miles above Mule creek, where the Indians captured Cinthy Ann Parker. After that there was nothing more of
page 317 note happened until we got to the Wichita river, then we camped on the Big Wichita a day or two, and the colonel sent four men to Fort Belknap to get provisions, about sixty miles, and I was one that went.

We traveled about thirty miles and met Till Yelton and others about midnight with a train of pack mules and guards, with provisions for our scout. We were gone so long that they were going to hunt us up, to see what had become of us. A fellow by the name of Jim Lewis had eaten so much bacon and stuff that it made him sick, and we had to roll him all night, so we didn't get to Fort Belknap till about noon the next day.

We stayed at Belknap about four or five days and there were about two hundred of our men who came in, and we were discharged. John R. Bailor went out with four or five men the day before I was discharged and he came in the next evening with seven Indian's scalps, and that was the last of the scout.

I will go back and tell of some more Indian and buffalo chases that I wasn't in, but some of my company were. Four men up in the Wichita mountains upon seeing a like number of Indians gave chase. They took after them and the Indians broke for a creek where it was awful brushy. They got within about three hundred yards of them, but couldn't get any closer, so they ran them for about three miles till the Indians got into the brush and there they gave up. White men never follow them any farther than where they strike the brush, then they quit them. When the men came back they
page 318
said an Indian could get more ride out of a horse than a white man could. Every time our boys went to shoot, the Indians would gain ground on them, but they had an interesting chase of it.

And a few days after that there were five of us went out on a buffalo hunt. We got after some buffaloes and wounded two or three of them, and one of the wounded buffaloes stopped and showed fight. He made a lunge at one of the horses and hooked one of them in the side and knocked him down and ran over him, the man was kicked about fifteen feet. He got up, ran and jumped into a gulley and said: "Wasn't I lucky not to get killed?" He then jumped on behind another man and went back to camp.

Two months after that Phillip Yelton went out buffalo hunting by himself. He saw some buffalo about two hundred yards from him, so he got off his horse and slipped up on one and shot at him. He thought he had killed it but when he came close to him, he [buffalo] jumped up and made at Phillip. He shot at him again and the buffalo whirled around six or eight times, and every time he whirled around he would shoot him again. Three or four of the other men saw the fight, and got there in time to attract the buffalo's attention so Phillip could get away. After he had emptied both of his six shooters, the men ran up and patted him on the shoulders and said" "Bully for you, Phillip."

This closed our campaign for the year 1860.

The End