The First Battle of Adobe Walls, took place on Nov. 25, 1864. Famous Indian fighter, hunter, guide, scout and soldier Kit Carson commanded U. S. Army troops in one of the largest native American/military battles that ever occurred west of the Mississippi river.
The Comanche and Kiowa Indians of the Southern Plains had attacked many wagon trains on their way to New Mexico. Attempting to put a stop to these attacks, Gen. James H. Carleton, the commander of the military units of New Mexico, sent a force led by Col. Christopher “Kit” Carson to locate the tribes in their winter campgrounds and defeat them “by whatever means necessary.”
Carson departed Ft. Bascom, New Mexico in the early winter of 1864, with about 300 soldiers and 100 Utes and Jicarilla Apaches. His command included Lt. Pettis’ platoon of mountain Howitzers. Carson and his troops soon located the Kiowas led by Chief Dohäsan near the ruins of Adobe Walls, a long-abandoned trading post in the Texas Panhandle.
After Carson’s troops attacked Dohäsan’s Kiowa village, they chased the warriors further east to the ruins of Adobe Walls. Carson was familiar with Adobe Walls from his time as a trader there some 20 years earlier. He knew the ruins would provide some shelter for his horses and his field surgeon, Dr. Courtwright. Carson didn’t know that downstream within three miles of Adobe Walls was a large Indian village of around 350 lodges that provided reinforcements of more Kiowas and Comanches to those already fighting at Adobe Walls.
When Lieutenant Pettis arrived with the 2 mountain Howitzers, he deployed them to the top of an elongated hill northeast of Adobe Walls. The Indian warriors had never seen these cannons and when the first 2 shots sent 12-pound balls whistling across the battlefield and exploding, it made quite an impression. The use of these big guns at this critical time, and during the troops’ retreat, probably saved their lives.
After Carson’s troops burned Dohäsan’s village late in the afternoon, they began to trek westward looking for their supply wagons. The troopers located the wagon train about 4 miles west of the Kiowa village. Carson allowed his contingent of soldiers to rest on the 26th and then on the 27th they began the long trip back to New Mexico. In all, Carson’s force lost 2 soldiers and 1 scout. In addition, 10 soldiers and 5 scouts were wounded. Carson estimated that 60 Indians were killed.
The tactics Carson employed in this battle were later recognized by his superiors and by military tactical experts as “the most successful strategic retreat in United States Army history.” Carson’s knowledge of the Indians and his complete grasp of the developing battle prevented a disaster.
Adobe Walls Battle of 1864
Col. Christopher "Kit" Carson
by George Catlin
Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian American Arts Museum
Hill where Howitzer cannons were placed.
Painting of battle by Nick Eggenhofer.
Hutchinson County Historical Museum • 618 N. Main Street • Borger, TX 79007 • 806 273 0130
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