In my soon to be published book, I tell the complete story of the incredible life of Charlie Goodnight. Here is the Second of several continuing posts relating that life. If any of it is not readable, or you want to see more stories like it, please go to my website and read it there……. truetexantales.com Ron
Charles Goodnight – 2nd Installment
As stated in the 1st Instalment, you don’t hear much about him in the history books, but Charlie Goodnight was one of the most influential men in developing early Texas and the Western US. The Bible says that God is interested and involved in the founding and development of nations. It is my opinion that He used Charlie Goodnight over and over again in the development of the Western US and particularly the Southwestern part. He was one of the original men that protected the settlements along the frontier from the Indians. These men were called “Rangers” and they predated what were later officially established as the “Texas Rangers”
Continuing from 1st Installment:
A company of Federal Troops was finally stationed there in that part of Texas. Charlie was asked to scout for them.
Colonel Cureton from Waco also formed a company of rangers. They like the other ranger groups would pursue the Indians as quickly as possible after a raid. They would not take
provisions or blankets or other equipment for camping; they would just go. I have personally always wondered why they did not take better provisions for such forays, though they would usually take a piece of salt pork and sometimes a little salt for the wild game they would kill.
About this time, during a heavy rain, the Comanches raided the houses of two new settlers. These couples were not really wise to the ways of the frontier. They did not even have guns. The Comanches were particularly brutal in this attack. They mutilated the settlers bodies and tied one of the women to the ground with stakes and violated her before shooting arrows into her body.
Baylor’s ranger group, Cureton’s ranger group and Colonel Ross’s troops from the fort started after these Comanches. Even with all of the rain, Charlie Goodnight was able to follow their trail. Their trail was crossed by two large herds of buffalo, but Charlie was able to stay on it.
The group of pursuers stopped to rest, but Charlie went on way up ahead and stationed one man in between to intercept any signal from him.
By now they were out in the very open country up near the Pease River. That river was quite salty and gyppy, but Charlie knew that there was a fresh-water creek that entered the river up ahead. He could also tell from their trail, that the Indians were no longer in a hurry, figuring they had outrun any pursuit. He figured that the Indians would be camped up on that fresh-water creek. He also spied some berry trees that the white’s did not like, but that were relished by the Indians. He had his companion stay back and wait for any signal while he went up to those berry trees.
Sure enough, he could tell that two Indians had just left there and were headed toward that creek. He signaled for the company to come on; that he had found the Indians. Ross’s troopers headed a little to the east and the two ranger companies angled a little to the west. The older troopers had good horses and topped the hill and headed down to the Indians’ camp with the younger troopers following.
Charlie looked back and could see the rangers strung out in a long line, depending on how good their horses were, with the sun glinting off their tin cups and their shiny rifles. All stung out like that, they looked like a much larger group, and Charlie knew that the Indians would think the same thing.
The Comanche squaws and the older men in their camp had been butchering buffalo and had most of their horses loaded down with the meat. Ross’s troopers had the best angle and reached there first. They charged right through the camp, shooting each buck as thy came to them. The new recruits coming behind probably couldn’t tell a buck from a squaw and proceeded to kill most all of the squaws. Chief Nocona had a Spanish wife that he had captured long before. She was wounded and crawled off into the grass.
Just beyond the camp was an absolutely flat piece of ground that the buffalo had grazed completely clean. It was about a mile across. The Indians that got on horseback would have faired much better to have headed off to the side into some sandy hills, but in their panic, they headed straight across that flat area. Everyone of them was killed, and Colonel Ross engaged in hand to hand combat with the chief and finally killed him, too. Ross claimed it was Chief Nocona, but Charlie was sure that it was another chief whose name was No-bah.
Among the confusion was a squaw on a fine iron-grey horse. She was able to keep up with the bucks. Ross ordered his Sergeant to take charge of her so that the recruits would not mistake her for one of the bucks and kill her. She had a buffalo robe wrapped around her, and in its folds, a really small infant.
Charlie told later that she was in the most intense grief and distress that he had ever seen. He said it made a deep impression on him. He went over to her in an attempt to console her. That was when he discovered that she had blue eyes. Her skin was dark from having cut up all that meat, but Charlie was amazed to see that she had blonde hair.
He went over and told Judge Pollard with the Rangers that they had a white woman. This news caused quite a stir. Army Colonel Ross carried her and 30 or 40 head of Indian ponies back to his permanent camp on Elm Creek west of Fort Belknap , even though she tried to escape several times.
Colonel Cureton, with all his knowledge of the frontier and plains said that he had never heard of a battle with the Comanche where at least a few did not escape. He asked Charlie to go out and cut for sign before it got dark. Charlie did find the tracks of two Indian ponies and followed them for several miles. As he topped a hill, he looked down onto an Indian camp with over a thousand Indians. Charlie went back and told Cureton that it was his best judgment that they go back and catch-up with Ross.
Everyone there in the area of the soldier’s camp and Fort Belknap thought that the woman may be the long lost Cynthia Ann Parker who had been carried off when the Comanches’ and Caddo’s massacred the people at Fort Parker way down on the Navasota River back in 1836. They sent word for Colonel Isaac Parker to come up there and see if he could identify her. They also secured a fellow named Ben Kiggins to come. He had been ransomed back from the Indians where he had been a captive for many years and could speak good Comanche.
When they were all there, they brought the woman out of her tent and into the group. Failing to escape, she had now become sullen and morose. The little infant that she called Prairie Flower in Comanche had also now died.
Kiggins told Colonel Parker that he thought that the one thing that the woman could remember would be the name that she had been called as a girl. Parker said that he knew that his brother and his brother’s wife had called her Cynthia Ann.
When the women heard him say that and then repeat it, she stood up, faced them, patted herself and said: “Me Cincee Ann”. She went on to tell Kiggins that, though she regrets it, she indeed had a paleface ma and a paleface pa and that they called her Cincee Ann. She went on to say that she now had a redman ma and a redman pa and that they have a name for her and that name is Palux. She was also able to tell Kiggins many of the details of Fort Parker .
They took her back to the piney woods of east Texas, but she was a stranger in a strange land now with people that “were not hers, and among the hated Tejanos”. She longed for the treeless Plains where Nocona and her sons still hunted the buffalo. She did finally escape and tried to get back, but she died of sinking grief and loneliness on the way.
By now, the Civil War was starting. Old Sam Houston did not want Texas fighting in any such war, but those independent Texans were so big on “state’s rights”. Though almost none had slaves, they did not want to be told that they had to be confined to any union.
Many of the rangers went off to fight for the Confederacy, but the state officials convinced and paid Charlie Goodnight to stay and scout for the rangers that were assigned to protect the frontier from the Indians. And that is how he spent the years of the Civil War.
The country where those rangers patrolled had most dramatic features. For over two hundred miles to the northwest from the western cross timbers the country was undulating, but not too rough, though interspersed with a few sandy hills. Beyond that the country became very broken. It rose up in jagged brightly colored rocks and broken canyons to a high escarpment or the Quitaque, which today is called the Caprock.
The springs that come down from this jagged escarpment form the rivers that flow south and southeast across Texas .
On top of the escarpment the land is very level, almost flat as a table. That begins what was called the “Staked Plains”. However, cut across this immense, flat region was a big gash with rugged canyons along its sides that is called the Palo Duro Canyon . It was here in the Palo Duro that the Comanche’s had their ultimate refuge. For the longest time, white men dared not go near it.
Way off to the west of it in New Mexico the country was fairly civilized with settled communities like Santa Fe and Taos and other communities. The Indians there were mostly the peaceful Pueblos .
Off to the north, were settled communities in Colorado like Pueblo and Denver , and even north of there in Wyoming country were towns like Cheyenne . However, you did not dare venture within two hundred miles of the Palo Duro Canyon country. And in Texas , the settlements most all stopped at the western cross timbers as a result.
After the war, Union Soldiers came to help with the Indian problem. They were not plainsmen like the rangers and had no knowledge of that wild country just described.
Their officers asked Charlie to guide for them, and he had all kinds of problems keeping them alive. Their officers were so “headstrong” and determined to be “in charge”. Charlie’s problem with them was not the Indians. The Indians would just steal their horses and escape with them. The main problem was their lack of knowledge of how to survive in that wild county. Time and again some headstrong Colonel would lead his troops off into that immense, flat tableland and start following the mirages that prevailed there. Eventually they would be lost and start circling. Many times Charlie saved them from certain death by getting them back to drinkable water.
On one of those occasions something happened that is being studied by medical doctors today. This group of troopers went off on their own without proper scouts. They felt quite safe because they carried wagons with a large quantity of water and had a large supply of mules. They knew that if they got lost, they could always eat the mules. Sure enough they got lost and had to stay out way much longer than anticipated. Without a scout to get them buffalo or antelope they did have to eat mule meat. Those men were consuming as much as 11 pounds of that meat a day. But those mules were so lean that they had absolutely no fat on them. When those troopers finally got back to their fort, several had died of starvation and the remainder were close to death.
What modern medical pathologists have recently studied, and with that as their example, is that one cannot process protein without at least a little fat to go along with it. Those mules had no fat.
After the war was finished, Charlie and his partner, Sheek, went back to see how their cattle had faired during this extended period. They had for sure multiplied, and were mixed with those having other brands, and with almost half unbranded. It was necessary to brand all those roaming without a brand. However, thieves and carpetbaggers had invaded and were putting their own brands on them.
Charlie had been very scrupulous his whole life about who’s cattle belonged to whom. He wasn’t very tall, but he became like a one-man army bringing order to the situation. Being so tough, such an accomplished horseman, such a good marksman and just effusing authority all helped.
However, along with the carpetbaggers and thieves larger and larger bands of Indians began to raid this turbulent frontier. They were killing as many as 12 settlers at a time and carrying of increasing numbers of captive women and children. They were also trailing thousands of head of cattle back northwest.
By this time, 1864, Charlie and Sheek figured they had at least 8,000 head of cattle. They bought other cattle, and had bought all of Varney’s CV cattle, giving him notes to pay in gold over three years.
Some of the cattlemen set out southwest toward Mexico for more and less troublesome range. However, Charlie decided to take a heard west and then up into New Mexico and on to Colorado if necessary. He gathered up a heard of 2,000 steers and dry cows in preparation, but a band of several hundred Comanches came through on a raid and carried them all off while he was away getting ready for the drive. This delayed him until the following Spring.
He bought an army wagon, and had its wood replaced with seasoned bois de’ark, some of the hardest wood anywhere for use on his drive. The wagon had steel axels as opposed to the wooden ones on most of the frontier. And Charlie had a drop-down counter installed in the back for cooking. This was the first “chuck-wagon” ever used in Texas and has been little changed since. He took 12 yoke of oxen to be used 6 at a time, alternating between the two sets.
Charlie gathered up another heard and then set out for Weatherford to buy flour and supplies. On the way he passed Oliver Loving’s camp who was gathering a heard to trail to the east. However, after conferring and figuring he asked to join Goodnight, and so the two joined forces and formed a partnership that was to last through many great adventures. Loving was a sturdy and healthy age 54 and Goodnight was age 30.
Charlie could have easily blazed a trail straight northwest, directly to Colorado with all the knowledge he had gained with the rangers of that wild country. However, they would have for sure lost their cattle and horses to the Comanche’s and Kiowa’s there.
Together they had over 2,000 head. They were mostly long horn steers and about 800 mother cows. Their 18 hands were the most experienced and toughest they could find. And they had a sizable heard of horses for spare mounts.
On June 6, 1866 they headed out, full of optimism and spirit.
To Be Continued