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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 15, No. 2
June, 1937
THE BATTLE OF WICHITA VILLAGE1

By Captain W. S. Nye

Page 226

Prior to 1858 the United States troops in Texas attempted to protect the frontier against Indian forays by purely defensive measures. That this was unsuccessful was shown in the continued raids of the Indians. The Texans, finding it apparently impossible to secure adequate protection from the Federal government, organized an expedition of state troops under Col. John Ford. The Texans defeated the Comanches in a battle on the Canadian River. Spurred to greater efforts by the success of the Texans, the army commander in Texas asked for and received permission from the war department to invade Indian Territory in an offensive expedition against the Comanches.

At the same time that the military forces at Fort Belknap were preparing to march north against the Comanches, the commander at Fort Arbuckle, unknown to the former officer, was making a treaty with them. The Comanches were camped on Rush Creek, trading and gambling with the inhabitants of the Wichita village of grass houses which was located there.

Captain Earl Van Dorn marched north from Fort Belknap on September 15, 1858, accompanied by four companies of the 2d Cavalry and one company of the 5th Infantry. He had been preceded by several days by a force of one hundred Wichita, Caddo, and Tonkawa scouts under Lawrence S. "Sul" Ross. Ross picked out a place for a temporary advanced base for the expedition on Otter Creek, near the present site of Tipton. When Van Dorn arrived, two Wichita scouts were sent to the Wichita village to locate the Comanches. These scouts returned to the camp on



Page 227

Otter Creek on the afternoon of Sept. 29, bearing the news that the Comanches were camped adjacent to the Wichita village.

Within an hour Van Dorn and his cavalry started east to attack the Comanches. After a forced march of thirty-six hours, they attacked the Comanches at dawn of October 1. The Indians were defeated and dispersed with considerable loss. Van Dorn was wounded, Lieutenant Van Camp was killed, and several soldiers were killed and wounded. The troops then marched back to Camp Radziminski, their base at Otter Creek. This camp was moved twice, the final location being at the southern entrance of what is called the "Narrows," four miles northwest of the site of Mountain Park. Only a few heaps of stones remain today to mark the site.

The location of the battle itself has been in dispute for a number of years. Even the Indians do not agree on this. The recent discovery of two maps made in 1859 show that the fight occurred about five miles southeast of the present town of Rush Springs. This evidence, though conclusive in itself, is verified by testimony of several veterans, both Indian and white, whose depositions were taken in the Greer County (Texas Boundary) case in 1894. I obtained my information from that source, from the official reports, from numerous white accounts, including letters of Sul Ross, and from Indians whose parents were participants. Two aged Indians were interviewed who actually were present at the fight as small children. Also the widow of one of Van Dorn's command is still living at Rush Springs, or was two years ago. Another resident of Rush Springs, Mrs. J. A. Slaton, whose father was with Marcy in 1852, and who herself was born at Fort Arbuckle, states that the fight occurred on what is known by old-timers as the Huntley farm, on Rush Creek.2



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