TWIN VILLAGES, BATTLE OF THE
In late 1759 Spanish Col. Diego Ortiz Parrilla led a group of more than three hundred Spanish regulars and recruits, along with a number of Indian allies, against the Wichitan Band's Twin Villages located along the Red River. The Twin Villages existed on both sides of the Red River, at the western edge of the Cross Timbers in Jefferson County, Oklahoma, and in the vicinity of present Spanish Fort in Montague County, Texas. The Battle of the Twin Villages was the largest military engagement in the eighteenth century in present Oklahoma.
Repeated war-party incursions into Spanish lands by the Wichitan Indian bands (Taovaya, Wichita, and Iscani), Comanche, and other tribes situated in northern Texas primarily motivated the Spanish campaign. The raids were part of a continuous state of war between these tribes and the Apache Indians, who had been slowly pushed into Texas.
Due to the Spanish policy of strictly outlawing gun sales to Indians, the Apache became increasingly weak in comparison to their allied Indian opponents, who had willing firearms-trading partners in the French. Late in 1758 two thousand warriors surrounded the Spanish mission at San Sabá while searching for Apaches. While many of the mission's inhabitants escaped, the attackers killed two Spanish priests and a number of Indians. The raiders also burned the mission buildings, which had been constructed as a part of the Spanish plan to convert the Apache to mission life and religion.
The San Sabá calamity struck at the heart of Spanish honor and pride. Officials demanded retribution in the form of military action. Therefore, after months of political maneuvering by Spanish officials, a force was organized and outfitted for a campaign to find and attack the Wichitan bands. Ortiz Parrilla, an experienced Indian fighter, led a mixed group of 139 Spanish soldiers and officers, 241 militiamen, 134 Apache Indians, 30 Tlaxcaltecan Indians, 90 mission Indians, and 2 priests. The expedition took along two cannons and sixteen hundred mules, horses, and cattle.
The column advanced from San Antonio to the burned mission at San Sabá before venturing north toward the Red River. Ortiz Parrilla disregarded French offers to mediate between the Spaniards and these tribes and pressed on with his mission. The expedition met with initial success. Nearing the suspected enemy base at Twin Villages, the Spanish force charged and routed a camp of Yojuane Indians. Fifty-five were killed and 149 captured.
Ortiz Parrilla and his men regrouped from their first taste of victory and approached the Twin Villages encampment. The attackers were shocked to see a French flag flying high above the settlements. The Indians, close trading partners with the French, had allowed a dozen traders/soldiers to be stationed at the towns, although with the outbreak of hostilities the French had removed their citizens.
An even greater shock was the fortress-like appearance of the village on the northern bank. Upstream were open fields of maize, pumpkins, beans, and watermelons, while almost half of the village was surrounded by the main fort complex, with its flanks secured against the river. The village's stockade was constructed from split logs that allowed the defenders to mount the walls and pour down fire on attackers. Inside the fort were a large corral and areas for the noncombatants. In addition, earthen breastworks had been constructed behind a deep water moat, preventing any horseback attack. Spanish sources estimated the number of Indians defending the village to be between five hundred and six thousand.
After surveying the battlefield, Ortiz Parrilla formed his main body of soldiers in the center with his Indian allies on the flanks. For the next four hours he was decisively repelled in every attempt to break the Indians' strong defensive position. Eleven volleys from his two cannons only drew laughs and taunts from the defenders. Soon the villagers began to take the initiative. From inside the fort, sharpshooters fired into the main body as teams of fast-riding horsemen attacked the flanks of the Spanish force. Dismounted Indians quickly loaded additional weapons for the riders, allowing the Indians to keep up a rapid fire. Soon small groups of Indians began to circle behind the Spaniards in an attempt to cut off their avenues of retreat.
As darkness fell, Ortiz Parrilla's men stood demoralized and dismayed. Because of desertions and enemy reinforcements, his officers petitioned him to withdraw. Reluctantly, the commander ordered the retreat, but he officially declared the expedition a success. The Spaniards claimed to have killed one hundred Indians, including the Taovayas chief, and to have captured 149 in the initial engagement. Spanish casualties were nineteen dead, fourteen wounded, and a few deserted. Leaving in haste, Ortiz Parrilla's force abandoned most of their supply trains and both cannons. The Indians celebrated the victory with dances and songs but did little to harass the retreating Spaniards.
The defeat of the Spaniards at the Battle of the Twin Villages seriously injured their prestige and honor in the region, although the two warring sides would make peace in the coming years.
SEE ALSO: EUROPEAN EXPLORATION.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Henry Easton Allen, "The Parrilla Expedition to the Red River in 1759," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 43 (July 1939). Donald E. Chipman, Spanish Texas 1519-1821 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992). Elizabeth A. H. John, Storms Brewed in Other Men's Worlds (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1975).
© Oklahoma Historical Society