Post by hi224 on Dec 17, 2019 23:32:25 GMT
In the 18th and 19th centuries, European settlement expanded westward across America in a steady wave, overwhelming ancient and storied tribes like the Iroquois, the Cherokee, and the Shawnee. Then it reached Texas and the lands of the Comanche and briefly stopped dead.The Comanche were an obscure mountain tribe until the horse arrived in North America, but they took to the animal like no other Native American group. The horse allowed them to become nomads, following the buffalo, and they exploded across the Texas plains, virtually wiping out the Apache in the process. Their enormous horse herds were legendary, as were their riding skills. While the Cheyenne and Sioux would dismount before battles, the Comanche mastered the art of fighting on horseback. They planted no crops, built no settlements, and shunned complex ritual or religion. The name “Comanche” was given to them by the Utes. It means “enemies.”When American settlers arrived in Texas, conflict was inevitable. The Comanche were outnumbered almost from the start and generally avoided direct conflict. Instead, they preferred to raid undefended farmhouses, slaughtering the inhabitants. It worked, grinding European expansion almost to a halt. In 1858, after a particularly bloody year, the Texas Rangers were ordered on an unprecedented raid. Their target was the Comancheria, the empire of the Texas plains, a brutal and unchanging grassland of deadly heat, vast wildfires, and sudden snowstorms. Three hundred years earlier, the explorer Francisco de Coronado was lured there by hostile natives, who expected him to die. He wrote that “although I traveled for more than 300 leagues, [there were] no more landmarks than if we had been swallowed up by the sea.”No European had penetrated far into the Comancheria, but now the Rangers intended to do just that. They were accompanied by a group of Tonkawas, a local tribe hated by other Native Americans for their cannibalism. The Comanches slaughtered the Tonkawas whenever possible, and the survivors longed for revenge. Together, the Rangers and the Tonkawas traveled for weeks, fording stretches of pure quicksand, until they discovered a huge Comanche camp stretching along a creek in the Antelope Hills. The Comanches sprang onto their horses, but they never expected to be attacked in the heart of the Comancheria and were in no position to fight.Then, Chief Iron Jacket rode out of the chaos. His true name was Pobishequasso, but he was known as Iron Jacket for his ancient coat of Spanish armor, a family heirloom looted from the corpse of some unlucky conquistador. He exhaled great breaths of air as he rode toward the Rangers, working his medicine, which was said to blow bullets off target. The Rangers and the Tonkawas opened fire, but Iron Jacket kept coming. The bullets seemed to bounce off him. For a moment, he was unstoppable.Then, as it always does, the magic ended. A hail of rifle fire cut down his horse, and a second volley finished Pobishequasso. His followers (armed only with lances and ancient muskets) fled, pursued by the Rangers, who picked off at least 76. In the years that followed, the settlers became bolder, launching numerous raids into the Comancheria. Iron Jacket’s rusting armor was broken up for souvenirs. It wasn’t the end, but it was the beginning of it.