Battle of Palo Duro Canyon

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Battle of Palo Duro Canyon
Part of the Red River War, American Indian Wars
Palo Duro 2002.jpg
Palo Duro Canyon
Date September 28, 1874
Location Palo Duro Canyon, Texas
34°52′40″N 101°36′20″W / 34.87778°N 101.60556°W / 34.87778; -101.60556Coordinates: 34°52′40″N 101°36′20″W / 34.87778°N 101.60556°W / 34.87778; -101.60556
Result United States victory
 United States Cheyenne
Commanders and leaders
Ranald S. Mackenzie Poor Buffalo
Lone Wolf
400 cavalry 1500 warriors
Casualties and losses
1 wounded[1]:490 15 killed at Tule
50-60 killed at Palo Duro[1]:494
Palo Duro is located in Texas
Palo Duro
Palo Duro
Location within Texas

The Battle of Palo Duro Canyon was a significant United States victory that brought about the end of the Red River War.[2][3]


Late in the summer of 1874 the Quahada Comanche, Southern Cheyenne, Arapaho and Kiowa warriors led by Lone Wolf had left their reservations and sought refuge in Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle.[1]:473 There they had been stockpiling food and supplies for the winter. Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, leading the 4th U.S. Cavalry, departed Fort Clark, Texas, on 15 August, reached Fort Concho on the 21st and the mouth of Blanco Canyon on the 23rd with 8 companies plus 3 from the 10th Infantry and 1 from the 11th.[1]:474 Mackenzie's orders from General Christopher C. Augur were stated he was "at liberty to follow the Indians wherever they go, even to the Agencies."[1]:475 Mackenzie formed three columns, the first column consisting of 8 companies of the 4th Cavalry and 2 infantry companies, the second column under Lt. Col. Buell consisting of 5 companies of the 9th Cavalry, 1 from the 10th, and 2 infantry companies, while the third column under Lt. Col. Davidson consisting of 8 companies of the 10th Cavalry and two infantry companies.[1]:477 The first column moved north along the edge of the Staked Plains, the second advanced up the Red River and the third from Fort Sill.[1]:477 By the 25th September, Indians began to gather around Mackenzie's troops so that on the night of 26–27 September, they were attacked near Tule and Boehm's Canyon resulting in the deaths of 15 warriors, including the Kiowa Chief 'Woman Heart'.[1]:485 and 487

The battle[edit]

Tule Canyon, as seen from Highway 207, north of Silverton, Texas

Early in the morning of September 28, two of Mackenzie's Tonkawa scouts found a "fresh trail" and Mackenzie resumed the march, reaching a "wide and yawning chasm" at dawn, where they could see the Indian lodges.[1]:488 Mackenzie's troopers dismounted and led their horses single file along a narrow zig-zag path.[1]:488 Mackenzie first hit Chief Lone Wolf's Kiowa camp and routed it.[3] Chiefs Poor Buffalo and Lone Wolf and the Indians managed to get away, leaving behind their possessions and horses, climbing up both sides of the canyon.[1]:489 The Indian warriors began firing on the troops from 800–1000 feet above making "it so hot", it prompted one to say, "How will we ever get out of here", to which Mackenzie stated, "I brought you in, I will take you out".[1]:491 Part of the command started a retreat up the "precipitous cliffs" from which they had descended while others pulled down the lodges, chopped up the lodge poles, and burned all of the Indian belongings in huge bonfires.[1]:493-493 Almost 2000 horses were captured and moved from the canyon with the remaining troops by 4 PM.[1]:493 Mackenzie's troops made it back to their Supply Camp on Tule Canyon on the morning of the 29th.[1]:494


The loss of the Palo Duro camp meant the loss of the Indians' safe haven and all their winter supplies. Some horses fled with the Indians onto the plains but Mackenzie was able to capture 1500-2000 ponies, which he slaughtered to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Indians.[1]:494 Casualties were light in the engagement since it had been a complete rout, but without sufficient mounts or winter supplies the tribes could not hold out over the winter and many returned to the Fort Sill reservation by November 1874.[4] Lone Wolf's Kiowas did not return until February 1875.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Carter, R.G., 1935, On the Border with Mackenzie, Washington D.C.: Eynon Printing Co.
  2. ^ Dillon, Richard H. (1983). North American Indian Wars
  3. ^ a b Thomas F. Schilz. "Palo Duro Canyon, Battle of". Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 2013-02-12. 
  4. ^ "Red River War-Battles". Texas Beyond History. University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 2013-02-12.