Re: Steve Sailer’s The Comanches’ Great Raid of 1840
From: Charles Carroll [Email him]
Mr. Sailer’s piece on the Comanches betrays an historical and moral blindness not in character with his usual acumen. He implies that the Council House Disaster—the massacre really—occurred because the Texans did not appreciate that the Comanches who showed up to parley only had control of one of the kidnapped hostages. That is incorrect. In fact, as Texas Historian T.R. Fehrenbach relates, the Comanches who came to parley did have control of the rest of the captives, but “the Indians planned to bring in the captives one by one, and bargain for each, this way figuring to get a higher price.” (Fehrenbach, Lone Star, p. 458)
What led to the Council House Massacre was the state of the one captive the Comanches did bring. As Fehrenbach notes, the appearance of the sixteen-year-old girl, Matilda Lockhart, was to “turn the day”:
Mrs. Maverick helped bathe and dress Matilda, who told the white women she was “utterly degraded, and could not hold up her head again.” Mrs. Maverick described her: “Her head, arms and face were full of bruises, and sores, and her nose actually burnt off to the bone—all the fleshly end gone, and a great scab formed on the end of the bone. Both nostrils were wide open and denuded of flesh. She told a piteous tale of how dreadfully the Indians had beaten her, and how they would wake her from sleep by sticking a chunk of fire to her flesh, especially her nose. ... Her body had many scars from the fire.”
Beatings and burnings, of course, were the least of it. As Fehrenbach relates elsewhere, “there never was to be a single case of a white woman taken by Southern Plains Indians without rape.”
Quite often the pregnancies that resulted from such barbarism led to worse, namely the infanticide of any child unlucky enough to be conceived. It is no wonder that ransomed women frequently returned in the shattered mental state depicted by John Ford in The Searchers. This tended to harden a people:
The Anglo frontier in Texas was not a frontier of traders, trappers, and soldiers, as in most other states. It was a frontier of farming families, with women and small children, encroaching and colliding with a long-ranging, barbaric, war-making race. For forty years, this bleeding ground was filled with men and boys, wives and sons, who had kinfolk carried off, never to be heard from again or to be ransomed and returned in shamed disgrace. Thousands of frontier families were to see the results of Comanche raids: men staked out naked to die under the blazing sun, eyelids and genitals removed; women and female children impaled on fence poles and burned; captives found still writhing, dying, with burned-out coals heaped on scrota and armpits; ransomed teenage girls and women returned to their relatives with demented stares. [p. 451]
But most of that was in the future. The Council House massacre was one of the first meetings between Texans and Comanches, and certainly the largest and most public of such encounters.
When Mirabeau Lamar’s captains understood what the young Lockhart girl had been subjected to, they were furious. The Texans reasoned that if the Comanches operated so far outside the code of civilized norms that women and children were subjected to the brutalities apparent in Matilda Lockhart, then there was no use in honoring terms of peace while they parleyed. The Comanches were therefore informed that, parley or no, they were going to be held captive themselves until the rest of the whites were brought in.
This proved to be a tactical mistake. The Comanches opted to fight rather than submit, and when the result was the slaughter of twelve of their chiefs in the ensuing melee, the Comanches responded by slowly torturing to death the other thirteen captives (which repulsive rites were preparatory to the Linnville Raid of Mr. Sailer’s column). Among the victims was the four-year-sister of Matilda Lockhart, who was eventually burned alive after being subjected to other revolting practices that need not detain VDARE’s readers here.
All of which goes to show that, where the Comanches are concerned, there is no real question of “who were the bad guys and who were the good guys.” Nor do we need to speculate about how far back we need to go in the chain of retaliatory counter-atrocities “to start the narrative.” For our people (as opposed to Apaches, Spaniards, or others who also encountered the Comanche), the narrative starts on the Navasota River at Parker’s Fort, on May 19, 1836, specifically.
Parker’s Fort was named for Elder Parker (he was a minister in his late 70s at the time). He and his clan were “hardshell” Baptists. Originally from Virginia, they had migrated to Texas by way of Tennessee. On May 19, 1836, most of the men from Parker’s Fort were out working the fields, and the stockade was manned by only six men and the women and children.
The Comanches appeared mid-morning with some Kiowa allies (a tribe expert in elaborate forms of torture, who often rode with the Comanches) and some Caddooans. Under a white flag of truce, they gained entry to the stockade under the pretext of seeking water and beef. As so often the case, beef and water were not what the Indians were really after:
[Benjamin] Parker apparently told his visitors that he had no beeves. They became angry, and suddenly several Comanches pierced him with their lances. [His brother] Silas ran for the fort, but he was cut down. Two more men, named Frost, were killed in the melee at the gates. Then, shrieking, the Indians poured inside Parker’s Fort.
Elder John Parker, his wife Granny, and several of the women tried to run. The Indians overtook them all. They stabbed John Parker, scalped him, then cut off his private parts. Granny Parker was stripped, pinned to the ground with a lance, and raped. Other women were attacked.
In the midst of this scene, the Parker men came running from the fields with rifles. Whooping, the raiders leaped on their horses and galloped off. They left behind five dead men and several badly wounded women, two of whom would die. Granny Parker, however, pulled the spear from her flesh; she was of a tough breed, and lived.[p. 450]
Several captives were taken, including Rachel Plummer, her small son, a woman named Elizabeth Kellogg, a six-year-old child (John Parker), and most famously, nine-year-old Cynthia Anne Parker. The usual atrocities seem to have been endured and the fate of Cynthia Parker is a tale well told, which can be searched up elsewhere. But that’s where the narrative starts, at least for our people and the Comanches. It would prove to be a paradigm encounter.
Even so, the reaction at Parker’s Fort told—we might say it told all through Texan history: the Parker clan did not flee; they refortified the stockade. This seems to have been one of the decisive facts in American history. Unlike the Spanish, the French, and the Mexicans, the Americans who encountered the Comanches did not pull up and flee. Instead, they pulled out the spear and refortified the stockade.
But “hardshell Baptism,” if you will, only works for a people who do not forget; who retain the capacity to learn from the past. Mr. Sailer’s moral equivalence is, to put it gently, a form of forgetting. It is a decadent luxury afforded him by the distance in time and space we occupy as men—and women—who are far removed from the ruthless environs of Parker’s Fort in 1836 or San Antonio in 1840. I would say Mr. Sailer needs to go back, at least in the pages of a history book—but insofar as the struggle between Americans and Comanches was a racial and ethnic conflict, the future appears to be already angling to offer fresh lessons to us all.