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The great raid of 1840

September 22, 2013
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

The great raid of 1840 was the largest raid ever attempted by Comanche Indians on European settlements in the United States. It was undertaken as revenge when on March 13, 1840, officials of the Republic of Texas tried to capture 33 Comanche chiefs who had come to negotiate a peace treaty and take them prisoner. The outcome of the fight that followed was that the Comanche chiefs were killed, along with two dozen of their family members and followers. The Comanche war chief Buffalo Hump considered the fight a great betrayal and assembled a huge war party, at least 400 warriors to raid deep into the white settled areas of Southeast Texas. The warriors were accompanied by their wives and young boys to provide them comfort and handle the loot. The intent was to gather horses, loot the towns and kill as many settlers as possible. All together as many as a thousand warriors made their way to Victoria and Linnville on the coast where they burned and plundered at will.

The Texas Rangers had discovered signs of the war party and were following them when part of the Indians separated from the main group and attacked Victoria, who had no warning; the citizens were startled by the appearance of six hundred mounted Comanche. The settlers hid in buildings and began to shoot at the warriors riding through the streets. After killing a dozen or so settlers the Comanche left Victoria because the rifle fire coming from the buildings made it very dangerous to be out in the open.

The war party then reformed and headed to the coastal settlement of Linnville. On August 7, 1840, they surrounded Linnville and began to pillage the stores and houses. The Comanche only killed three white settlers, but they looted and burned the town. The townspeople took to the water in boas and from the safety of the water watched as their town was looted and burned. For two days they plundered and burned buildings. They herded a large number of cattle into pens and slaughtered them. Finally on the afternoon of August 8, 1840, the Comanche loaded their loot onto pack mules and rode to the north, having taken more than 3,000 horses and mules and thousands of dollars worth of loot. Linnville was never reoccupied and is now a ghost town.

The days spent looting Linnville did however give the Texas Rangers time to gather their forces, and they prepared to intercept the Indians. They caught up with them at Plum Creek on August 12, 1840.

The Comanche were superb horsemen, and normally rode away from the scene of a victory very quickly. This time however was different. They were burdened and slowed by the pace of heavily packed mules which contained all their loot from Linnville. At Plum Creek the Rangers surprised the Comanches and a long gun battle followed. The Texans tried to kill the Indians and recover the loot, while the Indians simply tried to get away. The greed of the Texas saved the Indians however when stole bullion was discovered and the Texans stopped fighting, divided the loot and went home! The Texans bragged that eighty Indians were killed, but only a dozen bodies were ever recovered.



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