Known as the Warren Wagon Train Raid or the Salt Creek Massacre, this battle took place in 1871 when Henry Warren was contracted to haul supplies to Texas forts including Fort Richardson, Fort Griffin, and Fort Concho.
While the freight train was traveling down the Jacksboro-Belknap Road on May 18th towards Salt Creek Crossing, they encountered General William T. Sherman, who had allowed the Indians to pass unmolested. However, less than an hour later, the freight train spotted a rather large group of Indian riders ahead. This group of about 100 warriors was led by Kiowa Chief Satanta, Ado-eete (Big Tree) and Satank. Recognizing an imminent attack, the wagon train quickly pulled into a ring formation, but the 12 teamsters were overwhelmed by the warriors.
When the attack was over, the Indians captured all of the supplies and killed and mutilated seven of the wagoneer’s bodies. Five men managed to escape and Thomas Brazeale was able to reach Fort Richardson on foot, some 20 miles away. When Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie learned of the attack, he immediately informed General Sherman, who in turn dispatched Mackenzie to bring the offending Indians to justice. Their mission; however, proved unnecessary as shortly after returning from the raid the Kiowa traveled to Fort Sill, Oklahoma to claim their rations. While there, Satanta was questioned about the raid by Indian agent, Lawrie Tatum. The warrior, obviously using bad judgment, responded by boasting about the raid and a horrified Tatum quickly turned the chiefs over to General Sherman. The warriors were then ordered to be sent to Jacksboro, Texas, to stand trial for murder. Bound hand and foot, Satanta, Satank, and Big Tree left Fort Sill on June 8, 1871. In the end, Satank attempted to escape and was killed while traveling to Fort Richardson for trial.
Big Tree and Satanta were tried and sentenced to death; but Texas Governor Edmund Davis, overruled the court and the punishment was changed to life imprisonment. However, Kiowa Chief Lone Wolf negotiated for their early release and the pair were allowed to leave prison in October 1873, conditional upon the good behavior of their people. The following year, Satanta and his warriors were back on the warpath, attacking buffalo hunters and engaging in the what is known as the Second Battle of Adobe Walls which occurred on June 27, 1874. He was later captured and committed suicide in prison. Big Tree, with other chiefs believed to be secretly hostile, were confined as prisoners at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After his release, he continued to live on an allotment from the reservation until his death in 1929.
© Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated October 2019.