The Civil War Continues
The Buffalo Soldiers and Texas Rangers
by Trooper John Mapp
Texas and the Rangers
The Texas Rangers date back to the 1830's when they were formed as a type of militia on horseback. They received little governmental support. Gradually they became a paramilitary force to confront Indians and Mexicans. The men of the Rangers varied in virtue or lack thereof. Many were drifters and came and went out of the ranks. They soon obtained a reputation as hard fighting and quick on the draw types. Brutality all to often became their weapon. They were the sons of Texas and harbored the same intolerant attitudes of many of their civilian counterparts.
Even a month after Lee surrendered to the Union forces at the Appomattox, things were not entirely resolved down on the Rio Grande. The Union and Confederate forces had reached an informal understanding at Brazos de Santiago. A new commanding officer, Colonel Theodore Barrett, ironically of the 62nd United States Colored Infantry and itching to make a name for himself, ignored warnings to the contrary and elected to move his troops to Palmito Hill.1 Thus the stage for the last battle of the Civil War was set at dawn on May 12, 1865. It was a pitched battle, ending as Barrett retreated back to Brazos de Santiago, leaving a battlefield littered with Union dead. There were allegations of war crimes committed against the black troops. "There was no formal surrender in Texas after Palmito Hill. The Confederate army and state government simply melted away."2 Reconstruction saw the ultimate passage of anti-black laws, further hatred and intimidation from both sides. This is the environment that the Buffalo Soldiers faced as they ventured further south from the plains.
The Tenth on the Move
Initially, the 10th Cavalry regimental headquarters moved from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Riley Indian Territory in August of 1867. Headquarters moved to Fort Gibson, IT by May of 1868.and to Fort Sill, IT in 1869. By the early 1870's it was shifting between Fort Sill and Fort Gibson. Regimental headquarters was finally moved to Fort Concho, TX in April, 1875.3 This set the scene for the interaction between the Buffalo Soldiers of the Tenth Cavalry and the Texas Rangers.
At Fort Concho, under General B. H. Griersons command, an all time high was reached in the general resentment of Negroes. The troopers were known as Griersons Brunettes.4
Fort Concho I
In the fall of 1877, outside of Fort Concho, in the town of San Angela, TX; Captain John S. Sparks led a detachment of Texas Rangers into the vicinity of the fort. A group of rangers entered Nasworthys Saloon, seeing the unarmed Buffalo Soldiers dancing with the Mexican women got them upset and they shot up the place. Fortunately no one was injured. Grierson sought an apology from the Rangers. The colonel called upon Captain Sparks for an apology. Sparks resented that, and responded by saying that he and his little company could whip the entire post of Fort Concho."5 Troopers seeking justice returned to the saloon and a hot gunfight ensued resulting in the death of a bystander. Grierson then went to the Adjutant General of the Rangers in Austin. Sparks was subsequently dismissed from the Texas Rangers and was replaced by Captain G. W. Arrington a ... notorious hothead, with a particular feeling of disdain for the army, and Negro troopers especially.6
Fort Concho II
In Feb, 1878, again in San Angela, TX a party of cowboys and hunters assaulted a Sgt of Company D in Morris Saloon. They ... cut the chevrons from his sleeves, the stripes off of his pants, and had a good laugh over his discomfiture.7 After being humiliated he left and returned with some armed troopers. A vicious gunfight again ensued with the death of one civilian and a trooper. Two were wounded. Captain G. W. Arrington wanted to arrest the 1st Sergeant George Goldsby from Selma AL, who unlocked the weapons. Marching into the Fort and across the parade ground Arrington was challenged by Grierson as to his authority on federal property. Arrington backed down and ultimately left with is company to the vicinity of Fort Elliot.8 Sgt Golsby disappeared and 9 troopers from D company were indicted for murder. One was convicted and sentenced to death, but the decision was overturned on appeal.
Company A & Captain Nolan
Around the 15th of January, 1879, while patrolling up the Pease River, West Texas; Captain: G. W. Arrington and the Rangers came upon a group of Kiowas, who took off. In pursuit, the rangers accidently discovered an occupied village. They were preparing to attack when Captain Nolan and troopers of Company A intercepted them. Nolan explained that the Kiowa were hunting under his supervision and were not creating problems. Arrington resented what he considered the interference of the Tenth Cavalry from Fort Elliot, and returned to his station with a temper at the boiling point.9
In Pursuit of Chief Black Horse, May 1879
A few months later still in the Texas Panhandle, Nolan and Company A, out of Fort Elliot, were in hot pursuit of a band of runaway Comanches from Fort Sill. He was joined in the chase by friendly Comanches under Black Bear and White Eagle.10 However, they lost the trail. Capt James Peake with a detachment of rangers did stumble on the runaways who ... fought liked cornered wildcats and stood off the rangers until nightfall.... 11 Peake, following the next day, ran into an ambush that resulted in the death of 1 ranger and they were forced to leave his corpse behind as they withdrew. The next day Company D of the 10th found and buried the body. They were also not able to pick up the trail. Ironically, Peake tried to blame Nolan and his Comanche allies for the attack. Further investigation by the Army revealed that Peake had indeed tangled with the runaways under the lead of Chief Black Horse and Nolan's group. Ranger headquarters remained unconvinced, however, and the stage was set for a fiery clash between Captain Arrington and Colonel Davidson."12
On the Sweetwater River
Responding to reports of depradating Indians up the Sweetwater River in the Texas Panhandle, Capt Arrington and his rangers took the field in June of 1979. Indians they did not find, but Colonel Black Jack Davidson of the 10th they did find. A "discussion" subsequently took place. "At that time, Arrington allowed his hot temper, and dislike for the army to have full control of his many remarks."13 With Arrington bent on killing any armed Indian he spotted, Davidson refused to back down. "Davidson bluntly warned him not to do so, and said he would keep his troops in that area to protect peaceful Indians from the unlawful attacks of the Rangers and others."14 However, the matter did not just end there. Arrington subsequently accused Davidson of threatening to shoot him and in a letter on June 18, 1879 demanded "... to know whether or not Donnelly expressed your intentions in policy, not that I have any fears of you in execution of the enterprise."15 The troopers stayed in the area.
This is just what occurred in the 70's. The Buffalo Soldiers remained on station in Texas for some years to come. In Part II, we will look at Fort Concho in the 80's, the Buffalo soldiers coming to the rescue of Rangers during the Salt Wars of 1977 and the Browsville Affair on the night of August 13, 1906.
1 Fehrenbach, T.R. A History of Texas and the Texans: Lone Star. American Legacy Press, New York 1968. page 389.
2 Fehrenbach, T.R. page 393.
3 Knapp, Mj George E. "Buffalo Soldiers 1866 through 1890"; Military Review, 7/92 pg 69.
4 Davidson, Homer K. Black Jack Davidson; A Cavalry Commander on the Western Frontier. Arthur Clark, Glendale. 1974 page 225.
5 Davidson, H. K. page 226
7 Leckie, The Buffalo Soldiers; A Narrative of the Negro Cavalry in the West. University of Oklahomas Press, Norman 1967 page 164
8 Davidson, H. K.. page 227
10 Leckie, page 167
12Leckie, page 168
13Davidson, H. K. page 228
15 Davidson, H. K. page 229
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