Red River War 1874

Background

The Southern Plains of USA, mostly falling in the borders of Texas, were occupied by many Native American tribes during the 19th century. These Indian tribes hunted buffalo across the Southern Plains. They ate the meat of the buffalo, used its hide to stay warm and to construct their houses.

But the white American hunters were also increasingly interested in the buffalo hides because they sold well in the market. After 1870, white hunters started hunting a huge number of buffaloes so that they ran the danger of being extinct. The Indians, on the other hand, suffered because their entire lifestyle depended on hunting buffaloes. So they decided to fight back which led to the Red River War in 1874.

Who fought whom?

At one side was an alliance of Indian tribes including warriors from the Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, Arapaho and Comanche tribes. The U.S. government had created reservations for these Indian tribes so that they could settle down there. But most of the people in these tribes were not willing to give up their freedom and lived inside a limited boundary.

The Native American alliance of tribes had a total of 1200 warriors. However, these warriors usually had their women and children with them which made it very difficult for them to fight for a long time. On the other side was the American government and military. Initially, the Indian tribes simply attacked white hunters but then they started attacking the U.S. military as well which led the U.S. military to become a part of the war.

The Start of the War

The Red River War started in June 1874 when a group of Indian warriors attacked an outpost of white buffalo hunters. This was a small attack and resulted in a very small number of deaths. In July, another group of Indian warriors attacked Texas Rangers.

This led the U.S. government and military to consider these warriors hostile and led to a response. The U.S. government authorised an army comprising of five columns to advance in the territory where these Indian warriors lived and to engage them.

The Fighting

Very few proper battles took place during the Red River War. In most of the engagements, the U.S. military columns simply crept up on the Indian settlements where the Indian warriors lived. Then they attacked. The Indian warriors had the choice of either surrendering or retreating.

During the start of the war, they chose to retreat but they had to leave their food, their homes and their animals behind. The American army took all of these and continued to pursue the Indians. One major battle of the war was the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon.

The U.S. military came upon a large Indian settlement during this battle. In the ensuing fighting, 4 Indian warriors were killed and the army took nearly 1400 horses from the Indian settlement as well as large stores of food.

The End of War

The alliance of Native American tribes lost many animals, homes and foodstuffs during the fighting. At the same time, the population of the buffaloes was decreasing in the Southern Plains area. Soon, the Indian tribes had the choice to either starve or to surrender and live at the government reservations. By June 1875, all the bands of Indian warriors had surrendered and agreed to live at the reservation, bringing an end to the war.

Battles of the Red River War: Archeological Perspectives on the Indian Campaign of 1874

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