The War Between the States and the Texas Panhandle …

During my research for a new project on the effects of the Civil War on the Panhandle of Texas,  I discovered something I already knew, but hadn’t thought about in ages … it didn’t!

The War Between the States never came to the Texas Panhandle, although the last battle of the Civil War was fought in Texas down by Brownsville. Reconstruction didn’t touch the Panhandle either … not until at least a decade later.

The Panhandle was occupied by sheepmen with their short-lived, peaceful culture along the Canadian River, buffalo hunters, the Comancheros, and the southern Plains Indians. Neither the sheepman nor the cattleman owned an acre of Panhandle property; but they were, in that vast land, the law unto themselves.

The “Mother City of the Panhandle” Mobeetie was founded in 1875; followed by Tascosa in 1876, and Saints’ Roost later known as Clarendon in 1878. Amarillo didn’t surface until nearly a decade later in 1887 … and, there was a very good reason why!

Up until the end of the war, the southern Plains Indians remained essentially undisturbed, mainly because of the sectional controversy and the war itself. In the early 1870’s professional buffalo-hide hunters entered the Panhandle from western Kansas. Normal Indian resentment toward this incursion was heightened by their understanding that the Medicine Lodge Treaties of 1867 guaranteed them exclusive hunting grounds south of the Arkansas River.

The renowned Comanche war chief and mentor between the Indians and the white nation,  Quanah Parker, probably would never have become a Comanche war chief if it had not been for the war.  He was only thirteen in 1860 when a concerted effort was launched to subdue the Plains Indians in Texas; however, the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 gave the American Indians a thirteen year respite from determined military attack.

Texas Governor Sam Houston, victorious in the 1858 Texas election on a platform of quieting the Indians on the frontier, launched an ambitious program for merciless pursuit of the incorrigible Native Americans by the whites.  By the end of 1860, a sizable number of men had been raised in Texas to fight the Indians: rangers, minute men, and federal troops. With such forces available, it looked like doom for the Indians who regularly depredated in the state. It was a combination of these three forces which attacked the Nokoni camp on the Pease River in 1860 and recaptured Cynthia Ann Parker, Quanah’s mother.

But in 1861 the Civil War broke out, and the frontier was temporarily forgotten, the people of Texas continuing to pay in blood and plunder by Indians.  The planned subjugation of the Comanches and their friends was postponed until more than a decade later.

In order to avoid the expenditures necessary for Indian wars, both North and South made overtures to the Indians.  The Comanches, on finding themselves sought after by both governments, accepted peace with one or the other, as it suited their convenience.  Peace with the Indians meant that troops could be withdrawn from the Texas frontier to be used on the Civil War battlefields.

The “Comanches of the Prairies and Staked Plains” signed a treaty with the Confederacy in 1861, promising to prepare to support themselves (the Confederacy would supply them with cattle to start herds and furnish them with supplies and to live in peace and quietness. But as long as there were buffalo to chase and unprotected farms and ranches to raid, the Lords of the South Plains had no intention of holding themselves to such an agreement.  All nine of the Comanche bands except the Antelope band signed the treaty … probably the most representative gathering of Comanches ever assembled up to that time.  If he survived the 1860 Pease River recapture of Cynthia Ann, it is assumed that Nocona, chief of the Wanderers (Nokoni), attended the treaty-signing council and possibly brought along his young brave, Quanah, who was 14 at the time.

The North failed to live up to its 1863 treaty with Comanches, Kiowas, and Apaches which promised $25,000 in presents and annuity goods to the Indians I they would stop terrorizing the plundering travelers on the Santa Fe road. These southern tribes, planning retaliation, made an alliance with the northern tribes (Cheyenne, Arapahoes, and Sioux).  In 1864 attacks on the frontier were heavier than ever, Indians capturing thousands of horses and selling them to the army through the Comancheros.  The route to Denver was under heavy attack by Indians.  Emigration was stopped and much of the country was depopulated.

After the Civil War came to a close in 1865, the government fluctuated for almost a decade between a modified “get-tough” policy with the Indians and a Peace Policy, administered by Quakers, who believed that honesty and kindness could solve the problem.  Sporadic token military marches into the Panhandle area included Kit Carson’s 1864 First Battle of Adobe Walls and Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie’s 1871-72 Battle of Blanco Canyon and Battle of McClellan Creek. None of these brief campaigns really damaged the Plains Indians.

Quanah Parker had almost free rein in the Llano until the the Red River War, 1874-75. It was only then that the determined attitude evidenced in 1860 was adopted once more … this time by the federal government.

Of interest, the Battle of Palmito Ranch, also known as the Battle of Palmito Hill and the Battle of Palmetto Ranch was fought on May 12–13, 1865, on the banks of the Rio Grande a little east of Brownsville, Texas.  Many historians, as well as the Official Record of the Civil War  consider the battle to be a post-Civil War encounter, with the Battle of Columbus in April being the last recognized battle of the War Between the States.

I want to acknowledge Pauline Durrett Robertson, a life member of Panhandle Professional Writers, and her book Panhandle Pilgrimage, as the source for much of my information.  Pauline’s book is definitely my bible of the history of our region.

“A Texas Christmas” hit the New York Times bestselling list the last two weeks, and the USA Today last week, thanks to our readers.  For one lucky commenter, I will send you an autographed copy of the anthology.

This is Minnie the “boss” of Books and Crannie Books in Terrell, Texas.  Minnie is a Hurricane Katrina rescue cat and knows her books!

Website | + posts

A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

Visit her at

28 thoughts on “The War Between the States and the Texas Panhandle …”

  1. Very enlightening! I have heard of the ruthless Comancheros and numerous failed treaties with the Indian Nation.

    Thanks for the chance to win your NY Times bestseller anthology “A Texas Christmas”!

    Cute picture!

  2. Thanks, Laurie. I thought it was interesting, and we’re thrilled with our anthologies. Also hit USA Today, also, so we’re still on cloud nine. The pix is thanks to the Terrell Tribune and their reporter. She’s such a sweet cat. Although Books and Crannies is located right down town, she won’t go out the door because of the trama she’s been through, but she loves people. We all feel in love with her and she obviously either liked the cover of our book or the Cowboy! Hum, she’s a girl! Hugs, P

  3. Thanks Phyllis for the awesome post. I enjoyed it very much. It was very enlighting. I wonder it Cynthia Parker was happy about being ‘rescued’ and taken away from her family.
    It never ceases to amaze me how awful the Native American people were treated by our government in the early days of our country’s existance. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!
    Minnie is a lucky girl. I am glad to see she now has a good home. 🙂

  4. Great information, Phyliss! This is such an interesting and often times sad period of history.

    To answer Tammy’s question I believe Cynthia Parker ended up starving herself to death because she wasn’t allowed to return to her Comanche family. Her daughter also “rescued” at Pease River died. It’s been awhile, so someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Congratulations on the great success with TEXAS CHRISTMAS!! You all deserve it the anthologies are some of the best!


  5. All I can say is wow, Phyliss. That panhandle must’ve been one wild place. The story of Cynthia Parker has always fascinated me. And her son Quanah was such a striking figure.
    Love the kitty. Congratulations on the success of your book. What an awesome achievement.

  6. Tammy, thanks for dropping by so early. You are so right about the injustices of the American Indian. Look at the Commacheros. They’d do whatever it took to take advantage, sell to the highest be it the Native Indian or hidehunters, fortune hunters or whatever it took to make a penny. Thanks Kristen for your explanation. Unfortunately, I’m not as versed on Quanah and Cynthia Parker, as I should be. That’s the reason I’m so thankful to our wonderful Pauline Robertson who provided much of the background for me.

    Thanks you for the congrats! We’re still in cloud nine. Minnie is a cool cat. The bookstore’s bathroom for the public is really for Minnie. It’s decorated 100% in cats and even has a little door near the floor(I think they have swinging doors, but not sure) anyway, with a door that Minnie can go through to “her” bathroom! She is a luck lady and so beautiful, too.

  7. Elizabeth, Fellow Filly, thanks for coming by so early. Isn’t Quanah striking! As my granddaughters say, he could be any woman’s “crush”. I had a difficult time selecting a picture of him. Although the Panhandle had our problems with the Native American’s, in comparison to some parts of the state we faired very well. Mobeetie was originally named Hidetown because of the buffalo hunters. Once the cattlemen came to the Panhandle in the late 1800’s, Charles Goodnight and Quanah Parker became friends. One of Goodnight’s “rules” for lack of another word was that if an Indian crossed back into Texas from Oklahoma and was caught they were given a head of beef and let go because generally all they wanted was food. He did a lot for keep the peace in the Panhandle.

  8. Great post,,love reading it,,only been to Texas one time an it was HOT,,,dry an dusty,so I can imagine how it was way back in the time,,

  9. Hi Vickie, it hasn’t change much … we’re still dry, HOT and dusty! At least in our part of the state, mainly because we’re up on the Caprock. We do have our own beauty; however, with Palo Duro Canyon amongst other things. The Hill Country and East Texas is absolutely beautiful. Out of this world, and when the bluebonnets are blooming, breathtaking. The Panhandle does have a lot of wind and can be extremely hot during the day, but it almost always cools in the evenings. The drought was really horrible, but typically, the sand storms are reserved for Linda’s part of Texas, about 100 miles south of us! Before the cattle came the grass was waist high and the Canadian River was undisturbed. Now don’t get me wrong, we’re cattle country, so love each and every head of cattle out there! LOL Thanks for stopping by. Hugs, Phyliss

  10. Very interesting, Phyliss! I knew very little about how the Civil War affected (or in this case didn’t affect) the Texas Panhandle. You’re becoming quite an expert on the panhandle. But I guess that’s inevitable since you live there. 🙂 And yes, I know all about the sandstorms that we get here in Lubbock. Wish I didn’t though. I hate those things with a passion!

    Thanks for always bringing new facts and stories to my attention. You’re a great teacher, Filly sister.

  11. Very interesting post! I love reading about the Civil War. Its one of my favorite subjects. Congrat on making the New York Best Sellars list, this is awesome. I would love to read this book. You just can’t beat a good Christmas antology.

  12. Thanks, Linda. I guess since I was born and raised in Amarillo (many, many years ago LOL) and early on was told to write about what you know … the Panhandle seemed to be the thing I settled into. And, sister Filly, brother do you ever know about the sandstorms. I never thought I’d live to experience the Dust Bowl days and was so thankful it was only for a day or two!

    Miss Quilt Lady, thanks for stopping by. I love the Civil War and have had two opportunities to spend weekends in Andersonville, Georgia, where the prison was and cemetery is, so I got really involved with learning about particularly that part of the Civil War. I love to physically visit historical sites because that’s where you get the really good research books that were written by the people of the area. The folks who know the real stories. I sure bought a lot at Andersonville. Thanks for the congrats. We’re pretty happy, and then hit the USA Today list on top of things. I think people just like holiday stories in general, and personally, I can’t pick my favorite from the four in our book and you’d think I’d immediately go for my own, but they are all so good! You’re in for the drawing, as are the other commenters who aren’t Fillies, so good luck. Big hugs, Phyliss

  13. I learned a lot from this post. I have a vague knowledge of this War in general but details always helps. I’m trying to picture the capture of thousands of horses and that is quite a sight! Quite a different time then.

  14. I love this post, Phyliss. I did a lot of research on Quanah parker when I was writing Wildflower Bride (about a white girl raised by Indians) because Quanah’s mother was a white woman kidnapped by Indians. She married a Comanche and had three children. When she was ‘rescued’ from her captors, along with her mixed race daughter (her two sons, including Quanah escape the rescue) Cynthia Ann died of grief for her lost family (her daughter died soon after she was taken back to the white world).
    Quanah Parker is a fascinating character. He became a go between for the whites and Indians and lived successfully in both worlds, with the trust of both. He became vastly rich. He owned land all around the Indians when the Comanche finally settled on a reservation.
    A really smart, ambitious man who was almost certainly responsible for the deaths of many whites because he was involved with the Comanche during the time of massacres, yet that was swept under the rug because of how badly they needed him to communicate with the Comanches. He used his connections wisely for himself and for the Comanches.

  15. All so very interesting. What a novel idea – honesty and kindness!!! Unfortunately, that never really happened. What I know about history, I’ve learned more from my romance novels than I every did in school! Love the pic of your cat and book.

  16. I love the mini history lessons from this blog! Always great to learn something new… thank you for sharing and congrats for being on New York Times bestselling list!

  17. Great post! I have a friend who has a son named Quanah and I never knew where the name came from. Now I know! I never even thought to ask her! I love history but I hadn’t heard this story. Congrats on being on the NYT bestselling list. That’s amazing! Would love to win your book 🙂

  18. Great post with lots of interesting information!
    Congrats on “A Texas Christmas” and for the chance to win a copy:)

  19. Liz, Winnie and Kathy (I have a daughter named Kathy), thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I honestly never thought about our involvement, or as one of you said, non-involvement in the Civil War. We weren’t even involved in reconstruction, because there was nothing to reconstruct!

    Na, the capture of the horses in this part of the country is a fascinating, yet gut wrenching story. I might blog about it one of these days, but as an animal lover, I find it hard to even think about slaughtering an animal. If we find an injured bird or squirrel, we take them to a couple here in Amarillo who work with rescue animals, so it’d be really hard to write about. Thanks for stopping by. Hugs, Phyliss

  20. Mary, you are so knowledgeable about Quanah Parker, and the town named for him is within spitting distance of where I live. He was very interesting and you made a good point about how he knew how to play to whoever pleased him at the moment.

    I’d think that Cynthia might well be compared to today’s Jaycee Dugard (probably misspelled her name). Such an interesting subject. I’ve got to go back and get a copy of your “Wildflower Bride”, sister Filly.

    Catslady, thanks for the kind remark. I think one of the biggest challenged in writing historicals of any type is making sure it is historically accurate, while taking creative liberties to create a story around those facts. In “Give Me a Texan”, I have Bat Masterson in a couple of scenes, and in order to write him as accurately as I possible could, I read three books on him and knew for a fact he could have been in Amarillo at that point in time. I have a whole section in my Phrase Book called Masterisms.

    Hugs, P

  21. Cindy, Colleen and Estella, I’m thrilled that I could bring you all some information that you didn’t know. I think all of the Fillies will agree that each time we begin to write a blog it crosses our mind that maybe we’re writing about something nobody is interested in. So thank you so much.

    Valri, I don’t recall hearing of another Quanah, so that is so neat to know. And, thank you for your best wishes.

    And, Amy and Melinda, I’m glad you enjoyed the blog. All of you guys are in the pot to win “A Texas Christmas.” Good luck to all you all, Phyliss

  22. Hi,Thanks for sharing the true historical facts that your book was based on. This makes it come to life more or at least gives added understanding of times back then. I love the Civil War era mainly because being from Alabama–it’s such a part of our state history. And I had 8 great uncles who fought and all came back. None of them had slaves but were mostly share croppers. Appreciate the chance at your book. Regards, Susan

Comments are closed.