In my last blog, I talked about the Weatherford Hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona, and its connection to Weatherford, in North Central Texas. One of my writer buddies who read the blog gave me some research on Texas Ranger Captain John Baylor, who headed up the last Indian battle on Texas soil with the help of low-flying doves. The information was way too interesting not to share.
George Baylor, Confederate military officer and Texas Ranger, the son of United States Army surgeon John Baylor, was born in Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation, on August 2, 1832. Baylor is reputed to have raised the first Confederate flag over the capital of Texas in Austin.
In 1860, Baylor, then living in Weatherford, ran down a party of Indian raiders on Paint Creek in Parker County and killed nine of them. He was commissioned a first lieutenant in Company H of the Second Cavalry, John Robert Baylor’s Arizona Brigade, and served as regimental adjutant before resigning to become senior aide-de-camp to Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston in 1861.
After Johnston’s death at the Battle of Shiloh, Baylor returned to Texas and was elected lieutenant colonel and commander of the Second Battalion of Henry H. Sibley’s army. When the battalion merged with the Second Cavalry regiment of the Arizona Brigade, Baylor was elected its colonel. He also commanded a regiment of cavalry during the Red River campaign of 1864 and was commended for gallantry at the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill.
After the Civil War, Baylor was commissioned a first lieutenant and appointed to take over as commander of Company C, Frontier Battalion of Texas Rangers in El Paso.
Baylor left San Antonio on August 2, 1879, with his wife, two young daughters, and a sister-in-law, riding in an ambulance and with two wagons full of provisions and household goods, the latter including a piano and a game cock and four hens. The caravan, guarded by Sgt. James B. Gillett and five other Rangers, was forty-two days on the road to Ysleta, where Baylor established his headquarters.
I have to confess that much of my “first hand” research on Texas Rangers came from incidents documented in a fantastic book written by Sgt. James B. Gillett, Six Years with the Texas Rangers 1875 to 1881.
Baylor opened his campaign against raiding Apaches, whom he often pursued beyond the Rio Grande, in cooperation with Mexican officials. During 1879 and into 1880, Baylor’s rangers were occupied in the pursuit of the Mescalero Apache Chief Victorio and his band, an endeavor that proved largely ineffective.
In one incident, a party of twelve warriors deserted with four women and four children, made their way through the mountains of west Texas, and began attacking small parties of Texans, including a stagecoach in Quitman Canyon, killing the driver and a gambler named Crenshaw. Baylor investigated and began to trail the Apache. The tracking was difficult. It was intensely cold, and the ground was so frozen that the Apache left no track. They lost the trail.
Lieutenant Charles Nevill found the tracks on the west side of Quitman Canyon where it led across the plain from Eagle Springs to Diablo Mountains. They joined up with Baylor’s group, and they tracked for five more days, getting closer and closer. Although they thought they neared the Indians, they might not have been able to locate them if it hadn’t been for the help of low-flying doves obviously headed toward water. Knowing the Apaches likely would be camped near water, the Rangers followed the birds. Sure enough, they surprised the Apaches as they cooked their breakfast and prevailed in what latter came to be recognized as the last-ever encounter between Rangers and American Indians in Texas.
After resigning from ranger service in 1885 Baylor was elected to the Texas House of Representatives from El Paso and served as clerk of the district and circuit courts for a number of years. He always got along well with his Mexican neighbors; a trait not shared by all Rangers, and lived in Mexico from 1898 until 1913, returning to San Antonio where he died on March 17, 1916. Baylor, Colonel CSA, was buried in the Confederate Cemetery in that city.
I happen to love doves. Since we have a lot of old trees and my husband has several birdfeeders out, we have numerous birds, including a zillion mourning dove. I enjoy the male’s melancholy cooing in the morning while I’m having my first cup of coffee. As a matter of fact, as I’m finishing this blog, I can see two big gray doves who came in to get a drink from the birdbath in the yard. Do you have a favorite bird?
I will give away an autographed copy of any one of our anthologies to one person who leaves a comment today.