The Texas Rangers and the Doves

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.

Doves played a crucial (if little-known) role in this milestone event in Texas history.

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.

Phyliss
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 phylissmiranda.com
Updated: August 27, 2012 — 6:48 pm

40 Comments

  1. So resourceful! It was quite smart to follow the birds to a watering hole. I’ve never heard of Texas Ranger Baylor. Thanks for sharing!

    We have one morning dove that sings outside my kitchen window. I had a friend in HS whose father raised pigeons. Otherwise I have no knowledge of birds.

  2. What a fun post! I love to hear all kinds of history. Don’t know much about birds except the pet ducks I had growing up.

  3. Enjoyed reading the interesting article. I like birds but really don’t pay attention to them. Guess I should learn from them. I do think their sound is a very lonely sound.

  4. Good morning, Laurie G. I wasn’t familiar with Baylor except for Baylor Lake and we have Baylor University, and I’m only thinking it was named from him or his family. I’ll check that out. I was surprised, but not a whole bunch, that mouning dove are in the pigeon family. They sure are about the same size. My only problem with them is when our mulberry tree produces fruit and their poop is everywhere and it’s purple! Well, not everybody can have purple poop, huh? Thanks for dropping by. Hugs, P

  5. Phyliss this is so interesting. Baylor was an amazing man and an outstanding Texas Ranger. A neat story. I, too, have a zillion mourning doves here. I put out bird seed each morning for them and they come in droves. It’s like I put out a sign saying the cafe is open. LOL I love the sound of cooing doves. It’s so peaceful and calming, the perfect beginning or end to my day.

    I just know you’re going to have some exciting news to share very soon. Can’t wait. 🙂

  6. Many birds congregate in our backyard each summer and make their own special sounds. Your post today was interesting and lovely.

  7. Phyliss, this was such and interesting post. It sounds like a story from a book the Rangers using doves (although I have to admit when I saw the title to this post I was thinking of a different kind of dove from Old West, I thought it would have a different slant) :o)

    I’m really not much of a bird person, so I can’t say I have a favorite.

    –Kirsten

  8. What a wonderful post on Baylor… I’ve always enjoyed learning more about Texas and the Rangers!
    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Of course, I would’ve been on the side of the Indians, you know…

    Favorite birds? I have so many, but probably my favorite is a parakeet — we had a parakeet once who talked so much, it was almost like he was human. 🙂

  10. This post was special and unique. Enjoyed learning all about the doves and the Rangers.

  11. Good Morning, Phyllis. Soiled Doves was what came to mind, too. Sorry. However, wild birds are my fav. In my small town the mourning dove is all over. Come Dove Season, these dainty, sleek birds hide out, in town. They know what is going on. We also have quail! Coveys of quail roam our town. We even stop our cars on the street so the whole family can cross. In the spring we watch the very tiny babies scurry after the parents and watch them grow up. They also know when the hunting season is. Must carry calendars with them, as the deer do. They all disappear the morning the season opens.
    My favorite bird is the Gambol Quail, (the specie we have). The female is boring grey. (of course). The male has a beautiful top knot, but the one mark that identifies him from other quail is the red circle on the stomach feathers. Desert and mountain quail do not have this. Indian lore states that Mr. Quail got too close to his fire and singed his feathers and turned them red. So now all have that mark.

  12. Great post Phyliss! Wonderful peek into the history of the time.
    As for favorite birds, I love hummingbirds. They’re so bright and colorful, and there’s something about the way they dart and hover that is fascinating to watch.

  13. Phyliss, I have a hero, in Doctor in Petticoats, who was caught up as an Army surgeon in the Red River War. I am amazed at all the bits and pieces of history that can spark an idea and turn into a book.

  14. One of my sisters has turned her back yard into a bird sanctuary of sorts. They’ve done great plantings specifically to attrack and shelter birds. They’ve got feeders of all kinds and she and her husband often spend a quiet time in the evening, sitting in a gazebo he built, watching for birds. Lately she is deeply charmed by nuthatches of all things. I’m a big ‘gold finch’ girl myself. I used to have a finch feeder but haven’t for a while, but I loved watching those little golden birds cluster on that feeder and bicker with each other fighting for their turn to eat.

  15. Hi Amy and Joy, Glad you ladies stopped by and left a comment. I figure we all know more than we realize about birds because they are so much of our lives. My favorite, although they can really be a pain in the backsides, is actually the blue jay. We have a lot of them. The scrub jay, which is the color of tree bark, is also a unique bird. I love the color of the blue jays, but they simply do not like my two cats. They’ll dive at them and make them miserable, so they’ll come in the house. I think it’s worse when they have a nest in our big old tree out front. I like to use blue jays in my stories because they are so much fun to watch play. Again, thanks for stopping by. Hugs, P

  16. Linda, thanks for dropping by. I know how it is when you feel like you put out a “free food” sign to the birds. I think Bob spends more money on bird feed than bowling and that’s something! We have neighbors who put the feed kinda in the gutter near the curb of their house. I think maybe one of the grandkids put it out the other day because it was more on the road and although I slowed down to let the mourning dove leave they didn’t and going through reminded me of the old Alfred Hitchcock show “The Birds”. They were all over us, as I drove through the flow, very slowly I might add.

    I should have news this week. I’m on pins and needles. Negotiations is something I’ve not done with a book before, so have to depend on our agent to take care of it for me. It’s kinda exciting that more than one publisher wants my book … and it’s a contemporary romance, not a historical (although I have that in the mill, too!) You all will hear me yelling when they come through. Glad you stopped by, fellow filly! Hugs, P

  17. Fascinating article! I love the little pieces of history that you fun gals share with us!

  18. Great article! I learn a lot by reading your posts.

  19. We have birds come to our backyard all the time. That’s because we feed them and many of them are actually starting to look familiar to us. Doves are beautiful 🙂

  20. Ellie, thanks for stopping by. I’m like you, I love the songs of the birds. Even little ol’ ordinary sparrows are wonderful in their own. We also have a lot of cardinals, and a male cardinal is such a beautiful bird. I love their distinct chirp.

    Kirsten, good to see you here. When I wrote the title, I kinda considered this being a western historical site that some of the people might think “soil doves” and I even mentioned it in my post, but thought “oh well, it’ll intrigue them!” LOL Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Big hugs to both of you, P

  21. Your posts are extraordinary in their depth and subject matter. What wonderful information.

  22. CateS, thanks for leaving a comment. I only intrigued myself about whether Baylor University and Baylor Lake were named from the Texas Ranger and need to check it out. In view of his many accomplishments in the political arena, I can almost bet it was from him. Hope you have a great evening.

    Hi Karen, I love parakeets, too. My grannie had one (or two) and they are like having a real person in the house. They can sure do funny things and say some interesting words, can’t they? I didn’t use some of the research I found on the Indian raids in respect to the American Indian. I know we both recognize history as history, but I didn’t see any reason to use some of the references. Served no purpose in my blog. I’m so glad there are authors like you who write about the American Indian. I love each of your books, sister Filly! Big hugs, P

  23. Anne, thanks so much for the compliment. I love to blog. If I could have the perfect job as a writer, it’d be to research and let somebody else do the writing … of course, I love to write too much to do just research. But it does lead to so many different ideas. As a writer, we can’t even begin to use all the info and ideas we find in our research. I’m a big Texas Ranger fan. One of the reasons is that our anthology (with fellow Filly Linda Broday) “Give Me a Texas Ranger” is in the pop culture section at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame in Waco, Texas. That makes them even more special to me, not to mention they are such a unique bunch of lawmen. Thanks for dropping by. Hugs, P

  24. Very ingenious of him to follow the doves. The sound doves make is so lonesome, haunting, I think. WTG, Phylliss, as usual you’ve given us a great Texas Ranger story.

  25. I love seeing the birds come to our yard. We have a few feeders out that attract many. We get a ton a dove, quail, woodpeckers, pigeons and what I call pidoves (combo of pigeon & dove)… not sure if they have a specific name. My fav bird that comes around are the hummingbirds. So beautiful!

  26. Oh Mary J, what a great story. You should blog, if you don’t already. I love the idea of deer and dove carrying a calendar, because that’s kinda what they do. An internal clock, I’d say. Dove season begins in Texas in a couple of days, but of course, since we live in town it’s against the law to shoot anything within the city limits, so our dove and even our little red foxes (who seem to come out early in the morning, believe it or not … and we’re a big town) are safe. Hope they keep their calendars updated! Thanks for a great comment. Loved it. Hugs, P

  27. Hi Winnie, I love hummingbirds, too; but we don’t have very many here. Every now and again they’ll come to the Trumpet Plants, but we’re just too far away from the mountains for them. But, when we go to Red River they are plentiful. Thanks for stopping by, Sister Filly. And, another Sister Mary, thanks. I’m not as familiar with the Red River Wars as I should be, but I’ll have to get your book and check it out. Well, I probably need to check my TBR stacks before I go purchase one, not to mention my e-book file in my computer. LOL I probably already have it.

    Fellow Fillies and friends, have a great evening. Big hugs, P

  28. Hi Phyliss, I love the story of the doves and the rangers. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Hugs,

  29. Mary, thanks for your second comment. Your sister sounds like a jewel. It’s so wonderful that people like her care so much about the birds. Some folks simply think of them as nuisances. I love to see the yellow finches when they come in town. Typically, they are migrating, so we only have an opportunity every now and again to watch then if they happen to land in the bushes outside my window. What beautiful birds! I called them yellow and you said “gold”, so I’m not sure if there are two different kinds or not. Something I need to look up. My “look up” list is kinda gettin’ big today! Hugs, P

  30. When I read the title of this blog I also thought of soiled doves. Opps. I love stories of the Rangers and had heard the story of Baylor and the Doves.
    We have several feeders in our yard and enjoy our feathered friends. Today at one point we had a cardinal and an oriole on the sunflower feeder and goldfinches and red housefinches on the thistle seed feeder while the femal cardinal was feeding a couple of babies under the small evergreen near the feeders. It is not unusual to have dozens of birds just outside the large window on the front of my house.

  31. Great story about the doves, Phyliss. I have doves in my yard, too. Currently what appears to be a family of young ones. Love them, they are so peaceful.

  32. Evening, Cheryl C, Estella, and Na S. Good to see you all. Thanks for the compliments. I think all of the Fillies work very hard to provide interesting research and tidbits of history. We want you all to keep coming back and I know all three of you do. It is kinda funny, Na S, how sometimes I’m like you, I promise some of the birds are so familiar, I should know them by name. Have a wonderful evening, ladies. Hugs, P

  33. Diane, thanks for coming by. Sometimes I worry that, for me personally, I write too long of a blog. Many folks don’t want them long. I’m impatient, so I kinda fall under that category. The thing is, nobody has any idea what we all cut out from what we begin with. Thanks for putting up and enjoying my longer than I’d like blogs. Big hugs, P

  34. Janet, what a pleasant surprise to see you commenting today. Thank you. I agree with the lonesome song of the dove; and you know how much I love those Rangers!

    Colleen, I love hummingbirds, too. I found out just in my research on the mourning dove that they are in the pigeon family. I think most people who put out feeders will have a wide range of birds, many they don’t even know habitate their area. Some during migration, just drop in eat and fly away on their journey. Love to see them. Good to see you. Hugs, P

  35. Margaret and Elizabeth, Sister Fillies, thanks for dropping by. I know you both, as well as the other Fillies, are super busy, so I really appreciate it.

    Good to see you, Connie. LOL about the soil doves. I think the Rangers of old were probably closely connected more with soil doves than flying doves! But I got your attention. Orioles aren’t a bird that typically stay in our area, but we have had some come through town. They are beautiful. I do know, like you mentioned, the more foliage you have the more birds you’ll see, plus of course feeding them. Many like to stay where they are protected. I do love cardinals, as I’ve already mentioned. The stately males are beautiful.

    Good night to all by P&P Friends. Everybody’s name is in the pot and I’ll have a low flying dove pick one out as my winner later today. Or if a soiled dove happens along, I’ll get her to do it! Much love and hugs to all you all, Phyliss

  36. Thanks for another interesting post. Knowing how Mother Nature’s creatures operate is always helpful when you are out there tracking bad guys or good guys. That knowledge can save you life or lead you to your goal.

    Baylor live a varied and successful life.

    I love watching the raptors. We have had marsh hawks and barn owls nesting in a large oak in our front yard. It was enjoyable to sit watching them fly and “talk” to each other. One night when we pulled into our driveway, there were 2 adults and 3 juveniles sitting on the fence posts lining the drive. We sat there watching each other for a long time. Unfortunately the old oak collapsed due to wind shear. There were 5 baby owls not yet fledged still in the nest and all were killed. We hear the owls at night, but they don’t live near enough to us to be able to watch them.

  37. What a great post. I do love birds myself. We have a lot of Starlins around her and they can be pest. I keep a hummingbird feeder on my deck and love watching these little birds come up to feed. Also enjoy seeing the Male Red birds in my back yard. Sometimes I just look out my windows and watch them.

  38. What a lovely post, Phyliss. I too love birds, and we have a pretty little flock of doves that come regularly to our feeder. I’m not nuts about the herd of crows nearby, though. This is suburbia, not Hitchcock LOL.

    Enjoyed this. Keep ’em coming!

  39. Woo-hoo! I’m a winner. So exciting. Thanks, Phylliss.

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