For the first time, Colonel Ranald Mackenzie attacked the Comanche successfully in the heart of Comancheria, on the Staked Plains, on the North Fork of the Red River.
Their leader, Mowway, was on his way to a peace conference. Joining an entourage of fifty-two Indians from various tribes, they headed to Washington for a meeting with President Ulysses Grant. Grant’s idea was to awe the chiefs with the splendor of white civilization. In addition to a meeting with the president and other officials, they would also be wined and dined at the fashionable Washington House hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. They would be professionally photographed in all their native regalia (see the photo below). They would tour the Capitol Building with its new dome, the White House, and the national mint where money was printed. The route home would include stops in Philadelphia and New York City, where they would attend a circus and a Broadway musical.
The Kotsoteka and Quahada Comanches, with over three hundred lodges, had chosen the plains over the reservation. For hundreds of miles around, there are few white settlers. Satisfied with enough buffalo meat and other provisions, they were preparing for the winter. Women were drying slices of meat in the late summer sun. Children were gathering the last of the blackberries. Recent raids had netted plenty of horses and mules, some taken brazenly from Fort Sill itself. The sky was blue and life was good.
On this date, Mowway had just arrived in St. Louis and was attending a meeting of chiefs and other government officials at the Everett House hotel.
Half a world away, Mackenzie and his men charged the camp. Comanche children looked up upon hearing hoofs and seeing dust in the distance. In three minutes, those hoofs were racing between the tepees, women were running, children were crying, the men were running for their horses. In ten minutes, bullets and arrows, gunshots, yells, screams, and moans filled the air. In one hour, the tepees and all the Comanches’ food and clothes for the winter were burning. Except for the choicest buffalo robes—these the soldiers kept for themselves. One hundred sixteen women and children were taken captive. They would be held, imprisoned, until the tribes returned stolen mules and horses and four white captive children.
Almost two weeks later and completely unaware of the destruction of his home, Mowway and the chiefs finally met with President Grant. Grant spoke to them briefly about the need for them to become civilized and then left the room. He took no questions and entertained no discussion.
Zesch, S. 2005. The Captured: A True Story of Abduction by Indians on the Texas Frontier