THE HORRORS OF INDIAN CAPTIVITY - PART TWO
JOHN HENRY BROWN
(Continued. Click here to read part one)
"For some time before her capture Mrs. Harris had been suffering greatly from a rising in her breast, from which her infant was denied nourishment, and it had been tenderly cared for by Mrs. Horn. Though the little innocent was now dead, the mother, in addition to brutal treatment otherwise, suffered excruciatingly in her breast, the heartless wretches for days not allowing Mrs. Horn to dress it. But finally she was permitted to do so and had the sagacity to dress and cover it with a poultice of prickly pear cactus leaves, than which few things are better. Its effect was excellent. Both ladies almost, and the little boys entirely, denuded of clothing, their bodies blistered and the skin peeled off, causing intense suffering.
From the scene of slaughter the savages traversed the country between the lower Nueces and the lower Rio Grande, killing all who came within their power. They came upon the body of a man apparently dead for a month, which from Mrs. Horn's statement I have no doubt was that of Dr. James Grant, the Scotchman, previously mentioned as associated with Dr. Beales, who was killed by Mexican cavalry near the Agua Dulce creek, twenty or thirty miles beyond the Nueces March 2, 1836, some distance from the spot where his men were slain, he and Colonel Reuben R. Brown having been chased four or five miles from their party, Grant killed and Brown captured, to be imprisoned in Matamoras until the following December, when he and Samuel W. McKneely, who was captured at San Patricio by the same party, escaped and made their way into the settlements of Texas —Brown afterwards living at the mouth of the Brazos and commanding a Confederate regiment in the civil war, and McKneely deceased in 1889 at Texarkana, Texas. They also passed the bodies of those killed at the original point of attack, the Indians saying they were "Tivos," or Americans. This event, together with the night surprise at San Patricio, the killing of some, the capture of others, and the escape of Colonel Frank W. Johnson, David J. Toler, John H. Love, and James M. Miller, was the disastrous termination of what is known in Texan history as the Johnson and Grant expedition, part of a wild and disorganizing series of measures set on foot or countenanced by the faction ridden council of the provisional government of Texas against the wise and inflexible opposition of Governor Henry Smith and General Sam Houston, and culminating in the surrender and subsequent slaughter of Fannin and nearly 400 noble and chivalrous men. During this raid in that section the Indians caught and killed a very genteel, well dressed Mexican, then surrounded and entered his house, killing his young wife and two children, and then rushed upon a neighboring house and killed two men near it and one inside. At another time along a road they waylaid and murdered a handsomely dressed Mexican and his servant. As another portion of them rushed across a creek when, through the timber, Mrs. Horn saw them advancing upon a man who exclaimed, "Stand back! Stand back!" but seemed to have no arms. Numerous guns fired, all apparently by the Indians, when all of the party, four or five in number, lay dead upon the ground. So far as Mrs. Horn could determine all were Americans. This occurrence, and the surrounding facts, considering the locality and the fact that no party of Americans could have been there from choice, can only be explained on the hypothesis that these men had escaped from prison in Matamoras, and without arms were endeavoring to return to Texas, for only through these two captive ladies could it have been made known and this they had no opportunity of doing excepting after their recovery and through the narrative from which these facts are collected. Neither was ever afterwards in the settled parts of Texas, and indeed never were before, excepting on the trip from Copano via Goliad and San Antonio to the Rio Grande.
On another occasion, after traveling for a short distance on a large road, evidently leading to Matamoras, they arrived near a rancho, near a lake of water. The main body halted and a part advanced upon the house which, though near, could not be seen by the captive ladies, but they heard the fight going on, firing and defiant shouts for a considerable time, when the Indians returned bearing two of their comrades severely wounded and showing that they had been defeated and feared pursuit. They left the road and traveled rapidly all night, and then made no fire. On the following day they moved in haste as if apprehensive of attack. They made no halt until night, and then for the first time allowed the prisoners water and a small quantity of meat. After two hours of travel the next morning, to the amazement of the captives, they arrived at the spot where their husbands and friends had been murdered and where their naked bodies still lay, untouched since they left them, and only blackened in appearance. The little boys, John and Joseph, at once recognized their father, and poured forth such wails as to soften any but a brutal, savage heart. They soon passed on to the spot where lay the bodies of Mr. Harris and the young German, who, Mrs. Horn says, fell upon his face and knees, and was still in that position, being the only one not stripped of his clothing.
Starting next morning by a different route from that first pursued, they traveled rapidly for three days and reached the spot near where they had killed the little Mexican and his family and had secreted the plunder from his house and the other victims of their barbarity. This, Mrs. Horn thought, was on the 18th day of April, 1836, being the fifteenth day of their captivity. This being but three days before the battle of San Jacinto, when the entire American population of Texas was on, or east of the Trinity, abundantly accounts for the fact that these bloody tragedies never became known in Texas; though, as will be shown further on, accidentally came to my knowledge in the year 1839, while in Missouri.
Gathering and packing their secreted spoils, the savages separated into three parties of about equal numbers and traveled with all possible speed till the middle of June, about two months. Much of the way was over rough stony ground, provisions scarce, long intervals without water, the sun on the bare heads and naked bodies of the captives very hot, and their sufferings were great. The ladies were in two different parties.
The narrative of Mrs. Horn, during her captivity, abounds in recitals of cruelties towards herself, her children and Mrs. Harris, involving hunger. thirst, mental labor, stripes, etc., though gradually lessened as time passed. To follow them in detail would become monotonous repetition. As a rather extreme illustration the following facts transpired on this long march of about two months from the extreme Southwest Texas (it it supposed) the headwaters of the Arkansas.
Much of the route, as before stated, was over rough and stony ground, "cut up by steep and nearly impassable ravines, with deep and dangerous fords." This is Mrs. Harris' language and aptly applies to the headwaters of the Nueces, Guadalupe, the Conchos and the sources of the Colorado, Brazos and Red Rivers, through which they necessarily passed. At one of the deep fords little Joseph Horn slipped from his mule while ascending the bank and fell back into the water. When he had nearly extricated himself, a burly savage, enraged at the accident, pierced him in the face with a lance with such force as t o throw him into deep water and inflict a severe wound just below the eye. Not one of the demons offered remonstrance or assistance, but all seemed to exult in the brutal scene. The little sufferer, however, caught a projecting bush and succeeded in reaching the bank, bleeding like a slaughtered animal. The distracted mother upbraided the wretch for his conduct, in return for which he made the child travel on foot and drive a mule the remainder of the day.
When they halted for the night he called Mrs. Horn to him. With a knife in one hand and a whip in the other. he gave her an unmerciful threshing, but in this, as in all of her afflictions, she says: "I have cast myself at His feet whom I have ever been taught to trust and adore, and it is to Him I owe it that I was sustained in the fiery trials. When the savage monster had done whipping me, he took his knife and literally sawed the hair from my head. It was quite long and when he completed the operation he tied it to his as an ornament, and I suppose, wears it yet. At this time we had tasted no food for two days, and in hearing the moans of my starving children, bound as on every night with cords, I laid down, and mothers may judge if they can, the measure of my repose. The next day a wild horse was killed and we were allowed to partake of the flesh."
The next day, says the captive lady, they came to a deep, rapid stream. The mules had to swim and the banks were so steep the riders had to dismount at the edge of the water to enable them to ascend. They then soon came to the base of a mountain which it was difficult to ascend. Arriving at the summit they halted, when a few of the Indians returned to the stream with the two little boys and enjoyed the barbaric sport of throwing the little creatures in until life would be almost extinct. Reviving them, they would repeat the torture and this was done time and again. Finally they rejoined the party on the mountain, the children being unable to stand, partially unconscious and presenting a pitiable spectacle. Their bodies were distended from engorgement with water, and Joseph's face was terribly swollen. Water came from their stomachs in gurgles. Let Eastern humanitarians bear in mind that this was in the spring of 1836, before the Comanches had any just pretense for hostility towards the people of Texas (however much they may have had in regard to the Mexicans) and that this narrative comes, not from a Texan, but from a refined English lady, deeply imbued with that spirit of religion whose great pillars are "faith, hope and charity." My soul sickens in retrospective contemplation of that (to the uninformed) somewhat plausible gush of philanthropy which indulges in the pharisaical "I am holier than thou" hypocrisy at home, but soars abroad to lift up the most inferior and barbaric races of men!—a fanatacism which is ever blind to natural truth and common sense on such subjects—ever the fomentor of strife rather than fraternity among its own people—and which is never enjoying the maximum of self-righteousness unless intermeddling with the affairs and convictions of other people.
Referring to the stream and mountains just described, and the probable time, in the absence of dates, together with a knowledge of the topography of the country, and an evidently dry period, as no mention is made in this part of the narrative of rain or mud. it is quite certain that the stream was the Big Wichita. The description, in view of the facts, admirably applies to it and to none other.
On the night of this day, after traveling through the afternoon, for the first time Mrs. Horn was allowed the use of her arms, though still hound around the ankles. After this little unusual happened on the journey until the three parties again united. Mrs. Harris, when they met, seemed barely to exist. The meeting of the captive ladies was a mournful renewal of their sorrows. Mrs. Harris' breasts, though improved, were not well, and her general health was bad from which with the want of food and water, she had suffered much. The whole band of four hundred then traveled together several days, until one day Mrs. Horn, being in front and her children in the rear, discovered that those behind her were diverging in separate parties. She never again saw her little sons together, though as will be seen, she saw them separately. They soon afterwards reached the lodges of the band she was with, and three days later she was taken to the lodge of the Indian who claimed her. There were three branches of the family, in separate tents. In one was an old woman and her two daughters, one being a widow; in another was the son of the old woman and his wife and five sons, to whom Mrs. Horn belonged; and in the third was a son-in-law of the old woman. The mistress of Mrs. Horn was the personification of savagery, and abused her captive often with blows and stones, until in desperation Mrs. Horn asserted her rights by counterblows and stones and this rendered the cowardly brute less tyrannical. She was employed constantly by day in dressing buffalo robes and deer skins and converting them into garments and moccasins. She was thrown much with the old woman, who constituted a remarkable exception to the general brutality of the tribe. In the language of the captive lady: "She contributed generally by her acts of kindness and soothing manners to reconcile me to my fate. But she had a daughter who was the very reverse of all that was amiable and seemed never to be at ease unless engaged in some way of indulging her ill humor towards me. But, as if by heaven's interposition, it was not until I so won the old woman's confidence that in all matters of controversy between her daughter and myself, she adopted my statement and decided in my favor."
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