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The Kickapoos and the Remolino Raid (ECE)

The Kickapoos and the Remolino Raid
Kickapoo Indians and a Wickiup home

The Kickapoo Indians claimed an acnestral homeland the Great Lakes region of the US, but by the 1830s the small nation of fewer than 1,000 peopled had migrated west of the Mississippi River. One band settled in Kansas, another in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) while yet another came within the borders of the Republic of Texas.

The Texas Kickapoos remained the most traditional of the three bands, and made common cause with other immigrant Indians groups in East Texas against the pressures of white settlers. On October 8, 1838, they participated with Cherokees and Delawares in attacking a surveying party of about 25 Texans in Navarro County, killing 18 of them in what became known as the Battle Creek Fight. From that point forward, the Kickapoos would be seen as unstable, if not downright hostile, to whites. The Indians’ alliance with Mexican operative Vicente Córdova further convinced Texans that the Kickapoos must be driven away.

The Kickapoos in Texas scattered, with most heading toward their kinsmen in Indian Territory while the balance crossed the Rio Grande into the Mexican state of Coahuila. The government there welcomed the newcomers, and eventually granted them territory near the boarder and Kickapoos began to migrate to this new homeland. Mixed race Black Seminoles from the Indian Territory joined them as did Lipan and Mescalero Apaches, and the Indian numbers grew.

On January 16, 1865, Confederate troops attacked a group of Kickapoos passing between Indian Territory and Coahuila near present-day Mertzon in the what became known as the Battle of Dove Creek. The Texans claimed they believed the Indians to be Comanches and Kiowas–who had recently increased raiding along the Northwest Texas frontier. The fight proved to be a disaster for the Confederates, but more than a dozen Kickapoos died, as did twenty-two of the Texans.

With their numbers growing in Coahuila, the Kickapoos and allies turned to raiding across the Rio Grande in the vicinity of the town of Eagle Pass and Fort Duncan and across thinly populated South Texas. In Mexico, they found ready buyers for all of the horses, mules, cattle, and goods they could take and least three sizable Kickapoo villages sprang up between the Rio Escondido and the Rio San Rodrigo. The largest of these stood near the town of Remolino.

In 1870, more than 100 of the Seminoles broke ranks with the Kickapoos and gathered around Fort Duncan seeking protection from the Federal authorities there. Eventually the army employed about thirty as scouts in efforts to stop the Kickapoo cross-border raids, meeting with some success. The marauders, though, merely slipped across into Mexico to escape any “hot pursuit.” As property losses and murders started to stack up at an alarming rate north of the Rio Grande, US diplomats sought some sort of compensation and cooperation with Mexico to end the violence, but none came.

In 1873, Federal authorities decided to try a different tactic. They summoned Colonel Ranald McKenzie and his 4th Cavalry away from their campaigns against the Comanches and their allies and gave him great latitude in ending the Kickapoo raids. Tipped off by Seminole Scouts that the offending Indians would soon be heading into the mountains for a great deer hunt leaving their towns, and their families, unprotected. McKenzie gathered his regiment on the Rio Grande near the settlement of Quemado, north of Eagle Pass. On May 18, 1873, he and his men invaded Mexico to attack the Kickapoos in their own country.

The troops rode more than sixty miles up the Rio San Rodrigo before striking and destroying the principal Kickapoo settlement near Remolino. His men burned the wickiup homes and other structures, and razed two smaller villages owned by Lipans and Mescaleros–about 180 dwellings in all. The strike had come at little cost to the 4th Cavalry. One trooper died, another lost an arm, and a third received a light wound. Nearly twenty Kickapoos, Lipans, and Mescaleros died and US troops rounded up some fifty men, women and children and carried them across the Rio Grande as hostages. The entire raid had lasted forty hours and had covered more than 160 miles.

Most of the Indians fled farther into the interior of Mexico, settling northwest of the town of Musquiz near the headwaters of the Rio Salado and at the foot of the Sierra Madre Orientales. Many of the Kickapoos, though, surrendered to US authorities in order to be rejoin their families held in custody in far-off Indian Territory. Once reunited, these migrants settled near Fort Sill. The Mexican government issued a mild rebuke to the Americans, but largely ignored the violation of their national territory. The government of Texas, as well as his military superiors, hailed McKenzie as a hero.

The raids in South Texas stopped.