Spark on the Prairie
True West|September 2021
Hit the road across Oklahoma and Texas to discover the history behind the Warren Wagon Train Raid and the Kiowa Indian Trial of 1871.

It started out as a run-of-the-mill job. Capt. Henry Warren had a contract to deliver supplies to the forts on the Texas frontier, and in the spring of 1871, Warren and his teamsters left Mansfield, Texas, with five wagons loaded with cornmeal and flour.

Mansfield had been a mill mecca since before the Civil War, when Ralph S. Man and Julian Feild built the Man and Feild Mill—the first in North Texas to use steam power. The town that grew up around it became Mansfield because people just weren’t used to spelling F-E-I-L-D. (Today, that mill heritage is showcased at the Man House Museum and the Mansfield Historical Museum & Heritage Center.)

The wagons crossed the Trinity River at Fort Worth (Texas Civil War Museum, Log Cabin Village) and rolled into Weatherford (Doss Heritage and Culture Center), where Warren’s crew joined seven other wagons. Now numbering 12 wagons and 12 men, the train reached Fort Richardson in Jacksboro and continued for Fort Griffin.

What the teamsters had no way of knowing was that a party of Kiowa Indians waited up the trail at Salt Creek Prairie.

Earlier on the reservation near present-day Lawton, Oklahoma, a prophet and medicine man named Maman-ti had talked an estimated 150 Indians into following him on a raid. Among those joining the prophet were the bragging Satanta, young Big Tree and embittered Satank, who had spoken eloquently at the Medicine Lodge treaty negotiations in 1867 but now carried the bones of a son who had been killed in Texas in 1870.

On May 17, a military ambulance and mounted riders passed the Kiowas. But Maman-ti said his vision forbade attacking. Had the prophet said otherwise, history might have been significantly altered, for in the ambulance rode William T. Sherman, bound for Fort Richardson.

On the next afternoon, Warren’s wagon train came into view, and the Indians attacked. The Kiowas made off with 41 mules and six scalps (seven teamsters had been killed, but one was bald).

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