A Decisive Event -
The Battle of Blanco Canyon
One of the most significant events of the final days of the war for dominance of the Llano Estacado played out in Crosby County, Texas. The Battle of Blanco Canyon pitted Quanah, the fierce, warlike son of Cynthia Ann Parker, against the battle-hardened Civil War veteran, Colonel Randall Mackenzie of the 4th Cavalry. The battle ranged through Blanco Canyon and signaled a significant change in the U.S. Army strategy to defeat the Plains' tribes.
The Battle, in October of 1871, began when the 4th Cavalry, under the aggressive and effective Mackenzie, ran head-long into Quanah’s Quahada village. The ensuing events were a humbling experience for Colonel Mackenzie, who was surprised by the harsh weather of the Llano Estacado and the guerilla tactics of the Comanche. The Comanche stole sixty-six of the 4th Cavalry’s horses, including a favorite gray pacer belonging to Mackenzie. The Comanche attack left part of the column on foot in the vast prairie. The raiders killed one soldier in a skirmish; then they escaped from the determined Mackenzie, using the edge of the caprock as a fortress, a diversion, and an escape route. Though Mackenzie and the 4th Cavalry followed the tracks of the escaping Comanche for more than forty miles from present-day Crosbyton to Plainview, they missed the opportunity to force the band onto the reservation. Mackenzie’s humiliation had lasting implications for the Quahada Comanche.
The Battle of Blanco Canyon changed the dynamics between the U.S. Cavalry and the Plains Indian. Mackenzie saw this battle as a failure, but it was a failure that taught him valuable lessons about the world of the Plains. Mackenzie was a quick study. In July and August of 1872, Colonel Mackenzie and his 4th Cavalry explored the Llano Estacado. The Fourth rode week after week on the Plains, and in the process found routes and water supplies that the Comanche used. In the two months of the exploration, Mackenzie saw no Indians or cattle, but by the end of the trip, the 4th Cavalry were seasoned veterans in the world of the High Plains. The lessons he learned set the stage for the defeat of the Comanche in Palo Duro in 1874.
To find out more about the Battle of Blanco Canyon:
- Visit Silver Falls State Park east of Crosbyton, Texas on U.S. Hwy 82. The park is near the location of the supply camp. Picnic in the setting of a battle that changed our history.
- Stop in Crosbyton at the Crosby County Pioneer Memorial Museum, located at 101 West Main in Crosbyton, to view displays on the 4th Cavalry. Follow the course of the battle on maps and read the first hand accounts of Captain Robert Goldwaite Carter, a member of the 4th Cavalry.
- Spend time in the Native American Wing with its extensive collection of Plains' artifacts and explore the world of the Comanche.
- Drive north on Highway 651 to enter Blanco Canyon near Mt. Blanco. Let the canyon tell the story of the conflict between two cultures.