A Fate Worse Than Death

Perhaps the worst fear among settlers on the Texas frontier in the 1800’s was abduction by the Comanche. Every white captive could expect some form of maltreatment; beatings, torture, or rape. Few survived the ordeal.

Grown men who fought against the Indians could expect no mercy if captured. The Comanche were skilled at inflicting unbearable pain over prolonged periods before allowing a prisoner to die. The prevailing sentiment among white combatants was that it was better to kill yourself than be taken alive.

Boys in their late teens, considered too old to assimilate into the tribes, were killed outright or subjected to a similar fate. The very young, those who cried or were likely to slow a raiding party’s ability to avoid pursuit by the U.S. Army or Texas Rangers, were also put to death.

Neither was there any compassion towards women. The Indians occasionally held them for ransom or traded them for horses or supplies. However, in most cases, once the carnal urges of the Comanche warriors were sated, they too were killed.

Only children in their formative years (between the ages of six or seven and fourteen or fifteen) were spared. Because of warfare and disease that took the lives of their own children, this demographic was welcomed by the Comanche.

Families who lost children to Indian raids often blamed themselves and spent years hoping for their rescue and reunion with kinfolk. Such reunions were problematic. Any extended time between capture and recovery meant not only acceptance of their nomadic existence but identification as an Indian including language, culture, customs, religious practices, and even mistrust or hatred towards their own race. Tragically, those returned to white society were often left adrift between two very different worlds.

Two such children were Cynthia Anne Parker and Herman Lehmann Buchmeier both abducted at age eleven. Cynthia Anne would marry and bear children during her captivity. She would be “rescued” by the Texas Rangers and later die of a broken heart. Herman Lehmann would live with both the Apache and the Comanche and would be the last renegade holdout when the Quahadi Comanche surrendered in 1875. He would be forcibly returned to white society and struggle the rest of his life to re-adjust.

Both their stories are told in my novel of westward expansion, Palo Duro.

Author: maxknight73

Retired Army Officer and Counterintelligence Specialist. Currently living in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Gray. Cancer survivor. Avid history buff and writer.

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