From 1871-1874 Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie distinguished himself in military campaigns against the Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache. He’d already made an indelible impression on General Ulysses S. Grant during the American Civil War by his valor, gallantry, and meritorious conduct in several seminal battles including Second Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Petersburg. Grant would describe him as “the Union Army’s most promising young officer,” and assign him to duty on the Texas frontier. The Southern Plains Indian tribes would give him the name Bad Hand for wounds sustained at the battle of Petersburg where he’d lost two fingers on his right hand.
Initially, Mackenzie commanded one of the all black regiments, the Forty-First Infantry, made up of freedmen and former slaves, commonly known today as Buffalo Soldiers. Their exemplary record of accomplishments under his leadership at a time when institutional racial prejudice still existed in the Army brought him to the attention of General William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman would re-assign him to Fort Richardson, Texas at the head of the 4th U.S. Cavalry, and task him with implementing Grant’s Quaker Peace Policy.
More than any policy, however, it would be Mackenzie’s tenacity against the Southern Plains Indians that led to their eventual defeat and subjugation. He would put an end (for a time) to the Apache raids against settlers along the Rio Grande by boldly crossing the border to attack their encampments at Remolino, Mexico. He would mount multiple expeditions into the previously unexplored Llano Estacado (Staked Plain,) each foray yielding new new information and tactics to be used against the Comanche and Kiowa, finally resulting in the decisive engagement against these tribes at Palo Duro Canyon September 28, 1874, and an end to the Red River War.
Ranald Mackenzie surveyed the burned encampments. All his efforts seemed to point to another campaign where he’d been unable to keep the Indians from escaping; another failure. He then looked toward the captured horses. Past experience told him he would be unable to keep the pony herd intact all the way back to friendly lines. The Indians would once again mount raids to recapture their mounts and the cycle of resistance and the so called “Red River War” would continue. Mackenzie had long since hardened himself against any pity for the enemy and now knew what was required of him. He ordered his Adjutant to drive the pony herd to Tule Canyon, to select fresh mounts for the troop and his Tonkawa Scouts, and to shoot all the remaining horses. – Excerpt from Palo Duro.
Read the book to learn more about the Plains Indian Wars, Ranald Mackenzie, and this gut wrenching decision!
Many Irish and Scottish immigrants served in the Union Army during America’s Civil War. These soldiers proved themselves during every major campaign from the onset of the conflict in 1861 to the final surrender at Appomattox in 1865, but now faced a new enemy on the country’s western frontier. Their adversaries wore neither Yankee blue nor Confederate grey; they were the Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, Arapaho and the Apache.
Of the many immigrant units formed during the war,the most prominent was the 69th Infantry Regiment, one of five regiments comprising the Irish Brigade that fought for the Union. Renown for its courage and tenacity, it was always at the forefront of campaigns against the Confederacy suffering huge losses over the course of the war.
The number of dead and wounded led many to believe that Irish immigrants were being used as “cannon fodder.” Spearheading the Army of the Potomac’s advances resulted in casualties disproportionate to the rest of the service. By 1863 riots broke out in New York over new conscription laws that required the working-class to replenish the ranks. Irish immigrants felt that they were being forced to fight the “rich man’s war.” Federal troops would eventually be called in to quell the riots. However, while individual Irishmen would continue to serve, organized Irish participation on behalf of the Union effectively ended.
Those not killed, maimed, or ushered out of the Union Army at war’s end found themselves garrisoned in places like Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. They formed the backbone of the troops tasked with subduing the Southern Plains Indians.
Sergeant Major [Timothy] O’Shannon was a big man and a stereotypical Irishman if ever there was one. He could be gruff if the situation required, invoking “Jesus, Joseph, and Mary” as the circumstances dictated, but he was also fair and genuinely caring when it came to the men. He was the counterpoint to [Colonel Ranald] Mackenzie’s demanding and uncompromising leadership style. The Sergeant Major had served with the Sixty-Ninth Regiment, the Irish Brigade, during the war and had seen action at the Battle of First Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and Chancellorsville. As a result he and Mackenzie shared a mutual respect for one another that only survivors of the carnage they had witnessed over the course of the war could possibly forge or understand. This respect even ignored what should have been a natural impediment to working well together… O’Shannon’s Irish and Mackenzie’s Scottish heritage. – excerpt from Palo Duro.
To date I have used this forum to promote discussion of my books Silver Taps and Palo Duro. However, a blog should also serve to engage readers’ interest in upcoming publications. Later this year I hope to release my next book, Tarnished Brass, which looks at America’s involvement in the brutal civil war fought in the small Central American country of El Salvador from 1980-1992, and the aftermath of that conflict to include the origins of the violent street gang MS-13.
The timeliness of this upcoming release coincides with recent news coverage and comments by the President and the U.S. Attorney General highlighting the growing threat posed by this organization.
Mostly made up of Salvadoran nationals who illegally entered the United States and settled in Los Angeles, California, MS-13 engages in a broad range of criminal activity characterized by extreme violence toward rival street gangs and those caught in the crossfire. The savagery of their attacks is the principal reason the organization has become the focus of Justice Department efforts to incarcerate or deport its members.
The gang’s mobility within the United States has resulted in increased violence not only in Los Angeles, but in the southeastern, central, and northeastern sectors of our country. Additionally, El Salvador remains one of the most dangerous places in all of Central America with the violence that characterized a war ravaged nation supplanted and exceeded by the violence perpetrated by MS-13 gang members.