All the men who were already there, or could be got together on fairly quickly notice, set off. There was Levi English, L.A. Franks, G.W. Dougherty, W.C. Bell, Frank Williams, Dean Oden, Bud English, Dan Williams, John Berry, Bob Aikens, and Ed Burleson. I went along as guide and to help with scouting and tracking. Levi English, the oldest in the party, had had some experience in previous fights with bandits, so he was chosen as Captain of our group.
The account of Sarah Burleson (age 12) on the recent tragic encounter at Martin’s Texas excerpted from a letter to her uncle.
It only took a moment to pick up the bikes trail out of town. It was still early enough that the sun’s rays angled to make the shadows of their tracks stand out.
When the main trail was struck the Gwats were found to be in a large force and going down toward the Leona River. They crossed this stream near the burnt out Bennett’s Ranch, four miles below Burleson’s. They went out into the open prairie in front of Martin’s ranch, ten miles further on. There was no need for tracking with this large a number, and with my slow mare I wound up well behind everyone else. Fortunately a breeze picked up that the dust from rising up to high, but it also blew it into my face, so I was not always able to see what happened all that well. Some of what I got, I got second hand.
Our group came in sight of them two miles off, but they went down into a valley and were lost to sight for some time. Suddenly, however, they came in view again, not more than 200 yards away.
They were thirty-six in number, mounted two to each horse; they had a few bikes on a trailer pulled by a two horse team. It looked like it had been the back-half of either an International Harvester Scout or Ford Bronco. It had the top cut off, but it still had the drive train slung underneath: good ground clearance. They were armed with a combination of banana carbines, long magazine auto-pistols, and box-style crossbows.
The Gwats had seen us for the first time, and at once picked up their pace.
Well the people who live in Texas these days get accuse of an awful lot. But cowardice is not one of them. We were a reckless bunch and immediately set to wild and impetuous charge. Rifles and pistols, as they were had, were out and blazing.
Captain English shouted and yelled, trying to hold the men back. Being already well back and with my slow horse reckless-charging was not a problem for me. As I came up, he gave me a stern look and told me to stay back pointing to where I had just come up from. He then spurred on to try and catch up. I followed at a dusty, safe distance.
The Gwats ran for about a mile. At which this point, having decided it likely they had drawn our fire, they stopped at a lone tree on a signal from their captain. The team of horses continued on.
Each Gwat who was mounted behind another jumped to the ground and came back at a charge. For the first time they started shooting.
The mounted ones circled to the right and left and sent a shower of bolts and bullets. Some of them went entirely around our men and a desperate battle at close quarters ensued. We had fired off our shots at long and had no time to reload in such a fight. They had the advantage in both numbers and shots. With me being back a bit, they either did not see or choose not to bother me.
Dan Williams was the first man killed and when he fell from his horse was at once surrounded by the enemy. Captain English managed to collect up the men, and they charged to the body of Williams. After a hot fight they drove them back, but in so doing fired their last loads.
The Gwats were quick to see this, and came back at them again. A retreat was ordered.
Frank Williams, brother to Dan, had dismounted by the side of his dying brother and asked if there was anything he could do for him and said that he would stay with him. “No” said Dan, handing Frank his pistol; “take this and do the best you can. I am killed and can’t live ten minutes. Save yourself.” The men were even now wheeling their horses and leaving the ground, and Frank only mounted and left when the Guatemalans were close upon him.
They came after them, yelling furiously, and a panic ensued. Dean Oden was the next one to fall. His horse was wounded and began to pitch, and they were soon upon him. He was dismounted and was wounded in the leg. He attempted to remount again, but was wounded six times more in the chest and back, as they were still on all sides of him. L.A. Franks was near him trying to force his way out, and the last he saw of Oden he was down to his knees and his horse gone.
The next and last man killed was Bud English, the Captain’s son. He was shot in the chest with a bullet. His father stayed by his body until all hope was gone and all the men scattered away.
The Indians pursued with a fierce vengeance, getting all mixed up with us, and many personal combats took place. The men were striking with the Indians with their unloaded guns and pistols. In this wild flight all the rest of the men were wounded except Franks, Berry, and Frank Williams. Captain English was badly wounded in the side with a bolt; Ed Burleson in the leg, Aikens in the breast, and W.C. Bell in the side: all with crossbow bolts.
In this wounded and scattered condition we went back to the house and told the news of their sad defeat. The sad wail of the families was heard well out into the plains.
Other men were collected, and led by the unhurt men, returned to the battleground to bring away the dead. The three bodies lay within 100 yards of each other. The Guatemalans carried away what dead that they had had: probably few on account of the reckless firing at the start of the battle.
The general look of the area.