Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Post Apocalyptic Battles Series 2 part 3

We are at the recap of the series of battles depicted at part 1, and part 2.  The earlier sequence (Series 1) is here, here2, and here3.
So let us start off with the basis for the battles.
They were drawn from John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas.  It is a free online book.  The same account is also found at James T. DeShields Border Wars of Texas which credited Brown as the source.

The old switcheroo was on.  This was not cowboys and indians, but the rare recorded case of indians on indians.  Roadsurfers were stand ins for a group of Waco Indians.  We have met the Waco earlier
The SuraKings were stand ins for the Tehuacana (Ta-wak-a-na) who were a Whichita group allied/associated with the Waco. As the mile marker says:   "a Wichita tribe, who engaged in farming and peaceful pursuits until they were destroyed in early 1830s by Cherokees".
The “good guys” in this fight are the a band from the Cherokee Nation who were wandering around in what was the Spanish Territory of Texas.  This particular account took place in 1829 and 1830. The fighting was (accidentally) useful to the Texans because the Cherokee kept the Waco and other tribes busy, while the Texans were having issues with their Spanish sovereigns.
A modern (likely biased) account of Cherokee doings in Texas.
By  R. Edward Moore
As the English settlers, and later the American settlers moved in all around them in the east the Cherokees had less and less land. They needed land to farm and hunt on. The Americans around them were hostile and made trouble for the Cherokees. There were battles and many fights. One of the tribes of the Cherokee decided they were tired of the fighting and decided to move west and look for new land where they would be left alone.

This was the part of the Cherokees led by Chief Duwali. Duwali is his Cherokee name. Duwali also used English versions of his name "John Bowls and Colonel Bowls. Chief Duwali first led his people west to what is now Arkansas. They lived there for a while. Later they moved to East Texas. After being cut off from the Eastern Cherokees who stayed behind, Chief Duwali's Cherokees became the Western band of the Cherokees.

They moved into the area of Texas the Caddo Indians lived in. By 1823 the Caddo had lost much of their former population to European diseases. By the time the Cherokee arrived, the Caddo were down to no more than two thousand. So, much of the land the Caddos had lived on was empty by 1823. Along with the Cherokee, several other tribes from the Southeastern United States also moved into this region of Texas. These were the Alabama, the Coushatta, the Shawnee, the Biloxi, some Creek Indians and a few other smaller groups.

They all arrived at a critical time in Texas history. Texas was part of Mexico in 1823. In the next 25 years there would be a revolution in Mexico, the Texas revolution, and Texas would become a part of the United States. During this same time period thousands of Americans and Europeans immigrated to Texas wanting land - including the land the Indians lived on.

In all these revolutions both sides wanted the Cherokees and the other tribes to take sides with them. This was dangerous for the Cherokees. If they chose sides with a loser, the winner would punish them afterwords and chase them off their land. They stayed neutral in these revolutions.
Even after Texas won the revolution, agents of the Mexican government came to the Cherokees and asked them to make war on the Texans. The Cherokees refused to do this.

In February of 1836 Sam Houston negotiated a treaty with the Cherokees on behalf of the Provisional Government of Texas. When Sam Houston became president of the Republic of Texas in September of 1836, he tried to get the 1836 treaty ratified by the new Texas Government. They did nothing about the treaty until 1837. In 1837 the Texas Senate rejected the treaty signed by Houston. Still, while Houston was president, things were all right for the Cherokee for several years. Then Texas elected a new President, Mirabeau Lamar. Lamar did not like the Cherokees, or any other Indians for that matter, and he said so. Lamar and other were also concerned because the Mexicans were trying to get the Cherokees and other Texas Indians to help them take back Texas.

Here is a part of letter Lamar sent to Chief Duwali. Lamar wanted the Cherokees out of Texas so American settlers could take their land, along with the land of the remaining Caddos and the many other tribes living in east Texas.

"… I therefore feel it to be my duty as Chief Magistrate of this Republic, to tell you, in the plain language of sincerity, that the Cherokee will never be permitted to establish a permanent and independent jurisdiction within the inhabited limits of this Government: that the political and fee-simple claims, which they set up to our territory now occupied by them, will never be allowed, and that they are permitted, at present, to remain where they are , only because this Government is looking forward to the time, when some peaceable arrangements can be made for their removal, without the shedding of blood, but that their final removal is contemplated, is certain: and that it will be affected, is equally so. Whether it be done by friendly negotiation or by violence of war, must depend on the Cherokee themselves . . .
May 26th 1839, signed by Mirabeau Lamar"

In July of 1839 Texas sent troops to remove the Cherokees. On July 15 there was a skirmish near Duwali's village. Duwali tried to lead his people north along the Neches River to escape, but the Texas militia pursued them There was a battle on July 17th near the headwaters of the Neches River in what is now Van Zandt county. Chief Bowles was 83 years old by this time, but he still lead his braves into the battle. According to eye witness accounts he stayed at the front of his men during the entire battle. The fighting was fierce and there were many casualties. After the Cherokee began to lose, and when most of the Cherokees had retreated, Chief Bowles stayed on the battle field with the last of his men to help the others retreat safely. He was shot and fell down. As he lay dying a Texas Militia man came up and shot him in the head at close range. Chief Duwali was dead along with 100 other Cherokees.

The Texas Cherokees moved to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. There, they were reunited with the eastern Cherokees [who had been forced from their land in the Trail of Tears].

The Cherokee had been in the cockpit early Indian wars on the east coast, and appeared to be better soldiers than the plains Indians in Texas at the time.  They still, as our heroes in the story did, had a preference for fighting on foot.  Also as in our story, the Cherokee appear to have had a firearm advantage although they don’t seem to feel it is worth commenting on.  As I noted above, the Eastern Indians had a reputation for being better shots then there Western brethren, and along with general surprise, was likely a deciding factor.  I actually discussed this a long time ago.
In this series of stories, the premise is that a group of modern-day North Carolina Cherokee, which were part of a hastily thrown together federalized North Carolina National Guard Anti-Aircraft Battalion,  friendly non-Cherokee members of the unit (including the narrator), Cherokee from Oklahoma (Dawes list - who they met up with in Comanche), a variety of orphaned children, and few adults they met are trying to get back to a pocket of civilization on the North Carolina-Tennessee border.  While still in Texas,  they received some help from the Mormons, who have historically been friendly to the indians.  So they have a little bit of equipment, a little bit of practical training, and by this time a fair amount of experience and individualistic discipline.  This seemed like a reasonably good modern match for the Cherokee of Texas in 1830:  Good people, O.K. soldiers, but bad people to have mad at you.
What lessons can be learned:
  1. Surprise is important:  The failure to keep an adequate watch was important in all three engagements.  I glossed over this when the Cherokee had their horses stolen.  The lack of adequate watch is a very common event in military style fighting.  Civilians and irregulars are likely to be very hard to convince to set up a regular watch after the first couple of weeks and nobody shows up to fight:  after a couple of years?
  2. Tracking and scouting are important.  The awareness that you can be tracked (which the Cherokee demonstrated) is also very important.
  3. Pre-scouting your route in advance, though added by me to fill in account details, is a good idea.  It is one reason why German generals were seen at the front in WW2 looking through their binoculars.  They were trying to see if their envisioned plan of approach actually matched reality.  Blazing trails is an obvious way to keep people unfamiliar with the area from getting lost. 
  4. Even relatively light fortifications are useful against small arms.  The problem in this case was that they were too easily approached, too visible, and the foe too determined.  See more below.
  5. Irregular forces often fail to keep a 360 degree watch in combat.  Actually even regular forces often forget.  Hostile troops have a bad habit of coming from unexpected directions.  Sometimes by design, but sometimes because they got lost and went the wrong way.
  6. The accounts show that silent approaches at night are practical.  The Cherokee seem to have preferred them traveling long distances to wake up a surprised enemy.  Another group pulled this off with even larger numbers of men involved were the Wallachians of Vlad Tepes who often liked to use surprise night attacks against their enemies the Ottoman Turks.  The Wallachians actually did their attacking at night, which must have been amazingly chaotic.  The British used to have their troops stand to at first dawn to prevent this type of attack: eventually they gave it up as too tiring.  Some police departments, using night vision, have found the practice extremely effective.
  7. Foxholes are very popular with Americans.  But they were at least initially used as a temporary defense against artillery shelling (mostly) and secondarily small arms fire.  Positions based around foxholes lack internal mobility and are at risk of piecemeal defeat.  Americans don’t usually have this problem, because in most battles we bring lots of firepower.  We use the foxhole line to slow up the enemy enough that we can drop obscene amounts of artillery on them.  In a situation where everyone has light arms, you may want to avoid getting in a hole which it may be difficult to get out of.
  8. Deployment with limited or absent radios is difficult.   The bounding movement used in modern warfare, requires radio communication or a lot of training with signals.  If you don’t have the radios or the training, you are probably going to have to go back to old methods like 5 yard spaced skirmish lines.  If sufficient troops are available, doubled up  (reinforce) skirmish lines were also popular.
And some general comments:
  1. It should be noted that these defenses where not really intended to stop a determined foe from going to close assault.  The stories comment that at least one of the villages attacked was many years old, and obviously its defenses had been adequate for some time.  No defense is perfect, and if there was a perfect defense you probably could not afford it.
  2. At this early date the indians were obviously not using repeating weapons.  However, even with this limitation the indians were often unwilling to close when the opponent had at least some loaded weapons.   I cannot find the reference, but there is a general tendency for combat troops to close to just outside of effective weapon range and start an inconsequential fire fight.  In this case the Cherokee had better weaponry (as did the Texans in this story) and thus were in their effective range when their opponent was not. 
  3. Surrender is not an option.  Indians, particularly after losing enormous amount of their population to disease, would take in women and children but would usually torture the men to death.  In resource depleted conditions, prisoners (outside of captives for ransom) are also unlikely to be practical.  In reality, surrendering in any war is a very dangerous proposition unless it is done en-mass.
  4. All of the defenses in our stories used a medieval-like citadel approach.  Even in the Middle Ages this defensive style (exemplified by the Norman  motte and bailey)  was eventually superseded by more elaborate defenses.  Medieval fortifications as they developed used a number of methods to keep attackers clear of their walls.  Yet when you read books (such as Patriots) this still seems to be a popular mode of defense with the post apocalyptic mind set.  Even the earliest firearm era defenses, before the elaborate trace style fortresses, began to use crossing fire defenses where the main protective fire came from the attackers flank.  As firepower developed, the use of concealment became even more critical as soldiers who fought against the Japanese and Germans in WW2, and in the Vietnamese Conflict can attest.  The Japanese had an inadequate overweight under powered rifle.  But these characteristics also made it relatively quite:  a feature that many American servicemen thought was by design.

Note the Plans and view of Corgarff Castle above.  It has a central home-citadel, but the low first floor defenses are designed to avoid any vulnerable corners that are not swept by fire.  It is a late model Scottish castle designed to fend off marauding bands. This copy I happened to pull from The Castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the,,, Volume 2 at google books.  I am not saying that building a Scottish Castle is the idea, just showing one solution to the problem.  A Z-shaped building (or two offset rectangular buildings) with a sufficiently protected protrusion to protect the two outward corners (shuttered bay window would work) would also minimize dead spots.

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