Skip to content Recruiting Indian Allies

Among the traditional enemies of the Comanche were the Tonkawa Indians, then living on a reservation on the Brazos River, in Texas. The books that immortalize and praise the Tonkawa as friends and allies of the settlers generally downplay the fact the Tonkawa were cannibals, who the Comanche and virtually every other Indian tribe despised and loathed. Ford, however, had no reservations about using cannibals to help him, as long as they were eating Comanche, not Rangers.

On March 19, 1858, Ford went to the Brazos Reservation, near what today is the city of Fort Worth, Texas, to recruit the Tonkawa to join him. An Indian Agent, Captain L. S. Ross, father of the future Governor of Texas, Lawrence Sullivan Ross, called Chief Placido of the Tonkawa to a war council where Ross stirred Placido’s anger against their mutual enemy. He succeeded in recruiting 120 or so Native Americans in this campaign, 111 of whom were Tonkawa under Chief Placido, hailed as the “faithful and implicitly trusted friend of the whites”, the others being Anadarko and Shawnee. They joined with approximately an equal number of Texas Rangers to move against the Comanche. Ford’s orders from Governor Runnels were to follow any and all trails of hostile and suspected hostile Indians, inflict the most severe punishment, (kill them and their families, destroy their homes and food supplies) and to allow no interference from “any source”. (“Any source” meant the United States, whose Army and Indian Agents might try to enforce federal treaties and federal law against trespassing on the Indian territories in Oklahoma).