Gabriel's Barbecue
on the
Santa Fe Trail

     On June 9, 1848, Capt. George W. Hook and one hundred and forty three recruits left Fort Leavenworth bound for Santa Fe. With them was a fifty three wagon government train carrying supplies and specie to pay the troops in New Mexico. They proceeded down the Santa Fe Trail arriving at Council Grove on June 16. At this location they camped waiting for the arrival of a Capt. Gabriel D Korponay's detachment of cavalry recruits. After fixing some of the wagons at Council Grove they finally got back on the trail on June 21. There intentions were to make it to Fort Mann in about twelve days. Arriving at the fort on June 30, having encountered no difficulties en route. On reaching the fort the separate detachments of volunteers went into camp at intervals a few miles upstream in order to ensure enough grass for the grazing of all of the livestock in the train.

     On the morning of July 4 as the garrison was preparing to celebrate the holiday a large number of livestock stampeded away from their grazing grounds. They went in a easterly direction. Korponay was ordered to take his men and to conduct a search for the missing animals. If they were found to have been taken by Indians they were to take them back using force if necessary.

     The search party was made up of fifty men from his command, twenty foot soldiers from Company D of the Indian Battalion led by Capt. Paul Holtzscheiter, and one six pounder howitzer manned by a few of Korponay's men.

     Captain Karponay and his detachment of men searched for the animals but without much success. The horses and mules had disappeared somewhere into the vast plains that lay in this area. Weary and discouraged the searchers camped on the banks of the Arkansas about thirty five miles below Fort Mann. The sun lowered in the west and the animals were turned out to graze while the men ate their supper. The night became a symphony of night calls made by the yipping of the coyotes, the mournful howling of the wolves, and the grunts and bellows of the buffalo as they came down to the river for water. While the men sat around the dying campfire, exhausted by the long day's ride and not finding the livestock, they noticed a light in the distance. It was clearly a campfire along the river and seemed to be about five miles northeast of where they were camped. They all speculated that it was the Comanche war party they had heard about. The guard was reinforced anticipating an attack on the camp. No one seemed to sleep that night and at about 2:30 in the morning, in hopes that they could seize the initiative by making a surprise attack on the Comanches, Korponay had reveille sounded, and the troops prepared for a battle. Word came back that this was not a camp of Indians but a patrol from Gilpin's battalion. Not wanting to surprise the sleeping men with a large company of mounted soldiers, just riding in on them. Korponay had his bugler sound the ordinance march. In an instant the camp was filled with confused men wondering what was taking place. Much to both camps surprise suddenly on the opposite side of the Arkansas, the bank came alive with Comanche warriors, who had also heard the bugle call.

     As the sun came up Korponay and his men approached the river bank with caution. The glow of the east begin to bring into focus an estimate five to six hundred Comanche warriors on the other side of the river. Their camp was in the grove of trees on the opposite bank. As the military men stood their ground on the bank of the river several of the Indians opened fire on the troops. Korponay ordered his men to open fire but the distance was to great to use small arms with accuracy and the Indians had the advantage of the trees of the grove they had camped in. Korponay ordered the six pounder to be brought up. At which time he fired a shot using grapeshot, but the distance being to far it to was ineffective. He then ordered the howitzer loaded with a six pound ball, now this got the Indians attention. This shot succeeded in killing two of the warriors, a second round killed and injured several others, including some of their horses. The direct hits by the artillery piece changed the Indians minds on fighting with the troops and the Indians began to move back beyond the range of the artillery piece.

     As the Comanche began to retreat Korponay gave the order to cross the river and give pursuit. After crossing the river with a little difficulty as the river had quite a lot of water in it from the June thaw in the mountains to the west. After getting the artillery piece across the river Korponay reorganized his troops and headed off after the Indians. The Indians headed to the south and into the sandhills with the troops right on their tails. The Indians had stopped and regrouped a little while after getting into the hills. Korponay called for the howitzer again and fired several rounds, causing the Indians to rethink about standing and fighting the troops. The pursuit continued in a southeastern direction and twice more the Comanches reformed in an effort to carry the fight to the soldiers. Each time the howitzer did what it was designed to do and that was to kill or wound several more of the fleeing Indians.

     The chase continued on for the better part of fifteen to twenty miles before Korponay decided that they could not overtake the Indians and called off the chase. The troops followed the route that they had come and soon reached the Indian camp where the troops found a morning meal of buffalo meat still cooking over the campfires. The men had eaten nothing but hardtack, and now they had found a ready made breakfast. When the men had finished their meal and rested Korponay put them back on the trail toward Fort Mann, arriving on July 12.

     The incident with this band of Comanches, was later called "Gabriel's Barbeque"

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