Battle of Coon Creek
June 18, 1848
Wet Route
Santa Fe Trail
GPS: N37 57.170 W99 22.789

     On June 5, 1848 lst Lt. William B. Royall was put in charge of two government trains totaling about sixty wagons and led by Burnham and Fulton as wagonmasters, along with four hundred plus head of government livestock. On the same train a paymaster was enroute to Fort Mann with the pay for Gilpin's battalion of men stationed at this location.

     They proceed down the Santa Fe Trail to the Walnut Creek Crossing, arriving on June 13. On June 3rd a new patrol was leaving from Fort Mann to scout to the east of the fort along the trail to the Walnut Creek area. Under the command of lst Lt. Phillip Stremmel, it consisted of sixty-five officers and men from C Company of the Indian Battalion. Along with them they had two six-pounder howitzers. At Walnut Creek they were to meet and escort back to Fort Mann the paymaster, Major Bryant. Stremmel and his troops proceeded to the Pawnee Fork Crossing encountering no trouble arriving at the crossing on the 7th of June.

     On that evening things changed. As one of the troops was getting water from the creek an arrow whizzed by his head. Upon looking up he seen two Comanche warriors coming toward him along the bank. He quickly made it back up the bank and into camp to sound the alarm. The troops were able to keep the warriors from reaching the livestock and killed several in the process. Stremmel brought out the howitzer and fired a round at the main body of the Indians, but the only thing that he did was stampede the army's animals off in the direction of the Indians. They lost twenty plus mules and horses in the process. Stremmel had to send word back to Fort Mann requesting replacement animals for him and his men. Stremmel got his replacement livestock and proceeded to the east and meet up with Royall and his men just to the west of Walnut Creek crossing where they were camped.

     Royall and his long column of government wagons had encountered no difficulties with hostile Indians before reaching Walnut Creek. Beyond the Little Arkansas, they were aware of Indian scouts on their trail. All this time the Indians were in the distant watching and perhaps planning. But the long line of government wagons proceeded down the trail and on the 17th came into camp about two to three miles to the northeast of the present day town of Kinsley, Kansas.

     The process of making camp was usually time consuming. Most of the moving column of man and animals would still have been some distance from the site selected when the lead elements reached it. The officer in charge had some hard decisions to make concerning the arrangements and location of the military units and other pieces of equipment in the large column of the government trains.

     At dawn on June 18 the pace of the camp had quickened to pack all the gear and prepare to leave camp. A shout from Lieutenant Stremmel's artillery camp on the north end of the campsite of "Injuns" brought the men out of their tents, while others stopped whatever they were doing to see what the commotion was all about.

     All eyes were focused on the southeast bank of the river where two Comanche warriors had unexpectedly appeared from beyond the sand hill lining the other side of the river shaking their spears and giving their war cries. Another noise became evident and looking to the west and the north coming directly at them at a gallop were several hundred, Comanches and Apaches. The Indians had quite a surprise in store for them.

     Before their departure from Fort Leavenworth, a consignment of breech loading carbines had arrived. These new carbines could be loaded and fired five times in a minute. They used a one-ounce ball and were quite effective at a range of 400 yards. The Indians got to within the 400 yard range of the new carbines and Royall's men fired their first round of shots. The Comanches closed the gap and wasn't expecting what was coming next. At three hundred yards the soldiers fired their second round surprising the charging warriors, but the Comanches just keep coming. The troops kept this up for the rest of the Indians advance into the front lines of the troops. The battle rage on from all sides for several minutes.

     The howitzers had been placed behind the picket line and they could not be fired for fear of hitting the animals and there own men in the process. Stremmel ordered some of his best men to try and save the animals, and this is just what they did. With the animals out of the way Stremmel opened fire with the howitzer and the Indians quickly decided to retreat to the south and the west. The boom of the artillery, together with the rapid and long range fire of the carbines used by Royall's men finally took the fight out of the Comanches. The action that had started so suddenly quit just as fast as it had started. The guns and war cries fell silent between the Coon Creek and the Arkansas river.

     On the side of the troops a call for casualties was sent out to all camps. What they found was the suprising factor of this battle. Not one man in any of the camps had been killed or wounded. The only thing lost was several head of livestock.

     It was decided that Lieutenant Royall should take as many of his men that could be spared and pursue the fleeing Indians and if possible recover the stolen livestock. The others that were left in camp were to organize themselves and prepare to continue the march to Fort Mann.

     Royall took a small company of men and went in pursuit of the fleeing Indians. At a distance of about two miles down stream from camp, Royall crossed the river and into the sandhills to the south of the river. Royal and his men were soon forced to slow their advance as the horses struggled against the deep sand that they encountered. They had gone about two miles into the sandhills when without warning, they found themselves surrounded by an estimated six to seven hundred angry warriors. Royall surprised the Indians with the call to charge. Royall and his men made straight for a high sand dune that he had spotted. Once they got on top of the dune the men formed a perimeter to protect themselves from all sides. Royall and his men may have been outnumbered but the superiority of the carbines that they were using proved to the Indians that they were up against a better force. Several were killed or wounded in the first charge, causing the warriors to retreat behind the surrounding dunes and regroup. Each time the Indians decided to attack the same thing happened, several more were killed or wounded. When they found out this wasn't going to work they retreated behind the dunes again and began to firing arrows high into the air on an arc that would bring them raining down upon the soldiers and their horses. After a few of these volleys of arrows several soldiers were wounded by the arrows. After a while the attack subsided and Royall made a quick check of his men and found that four had been wounded. But none appeared to be very serious. Royall decided to get his detachment across the river to the safty of camp On his command they began a retreat back across the river.

     When they were safely back in camp all of the men took time to rest briefly and eat the breakfast that had been so violently interrupted. At mid morning Royall again put his column into motion and on the way to Fort Mann. From that day on Royall pushed his men and made the forty miles in just two days. They arrived at Fort Mann on the evening of June 20, and there they rested, replenished their supplies, and prepared to resume the journey to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Lieutenant Royall himself reached Santa Fe on July 17, 1848.

     The campsite would have been along the Arkansas River approximately two miles northeast of present day Kinsley, Kansas. At this location a Santa Fe Trail marker has been placed, it is a limestone post marker with a bronze plaque. Near this location is said to be where the battle took place.

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