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Texans Have Faced Worse - The Council House Fight

Texans have lived through worse times than today. In the time of the Republic and afterward, those who lived on the frontier never knew whether Comanche Indians would raid, killing and/or torturing the men and infants, and capturing and raping the women, and capturing and sometimes torturing children. It is estimated that over the four decades after the beginning of the Republic, over 200 families a year perished to Comanche depredations.

Today is the anniversary of the March 19, 1840 Council House Fight. President Mirabeau Lamar’s administration had agreed to peace talks with prominent Penateka Comanches. Led by Chief Maguara (also called Muk-wah-ruh), thirty-three chiefs and warriors along with thirty-two other Comanches arrived in San Antonio to meet at a meeting house also used as a courtroom called the Council House.

To the shock and horror of San Antonio citizens, as the Comanches came into town, they paraded with them captive Matilda Lockhart, a 16 year old girl that had been brutally treated. She had bruises and burn scars all over her body, the most visible of which was that her nose had literally been burned off. Lamar’s conditions of the meeting was that ALL captives of the Comanches were to be returned.

Lieutenant Colonel William Fisher led the negotiations with two others on the Texas side. They were furious about two facts. First was the brutal treatment of Matilda Lockhart. The other was that the terms of the meeting had not been met. The other prisoners had not been brought in.

Chief Maguara was arrogant, demanding lots of payment for other prisoners. When asked why he did not bring all prisoners in as promised, he said that they were elsewhere and could be bought, saying, “How do you like that answer?”

Fisher told the interpreter to tell Maguara that all of the Indians in the room would be imprisoned until the other prisoners were returned. The interpreter at first refused to pass the message on. When he did, he fled immediately and the Comanches whooped their battle-cry with the fight beginning immediately. A number of Comanches broke out of the building, killing townspeople indiscriminately as they ran.

John Hemphill, one of the judges of the court held in the room and present in the meeting, pulled out his Bowie knife to defend himself, killing a Comanche. (I love the idea that a Republic of Texas judge was wearing a Bowie knife in his courtroom!) Another judge was killed outside.

All Comanche warriors and chiefs died in the battle. Six Texans, including the Bexar County sheriff were killed with ten wounded. Thirty women and children Comanches were captured. The wife of one was dispatched to communicate that the remaining would be killed unless the Texas captives were returned.

The Comanches then slowly tortured thirteen Texan captives to death. I am unable to find what happened to the Comanche captives in Texas hands.

Later in 1840, the Comanches were to launch the largest organized raid on Texas in history. But that is another story for another day.

Tom Glass lives in Northwest Harris County. Click here to reach his email. He is also on Facebook as Tom G Glass.

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