The Great Raid of 1840

Updated: Sep 7

Less than 5 months after the disastrous break-down of negotiations with the Comanches at the Council House Fight on March 19, 1840, the Comanches launched the largest Comanche assault on Texas on the afternoon of August 6, 1840. This raid is sometimes called the Great Raid of 1840.

Over 1,000 Comanches, with Mexican assistance, attacked Victoria first, killing people working in the fields outside of town and stealing 1,500 horses. The attackers surrounded the town, killing people trying to come and go to the town the next day (although some made it out to go get help). Because the town seemed too well defended, the marauders moved south, camping on the evening of August 7 twelve miles north of a town on Lavaca Bay called Linnville (which was about 3.5 miles northeast of modern day Port Lavaca), killing anyone out and about they could find.

The next morning, August 8, the horde set upon Linnville, killing men and capturing women and children. One of the woman captured after her husband of 21 days was killed was the beautiful Juliet Constance Watts. Most of the townspeople were able to reach boats and sail out into the bay to escape. From the boats, they watched helplessly as their town was completely looted, their cattle slaughtered, and then the buildings burned. Linnville would never be rebuilt.

The booty laden Comanches, who had brought their wives and children on the party, started their very slow retreat back toward West Texas And of course, they had their captives including the new, young widow Watts. They were adorned with captured clothing from their Linnville looting.

The lot of almost every woman captive of the Comanche was to be gang raped. Mrs. Watts was lucky. She had on a whalebone corset and the Comanches had not figured out how to get it off her as they were on the move. They stripped her down to her corset and she was taken in that state along with them, receiving a bad sunburn in the scorching August sun.

But the word had gone out all over Texas and a hastily assembled response force headed toward the band.

The volunteer Texas Army and Texas Rangers involved in the Battle of Plum Creek included a cast of Texas luminaries led by Felix Huston. Ed Burleson and Matthew Caldwell led under Huston. The Texas Rangers were led by Ben McCulloch. Jack Hays served under him. The place of the battle later became part of Caldwell County, named after Matthew Caldwell who fought in the battle. Of course, Burleson, McCulloch, and Hays Counties are named after those other heroes.

The Texas defenders caught up with the slow moving Comanche train on August 12, 1840 near the modern town of Lockhart along Plum Creek. Under the experienced Indian fighter Texas Ranger leadership, the Texans decisively defeated the Comanches, killing 88 compared to only one death for the Texans.

It was a running battle over 15 miles. The Texans stampeded the thousands of horses that were being driven by the spread out Comanches. Rifle fire from the brush started the rout of the mounted Comanches. Six guns on the mobile mounted Texans kept it up.

As was typical, the Comanches took the time during the battle to kill as many of their captives as possible. Many were found tied to trees and shot with arrows. They tried that on Mrs. Watts, too. But the whalebone in her corset saved her life and she was freed in the battle.

The Comanches never again ventured so far south in Texas and never again sacked an entire town.