Quanah Parker’s band was the last group of Comanches to roam over the Texas Panhandle and the Staked Plains. Ranald “Broken-Hand” Mackenzie’s troopers sought Quanah without success. Until they captured a renegade “Comanchero” returning from a trading rendezvous. Mackenzie hung the unfortunate Comanchero from a propped-up wagon tree until he talked. He said Quanah was camped at Palo Duro Canyon.
Mackenzie abandoned his supply wagons. A force-march during the night led them to the Comanche camp at the foot of the Caprock. Comanche warriors managed to escape up the canyon walls to the plains above. They held the high ground, shooting down on the troopers.
Mackenzie let the Comanches escape. He’d captured their supplies and he put those to the torch. The Indians faced a cold winter without any supplies.
In a previous encounter, the Comanches had managed to steal back their horses under the cover of darkness. Not this time. Mackenzie ordered the Comanche horses shot! Afoot on the plains with hungry women and children, Quanah had no choice. He surrendered to Mackenzie.
But Mackenzie was ill. Just before his wedding date he broke into a store and threatened the owner. Mackenzie was transported to an asylum in New York City, suffering from “paralysis of the insane.”
I’ve talked with Texas horse-lovers who believed that the slaughter of the Indian horse drove Mackenzie mad. His symptoms indicate syphilis.
This isn’t the end of the story for Quanah Parker, who proved himself an outstanding leader in captivity.