A TEXAS TECH professor may have discovered the grave of Pvt. Seander Gregg, solving a century-old mystery. More than 103 years ago, Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, son of the white captive Cynthia Ann, shot and killed Pvt. Gregg during a wild and bloody fight in Blanco Canyon, not far from the present Crosbyton, Tex. So wrote Capt. Robert G. Carter, author of the book, "On The Border With Mackenzie." The Quohada Comanches didn't take the time to scalp Gregg. His comrades hastily buried him and continued a running battle with the Comanches through the rugged canyon. This was the famous battle in which the Comanches got out of the canyon and up onto the flat high plains and vanished in the darkness of a sudden blue norther.
The location of Gregg's grave was forgotten, but historians have searched for many decades. Dr. Ernest Wallace of Texas Tech, an authority on Gen. Ranald Mackenzie and his Indian campaigns, recently located a sketch of the battleground north of Silver Falls in Blanco Canyon where Gregg died. The sketch is believed to have been made by Capt. Carter. Wallace found it in the Smithsonian Institute. In mid-September, Wallace with other historians of the Lubbock Llano Estacado Corral of Westerners visited the site. The sketch showed that the burial was at the base of a hill or butte in Blanco Canyon, but the grave found by Wallace is on top of the hill. Wallace theorizes that the body was first buried at the base of the hill, but was moved after wolves disturbed it. A reporter for the Crosbyton Review wrote on Sept. 19 that the grave, ironically, was opened in digging by youngsters and a deputy sheriff who were searching for a missing man. The skull and several military buttons were forwarded to Austin for ballistics tests to determine whether the body was that of the missing man. It was not. Buttons recovered from the grave were identified as "early cavalry buttons of the Civil War era." The historians have not exhumed the rest of the skeleton. Some residents of the area, including Bobby Adams of the Bridwell Ranch, think the grave located is not the Gregg burial site.
Carter won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions the day Gregg died, Oct. 9, 1S71. During the Blanco Canyon fight and chase that raged for two days, his horse was shot in the shoulder and Carter suffered a crushed leg that eventually forced him out of the service. Despite his injuries of a shattered leg, he remounted and continued fighting during the Blanco Canyon battle. He later described the fight under a heading, "Tragedies of Canyon Blanco."
Mackenzie and his 4th Cavalry started their mission that fall with about 600 men, a supply train of 100 pack mules, and more than a score of Tonkawa scouts, including By PAUL McCLUNG a rough and tough female warrior called "Texas." The troopers started in high spirits, and Carter wrote that the old song rang out down the column, "Come home, John, don't stay long: Come home soon to your own Chick-a-biddy!" The skies were clear. Buffalo and antelope were abundant and the sun was shining at the start of the campaign. The mission was to seek out and capture the Quahadi and to recover stock believed stolen from some white ranchers, and to recover a youngster believed held by the Comanches.
At midnight Oct. 9, 1871. the Comanches surprised the cavalry. Flapping buffalo hides, they stampeded the cavalry horses and mules. The stampede made a noise like thunder, Carter wrote. The Indians got away, with about 70 of the best horses and mules, including Gen. Mackenzie's gray pacer. Quanah took the pacer for himself. Carter said Gen. Frank Baldwin told him in 1914 that when Baldwin was Indian agent at Fort Sill, in 1876, that Quanah sought an interview with Mackenzie and told him he would return the pacer. But Mackenzie declined the offer. That night of the horse raid, the troopers spent hours trying to catch their remaining mounts, and next day chased the Comanches and tried to recover the stolen horses and mules. Carter, with five seasoned men including Sgt. Jenkins and Pvts. Melville. Downey, Foley and Gregg, pursued some Indians fleeing with U.S. horses, and ran into a Comanche trap. They were three miles from the camp of the night before. Their horses were almost exhausted. They found themselves surrounded by screaming Comanches mounted on fresh horses. Carter said their "jubilant, discord and yells would have put to blush any Confederate brigade of the Civil War.
The mounted Indians, including fearsome scalp pole bearers, circled the little party. Carter said Capt. E. M, Heyl and seven men, mostly recruits, panicked and froze and fled, leaving Carter and the other five troopers. Downey was shot in the hand. The six fired Spencer carbines and tried to fall back. The Indians recoiled, and some fell off their ponies. But, Carter recalled, "I felt that our time to die had come; Gregg, riding a flea-bitten gray, was 10 to 15 yards to Carter's right and rear. He shouted to Carter, "Lieutenant, my horse is giving out!" The horse staggered, and the Indians rushed in.
Carter wrote: "A large and powerfully built chief led the bunch, on a coal-black racing pony. Leaning-forward upon his mane, his heels nervously working in the animal's side, with six- shooter poised in air, he seemed the incarnation of savage, brutal joy. His face was smeared with black war paint, which gave his features a satanic look . . ." Carter said the Indian wore a full-length head-dress of eagle's feathers "spreading out as he rode, and descending from his forehead, over head and back, to his pony's tail, almost swept the ground. Large brass hoops were in his ears; he was naked to his waist, wearing simple leggings, moccasins and a breech clout. A necklace of bear's claws hung about his neck. His scalp lock was carefully- braided in with otter fur, and tied with bright red flannel. "His horse's bridle was profusely ornamented with bits of silver and red. Flannel was also braided in his mane and tail, but being black, he was "not" painted. Bells jingled as he rode at headlong speed, followed by the leading warriors, all eager to out-strip him in the race. It was Quanah.
Carter said, he believed for some years that the chief was either Mow-wi, or Para-a-coorn (He Bear) but that Quanah told Gen. Frank Baldwin and J. F. Randlett on the reservation "years later' that he led the Indians , and the pony's name was "Running Deer."
Carter said he fired several shots with a Smith Wesson pistol at not more than 30 feet, but the chief was on the other side of Gregg, and the cavalrymen were afraid their bullets would hit him. Carter said he shouted for Gregg to use his carbine. "Alas! he did try, but through nervous "strain and excitement, his pull on the lever was too weak, and the cartridge stuck.
Carter then shouted for Gregg to pull his six-shooter, and Gregg reached for it. "Too late! A flash! A report from the chief's pistol, now at Gregg's head -- a fall -- a thud -- a tragic death -- and his horse, now relieved of his rider, turned and ran into the Indian lines."
The rest of the column reached the scene. Gregg was buried, and the battle continued to rage through the canyon that day, and the next. Oct 12 was a cold, overcast gray morning, as the cavalry followed the trail of several hundred Indians, the entire ullage, fleeing out of the canyon and upon to the high plains. The cavalry lost the Commanches.
The troopers huddled that night with their animals and later straggled back to civilization. It was more than three years later, June 2, 1875 when Quanah and the other Quohadas, 100 warriors, 300 non-combatants and 1,400 ponies, surrendered, marching into Fort Sill and reservation life.
Carter died Jan. 4, 1936 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. So is Heyl. Mackenzie is buried at the Cadet Cemetery at West Point. Quanah Parker lies at Chiefs Knoll in the Post Cemetery at Fort Sill. Gregg lies in a shallow grave on a windswept butte on the Texas Caprock.
"If you go back through Comanche history, you see that they were the ones who stopped the Spanish from coming North," he explains. "Why did the French stop coming west from Louisiana? Comanches. ... Here was why the West Coast and the East Coast settled before the middle of the country. Here was why there was basically a 40-year wait before you could develop the state of Texas or before other Plain states could be developed."S.C. Gwynne