Studying the Red River
War Battle Sites

The Red River War

In the summer of 1874, U.S. military forces launched a major campaign against the Southern Plains Indians in an attempt to permanently move the Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians from the region onto the reservations established in western Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). This campaign, fought largely in the Texas Panhandle, is known today as the Red River War. As a result, the Texas frontier and the nomadic culture of many Native American tribes were forever altered.

The Sites

THC archeologists investigated the following five battle sites in 1998 and 1999:

  • The Adobe Walls site in present Hutchinson County
  • The Battle of Red River site in present Armstrong and Briscoe counties
  • The Buffalo Wallow site in present Hemphill County
  • The Battle of Lyman’s Wagon Train site also in present Hemphill County
  • The Battle of Sweetwater Creek site in Wheeler County

The Discoveries

The two seasons of fieldwork at the battle sites were tremendously successful. More than 3,300 battle-related artifacts were recovered, precise battle site boundaries were established, new interpretations were made possible about specific battle events, and information is now available regarding arms and ammunition used by the U.S. Army and the Southern Plains Indians. The investigations also revealed that the sites remained relatively undisturbed for the last 125 years.

Interestingly, the findings supported some historical records but contradicted others. For example, analysis of recovered artifacts suggests that fewer Indians participated in the battles and were not as well-armed as military reports indicated.

Read more about the findings in Battles of the Red River War: Archeological Perspectives on the Indian Campaign of 1874, which was published with support from the FTHC.

All Thanks to Our Donors

A special thanks to our project donors:

  • Abell-Hanger Foundation
  • Amarillo Area Foundation
  • Harold and Joyce Courson
  • David D. and Nona S. Payne Foundation
  • Summerlee Foundation
  • National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program
  • M.K. Brown Foundation
  • Amos N. Molyneaux Trust
  • Josephine Anderson Trust
  • Summerfield G. Roberts Trust
  • The Helen Irwin Littauer Educational Trust

And thanks to Humanities Texas for enabling the production of the 2010 travel guide: Red River War of 1874-1875, Clash of Cultures in the Texas Panhandle.