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Iron Shirt

Native American Nations | Indian Warriors
 

During the all of Texas was terrorized by a band of Comanches led by an arrogant, fearless chief known as Iron Shirt. The stronghold of the Comanches was in the Northern Plains, an area where few outsiders ever ventured except for a few Mexican traders who established friendly trade relations with the Indians. The central and lower portions of the state, however, were dotted with settlements which provided rich raiding grounds for the Comanche warriors, whose daring and skilled horsemanship made them a terrifying foe.
Little is known about Iron Shirt, whose tribal name was Pohibit Quasha. It is believed that he was a hereditary chief of the Comanche, and for years the white and Mexican victims of his raids though of him as a supernatural being because of his seeming invulnerability. Members of posses on several occasions insisted that they shot the chief dead center without harming him.

From some Tonkawas it was learned that the secret of the chief's imperviousness to bullets was the shirt he wore: it was made of his ancestors and was hundreds of years old.
When Governor Hardin R. Runnels became governor of Texas on January 1, 1858, he decided to put an end to the Comanche raids. Runnels presented to the state legislature an act to enlarge the Texas Rangers into an effective fighting force. With the passage of the act, 100 men were added to the Rangers and a famous fighting man, "Old Rip" (John S.) Ford was made senior captain in charge of the entire organization. Ford was told by the governor to follow all hostile Indian trails and do whatever was necessary to subdue the raiders.

In April, Ford led an expedition of 102 rangers toward the Comanche stronghold. At Cottonwood Springs they joined forces with Agent Shapley Ross and 113 Indians. Most of the Indians were Tonkawas, a tribe friendly to the white men but hated by the other Indian tribes because they practiced cannibalism. Ford had great faith in the abilities of an Indian guide named Jim Pockmark.

The Rangers crossed the Red River and marched to Sweetwater Creek, then moved north along the line which now divides Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle to the Washita and the Canadian. Scouts spied Comanche hunters near the Antelope Hills, a favorite bison-hunting area. Hiding their wagons, the Rangers rode north, keeping out of sight by following arroyos. Early next morning Ford and his men sighted the Comanche camp, cliche consisted of some 70 lodges. Ford ordered an immediate attack. The Tonkawas took the lead, encountering a small camp en route. In a quick and ruthless fight, the Tonkawas killed all but two Comanches, who managed to spur their horses away and set up an alarm at the main village. Iron Jacket rallied his warriors to meet the attack. Then he rode forth on his grey mount and rode back and forth before the intruders as though daring them to shoot him. As bullets ricocheted from the armor that encased his torso, he continued to taunt his enemies with blood-curdling war cries.

When Iron shirt turned his horse back and rode toward his braves, Jim Pockmark aimed carefully and fired. Iron Shirt, who was leaning to the side as his horse broke into a gallop, crashed to the ground and lay still. A young brave, seeing that the warriors were petrified at the sight of their leader's fall, rode forward and urged them to fight. A bullet ended his life. The Ocmanches fled north, most of them escaping across Little Robe Creek. Only one member of the attacking force was killed as the Rangers took 23prisoners and the Indian scouts looted the camp and rounded up a large number of Comanche ponies. So ended the Battle of Antelope Hills, the first war expedition into the homeland of the Comanche's.
Chief Iron Shirt had been killed when Pockmark's bullet penetrated under a plate of his armor. His bulletproof shirt was a relic hundreds of years old, part of the war gear of a Spanish conquistador.

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Collection of books and papers, 1922-1925

Indian Warriors

 

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