Dutch Henry Born: Wild West legend

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Before cars were invented, almost every town had a livery stable. Pagosa Springs was no exception, as this picture shows. Visitors rented saddle horses, teams and wagons. Feed was available and visitors with their own saddle horses or teams and wagons could leave their stock overnight for a nominal fee.

Kit Carson was already a legend in 1864 when he marched troops from Santa Fe down the Canadian River and into the Texas Panhandle. Surprisingly, Carson could neither read nor write; was maybe 5 feet, 5 inches and 140 pounds; and very soft spoken. Nevertheless, he was more than legend; he was the real thing.
Carson led 260 cavalry, 75 infantry and 72 Ute and Jicarilla Apache scouts onto the Texas Panhandle in search of the winter camp of Kiowa and Comanche Indians who had been preying upon wagons trains carrying supplies back and forth between Kansas City and Santa Fe.
Two days after leaving Santa Fe, Carson arrived a little west of Adobe Walls with two mountain howitzers, 27 wagons, an ambulance and 45 days’ rations. In their first engagement, Carson’s troops routed a Kiowa village of 150 lodges. Other nearby villages learned of Carson’s presence and prepared for battle. Carson moved into the old Adobe Walls Fort, where he had served Bent 20 years earlier. That’s where things went downhill. Carson learned of a Comanche village of 500 lodges within a mile of Adobe Walls. He was soon surrounded by between 3,000 and 7,000 warriors, far more than he had anticipated.
When supplies started running low, Carson took advantage of the fire power and range of his howitzers and adroitly retreated back to New Mexico. In all, Carson’s troops had three killed and 25 wounded. Indian casualties were estimated from 100 to 150. Once home, Carson contended that 1,000 fully equipped troops would be needed to capture the Adobe Walls Fort.
Ten years later, Dutch Henry Born, along with 28 other bison hunters, hunkered down in the old fort, staring across the prairie grass at an estimated 300 to 1,500 menacing warriors. Included among the trapped buffalo hunters were 20-year-old Bat Masterson, William “Billy” Dixon and one woman, the wife of cook William Olds.
A small community which included a saloon had blossomed near the fort. Some of the defenders occupied the saloon.
Dixon described the initial attack this way: “There was never a more splendidly barbaric sight. In after years I was glad that I had seen it. Hundreds of warriors, the flower of the fighting men of the southwestern Plains tribes, mounted on their finest horses, armed with guns and lances, and carrying heavy shields of thick buffalo hide, were coming like the wind. Over all was splashed the rich colors of red, vermillion and ochre, on the bodies of men, on the bodies of running horses …”
Continued next week.

This story was posted on December 16, 2018.