Cavalry column launched against Panhandle Indians
On this day in 1868, the Canadian River Expedition was launched as part of Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's winter campaign against the Indians of the southern plains. Maj. Andrew Evans left Fort Bascom, New Mexico, with more than 500 officers and men. Following the left bank of the Canadian, the column encountered a blizzard two days later, but despite deep snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures the troops trudged their way over the Fort Smith-Santa Fe route across the Panhandle and established a supply depot probably in what is now Hemphill County, Texas. After more than a month of hard campaigning, Evans finally came upon a Comanche village at Soldier Spring, in what is now Greer County, Oklahoma. A sharp battle on Christmas Day drove the surprised Indians from their lodges and resulted in the destruction of vast quantities of dried buffalo meat and other provisions on which they depended for winter survival. The troops lost only one killed and two slightly wounded, while the Indians sustained twenty-five fatalities. Evans and his force returned to Fort Bascom in early February. Although lasting peace was not effected for almost another decade, the Indians of the southern plains realized that winter was no longer a safeguard against campaigns by white soldiers. Evans was brevetted colonel for his action at Soldier Spring.