Ellison Springs Indian Fight

By: David Paul Smith

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: September 1, 1995

The Ellison Springs Indian Fight took place on August 9, 1864, near Ellison Springs in Eastland County, in Maj. George Bernard Erath's Second Frontier District. It was typical of the kind of small-unit actions that occurred on the frontier during the Civil War. Lt. Singleton Gilbert was in command of citizens of Eastland, Callahan, and Shackelford counties, who formed a company stationed at Nash Springs, three miles northwest of the site of present-day Gorman. On August 8, 1864, he sent out a squad of eight men, led by Cpl. James L. Head; they left camp for a ten-day scouting foray and the next morning came upon fresh Indian signs between the sites of future Cisco and Eastland. Moving southward, they followed a trail made by an estimated thirty to fifty Indians for more than twenty miles before overtaking the party at a ranch several miles west of Gorman, near Ellison Springs. Head promptly retreated to the Gilbert ranch, a few miles away, to where Gilbert brought recruits. Gilbert's arrival provided a force totaling twelve to sixteen troopers to face thirty to thirty-five Indians. Gilbert ordered a frontal assault against the Indians, a number of whom were on foot carrying blankets and bridles to be used on the horses they planned to steal. The charge fell back before a withering fire that killed Gilbert and two other Texans, wounded three more, and left no Indian casualties. The Indians left the field unimpeded by the Texans. This was the only unsuccessful Indian engagement of the summer for Erath's command. The Texans continued to trail the Indians, however, and managed to recover eighteen horses out of approximately fifty that the Indians stole near Stephenville. Several days after the Eastland County men ended their pursuit, Sgt. A. D. Miller, whose eight-man squad was due north of Eastland in Stephens County, came upon a party of at least twenty Indians northwest. These were probably the main body of the party attacked earlier by Gilbert's men. Miller followed the trail for fifteen miles, overtook the Indians, and attacked. In a one-hour battle, with no loss to themselves, Miller's men killed two Indians, wounded three, and captured seventy-three horses, seven saddles, and an assortment of bridles and blankets, thus bringing to a close the brief campaign that began in Eastland County.

Charles Goodnight et al., eds., Pioneer Days in the Southwest from 1850 to 1879 (2d ed., Guthrie, Oklahoma: State Capitol, 1909). Carolyne Lavinia Langston, History of Eastland County (Dallas: Aldridge 1904). Joseph Carroll McConnell, West Texas Frontier (Vol. 1, Jacksboro, Texas, 1933; Vol. 2, Palo Pinto, Texas, 1939).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

David Paul Smith, “Ellison Springs Indian Fight,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ellison-springs-indian-fight.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995