Neches, Battle of the

By: Hampson Gary and Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: August 3, 2020

The battle of the Neches, fought on July 15 and 16, 1839, was the principal engagement of the Cherokee War, a conflict that began when President Mirabeau B. Lamar announced that the time had come for an “exterminating war” on Texas Indians. Under Lamar’s leadership, the Republic refused to recognize earlier treaties with the Cherokees who lived in East Texas and, after accusing the Indians of planning to join Mexico in an insurrection, sent troops commanded by Gen. Thomas J. Rusk to occupy Indian lands. The Cherokee leader, Chief Bowl (Duwali) led an evacuation of their main town, but as the Indians moved north they were attacked a few miles west of present-day Tyler at dusk on July 15. The first day’s battle proved indecisive, but on July 16, Texas troops led by Rusk and Edward Burleson totally defeated the Cherokees and their allies, the Kickapoos, Delawares, and Shawnees, in a fight on the headwaters of the Neches River in present-day Van Zandt County. Chief Bowl entered the battle on horseback, but when his mount was wounded and he was shot through the thigh, he dismounted. After being wounded again, he sat on the battlefield where a Texan soldier shot him in the head. Approximately one hundred Indians died in the fight; Texan losses were reported as five dead and twenty-eight wounded. Most of the Cherokees and their allies who survived the battle fled to the Indian Territory. Among Indian tribes, only the Alabamas and Coushattas remained in significant numbers in East Texas. A Texas Historical Marker was erected on the site of the battle in Van Zandt County in 1968, and an annual Cherokee reunion took place in the county.

Mary Whatley Clarke, Chief Bowles and the Texas Cherokees (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971). Seymour V. Connor et al., Battles of Texas (Waco: Texian Press, 1967; 3d ed. 1980). Dianna Everett, The Texas Cherokees: A People between Two Fires, 1819–1840 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990). Historical Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin. John H. Reagan, "Expulsion of the Cherokees from East Texas," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 1 (July 1897). Marilyn McAdams Sibley, "The Texas Cherokee War of 1839," East Texas Historical Journal 3 (1965). Albert Woldert, "The Last of the Cherokees in Texas and the Life and Death of Chief Bowles," Chronicles of Oklahoma 1 (June 1923).

Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas

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

Hampson Gary and Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell, “Neches, Battle of the,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022,

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August 3, 2020