The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 180
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
From a historical perspective, the Battle of Red River site is very signifi-
cant. The battle represents the initiation on the Southern Plains of the
federal government's policy to rid the plains of American Indians so that
Anglo-Americans could settle the region. This battle was also the first bat-
tle west of the Mississippi River where the Gatling gun was used. From an
archeological perspective, it was important that the precise location of
the site be determined and positively identified. It was our contention
that the archeological investigations could also corroborate and clarify
some of the historical accounts of the battle.19
The Battle of Red River site presented some unique problems and
challenges that had to be dealt with in order for the archeological inves-
tigations to move forward. The first problem that had to be overcome was
determining where the battle site was actually located. The available mil-
itary maps from the campaign showed the general location of the battle
(Figure 2), but the scales on these maps were insufficient to determine
the precise location. It was clear that an on-the-ground reconnaissance
would be necessary in order to determine the exact location of the battle
Another challenge the project faced was not knowing how large an area
the battle site encompassed. From the military documents it was known
that the battle was a running battle that covered a distance of ten to twelve
miles from its start near the line of low hills to its termination near the
mouth of Tule Canyon on the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.
What was not known was how wide an area the battle covered. We be-
lieved that minimally the battle would cover an area at least a mile wide,
and perhaps more. Therefore, we would need to examine, on foot, an
area at least ten square miles in size. This would be a formidable task even
under the best of conditions, and we did not have the best of conditions.
For example, the initial phase of fieldwork was conducted during the
summer of 1998, a summer that would prove to be one of the hottest and
driest on record. Furthermore, the area to be examined was extremely
rough, with deep draws and ravines, high bluffs, and thick mesquite and
juniper. Colonel Miles himself described the area as "the roughest
ground that I had until that time seen men fight upon."o
" Record of ColonelJ. W. Pope, A.Q.M. General, United States Army, RG 94, 5401ACP1871
(National Archives), page 6: Notes: "(1) In the engagement of August 3 [szc], 1874, the Gatling
guns under Colonel Pope were used for the first time on record on the firing line and said guns
charged the hostile Indians with the Squadron of Major James Biddle " See also Paul Wahl and
Donald R. Toppel, The Gatling Gun (New York: Arco Publishing, 1965), Douglas D. Scott, "The
Gatlmng Gun in Combat: Confirming the Physical Evidence through Firearms Identification at the
Battle of Red River Site (41AM1o)" (manuscript on file at the Archeology Division, Texas Histor-
ical Commission, Austin).
20 Miles, PersonalRecollectzons, 168 (quotation) Miles states that the battle "extended over at least
twelve miles from their [the Indians] first attack to their last position." Miles to the Assistant Ad-
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/232/: accessed April 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.