Panhandle Pilgrimage: Illustrated Tales Tracing History in the Texas Panhandle Page: 62
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PICTURES FROM MARCY'S BOOK,
"Adventures on Red River, 1854."
Border of the Llano Estacado
Encampment on 6th June, 1852
Gypsum Bluffs on North Branch Red River
View of Gypsum Bluffs on Canadian River
Captain Marcy Finds Red River Source, 1852
Among Marcy's many renowned explorations, one
more relates to the Panhandle of Texas specifically.
It is his expedition in the summer of 1852 to find the
source of the Red River. Not only did this expedition
supply accurate information regarding the course of
the Red, but Marcy's force collected additional geo-
graphical and scientific information regarding the
region of southwestern Oklahoma and the Tl'exas Pan-
From Indian conversations during the journey to
Santa Fe in 1849, Marcy had become convinced then
that the true source of the Red was much farther east
than was generally believed. The intrepid Zebulon M.
Pike had missed the stream completely; Major Long in
1820 likewise had been unable to find the Red, mistak-
ing the Canadian for it until he had nearly reached Fort
No serious effort had been made to find the true
source of the Red since Long's 182() expedition. ()n
February 25, 1852, Marcy wrote to the Adjutant Gen-
eral, proposing that he be commissioned to lead an
expedition from Fort Washita or Fort Belknap to the
source of the river and pointing out the advantages
of such an undertaking, including:
My acquaintance with the chief's of several bands
of Comanches frequenting that country, and the
knowledge I have of their character and language
will facilitate my intercourse with them and enale
me to pass without molestation through their terri-
tory, when . . . another officer who did not under-
stand their disposition might have difficulty with
So it was that Captain Randolph B. Marcy was au-
thorized by special order to take the necessary per-
sonnel from Company D, Fifth Infantry, and "proceed
without unnecessary delay upon an examination of the
country between the mouth of Cache Creek to the
source of Red River." Second-in-command was Cap-
tain George B. McClellan, later to become Marcy's
son-in-law and one of the most controversial figures
of the Civil War.
The account of Marcy's exploration of the Red River
area is fascinating reading (Adventure on Red River
by R. B. Marcy, 1854, republished in 1937 by Univer-
sity Oklahoma Press). It contains one of the most accu-
rate and lucid descriptions of a portion of the Great
Plains ever printed as a government document. The
expedition was not a particularly long one, either in
time or distance, but to be the first to examine an un-
known country and the first to define an important
river was a distinct honor and responsibility.
From May 17, 1852, when the travelers left Cache
Creek, until they arrived back at Fort Arbuckle on
July 28, was a period of 72 days. At least half this time
the nation believed the Marcy party to have been mas-
sacred by Indians; so their safe return was widely
Captain Marcy had been instructed to give careful
attention to things other than the course of the stream
he was to explore and chart, and he obeyed orders
both in letter and in spirit, resulting in unprecedented
scientific discoveries about the region. Information and
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Robertson, Pauline Durrett & Robertson, R. L. Panhandle Pilgrimage: Illustrated Tales Tracing History in the Texas Panhandle, book, 1978; Amarillo, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth225495/m1/80/?q=neighbors%20and%20marcy: accessed October 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Canyon Area Library.