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Letters from Eagle Pass

EAGLE PASS, September 12, 1859.

I am under the necessity of troubling you to record one of the most brutal murders in the annals of Texan history, where women and children, before being put to a horrid death, were ravished. On the 10th inst., about 6 o’clock p., m. Mr. Wilson, who lives on the Pendencia (Creek), came here and reported that, on the 8th instant, a party of Indians had attacked those ranchos on the Pendencia, and killed several persons.

Six of my neighbors and myself started about 8 o’clock the same evening for the purpose of relieving the distressed, and, if possible, to overtake the Indians; we arrived at the scene of action about 5 o’clock the next morning, where we met Mr. W. F. Smith and two other  gentlemen who live on the Cariso (Carrizo), situated about eighteen miles south of the Pendencia, and who informed us that the Indians had passed near their place on the 9th; that they had rested for several hours within six miles of it, and also that they themselves had followed the trail for thirty-five miles in a southwesterly direction, and within about fifteen miles from the Rio Grande. The Pendencia is situated about thirty-five miles southeast of this place; there were four families living there—a Mr. Worman, wife, and infant about six months old; a Mrs. Hunter and two daughters, one six and the other nine years old; also Mr. Wilson, who was not there at the time. The above-named people lived in two houses immediately together, on the northwest side of the creek; Mr. Lafferty, four children and a woman, lived immediately opposite; and a Mexican, Cosme Romas, and wife, lived about three-quarters of a mile higher up the creek. The Indians attacked the two houses that are immediately together, where there was no one except the above enumerated women and children; Mr. Worman was at the time about 70 yards from the house, dragging brush for a fence that he was making. As soon as the Indians discovered him, and saw that he was unarmed, they sent two of the party to kill him, the main body taking charge of the women and children, and destroying everything in or about the houses. In the meantime, it seems, they had sent two of their party to the house opposite to reconnoitre, as it were. There they found no one but the women and children, Mr. Lafferty having left a few moments previous with his double barrelled-shot-gun, for the purpose of shooting a crane that he had seen below his house, and also to look at his mules that were grazing in the same direction. As soon as the women and children saw these two Indians approach, they ran out of the house towards Mr. Lafferty, who, hearing the noise and seeing the people run towards him, and two men on horseback after them, he started to meet them, not thinking the men in pursuit were Indians. He immediately pushed the woman and children in the ravine, where he defended them and himself with the two charges his gun contained, having no ammunition with him. The two Indians seeing that they could not accomplish their object alone, hallooed and motioned to their companions, who were amusing themselves by tormenting the women and children, and destroying everything, and, to crown their enjoyment, would send now and then an arrow into the body of the dead man (Worman.) After satisfying themselves that the work of destruction was completed, they drove the women and children before them, and proceeded to the opposite houses, where they had another jollification in destroying what was there. They then went on towards the ravine where the two Indians were guarding Mr. Lafferty, and halted about 100 yards from it, and there committed the greatest crime of crimes. Oh! what a horrible sight must this have been! What must have been the anguish of the unfortunate mother who was compelled to witness the savages ravishing her daughters, one of six and the other of ten years!

Would I were able to describe the crime in a true light; I think it would incite the nation with just  indignation and vengeance, and sweep the whole savage nation from the face of the earth. They ended their amusements there by beating out the brains of the mother and her two daughters. While some were engaged in the horrible work, others were trying all stratagems to get at Mr. L. in the ravine without exposing themselves, not having even courage to approach openly a single man with a gun. At last one of the Indians, more daring than the others, crawled to the mouth of the ravine, while others were at the side to draw off Mr. L’s attention. While Mr. L. was pointing his gun at those at his flank, two of the arrows from the bow of the Indian at the mouth of the ravine took effect, one piercing his right breast, and the other his leg below the knee; but neither of the wounds is very dangerous. Mr. L. immediately shot at that Indian, and says that he fell, and, from signs that we have seen, it is very probable that he is mortally wounded. After this the Indians started, taking with them Mrs. Worman and her child. After travelling a short distance they discovered from a hill the house of Cosmo Ramos, and detached a party of nine to do the work of destruction there. But Mr. Ramos happened to be at home and armed with a rifle and six-shooter.

The savages having had fun enough for one day, they did not care about having more, at the risk of at least one of their lives, but contented themselves by driving off four horses that were grazing in the vicinity.

From that place we returned, finding that further pursuit was useless, as our horses were not able to travel fast enough to overtake them before their crossing the Rio Grande, which we thought they would undoubtedly do, as their trail had already been followed within fifteen miles of the river by Mr. Smith and party.

We followed their trail for about eight miles further, where we found that they halted at a creek called “El Tulio.” There, from appearance, they had eaten their dinner; and, to give zest to their appetite, they murdered the infant. Oh! the horrible manner in which it was done! On the side of the creek they made a kind of hole by taking from the level a few stones, and there we found the little infant lying on its face with a large stone across its spine. It had been evidently laid there alive. Its position was that of pictures that I have seen of little angels ascending to heaven; its little arms reaching forward, its left leg stretched out, and the other forming the angle 19 of a square. Just imagine its mother being compelled to be a spectator, and to see her baby probably yet struggling for life when they started!

Can it be possible that our government will look silently on and see these depredations committed day after day, as they undoubtedly will be now that the whole frontier from Fort Clark to the mouth of the Rio Grande is entirely exposed, not only to the Indian, but to all kinds of lawless bands, who can deprive the bone and sinew of our country of their all, of what they have gained, toiled and labored for— what they have gained by the sweat of their brow—and cross the Rio Grande with impunity? While there were troops at Fort Duncan there never was an instance of women and children being massacred, at least not in this vicinity; and, as many people have been decoyed here by the apparently guarding arm of our government, it is my opinion that the government will at least be human enough to build up Fort Duncan.

Yours, respectfully,

11 b.
[From the San Antonio Daily Herald of September 22.]
More Indian news.

We learn from the Eagle Pass mail-carrier that the Indians who committed the fiendish outrages narrated by our correspondent from Eagle Pass, after having been traced into Mexico, and fled to parts unknown as was supposed, returned the next day, the entire gang, to the Pendencia, the scene of their former murders, and were discovered by the Mexican Cosmo Ramos and Mr. Wilson, engaged in rioting, dancing, &c. Ramos and Wilson both arrived, being seen, and hastening back to Eagle Pass gave the alarm, upon which the citizens turned out some forty strong, armed and equipped, elected William Stone captain, and soon started in pursuit; seven of the company were from Mexico. The merchants in Eagle Pass threw open their stores, and generally told the volunteers to help themselves to supplies. Captain Stone obtained a “written permit” from the Mexican comandante to go into Mexico in pursuit of the Indians if necessary.

Source Accessed online: 
Difficulties on Southwestern frontier: Message from the President of the United States, communicating, in compliance with a resolution of the House, information in reference to the difficulties on the southwestern frontier: 36th Congress, First Session: Executive Document No. 52 [House of Representatives] [Digital Version]
United States. Congress (36th, 1st session: 1859-1860). House and Buchanan, James, 1791-1868, Difficulties on Southwestern frontier (April 2, 1860)