War

The following are a collection of sources that in some way describe armed conflict against the Karankawas:

[1684-1687] The La Salle Expedition to Texas: 1684-1687

Author: Henri Joutel

Written In: ~1691

Description: Henri Joutel served as a trusted lieutenant during Sieur de La Salle’s attempt to establish a military settlement deep within the Karankawas’ territory in 1685. When French settlers and the Karankawas first encountered each other, they maintained cordial relationships. Trouble began when one of La Salle’s ships Aimable became grounded and split-up in the Bay. Some days after Aimable grounded, La Salle’s men saw the Clamcoehs (Karankawas) with goods from the shipwreck. A small number of hot-headed Frenchmen went to the Karankawas’ camp with their weapons on display and started a war. The Karankawas proved adept at ambushing and killing stray Frenchmen. The French proved less adept at ambushing and killing the Clamcoehs.

With La Salle’s colony floundering, the cavalier decided to traverse a thousand miles northward to Canada and acquire aid. Before doing so, La Salle made peace with the Karankawas. Forty-six of the original two-hundred and eighty colonists remained. Sixteen men accompanied La Salle, including Joutel. Twenty-five men, women, and children remained at the colony. Moreover, four deserters (or men purposefully left by La Salle among Native Americans groups) lived among the Caddos and Coahuiltecans.

On La Salle’s trip north, his men murdered him and would have murdered Joutel had they not been calmed by La Salle’s brother, Jean Cavelier. Joutel and those who did not participate in the assassination traversed to Canada and returned to France in late 1688. His journal is widely considered the most accurate source concerning the La Salle colony. 

Relevant Information:

(1) La Salle’s first encounter with the Karankawas is mutually friendly. They swim to his ship, he provides clothing and food and asks about his location. Karankawas return to the beach and invite the French to land, but with seas too rough, La Salle continues further down the Texas coast. Karankawas follow his progress (72-75). This is key because often historians blame Karankawas for “immediately beginning depredations upon the colony.” Kathryn Stoner O’Connor, Presidio La Bahía (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones Co, 1966), 3. Instead, the Karankawas treated the newcomers with respect.

(2) In search of the Mississippi, La Salle lands his men on Matagorda Island and has them march along the coast until they encounter the river. On this march, they notice that the Karankawas had previously burned the prairie—likely to drive out game and attract buffalo to new sprouts (83, 139). Moreover, men are anxious about Karankawas. Not because of anything the Karankawas had done, but rather the European idea that Natives were inherently “savage” (84).

(3) The Karankawas second major encounter with La Salle is, again, quite favorable (88-89). Joutel describes the Karankawas’ sign language. Specifically, “demonstrating friendship by putting their hands over their hearts” (88).

(4) Karankawas invite a few of La Salle’s men to their village. Joutel describes their  settlement in detail (89-90).

(5) La Salle’s ship Aimable wrecks (91-92). La Salle’s men spotted some Karankawas with bolts of Normandy blankets from the wreckage (93). A group of men, unwisely chosen by La Salle, recklessly march into the Karankawas’ camp with their weapons on display, causing most Karankawas to flee. These Frenchmen reclaimed their goods and in turn, stole canoes and other items from the Karankawas. They started a war. Karankawas ambush and kill two of these men shortly after (94).

(6) Karankawas are watching the French in their fort (98-106). They are keeping the men anxious and unable to stray too far. In short, they are making the living experience horrendous.

(7) La Salle makes a sweeping attack against the Karankawas. He and his men killed four and captured three women (117). One woman died from her wounds. A young girl was baptized and then shortly after perished (136). What became of the last woman is unknown. 

(8) Karankawas kill six men in revenge (120).

(9) Another skirmish with the Karankawas takes place (141-142).

(10) Yet another skirmish is recorded, one Karankawa is wounded, presumed possibly dead (147-148).

(11) La Salle is preparing to leave for French-Canada, but before doing so he tries to make peace with the Karankawas so they will no longer attack Fort Saint Louis (155-159). Joutel writes, “if these precautions of [peace] had been taken from the moment we arrived in the country, the natives would not then have killed so many of us” (157).

Access: Henri Joutel, The La Salle Expedition to Texas: 1684-1687, ed. William C. Foster, trans. Johanna S. Warren (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1998). Unfortunately, educational fair-use only allows me to post 10% of this text. If you have the means, this source is well worth acquiring. There is a great deal of additional information that I wish I could upload. And more generally, Joutel’s account is plain fascinating. If additional context is required, contact me.

Further Reading: Robert Weddle has written prolifically on the La Salle expedition. See particularly: Weddle, The Wreck of the Belle, the Ruin of La Salle (College Station: Texas A&M University Press), 2001; Weddle, Wilderness Manhunt: The Spanish Search for La Salle (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973); Weddle, “La Salle’s Survivors,” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 75, no. 4 (April, 1972): 413-433.

Tags: Appearance, Canoes, Disease, Dress, Environment, Hunting, Shelter, Sign-language, Trade, War

 

[1687] Juan Enríquez Barroto’s Voyage and Diary

Author: Juan Enríquez Barroto

Written In: 1687

Description: When the Spaniards learned that the French had settled in Texas, they sent numerous expeditions to locate and ultimately destroy the French establishment. Juan Enríquez Barroto served as chief pilot on one of these searches by sea in 1687. He mapped geographical features and recorded all that he saw. Sailing north from Veracruz, this expedition hugged the entire coast of Texas and treated with nearly every Native American group along that coast.

Relevant Information: 

(1) Spaniards attempt to kidnap a Karankawa. With a knife, the Karankawa wounded three of his would-be captors and caused the Spaniards to flee. See April 7th, pg. 173.

(2) A war between the Atakapas and Karankawas during this period is implied. In 1719, a shipwrecked Frenchman who the Akokisas enslaved, validates a conflict between the Akokisas and the Karankawas. See April 23rd, pg 184. And the Simars de Bellisle entry.

(3) The Karankawas geographical range is labeled as from around Aransas Bay to Matagorda Bay. From Corpus Christi southward, Enríquez labels as being the lands of “pelones y rayados” (bald and tattooed), or Coahuiltecans. From Galveston Bay northward, Enriquez labels as being the lands of the Akokisas and Atakapas. Karankawa Indians increased their borders in both directions over time. 

Access: Robert Weddle, La Salle, the Mississippi and the Gulf (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1987) 173-174. I am unable to post a full copy of this text because of fair-use conditions, so I have only uploaded the sections that have relevance to the Karankawas. If additional context is required, contact me.

Further Reading: For more on how the Spaniards learned of the French settlement of Fort Saint-Louis, see Weddle, Wilderness Manhunt: The Spanish Search for La Salle (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1973), 7-14.

Tags: Appearance, Canoes, Environment, Height, Sign Language, Trade, War

 

[1689] Alonso De León’s First Expedition

Author: Alonso De León, the younger; Damián Massanet

Written In: 1689 (Alonso de León), 1690 (Father Massanet)

Description: Spanish captain Alonso de León is sent to locate and destroy La Salle’s military settlement. De León finds Fort Saint Louis already destroyed by the Karankawas. Smallpox and a war that the French began served as motivation for ransacking Fort Saint Louis. I cover this expedition in my thesis, see pages 15-38. I am also writing an article on this event that I will link to after its publication.

Two authors are represented in this entry. Alonso de León, who kept a detailed diary during his entrada (pages 388-404), and Father Massanet, who accompanied de León and wrote a letter about his experiences after this expedition occurred (pages 357-366). Of note, both chroniclers thought very little of the other. Both de León and Massanet discuss an “old Frenchman” who helped guide the expedition. That Frenchman is Jean Henri. These sources also discuss the “Tejas,” these Indians are Caddos, not Karankawas.

Relevant Information: 

(1) Discovery of Fort Saint-Louis. See page 362 (Father Massanet), page 397-399 (Alonso de León Diary).

(2) Discussing how Natives in the region “dig wells for drinking water.” Page 363 (Father Massanet).

(3) Interior Indians, perhaps Caddos, telling Alonso de León that the Karankawas had killed the French settlers and that an epidemic of smallpox had broken out when the killings occurred. Evidence that the Karankawas likely correlated the break out of smallpox with the French settlers. Page 395 (Alonso de León Diary). Also see Teran’s entry, “relevant information” point two.

(4) Alonso de León tours the Karankawas’ country, but only encounters an abandoned seasonal village of theirs. Pages 389-401 (Alonso de León Diary).

Access: Herbert E. Bolton, Spanish Exploration in the Southwest: 1542-1706, (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 1908), 357-366; 388-404. 

Further Reading: Lola Orellano Norris, General Alonso de León’s Expeditions into Texas: 1686-1690 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2017). Bolton’s version has numerous errors. Lola Orellano Norris’s recent translations are the best available. She also gives fantastic background information on the expeditions. Bolton’s version is nonetheless represented because the document is in the public domain. To see the path De León took, see William C. Foster, Spanish Expeditions Into Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 17-33.

Tags: Disease, Environment, Migrations, Shelter, War

 

[1690] Alonso De León’s Second Expedition

Author: Alonso De León, the younger; Damián Massanet

Written In: 1690

Description: After Alonso de León’s expedition to the coast, the Viceroy of New Spain ordered Alonso de Leon back to Fort Saint-Louis to burn it completely to the ground. Suspicious as usual, the Spaniards had no intention of giving the French an opportunity of repopulating their failed fort. The Viceroy also ordered De León to capture the remaining French interlopers living among the First Peoples in the area. 

Analogous to the 1689 expedition, two authors are represented in this entry. Alonso de León, who kept a detailed diary during the entrada (pages 405-425), and Father Massanet, who accompanied de León and wrote a letter about his experiences after these expeditions occurred (pages 367-388). Of note, both chroniclers thought very little of the other. Both de León and Massanet discuss an “old Frenchman” who helped guide the expedition. That Frenchman is Jean Henri. These sources also discuss the “Tejas,” these Indians are Caddos, not Karankawas.

Relevant Information:

(1) The expedition arrives at Fort Saint Louis and burn it to the ground. Pages 369 (Father Massanet), page 409 (Alonso de León Diary).

(2) In an attempt to acquire children that the Karankawas abducted and adopted from Fort Saint Louis, violence breaks out. Spaniards, in-turn, kidnap three children from the Karankawas: Marie-Madelaine, Robert, and Lucien Jr. Talon. Three more children remain among the various Karankawa groups on the coast: Jean-Baptiste, Eustache Brahman, and an unnamed French girl. Father Massanet and De León’s testimony on this event differ dramatically (see my honors thesis, page 29). Juan Bautista Chapa also relates this event, but his loyalties lie with De León. Jean-Baptiste Talon’s testimony (see Jean Baptiste Talon’s entry, page 241) is likely the most accurate accounting of this incident. Pages 384-385 (Father Massanet), pages 419-421 (Alonso de León Diary).

Access: Herbert E. Bolton, Spanish Exploration in the Southwest: 1542-1706, (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 1908), 367-387; 405-424.

Further Reading: Lola Orellano Norris, General Alonso de León’s Expeditions into Texas: 1686-1690 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2017). Bolton’s version has numerous errors. Lola Orellano Norris’s recent translations are the best available. She also gives fantastic background information on the expeditions themselves. Bolton’s version is nonetheless represented because the document is in the public domain. To see the path De León took, see William C. Foster, Spanish Expeditions Into Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 17-33.

Tags: Environment, Migrations, Shelter, Sign Language, Smoke Signals, War

 

[1689-1690] Texas and Northeastern Mexico, 1630-1690 

Author: Juan Bautista Chapa

Written in: ~1690

Description: Chapa accompanied Alonso de León on his 1689 expedition. Although Chapa was not part of the 1690 expedition, he provides additional information on the entrada. Chapa and the De León family were quite close, therefore his history is biased in their direction.

This document describes “a Frenchman” who serves as a guide. This Frenchman is Jean Henri (Jean Géry, Jean Jarry), a possible deserter of La Salle’s colony. Chapa provides a great deal of information on Henri, but for the sake of this entry, and the limited amount of pages I can share under educational fair-use, I have not included this information. I am in the process of writing an article about Henri. Upon completion, I will post it here.

Relevant Information:

(1) De León’s expedition learns that “coastal Indians” (Karankawas) killed most of the Fort Saint Louis settlers (pg 127).

(2) De León’s expedition arrives at Fort Saint Louis and records the destruction (pgs 128-136).

(3) Two Frenchmen are captured living among the Caddos: Jacques Grôlet and Jean L’Arcjevêque. Both recount the Karankawas’ attack on Fort Saint Louis and the outbreak of smallpox (pgs 137-139)

(4) Chapa describes the abduction of three Talon children (Marie-Madelaine, Robert, and Lucien Jr. Talon) from the Karankawas. It seems that Chapa almost certainly had access to De León’s 1690 journal because his account is almost exactly parallel (pgs 153-154).  Jean-Baptiste Talon’s testimony (see Jean Baptiste Talon’s entry, page 241) is likely the most accurate accounting of this incident.

Access: Juan Bautista Chapa, Texas and Northeastern Mexico, 1630-1690, ed. William C. Foster (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008) 127-139, 152-154.

Further Reading: For more on the Talon Children and Jacques Grôlet and Jean L’Arcjevêque see, Robert Weddle, “La Salle’s Survivors,” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 75, no. 4 (April, 1972): 413-433; Weddle, The Wreck of the Belle, the Ruin of La Salle, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2001), 254-262. 

Tags: Disease, Environment, Trade, War

 

[1714] St. Denis’s First Expedition Through Texas

Author: Gerardo Mora?

Written in: ~1715-1724

Description: Frenchman Louis Juchereau de St. Denis crossed Texas from French-Louisiana in an attempt to open-up trade with the Spaniards in northern Mexico. Accompanying St. Denis were the Talon brothers, Medard Jallot, Chief Bernardino, and twenty-five Hasinai warriors. While this group traversed Texas, they encountered and fought an estimated two hundred Karankawas along the coast. In a battle that lasted six hours, at least twelve Karankawa men and a Karankawa woman were killed. St. Denis and his party received two minor casualties. When the Karankawas retreated, St. Denis continued without further problem to San Juan Bautista, the northernmost Spanish presidio at the time.

Hasinais accompanied St. Denis because they wished to have a Spanish influence (trade ties) in their settlements. Karankawas likely attacked their party because at this time they considered the Hasinais to be their “ancient enemies” and had consistently negative interactions with Europeans in the past two decades. Speculatively, they could also have seen their “ancient enemies” gaining access to European trade goods as a threat. 

Relevant Information: I will be acquiring the original source, translating it, and posting it online after my visit to the Béxar Archives on Jan 4th. For now, I am reliant on Robert Weddle’s writing on this event. 

Access: Gerardo Mora to Viceroy, Provincias Internas, Vol. 181, p.6. See Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.

Further Reading: Robert Weddle, San Juan Bautista: Gateway to Spanish Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968), 102. Weddle’s monograph is my source for this entry’s description. If looking for more information on St. Denis, be careful of Ross Phares’s Cavalier in the Wilderness. Phares relies heavily on André Pénicaut’s narrative of the expedition, who, as it turns out, lied about actually being there. Pénicaut erases the Talon brothers in his stead. See Weddle, The French Thorn: Rival Explorers in the Spanish Sea, 1682-1762 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991) 194; Elizabeth McCann fully debunks Pénicaut, see McCann, “The Early History of Louisiana as Recounted by the Chronicler André Pénicaut 1699-1704,” Master’s thesis, Loyola University, 1943. “Ancient enemies” quote in Jean-Baptiste Talon’s testimony, see Robert Weddle, La Salle, the Mississippi and the Gulf (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1987), 249.

Tags: War

 

[1777-1783] Morfi’s Memorias para la Historia de Tejas and Historia de Texas: 1673-1779 and Morfi’s Historia

Author: Juan Agustín Morfi

Written in: 1777-1783

Description: Father Morfi wrote two histories of Texas: Memorias para la Historia de Texas and the Historia de Texas. Memorias, his first history, was a collection of documents that he planned to condense into a more concise history—Historia de Texas. He died before fully completing Historia but historian Carlos Castañeda published a rough draft in 1935. Of the two histories, Memorias has far more information on Texas’s Native Peoples.

Morfi wrote his history during the Karankawa-Spanish war. With that the case, Morfi found little issue depicting the Karankawas as demonic. But Father Morfi had never set foot in Karankawa territory. His only encounter with these coastal peoples likely occurred in San Antonio, with Copano mission Indians when he toured the northern borderlands with the new Commandant General of the Interior, Teodoro de Croix. Therefore, Morfi relied heavily on Father Gaspar de Solís’s 1767 journal for information on the Karankawas’ cultural practices (copying it word for word in instances). Nevertheless, Morfi does provide some unique information such as estimated population sizes.

Father Morfi’s histories have since become quite popular and set in stone the image of Karankawas as inherently hostile group. It mythologized the Karankawas as impossible to civilize—as a Peoples who “eat children.”

Access: 

Juan Agustín Morfi, Excerpts from the Memorias for the history of the province of Texas: being a translation of those parts of the Memorias which particularly concern the various Indians of the province of Texas; their tribal divisions, characteristics, customs, traditions, superstitions, and all else of interest concerning them, trans. Carlos E. Castañeda and Frederick C Chabot (San Antonio: Naylor Publishing, 1932).

Juan Agustín Morfi, History of Texas, 1673-1779, v. 1, trans. Carlos Eduardo Castañeda (Albuquerque: The Quivira Society, 1935), 79-81, 93-94, 99-102, 121-139, 191-192.

Juan Agustín Morfi, History of Texas, 1673-1779, v. 2, trans. Carlos Eduardo Castañeda (Albuquerque: The Quivira Society, 1935), 243-244, 252-255, 300-301, 306-307, 338-340.

Further Reading: Juan Agustín Morfi, History of Texas, 1673-1779, trans. Carlos Eduardo Castañeda (Albuquerque: The Quivira Society, 1935), 15-43; Irving A. Leonard, review of History of Texas, 1673-1779 in The Hispanic American Historical Review 16, no. 2 (May, 1936): 229-232.

Tags: Cannibalism, Customs, Hunting, Migrations, Spirituality, Trade, War

 

[1831-1833] Texas: Observations, Historical, Geographical, and Descriptive, in a Series of Letters, Written during a Visit to Austin’s Colony, with a view to a permanent settlement in that country, in the Autumn of 1831 and Texas 

Author: Mary Holley Austin

Written In: 1831-1835

Description: Holley-Austin wrote two books on Texas. Her first is in the form of a series of letters entitled, Texas: Observations, Historical, Geographical, and Descriptive, in a Series of Letters, Written during a Visit to Austin’s Colony, with a view to a permanent settlement in that country, in the Autumn of 1831. Her second book, Texas, condenses the information from her first historical work into a concise and informative guide for prospective emigrants. That was Holley-Austin’s main intention in writing these works–attract settlers to Texas. Her descriptions paint the country as a fairyland, despite the struggle many colonists had upon their initial settlement.

Holley-Austin received her information for these works from first-hand observations but mostly through speaking with those she encountered while living in Texas. Her most significant informer was Stephen F. Austin.

Access:

Mary Austin Holley, Texas: Observations historical geographical and descriptive in a series of letters written during a visit to Austin’s colony (Baltimore: Armstrong & Plaskitt, 1833), 8, 95-97, 102-104.

Mary Austin Holley, Texas (1935; Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1985), 158-160, 283.

Tags: Cannibalism, War

 

[1833-1834] John Charles Beales’s Rio Grande Colony: Letters by Eduard Ludecus, a German Colonist, to Friends in Germany in 1833–1834, Recounting His Journey, Trials, and Observations in Early Texas

Author: Eduard Ludecus

Written In: 1833-1834

Description: Eduard Ludecus and other settlers rest and resupply in La Bahía (Goliad) on their way to settle along the Rio Grande. In the ramshackle city of La Bahia, and in the missions in close proximity, they encounter Karankawas. 

Relevance:

(1) Ludecus inaccurately states that “when Colonel Austin’s grant was settled, they [Karankawas] invaded there [Austin’s lands] and killed anyone they found.” This is backward, but it shows that Anglo-Americans, Mexicans, and Tejanos believed this falsity. Ludecus received this information from Holley Austin’s account of Texas (Austin Holley, 95-97). In essence, Ludecus is already biased when he first encounters the Karankawas. He sees these Indians as always looking to steal and murder.

(2) Ludecus then goes on to state that Stephen F. Austin “succeeded in exterminating half the tribe.” A large group of Karankawas fled to La Bahía, where Mexican officials murdered half of the survivors. [78] As already mentioned, all this information has come from Mary Austin Holley’s Texas. This information is not unique. All the following information that Ludecus provides is unique.

(3) Ludecus refers to Karankawas as “well over six feet tall” and gives a detailed description of their tattoos, piercings, weapons, and dress. [pages 79-86]

(4) Ludecus provides a great deal of information about Chief Prudentia. He also describes that Dr. Beale asks Prudencia whether he and other Karankawas would like to join the settlement. [78-83]

(5) States that Comanches and Karankawas are “mortal enemies” at this time. [80]

Access: Eduard Ludecus. John Charles Beales’s Rio Grande Colony: Letters by Eduard Ludecus, a German Colonist, to Friends in Germany in 1833–1834, Recounting His Journey, Trials, and Observations in Early Texas, ed. and trans. Louis E. Brister (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 2008).

Further Reading: For a well-written overview of the Beales colony, see Kyle B. Carpenter, “A Failed Venture in the Nueces Strip: The Mismanagement of the Beales RioGrande Colony, 1832-1836” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly,(Forthcoming Spring 2020); For another source on Cheif Prudentia see Kelly Himmel, The Conquest of the Karankawa and the Tonkawas, 1821-1859 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999), 52-53.

Tags: Appearance, Dress, Height, Prudencia, Shelter, Tattoos, War.