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"Rufus Perry"

Mesquite with resin inlay from near the site of the attack

Cicero Rufus Perry, was called “Rufe” by those who knew him. 

Born in 1822, his family left for Texas from Montgomery Alabama when he was ten.  They landed near Independence in Washington County on January 1833.

By 1835 they had purchased a farm over on the “Little Caney” River.

 

But in 1836, his life changed forever. 

  When the Texas Revolution broke out, his “Pa” joined Houston's army at Gonzales.  When the army began its retreat from there, his father came home to warn the families they would have to leave immediately.  This was the beginning of the “Runaway Scrape” at their home.  The same scramble was happening at other homesteads across central Texas.  “Rufe” was only thirteen years old when it started, and said that they had “sleds, carts, trucks, and everything but a wagon.”   They put together an old pair of buggy wheels with a box and hitched their horse “Archie” to it to carry their provisions.  His mother and sister rode on the box, while “Rufe” and his two brothers rode on horses.

They joined Houston's army at Groce’s Crossing in the Brazos bottom, and the next day crossed the river on the steamboat Yellowstone. They then moved until reaching the farm of Mr. Donahoe, and stayed 3 days with the army.  This is where Rufe volunteered for his first action for Texas.  Major Somerville approached young Rufe and asked him if he could deliver a message from General Houston to Captain Mosley Baker, who was camped on the Brazos river across from San Felipe.  The Major was having a hard time finding a man that would go, and asked him if he was too scared to try.  Rufe said that he could do it, and not long afterwards, he was in Capt. Baker’s camp.  The next morning as he was leaving to go back, he could see the town of San Felipe in a blaze.

They continued heading east, and while camped north of Harrisburg, the battle of San Jacinto was fought and won.  Excited with the news, they headed back for home.  Rufe joined in with W. W. Hills Company of “Three months men” and officially became the youngest member of the Texas Rangers.  They went first to Bastrop, arriving there before anyone else had returned.  They found a part of the town burned, presumably by Indians.  But they didn’t come across any until reaching Yegua Creek.  The men killed three Indians during the skirmish.  Rufe told of a rough character in the bunch by the name of Colvin.  He said, “The first dead Indian that Colvin come upon, he jumped onto him and commence stabbing him.  But I think if that Indian had been alive, that fella would’ve went the other way.”  

In January of 1839, sixteen-year-old Rufe joined John H. Moore.  He had raised 58 men and around 25 Lipan Indians to go on an expedition against the Comanches.  They marched to the head of the Lampasas River before a heavy snowstorm stopped them.  The men and horses suffered greatly from the intense cold, and they turned back towards the Colorado River bottoms.  Scouts located the large Indian camp on the San Saba River, and during the night, Moore had the company leave their horses two miles from the Indian camp while they moved into position in the trees.  Here they waited in the bitter cold until the next morning’s light.  In the cold darkness, the men could hear chickens crowing, horses neighing, and dogs barking.  As the light of dawn rose, Moore gave the order to attack.  The men raced towards the teepee’s firing into them as the confused Indians ran out in all directions.  The smoke from the rifles filling the air hampered distance vision, and women and children were scrambling in all directions trying to get to the bottoms and thickets.

Some of the men in Moore’s company had family members that had been captured and were being held captive by the Indians.  Over the sounds of screaming war whoops and gunfire, the men were yelling out to their names, hoping that they were at this camp and possibly give them a chance to escape.

Andrew Lockhart was searching for his 16-year-old daughter Matilda, who had been captured by the Indians a year earlier.  He ran into the middle of the camp and yelled as loud as he could, “Matilda…Run to me!”  Mr. Lockhart didn’t know it at the time, but Matilda WAS there, but she had already been lashed into a run with some of the other Indian women heading for the trees.  When Matilda realized she was hearing her father, she began screaming out to him hysterically.  Unfortunately, Andrew couldn’t hear her over the other screaming and gunfire and she was pulled down into the brush near the river.  It wouldn’t be until she was brought into San Antonio before the famous “Council Fight” that she was reunited with him.  She had been brutally tortured and most of her nose had been burned off. 

Unfortunately for Moore and his men, it turned out that all the warriors were in camp that morning, and realizing that they were greatly outnumbered, he called for a retreat back to the woods for cover.  Here they continued the fight until around two o’clock in the afternoon.  Rufe was wounded during this battle. 

When a full retreat was called to fall back to where they had left the horses, they were shocked to find that the Indians had slipped around behind them and had stolen all of their horses, baggage, and provisions. 

Rufe said that “They got away with everything we had.” 

The wounded had to be carried on litters as they walked home, and it being very cold, they had to build fires and sleep between them. 

After recovering from his wounds, Rufe took part in a few more uneventful scouting trips in search of Indians that had stolen horses or caused trouble near the settlements. 

In the summer of 1840, following the “Council house fight” in San Antonio, the Comanche Indians looted and burned the gulf coast town of Linnville.  Rufe was visiting friends in Lavaca County when it happened, and news came that his friend Tucker Foley had been killed.  A company was organized and they immediately went and found him.  After quickly burying Tucker, they started off in pursuit.  There were around 200 men that had joined in by the time they caught up with the Indians on the open prairie. 

The Indians were decked out in the stolen clothes from Linnville, and had tied long colorful red and blue ribbons to the tails of their horses which streamed along behind them.  Rufe said “I thought it was the prettiest sight I ever saw."  They commenced to fighting, and the Texans had one man killed before they took off to the southwest.  Ed Burleson and his company caught up to them near Plum Creek and put an end to it, capturing a number of mules and horses with a large amount of goods that they had stolen from Linnville.  This was a decisive battle, which decimated the Comanche tribe, pushing them farther west and greatly reducing the number of depredations against settlers.

In 1842, twenty-year old Rufe joined in with Ed Burleson on an expedition.  Finding only one party of Indians, they ran them thirty miles but couldn’t catch up with them.  They were out for one month, and the day that they got back to Bastrop they found all the men had gone to meet the Mexicans under Gen. Woll, who had taken San Antonio.  Rufe got a fresh horse and that night rode about 25 miles over to Capt Billingsley’s camp.  The next morning, he and one other man, along with a Tonkawa Indian, went ahead as spies.  They travelled until they got near the Salado when they heard the firing of cannons.  He saw a man on a horse racing fast across the prairie, which later was known to be Alsey Taylor, one of only two survivors of what became known as the “Dawson Massacre.”  Dawson and a small group of volunteers from around La Grange were trying to get to Col. Caldwell’s forces who were fighting with their backs up against Salado Creek*.  Rufe went to a hill where he could get a better view of what was happening.  A Mexican cavalry unit had surrounded Capt. Dawson’s company in a small mesquite thicket with basically no protection other than their muskets.  The Mexicans positioned one of their cannons just out of musket range and fired on Dawson’s position with heavy grape shot, which quickly decimated them.  Rufe and the two other men stayed where they were until darkness started setting in.  They then moved down the hill and passed through the battlefield.  He later wrote that “...It was the most horrible sight I ever saw.”  They joined Caldwell that night.  Gen. Woll was retreating, and the next morning the entire company went in pursuit of them, but couldn’t recover the prisoners of San Antonio.  The Mexican army took them to Perote Prison where they remained for almost two years.

In the Spring of 1844, Jack Hays organized another Ranger Company, and Rufe joined him. They had several raids after Mexicans and Indians. One day, they saw five Indians near a thicket, but he believed that there may be more nearby.  As they came around a hill and back onto the prairie, around sixty Indians came dashing out of the brush onto the prairie and opening fire on them in a fight that lasted for 10 miles.  The difference this day, was that it was the first fight against the Ranger’s with the new Paterson 5-shot Colt revolvers. The Indians would charge three in a line, the first expecting to be shot, while the other two used their lances.  But when the Rangers kept on shooting, they were shocked and forced to turn and run. 

Looking across to the west bank of the Nueces River

Rufe’s next mission was to go in search of some Mexican Cavalry who were stealing horses between the Nueces and the Rio Grande.  Capt. Hays sent Rufe with three other men, Christopher “Kit” Acklin, James Dunn, and John Carlin, to stampede their horses.  When they reached the east bank of the Nueces, Rufe saw the trail of a horse and followed it until he was sure that it was carrying a rider.  He told the boys to camp up on a bluff, but they chose to camp close to some thickets.  Rufe was concerned that there may be Indians nearby and he went up on a hill to scout the area, but saw nothing and returned to the camp.  Rufe said that he just felt that there was something wrong that day.  After eating their dinner, Rufe and Kit settled in under the trees while Dunn and Carlin went to the river to water the horses and bathe.  

A short time later, around twenty-five Indians came whooping out of the trees, crossing a gravel bar and heading directly for Rufe and Kit.  They both jumped to their feet and started to run towards the river where Dunn and Carlin had their horses. 

Rufe shouted to Kit, “Don’t fire until we get to the horses!”  But seeing the Indians racing towards them, Kit swung around and fired his pistol, dropping one Indian, and then he turned and continued running.  Rufe spun around to take a shot as well, but just as he was pulling the trigger on his Colt revolver, an arrow hit him in the left shoulder.  But his shot didn’t miss, and another Indian hit the ground.  The Indians were now only about thirty steps away from him, and he continued firing until all his rounds were spent.  Almost simultaneously, two arrows came flying towards him, the first hitting him in the hip and partially exiting out of his back, and the second arrow grazing his temple, which caused blood to start flowing out and down the side of his face.  The Indians had now scattered after seeing their comrades falling under the pistol fire, and with the powder smoke in the air, Rufe was able to stumble off through the trees towards the river.

Dunn and Carlin had disrobed and jumped in the river, so they were pretty much naked when they heard the noise of the attack.  They were barefoot and trying to slosh out as fast as they could towards the horses and were just reaching the river bank when Rufe came stumbling out of the thicket.  At about the same time, Acklin came running up the bank towards them.  He quickly grabbed the arrow in Rufe’s shoulder and pulled out the shaft, but the spike remained in his shoulder.  He was also able to slip the arrow out of Rufe's hip by pulling it on out through his back.

East bank of the Nueces River, near the location of the attack

Not hesitating to pick up their clothes, Dunn and Carlin began pulling the horses across the river to put some distance between them and the brush along the bank, and Aklin and Rufe followed.  Rufe held onto the tail of one of the horses as they crossed the river.  Just as they reached the other side he stumbled on the rocks and fell, exhausted from the exertion and loss of blood.  Thinking Rufe was dead, Carlin picked up Rufe’s Colt revolver and began trying to reload it.  Suddenly, the Indians came charging out from the brush across the river to attack them again.  Dunn and Carlin jumped up onto two of the horses and kicked them into a run, taking Rufe’s saddle gun and revolver with them.  Acklin jumped into action as well, but the remaining two horses bolted away with the others before he could grab onto the reins of one of them.  He took off in a dead run after them.  Rufe now got himself up and stumbled off into the brush, but being wounded and weak, he couldn’t move very fast at all.  He pushed through the brush as fast as he could for about 200 yards before he found a dense thicket that he crawled into and fell to the ground, trying to cover himself up as best he could. He pushed his face into the dirt, which helped stop the bleeding from his forehead.  He laid as still as he could and tried not breathe too loudly.  But with adrenaline pumping, he feared that the Indians would be able to hear the pounding of his heart in his chest.  Then he began to hear them, talking and knocking the brush as they searched for him.  But they didn’t continue for very long before moving on in the direction that the others had taken off in.

Rufe remained in the thicket until dark, and then started trying to move back to the river.  He had to crawl on his hands and knees, as he had lost so much blood that he would faint and fall to the ground.  It took him all night just to reach the water again.  Although famished by the time he got there, he was able to quench his thirst and wash his face.  He filled one of his boots with water and then crawled into a hole left by an uprooted tree and spent the entire day there.  As darkness set in, he decided that he would have to try to walk to San Antonio.  He was able to shuffle in the dark for about 3 miles before he couldn’t go any further and felt that it was time for him to “...lay down to die.”  But after resting a while, he regained enough energy to pull himself up and start out again.   He continued travelling all night and a part of next day before reaching the Leona River, about 10 miles from where he’d started.  He would keep moving as his strength allowed, and the only thing he was able to find to eat were some prickly pear apples and mesquite beans.  

Dunn and Carlin made it back to San Antonio on their barebacked horses.  They were naked and horribly sunburned.  Telling their story of what happened, they said that Rufe was dead when he fell on the bank, and that if he hadn’t died already, Acklin would have perished as well.  But to everyone’s surprise, Acklin came walking into town the very next morning.  In fact, Acklin recovered in about two weeks, while Dunn and Carlin were still recovering.

Seven days after the attack, about dusk, Rufe reached the outskirts of San Antonio.  The first person to see him was a young Mexican boy who ran out ahead of him.  By the time he was nearing the square, many others were coming out and looking at him as if he had risen from the dead.  Considering the news that he had been killed, some residents were terrified that they were actually seeing his ghost. 

Rufe was taken to Nat Lewis' store where he remained for a month.  He was then moved to a home where he stayed two months longer.  Being just barely able to ride, another Ranger friend of his was detailed to take him home.  

Rufe said, “...I looked more like a ghost than a man.  My own mother did not know me.”  

There were a number of friends and neighbors who were kind to him and helped Rufe during his recovery, but it was a German and Mexican woman who really stood out to him. 

"God never made kinder beings. I shall ever remember them and reverence their memory.” 

Rufe remained bitter at both Dunn and Carlin for abandoning him, and another two years passed before the arrow spike that was in his shoulder was finally removed by a Doctor.  After recovering from that surgery, he was finally able to go out again. When he did, he joined Capt. Henry McCulloch's Company and was elected Lt. Commander.  In the Spring of 1846 they mustered in at San Marcos.  Rufe went out on several Indian raids, but they had no fights.  He led Ranger companies on many more missions into Mexico, but eventually ended up at Hamilton’s Valley, (three miles from where the city of Burnet now stands) where they stayed for one year before disbanding.

In 1873, at the age of 51, Rufe came to the assistance of a party led by Dan W. Roberts in a battle with Indians on Deer Creek.

Cicero Rufus Perry died in 1898 in Blanco County at Hye Texas and is buried in Johnson City.

At the time of his death, he was described by his friend, John Holland Jenkins, as having been;

"...tall, muscular, erect-a perfect specimen of the strong and brave in young manhood.  Perry had black hair and dark eyes, bright with the fires of intelligence and enthusiasm.  This was a young Rufus Perry.  Now...after the lapse of forty years, we behold his handsome face all drawn and scarred, his eye distorted and twitching while he walks with the aid of a cane --all the result of Comanche arrows back in the early days of Texas history."

It was said that in his career as a volunteer soldier and Texas Ranger, his body had sustained twenty wounds from bullet, arrow, and lance.  

Paraphrased and summarized from;

Capt'n. C. R. Perry- Johnson City, Texas: A Texas Veteran”

Texas A&M, Sons of Dewitt Colony Texas

The Heritage of Blanco County, Texas by the Blanco County News, 1987, article by Minnie Cox

Rufus Perry- on the left

Header Watercolor Painting, Pulliam Creek by JoNell Richardson- Fine Art.   www.jonellrichardson.com