- Historic Sites
The Ballad Of Cynthia Ann
Both grimness and beauty touch this haunting fragment of America’s past
April 1956 | Volume 7, Issue 3
You remember the two little sons she had, out in the whirlwind wilderness? The eldest, Quanah, was in battle where she was captured, and he escaped with the remnant of his people. At 22 he became the chief of the Kwahadi band, still the most bitter and intractable of all Comanches. Most of them agreed, by the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867, to come onto the reservation. Not Quanah; he kept out on the Llano, leading the United States Army in circles after him. He is described as the most ferocious Indian ever encountered, by an officer who saw him lead a charge—a smoking six-shooter in his hand, bear-claw necklace at his throat, war bonnet streaming behind him, his face satanic with daubs of red and ochre.
And then—what gentling, south-wind spirit reached to him? What strangely prompted him, in 1875, suddenly to surrender? He brought his people down out of the plains, turned over all his arms, and settled with his band at the foot of the Wichita Mountains, in Indian Territory. He saw to it that every little Comanche went to school, to learn the white man’s language and study in his books. Jovial, hospitable in the big house he built for his three wives and fifteen children, Quanah was fond of a good cigar and relished a fund of racy stories.
It’s the last of the story, it’s the end of the song—all the plaintive sorrow drowned in the sound of a big brass band. It’s 1905, on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, and that’s Teddy Roosevelt’s Inaugural Parade swinging down through the cheering throng, the flags, the gaudy music of Stars and Stripes Forever and Hail to the Chief , the white man’s chief, the Rough Rider President. And in the parade are great chiefs of his red brothers, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perces, Geronimo the Apache, and Quanah of the Comanches—Quanah, son of Cynthia Ann, her victory out of defeat.