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Three Years Among the Comanches: The Narrative of Nelson Lee, Texas Ranger

“Half a dozen Indians sprung upon me, some holding down my arms, others my legs, another astride my body with his hand upon my throat.”

Only Nelson Lee and three of his cowboy companions survived the brutal assault that had come upon them during the night.

Their fate was not to be killed instantly but instead to go through the process of being tortured to death in tribal rituals at a later date.

But Nelson Lee did not die.

Instead he survived his ordeal and went on to spend three years with the Comanches, being sold as a slave between various Comanche warriors, from Big Wolf to Spotted Leopard and finally to Rolling Thunder who he was eventually able to escape from.

His record of that time provides a fascinating insight into life with the Comanche tribe in the mid-19th century.

Prior to being captured Nelson Lee had been a Texas Ranger who had served under John Hays and had fought against Native Americans during the Indian Wars, but never before had he come in such close contact with how they lived and their customs.

Walter Prescott Webb stated that “there is no better description of the life of the Texas Rangers than that of Nelson Lee.” Another scholar stated “His experiences in captivity are of vivid interest, and afford a most minute and detailed account of the manners and customs of the tribe.”

Other historians have been less convinced about the validity of some of Lee’s claims, but even if some of the tales told within the memoir are rather tall it remains a captivating book of life on the Texan frontier amongst the Comanches.

Nelson Lee’s book Three Years Among the Comanches was published in New York in 1859 after Lee had escaped captivity.

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2 Responses

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  1. John H. says

    A case where fiction is stranger than truth.

  2. Amazon Customer says

    Good story but entirely ficticious

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