ADAM PAINE (1843-1877). Medal of Honor
recipient Adan or Adam Payne was born to a black Seminole family near Alachua,
Florida, in 1843. During that time, the Seminole were forced to move to Indian
Territory (present day Oklahoma) by the United States government. In the Indian
Territory, black Seminoles (descendants of runaway slaves who lived in Seminole
villages for generations) were oppressed by pro-slavery Creek Indians. Many fled
to Mexico, where slavery was abolished, to accept an offer from the Mexican
government to fight hostile tribes in Mexico in exchange for land near
After the Civil War, the U.S. Army offered the black Seminole (who were revered
for their frontier service in Mexico) land, food, and pay in exchange for
service as scouts. Payne was among those who returned to the United States to
become a scout for Fort Duncan, Texas, on November 12, 1873. He was the least
experienced of the black Seminole scouts acquired for the base and had
difficulty conforming to military regulations.
Payne was six feet tall, weighed about 200 pounds, and refused to wear a
regulation uniform, opting instead to wear a leather headpiece with buffalo
horns. He fought in many engagements, including Kickapoo Springs, Tule Canyon,
Palo Duro Canyon, Double Lakes, and Laguna Tahonka.
During a battle at Quitaque Peak, Payne defended himself and four other scouts
against several small bands of Comanche. The group awoke on the morning of
September 26, 1874, to see some ten Comanche driving a herd of 40 horses over a
rise. They then noticed several smaller groups of Comanche and realized they
were outnumbered. While the scouts fled from a group of seven attacking
Comanche, Payne's horse was shot from under him. Though he jumped clear, he was
stood alone before the charging attackers. Using his saddle for cover, Payne
shot the rider of the lead horse, which continued its gallop towards him without
its rider. Payne then mounted the riderless and made his escape. Thanks to his
efforts during the engagement, all of the scouts survived and the Cavalry was
able to track many of the attacking Comanche. Payne was awarded the
Congressional Medal of Honor for the above actions on October 13, 1875, though
it is unclear whether he received a medal.
He was discharged from the Army at Fort Clark, Texas, on February 19, 1875, and
worked as a teamster for the U.S. Quartermaster Department at Fort Brown, Texas.
On Christmas Eve, 1875, Payne was involved in a heated argument with a cavalry
trooper which ended with Payne stabbing the trooper in the heart.
He fled to Mexico and the shelter of the black Seminole communities still
located there before Mexican authorities apprehended and imprisoned him. Due to
overcrowding in the local jail, Payne was kept in a bullfighting stadium. He
escaped from the stadium after it was damaged by a tropical storm. He traveled
with a cattle thief, Frank Enoch, and crossed the border again to seek refuge in
the black Seminole community at Brackettville, Texas, near Fort Clark. The black
Seminole there had been abandoned by the U.S. Army, which took back its promise
to feed the families of scouts employed by the fort.
Near starving, the community preyed on stray, feral cattle for food. Though the
cattle were not owned, the community of Brackettville regarded the Seminole as
The Kinney County Inspector of Hides and Animals, James B. Ballantyne, charged
the Seminole community a tax of $40 for the deaths of four cows. The tax was
paid by longtime supporter and advocate of the black Seminole, John Bullis. On
the night of December 31, 1876, an informant told Kinney County authorities that
Enoch, Payne, and other fugitives including Medal of Honor recipient Isaac Payne
would be present at a New Year's Eve celebrations in the Seminole village.
Sheriff L.C. Crowell, along with Deputy Claron Windus and deputized civilian
James Thomas, made plans to capture the fugitives during the festivities. Claron
Augustus Windus received the Congressional Medal of Honor while serving with
James B. Dosher, also a Medal of Honor recipient, in North Texas, four years
after serving a year of hard labor for desertion and theft. Windus eventually
married the daughter of James B. Ballantyne and held various positions of
authority in Kinney County.
Former scout Isaac Payne was wanted for stealing a horse from Deputy Windus. The
three men entered the village just before midnight and assembled the fugitives
in a line to be shackled. Accounts vary as to what happened next, but it is
certain that Windus shot Adam Payne and Frank Enoch with his double barreled
shotgun at such close range that Payne's clothing caught on fire. Payne was
killed instantly and Enoch received a mortal wound. Other former Army scouts
present attacked Windus and wrestled with him, which gave Isaac Payne and
another former scout turned fugitive time to escape. Windus' shooting of Adam
Payne is the only known incident of a Medal of Honor recipient killing another
Medal of Honor recipient.
Payne was buried in what would become the Seminole-Negro Indian Scout Cemetery
in Brackettville on New Year's Day, 1877.