Seminole Nation, I. T.

Adam Paine

Medal of Honor Recipient

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 Nacimiento, Coahuila.

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 thieves.

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.

 

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