The Blue Tunic, a historical novel about the United States Cavalry in the period following the Civil War, takes place during the time when Indian and Texas frontiers were overlapping, causing much conflict. The Comanches had dominated the Central Plains for over a century and werent inclined to allow any encroachment into their territory. White settlers bold enough to attempt occupying land close to the Comanches were being killed and raped, with their children stolen and their livestock driven off. The United States Army, sent south mainly as a police force to implement Reconstruction, was engaged mostly in mediation between the two cultures, signing treaties and attempting to settle disputes by peaceful means. Eventually, the army had to be utilized to force the Indians to return to their reservations. Fort Richardson, the most northern post in Texas and closest to the Indian Reservation, was one of some fifteen forts established as a buffer zone between the Texans and the Indians.
Jake Rowland, had a strange feeling of deja vu when the bus he was riding broke down in Jacksboro, Texas, Population 5,692. While waiting for another bus to replace the crippled one he was riding, Jake felt compelled to explore some strange old buildings that he had noticed on the edge of Jacksboro. He discovered that the buildings were part of an old fort, Fort Richardson, 1857-1882. The feeling of some strange connection to the place swept over him so strongly that he felt faint, especially when he reached into an unlocked display case and removed an old tunic with a blood stained shoulder.
Fort Richardson, Texas, 1870
Jake Rowland arrived at Fort Richardson just in time to go on a scout against Quanah Parker, who was raiding the settlers north of Jacksboro. After killing a family in Post Oak, a small town just north of Jacksboro, Quanah easily escaped. Sixteen-year-old Mildred Burson, down the road visiting a friend when her father, aunt and uncle were killed, was spared. Since her mother and young siblings had not yet come to the frontier town, Mildred was taken in temporarily by friends, which led to her meeting Jake at a dance in town. Jake was hospitalized following a fight over Mildred with some soldiers who had been annoying her at the dance. Mildred was so concerned over Jakes having taken such a beating for her that she visited him every day in the hospital and they became fast friends.
While Jake was recuperating, Ranald S. Mackenzies Fourth Cavalry was assigned to Fort Richardson, replacing Jakes outfit, the Sixth Cavalry, which was moved to Fort Harker, Kansas. Jake, still unable to travel, was re-assigned to Mackenzies Fourth, which was quickly becoming a tough Indian- fighting unit. Motivated by having to walk all the way from Jacksboro to western Oklahoma and back because there werent enough horses for everyone, Jake convinced the commanders that the enlisted men should be able to own their own horses.
On the next scout (atop Big Red, his new steed), Jake and his outfit were involved with
Quanah Parker in a running battle up Blanco Canyon out in West Texas. During that action, Mackenzie was wounded in the thigh by a Comanche arrow.
After Jake returned from West Texas, his young friend, Mildred Burson (who by now he was calling Millie), and her family were accosted by four AWOL soldiers. Millie was taken hostage by Mack Rogers, one of the soldiers, but was rescued by Jake who brought Mack Rogers back to justice.
Millies mother, Margaret had arrived in Post Oak soon after the massacre of her husband and his family and began teaching at Post Oaks one-room school. Right in the middle of their first graduation service, twenty Kiowas crashed the party but were charmed by Margaret and left without incident, carrying the partys Japanese lanterns with them.