The Apache Wars: A Timeline Part 2
In The Apache Wars: Part 1 we introduced the key players in the conflict.
Apache Pass and Apache Springs were so important to the Anglo Americas that they built Fort Bowie here to protect them. You can visit the remains of the old fort today. It is a National Historic Site administered by the U.S. National Park Service. In the history of Arizona Territory, no fort played a more important role.
1861 – The Bascom Affair
Lieutenant George Bascom falsely accuses Cochise and starts a quarter century of needless and horrific bloodshed between the White Eyes and the Chiricahua Apaches who try desperately to expel the invaders and hold on to their ancestral homeland. Read More
On January 27th, Tonto Apaches raid the ranch of John Ward at Sonoita Creek, steal livestock and kidnap Ward’s 12-year-old stepson. Ward reports the raid to the nearby military authority who direct Lieutenant Bascom and his infantry to attempt to recover the boy and cattle. Bascom is unable to locate the boy or the raiders.
For whatever reason, probably Ward’s testimony, Bascom concludes that the Chiricahua Apaches are responsible for the raid. Bascom is ordered to use whatever means necessary to punish the kidnappers and recapture the boy.
Bascom, Ward, and 54 soldiers head east to Apache Pass and arrive on February 3rd. Bascom convinces Cochise to meet with him under a flag of truce. Cochise brings with him his brother, two nephews, his wife, and his two children.
At the meeting, Cochise tells Bascom he knows nothing of the raid or the kidnapping, but asks for a few days to find out what he can. Bascom, in effect, calls Cochise a liar and attempts to imprison him and his family in a tent where they are to be held hostage. Cochise escapes by cutting his way through the tent canvas, unavoidably leaving his relatives behind.
On February 5, Cochise delivers a message to Bascom pleading for the release of his family, but Bascom refuses and sends a message back to Cochise that they “would be set free just so soon as the boy was released” and the cattle returned.
Over the next several days, Cochise’s warriors steal a herd of army mules, seize a civilian wagon train, and take several Anglo and Mexican hostages of their own.
Cochise’s warriors hold the Anglos for exchange, but the Mexicans don’t fare well. Apaches had long hated Mexicans because of their countless cruel acts upon, and wholesale slaughter of, the Apache people. The Apaches tie the captured Mexicans to a wagon and set it on fire.
While the Mexicans scream in agony, a not-yet-famous Apache warrior and medicine man takes pleasure in poking his lance into the burning men. Many years later, he would become known as the “worst Indian who ever lived.” At this time, Geronimo was about 38-years-old.
In the days following, Cochise pleads with Bascom to treat his family members well and trade for the Anglos he now holds. Stupidly, Bascom refuses. Bascom holds out for the boy but Cochise has no idea of his whereabouts. Cochise eventually gives up and has his hostages killed and mutilated. Apaches were well-known to do such things in either order.
In response, on February 19th, Bascom orders Cochise’s male family members hung, but allows the women to leave.
Thus it is that the Apache Wars begin. Countless Apaches, Mexicans, and Anglo Americans will live in misery and die violently because of incredibly stupid decisions made by a young, inexperienced officer and the idiot who put him in charge. (Note: U.S. Army officers were given little or no training in the languages and customs of American Indians. Few had any empathy for native people whose way of life and very survival were threatened by the American’s massive migration to, and occupation of, the West.)
An excellent book on this subject is The Wrath of Cochise: The Bascom Affair and the Origins of the Apache Wars by Terry Mort. You can read our review here.
President Jefferson Davis declares Arizona Territory to be a part of the Confederate States of America. To take control of the American Southwest, Confederate soldiers commanded by Captain Sherod Hunter occupy Tucson on February 28, 1862.
May 5th. 1st Battle of Dragoon Springs
Confederate soldiers are ambushed by 100 Apache warriors led by Cochise near present-day town of Dragoon, AZ. The Apaches kill one soldier, a sergeant, and a Mexican stock herder, and confiscate a large number of cattle and horses.
May 9th. 2nd Battle of Dragoon Springs
Confederate soldiers take back their herd of cattle and horses, and kill five Apaches. The Confederate sergeant that had been killed 4 days earlier is buried at the Dragoon Springs stage station.The ruins and grave sites are still there at the ruins of the Butterfield Stage Station 3 miles from the town of Dragoon, AZ. Directions to Dragoon Springs Stage Station.
1862–July. Battle of Apache Pass
General James Carleton, Union Volunteers of the California Column, leads a Union army eastward to halt the Confederate invasion of New Mexico. He establishes Fort Bowie and the American forces fight the hostile Apaches for control of Apache Springs over two days. For more about the battles of Dragoon Springs and Apache Pass click here.
Mangas Coloradas tries to make peace with the Americans on several occasions, and on January 17th, the old Chief decides to accept a truce offer from the captain of the California Volunteers. American soldiers violate the truce, ambush and take Mangas Coloradas prisoner. General Joseph West orders him killed.
Daniel Conner, a miner who witnesses the event, said later that the soldiers assigned to guard Mangas were tormenting him by poking his legs with red-hot bayonets. When Mangas tried to get up, the soldiers shot him. One soldier took his scalp: another boiled the flesh from his head, and sold the skull to a phrenologist in the East. His body was dumped in a ditch.
His son Mangus joins forces with the bands of Victorio, Nana, and Geronimo and continues to fight the American invaders. Except for a few warriors, women and children, his Warm Springs Apaches will be nearly annihilated by the time Geronimo surrenders for the last time in 1886.
1871 – April Camp Grant Massacre
Camp Grant is located at the confluence of the San Pedro River and Aravaipa Creek about 50 miles north of Tucson. It was the home of the Aravaipa Apaches before they had been driven from the area by white settlers. In February, five starving old Aravaipa women come to the camp under a flag of truce asking for sanctuary, which is granted by a Lieutenant Whitman. Before long, over 500 Aravaipas, under Chief Eskiminzin, gather in the area, asking that they be allowed to grow crops along the creek to feed their people. This too Whitman allows. He also arranges for them to “earn their keep” by working as farmhands for the local ranchers after extracting a promise from the Indians that none would participate in any raids.
However, other Apache bands continue raiding, and some of these raids are blamed on the Camp Grant Aravaipa. On April 30, an angry mob of 150 Tucson citizens and their Papago (now Tohono O’odham) mercenaries attack the Aravaipa camp, clubbing and shooting 144 people. All but eight of the corpses are women and children, as most of the men had been away hunting. Twenty-seven Araviaipa Apache children are captured and sold in Mexico by the Papagos.
NEXT Week: The Apache Wars: Part 3 – The Massacres Continue