Part I: After the Civil War
Editor’s Note. It’s not like the Apache Wars are ancient history. When my father was born in Tucson in 1919, Geronimo had been dead for only 10 years. Moreover, we have excellent contemporary accounts from participants on all sides of these brutal conflicts. They include Captain John Bourke’s insightful On the Border with Crook: General George Crook, the American Indian Wars, and Life on the American Frontier; Eve Ball’s oral histories of the Apaches conducted over 3 decades, Apache Voices: Their Stories of Survival as Told to Eve Ball; and even the old warrior’s Autobiography by Geronimo, in his own words. They are like reading accounts written only yesterday. Today, the descendants of the hostile Apaches struggle daily with the consequences of these wars in which their grandparents fought bravely, suffered terribly, and died violently.
Given the brutality … the massacres, atrocities, treacheries and injustices … I have often wondered if any of this misery and terror could have been avoided. So I sat down recently to see if I could get my mind around that intriguing question. What follows is my attempt to account for the powerful forces that drove mid-19th century events in the American Southwest and bring the bigger picture into focus. It will surprise many locals that Tucson played a starring role.
This is Part I of a Three Part series.
No American Indians resisted White expansion more fiercely or paid a heavier price for that resistance than the Apaches of Arizona and New Mexico Territories. In an all out rebellion to drive the foreign invaders from their ancestral homeland, and avoid being forced into life-draining, soul-deadening concentration camps, Apaches fought the armies of the United States and the Republic of Mexico and myriad civilian militias from the beginning of Cochise’s War in1861 to the end of Geronimo’s War in 1886.
Considering the scope of suffering and death as a result of these violent clashes, it seems appropriate to ask ourselves, “Who the hell was in charge?”
To the extent anyone was in charge of warfare on American soil it was the President of the United States. What was he thinking? Why did he do as he did? Given what we know today, what would we have done differently … and why? Read More