History: Territorial Period
Compiled and Written by Lou Hoffman
Download this document as a PDF: Territorial New Mexico
General Stephen Watts Kearny
At the outbreak of the Mexican War General Stephen H. Kearny was made commander of the Army of the West by President Polk and ordered to lead a 1700 man expeditionary force from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to occupy New Mexico and California. He quickly accomplished the bloodless conquest of New Mexico on 19 August 1846, ending the brief period of Mexican control over the territory. After spending a little more than a month in Santa Fe as military governor with headquarters in Santa Fe, Kearny decided to continue on to California after ensuring that a civilian government was in place.
Early the following year in Kearny's absence New Mexicans mounted their only challenge to American control. In January, 1847, Kearny's appointed Governor, Thomas H. Benton and six others were murdered in Taos. Colonel Sterling Price moved immediately to quash the insurrection. Price led a modest force of 353 men along with four howitzers out of Albuquerque, adding to the size of his force as he marched north up the Rio Grande by absorbing smaller American units into his command. After a series of small engagements, reaching Taos Pueblo on 3 February Price found the insurgents dug in. Over the next two days Price's force shelled the town and surrounded it in an attempt to force surrender. When American artillery finally breached the walls of the, the battle quickly turned into a running fight with American forces chasing down their opponents who attempted to find shelter in the mountains. In all, perhaps as many as one hundred guerillas were killed, while Price suffered the loss of seven men killed and forty-five wounded. The opposition was defeated and American control over New Mexico was secured. Yet challenges to American control remained. Except for a brief moment in 1862, conflicts with nomadic Navajos, Apaches, Utes, and Comanches defined the next forty years of territorial military history.
In the decade following the Mexican War the US Army expanded its presence throughout the New Mexico territory, which then included all of Arizona, and a portion of southeastern Colorado.
The United States constructed a series of forts first under the direction of General Edwin Vose Sumner and later Colonel Edward R. S. Canby. The posts were constructed throughout the territory in an effort to curb Indian raids and protect overland trade routes. Fort Union protected the northerly trade route to and from Santa Fe. Fort Defiance stood at the edge of the Navajo homeland to the West. Further south, Fort Stanton was constructed in an attempt to deter Mescalero Apache raids. Others, including Forts Fillmore, Marcy, Craig and more dotted the New Mexico countryside. By 1860, there would be more than two thousand regular army troops stationed in the New Mexico. It was, at that time, the largest regular army force to garrison the territory. Never had the Spanish or Mexicans garrisoned such a large force here. As in the past though, the Army proved incapable of controlling either the Indians or the local citizenry from preying on one another.
For generations the Apaches resisted white colonization of their homeland in present day New Mexico and Arizona by both Spaniards and North Americans. But, during the Mexican-American War, Mangas Coloradas, chief of the Mimbreño Chiricahua and leader of the Apaches, welcomed American soldiers and urged General Stephen Watts Kearny to join with the Apaches and conquer northern Mexico.
By 1848 the Apaches were threatened by incursions of white fortune seekers who charted a trail to the gold fields of California that took them past a rare source of dependable water in the center of Indian Territory.
Then, in 1861 Mangas Coloradas tried to persuade miners in southwestern New Mexico to leave the Chihuahua territory. The miners allegedy tied him to a tree and whipped him, an act that resulted in his life-long enmity against white men. So he and his son-in-law attacked them.
Though his nephew Cochise had long resisted fighting Americans, in 1861 he, too, was betrayed by white men and turned against them. Together, Mangas Coloradas and Cochise ravaged much southern New Mexico and Arizona, until Mangas was wounded in 1862. He was subsequently captured and killed in January 1863, allegedly while trying to escape from Fort McLane, New Mexico. Upon the death of his uncle, Cochise became principal chief of the Apaches.
In a pass about a mile above sea level the high the hot Chihuahuan Desert to the east, in southern New Mexico, merges with the lower and even hotter Sonoran Desert to the west, in southern Arizona; and both deserts, marked by agave, yucca, sotol and cholla merge with the higher woodland, distinguished by mountain mahogany, oak, juniper and piñon pine.
There the Chiricahua Apaches, drifting southwest from the southern Great Plains, found a spring in the sixteenth century, and they made it the center of their new homeland -- Apacheria, the desert basin and range country of southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and north central Mexico.
Location of Apache Pass, Immediately South of Bowie, AZ
Cochise, the celebrated chief of the Chiricahuas, watched anxiously as a growing procession of uninvited whites passed through his range, helping themselves to his Apache Spring water.
The "fine spring…afforded the most eligible camping ground we had yet met with," said John Russell Bartlett, surveyor of the international boundary between the United States and Mexico. U. S. military forces soon began marching over the trail. John Birch’s San Antonio to San Diego mail route ran past Apache Spring. John Butterfield’s Overland Mail stagecoach service ran past Apache Spring, and he even built a way station with a mule and horse corral near the vital water supply.
Collision between a warring and raiding people defending their homeland and an intruding people hungering for new territory became as inevitable as lightning during a thunderstorm. It erupted in early February of 1861, just a little over a mile north of Apache Spring. Lieutenant George Bascom, youthful and inexperienced leader of a company of fifty four troopers, insulted Cochise by wrongly accusing him of kidnapping a child and stealing horses and mules. Bascom compounded the problem by taking several Chiricahua, including Cochise, his brother and two nephews, hostage and holding them against the return of the child. Cochise alone managed to escaped, and he and his warriors tried to force the return of the hostages by killing a Butterfield Apache Spring way station attendant, taking another attendant and several other whites hostage, attacking a freight wagon train and massacring the drivers, attacking a Butterfield stagecoach, stealing twenty nine army mules, and, finally, murdering and mutilating the white hostages. Less than half a mile below Apache Spring, Bascom hung the Chiricahua hostages, including Cochise’s relatives. He left them swinging from their ropes in a grim proclamation of war. He had touched off a conflict which would endure for more than a decade.
Cochise, enraged, virtually slammed shut any white access to Apache Spring. He virtually shut down civilian travel over the Apacheria Pass. He rampaged through the white settlements near his range, plundering and killing. He watched the white soldiers leave for the east. The Chiricahuas must have frightened them away, he thought. Actually, the white soldiers had left in 1861 to fight in another conflict, the Civil War. The western half of the Territory of New Mexico was practically abandoned to the Apaches for the interim.
Call to the Secessionist Cause
When calls for secession were answered in 1861, the ramifications were felt across the continent. New Mexico was no exception. There was considerable discussion about the future of the Union among officers stationed throughout the Department of New Mexico. Deep divisions over the issue of slavery already existed within the territory. Although it differed in form from the institutionalized agriculture-based slavery that defined the South prior to the war, slavery was well established and commonly practiced in New Mexico. Unlike the South though, the majority of slaves in the Southwest came from local populations who lived in the region. Indeed, a lively slave trade existed among the various population groups in the Southwest and northern Mexico.
Most officers of southern origin assessed their loyalty. Within a few months, many elected to resign their commissions in the US Army and offer their services to their native states or the incipient Confederacy. By law, officers in the army could resign their commissions. Thus, for those who chose to do so, it was simply a matter of submitting a letter of resignation to the department commander, who forwarded it to the secretary of war for approval by the president. As soon as a letter of acceptance was returned, the officer was free from his obligations to the Union Army. Enlisted men, however, enjoyed no such privilege.
At Fort Union, Second Lieutenant DuBois, a native of New York and solidly committed to the Union "whether wrong or right," recorded in his diary that "the soldiers are loyal. Most of the officers going south themselves." He observed that even the officers "going south," with the exception of Longstreet, "urge their soldiers to remain true." As for himself, DuBois wrote, "I became involved in several bitter political discussions here and threatened if an effort was made to seduce my regiment from its allegiance I would assume command myself and fight it out." There was pressure placed on all officers to join the southern cause. DuBois noted that "high positions were offered me" to join the "southern army." He "declined, although it is hard to fight as a 2d Lieutenant when I might have a much higher rank." The pressure continued on officers, and DuBois wrote a few days later that "tremendous efforts are being made to coax them South." He remained steadfast for the Union.
Among those in the New Mexico Department who resigned their commissions for that purpose were Colonel Thomas Turner Fauntleroy, Major Henry Hopkins Sibley, and Captain Richard Stoddert Ewell, Colonel William Wing Loring, Lieutenant Colonel George B. Crittenden, Major James Longstreet, pay department; and Lieutenant Dabney H. Maury, assistant adjutant general. Several of those who resigned rose to high ranks in the Confederate service.
James Longstreet who, as a Lieutenant General, commanded the Confederate Army's First Corps wrote:
"I was stationed at Albuquerque, New Mexico, as paymaster in the United States army when the war-cloud appeared in the East. Officers of the Northern and Southern States were anxious to see the portending storm pass by or disperse, and on many occasions we, too, were assured, by those who claimed to look into the future, that the statesman would yet show himself equal to the occasion, and restore confidence among the people. Our mails were due semi-monthly, but during winter seasons we were glad to have them once a month, and occasionally had to be content with once in six weeks. When mailday came the officers usually assembled on the flat roof of the quartermaster's office to look for the dust that in that arid climate announced the coming mail-wagon when five or ten miles away; but affairs continued to grow gloomy, and eventually came information of the attack upon and capture of Fort Sumter by the Confederate forces, which put down speculation and drew the long-dreaded line.
A number of officers of the post called to persuade me to remain in the Union service. Captain Gibbs, of the Mounted Rifles, was the principal talker, and after a long but pleasant discussion, I asked him what course he would pursue if his State should pass ordinances of secession and call him to its defence. He confessed that he would obey the call.
It was a sad day when we took leave of lifetime comrades and gave up a service of twenty years. Neither Union officers nor their families made efforts to conceal feelings of deepest regret. When we drove out from the post, a number of officers rode with us, which only made the last farewell more trying."
As Colonel Loring awaited a decision on his resignation, the command of the department was gradually changed. Colonel Ernest Richard Sprigg Canby, Nineteenth Infantry, who had recently led an expedition against the Navajos and was in command of Fort Defiance, was called to Santa Fe in June 1861 and placed in command of the northern portion of New Mexico Territory by Loring.
As it became clear in the spring of 1861 that a war between the Union and the seceded states had begun, there were numerous rumors in New Mexico that Confederate Texans were coming to capture the territory and Fort Union. This post was considered a prime target because of the quartermaster, commissary, and ordnance depots, holding all kinds of supplies, weapons, and ammunition that were crucial for the Confederate volunteer troops. There was also fear that Texans might attack the indispensable supply trains coming to Fort Union from Fort Leavenworth.
Very few people, in the East or in New Mexico, understood that New Mexico Territory might be a key factor in the ultimate success or failure of the Confederate States of America. As it turned out, the Confederacy, without a good portion of the American West, could not establish a viable nation. It is impossible to know if the war for secession would have turned out differently had the Confederate States of America gained control of the territories of New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah and the State of California, perhaps even the northern provinces of Mexico, thereby creating a large, two-ocean country, but that conquest undoubtedly would have made a major difference. The key to the Southwest for the Confederates was the New Mexico Territory.
Some Confederate leaders mistakenly assumed that the New Mexicans could easily be dissuaded from their attachment to the Union. Many inhabitants of southern New Mexico Territory, especially at Mesilla, and in the present state of Arizona were disaffected and easily won over to secession. But the bulk of New Mexicans, residing along the Rio Grande from Socorro north, held no fondness for Texas or Texans and many would join Union troops to resist an occupation force comprised primarily of volunteers from Texas.
Confederate leaders also failed to understand that New Mexico was tied to the Union by the small thread the Santa Fe Trail, and they apparently never appreciated how easy it would be to cut that thread and isolate New Mexico from its source of supplies and reinforcements. At the same time, most Union leaders had little if any understanding of the significance of western territories in the outcome of the conflict. Little was done to meet the needs of the Union troops in New Mexico until Confederate troops invaded the territory, and even then the efforts were negligible.
New Mexico Volunteer Infantry
Shortly after armed conflict began, Union General-in-Chief Winfield Scott directed that all companies of the Fifth, Seventh, and Tenth U. S. Infantry Regiments stationed in New Mexico Territory and at other western forts be sent as soon as possible to Fort Leavenworth for reassignment. Colonel Canby persuaded the war department to leave most of those troops in New Mexico Territory to face the Confederate threat until volunteers had been enlisted and trained to replace them. When the infantrymen departed, only four companies of dragoons and the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen would be left to represent the regular army in New Mexico. These were augmented by volunteers raised in the territory. Volunteer regiments were raised in each state and territory to help with the war effort and provide protection for transportation routes and settlements. New Mexico eventually managed to raise two infantry regiments of ten companies each, a mounted regiment of fourteen companies, and two other partial regiments never larger than a few companies.
Canby directed that the First Regiment of New Mexico Volunteer Infantry was to be inducted as follows: four companies at Fort Union, four at Albuquerque, two at Fort Craig, and two at Fort Stanton. The qualifications for volunteers required that they be between 18 and 45 years of age. According to war department regulations, "all officers and men must be sound and active, free from all malformation, defects of sight, hearing, ulcers, piles, rupture, fracture, dislocation, and disease of any kind." Interestingly, however, "the lack of, or defect in, the left eye, or slight injury of the left hand, will not reject the man." Furthermore, "foreigners and stammerers must not be received, unless they can understand and speak rapidly."
The Hispanic men of New Mexico were not foreigners, but many of them could not speak or understand the English language. This created innumerable problems for the troops and, especially, the commanding officers in the department. Many orders and communications had to be translated into Spanish, and English-speaking officers had to utilize translators when directing Hispanic troops. It became necessary for the department commander to direct that "whenever troops speaking different languages are thrown together, all details will be made so that those speaking the same language may serve together." In addition, whenever possible, privates were to serve under non-commissioned officers who spoke their language.
Many of the New Mexican volunteers seemed to be unsuitable as soldiers because of the language barrier and their lack of military experience. But, they possessed numerous strengths, however, that were seldom utilized because of Anglo prejudices: understanding of the environment (routes of travel, locations of springs, and utilization of native plants) and the Indians, experiences of endurance in the face of obstacles, and courage in the midst of battle (especially against Indians). Many New Mexicans performed admirably in the service of the U.S., but most Anglo officers did not give them proper credit because of their preconceptions about "Mexicans" and volunteers.
Each community of sufficient population in the territory was encouraged to raise a company for the volunteer service. The primary reason New Mexicans joined the army was for the pay ($13.00 per month) and a bounty of $100 for those who signed up for three years. One immediate problem in New Mexico, peculiar to society here, was how to deal with peons who enlisted in the volunteers. The owners insisted that their property be returned, while some of the peons saw military service as a way to freedom. Colonel Canby did not endear the army to the wealthy class of New Mexico when he ruled that peons who enlisted in the volunteers were not to be released for that reason except by writ of habeas corpus from the U.S. courts in the territory. Local courts were not permitted any jurisdiction in these cases. Because of the frustrations arising from the enlistment of peons, recruiting officers in New Mexico were directed in September 1863 to enroll any peon "without the consent of his master."
The feared threats to the supply trains did not materialize in 1861, and the crucial supply route to troops in New Mexico remained open throughout the early months of the Civil War. The military contract supply trains, at least five of which came over the Cimarron Route, began arriving at Fort Union on July 18.
Confirmation of the Texas invasion of New Mexico came on 4 August 1861, when word arrived of the surrender of the garrison of Fort Fillmore by Major Isaac Lynde, Seventh Infantry, to the rebel forces commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John R. Baylor, Second Texas Mounted Rifles, CSA. Baylor had recruited volunteers from the towns and farms of central Texas and led them to Fort Bliss, which had been abandoned by U.S. troops when Texas seceded in February 1861.
Source: Garrisons of the Regular U.S. Army – New Mexico 1846-1899
by S.C. Agnew, The Press of The Territorian, 1971
Baylor then led approximately 500 Texans into New Mexico Territory on 3 July 1861, bypassed Fort Fillmore, and occupied the nearby town of Mesilla. Major Lynde, convinced that Fort Fillmore was indefensible against artillery because of its location, decided to destroy what supplies his troops could not carry away and abandon the post. On July 27, 1861, Lynde led his troops from Fort Fillmore and headed north to Fort Stanton. It was reported that the soldiers had filled their canteens with whiskey instead of water, and as they marched across the desert they became intoxicated and suffered greatly from want of water. As Lynde's troops approached San Augustin Springs, Baylor's Texas force arrived. Lynde surrendered his entire command (seven companies of Seventh Infantry and two companies of the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen) plus Captain Alfred Gibbs and 70 troopers who were escorting a beef herd to Fort Fillmore and had met up with Lynde just prior to Baylor's approach. These troops were paroled, which meant they could return to their homes but could not participate in military operations, and moved to a camp near Fort Union to await transportation to the States.
Lynde's surrender left the lower Rio Grande valley open to Confederate advance as far as Fort Craig at the north end of the Jornada del Muerto, approximately 30 miles south of Socorro.
After Lieutenant Colonel Baylor had taken possession of the southern part of New Mexico Territory, he proclaimed on 1 August the Confederate Territory of Territory of New Mexico (comprising approximately the southern half of the present states of New Mexico and Territory of New Mexico, everything south of 34° north latitude) and himself as military governor. However, without sufficient troops to push northward toward the Rio Grande settlements in New Mexico, Baylor contented himself with establishing Confederate control of his new territory. The conquest of the rest of New Mexico was left for others. Brigadier General Sibley, with his "Sibley Brigade" of Texas Cavalry, was given that task.
By the end of September the aggregate garrison at Fort Union was 1,679 (1,439 available for duty), including troops of 18 companies (mostly volunteers), the highest ever recorded in the history of the fort. That did not include the large camp of parolees who had surrendered at San Augustin Springs.
On Monday 23 September the urgency of finishing new fortifications at Fort Union increased with the arrival of news that Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley, in command of three regiments of Texas Volunteer Cavalry (approximately 2,700 officers and men), was preparing to march from San Antonio to Fort Bliss, from where they would join the Confederate forces already in New Mexico. Sibley had commanded Fort Union only a few months before and knew better than any Confederate officer the trove of seized could then be sold and the proceeds used for the hospital and care of the "infirm."
This representation of the design of the Fort Union fieldwork is based on archeological evidence, aerial photography, and written descriptions. No plans for this earthwork have been found. The magazine was in the center, gun placements were around the perimeter of the central earthwork, and quarters were in the demilunes. National Park Service Drawing, Fort Union National Monument Archives.
On 25 December 1861, Colonel Roberts, commanding at Fort Craig, informed the rest of the department that his spies had discovered the movement of approximately 2,000 Texans, "well supplied with artillery," northward from Fort Bliss. Their destination was unknown, but the enlarged invasion had apparently begun. This was probably just one regiment, less than 1,000 in number, of Sibley's Brigade. They encamped about 25 miles north of Fort Bliss to await the rest of Sibley's troops.
Colonel Canby had moved department headquarters to Fort Craig in anticipation of Confederate intrusion, hoping to stop the rebels before they could reach the rest of the Rio Grande valley. If the Texans chose to bypass the settlements and strike directly at Fort Union, the troops at Union would have to push them back. After receiving word of the pending Confederate thrust, Colonel Paul suggested to Canby, if there were too many Texans for the troops at Fort Craig to handle, that they all "fall back on Fort Union." He also assured the department commander, "I am making preparations to receive them, in case they intend to pay me a visit." As the year 1861 came to a close, the aggregate garrison at Fort Union was 733 (597 available for duty) and Paul was confident the fieldwork was virtually unassailable.
On 1 January 1862, Colonel Canby notified the department from Fort Craig that "information from below states that 1200 men with 7 pieces of artillery are on the march to this place." On the same day, Canby requested Colorado Territory Governor William Gilpin to send "as large a force of the Colorado Volunteers as can possibly be spared" to Forts Wise and Garland to assist "in defending this Territory." Colonel Canby continued to arrange his forces in the department to meet any attack the Confederates could initiate.
Throughout New Mexico, recruitment of more volunteers continued. Everywhere, the troops were making preparations and waiting for the Texans to commit themselves to a definite line of attack. New Mexico Militia troops, at the beginning of 1862, consisted of the First Regiment, New Mexico Calvary under the command of Colonel Christopher (Kit) Carson, noted frontiersman, trapper, guide and Indian fighter, and the First New Mexico Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Miguel Piño, both stationed at Fort Craig. Two other regiments were in the process of being organized, one at Fort Union, to be called the Fourth New Mexico Regiment of Calvary, and the other at Fort Craig, which was to be the Third. Carson's regiment had some training and experience, although it was greatly under strength. Piño's was not only under strength, but composed, in the majority, or raw recruits not long organized into companies and armed haphazardly with whatever weapons were handy. In addition to the New Mexico troops, there were 1,200 regular soldiers and one company of Colorado Volunteers at Ft, Craig.
In February 1862 the stage was set for the most dramatic engagements of the Civil War in the Southwest. Sibley started his brigade northward from Fort Thorn on 7 February. Approximately 2,300 Texans were concentrated a few miles below Fort Craig by 15 February. At Fort Craig, Canby had concentrated 3,800 Union troops. More aid was on the way. Lewis Weld, the acting governor of Colorado Territory, directed that the First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers under command of Colonel John P. Slough, a Denver attorney, march to the New Mexico Territory as quickly as possible. They began arriving at Fort Union on 10 March, the same day that an advanced party of the Texas Volunteers reached Santa Fe.
The first major battle in New Mexico occurred at Valverde, near Fort Craig, on 21 February. Sibley realized that he would have difficulty capturing the stronghold at Fort Craig and hoped to draw the troops away from the post for an engagement. After failing initially to lure Canby's troops into battle south of Fort Craig, the Texans decided to bypass the fort on the east side of the Rio Grande. It would be dangerous to have a large number of the enemy to the rear, but this action might draw the troops out to battle. The engagement came at Valverde ford, approximately six miles north of Fort Craig. The Confederates won the day, with heavy losses for both sides. Among the dead was Union Captain Alexander McRae, Third Cavalry, a native of North Carolina who had served at Fort Union before the war. It was later reported that, the night before he was killed, McRae declared "he had nothing to live for, his family having disowned him on account of his adherence to the Union." The Texans did not capture Fort Craig and the supplies they needed, however, and proceeded toward Albuquerque with what was left of Canby's command to their rear. Fort Craig, on the other hand, was cut off from its supply line. Canby calculated that he had sufficient provisions there to last until late April, if necessary.
The Confederates marched up the Rio Grande, capturing towns and supplies as they went: Socorro on 25 February 1862, Belen on 1 March, Albuquerque on 2 March, and Santa Fe on 10 March. The Union troops located along the way attempted to destroy what supplies they could not carry with them and retreated ahead of the Texans.
At least one Union officer realized that the territory held the key to the ultimate fate of the Confederate States of America. Acting Inspector General Gurden Chapin, Seventh Infantry, understood that the Confederate conquest of New Mexico was "a great political feature of the rebellion. It will gain the rebels a name and a prestige over Europe, and operate against the Union cause." He predicted that, if the Confederates captured New Mexico, they would "extend their conquest toward old Mexico and in the direction of Southern California." He concluded that the present threat "should not only be checked, but . . . rendered impossible." A Confederate officer on Sibley's staff, Captain Trevanion T. Teel, First Regiment of Texas Artillery, later confirmed Chapin's fears. According to Teel, Sibley intended to use New Mexico as a base for the conquest of California and northern Mexico.
The U.S. House of Representatives at this time devoid of the southern delegates and controlled by Republicans passed a bill to create the United States Arizona Territory arbitrarily using the north-south border of the 107th meridian to divide New Mexico.
On the one hand, this had no meaning to the Apaches or practical effect on the ebb and flow of conflict in the region that was to follow. On the other, the use of a vertical, north-south border had the politically convenient effect of denying a de facto ratification of a Confederate Arizona Territory in the lower half on the territory, paralleling the border with Mexico. The final bill passed the Senate in February and was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on 24 February, the date of the official organization of the US Arizona Territory.
The staff at Fort Union received news of the battle at Valverde on 25 February. Because Canby was still at the isolated Fort Craig, Colonel Paul assumed command of all the Union troops in the department "not under the immediate command of . . . Canby." This was to be in effect "during the present emergency and until communication be re-established with" Canby.
The Colorado Volunteers arrived at the post on 10 March under the command of Colonel Slough after a 90 mile forced march. Colonel Paul and Colonel Slough soon disagreed about how best to meet the Confederate threat. Paul, following Canby's latest instructions to remain at Fort Union until instructed otherwise wanted to stay put. However, Slough wanted to take most of the troops and move toward Santa Fe, noting that "instructions from Colonel Canby are not only to protect Fort Union, but also to harass the enemy." They would engage the Texans in the field or drive them from Santa Fe if possible, with Fort Union to furnish supplies and serve as the point to fall back on if necessary. This intervening action would not expose the fort to the Texans immediately, and it might defeat or disable the Confederate troops. If the Texans were not turned back, much of the fight might at least be taken out of them before they reached the post. Colonel Slough had his way because his appointment as colonel predated that of Paul. This may have been critical because the fieldwork at Fort Union could (as was later demonstrated) be defeated by artillery placed on the mesa behind the old post.
Colonel Paul protested to Slough that the latter's plans were "in violation of Colonel Canby's instructions, and, if unsuccessful, must result in the entire loss of the Territory." "With due deference to your superior judgment," Paul declared, "I must insist that your plans . . . must inevitably result in disaster to us all." He concluded with strong words: "I protest against this movement of yours . . . in direct disobedience of the orders of Colonel Canby." In order to absolve himself of any blame for what might happen, Paul explained the circumstances to the adjutant general of the army in order "to throw the responsibility of any disaster which may occur on the right shoulders."
At the same time Governor Connelly who had withdrawn to Las Vegas advocated for an offensive against the Texans, supported Colonel Slough's decision. Connelly thought Slough's column could "curtail the limits of the enemy, and mayhap lead to the expulsion of the enemy from the capital." The governor predicted that "this slight difference of opinion and movement will lead to no unfavorable result." Connelly also hoped Canby would march from Fort Craig to join in the offensive. Canby was not moving, however, and the defense of the territory fell primarily on the troops at Fort Union. The Colorado Volunteers, sometimes called the "Pike's Peakers," were ready to fight and confident of victory.
But, the Texans were not nearly as well organized as most of the officers at Fort Union believed. Sibley's brigade was spread out from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, where only about 250 to 300 Texans, under command of Major Charles L. Pyron, Second Regiment of Texas Mounted Rifles, held the territorial capital. Sibley was reportedly ill; some said he was often drunk. He was not providing much leadership for his brigade, leaving that to other officers. He had some of his troops at Albuquerque to deal with Canby if he moved out of Fort Craig. Others were watching the routes east of the Rio Grande, in case Canby tried to slip around and join the troops at Fort Union. The Confederates were still searching for supplies to sustain their drive toward Fort Union and were not yet prepared to undertake further offensive action. They were, despite their striking successes, still in dire straits. They needed to capture the supplies at Fort Union soon, or they would be unable to sustain themselves in New Mexico. The Texans, who had not yet been defeated in New Mexico, remained confident of victory, exhibited high morale, and were ready to fight hard when required.
The showdown came north of Santa Fe on the Santa Fe Trail at Apache Cañon and Glorieta Pass, 26 and 28 March. Colonel Slough left Fort Union with 1,342 volunteers and regulars, on 22 March. Colonel Paul remained in command of the post with 257 serviceable troops. Slough's command encamped the first night on the Sapello Creek, the second at Las Vegas, and gathered at Bernal Springs (approximately 45 miles from Fort Union) on 24 and 25 March. Major John M. Chivington (a Methodist Episcopal preacher turned soldier), First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers, was sent ahead with 418 men "toward Santa Fe, with a view of capturing or defeating a force of the enemy reported to be stationed there." Chivington's command marched toward Glorieta Pass, halting about midnight of 25 March at Martin Kozlowski's Ranch (near the abandoned Pecos Pueblo).
On the same day Confederate Major Pyron at Santa Fe, having been informed that troops were advancing from Fort Union, marched most of his command from the city with two six-pounder guns to meet the federal troops. They camped that night at Anthony P. Johnson's Ranch (present Cañoncito) at the western entrance to Apache Canyon, the western approach to Glorieta Pass. Pyron sent four scouts ahead to keep a watch for the troops from Fort Union. With sufficient warning from those pickets, Pyron hoped to be able to place his command in a position to defeat his adversary. Chivington, after establishing camp, sent 20 scouts ahead at 2:00 a.m. to try to capture Pyron's pickets, who were reportedly about five miles away at Pigeon's Ranch (owned and operated by Alexander Valle) at the eastern entrance to Glorieta Pass. They were successful early in the morning of 26 March and brought all four Confederate scouts to Chivington's camp.
Chivington led his command over Glorieta Pass that same day. He apparently did not learn from the captured pickets where the Texans were located, but he had deprived Pyron of a warning of his presence in the area. Pyron, meanwhile, left Johnson's Ranch about noon to lead his command over the same route. Both forces were probably surprised to meet each other in Apache Cañon about mid-afternoon. Pyron soon had his six-pounders set up and firing at the Union troops. Chivington had no artillery but enjoyed superior numbers and a position above the Texans. He deployed some of his men up each side of the cañon, above the elevated range of the artillery, from where they fired down on the Confederates. The rough terrain and trees helped to render the artillery ineffective.
After the three-hour battle at Apache Cañon, the Confederates retreated from the field. As they fell back they destroyed a small bridge, hoping it would stop the Union pursuit. A company of 103 mounted Colorado Volunteers was ordered to jump their horses across the sixteen-foot chasm, and all but one made it. After capturing 71 prisoners, Chivington decided to stop the pursuit because the sun was setting and he feared that Confederate reinforcements might be near. He reported his own losses in the engagement as 5 killed and 14 wounded and the Confederate losses as 32 killed, 43 wounded, and 71 prisoners. After agreeing to a truce until the following morning to bury the dead and treat the wounded, Pyron returned to Johnson's Ranch and Chivington set up camp at Pigeon's Ranch. The engagement at Apache Cañon was the first defeat of the Texans since they had invaded New Mexico.
|Confederate Invasion of New Mexico, 1862. Source: Robert M. Utley, Fort Union National Monument, 28.|
One of the Texan volunteers, Private George M. Brown, who was among the prisoners taken at Apache Cañon, later explained the impact this reversal had on the rebels. He was with Pyron's troops at Santa Fe, planning to "march on and take Fort Union, which, we thought, was ours already." Of the engagement on 26 March, he wrote: "Out we marched with the two cannons, expecting an easy victory; but what a mistake. . . . They were regular demons, upon whom iron and lead had no effect, in the shape of Pike's Peakers, from the Denver City gold mines. The Texans thought the Colorado volunteers "seemed to have a charmed life." Nothing turned them back. After seeing some of his comrades killed and maimed, Brown declared, "Such a sight I never want to see again." He was taken to Fort Union and later paroled to return to Texas.
Battle of Glorieta Pass, 1862. Source: Warren A. Beck and Ynez D. Haase, Historical Atlas of New Mexico, 37.
On 27 March Chivington moved his command back to Kozlowski's Ranch, and he and Pyron were both joined by reinforcements. Colonel Slough moved the remainder of his force to Kozlowski's Ranch, and Confederate Lieutenant Colonel William R. Scurry brought more Texans from his camp at Galisteo to Johnson's Ranch. Scurry spent the day at Johnson's Ranch, expecting an attack at any moment. Private Gardner claimed that Colonel Slough had sent a message to the Confederates at Johnson's Ranch on the morning of 27 March, announcing "that the Armistice was up, and we would attack them soon, but we didn't intend to attack them that day at all." On 28 March Scurry, determined to wait no longer, led about 700 men with three pieces of artillery over Glorieta Pass to attack the enemy. On the same day Slough, in a daring two-column offensive, had sent Major Chivington with 430 men on a back road over Glorieta Mesa to the heights overlooking Apache Cañon and Johnson's Ranch. Chivington's force, guided by Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Chavez of the New Mexico Volunteers, was to harass the Confederates from the rear while Slough and the remaining 900 Union troops moved over the Santa Fe Trail.
Slough, to give Chivington time to travel the longer distance, moved to Pigeon's Ranch and waited there -- unaware that the Confederates had advanced to a position in Glorieta Pass about a mile west. When that was discovered about 10:30 a.m., the Union troops were rushed forward to form a battle line. They were met by the fire of Confederate artillery. Both sides utilized artillery; the Confederates had three pieces and the Union troops had eight. The Texans enjoyed an element of surprise and forced Slough's troops to retreat several times during the day. Slough abandoned the field soon after 5:00 p.m. and retreated to Kozlowski's Ranch. Captain Enos, quartermaster, was credited with saving the Union supply and ammunition train during the retreat. Confederates were too exhausted to pursue, but must have felt they had achieved an important victory.
It is impossible to determine accurately the losses of either side because of the conflicting reports. Colonel Slough estimated Union losses at 28 killed, 40 wounded, and 15 prisoners, and Confederate casualties of at least 100 killed, 150 wounded, and several prisoners. Colonel Scurry reported 36 killed and 60 wounded in his command and stated that Union killed must have exceeded 100.
The apparent Confederate victory at Glorieta Pass was deceptive. Chivington's command had delivered what proved to be the decisive blow to the Confederate invasion of New Mexico at Johnson's Ranch. There his troops captured and destroyed a piece of artillery that Scurry had left behind and burned the supply train of approximately 70 wagons containing food, ammunition, clothing, baggage, forage, medical supplies, and other items. Chivington later recalled that the "wagons and supplies were run together and set on fire and kept under guard until the ammunition had all exploded and the supplies had all been consumed, nothing remaining excepting the irons of the wagons." At Johnson's Ranch, three Texans were killed, several were wounded, and 17 were captured. One Union soldier, Private Simon Ritter, Company A, First Colorado Volunteers, was injured when the Confederate ammunition exploded. Chivington's command was guided by Padre Polaco (the Reverend Alexander Grzelachowski) over a different route back to the camp near Kozlowski's Ranch, where they arrived about 10:00 p.m.
The impact of the destruction was felt by the Texans. Confederate Private Brown later informed his "dear wife," "our whole train of seventy wagons was burned by the enemy. In one of the wagons was that trunk of clothing you sent me. . . . It was burned up with the rest." Confederate Private H. C. Wright recalled many years later, "it was a great shock to us to find that after we had won the battle we had lost the victory by our supplies having been destroyed." Wright also remembered it was a "dreadful blow. We were left shorn of everything, with three or four hundred dead and wounded men on our hands and no means to care for them." Chivington later claimed that his men bayoneted over one thousand mules which had pulled the Confederate supply train, an apparent exaggeration. The uncertainty of how many mules, if any, were killed that day remains an interesting footnote to the history of the engagement at Glorieta Pass.
Colonel Scurry, his entire supply train destroyed and his men extremely low on ammunition, was unable to follow up his success on the field at Glorieta Pass. If they had captured the Union supply wagons and ammunition, which the quick action of Captain Enos prevented, Scurry might have had a second chance. His men, however, suffered intensely from want of food, blankets, and medical supplies. It turned cold and snowed on them during the night after the battle. They had to retreat to Santa Fe for supplies. It was the beginning of the end of Confederate occupation of New Mexico. The engagement at Glorieta Pass and Johnson's Ranch was the turning point of the war in the Southwest, referred to by some historians as the "Gettysburg of the West." Brigadier General Sibley was forced to abandon his planned attack on Fort Union, and his brigade was driven from New Mexico during the late spring and early summer of 1862. The troops from Fort Union, led away from the post by Colonel Slough in violation of Canby's orders, had saved the territory for the Union.
Colonel Slough's column returned to Fort Union on 2 April, as directed by Canby. Slough, whom Canby charged with violating orders by marching his troops away from Fort Union, resigned his commission effective 9 April. Major Chivington was promoted to the rank of colonel to replace Slough. Colonel Paul, who had been so upset when he discovered Slough outranked him, now took command of operations. Paul placed Captain Asa B. Carey, Thirteenth Infantry, in command of the post and led most of the troops at Fort Union back toward Santa Fe, hoping to join up with Canby's troops from Fort Craig at some point to continue pushing the Texans out of the territory. Governor Connelly was confident that this would happen soon. When Canby's troops appeared at Albuquerque, the Confederates at Santa Fe were called there to join Sibley's force in an attempt to hold the city. Troops from Fort Union reoccupied Santa Fe, where they found the Confederates had left behind their wounded comrades. Governor Connelly moved the seat of his government back to the capital on 12 April. Canby traveled east of the mountains around Albuquerque and joined up with Paul's troops from Fort Union at Tijeras, and the combined force pursued the fleeing Texans down the Rio Grande valley. There was a small skirmish at Peralta and the Texans continued to retreat. There was an exchange of some prisoners, and Canby paroled and sent out of New Mexico the remaining Confederate prisoners ("about 500"). Those who were wounded were treated until they could travel.
One of those parolees, Private Brown, explained what had happened to Sibley's brigade in a letter to his wife. After the victory at Valverde, he wrote, "we felt like heroes." With renewed confidence, he recalled,
". . . we were marching up the country with the fixed determination of wrenching this country from the United States Government and we all thought it would soon be in our hands. But what a mistake. Having marched to within eighty miles of Fort Union, we were again met by the enemy from Fort Union, and after three battles with them, all of us who were not killed or taken prisoners were obliged to destroy everything they had, and flee to the mountains for their lives, and get out of the country, the Lord only knows how. We were among those taken prisoners."
Brown, while at Socorro, explained that "some of the prisoners were sent to the States; the rest of us have been started home this way." He revealed that they were paroled "by swearing never to take up arms against the United States again, which I was very glad to do." He was sorry to have lost, and reiterated, "had it not been for the devils from Pike's Peak, this country would have been ours." He also had his fill of war, warning "if brother John has not joined the volunteers yet, keep him away for God's sake." Without explaining why, Private Brown considered Sibley largely responsible for what had happened to the Texas volunteers in New Mexico. "I hope the day is not far distant," he asserted, "when Gen. Sibley will be hung." He was not alone in that opinion. Private Wright declared that Sibley "proved himself incompetent" and "shirked his duty."
Captain Teel, who did not concede that the troops from Fort Union had beaten the rebels in battle, blamed Sibley's ineptitude for the Confederate failure in New Mexico Territory. "General Sibley," he later declared, "was not a good administrative officer. He did not husband his resources, and was too prone to let the morrow take care of itself." Sibley did not pay enough attention to his supply line and relied too much on the hope of capturing provisions as needed. Teel believed the Texans did not succeed primarily because of "the want of supplies." "Under such circumstances," he concluded, "failure was inevitable." Teel believed that, if Baylor had been in charge, "the result might have been different." That may have been Teel's rationalization, but it was also credible.
While the residue of Sibley's Brigade was retreating toward Fort Bliss, Colonel James H. Carleton, First California Volunteers, who had served at Fort Union during the early 1850s, led a column of some 1,500 California Volunteers into Arizona where they were ambushed by the Chiricahuas at Apache Spring. The soldiers trained small but deadly mountain howitzers on the Indians, driving them from the spring. "…they seemed very loath to let me have water," said the commanding officer Captain Thomas H. Roberts.
John C. Cremony, who commanded the howitzers, said, "…I afterwards learned from a prominent Apache who was present in the engagement, that sixty-three warriors were killed outright by the [howitzer] shells, while only three perished from musketry fire. He added -- We would have done well enough if you had not fired wagons at us.’" They called the fight the Battle of Apache Pass.
The First California Volunteers then forced the Confederate troops, who had occupied the Arizona Territory under Baylor, to retreat back to Texas, as well. By mid-July 1862, even Fort Bliss was back in the hands of Union troops. As soon as Canby was assured that Carleton's California Column would be able to clear the Confederates from Arizona and southern New Mexico, he made plans to return the Colorado Volunteers to their home territory. He then turned his attention to the protection of the Santa Fe Trail and the New Mexican settlements from Indians. These were missions the troops at Fort Union and throughout the department had been engaged in for more than a decade, and now the volunteers joined in the ventures. He considered Colonel Carson, First New Mexico Volunteers, capable of leading successful expeditions against bands that refused to submit peaceably. In addition, the troops at Fort Union, with the help of civilian employees, continued to receive and ship out supplies.
Carleton is most well known for his actions in New Mexico during the 1860's as one of the more controversial figures in the state's history. When he assumed department command from Canby in October 1862, he wasted no time in organizing his department to wage war against the Navajos and Mescalero Apaches. Carlton called for a strategy of total war and drew upon his studies of Russian Cossack tactics, which stressed the use of small, mobile units constantly moving in the field and unburdened by cumbersome infantry. He "multiplied as much as possible the points of contact between our troops" and the Indians, and relied on the persistent efforts of small parties acting simultaneously over a large extent of country to attain victory.
Carleton, because of his earlier experience in New Mexico and his attention to duty, also understood the department and its people better than most other department commanders. He was committed to making the lives of citizens secure and expanding the areas of settlement in the territory. He was determined to deal with Indian problems as quickly as possible, settling the Indians on reservations, by force if necessary, where they could be fed and closely watched.
There had been few reports of Indian troubles in the region of Fort Union during the time of Confederate invasion and retreat. But, by September 1862 there was increasing evidence of Indian assaults.
Carleton believed the Mescalero Apaches were perpetrators of many crimes in southeastern New Mexico, and he sent Colonel Carson with five companies of the First New Mexico Volunteers to reoccupy Fort Stanton and turn it into a base of operations against the Mescaleros. As Colonel Carson prepared to lead his battalion from Fort Union to reoccupy Fort Stanton and deal with the Mescalero Apaches, Carleton issued broad orders: "You will attack the Mescaleros and Navajos wherever you find them until further orders." Carleton sent two other columns, each independent commands comprised of two companies of California Volunteers (one led by Captain William McCleave] and the other by Captain Nathaniel J. Pishon), into Mescalero country to assist in their defeat. These troops were also supplied from Fort Union. Carleton believed that winter was the best time to campaign against the belligerent Indians. All troops sent against the Mescaleros were ordered to kill all men and take women and children prisoners until the tribe had surrendered to Carleton. There were to be no negotiations and no peace until the Mescaleros were soundly defeated.
At the end of October Brigadier General Carleton ordered the establishment of Fort Sumner. This new post on the Pecos would encourage settlers to locate in the area and block the Pecos route against Kiowas, Comanches, Mescalero Apaches, and Texan invaders. Later, Fort Sumner watched over an Indian reservation for the Mescaleros and Navajos. The post was founded by Captain Joseph Updegraff, Fifth Infantry, on 30 November, and was active until 30 August. During all that time, it was supplied from Fort Union.
Colonel Carson's campaign against the Mescaleros began to bring favorable results in November 1862. All the Mescaleros who agreed to surrender to Brigadier General Carleton were directed to the Bosque Redondo, where they would be fed and protected by the troops at Fort Sumner. Carson was directed to continue his expedition and send all Mescaleros who wanted peace to go to Bosque Redondo. Carleton believed that, "eventually, we shall have the whole tribe at Bosque Redondo, and there we can conclude a definite treaty with them." Rumors of a renewed Texan invasion, which proved untrue, caused an interruption of the campaign against the Mescaleros late in 1862.
By March 1863 Carleton was satisfied that the Mescalero Apaches were sufficiently subjugated to proceed with the establishment of a reservation for them at Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner. Carleton, Superintendent of Indian Affairs James L. Collins, and Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy of Santa Fe went to meet with the Mescaleros and work out the details for their reservation. Provisions for these Indians were secured from Fort Union until the Bureau of Indian Affairs could provide subsistence. Carleton planned to have them plant crops in the spring.
An expedition against the Mimbres Apaches in southwestern New Mexico had resulted in the death of Mangus Colorado and many of his followers, and Carleton hoped to have the Mimbres Apaches on a reservation soon. In the spring of 1863 he planned to send a major expedition against the Navajos and force them onto a reservation. In all these efforts, Carleton relied on supplies shipped through Fort Union.
Colonel Carson and his battalion of First New Mexico Volunteers were directed to begin preparations to move to Navajo country and undertake a campaign designed to bring that tribe to reservation status as well. When Carson led his troops out of Mescalero country, they were replaced by troops from Fort Union who continued to pressure the remaining Mescaleros to move to the reservation.
Carson was ordered to begin Carleton's campaign against the Navajos on 1 July, which lasted into the spring of 1864. The campaigns against the Navajos and the Mescaleros lasted for nearly two years. Carleton's forces comprised of both Californian and New Mexico Volunteers, and bolstered by contingents of Ute scouts, were led principally by Carson who spent as much time setting fire to the supplies of the natives as actually exchanging fire with them. When they did engage in combat, the volunteer units regularly won the day. By January1864 Carson's volunteers had penetrated the last Navajo stronghold, Canyon de Chelley, and forced the Navajos to surrender. Those 8,000 who surrendered were forced to endure "The Long Walk" to Fort Sumner in eastern New Mexico, where they would remain on the Bosque Redondo Reservation for the next four years. The surrender at Canyon de Chelley combined with other defeats between 1863-1864 ended Navajo resistance in the Southwest. When the federal government closed the reservation in 1868, they were allowed to return to an expansive reservation in the Four Corners area.
Despite the victory over the Navajos, other challenges from Indian Nations remained -- most notably from the Apaches. Carleton waged effective campaigns against the Mescaleros, forcing many of them to surrender and relocate to Fort Sumner. They too were returned to their traditional homeland in southern New Mexico when the Bosque Redondo was closed.
The respite given the Plains tribes by the Civil war was not enough to allow them to rebuild their numbers. In the closing months of that conflict, the United States military commands in the West were moving swiftly to regain the initiative and effect a bloody retribution. By the fall of 1864, General Carleton was ready to turn the army's attention to the Comanches and Kiowas, who all year had raised havoc along the Santa Fe Trail.
Angry bands of warriors threatened to cut completely this route of communications with Missouri and the East. During 1864, virtually every wagon train proceeding down the Canadian River to New Mexico was attacked. Even large and powerful parties lost horses and oxen to Indian raiders. Small groups, whether military or civilian, had been massacred. In October, therefore, Carleton received orders to restore full communications and to "punish the savages" responsible for the depredations. He authorized Colonel Carson to sweep through the valley of the Canadian with a strong force of New Mexico and California volunteers.
It was known that large numbers of Comanches and Kiowas were wintering on the rich bison plains of the Texas Panhandle, and it was believed that these Indians would not be prepared to fight a winter campaign.
Carson marched out of Cimarron, New Mexico, in early November with more than three hundred mounted troops and seventy-two Ute and Jicarilla Apache scouts and auxiliaries. The Utes were promised scalps and plunder, and some warriors brought along their women. Carson was well supplied with a well-stocked train of twenty-seven wagons and six thousand rounds of ammunition. He was also furnished with two excellent little twelve-pound mountain howitzers, fitted on special traveling carriages.
The column followed Ute Creek to where it pours into the Canadian, then rode east into the high Texas Plains along the broad, flat river bottoms. The scouts went far ahead. At night, Carson camped among tall cottonwoods in the gulches or cañadas. The weather was already bitter, with snow flakes appearing. For days he saw no Indians. Then, at sundown on 24 November, the scouts reported an encampment about a day's march to the east, near the old, abandoned Bent and St. Vrain trading post on a small tributary of the Canadian. This place was known as Adobe Walls, from its still standing sun-dried brick structures. Carson at once marched toward the Indians, pushing his column through the frosty night for fifteen miles, allowing no fires or smoking during rest breaks.
He was in sight of the Indian camp at daybreak. Lieutenant George Pettis of the California volunteers, the officer in charge of the two-gun battery, thought he saw gray-white Sibley tents in the distance. Carson informed him that these were the sun-bleached tipis of Plains Indians. The Utes reported a camp or village of 176 lodges. Without scouting farther down the river valley, Carson detached his baggage train with a guard of seventy-five men, and with a squadron of some 250 cavalry attacked across the two-mile-wide valley toward the village. This was open country, surrounded by low hills or ridges, and covered with dry grasses that rose horse-high in many places.
The Ute and Jicarilla auxiliaries left the column and tried to steal the enemies' horse herd. The camp, which was Kiowa Apache, was alerted before the cavalry reached it. The warriors formed a skirmish line to cover the flight of their women and children, who abandoned the tipis and ran for the ridges behind the river. The Plains-culture Athapaskans, who were "Apache" only in dialect, often created a confusion in accounts, which sometimes called them Kiowas, sometimes merely Apaches. This led some whites to believe that there were still Apaches on the Texas plains. The Kiowa Apaches formed an integral part of the Kiowa tribal circle, and on this day one of the great war-chiefs of the Kiowas, Dohasan (To-hau-sen, Little Mountain, also often called Sierrito), was in their lodges. Dohasan organized the defense, while also sending for help from Comanche and Kiowa lodges downstream. He rallied the warriors, and his swirling, shooting horsemen slowed the white attack and assured the escape of the women. Carson's cavalry killed one warrior who wore a coat of mail, but when they reached the tepees they were deserted.
Dohasan exhibited great bravery. His horse was shot from under him, but he was rescued and rallied his warriors. The cavalry pushed on against the retreating Kiowa Apaches for about four miles, finally reaching the crumbling Adobe Walls buildings. Here, more and more Indians seemed to be appearing. The whites dismounted, and sheltering their horses behind the trading post, began skirmishing on foot. Carson came up to Adobe Walls with the battery, and now both the old mountain man and the inexperienced Pettis saw another camp of some five hundred lodges rising less than a mile way, along the river.
This was a Comanche encampment, and hundreds of warriors were streaming from it across the prairie. Pettis counted "twelve or fourteen hundred." The Indians formed a long line across the ridges, painting their faces while their chiefs harangued them. The Kiowas, who were also arriving in large numbers, roared the battle songs of their warrior societies. Pettis feared that the horde would charge the white squadron at any moment.
Carson ordered him to throw a few shells at the crowd of Indians. The howitzers were unlimbered, wheeled around, and fired in rapid succession. The shells, screaming over the warriors' heads and bursting just beyond them, seemed to startle the Indians badly. Yelling, the host moved precipitously out of range.
Carson told his troops that the battle was over. He ordered the horses watered in Bent's Creek. The surgeon looked after several wounded men while the others ate cold rations. However, the tall grass was swarming with distant Comanches and Kiowas. Within the hour, a thousand warriors surrounded the trading post, circling and firing from under the horses' bellies. Surprisingly, most of the warriors appeared to be equipped with good firearms. However, the twin cannon broke up their attacks, and the exploding shells knocked down both men and horses at a great distance. The enemy swirled about for several hours, not daring to press too close, while the howitzers killed many on the ridges. But Carson was becoming apprehensive. He had never seen so many Indians. Pettis was sure that there were at least three thousand, and small parties could be seen still arriving. The expedition had marched unwittingly into a vast winter concentration of the tribes on the southern bison range. Carson, with a split command, was worried about his trains. His rear detachment, without cannon, would almost certainly be overwhelmed if the enemy discovered it. He now made a cautious but quite sensible decision: to break out of the decaying adobe walls of the abandoned trading post and regroup with his supply column, which had his food and ammunition.
The cavalry mounted and retreated behind volleys from the battery, which stayed constantly in action. The Indians fired the grass, but this helped, because the smoke concealed Carson's retiring column. About sundown, the soldiers arrived back in the deserted Kiowa Apache camp, where Pettis noted that the Ute women had mutilated the corpses of several dead Indians. Carson ordered the lodges fired; then, under the cover of darkness, he moved out rapidly to the west. The enemy did not attack. Three hours later, he rejoined his wagons.
The next dawn, the Indians still held back. Some of the territorial officers insisted that the expedition take up the attack, but Carson ordered a withdrawal. The odds were much too great; Carson, who later wrote that he had never seen Indians who fought with such dash and courage until they were shaken by his artillery, did not make the error of despising horse Indians. He had so far lost only a few dead and a handful of wounded, while his guns had inflicted serious losses, killing and wounding perhaps two hundred Indians. He could claim a victory, and did this when the column arrived back in New Mexico. Carson's official report stated that he had "taught these Indians a severe lesson," to be "more cautious about how they engage a force of civilized troops."
On the Indian side To-hauson and Stumbling Bear were the heroes. To-hauson had a horse shot under him. Stumbling Bear made so many reckless charges that his small daughter's shawl, which he wore for good luck, was pierced by a dozen bullets. Stumbling Bear was not wounded. The battle ended with the troops retiring, closely followed by the Indians, who set fire to the brown grass and harassed the soldiers by shooting and charging from the cover of the smoke.
Because his horses were "broken down" and the enemy had scattered in all directions, Carson started back to Fort Bascom on 27 November 1864. The column returned to Bascom on 20 December, ending the campaign. Carson was permitted to go to his home at Taos. Many of the troops were sent to quarters at Fort Union. The destruction of the Kiowa village was a serious blow because of the approaching winter, but the Kiowas and Comanches had not been punished as Carleton hoped. They would continue to raid along the supply lines to New Mexico for several more years. Carson had not been provided sufficient manpower and equipment to overhaul the plains tribes as his troops had done the Mescalero Apaches and the Navajos. Even so, the Adobe Walls campaign of 1864 was an important contribution to the defense of the Department of New Mexico and its routes of supply during the Civil War.
Privately, Carson thought himself lucky to have extricated his command. In fact, the howitzers and his own caution had probably saved him from Custer's fate on the Little Big Horn. The Kiowas and Comanches told some Comancheros who were in the Indian camps at the time that except for the "guns that shot twice," the twin battery, they would have killed every white man in the valley of the Canadian. Carson himself said as much to Lieutenant Pettis.
Carson was angered by the presence of Comancheros with the Kiowas and Comanches, which explained the source of the Indians' guns and ammunition. He "had no doubt," he stated, "that the very balls with which my men were killed and wounded were sold by these Mexicans not ten days before." He wanted the New Mexicans barred from trading with the wild tribes while the army was at war with them. This was the beginning of what was to become a historic hatred between the soldiers and the Comancheros.
A few days after the fire and the battle at Adobe Walls, Colonel Chivington led his infamous attack on the Cheyenne and Arapaho village of "peaceful" Indians located on Sand Creek in Colorado Territory. The campaign culminated in an affair so disgraceful that it brought upon Chivington the condemnation of the entire country. Black Kettle, a Cheyenne chief, had brought his village to Fort Lyon, Colorado, in compliance with orders of the agent that all well-disposed Indians should come in for roll call. While camped near the fort, with an American flag flying over his tepee, Black Kettle was attacked by Chivington. One hundred and twenty Indians were slaughtered. Women and children were butchered in cruel and inhuman ways. A wave of horror swept over the United States when the details of this attack became known. The feelings of the Indians may well be imagined.
As a result of the massacre, the hostility of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes increased toward the whites, until finally, in 1868, General Sheridan was forced to drive them to a reservation, the eventual result of Sheridan's campaign being the establishment of Fort Sill.
The upheaval of the Civil War ended in the spring of 1865 with the defeat of the Confederacy. Carleton directed Captain Shoemaker at the Fort Union Arsenal to send sufficient powder and primers to Santa Fe to fire 200 guns at department headquarters, as directed by the war department, in celebration of the surrender of Robert E. Lee. On 4 July 1865, Carleton ended martial law and lifted all wartime restrictions on citizens in New Mexico Territory. The territory and the nation spent the better part of a generation recovering and binding up the wounds engendered by that dreadful conflict between the North and the South. The army in New Mexico continued to work for a solution to the Indian problems. However, the era of the "Indian wars" continued for another decade on the plains and longer in the Southwest. During much of that time, as Carleton complained in 1865, the war department and the department of the interior were frequently in conflict over the best methods of dealing with the Indians. In addition to dealing with raiders on the plains, Carleton was working desperately to find enough provisions to feed more than 8,000 Navajos and Mescaleros at Bosque Redondo.
For the most part, the troops in New Mexico ended the Civil War years as they had begun, protecting the routes of supply and the settlements from Indian attacks. Such would continue to be their mission for more than another decade. Throughout the Civil War years the element of supply was the key to the success of Union troops in dealing with Confederates and Indians.
Post bellum conflicts with Indians were less unique for their frequency or occurrence than they were for the combatants representing the United States. No longer were territorial militias called upon to serve in Indian conflicts. The army would be made up of regulars. Following the Civil War, Congress called for the permanent establishment of four black regiments known a "Buffalo Soldiers," the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Infantry, and the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry. While serving in New Mexico and the West, men from the Ninth and Tenth were awarded twenty Medals of Honor. By 1876 the entire regiment of the Ninth Cavalry was stationed in New Mexico, manning posts throughout the territory, including Forts Bayard, Wingate, Stanton, and Union. Along with the Tenth Cavalry, they represented a significant portion of the army in the territory for nearly twenty years. Units from the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Cavalries rounded out the mounted contingent of regular troops in New Mexico. Not surprisingly, their numbers were augmented by numbers of Navajo scouts, who now sided with an army and an institution they once opposed.
In 1871, command of the Department of Territory of Arizona was assumed by Gen. George Crook, who succeeded in winning the allegiance of a number of Apaches as scouts and bringing many others onto reservations. Cochise surrendered in September, but, resisting the transfer of his people to the Tularosa Reservation in New Mexico, escaped in the spring of 1872.
Finally, in late 1872, the idealistic Brigadier General O. O. Howard, trusted frontiersman Tom Jeffords and Cochise negotiated an agreement of peace, which called for a Chiricahua reservation surrounding Fort Bowie and Apache Spring. "Hereafter," said Cochise, "the white man and the Indian are to drink of the same water, eat of the same bread, and be at peace." Jeffords assumed the post of Chiricahua Indian agent, and after unsuccessful tries at other locations, he finally established his agency at Apache Spring.
Washington bureaucrats, whisky traders and Cochise’s death on 8 June 1874 undermined the peace agreement and Jeffords’ work. In 1876, Washington, determined to consolidate all the western Apache bands, ordered the Chiricahuas to relinquish their cherished mountain homeland and move to southeastern Arizona’s central Apache reservation, San Carlos, where, in 1874, some 4,000 Apaches had been forcibly relocated. It was a barren wasteland that came to be known as "Hell's Forty Acres."
But, turmoil erupted once again, occasionally spelled by periods of uneasy peace. The Chiricahuas bolted the San Carlos reservation, took to Mexico’s Sierra Madre and raided and plundered on both sides of the border. The U. S. and Mexican military and professional scalp hunters pursued and occasionally even caught Chiricahua bands, inflicting a heavy toll in captives and blood.
Chief Victorio, a remarkably skilled and popular leader of the Warm Springs and Chiricahua Apaches, is considered one of the fiercest of the Apache. He and his Warm Springs Apaches left the hated San Carlos Reservation. He had done this twice before, but had returned. When moved to Fort Stanton, New Mexico he fled again, but this time he said, he would never return. Victorio reasoned that the arrival of the new judge and district attorney meant he would be tried for old murders and horse stealing. He and others also left, because government would not give them their promised food allotments, so they and their families were starving.
On 4 September 1879 Victorio and a substantial number of followers cut their ties with the reservation system for the last time and inaugurated seven years of continuous conflict between the United States and Apaches in Territories of Arizona and New Mexico. Avoiding capture or defeat while literally riding circles around his adversaries.
Remote Hembrillo Basin, Sierra County, New Mexico, located in the mountains along the west side of what is now White Sands Missile Range, was the scene of the largest Apache-Cavalry battle of this war. On the evening of 6 April 1880, two companies of the 9th Cavalry, were led by Capt. Henry Carroll to Victorio's camp via Sulfur Canyon north of Jembrillo.
They were quickly surrounded by approximately 150 Apache warriors. Taking advantage of the limited cover on a low ridge, now dubbed "Carroll's Ridge," the troops held off the Apache throughout the long, dark night. By morning, Carroll and seven troops were wounded, two mortally, and 25 horses were down.
As the sun rose on 7 April, the Apache moved closer to the troopers. Just as the Apache massed for attack, cavalry reinforcements arrived from the north and west. The Apache retreated to Victorio Ridge, a long ridge to the south. There they fought a rear-guard action, as their women and children escaped by climbing out of the basin to the south.
The reinforcing troops included two additional companies of "Buffalo Soldiers," 106 Apache scouts and one company of 6th Cavalry from Arizona. Aligning themselves along this ridge, the troops launched a frontal assault on Victorio Ridge, while Lts. Gatewood and Mills led a flank attack on the Apache camp, which was behind Victorio Ridge and west of Victorio Peak.
The Apache on Victorio Ridge retreated upon hearing the shots from the direction of their camp. Fighting a rear-guard action from each of the ridge tops that rise out of the Hembrillo Basin, the Apache disengaged.
The exhausted troops fell back to the arroyos, digging holes in the streambed in a search for water. Camping in the Hembrillo Basin overnight, the troopers marched east toward White Sands on the evening of 8 April. Victorio and his people fled west to the Black Range, while their Mescalero allies returned to Mescalero.
In May 1880 General Sheridan assigned Colonel Grierson's Tenth U.S. Cavalry to assist in the capture of Victorio. Instead of going into New Mexico, Colonel Grierson felt Victorio would come to Texas to raid. Grierson also decided to change his strategy in confronting Victorio. Instead of his men chasing Victorio across the desolate countryside, he would post them at the canyon passes and water holes he thought Victorio would use.
The Buffalo Soldiers with Captains Carpenter and Nolon caught up with Victorio and his warriors on 11 August. In the heat of the thunderous chase, the horses in Carpenter's Company gave out, leaving Nolon's troopers to continue the chase. Victorio's warriors crossed the Rio Grande River into Mexico before Nolon's troopers could catch them. Victorio, like many times before, had escaped. Thus ended the "Battle of Rattlesnake Springs". Soon after Victorio's return to Mexico, its government gave the U.S. military, permission to cross into Mexico with the expressed intention of capturing Victorio dead or alive.
Ten companies of the Tenth U.S. Cavalry were placed inside Mexico at the Rio Grande on 4 October to stop Victorio from returning into Texas. The Tenth and Colonel Jaoquin Terraza's Mexican forces located Victorio and his band. Five days later, the Mexican government informed the American forces their presence in Mexico was no longer needed. The Buffalo Soldiers left under protest. Colonel Grierson asked General Sheridan for permission to return to Mexico, permission was denied.
The end came on 14 October 1880 in the Tres Castillos Mountains, Mexico. Colonel Terrazas and his Mexican troops surrounded Victorio's camp and attacked. Before the morning was over Victorio, sixty warriors and eighteen women and children lay dead. Sixty-eight women and children were taken prisoner.
Indeed, ultimately, it was not the American army who dealt the final blow to Victorio. Rather, it was a group of Mexicans in the mountains of Sonora. For the next decade New Mexico-based units continued to play a critical role in the conflicts between the Apaches and the United States. None, though, matched the scope and duration of the campaign against Victorio. After 1880 the most significant conflicts originated in Territory of Arizona, spilling over into New Mexico, but with limited effect and consequence.
Geronimo, a Bedonkohe Apache leader of the Chiricahua Apache, led his people's defense of their homeland against the U.S. military after the death of Cochise. He became the most famous Apache of all for standing against the U.S. government and for holding out the longest. He was a great Apache medicine man, a great spiritual leader. Geronimo was highly sought by Apache chiefs for his wisdom. He was said to have had magical powers. 'He could see into the future and walk without creating footprints. He could even prevent dawn from rising to protect his people.'
The slaughter of Geronimo's family when he was a young man turned him from a peaceful Indian into a bold warrior. Originally Goyathlay ("One Who Yawns") joined a fierce band of Apaches known as Chiricahuas and with them took part in raids in northern Mexico and across the border into U.S. territory which are now known as the states of New Mexico and Arizona.
In 1882, Crook was recalled to Territory of Arizona to conduct a campaign against the remaining Apaches. Geronimo surrendered in January 1884. Then, deprived of traditional tribal rights, short on rations and homesick Geronimo took flight from the San Carlos reservation in May 1885 and fled to Mexico to resume the life that he loved.
Crook ordered more than five-thousand U.S. troopers and more than 100 scouts, including Al Sieber, Tom Horn and Mickey Free (the white child Cochise was falsely accused of abducting), to take the field in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona with orders to protect settlers and hunt down the hostiles. As authorized by an earlier treaty with Mexico, Crook dispatched two columns across the border into Mexico and the Sierra Madre with the same orders. Mexican forces took to the field in the Sierra Madre with the same orders. Civilian posses took up the chase. Eventually, several thousand armed men joined in the pursuit of less than 150 hostiles. Newspapers of the region screamed for immediate success.
Although pursued relentlessly by the U. S. and Mexican forces, the Chiricahuas struck again and again. In hit-and-run raids and clever ambushes, they killed dozens of settlers and troopers in the United States and an unknown number of victims in Mexico. They raided their own reservation, vengefully killing 12 of the Apaches who had refused to join the outbreak. They stole horses, supplies, weapons and ammunition and faded into the rugged landscape like quail disappearing into the brush.
Crook’s troopers managed to win minor skirmishes, even striking Geronimo’s camp in the Sierra Madre range at one point, but the Apaches recovered quickly. More often, troops fell back, weary and hungry, their mounts exhausted and footsore.
Finally, in late January, 1886, eight months after the breakout from the reservation, the frustrating and punishing campaign finally began to pay off. The Apaches, their physical and emotional energies spent by the chase, dispatched emissaries to discuss the possibility of peace with Crook’s troops.
Although U. S. and Mexican forces had hounded them relentlessly for 10 months and 1,645 miles, the Chiricahuas were "…in superb physical condition, armed to the teeth, and with an abundance of ammunition," Crook would say later. They were "…fierce as so many tigers—knowing what pitiless brutes they are themselves, they mistrust everyone else."
Nevertheless, having grown weary and dispirited in constant flight, the embattled Geronimo and other warring chiefs Nachez, Mangus, Chihuahua and Nana had come to Canyon de los Embudos to speak of the possible surrender of their bands to General Crook.
Chihuahua, speaking for his band, said to Crook, "…we are always in danger out here… …I surrender myself to you because I believe in you and you do not deceive us…"
Nachez, speaking for his band, said, "…I throw myself at your feet… Now that I have surrendered, I am glad. I’ll not have to hide behind rocks and mountains; I’ll go across the open plain. I’ll now sleep well, eat contentedly, and be satisfied, and so will my people…"
Finally, Geronimo, with resignation, said, "What the others say I say also. I give myself up to you. Do with me what you please. I surrender. Once I moved about like the wind. Now I surrender to you and that is all."
Crook, acting under authorization from Washington, agreed that the United States would exile the Chiricahuas to the East for two years then return them to their reservation in Territory of New Mexico. Otherwise, he believed, the Apaches – in spite of their professed submissiveness – would flee back to the mountains and renew their raids on the whites.
When the conference on the floor of the canyon drew to a close on 26 March, Alchisay, an Apache intermediary, said to Crook, "…I tell you that these Chiricahua really want to do what is right and live at peace." Two years exile in the East then return to the reservation did not seem too bad. Geronimo, Nachez and Chihuahua shook hands with Crook.
Early on the morning of 27 March Crook left for Arizona to telegraph the details of the surrender agreement to Washington. Unknown to him, chaos and confusion, oiled by mescal, rattled the Apache camp. Rumors of deception by Crook flew from lodge to lodge.
It began in the night, when a bootlegger and smuggler named Bob Tribolet who under the cover of darkness circulated among the Apache bands, bringing venomous whispers of impending American treachery and demijohns of mescal. Likely acting as an agent for U. S. war profiteers, he came to sow fear and doubt, to prolong the conflict. During the morning, Crook’s officers tried to defuse the situation. They smashed leftover demijohns of the liquor. When darkness fell, however, Tribolet reappeared. More rumors. More mescal. Rising confusion. Unexplained gunfire. Panic!
Geronimo induced Nachez and a dozen and a half warriors to forget the handshake with Crook and abrogate the surrender agreement. With 19 women and children, they fled once more to the mountains. Although Chihuahua, Mangus and Nana and their bands continued to honor the surrender, Tribolet had done his job. The war would go on.
Crook, back in Arizona, telegraphed the terms of the surrender agreement – two-year exile in the East, return to Territory of New Mexico – to Sheridan. The commanding general confered with President Cleveland, and although they had given Crook authority to negotiate terms, they rejected his arrangement. They demanded, instead, "unconditional surrender." Cleveland and Sheridan deliberately undermined Crook’s credibility with the Apaches, especially Chihuahua, Mangus and Nana.
Next, Crook had to telegraph the news of Geronimo’s breakout to Sheridan. "great disappointment," responds Sheridan. Snidely, he said, "It seems strange that Geronimo and party could have escaped without the knowledge of the scouts."
Stung, Crook defended his men, saying, "There can be no question that the scouts were thoroughly loyal, and would have prevented the hostiles leaving had it been possible."
Sheridan, then fully convinced that he could run the Apache campaign from his Washington office, advised Crook "…to concentrate your troops at the best points and give protection to the people. Geronimo will undoubtedly enter upon other raids of murder and robbery, and as the offensive campaign against him with scouts has failed, would it not be best to take up defensive and give protection to the people and business interests of Territories of Arizona and New Mexico?"
Offended, Crook replied, "It has been my aim throughout present operations to afford the greatest amount of protection to life and property interests, and troops have been stationed accordingly." He added that his offensive campaign with scouts has not failed. It has, in fact, succeeded, and it must be continued to eliminate the "constant menace" of Geronimo’s followers. With his commanding officer now questioning his competence, Crook concluded by saying, "It may be, however, that I am too much wedded to my own views in this matter, and as I have spent nearly eight years of the hardest work of my life in this department, I respectfully request that I may be now relieved from its command."
Sheridan promptly accommodated Crook, the soldier’s general, and replaced him with General Nelson A. Miles, the politician’s general and a vain presidential aspirant who preferred the comforts of his post quarters and disparaged the likes of his Apache enemies.
During the five months following the flight from Canyon de los Embudos, Geronimo threw his handful of fighters into a hopeless struggle against an overwhelming force. He had trigged the downfall of General Crook, perhaps the preeminent Indian fighter in U. S. history. He provoked the last campaign of the Indian wars. He terrorized the populations on both sides of the border. He eluded capture in what was the largest manhunt in the history of the region. He transformed himself from a storied Apache warrior and leader to an American legend and icon.
As the weeks passed, Geronimo and his fighters struck settlements and ranches across northern Sonora. They shot miners and cowboys. They killed two civilians on the border. They raided a ranch, killing a woman and her child and a ranch hand. They shot up a detachment of U. S. soldiers. They stole horses to replace those they lost. Reports, inflated by panic and rumor, held that Geronimo had somehow put together a force of 150 Apache warriors – nearly 10 times the actual number – who were savaging the country.
General Miles, a mustached man with an air of uniformed perfection, discharged Crook’s Apache trackers and fielded 5000 U. S. troopers in New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico’s Sierra Madre to run down Geronimo. He constructed a system of heliographs – signaling devices – to send messages from mountaintop to mountaintop across the country. Miles’ forces, without the trackers, however, stood little chance of running down Geronimo.
The failure of his troops left Miles increasingly frustrated. He had already sent Chihuahua and his band to Florida. He plotted to exile even those Chiricahua Apaches who have remained faithful to the U. S., including those who had served his army loyally as military scouts. He sent Apache leaders to Washington to impress on them the might of the U. S., then he had them imprisoned at Leavenworth, Kansas, en route back to Arizona.
Wisely, Miles dispatched the extraordinary 33-year-old Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood along with two Apache scouts and a small escort in an effort to find Geronimo and initiate peace talks. The thin, sharp-nosed Gatewood, an experienced campaigner and a leader of uncommon courage and integrity, knew Geronimo better than any other officer under Miles’ command. Equally important, Geronimo knew and trusted Gatewood. The two Apache scouts, Ki-e-ta and Martine, having grown tired of the long struggle, agreed to serve as Gatewood’s emissaries.
After grueling weeks on the trail, Gatewood, ill, located Geronimo’s camp near the Sonoran village of Fronteras, a few miles south of the U. S./Mexican border. He approached under a white flag of truce. Ki-e-ta and Martine, riding in advance, carried the message into Geronimo’s camp that Gatewood had come to speak of peace.
The next morning, their arms laid aside, Gatewood and Geronimo faced each other on the banks of the Bavispe River. "look at his face," Gatewood said later, "imagine him looking me square in the eyes, and watching my every movement, 24 bucks sitting around fully armed, my small party scattered in their various duties incident to a peace commissioner’s camp; and say if you blame me for feeling chilly twitching movements."
Gatewood, calling on raw courage struggled with his illness, delivered his message to Geronimo, "Surrender and you will be sent to join the rest of your people in Florida, there to await the decision of the President as to your final disposition. Accept these terms or fight it out to the bitter end." He knew that Geronimo and his warriors could kill him on the spot.
Geronimo tried to bargain for better terms. Gatewood, under strict orders from Miles, refused to yield.
Finally, Geronimo said, "We want your advice. Consider yourself one of us and not a white man. …what would you advise us to do under the circumstances?"
"I would trust Miles and take him at his word," said Gatewood.
Geronimo, with Gatewood’s words – "…you will be sent to join the rest of your people…" in his mind, agreed to surrender. He moved his band northward, under the protection of Captain Henry Lawton’s troopers to meet General Miles and formalized the agreement at Skeleton Canyon, located in the Peloncillo Mountains, near the Arizona/New Mexico border and roughly 20 miles north of the border with Mexico.
On 3 and 4 September 1886 Geronimo faced General Nelson A. Miles in Skeleton Canyon., who after he had betrayed the loyal Chiricahua as well as faithful Warm Springs Apache bands by sending them from their reservation to exile in Florida, came to the conference late at his own convenience.
Miles explained to Geronimo how the army would send all the Apaches to a place in the East. "That is what the President wants to do," Miles said smugly. "Get all of you together."
That matched Gatewood’s promise: "you will be sent to join the rest of your people?"
Geronimo turned to the young lieutenant, saying "Good, you told me the truth."
Geronimo visualized a new home of land, timber and water for the Apaches, who would be treated as reservation Indians, not as prisoners of war. After he counseled with his band, he announced to Miles that, "I will quit the warpath and live at peace hereafter."
With that, the Apache wars had at last drawn to a close.
Miles assembled Geronimo and his band at Fort Apache on September 5, 1886, and sent them eastward, not to a land of timber and water especially for the Apaches, but to squalid prisons in near tropical Florida, and not as reservation Indians with a new opportunity, but as prisoners of war. Many, including Geronimo, remained separated from family and friends for months. Years passed before the U. S. government finally transferred the Apaches to a reservation near Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Most, including even Gatewood’s courageous scouts Ki-e-ta and Martine, would never see their homeland again.
"There is no more disgraceful page in the history of our relations with the American Indians than that which conceals the treachery visited upon the Chiricahuas who remained faithful in their allegiance to our people," said John G. Bourke in his book On the Border With Crook.
Miles basked in the glory of his "victory" over Geronimo and denied credit to Gatewood or his two Apache emissaries in the daring surrender negotiations on the Bavispe River.
This surrender marked the end of centuries of warfare between Euro-Americans and the desert Indians in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico and signaled the end of Ft. Bowie. The final events – those last spasms in the long clash between cultures – played out like grand theater with larger-than-life characters. Ultimately, the story ended, not in an epic and bloody battle, but with an operatic struggle between men of uncommon courage, valor, honor and humanism and those of common deceptiveness, cruelty, treachery and self-aggrandizement.
Meanwhile, writers, both historians and novelists, lost sight of Geronimo the person and created Geronimo the legend. For three quarters of a century, they demonized him as a savage butcher, a product of the barbaric Apache culture. For the next quarter of a century, they glorified him as a freedom fighter, a product of the noble Apache culture.
Near the end of his life, Geronimo – who once said, "I have killed many Mexicans; I do not know how many, for frequently I did not count them," -- peddled handmade bows and arrows, photographs and his crudely scrawled autographs to make a little money. He died of pneumonia near Fort Sill on February 17, 1909 and is buried in the Apache cemetery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
But, before he died he dictated to S.S. Barrett his autobiography, "Geronimo: His Own Story" and commented:
"I cannot think that we are useless or God would not have created us. There is one God looking down on us all. We are all the children of one God. The sun, the darkness, the winds are all listening to what we have to say."
City of Albuquerque, New Mexico
Indian hostilities at an end, present day Albuquerque was founded in 1879 and was laid out by the New Mexico Town Company, an auxiliary corporation of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company. The railroad company erected its primary maintenance yard in Albuquerque, becoming a magnet for mid-westerners and immigrants of many nationalities who relentlessly moved westward in concert with the expansion of the county's rail network.
Spanish American War
The end of the Indian wars coincided with an emerging interest in overseas expansion in the United States. War with Spain was declared 25 April 1889.
Congress authorized the raising of three cavalry regiments from New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, and the Indian Territory. Secretary of War Russell Alger offered Theodore Roosevelt, then Under Secretary of the Navy, command of one of the regiments, if he wanted it. Of no little consequence in this decision was the fact that Roosevelt's close friend Dr. Leonard Wood who had served in the Indian Campaigns under General Nelson Miles was the medical advisor to both the President and to Secretary Alger.
To be sure, Roosevelt wanted to command a combat regiment and experience the "supreme triumphs of war". At the same time, Roosevelt realized his lack of military experience might delay the training of his regiment hence also delaying their deployment to Cuba. With the quick defeat of the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay, Roosevelt feared the war with Spain might end before he and his men could reach sufficient level of training to deploy, and quickly made an unusual decision. He suggested that Dr. Wood be commissioned Colonel in charge of the regiment, and that he would serve as a Lieutenant Colonel under his friend. The plan was promptly approved, and Colonel Leonard Wood was assigned commander of the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry.
Within days after the call for volunteers for the First U.S. Cavalry was issued, Colonel Wood and Lieutenant Colonel Roosevelt were deluged with eager young men from all over the United States. Various states offered entire, organized local militias. Among these, the First New Mexico Territorial Calvary, which had earned campaign participation credit for the Apache Indian Wars, responded en masse to the call for volunteers.
The First New Mexico Calvary comprised of 550 men was designated the Second Squadron, First United States Volunteer Calvary upon mustering into federal service. The First United States Volunteer Cavalry, better known as the "Rough Riders" became one of the most well-documented and famous volunteer fighting forces in American history.
American commanders initially anticipated a lengthy troop training period, but circumstances dictated a change in plans. A Spanish fleet sailed from Europe, causing near panic in the eastern seaboard cities of Boston and New York. In response to the perceived threat, a large portion of the American navy was committed to patrol duties along the North American coast. The Spanish managed to evade the porous American blockade of Cuba and enter Santiago harbor at the southeastern end of the island.
With Spain forcing the issue, the under trained American soldiers were dispatched from Tampa. The initial aim was to prevent the Spanish forces at Santiago from coordinating actions with the bulk of their existing forces in the west.
From San Antonio, Texas, the Rough Riders were ordered, on 27 May, to Port Tampa, Florida, for the invasion of Cuba. At Port Tampa, things were in great disarray, and the Fifth Corps, of which the Rough Riders were then a part, was highly disorganized. In the confusion of embarking on the transports, several regiments were assigned to the same ship, the Yucatan. Realizing that once aboard, they would probably not be forced to disembark Roosevelt got most of his men, including the Second Squadron, aboard. The Rough Riders stayed aboard to the chagrin of the other regiments. Sadly for some, because of a lack of room in the army vessels only eight of the regiment's twelve troops went to Cuba, with the other four remaining behind in Florida. Also, the regiment had to leave its horses, and essentially served in Cuba as an infantry regiment.
Also insuring that the regiment would live up to the publicity that it had already received during its call for volunteers, Roosevelt augmented his campaign of self-promotion by carrying along his personal publicist. Richard Harding Davis’ dispatches from the front, picked up by many newspapers and magazines, spread the word of Roosevelt’s heroics. They also followed a time-honored tradition. George Custer had taken a reporter on the 1874 expedition that discovered gold in the Black Hills, and Nelson Miles had had one along to record his exploits against the tribes of the southern plains. Now Davis, of the New York Herald, did the same—essentially providing TR with PR.
The first true clash of arms in the Cuban campaign of the Spanish-American War, was a bloody skirmish at Las Guásimas which ended indecisively in favor of Spain on 24 June 1898.
A contingent of Spaniards, having fought briefly with American landing forces near Siboney on 23 June, had retired to lightly entrenched positions at Las Guásimas. The task of dislodging the Spanish fell to Major General (of volunteers) and former confederate cavalry officer, "Fighting" Joe Wheeler. He was in overall command of the division that included the Rough Riders, 1st Regular Cavalry, and the 10th Regular Cavalry, African-American Buffalo Soldiers of New Mexican Indian War fame. General Wheeler marched his force out from Siboney the next day.
The battle for Las Guásimas commenced with an opening volley of American artillery. Spanish infantry returned fire, peppering advancing American regiments with rifle shots. Despite the enemy's bright white uniforms, many American troops had difficulty locating Spanish soldiers, whose 1893 German Mauser rifles fired modern smokeless propellants. Heavy foliage resulted in only light casualties on either side.
Having bloodied the advancing Americans to their satisfaction, the Spanish embarked on their planned retreat in the direction of Santiago. American casualties, amounting to almost 10% of those engaged, were fairly heavy considering the battle's short duration.
Then, on 1 July 1898 about 15,000 American troops of Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter’s Fifth Army Corps participated in a fight for the commanding ground above Puerto de Santiago’s coastal defenses, which included El Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca at the harbor entrance plus five detached batteries mounting 11 guns.
There were two major battles that day, one at El Caney and one for San Juan Heights. Both objectives were east of the city, with El Caney the more northerly of the two. Brig. Gen. Henry W. Lawton commanded his own 2nd Division and the Independent Brigade, a force of about 6,500 that was ordered to take El Caney and then reinforce with the main force.
San Juan Heights, was closer to the city, about one mile directly east. It was the main objective and was attacked by 8,000 troops of Brig. Gen. Jacob F. Kent’s 1st Division and a dismounted Cavalry Division, commanded on this day by Brig. Gen. Samuel S. Sumner. San Juan Heights had two peaks along its north-south axis, one called San Juan Hill and the other later named Kettle Hill by troops who found a large kettle near its base. Both were part of the same objective.
Poised to attack at the base of the San Juan Heights Kent and Sumner waited for Lawton's division to arrive from El Caney. Lawton didn't arrive as scheduled and no orders came from either Shafter who had set up his headquarters two miles away at El Pozo or Wheeler who, suffering from fever, turned over command to General Sumner.
Casualties mounted as the troops plagued by Spanish gunfire waited in areas thereafter dubbed "Hell's Pocket" and "Bloody Ford," Responding to the breakdown in command and communications Roosevelt ordered the troops to charge. When the regulars refused because no orders to do so had come from their brigade commanders, Roosevelt led his volunteers past and charged up Kettle hill. Soon officers from the rest of Wood's brigade along with Carrol's brigade began to advance and before long the units became intermingled. The actions of Color Sgt. George Berry of the 10th Cavalry, who carried the colors of the white 3rd Cavalry up that hill along with his own regiment’s standard, reflected the shared nature of the operation, with black and white regulars and Rough Riders fighting side by side and with one group sometimes indistinguishable from the others. The 10th never received the glory for the charge that the Rough Riders did, but one of their commanders - Captain "Black Jack" Pershing (who later commanded American troops in World War I) - was awarded the Silver Star. Col. Pershing was given the nickname "Black Jack" because of his loyalty to the 10th and its troopers.
The attackers cut their way through barbed wire fences and drove the Spaniards out of their trenches on Kettle Hill. Upon reaching the top of Kettle Hill Roosevelt watched Kent’s troops begin to overrun their objective on San Juan Hill. Still eager for a fight, he urged the men around him to follow him into the fray on San Juan. That’s when he found out what happens when you sound a charge and nobody comes. Only a handful of soldiers heard Roosevelt, and he found himself at the head of an assault that consisted of five soldiers. Thereupon Roosevelt retreated, regrouped, and assembled a more respectable force that reached the Spanish trenches in time to participate in the last of the fight. "There was," he said, "very great confusion at this time, the different regiments being completely intermingled—white regulars, colored regulars, and Rough Riders."
Roosevelt’s observation accurately characterized the mix of troops in the battle for the heights. Overall, the great majority of these soldiers were regulars; the rest were volunteers. "Their battles," Timothy Egan wrote in an article entitled "The American Century’s Opening Shot," in the New York Times of Saturday, 6 June 1998, "were sharp, vicious crawls through jungle terrain in killing heat." Regulars and volunteers, blacks and whites, fought side by side, endured the blistering heat and driving rain, and shared food and drink as well as peril and discomfort. They forged a victory that did not belong primarily to Roosevelt, nor did it belong mainly to the regular troops. It belonged to all of them.
Roosevelt’s public acclaim, in any event, was dutifully clinched by Richard Harding Davis of the New York Herald. Writing of the events on Kettle Hill in one of his dispatches Davis observed:
“Colonel Roosevelt broke from the woods behind the line of the Ninth, and finding its men lying in his way, shouted: ‘If you don’t wish to go forward, let my men pass, please.” The junior officers of the Ninth, with their Negroes, instantly sprung into line with the Rough Riders, and charged at the blue block-house on the right.”
“I speak of Roosevelt first because, with General Hawkins, who led Kent's division, notably the Sixth and Sixteenth Regulars, he was, without doubt, the most conspicuous figure in the charge. General Hawkins, with hair as white as snow, and yet far in advance of men thirty years his junior, was so noble a sight that you felt inclined to pray for his safety; on the other hand, Roosevelt, mounted high on horseback, and charging the rifle-pits at a gallop and quite alone, made you feel that you would like to cheer.”
American leaders were stunned by the casualties at San Juan Hill and fearful of the cost of a direct attack on Santiago, which held 10,000 reserves. However, they were spared from launching an assault when the commander of the Spanish fleet received orders to break out of the blockaded harbor—a truly suicidal prospect. The two fleets engaged on 3 July outside of Santiago. The Spanish were no match for the superior American navy. They suffered more than 300 killed and 150 wounded. U.S. forces sustained one death and one wounded.
Spanish land forces in Santiago surrendered on 17 July. An armistice was signed in August, setting up the framework for a final peace treaty that was signed in December.
Secretary of State John Hay later described the conflict as a "splendid little war." It was for Roosevelt. His combat experience consisted of one week's campaign with one day of hard fighting. "The charge itself was great fun" he declared, and "Oh, but we had a bully fight." His actions during the battle earned him a recommendation for the Congressional Medal of Honor but politics intervened and the request was denied. The rejection crushed Roosevelt. As though in consolation, the notoriety from the charge up San Juan Hill was instrumental in propelling him to the governorship of New York in 1899. The following year Roosevelt was selected to fill the Vice Presidential spot in President McKinley's successful run for a second term. With McKinley's assassination in September 1901, Roosevelt became President.
Fame assured, the Rough Riders mustered out of service on 15 September 1898 at Camp Wikoff, Long Island, New York. At the time the unit consisted of 52 officers, and 1,185 enlisted men. During its term of service, the unit lost two officers and 21 enlisted men killed in action; and three more men died of wounds received in battle. Nineteen more men died of disease, and twelve men deserted. Additionally, seven officers and 97 enlisted men were wounded. The unit had the highest casualty rate of all of the regiments involved in the actions in Cuba.
For only being in existence for 133 days, the unit won its place in history, and passed into legend.