Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fort Apache and the Apache Scouts on the Expedition into Mexico

It was July 1869 when Brevet Colonel (Major) John Green of the U.S. 1st Cavalry led more than 120 troops on  a scouting expedition north from Camp Goodwin and Camp Grant into the White Mountains area of Arizona. Their mission,  to kill or capture the  Apache  they encountered.  Heading north, following the San Carlos River, the expedition  crossed the Black River, moving to the White River area near the future site of Fort Apache.

Camp Apache, 1873

Discovering over 100 acres of cornfields along the White River, Army scouts reported a large Apache settlement there.  Escapa--an Apache chief that the Anglos called Miguel--visited the expeditions camp, and invited Col. Green to visit his village. Captain John Barry was tasked by Colonel Green to follow Escapa to the village,with the mission to; “if possible to exterminate the whole village.”

Arriving at Miguel's village Captain Barry, was greeted by white flags "flying from every hut and from every prominent point," and ...
"the men, women and children came out to meet them and went to work at once to cut corn for their horses, and showed such a spirit of delight at meeting them that the officers [said] if they had fired upon them they would have been guilty of cold-blooded murder."

Returning to the White Mountains the following November Colonel Green again  met  with the Apache leaders, these were  Escapa (Miguel), Eskininla (Diablo), Pedro, and Eskiltesela. After some negotiation the Apache agreed to the creation of a military post and reservation, and Colonel  Green choose the confluence of the East and North Forks of the White River to locate it:

“I have selected a site for a military post on the White Mountain River which is the finest I ever saw. The climate is delicious, and said by the Indians to be perfectly healthy, free from all malaria. Excellently well wooded and watered. It seems as though this one corner of Arizona were almost its garden spot, the beauty of its scenery, the fertility of its soil and facilities for irrigation are not surpassed by any place that ever came under my observation. Building material of fine pine timber is available within eight miles of this site. There is also plenty of limestone within a reasonable distance.

This post would be of the greatest advantage for the following reasons: It would compel the White Mountain Indians to live on their reservation or be driven from their beautiful country which they almost worship. It would stop their traffic in corn with the hostile tribes, they could not plant an acre of ground without our permission as we know every spot of it. It would make a good scouting post, being adjacent to hostile bands on either side. Also a good supply depot for Scouting expeditions from other posts, and in fact, I believe, would do more to end the Apache War than anything else.”

On 16May, 1870 troops from the 21st Infantry and 1st Cavalry were ordered to establish "a camp on the White Mountain River ." It was initially called Camp Ord.

The troops stationed at Camp Goodwin moved to the site over the course of the 1870, and the camp would be designated Camp Mogollon, then Camp Thomas , before the Army settled upon calling it, Camp Apache . It was in 1879 that the post became Fort Apache.

Aerial view of the Fort Apache site, looking east, with canyon of East Fork of White River in foreground,
and the white cone roof of Nohwike'
 * * * * * * *
The Punitive Expedition into Mexico

Following the surrender of Geronimo the need for Indian scouts diminished until by 1891 the number of Apache scouts in Arizona had dropped to fifty. In 1915 there were only 24 remaining in service. With Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing's Punitive Expedition into Mexico 17 Apache more scouts were enlisted to join the Army's campaign, because in 1916 the number had risen to 39, and by 1917 the number had rescinded to 22.

When  the 10th Cavalry from Fort Huachuca and others from Fort Apache joined the l1th Cavalry on their long scouts into Mexico in search of the bandit/revolutionary, Pancho Villa they were accompanied by the Apache scouts.

First Sergeant Chicken, Jesse Palmer, Tea Square, Sgt. Big Chow,
and Corporal C.F. Josh, in front of the adjutant's office at Fort Apache in 1919.
Photo courtesy Lt. H. B. Wharfield, 10th Cavalry, commanding Indian Scouts in 1918-19.
To assist in the Punitive Expedition of 1916, twenty Indian scouts from Fort Apache were assigned to the 11th Cavalry. Arriving too late to take part in the search for Villa, which had gone into hiatus because of the olitical protests by the Carranza government concerning the U. S. incursion onto Mexican territory. Regardles there was ample opportunity for the scouts show their prowess at tracking. Captain James A. Shannon of the 11th Cavalry wrote in the journal of the U. S. Cavalry Association of April 1917, "With the Apache Scouts in Mexico." In that piece he well described their cautious way of operating.

Captain James A. Shannon of the 11th Cavalry
 “The Indian cannot be beaten at his own game. But in order to get results, he must be allowed to play that game in his own way. You tell a troop of white soldiers there is a enemy a thousand yards in your front and they will go straight at him without questions. The Indian under the same circumstance wants to look it all over first. He want to go to one side and take a look. Then to the other side and take a look. He is like a wild animal stalking its prey. Before he advances he wants to know just what is in his front. This extreme caution which we don't like to see in the white man, is one of the qualities that makes him a perfect scout. It would be almost impossible to surprise an outfit that had a detachment of Apache scouts in its front
They do not lack courage by any means. They have taken part in some little affairs in Mexico that required plenty of courage, but they must be allowed to do things in their own way.
James A. Shannon.

The centuries-old hatred of Mexicans that the Apache arbored showed itself in the course of the expedition. Shannon recalled an evening when they encountered some government troops.

...As we approached this outfit and opened a conversation with them, Sergeant Chicken (First Sergeant of the Scouts) fingered his gun nervously and gave vent in one sentence to the Indians' whole idea of the Mexican situation:
 "Heap much Mexican, shoot 'em all!"
There was no fine distinctions in their minds between friendly Mexicans and unfriendly, Carranzistas and Villistas, de facto troops and bandits. To their direct minds there was only one line of conduct-
"Heap much Mexican, shoot 'em all!"
They had to be watched pretty carefully when out of camp to be kept from putting this principle into practice.

The Apache scouts proved useful in tracking American deserters and on at least one occasion located some of the villistas. They picked up the trail of some stolen American horses that were two or three days old. Shannon writes:

They started off on the trail and after going a short distance came to a rocky stretch where the trail was hard to follow. They circled out like a pack of hounds and soon one of them gave a grunt and all the rest went over where he was and started off again. After a while the trail seemed to divide, so the detachment split up into two parties following the two trails. After about an hour or so, one of these parties overtook the villistas in a very narrow ravine. They shot two of them, and on account of the narrowness of the pass, unfortunately shot two of the horses, one of which proved to be the private horse of Lieutenant Ely of the Fifth Cavalry. They recovered one government horse and got some Mexican saddles, rifles, etc.

Indian scouts Andrew Paxton, Charley Shipp, and Joe Quintero
with Dr. McCloud at Fort Apache in 1918.
 Colonel Wharfield, a lieutenant commanding scouts in 1918, would later describe how the Apaches were expected to be employed that year.

The Apache scouts were not trained or drilled to maneuver as the soldiers of the army. Their operations were in accordance with the Apache's natural habits of scouting and fighting. The only directions given by the military were general in nature for the requirements of the movements of the troops. On the march small groups of the scouts were out several miles on the flanks and in front, keeping occasional contacts with the main body. At night most of them came in, leaving a few of the scouts posted as lookouts. An Apache never wanted to be surprised, and all of their movements were based on that principle. They approached ridges and high ground with extreme caution, peeking around, looking as far ahead as possible, using cover, and keeping exposure to the minimum. In a fight they did not believe in charging and battling against all odds, which was the quality of many of the Indians of the Plains.

Always they sought for an advantage over the foe, and retreated rather than expose themselves to gun fire. These characteristics made the Apache an invaluable scout in the field for operations with troops. Likewise it accounts for the fact that small numbers of hostile Apaches were able to thwart the efforts of the army in so many instances....

During my service in 1918 at Fort Apache the scouts wore cavalry issue clothing shoes and leggins, but some retained the wide car belt of their own construction and design. An emblem U.S.S. for United State Scouts was fastened on the front of the issue campaign hat. The regulation emblem was crossed arrows on a disc with the initials U.S.S.; but I never saw such a design on the scouts' uniform nor in the Quartermaster supply room.

Lieutenant Wharfield talked about some of the scouts who stood out in his memory.

At Fort Apache I had excellent relationships with Chicken. We hunted together for a few days on Willow Creek, branch of the Black River. He was on a manhunt with me after a trooper, who went AWOL and was hiking southward toward Globe. The scouts successfully tracked the soldier. We apprehended him near the lower White River bridge, close to Tom Wanslee's trading store. In addition to those trips together, there were many other routine contacts at the fort. He, of course, did not handle the first sergeant's paperwork; that was done by white soldiers of the Quartermaster Detachment, but I always gave him the orders and other matters regarding the scouts for him to execute and pass along. He was a good leader, and a highly respected man at the fort.

During my tour of duty at Fort Apache in 1918.... old Billy was my favorite scout. He could speak only Apache and did not even understand pidgin-English. He lived by himself in a tin shack on the scout row just outside the east gate of the post proper. Frequently in the evenings when riding my mount around the post, I stopped at his place for a visit. We would squat on the ground, smoke hand-rolled cigarettes, and gaze at the evening sky without a word between us. When I got up to leave, it is my recollection that we always shook hands.

Upon retirement Charles Bones located in a little Indian settlement called Canyon Day, some four miles southwest of old Fort Apache. Here he opened a restaurant and served big meals for twenty-five cents. At that price many of the Indians ate there instead of purchasing more expensive food at the trader's store. Bones had a good trade but did not much more than break even. The old scout also kept a saddle horse and a good team. He exercised his horses by riding the saddle animal in front of the team hauling the wagon, using a lariat for a lead-line. By this method the old Apache was again in the saddle instead of jolting along on the wagon seat with the pony tied behind. Of course a stranger might wonder why the wagon was taken along, but Bones probably figured that was a method of keeping his team wagon-broke.

It is noted that the officer, who commanded the scouts in 1932, failed to have Sergeant Charles Bones advanced in grade upon retirement; such as was the custom of the old army in recognition of the long years faithful service.

The separate units of Indian Scouts which had existed since 1866 were discontinued on June 30, 1921, and since that time the Apaches were carried on the Detached Enlisted Men's List.

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