Mangas Coloradas Attempted Escape

In the night West was aroused from sleep and informed that Mangas Coloradas had attempted to escape and had been shot dead by the guards. The accounts of the capture and execution of this famous Apache are confusing and contradictory. More than one soldier who was present at the time has left on record the assertion that the captive was tormented and enraged beyond endurance, and when forced to angry complaint, was shot. I give West’s own account of the event. He says that he investigated the death of Mangas Coloradas at once and found that he had made three attempts to escape between midnight, when he was placed under guard of a sergeant and three privates, and one o’clock when he was shot while, for the third time, attempting to escape. It seems too likely that General West had so deeply impressed the guard with the common feeling of himself and his command, that the rascal deserved death, that the soldiers believed they were carrying out the real desire of the commanding officer with respect to him. It is probable that the old chief was improperly treated in order to arouse his fury and give the guard an excuse for shooting him.

When Shirland took Mangas Coloradas, it was understood that the chief was to be permitted to return to his people at a certain time. The troops now marched to Pinos Altos and upon arriving there were approached by the followers of Mangas Coloradas. They were attacked by order of Captain McCleave, and eleven Indians were killed and one wounded. This affair was on January 19, 1863. The following day the troops came upon an Indian ranchería, and in a surprise attack killed nine of the Indians, wounded many more, destroyed the ranchería, and captured thirty-four animals–some of them Government mules previously stolen by the Indians. January 29, at Pinos Altos Mines, two hunting parties of the California Volunteers were attacked by the Apaches, and a sergeant and a private were killed. The Indians were driven off with severe punishment, losing twenty killed and fifteen wounded.

February 22, 1863, McCleave moved with his four companies to the site recommended for Fort West. The post was occupied that spring, but General West instructed McCleave not to erect buildings until further orders. On March 22 the Gila Apaches ran off sixty head of horses from the grazing ground near Fort West. Within three hours Captain McCleave was in pursuit, with one hundred poorly mounted men and five days’ rations on pack mules. The Indians had a good lead and they made fast time. Their trail led in a westerly direction. Following it for seventy miles, McCleave found that it continued down the Gila for five miles, and then across a divide to the Black River. By the time McCleave reached the Black River, the soldiers had been in the saddle more than three days, almost without sleep, and many of the horses were giving out. Signs indicated that they were now near the marauders. In the twilight they moved noiselessly up the stream two miles and made camp in the darkness and rain. At eight the next morning, just four days to an hour after the chase began, thirty men under Lieutenant Latimer, mounted on the only horses that were still fit for service, and thirty on foot led by McCleave started out to find a ranchería which they were sure was near by. Lieutenant French with the remainder of the command stayed behind to guard the broken-down horses, the pack animals, and provisions. McCleave climbed a mountain on the west side of the stream and proceeded twelve miles, without success. He then rested with his men in a heavy rain from one o’clock until daybreak. When daylight came, McCleave was able to make out from an elevated position the ranchería for which they were searching. Latimer was ordered to go in advance and charge the Indians with his cavalry. This was gallantly done. Part of the dismounted men began at once to catch and guard the stolen horses, while the others, from the bluff, took part in the battle. In twenty minutes the Indians were routed and the ranchería destroyed. Twenty-five were killed. All the Government horses that could be found, as well as a good many Indian horses, were secured. Private James Hall was mortally wounded, and on the return trip, when the soldiers were attacked by the Indians from the walls of a canyon, Lieutenant French was wounded. For alacrity and endurance in pursuit and bravery in attack, this expedition is perhaps unsurpassed in the history of Apache warfare.

In the Overland Monthly of September, 1870, there is a vivid account of this campaign by one who took part in it. Says the writer: ‘Our sole sustenance, four days and nights, had been hard bread and raw pork, with but four hours’ sleep during that time. . . . Out of one hundred horses with which we started, but thirty remained alive; and of these, but fifteen were capable of further service. . . . Most of the men had performed two days’ journey on foot, with all their accoutrements.”

There was, perhaps, no more completely successful expedition against the Apaches than that conducted by Thomas T. Tidball in early May, 1863. It was difficult, indeed, for an American officer to outwit and outmarch a band of Apaches; but in this instance the Indians were outdone both in craft and celerity. It was known to Colonel David Fergusson, in command at Tucson, that there was a very hostile and cruel band of Apaches who rendezvoused at a ranchería in Arivaipa Canyon. May 2, 1863, Fergusson gave Tidball orders to start that very night to chastise these dangerous Indians. He was to select twenty-five men from Companies I and K of the Fifth Infantry California Volunteers and was to be accompanied by ten volunteer American citizens, thirty-two Mexicans under Jesus Maria Elias, and about twenty Papagos from San Xavier, commanded by their brave and discreet governor, José Antonio Saborze. Nine tame Apaches were also to go along as guides. Tidball was to be in full command of this mixed force. It was the purpose to surprise the ranchería. They were to kill as many warriors as possible, but were to bring women and children back to Tucson as captives.

The party traveled five nights in utter silence, resting and concealing themselves by day. Not a gun was fired; never was a fire lighted. The ranchería was taken completely unawares. The evening and night before the battle, the company had traveled sixteen hours over frightful precipices, through gloomy canyons and chasms heretofore untrod by white men. At dawn they fell upon the encampment, numbering more than twice their own force, killed more than fifty Apaches and wounded as many, took ten prisoners, and captured sixty-six head of stock. Thomas C. McClelland was the only man killed in the attacking party.

October 23, 1863, by a General Order, Carleton created the new military District of Northern Arizona. He did this because the discovery of gold in the region of modern Prescott was attracting many prospectors from the Pacific Coast, Mexico, and the East. Previous to 1863 there were no white settlers in northern Arizona. But now Carleton thought it necessary to place a military force in this region to protect the miners from the Apaches and to insure order among the prospectors and adventurers until a civil government should be organized. He ordered the following officers and troops to proceed to the new gold fields without delay: Major Edward B. Willis of the California Volunteers; Captain Herbert M. Enos, U. S. Army; Dr. Charles Lieb, acting-assistant surgeon; and Companies C and F, First Infantry California Volunteers, under Captains Hargrave and Benson; and Captain Pishon, with thirty, rank and file, of Company D, First Cavalry, California Volunteers. A board of officers were named to fix the site of a military post, to be named Fort Whipple, and to submit a plan for it. During the coming winter the troops were to live in huts. The site first chosen was about seventy miles south of the San Francisco Mountains on Rio Verde. As soon as the site of the territorial capital was selected, Assistant-Inspector General N. H. Davis and Governor Goodwin recommended that the location of the post be changed; so, May 27, 1864, Major Willis wrote to Carleton to inform him that the site for Fort Whipple “is a mile and a half northeast from the town now being built on Granite Creek [ Prescott].”

King Woolsey, Arizona’s great Indian fighter, had a famous encounter with the Tonto Apaches in the early winter of 1864. This affair has always been alluded to as “The Massacre at Bloody Tanks” or “The Pinole Treaty.” During the winter of 1863-1864, the Indians had been very busy running off the stock of the settlers in Peeples’ Valley and thereabout. In January Woolsey led a company of the settlers against these marauders. The official report of the engagement is very brief: “On January 24, 1864, a party of thirty Americans and fourteen Maricopa and Pima Indians, under King S. Woolsey, aide to the Governor of Arizona, attacked a band of Gila Apaches sixty or seventy miles northeast of the Pima Village and killed nineteen of them and wounded others. Mr. Cyrus Lennon of Woolsey’s party was killed by a wounded Indian.”

But the account of the battle as it has come down to us from Arizona pioneers is much more detailed and colorful. First the party struck into the Tonto Basin in pursuit of their enemies. A few miles from the present site of Miami, they found that they were encircled by Indians on the hills above. There was with Woolsey’s party an interpreter Jack, a young Yuma Indian who had been a captive among the Apaches for a time. He persuaded about thirty of the leading Apaches to come down without arms for a council. He told them that he and his white friends were there to make peace and bring gifts. Leaving the main body of his men about two hundred feet in the rear, with instructions to open fire on the Apaches when he should give the signal by putting his hand up to his hat, Woolsey went forward with three others (each one with two revolvers secreted under his coat) to hold council with the chiefs. As they were seated in a semicircle, so the story goes, an Apache entered the group drawing two lances at his heels, while another one appeared and secretly distributed a handful of knives to the Indians. Then came an Indian boy almost out of breath to announce that the Big Chief ordered them all to leave the conference, as it was his intention to wipe out all the whites and their Indian allies. Woolsey now gave the prearranged signal, and at the same time shot the chief seated at his side. The others who were with him used their pistols in like manner. The men at the rear, who were armed with rifles, made havoc among the Indians who had remained on the mountains. So severe was the punishment administered to the Tonto Apaches that they did not trouble the settlers again for a long time. The reason that this affair is always spoken of as “The Pinole Treaty” is the fact that a widespread report has persisted to the effect that the gift of pinole that was given to the Indians had been treated with strychnine and that about forty Indians died of poison. The writer does not give credence to this sinister story.

No sooner was the Territorial Government set up in 1864 than Governor John N. Goodwin went to work to acquaint himself with the wide wild domain over which he was to rule. He visited the mining settlements that had sprung up about Fort Whipple, traveled eastward as far as the Verde and Salt Rivers, and in March visited Tucson. From Tucson, April 4, he wrote a long personal letter to General Carleton at Santa Fe, giving an account of his explorations and making recommendations concerning military protection for the settlers and the officers of Government. Two weeks earlier than this, AssistantInspector General N. H. Davis had made a very lucid report to Carleton concerning the same matters. He had inspected Fort Whipple and had visited the many locations recently settled and had then joined Governor Goodwin on his journey southward. All of the best-informed prospectors and Indian fighters agreed with Goodwin and Davis as to the necessity of locating a strong permanent post east of the Verde or at the junction of the Verde and Salt Rivers.

Governor Goodwin said in his letter: “The Indian difficulties are becoming very serious, and unless vigorous measures are taken, the new mining regions will be deserted. I think that this is a very critical period in the history of this Territory. If the people who have come into northern Arizona are driven out, the settlement of the Territory will be retarded for many years; but if the Indian difficulties are speedily settled, a large emigration will come in here during the next year. The people here will do all in their power. I think that three effective companies of rangers can be raised for service against the Indians, who will serve without pay, requiring food only, and to some extent ammunition.”

Colonel Davis writes in his report to Carleton: “I am satisfied, General, from reliable information gained from a variety of sources, and from the character and disposition of the Indians in this territory, who are, with few exceptions, bitterly hostile to the whites and apparently disposed to combine for a general war against them [that our only true policy] is to put forth every effort in a vigorous and decisive campaign against the barbarous tribes. . . . The condition of affairs here must be looked in the face and the Indians subdued and rendered harmless, or the country deserted by whites, its mines and agricultural resources undeveloped, and the Territory given up to the savage and the coyote.

“The advantages of a large and permanent military post north of the Gila, east of the Rio Verde or San Francisco, and perhaps along the Salinas, are impressed upon my mind more strongly than ever . . . if you would give the heaviest blow to the Apache Nation and best promote the interests of Arizona.”

General Carleton was moved to prompt action by the recommendations of these two able men, Goodwin and Davis. He set in motion at once the best-planned and most far-reaching campaign against the Apaches ever yet inaugurated by the United States Government. Within two weeks a comprehensive General Order was issued that affected every military unit in the department. The order required that all Apache males capable of bearing arms should either be removed to a reservation or exterminated. A post was to be established on the Gila north of Fort Bowie, the site to be determined by Colonel Davis, and the fort to be named for Governor Goodwin. A combined force of five hundred infantry and cavalry under Colonel Edwin A. Rigg was to take post there. From this point parties whose numbers were to be determined by Colonel Rigg were to march in every direction where the enemy could be found. On scouts of seven days or less the soldiers were to carry their food in their haversacks. On longer scouts pack mules were to furnish transportation. The rations on these expeditions were to consist of meat, bread, sugar, coffee, and salt, and nothing more. Each soldier was to be allowed only one blanket for bedding. “To be encumbered with more is not to find Indians,” wrote the General.

At the same time that these operations were in progress from Fort Goodwin, detachments were to move northward from Tucson through Cañada del Oro and on to the San Pedro; from Fort Bowie, toward the south into the Chiricahuas; from Fort Whipple, southeastward toward the Salt River; from Fort Canby, into the western Mogollons; from Fort Wingate, toward the head of the Gila by way of the Sierra Blanca Mountains; and from Forts Craig and McRae westward to the head waters of the Mimbres River and also to the southward in the direction of Pinos Altos and Cooke’s Canyon. Parties were to scour the country toward the south from Fort Cummings and toward the north from the camp on the Mimbres. These numerous expeditions were all to take the field May 25 and were to remain out two months if possible.

In addition to this formidable activity on the part of the military, Governor Goodwin was asked to have parties of miners in the field at the same time; and it was arranged to send out four bands of Pima and Maricopa Indians, with fifty in each party, to smite their ancient enemies. Moreover, notice of these combined and simultaneous movements was sent to the Governors of Sonora and Chihuahua, with the warning that, when hard-pressed, the Indians would cross into Mexico, and with the request that these two exposed states put companies of militia into the field to cooperate with the Americans against the common foe.

The General gave this parting counsel to his troops: “Every party, in energy, perseverance, resolution, and self-denial, must strive to outdo all other parties. Dependence must be placed on the gallantry of small numbers against any odds. This covering of so much ground by detachments of determined men, moving simultaneously from so many different points, must produce a moral effect upon the Indians which it is hoped will convince them of the folly long to hold out against us.” Surely such grim and extensive preparations for the wholesale destruction of their tribe must have made even Apache devils tremble –if they comprehended the scope and intensity of the plan!

Now what came of all this masterly preparation and wholehearted cooperation? Very little–so far as either the extermination of the fighting Apaches was concerned or the location of them on reservations. There was earnest effort on the part of soldier, civilian, and Indian allies. Energy, resolution, and military skill were exhibited by both the officers and men put into the field, but, somehow, the Apaches were indisposed toward either imprisonment on reservations or extermination. The total results of the year may be summed up as follows: Two hundred and sixteen Indians were killed and a great number wounded; seventy-five horses and cattle, and one hundred and seventy-five sheep, were recovered. But on the other hand sixteen whites were killed and one hundred and sixty-two horses and cattle, and three thousand sheep were taken. Thirty Western Apaches were placed on the reservation at Bosque Redondo. The outcome was seen by all to be a pitiful failure. It is true that the whites had destroyed many acres of growing crops that the Apaches were raising in the fertile and sheltered little valleys; but, as a result thereof, hatred of the whites was increased and suspicion and lack of confidence on both sides was more apparent than ever.

The Apaches were too shrewd for the white man, and their hiding places too rough and remote for soldier or civilian to attack with success. They were perfectly at home in these canyons and mountain hideouts, and every movement of the detachments that were sent out against them was observed and reported by their ever vigilant scouts. Time and again the soldiers would come upon the ranchería they had been hunting for so diligently, and with such great hardship, to find that it was deserted and no Indians in sight. When they were successful in locating a band of Indians, almost always the savages would approach with a flag of truce desiring to talk with the officer in command; but usually there was such suspicion of bad faith on both sides that these parties would break up in a battle–the Indians, in almost every instance, fading away and escaping without much loss, but more than ever determined never to yield to their pursuers.

In a few instances, however, whether by virtue of extraordinary foresight, energy, and military prowess, or by trickery and treachery, the Indians were taken by surprise and suffered heavy losses. Some of the most successful of these scouts I here describe in detail. On the fifteenth of March, 1864, even before Carleton’s order of May 1, a large band of Indians, probably Chiricahuas, ran off the Government herd from Cow Springs. March 24 Colonel G. W. Bowie ordered Captain Whitlock to pursue the Apaches and punish them. Leaving the camp on the Mimbres, March 27, Whitlock kept up the chase until the morning of April 7. In his command were thirty-five mounted men and thirty-six on foot. Whitlock displayed great judgment, as well as rare persistence and resolution. Previous experience in Indians had taught him that it was not wise to follow directly the trail over which they had stampeded stock. Whitlock, therefore, followed the direct trail only about thirty miles in order to determine its general direction. When he had made sure of this he turned north to the Gila so that his pursuit could not be suspected. Five days he traveled down the river, sending out a scout the third day to find the trail of the Indians again. It was found and it still continued straight westward. After being out nine days, always traveling by night and never lighting fires, he made camp, and leaving twenty men on guard, started with the rest to intercept the trail and follow it once more. Soon fresh tracks and other signs indicated that the Indians were not far away. March 7, at four A.M., the campfires of the marauders were located. This word was brought to Whitlock and his command, ten miles in the rear, just at dawn; but by rapid marching he was able to reach the encampment and make the attack just as the Indians were rousing from their slumbers. Thirty Indians were killed, many were wounded, and the stock was captured, except two mules and one pony. Following so soon after Captain Tidball’s devastating battle in Arivaipa Canyon, this victory was most depressing to the Indians of that region. The Army mules had been run by the savages more than eighty miles without water over rocky mountains and through canyons of frightful character. The trail could have been followed for the first thirty-five miles by the dead carcasses of horses and mules from which the fleshy parts had been cut by the Indians. Whitlock on this remarkable scout did not lose a man or an animal.

Scarcely less brilliant than the expeditions of Tidball and Whitlock was that of Lieutenant Colonel N. H. Davis in May while he was in search of a suitable location for Fort Goodwin. After marching about ten miles down the canyon of the Gila from the mouth of the San Carlos, Davis made camp in an arroyo a short distance from the river. He heard that, across the high, stony Mescal Mountains, there were some rancherías of Indians. After a long night march he divided his command, part under Captain Tidball and part under Captain Burkett, and succeeded in attacking the Indians at daybreak, and in killing forty-nine and taking sixteen captive. Two famous chiefs perished in this battle–one, mortally wounded, thrust his own spear into his body and so expired. Fields of corn and wheat were destroyed and much booty was recovered. It was evident from articles found in the ranchería that it was this band who had slain Messrs. Mills and Stevens on the Santa Cruz in December, 1863, and had attacked Mr. Butterworth. One pistol that was captured had Mill’s name on it and a shotgun was identified as the property of Stevens. The Diary of Mr. James was found, also. Among other articles recovered were two saddles, two fine pairs of saddlebags, and more than six hundred dollars in gold.

In his message, delivered to the First Legislative Assembly of Arizona at Prescott, September 26, 1864, Governor Goodwin had this to say about the Apaches: “But for them, mines would be worked, innumerable sheep and cattle would cover these plains, and some of the bravest and most energetic men that were ever the pioneers of a new country, and who now fill bloody and unmarked graves, would be living to see their brightest anticipations realized. It is useless to speculate on the origin of this feeling, or inquire which party was in the right or wrong. It is enough to know that it is relentless and unchangeable. They respect no flag of truce, ask and give no quarter, and make a treaty only that, under the guise of friendship, they may rob and steal more extensively and with greater impunity. As to them, one policy only can be adopted. A war must be prosecuted until they are compelled to submit and go upon a reservation.”

The Legislative Assembly drew up a Memorial asking that Arizona be placed in the Military Department of the Pacific and submitted it to the Governor for his approval, supporting the desirability of this action (among other things) by the charge that the campaign of 1864 against the hostile Apaches was a failure. Governor Goodwin refused to approve the Memorial but in his communication to the Legislative Assembly concerning it he implies that he, too, considered the campaign a failure. He writes: “The principal causes of the failure of that campaign to accomplish its purposes were ignorance of the country and the lack of competent guides.”

Apache, History,


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