From its founding in 1870 until
capture in 1886, this fort was regularly involved in the
Indian Wars of the area. It was
first called Camp Ord, in honor of General O.C. Ord, Commander of
it was built in the spring; however, just a few months later, the name was
changed to Camp Mogollon in August, then Camp Thomas in September.
The post was finally designated as Camp Apache
on February 2, 1871 as a token of friendship to the very
Indians the fort
soldiers would soon spend so many years at war with. The fort's initial
purpose was to guard the nearby White Mountain Reservation and Indian agency.
Situated at the end of a military road on the White Mountain Reservation, which adjoined
the San Carlos Reservation, the fort guarded the White Mountain Agency, while
Fort Thomas watched over the San Carlos Agency. However, both reservations would
the focus of
Apache unrest, especially after troops moved the troublesome Chiricahuas
in 1876 from
Fort Bowie to the White
In constant turmoil, the reservations were
noted for their unhealthful location, overcrowded conditions, and
dissatisfied inhabitants. Sparking the discontent were inefficient and
corrupt agents, friction between civil and military authorities, feeble
attempts to make farmers of the nomadic
Indians, and encroachment on the
reservations by settlers and miners. As a result, many of the Indians left
the reservations to resume their hunting, gathering and raiding lifestyle,
creating a public outcry from the settlers.
General George Crook,
who had established his reputation as an
Indian fighter in the Snake War in
named commander of the Department of
August of that year, he recognized that his soldiers were no match for the
fierce Apache he was
sent to subdue and made his first trip to Fort Apache. At the reservation,
he recruited about fifty men to serve as Apache Scouts,
who would play a key role in the success of the Army in the Apache Wars
which ensued for the next 15 years.
After recruiting the scouts, Crook
organized his Tonto Basin campaign and moved on to Camp Verde to implement
his tactical operations. During the winter of 1872-73, a number of mobile
detachments, using Apache scouts,
crisscrossed the Tonto Basin and the surrounding tablelands in constant
pursuit of renegade Tonto Apache and
their Yavapai allies. After forcing as many as 20 skirmishes, in which
some 200 Indians
were killed, they finally began to wear down their quarry.
On April 5, 1879, Camp Apache had gained
enough significance that it was renamed Fort Apache.
The battles with the Apache
continued as the soldiers fought various renegade bands that included such
famous warriors as as
Natchez, Chato, and Chihuahua. It was only after
was captured for the the last time in 1886, that the Apache Wars
finally came to an end.
Though its wild frontier days were over, Fort
Apache continued as an active post until 1924. The Apache
Scouts that had been employed by General Crook
were transferred to Fort Huachuca in southern
where they continued to serve. The last three
Apache Scouts retired in 1947.
When the fort closed its buildings were turned
over to the Bureau of Indian
Affairs. Today, several buildings continue to stand on the White Mountain
The Fort Apache post office
occupies the adobe adjutant's building. A log building, one of the oldest
structures and reputedly the residence of General Crook, as well as the
stone officers' quarters, are today the residences of teachers and other
Bureau of Indian Affairs employees. The sutler's store and commissary
building, cavalry barns, and guard house have not been significantly
altered. One of the original four barracks, an adobe building in bad
disrepair, houses the farm shop for the Indian school. The parade ground
provides a recreational area. The cemetery no longer contains soldier
dead, but does contain the bodies of Indian scouts.