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Indian War Battle Summaries

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Apache Pass at Fort Bowie, ArizonaApache Pass - Fort Bowie (1862) - Located in forbidding Apache Pass, a landmark on the old  Butterfield Overland Stage road, Fort Bowie played a significant role in the wars with the Chiricahua Apache. Here, in February 1861, even before the fort was established, Lieutenant George Bascom faced Cochise in a dramatic confrontation that touched off a quarter-century of bloody hostilities between the Chiricahua and white invaders, and a personal ten-year war between Cochise and the U.S. Army. This event is now known as the Bascom Affair.


General James H. Carleton, leading a Federal army eastward in 1862 to head off the Confederate invasion of New Mexico, founded Fort Bowie, and fought for two days, July 15th and 16th, a battle with the Apache for control of the nearby Apache Spring.


This battle occurred when an advance guard of 96 California volunteers, marching toward the San Simon River along the old Butterfield Road through Apache Pass. As they approached the abandoned state station, Cochise and his ally, Mangas Coloradas, with a combined force of about 150 warriors, ambushed the rear of the column. The Californians countermarched from the station, driving the Apache into the hills, only to find they had taken up new positions around the Apache Spring. The Californians attacked again, and finally reached the water, after dispersing the Apache from rock fortifications commanding both flanks of the spring.

This battle led directly to the establishment of Fort Bowie. Sergeant Albert Fountain, chronicled the event:

"The situation was by no means an enviable one. Men and officers were worn out with fatigue ... but water we must have, and to obtain it we must force the enemy's almost impregnable position: garrisoned with the bravest warriors of the combined Apache tribes.

Our line dashed forward, and advanced under a continuous and galling fire from both sides of the canyon until we reached a point within 50 yards of the spring. Then from the rocks and willows above the spring came a sheet of flame.

I ordered the men to fix bayonets and make one dash for the summit and the next moment we were over a rough stone wall and on the inside of a circular fortification some 30 feet in diameter; 50 or more Indians were going out and down the hill on the opposite side.

As we carried the hill a cheer came up from down below, as our comrades dashed to the spring with camp kettles and canteens. Then fire was opened upon them from the opposite hill, but we turned a plunging fire upon the enemy, and they were soon full flight. The howitzers were brought into action, and from our elevated position we could see hundreds of Indians scampering to the hills to escape the bursting shells."


Thereafter, until the final surrender of Geronimo, the post operated as a base for scouts, patrols, and major offensives against the Apache. Most notably, Fort Bowie served as headquarters of General George Crook and his successor Nelson A. Miles in the campaigns deep into Mexico that brought about the surrender of Geronimo and his band. From the Fort Bowie parade grounds, in September 1886, Geronimo and his people started on their journey to Florida and imprisonment. The National Historic Site is operated by the National Park Service.

Contact Information:

Fort Bowie National Historic Site

3203 South Old Fort Bowie Road
Bowie, Arizona 85605





Big Dry Wash (1882) - In what is now Cocnino County, Arizona a column of the 6th Cavalry from Fort Whipple, Arizona led by Captain Adna R. Chaffee mauled a party of 54 White Mountain Apache led by Nantiatish on July 17, 1882. The warriors, aroused by the death of their medicine man, Nakaidoklini, the year before in the Battle of Cibecue Creek and resenting the intrusion of settlers and miners, had fled the White Mountain (Fort Apache) Reservation. They raided the San Carlos Agency, plundered settlements in the Tonto Basin, and for some time evaded the 14 cavalry troops from various Arizona forts who were giving pursuit. Spying Chaffee's force from the Mogollon Rim, the Indians planned an ambush in a canyon seven miles to the north. Chaffee, forewarned by scouts, dismounted and formed a skirmish line with part of his force at the brink of the canyon to pin down his opponents, on the opposite rim. He then deployed two parties that surprised them on the flanks.


The trail road from Mogollon Rim passes along Chaffee's approach route and terminates at the canyon brink where the fighting began. A stone monument at the southern edge of the canyon describes the action and lists the names of the soldier participants. The heavy pine forests and rugged canyon are unchanged from 1882. A marker describing the battle is located at General Springs. The battlefield site is in the Coconino National Forest, on a rough trail road, about 7 miles north of General Springs, which is located on Mogollon Rim Road.



Camp Grant Massacre (1871) - Situated at the confluence of the San Pedro River and Aravaipa Creek, the location of Camp Grant was the home of the Aravaipa Apache before they had been driven from it by white settlers. In February, 1871 five starving old Aravaipa women came to the camp under a flag of truce asking for sanctuary, which was granted by Lieutenant Royal Emerson Whitman. Before long, over 500 Aravaipas, under Chief Eskiminzin, had gathered in the area, asking that they be allowed to grow crops along the reek to feed their people. This too was allowed and Whitman also arranged for them to "earn their keep" by working as farmhands for the local ranchers as well as extracting a promise from them that none of the tribe would participate in any raids.


However, other Apache bands were continuing their raids at this time, many of which were blamed on the Aravaipa at Camp Grant. On April 30, 1871, an angry mob of citizens from Tucson and their Papago Indian mercenaries attacked the Aravaipa camp, clubbing, shooting 144 people, mostly women and children. All but eight of the corpses were women and children, as the men had been off hunting in the mountains. The attack was made in retaliation for a Gila Apach raid in which six people had been killed and some livestock stolen. Twenty-seven children who were captured, were sold in Mexico by the Papago Indians.


After the massacre, a trial was demanded by President Ulysses S. Grant, who threatened to put the state under martial law if the Governor failed to act. However, at the trial that occurred later in the year, the jury took just 19 minutes to acquit more than 100 defendants who were named in the attack.



Canyon de Chelly (1864) - This Navajo citadel was the scene of climatic events in the conquest of the Navajo Indians by the U.S. Army Colonel Christopher C. "Kit" Carson’s invasion of this bastion of Navajo defenses in the winter of 1863 - 1864.


On January 12, 1864, Carson invaded Canyon de Chelly, attacking several Navajo with livestock, killing 11 of them and taking four captives, as well as a herd of sheep and goats. Over the next few days, a number of skirmishes were fought between the Indians and Carson's forces. On January 16th, 150 starving Navajo surrendered and soon joined some 8,000 of their people in the tragic "Long Walk" across New Mexico to the Bosque Rendondo at Fort Sumner.


In 1868, after four years of exile, they were allowed to return to their homeland. The site is operated by the National Park Service. The Visitor Center is three miles from Route 191 in Chinle, Arizona.


Contact Information:


Canyon de Chelly National Monument
PO Box 588
Chinle, Arizona 86503


Cibecue (1881) - Located on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, the Battle of Cibecue, occurring on August 30, 1881, was brought on by the influence of a shaman, Nockadelklinne, who preached a doctrine of raising the dead and removing the white interlopers from Arizona. Alarmed civilians and military personnel wanted the shaman arrested. Fighting erupted shortly after Nockadelklinne’s arrest along Cibecue Creek. The Prophet, as he was called, died in the aftermath, as did several soldiers under Colonel Eugene Asa Carr. Most of Carr’s casualties resulted from the mutiny of the White Mountain Apache scouts. The Cibecue affair touched off a general outbreak that saw Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache such as Naiche, Juh, and Geronimo bolt the reservation and plunge Arizona, New Mexico, and northern Mexico into two years of turmoil. Cibecue battlefield is located in the village of Cibecue. No marker denotes the site.


Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona.

This image available for photographic prints HERE!


Hualapai War (1865-1868) - Like other tribes, the Hualapai were disturbed by increased settler traffic upon their lands and when one of their leaders, by the name of Anasa, was murdered by a drunken settler in April, 1865, tensions erupted into war. In retaliation for the murder, the Hualapai cut off the Fort Mojave-Prescott Toll Road to the Colorado River ports and raided anyone trying to get through. However, Captain W.H. Hardy soon negotiated a peace agreement at Beale Springs and the raids and the fighting stopped. But, it didn't last. Nine months later, another leader, Chief Wauba Yuma was murdered over a treaty dispute and the raids began again in full force. In response, the Fort Mojave Cavalry was sent out which resulted in the cavalry burning villages and a number of battles. The war lasted until December, 1868, as the Hualapai began to surrender as whooping cough and dysentery was weakening their ranks. Though the vast majority surrendered, one warrior by the name of Sherum continued the battle for another two years. The violence finally ceased in 1870. During these years, it is estimated that one-third of the Hualapai people were killed either by the conflict or disease.


Salt River Canyon (Skeleton Cave) Battlefield (1872) - The Army won its most striking victory in the long history of Apache warfare at this site, where General George Crook also tasted triumph in his Tonto Basin campaign. At dawn on December 28, 1872, a 130-man force, consisting of about two companies of the 5th Cavalry from Fort McDowell and Old Camp Grant and 30 Apache scouts, under the command of Captain William H. Brown, surprised a band of more than a hundred Yavapais as they tried to emerge from a cave deep in the recesses of Salt River Canyon. The trapped Indians refused to surrender. Some of Brown's men shot at the roof of the cave and deflected a deadly fire into the defenders. Other soldiers completed the destruction by rolling boulders over the cliffs above. About 75 Indians died, and most of the rest were captured. This victory, along with Crook's other aggressive measures, so lowered the morale of the Yavapais that on April 6, 1873, they made peace at Camp Verde.

The natural setting is unimpaired. The cave lies on the north wall of the canyon in the angle of a sharp turn to the south. Access is gained by climbing a steep mountainside, crossing a lava bed, and descending from the rim of the gorge by a trail on the face of the cliff. The cave is an elliptical undercut about 65 by 25 feet, situated at the base of a cliff 170 feet high and at the top of a steep slope falling away some 1,200 feet to the water below. The cave's ceiling is blackened from the smoke of Indian fires and scarred by carbine bullets. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has jurisdiction over the site.

Salt River Canyon is in Maricopa County near Horse Mesa Dam. The dam is bounded on the east by Apache Lake and on the southwest by Canyon Lake (Salt River). The site is accessible only with great difficulty and the aid of guides, by boat from Canyon Lake or by unimproved road from the town of Horse Mesa.


Skeleton Canyon (1886) - On September 4, 1886, Geronimo and less than 40 Apache, including women and children, surrendered to Brigadier General Nelson Miles at Skeleton Canyon, near the Arizona and New Mexico border. Geronimo's surrender marked the end of the Apache Wars in the Southwest. Geronimo and all the Chiricahua, including those who were peacefully settled on reservations, were uprooted and imprisoned in Florida. Ultimately, the Chiricahua were relocated at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they remained as prisoners of war until 1913. In that year, about 200 of the 300 surviving Chiricahua Apache elected to resettle in New Mexico on the Mescalero Reservation. Geronimo died in 1909. The site is on private land.


Turret Peak (1873) - The Battle of Turret Peak in south central Arizona was one of the pivotal fights that broke the backs of the Apache and Yavapais in their efforts to resist white encroachment into their lands. Fought on March 27, 1873, the battle of Turret Peak formed part of General George Crook's Tonto Basin campaign to force the Apache and Yavapais to submit to reservations. Captain George Randall, leading a small force, which included Apache scouts, surprised a rancheria ensconced near the crest of Turret Peak. The battle at Turret Peak proved to the Indians that there was no sanctuary from the soldiers. Two weeks later, most of the Apache and Yavapais surrendered to General George Crook at Camp Verde, Arizona. The site is within the jurisdiction of the National Forest Service.

Battle of Infernal Caverns (1867) - After numerous attacks on white settlers in Modoc County, California, General George Crook was sent west to quell Indian uprisings. In September, 1867, General Crook, with the 39th Mounted Infantry, tracked a group of Indians, comprised of about 75 Paiutes, 30 Pit River, and a few Modoc warriors, to a desolate spot on the California-Oregon border, called Infernal Caverns. On September 26-27, a two day battle occurred which left 20 Indians dead, including a number of women and children. Eight soldiers were killed in the battle. Infernal Caverns, also known as Hell Caves, is located 6.5 miles west of Likely, California, and 1 mile south of the Ferry Ranch in Modoc County, California. The Infernal Caverns Battleground is now a California Historic Landmark and includes the graves of six of the soldiers.
The Modoc War, aka: Lava Beds War, Modoc Campaign (1872-1873) - Spawned by the culture clash and loss of land and lifestyle of the Modoc Indians, the natives fought the U.S. Army in southern Oregon and northern California for two years. The last Indian War to occur in California or Oregon, it resulted in the Modocs being placed on the Fort Klamath Reservation in Oregon, as well as exiling many of them to the Quapaw Agency in OklahomaMore ...
Lava Beds National Monument - Established as a national monument chiefly for its geological and scientific value, Lava Beds is also significant as the principal battleground of the Modoc War of 1872-73. In a twisted, almost impregnable volcanic fortress that came to be known as Captain Jack's Stronghold, a handful of Modoc held off a sizable force of U.S. soldiers for six months. Modoc leader, Kintpuash know as Captain Jack, shot and killed General Edward R. S. Canby during a peace conference on April 11, 1873. Captain Jack ultimately surrendered. He and the chief conspirators of the slaying of Canby were executed.
Contact Information:
1 Indian Wells Headquarters
Tulelake, California 96134

Continued Next Page






Frontier Skirmishes between the Pioneers & the Indians

Indian Campaigns

Indian Fighters

Indian Wars of the Frontier West

Indian War Timeline


US Army at Gillems Camp, Lava Beds National Monument, 1873

US Army at Gillems Camp, Lava Beds National Monument,

1873, photo courtesy National Park Service.


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