February 4, 1861 — Apache Chief Cochise was arrested in Arizona today by the U.S. Army for raiding a ranch. He then escaped and declared war, beginning the period known as the Apache Wars, which lasted 25 years.
Its origins started a year before the first conflict when a fraction of Mexico became part of the United States in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War. Native Mexicans became Native Americans for the series of conflicts where a significant part of the Westward Expansion Trails in the American frontier.
The first conflicts between the Apache date to the earliest Spanish settlements, but the specific set of conflicts now known as the Apache Wars began during the Mexican-American War. The first United States Army campaigns specifically against the Apache began in 1849, and the last major battle ended with the surrender of Geronimo in 1886.
Geronimo is probably the most notable Apache warrior of that time period, but he was not alone. He belonged to a Chiricahua Apache band. After two decades of guerrilla warfare, Cochise, one of the leaders of the Chiricahua band, chose to make peace with the US. He agreed to relocate his people to a reservation in the Chiricahua Mountains. Soon afterward in 1874, Cochise died. In a change of policy, the U.S. government decided to move the Chiricahua to the San Carlos reservation in 1876. Half complied and the other half, led by Geronimo, escaped to Mexico.
In the spring of 1877, the U.S. captured Geronimo and brought him to the San Carlos reservation. He stayed there until September 1881. As soldiers gathered near the reservation, he feared being imprisoned for previous activities. He fled the reservation with 700 Apache and went to Mexico again.
Words of Wisdom for February 4, 2017
“I will now take and write to you a few lines, to let you know that I am yet alive, and doing well. I joint(sic) the Army in January, 86 and had a good fight with Geronimo and his Indians. I also had two hard fights, where i came very near getting killed, but i got true alright. I was made Corporal when i first enlisted, but have now got high enough to be in Charge of Troop D. 6th U.S. Cavalry and it requires a good man for to get that office, and that is more than i expected. Charley White from Cranbury came out with me and got in the same Troop with me, and I sent him with twenty more men out on a Scout after Indians and Charley was lucky enough to be shot down by Indians the first day, and only three of my men returned. I was very sorry but it could not be helped.
“The Territory of New Mexico is a very nice place never no Winter and lots of Gold and Silver Mines all around but for all that it is a disagreeable place on account of so many Indians. I like it first rate and I think as soon as my five years are up I will go bak(sic) to Old New Jersey but not today. My name isn’t Charley Winters no more since i shot that man at Jefferson Barracks when he tried to get away from me. My Captain at time told me to take the name of his son who died and so my name since then is Charles H. Wood. I will now close and hope that you will soon write and let me know how you are getting along. Give my best regards to all and to yourself and oblige.”
— Charles Winters, Troop D of the 6th Cavalry, in a 1887 letter that describes a soldier's experiences during the Apache Wars in New Mexico.