Victorio's War: A Closer Look,
Chief Victorio a.k.a. Lone Wolf,
Courtesy of The National Archives.
September 4, 1879: Ojo Caliente, Arizona; As Victorio became more and more hate filled, he began to mutilate bodies. Soon after breaking out of the San Carlos Reservation, Victorio and his men struck at Captain Hooker and Company E of the Ninth U.S. cavalry stealing forty-six of their horses. In the aftermath, five Buffalo Soldiers lay dead, with their bodies staked to the ground. They were Sergeant Silas Chapman, Privates Lafayerre Hoke, William Murphy, Silas Graddon and Alvrew Percival. Victorio and his band escaped.
September 10, 1879: By this time, nine settlers had been killed by Victorio's band. Other groups of Apaches joined in the fighting. All of the Ninth's Companies with Apache and Navaho scouts were in the field, always one step behind Victorio. Thousands of soldiers would continue this scenario for the next year, skirmishing Victorio's band over thousands of grueling miles in the worst of conditions.
September 16, Black Range Mountains, New Mexico: Lieutenant Colonel Dudley with Captain Dawson's B Company and Hooker's E were ambushed and trapped by Vicrorio's warriors. They were rescued by Captain Beyer and Lieutenant Hugo of Companies C and G. After a day of fighting, the soldiers broke off the engagement. Five soldiers, three scouts and thirty-two horses lay dead.
November 1879, The Candelaria Mountains, Mexico: Victorio and his warriors ambushed and killed fifteen Mexican citizens from the little village of Carrizal, who were looking for cattle thieves. Later, eleven more citizens were killed while searching for those who had not returned. The Mexican government telegraphed the U.S. commander in the area, to inform him that they were after Victorio, which would drive him back into Texas.
January 9, -May, 1880: Major Morrow, who had assumed command of operations in Southern New Mexico, sent the Buffalo Soldiers of the Ninth against Victorio's band many times during this period. In most of these cases, Victorio's war party fought off the soldiers. Sometimes the fighting ended quickly. At other times, it lasted for days.
May 1880: General Sheridan assigned Colonel Grierson's Tenth U.S. Cavalry to assist in the capture of Victorio. Instead of going into New Mexico, he felt Victorio would come to Texas to raid. Grierson also decided to change his strategy in confronting Victorio. Instead of his men chasing Victorio across the desolate countryside, he would post them at the canyon passes and water holes he thought they would use.
May 12, Bass Canon west of Fort Davis: Eight Mescalero warriors attacked a wagon train killing two settlers and wounding two. Captain Carpenter of the Tenth U.S. Cavalry with Company H pursued them to the Rio Grande. He was convinced they were on their way to join Victorio.
July 1880 Eagle Springs, Texas: Lieutenant Henry Flipper was the first black officer in the U. S. military and the first to graduate from the West Point Military Academy. He as in charge of three troopers who rode 98 miles in twenty-one hours to inform Captain Gillmore that Victorio's advance guard had been spotted. This information was forwarded to Colonel Grierson who thought Victorio and his warriors would head for Eagle Springs. His men marched sixty-eight miles in twenty-four hours to get there ahead of Victorio's band. To their disappointment, Victorio had turned northwest, headed for Rattlesnake Springs. That same night, they marched sixty miles more to Rattlesnake Springs.
August 6, 1880, Rattlesnake Springs, Texas: Captain Viele was placed in charge of Companies C and G of the Tenth as they waited for Victorio's approach. At mid-afternoon their long wait was rewarded. Slowly, Victorio's warriors advanced unaware of the ambush. Seconds before the signal to fire was given, Victorio sensed the danger and halted his men. The troopers opened fire. The warriors swiftly withdrew out of range. Needing water and believing there were only a few soldiers, Victorio attacked. Carpenter and B and H companies counter attacked, temporarily halting the Indians advance. Meanwhile, a strong unit of Victorio's band struck at the army wagons that were in route to the springs. They were beaten off. Victorio's warriors repeatedly charged the troopers to reach the water. Finally, in near darkness, one last attempt was made to reach the spring. It failed, Victorio fled with the troopers in pursuit. The chase ended without further contact. By then, all mountain passes and water holes were covered by the troopers.
August 9th Victorio's supply camp was discovered. His guards retreated, leaving twenty-five head of cattle, dried beef and pack animals.
August 11, 1880: The Buffalo Soldiers with Captains Carpenter and Nolon found Victorio and his warriors. They gave chase. The horses in Carpenters Company gave out, leaving Nolon's troopers to continue the chase. Victorio's warriors crossed the Rio Grande River into Mexico before Nolon's troopers could catch them. Victorio, like many times before, had escaped. Soon after his return to Mexico, its government gave the U.S. military, permission to cross into Mexico with the expressed intention of capturing Victorio dead or alive.
October 4,1880: Ten companies of the Tenth U.S. Cavalry were placed inside Mexico at the Rio Grande to stop Victorio from returning into Texas. The Tenth and Colonel Jaoquin Terraza's Mexican forces located Victorio and his band. Five days later, the Mexican government informed the American forces their presence in Mexico was no longer needed. The Buffalo Soldiers left under protest. Colonel Grierson asked General Sheridan for permission to return to Mexico, permission was denied.
October 14, 1880: Tres Castillos Mountains, Mexico; Colonel Terrazas and his Mexican troops surrounded Victorio's camp and attacked. Before the morning was over, Victorio lay dead, with sixty warriors, and eighteen women and children. Sixty-eight women and children were taken prisoner.
Death road with Victorio, as silently as a shadow, when
he and his warriors returned to Mexico. With Victorio's War at an end, the Trans-Pacos area was somewhat at peace.
Colonel Grierson reported that during "Victorio's War", the Tenth U.S. Cavalry lost three troopers and
saw three wounded. He also reported trooper Private Wesley Hardy as missing in action."
By Stanford L. Davis
Source: Buffalo Soldiers & Indian Wars
Baker, Edward L., Jr. ROSTER of NON-COMMISSIONED OFFECERS OF THE TENTH CAVALRY WITH
SOME REGIMENTAL REMINESCENCES, APPENDIXES, Etc., connected with the Early History of the Regiment.
St. Paul, MN: Wm. Kennedy Printing Company, 1897. Mattituck, MY: J. M. Carroll and Company, 1983.
Cashin, Herschel. UNDER FIRE WITH THE TENTH U.S. CAVALRY. Salem, New Hampshire, Ayers Company,
Cox, Clinton. THE FORGOTTEN HEROES: The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1993.
Katz, William Loren. BLACK INDIANS: A Hidden Heritage. New York: Atheneum, 1986.
Leckie, William H. THE BUFFALO SOLDIERS: A Narrative of the Negro Cavalry in the West. Norman: University
of Oklahoma Press 1967.
Levenson, Dorothy. HOMESTEADERS AND INDIANS. New York: Franklin Watts Inc. 1971.
Miller, Donald. AN ALBUM OF BLACK AMERICANS IN THE ARMED FORCES. New York, NY.: Franklin
Schubert, Frank N. BLACK VALOR: Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870-1898.Wilmington, DE.:
Scholarly Resources, 1997.
A Closer Look
Excerpt from the History of Hudspeth County
"Another bloody episode involving Hudspeth County more directly was the long and often frustrating campaign by the United States Army and the Texas Rangers to control the Apaches. Under chief Victorio, a Warm Springs Apache who joined forces with the Mescaleros, the Apaches eluded their pursuers throughout the 1870s. Victorio himself was finally killed in Mexico in 1880, but not before his warriors had impressed all observers with their tactical brilliance. Perhaps the most notable encounter between the Apaches and their pursuers occurred in Hudspeth County on October 28, 1880, just two weeks after Victorio's death, when the Apaches killed seven "Buffalo Soldiers," members of the famous black Tenth United States Cavalry. A historical marker has been placed at their graves, near Indian Hot Springs, and their story was the subject of a 1970 movie starring O. J. Simpson."
Marker Number: 5295
Marker Title: The Buffalo Soldiers and Indian Hot Springs
Index Entry: Buffalo Soldiers and Indian Hot Springs
City: Sierra Blanca
UTM Zone: 13
UTM Easting: 469512
UTM Northing: 3410450
Subject Codes: AA; ML; NA; WA
Year Marker Erected: 1988
Marker Location: Indian Springs FM 1111 31 miles S. of Sierra Blanca
Marker Size: 27" x 42" Subject
Repairs Completed: None
The natural hot springs in this area have been used for centuries by people seeking curative waters. Known as Indian hot
Springs, they were used by generations of nomadic Indian tribes. Following the Civil War, the U.S. army established several regiments of black soldiers, including the 10th Cavalry. Called "buffalo soldiers", by their Indian adversaries, the soldiers conducted numerous scouting and mapping expeditions in this region. Pursuing raiding bands of Mescalero Apache Indians, members of the 10th Cavalry were sent to guard water holes and river crossings known to be frequented by the Indians. At dawn on October 28, 1880, soldiers of companies B and K were attacked on a ridge near this site by Apaches. Although official and contemporary accounts of the battle vary, at least five buffalo soldiers were reported slain in the attack and were buried where they fell. They were: Carter Burns, George Mills, William Backus, Jeremiah Griffin, and James Stanley. Two soldiers, Scott Graves and Thomas Rach, were reported missing. Their bodies were said to have been found and buried with their comrades weeks later. The seven graves were relocated in this vicinity in the 1960s.
Note: Though some information differ from above, the general content in the article below gives an interesting perspective on the battle.
Ambush In Massacre Canyon
By Gene Ballinger
The Courier July 29, 1993 Issue,
MASSACRE CANYON in the Black Range -- In 1976 Jim Grider and I took several Boy Scouts from T or C on a camping trip in the Black Range. While on that trip we also located a number of burial sites of U.S. Cavalry troopers, Indian Scouts and at least one civilian killed in an all-day firefight with Victorio and his men in 1879. I had first been to the location in 1973.
Last Saturday I was able to return to that battle site through the kindness and assistance of the ranch family who owns the
property that the grave sites are on, adjacent to forest lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service. Most, but not all, of the
actual battle site is on public forest lands, but extremely difficult to reach unless you are on horseback or willing and able to
hike 10 miles and climb up and over a 7800 foot peak in and out of the area.
On September 18, 1879, Navajo scouts attached to Company B and Company E of the U.S. Ninth Cavalry, tracked Victorio, War Chief of the Warm Springs Apaches and about 60 warriors, up Las Animas Creek. Troopers from Companies B, C, E, and G were in pursuit of Victorio after he had left the reservation at Fort Stanton, refusing to be transported back to Arizona.
His stated desire was to remain at Ojo Caliente, which the federal government refused. Ojo Caliente, on the fringes of the Black Range, was the historical home of the Warm Springs Apaches. And Victorio's people, after having been promised that they could remain at Ojo Caliente, were forced to move to Arizona to live among other Apaches who were their enemies, and on a reservation on the desert best known for its pestilence and the death of hundreds of Apache men, women and children. Victorio did not stay there long. His people came from the high country and that fact was totally ignored by the government after giving him the promise that he and his people could remain in their home lands if they turned themselves in and became reservation residents.
Victorio eventually turned himself in at Fort Stanton, again asking to return to Ojo Caliente. That request was again refused
and he was told that he and his people would be returned to Arizona. It was the string of broken promises that lead up to the
After leaving Stanton and the Mescalero Reservation on September 3, 1879, Victorio attacked near Camp Ojo Caliente,
capturing eighteen mules, fifty cavalry horses, and killing five Black troopers and three civilians guarding the animals.
After that attack the cavalry made an all-out effort to capture Victorio and Col. Edward Hatch put four companies of the
Ninth Cavalry in the field to find Victorio and either capture him or kill him. They did neither.
And what became known as the "Victorio War" began.
In the past Victorio had encountered troopers from the Ninth Cavalry and each and every time was victorious in the field.
Why anyone in command of the four companies that met him head on on Las Animas Creek could possibly think that this time
is would be different is still an unanswered question today.
Victorio was perhaps the finest guerilla fighter ever known and most certainly, one of the finest the United States Army had
ever had occasion to meet in the field, and he was an old man.
Throughout the so-called "Victorio War" the chief never had more than one hundred warriors, and usually less than 50. The
Army had more than one thousand men in the field chasing him.
On the morning of September 18, 1879, Company B, under command of Lt. Byron Dawson, and Company E, under command
of Capt. Ambrose Hooker, following their Navajo scouts, rode up Las Animas Creek and into the history books. The cavalry
units were assigned part-time to Camp Ojo Caliente.
Their intent apparently was to surprise Victorio. What they apparently did not know was that they were riding not only into a
trap but approaching one of the Warm Springs Apaches' main mountain top camp sites, today called Vic's Peak and Victoria
Park. The incorrect use of the name Victoria instead of Victorio has never been corrected.
The troopers fell under a heavy concentration of rifle and arrow fire at the junction of Las Animas Creek (and Canyon) and a
side canyon now known as Massacre Canyon.
The troopers were caught in a three-way trap with Victorio's men firing from the heights of Las Animas and the side canyon,
with nothing to hide behind but boulders, a few rock shelves and trees. Victorio had command of all the heights surrounding
the two companies and there was no way the troopers could approach the Apaches without being hit.
All the men in both companies, now dismounted, were pinned down and most certainly would have been wiped out. However, the gunfire was heard echoing and re-echoing down the canyon by men with Companies C and G and they rushed
to the battle scene only to be pinned down as well.
All four companies withdrew at nightfall.
There are conflicting reports about just how many troopers were killed and wounded in that battle. One official report says
five troopers killed, one wounded, thirty-six horses killed, six wounded, three Navajo scouts killed and one civilian killed.
Another report places the count at six troopers killed, the horse count is the same, but two Navajo scouts killed and one
civilian. Yet three Medals of Honor were awarded to three different men who saved wounded troopers, therefore I do not
believe any of the official reports are very accurate.
None of these figures account for 32 or more graves located near the battle site.
Official Army estimates place Victorio's strength at 120 men and has to be grossly inflated. Correct figures would be more
like 50 to 60.
Victorio chose his ambush site with care. It was on his home turf and at a location which the Army found, to their chagrin, to
be impossible to overrun or for them to defend themselves. the Animas drops off the Continental Divide in the Black Range
eastward to the Rio Grande and is surrounded by high cliffs at elevations running from seven to nine thousand feet, with
The canyon walls in Las Animas and the surrounding side canyons are rugged, some pinnacled, a maze of side canyons with numerous caves and overhangs, all highly defensible by those waiting in ambush. Victorio used his knowledge of the terrain to the fullest. Victorio and his men left the immediate area the next day and shortly thereafter met head on with some of the same troopers again on Las Palomas Creek, but that is another story.
Several days later Lt. Dawson escorted Major Albert Morrow, commander of all military operations in southern New
Mexico, over the battle site and Morrow reported that it took him 120 minutes to climb to the Apache camp and under fire it
would have been an "absolute impossibility for any number of men to take the position by storm."
1896 Medal of Honor, Courtesy of the National Park Service.
There is no known record of how many men Victorio may have lost, if any, but walking over the battle site can only make one wonder how in the world anyone would be dumb enough to possibly think that they could dislodge Victorio or anyone else from their positions.
With the able assistance of Brent Bason the grave sites were found on a flat nearby a homestead cabin maintained as a line cabin for the Bason Ranch. We also walked over a portion of the battle site and found one large boulder that appeared to have been hit by bullets. From the angle and location of the boulder, the rounds striking the boulder had to have come from a higher elevation, therefore it is assumed that they were rounds fired by Victorio's men.
Because Las Animas Creek is mostly on patented lands, originally homesteads which have been acquired by neighboring ranches through the years, the area is comparatively untouched by "modern" civilization. And the area of the battle site on forest lands is so difficult to reach that generally things are as they were in 1879, although now there appears to be a lot of underbrush and smaller trees that may not have been there at the time. Hopefully being untouched will never change. The public has a habit of ruining anything and everything they come in contact with. The whole region has been used for cattle ranching for over 100 years and it is obvious from the look of the range, the abundance of grass and forage and the cattle, that the land has been well-managed and taken care of for a very long time by those ranching and raising cattle in the region. And bison are also grazing on some portions of Las Animas as well. It is a portion of our State that if at all possible, should remain as it is and in private hands so that it is never ruined or exploited as so many places have been.
Standing on a portion of the battle site, in the silence of the mountains, it was not difficult to imagine how that day in
September 1879 must have gone for the cavalry, they did not have a prayer.
In the 1930s members of the Civilian Conservation Corps replaced wooden crosses that had been erected at the grave site
but those crosses long ago fell down, were dislodged or simply disintegrated with time.
And bear, looking for bugs, have rolled the stones covering the graves over and scattered many of the rocks, making it
difficult to identify each individual grave site today.
Jimmy Bason, owner of the land which the graves are located on, said that he intends to secure the site and perhaps re-mark
each grave that he identified, and we will sure pitch in and help him do that financially and work-wise. Jim Paxton, District
Ranger for the Black Range District, had indicated that the Forest Service would be interested in doing the same thing.
Why there are apparently thirty-two or more graves at the site instead of the eight or nine indicated in military reports is
unknown. But the most accepted theory is that more men were lost in the battle than the Army was prepared to admit.
The graves lay in two rows separated by a 20 to 30 foot span, on level ground above Las Animas Creek. There are also at
least three more graves apart from the two rows mentioned above and it has been suggested that those three may be the burial
sites of the Navajo scouts.
The beauty and silence of the spot today, the last resting place for men, mostly Black Buffalo Soldiers, who fought against
Victorio, stands as a reminder of the foolishness and dishonesty of some of those in our government of the time. The battle
never had to happen, nor many of the others of the Apache Wars that took so many lives on both sides and all the civilians
caught in the middle. All our government had to do was keep its word and maintain the treaties and promises made by
government officials to the Apaches. That was not done.
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