September 6, 2007
As expected, I got some very good answers to the question: Did Apaches attack at night?
"My memory tells me that Apaches did sometimes attack at night. I think we all think of the Plains Indian tribes, where by attacking at night, you risked losing your way to the Spirit World if you were killed.
"Seems I have a memory of Apaches creeping into a Mexican village at night, while the Mexicans celebrated a festival nearby, and set free Apache women captives. I also think of Apaches creeping into camps at night to steal horses, sometimes arousing those in the camp, and killing them as they fled. Does that count? I have read probably the ten most classic Apache historians [Debo, Thrapp, et al], and although I cannot cite a specific, I do not think Apaches had a taboo about night attacks, just the logic you cited with gopher holes, etc.
"Here's a good example:
"On p. 156, Hardcover version, 1991, Cochise: Chiricahua Apache Chief by Edwin Sweeney:
"Thursday, February 7, 1861, Sweeney describes Cochise and his warriors, attacking an Eastbound stage coming in to Apache Pass, not yet knowing about the Bascom affair.
"'…the last thing they expected was an Apache attack, considering the darkness and the proximity of the stage station.'
"I think Apaches had no taboo about night fighting, beyond the good sense you cited."
Good points, all. Yes, I remember the incident where the Apaches snuck into a Mexican town, perhaps Janos or Fronteras, where kinfolk were imprisioned and so terrified the jail guards with their animal calls that the guards fled and left the jail unguarded and the Apaches easily freed their tribesmen. However, the quote from the stage coach coming into Apache Pass muddies the water again, because it implies they were not expecting a night attack, "the last thing they expected. . .considering the darkness." Or, at least that's how I read it.
As requested, here's Dale Miles of the Apache San Carlos tribe, and his take on night fighting:
"I've been following your blog on the remake of 3:10 to Yuma with much interest because nobody loves a good western movie better than me.
"As for Apaches attacking at night this is a good one since like you've said we have all heard this one ever since we watched movies as kids. First it has to be understood that Apaches placed war in two distinct areas: raiding which meant to 'take property from the enemy' and pure warfare that is fighting to actually kill an enemy, usually for revenge for a wrong done to the people. So for them to raid at night was an ok thing and often they would time their raids to correspond to the phases of the moon to help. That is why in Sonora or Chihuahua the full bright moon was often called the Apache or Comanche moon--depending on what tribe was coming down on you at the moment.
"However, in raiding killing was not the main effort, getting away with the goods was. Pure warfare was a different matter and fighting a battle at night is not good sense even for white folks at the time, I mean how many Civil war battles do you know were fought at night? While there could be some action at night (artillery) major fighting would have to wait until the day. Soldiers in that war knew that night would mean a little break from the terror of battle. Modern warfare changed that as we know with flares and all other kinds of night vision devices.
"The thing is that in pure warfare Apaches would fight at night if they had to but it wasn't done readily and if they were in unfamiliar terrain they would really be reluctant cause no one wants to run their horse into a arroyo or gully they didn't know was there. But the Apaches were practical people and if your enemy wanted to fight at night they would fight back as the Chiricahuas fought many battles in the final 1880s wars with their American or Mexican enemies. Col. Forsyth's spring 1882 fight with Geronimo and Chief Loco when his troops illegally crossed the Mexican border was mostly at night and into the following day.
"So Apaches would raid at night if conditions were in their favor but any pure warfare fights would usually not be initiated by them and were most likely defensive actions.
"I don't know if this clarifies much but in may help people to know the true situations of history rather than movie mythology."
"(Footnote: when my father came back from WWII after being paratrooper fighting in southern France his great uncle asked him,'Did you really fight at night David?' he answered, 'We sure did!' Doubtless his uncle was thinking of pure warfare.)"
Once again I see conflicting evidence. It seems to me Dale's great uncle is incredulous that they were "fighting at night," which would indicate a cultural predisposition towards the tactic. No? I also think the problem arises from the word "attack." It's apparent that Apaches did plenty of raiding at night, and they did fight troops from both the U.S. and Mexico in the dark, but they were attacked and had to fight back, which is different. The core question remains: Did Apaches attack at night? and I think Elmore Leonard is correct in this (under normal conditions they did not). In the movie 3:10 To Yuma Apaches open fire on an anglo posse camped (with a big fire) on their land. What they probably would have actually done, is sneak up in the middle of the night and steal all of the posse's horses without anyone knowing, then attack them the next day when they attempted to walk out. Just my theory.
Newsweek gives 3:10 a decent review, but I love what they say about Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) who "steals" every scene he's in. And I must add that it's worth seeing the entire movie just to see him. He's that good and a hoot to watch. Evidently Foster was in HBO's Six Feet Under. Not sure which dude he was, but this was one of Kathy's favorite shows.
I also mentioned he carries two top-loading pistols but couldn't remember the model. Here's the answer to that question:
"I believe the pistols Charlie Prince shoots in 3:10 to Yuma are Smith and Wesson Scofield revolvers."
—Mark Kilburn, True West Maniac #235
And One More Apaches Fight At Night Mangled Quote From Steve Sanders
"Feelin good, feelin right, and it's Saturday night..."
—"An American Band"(of Apaches), Grand Funk Railroad
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