Friday, November 12, 2010

The Bascom Affair From Afar

November 12, 2010
Had an interesting encounter in Googleland. Wanted to do a drawing of Tom Horn, and rather than find it in one of my many books at home, I Googled Tom Horn and hit "images" and, of course a million images came up, but three of them were drawings I have done of Mr. Horn and published on this blog. They weren't too bad, either.

Meanwhile, worked today on a timeline for the so-called Bascom Affair at Apache Pass. Utilizing several documents from historian Douglas C. McChristian (recommended by Robert Utley), including a new find, a rare eyewitness report to the tragic fight by Sergeant Daniel Robinson, who was wounded in the fighting there. Culling from the report and McChristian's two accounts of the fight (one with Larry L. Ludwig) I came up with this basic timeline:

• January 27, 1861, an Apache raiding party (some say two parties) strikes John Ward's ranch in the Sonoita Valley stealing 20 head of cattle and kidnapping Felix Ward (Martinez), the 12-year-old son of Ward's Mexican common-law wife. (Hint: he later becomes Mickey Free)

• January 28, 1861, John Ward petitions Lt. Col. Pitcairn Morrison, the commanding officer at Fort Buchanan to recover Ward's stepson.

• January 29, 1861, Departing Fort Buchanan, 2nd Lieutenant George N. Bascom leads a 54-man infantry unit (Company C, 7th Infantry), mounted on mules to recover the boy. John Ward rides with them acting as an interpreter.

• After a three day march, Bascom's column reaches the Butterfield Stage station near Apache Pass on February 3, 1861

• Summoned several times, Cochise finally shows up at Bascom's camp on February 4 with his brother, three other males, his wife and two boys (one allegedly Naiche). When soldiers try to hold the chief and his entourage hostage, in exchange for Felix Ward, Cochise and his brother cut their way through the tent and, although slightly wounded, Cochise escapes, while one of the Apache males is killed, the others, six in all, are captured.

In the evening signal fires atop the peaks surrounding the station blaze a request for immediate assistance.

• On the morning of February 5, 1861 (a Tuesday), Cochise and several hundred Chirichahuas appear on a rise a couple hundred yards south of the station. After a brief demonstration, most of the warriors disperse and a white flag is unfurled. A handkerchief from the station returns the signal and a warrior bearing the flag approaches to within earshot and yells out in Spanish that Cochise wants to parlay with the soldier chief. Bascom steps out into the open along with Ward, Sgt. Smith and Sgt. Robinson. They walk forward to meet Cochise and White Mountain Chief Francisco, along with two others. Cochise demands the release of his relatives and Bascom responds they will be released when Felix is returned to his father. Defying Bascom's orders, three stage station men, Culver, Walsh and Wallace come out of the building. Enticed to the edge of a ravine, Wallace is embraced by a woman, Juanita, who had earlier been at the station and perhaps had a romantic relationship with Wallace. She holds him tight as several warriors leap out of the ravine and drag him and Culver down into the canyon. Culver is shot in the melee but manages to escape. Chief Francisco yells to the warriors, "Aqui! Aqui!" (Here! Here!) pointing at Bascom and imploring his men to capture them. Dropping their white flag, Bascom orders his men at the station to open fire and then they run out of the arc of fire towards the station. Walsh is shot dead (some speculate by friendly fire), while everyone else, save Wallace, makes it to safety.

• February 7, 1861, Cochise appears on a ridge and yells to Bascom that he now has three additional prisoners. His warriors had attacked five wagons filled with flour bound for the mines at Pinos Altos, New Mexico. The freighters went into camp about two miles west of the station and were attacked after dark, killing six of the Mexicans outright, while two others were lashed to the wheels and burned to death. Three Americans, Sam Whitfield, William Sanders and Frank Brunner were added to Cochise's barter and he left a note saying he would be back the next day to talk again (the note wasn't found until afterwards).

• An eastbound stage is also attacked in the dark, wounding the drive and killing two of the mules. Cutting loose the dead stock, the stage makes it to the stage station and the relative security of the mini-fortress.

• Snow falls during the night of the seventh, and by the morning of the eighth the ground is white as 15 soldiers guard the mules as they are taken from the station to the spring to be watered. As the men cover the springs from Overlook Ridge, they spy some 200 Apaches, jogging on foot and crouched low, singing a war song. The soldiers open fire and divert the attacks only slightly, who overtake the ridge, capture the herd and wound several of the soldiers in the process. Bascom sends out a relief party only after he is assured this attack is not a feint, or a ruse, and the soldiers, all on foot engage the Indians, killing five. It is believed Mangas Coloradas and Geronimo both fought in this battle. These killings of the warriors assured that the prisoners Cochise held were doomed. For it is Apache custom that the women of murdered warriors can inflict punishment on captives. It is doubtful Cochise could have stopped the grieving widows from torturing the four captives, which they no doubt did, running at them with lances and taking out their grief by stabbing and gouging the defenseless captives.

• On February 10, 1861 a relief column from Fort Breckenridge comes into the station with several Apache prisoners they encountered on their ride to the pass.

• February 14, 1861, 75 dragoons led by First Lieutenant Isiah N.Moore arrives at the station much to the relief of the besieged column.

• February 16, 1861, Moore, the ranking officer, sends out patrols to scour the hills. They search for three days and find nothing (the Apaches are believed to have fled to Fronteras, Mexico). Later the soldiers find the badly decomposed bodies of four human remains and the note Cochise had left on the bush. Wallace is identified only by the gold fillings in his teeth. Horrified at the gruesome torture of the corpses, the soldiers begin to talk of revenge on the Apache captives back at the station.

• On February 18, 1861 the two stage coaches feel safe enough to leave the station and continue their routes. The Apache prisoners are marched to the graves of Wallace and the others and the prisoners (the men) are hanged and left where Cochise will find them. The children and woman are let go, although Apache tradition claims their fate was decided in a card game.

This started a series of wars that didn't end for the next 25 years.

"Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery."
—Jane Austen

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post your comments