[page 151]

Governor Safford's Message Calls Attention to Ourages—Public Sentiment in Reference to Camp Grant Massacre—Military Account of Camp Grant Massacre—Trial of Participants—Charge of Judge Titus— Defendants Acquitted—More Outrages by Indians—Lieutenant Cushing's Expeditions Against Hostiles—Killing of Lieutenant Cushing.

In his message to the Legislative Assembly at Tucson, January 14th, 1871, Governor Safford called attention to recent outrages in the month of August, linking the Indians in a simultaneous movement along the Southern Overland Route. Two stage drivers were killed, one stage captured and all on board were murdered. A train was taken and all with it killed. A stage station twenty-two miles east of Tucson was taken, and but two of the inmates escaped alive. Several others were killed about that time. He said that the Coyoteros and Apache-Mohaves, branches of the Apache tribe, had expressed a desire for peace, and that a large reservation had been set apart for the former by the United States. He said: ‘‘“I visited the reservation in June last, and believe the larger number of this band earnestly desire peace. I found they were very poor, with no seed for planting except that furnished by the military authorities, and they were of necessity obliged to roam over a large extent of country, as

[page 152]

Indians always are, unless provided with ample agricultural facilities. I found the military doing everything possible to provide them with seeds, but were not authorized to supply even their present wants, except in limited amounts; consequently the Indians had to principally depend upon game for subsistence, Much dissatisfaction and ill-feeling exist on the part of the settlers on account of the general belief that portions of this tribe join with marauding bands against them, and, as soon as their nefarious work is done, return to their reservation for safety. The Apache-Mohaves have received no assistance except from the military authorities, and that of necessity has been limited; and from personal observation, strengthened by information received from officers and citizens who have been more or less among them, I am convinced that they have been for some time past in a suffering condition; and I shall not be surprised if in a few weeks, and perhaps days, they are again in open hostility. Three persons were murdered recently near Prescott, and it is charged, by well-informed citizens, to these Indians. They have also banded together in considerable numbers, and made demands on the inhabitants of Chino Valley for food, with which the latter were unable to comply. The Indians retired without actually commencing hostilities, but informed the people that they would return with increased numbers and take what they wanted. The danger was considered so imminent that all the families of the valley were removed to Prescott for safety, and quite as much alarm now prevails with the people as when these Indians were in avowed hostility.’’

[page 153]


“The Indians now engaged in open hostility are the Pinals, Tontos, what is commonly known as Cochise's band, and more or less renegades from all the bands that assume to be on terms of peace. It is also a well established fact that the Navahos, who occupy a reservation in New Mexico, have made frequent raids, and stolen property and murdered citizens as far west as Prescott. I believe I have fairly stated to you the condition and position the Apache Indians occupy toward us at present.”


An account of what is known as the “Camp Grant Massacre” has been given in a previous volume in the biography of W. S. Oury. The following, clipped from the two leading papers in the Territory at that time, shows public sentiment in reference thereto: The “Arizona Citizen” of May 6th, 1871, says:


“The canyon is situated south of the Gila River, some forty miles east of Florence, and about sixty miles north of Tucson. For weeks it had been known that a band of Indians was camped in that vicinity, and numbers of animals were stolen from the friendly Papagoes near Tucson. Four citizens in the San Pedro Valley were murdered by the party there encamped. These discoveries were rendered more believable by the fact that it was redskins, and that they had made one of the old style Pinal Treaties with the commander at Camp Grant. They had been receiving rations from that post for some time, and had, in an apparently friendly mood, settled themselves in the canyon near the post, and while eating government supplies would make their murderous raids and return under the shadow,

[page 154]

as it were, of Camp Grant, gorging themselves on the meat of stolen mules, horses, donkeys, and cattle, rejoicing in their success, gloating over their plunder, living in fancied security, and preparing to make another raid on some settlers or travellers. Having proof of their treachery, the dwellers in Tucson and vicinity went after these Pinals, and of the entire band in camp, after the attack, only seven are known to have escaped.”


“The Prescott Miner,” under date of June 10th, 1871, has the following:


“Many declare that the Indians killed. ‘were under the protection of the Government, having surrendered themselves and being considered prisoners of war.’

“Yes! as prisoners of war, armed to the teeth, unrestricted, and under no surveillance whatever. Prisoners of war, camped at a distance of four miles from the post to which they owed obedience. Prisoners of war who visited the valley of the Santa Cruz, distant eighty miles, and murdered two persons, and captured all the cattle and horses in the neighborhood, a few of which, together with an ornament worn by one of the victims, were recaptured at Camp Grant. Prisoners of war who next captured the United States mail twelve miles east of the San Pedro, and sixty-five miles from their rancheria and murdered the driver. Prisoners of war who marched to the San Pedro settlement and there murdered the last settlers in the valley, whence the avenging force followed their trail to the Camp Grant encampment. Prisoners of war who had just succeeded in all their depredations and were again on the warpath to the number of more than

[page 155]

a hundred, with the commanding officer at Camp Grant at the head of forty men following on their trail. Over five hundred Indians, fantastically. styled ‘Prisoners of War,’ to whom provisions and ammunition were supplied. Less than three hundred and fifty Indians were present when the Papago Indians made the attack. The band were on the warpath with Captain Stanwood in pursuit.

“We have seen the action of the Papago Indians and the men who accompanied them termed a cowardly slaughter of helpless women and children. We do not know it to be such, but we are credibly informed that some of the women and children were killed, which could not possibly have been otherwise where men and women are collected indiscriminately, and men, particularly Papago Indians, in the excitement of battle, are not the proper persons of whom to expect wise discrimination. We should be as ready as any of our contemporaries, to denounce a war upon women and children, but such this was not. It was the action of the people, aroused by governmental neglect, who took up arms and marched forward, prepared to encounter the enemy of double their number, and avenge their wrongs, or perish in the attempt, and we say: ‘God speed every such mission.’”


From Bourke, “On the Border with Crook”; Dunn, “Massacres of the Mountains”; and the Fish manuscript, I condense the following:

In February, 1871, a party of women came into Camp Grant in search of a captive boy. Through them communications were had with Es-kim-in-zin, the chief of the band. The chief

[page 156]

said that his people wished to make peace. As there were no provisions made for caring for them, Lieutenant Royal E. Whitman, who was in command at the post, told them to go to the White Mountains. They were not willing to do this. It was finally agreed that they were to surrender to him and remain around the post as prisoners for the present. By March 5th about three hundred had come in and surrendered. Some of them were too old to go on the warpath, and some were peaceably inclined. Whitman sent a full account of this to division headquarters, and six weeks later received an answer stating that his communication had not been indorsed in accordance with official etiquette, and it was returned therewith, with instructions to return it to Department Headquarters “properly briefed.” The fate of three hundred people was of less importance than the manner of addressing a report. The red tape business with our Government has caused much trouble and delays which could be avoided. These Indians were employed in some useful work, such as cutting hay, etc. They were counted and rations issued to them every day, but soon after being removed a little further from the post, the count and issuing of rations was every third day. They behaved well as far as known by the officers in charge. The citizens, especially at Tucson and vicinity, were indignant at this feeding of the Apaches, and refused to believe that they had surrendered in good faith. The military authorities had not taken the necessary precaution to prevent the hostiles from coming in and mixing with them. Most of these Indians were

[page 157]

friendly, but there were, doubtless, some hostiles in this number who were on hand to aid those who were on the warpath.

The following is the military account of the Camp Grant Massacre, condensed from the Fish manuscript:

In accordance with the peace policy which had been decided upon by the United States Government, these Indians were placed upon a reservation not far from the post. They were principally the Pinal and Aravaipa bands of Apache Indians. After some experimenting, Royal E. Whitman, a lieutenant in the Third Cavalry, was assigned to duty as their agent. He was unscrupulous, and had outside parties in Tucson to work the business. A sutler's store was first started, then a blacksmith shop, and butcher shop. His sharp practices and moneymaking proclivities soon became disagreeable to the Indians. Some have claimed that this caused dissatisfaction when it was discovered that they were being cheated out of what the Government was giving them, but notwithstanding all these stories, and that Whitman was considered by many as a worthless fellow, he had great influence with the Indians, and could do more with them than any one else. During the winter of 1870–71, it was claimed that these Indians committed many depredations within a radius of a hundred miles to the southwest. On the killing of Wooster and wife on the Santa Cruz, above Tubac, indignation meetings were held in Tucson. At these meetings there was much “speechifying,” as we are told, about killing the “red devils.” It was claimed that it was these Indians

[page 158]

around Camp Grant that were committing the depredations. Arrangements were made at one of these meetings to organize a militia force, and W. S. Oury was elected captain. The resolutions drawn up received the signature of eighty-two of the Americans. One result of these meetings was the appointing of a committee to visit the department commander, General Stoneman, who was at that time on the Gila, near Florence. The committee consisted of W. S. Oury, S. R. DeLong, J. W. Hopkins, and some others. They made a trip to the Gila, and saw the General. The result of the conference was, in substance, that the General had but few troops and could not protect nearly all the places, and could not give them any aid; as Tucson had the largest population of any place in the Territory, he gave the committee to understand that Tucson would have to protect itself. The committee returned, a little disappointed in not getting the aid they had sought and hoped for, and feeling generally cross and grieved over their hard trip and the loss of a mule.

In the early part of April, 1871, a raid was made upon the San Xavier and stock driven off by Indians. They were pursued and some stock recovered. One Indian was killed. It was claimed that he was identified as one of the Camp Grant Indians, he having lost a certain tooth which made him a marked man. The pursuing party returned to Tucson and claimed that the raiders were Camp Grant Indians. In a short time a plan was arranged to pursue the raiders. This plan was promulgated by one Jesus M. Elias. Some Papago Indians were

[page 159]

sent for to assist, and it was arranged for all parties to meet on the Rillito on the 28th of April. This was done with great precaution and secrecy. Parties were sent to guard the road that no news should be taken to Camp Grant of any parties leaving Tucson. The various parties met as agreed, and comprised the following: Papagoes 92, Mexicans 48, and Americans 6, total 146. The Americans made a very small showing considering the amount of blustering they had done. Adjutant General J. B. Allen furnished a wagon with arms and ammunition and stores for the expedition. The father of the project, Jesus M. Elias, was elected commander of the company, although W. S. Oury was along and seems to have been one of the main ones in the enterprise. The company left the Rillito at 4 p. m. They rested most of the next day on the San Pedro to avoid being seen, then started at dark, making an all night's march, and reached the Indian camp just at daylight and, in full view of the post, fell upon their unsuspecting victims, killing a hundred and twenty-eight of them in a few minutes. The surprise was complete, and old and young of both sexes went down before the assailants. Not one of the attacking party was hurt. Twenty-nine children were spared and taken by the Papagoes and sold as slaves. Out of this number, however, two escaped, and five were recovered from Arizonans. It was the custom with the Pimas as well as the Papagoes to sell the children taken from the Apaches to other tribes and into Sonora. The bloody deed was accomplished on the morning of the Holy Sabbath, April 30th,

[page 160]

1871. The company then went into camp for breakfast and to spend a portion of the Lord's day in rest and thanks for their victory. Captain Penn, commanding at Fort Lowell, sent word to Lieutenant Whitman of the movement. On receipt of the message the latter at once sent two men to tell the Indians to come in, but the message was too late, the bloody work had been done. Dr. Biresly, post surgeon, with twelve men, was then dispatched to the place with a wagon to bring in any wounded that might be found. In his report Dr. Biresly said: ‘‘“On my arrival I found that I should have but little use for wagon or medicine. The work had been too thoroughly done. The camp had been fired, and the dead bodies of some twenty-one women and children were lying scattered over the ground. Those who had been wounded in the first instance had had their brains beaten out with stones. Two of the best looking of the squaws were lying in such a position, and from the appearance of the genital organs and of their wounds, there can be no doubt that they were first ravished and then shot. Nearly all the dead were mutilated. One infant of some ten months was shot twice, and one leg hacked nearly off.”’’

The party claimed as a justification of this massacre that they found an Indian boy riding a horse which was identified as one belonging to Don Leopoldo, and that some of the clothing of Dona Trinidad Aguirre was also found. Take it altogether the proof against these Indians was very slight. The trail followed led toward this point, but it does not appear that it was attempted to be followed for the last thirty miles

[page 161]

at least, for the march was made in the night to avoid being seen; besides, the trail was then some three weeks old. It matters but little as to the proof. No act could justify the indiscriminate massacre of women and children. At the December term of court a hundred and four of the perpetrators of this deed were indicted and tried before Judge Titus at Tucson, and were acquitted, the jury being out twenty minutes. It was impossible, under the existing feeling, to convict a person for the killing of an Apache. One of the principal reasons for this trial was, perhaps, the fact that President Grant wrote to Governor Safford stating that if the men who participated in this massacre were not brought to trial before the civil authorities, he would proclaim martial law in Arizona. At all events, the trial was had, and in his charge to the jury Judge Titus, among other things, said:


“The Government of the United States owes its Papago, Mexican and American residents in Arizona protection from Apache spoliation and assaults. If such spoliation and assaults are persistently carried on and not prevented by the Government, then its sufferers have a right to protect themselves and employ a force large enough for that purpose. It is also to be added that if the Apache nation, or any past of it, persists in assaulting the Papagoes, Mexicans or Americans in Arizona, then it forfeits the right of protection from the United States, whether that right is the general protection which a Government owes all persons within its limits and jurisdiction, or the special protection which is due to prisoners of war.

[page 162]

“Now, gentlemen, what is the evidence before you on this branch of the question? Have the Apache Indians, and especially that portion of them quartered near Camp Grant on which the deadly assault described in the indictment was made on the 30th day of April last, been persistently assailing, despoiling and murdering the Papago, Mexican and American residents of Arizona, and has this been prevented by the United States? The evidence is quite full on this subject, and I submit to you whether it does or does not prove that the Apache Nation, and especially that portion of it on which the assault charged in the indictment was made on the 30th of April last, then and now is in hostility to all the Papago, Mexican and American residents in Arizona, including the defendants and such as they? Has this or has it not been continued for years? Has it been attended with loss of life and property? And has the Government of the United States prevented this? Does or does not the evidence in the present question show that the clothing, arms and other property of murdered and despoiled Papago, Mexican and American residents of Arizona have been found in the possession of those on whom the assault charged in the indictment was made; that an obvious trail or Indian road leads from the place or places of this murder and spoliation direct to the encampment, and that these Indians, before and since the assault charged in the indictment, have admitted their participation in this murder and spoliation? After this is shown, is there any evidence that the United States Government has stopped this, or had done so on the 30th of

[page 163]

April last? If you find that the evidence proves these practices, you will find whether it proves also that they were and are persistent. If you find that the murder and spoliation had been or were, on the 30th of April last, persistent, or if you find that this murder and spoliation were not persistent, you will find accordingly one of the following conclusions:

“First: That the attack charged in the indictment was or was not a justifiable act of defensive or preventive hostilities, or

“Second: That it does or does not cast such reasonable doubt on the motive in making the assault charged in the indictment as will render you unable to see whether the defendants were actuated by murderous malice in making such an assault. Accordingly as you find the affirmative or negative of these conclusions, your verdict will be guilty or not guilty.”


It must be admitted that this charge was equivalent to instructions to acquit the defendants, which was done.

Lieutenant Whitman seemed to have had remarkable success in gaining the confidence of the Indians, notwithstanding his moneymaking proclivities, as he induced many of them, under their chief, Es-kim-in-zin, to return after the outrage, believing that the military had no part in the massacre, but soon one of the returning parties by some blunder was fired upon by a squad of soldiers, and the Indians fled to the mountains, more hostile than ever.

The exterminating policies had received a fair trial in Arizona and had been found to be a failure. A careful study of the Indians, their numbers

[page 164]

two hundred years ago, and the numbers within the United States to-day, sets aside at once the possibility of exterminating them. This policy has been tried several times, but the Indians continue as numerous as ever.

There had been killed by Indians within a short time on the Pedro, Henry Long, Alex. McKenzie, Sam Brown, Simms, and others; on the Santa Cruz, Wooster and wife, Sanders and others; on the Sonoita, Pennington, Jackson, Carroll, Rotherwell and others. These murders were all laid to the Indians on the reservation, but, as a matter of fact, Cochise and his band were constantly raiding the country.

During the winter of 1870–71, there was no cessation to the amount of scouting conducted against the Apaches, who resorted to a system of tactics which had often been tried in the past, and always with success. A number of simultaneous attacks were made at widely separated points, evidently to confuse both the troops and the settlers by spreading a vague sense of fear all over the Territory, and imposing upon the military an exceptional amount of work and hardship. Bourke says:


“Attacks were made in southern Arizona upon the stage stations at the San Pedro, and the Cienega, as well as the one near the Picacho, and upon the ranches in the Babacomori Valley, and in the San Pedro, near Tres Alamos. Then came the news of a fight at Pete Kitchen's, and, finally, growing bolder, the enemy drove off a herd of cattle from Tucson itself, some of them beeves, and others work oxen belonging to a wagon train from Texas. Lastly came the killing

[page 165]

of the stage mail rider, between the town and the Mission Church of San Xavier, and the massacre of the party of Mexicans going down to Sonora, which occurred not far from the Sonoita.

“One of the members of this last party was a beautiful young Mexican lady—Doña Trinidad Aguirre—who belonged to a very respectable family in the Mexican Republic, and was on her way back from a visit to relatives in Tucson. That one so young, so beautiful and bright, should have been snatched away by a most cruel death at the hands of the savages, aroused the people of all the county south of the Gila, and nothing was talked of, nothing was thought of, but vengence upon the Apaches.

“Lieutenant Howard B. Cushing was most active at this time, and kept his troop moving without respite. There were fights, and ambuscades, and attacks upon Indian rancherias, and night marches without number, several very successful. When the work oxen of the Texans above referred to were run off, the Apaches took them over the steepest, highest and rockiest part of the Sierra Santa Catalina. Cushing followed closely, guided by Manuel Duran and others. Progress was necessarily slow on account of the difficulties of the trail. The only result of the pursuit, however, was the recovery of the meat of the stock which the Apaches had killed when they reached the canyons under Trumbull's Peak. Three of Cushing's party were hurt in the ensuing fight, and several of the Indians were killed and wounded.”


[page 166]

Lieutenant Cushing was afterwards killed by the Indians, an account of which, given by Bourke, follows:


“On the 5th of May, 1871, Lieutenant Howard B. Cushing, Third Cavalry, with several civilians and three soldiers, was killed by the Chiricahua Apaches, under their famous chief, Cochise, at the Bear Springs, in the Whetstone Mountains, about thirty-five miles from Tucson and about the same distance to the east of old Camp Crittenden. Cushing's whole force numbered twenty-two men, the larger part of whom was led into an ambuscade in the canyon containing the spring. The fight was a desperate one, and fought with courage and great skill on both sides. Our forces were surrounded before a shot had been fired; and it was while Cushing was endeavoring to lead his men back that he received the wounds which killed him. Had it not been for the courage and good judgment displayed by Sergeant John Mott, who had seen a good deal of service against the Apaches, not one of the command would have escaped alive out of the canyon. Mott was in command of the rear-guard, and, in coming up to the assistance of Lieutenant Cushing, detected the Apaches moving behind a low range of hills to gain Cushing's rear. He sent word ahead, and that induced Lieutenant Cushing to fall back. After Cushing dropped, the Apaches made a determined charge and came upon our men hand to hand. The little detachment could save only those horses and mules which were ridden at the moment the enemy made the attack, because the men who had dismounted to fight on foot were unable

[page 167]

to remount, such was the impetuosity of the rush made by the Chiricahuas. There were enough animals to ‘ride and tie,’ and Mott, by keeping up on the backbone of the hills running along the Babacomori Valley, was enabled to reach Camp Crittenden without being surrounded or ambuscaded.

“Inside of forty-eight hours there were three troops of cavalry en route to Crittenden, and in pursuit of the Apaches, but no good could be effected. Major William J. Ross, at that time in command of Camp Crittenden, was most energetic in getting word to the various military commands in the southern part of the country, as well as in extending every aid and kindness to the wounded brought in by Mott.

“When the combined force had arrived at Bear Springs, there was to be seen every evidence of a most bloody struggle. The bodies of Lieutenant Cushing and comrades lay where they had fallen, stripped of clothing, which the Apaches always carried off from their victims. In all parts of the narrow little canyon were the carcasses of ponies and horses half-eaten by the coyotes and buzzards; broken saddles, saddlebags, canteens with bullet holes in them, pieces of harness and shreds of clothing scattered about, charred to a crisp in the flames which the savages had ignited in the grass to conceal their line of retreat.

“Of how many Apaches had been killed, there was not the remotest suggestion to be obtained. That there had been a heavy loss among the Indians could be suspected from the signs of bodies

[page 168]

having been dragged to certain points, and there, apparently, put on pony back.

“The Chiricahuas seemed to have ascended the canyon until they had attained the crest of the range in a fringe of pine timber; but no sooner did they pass over into the northern foothills than they broke in every direction, and did not re-unite until near our boundary line with Mexico, where their trail was struck and followed for several days by Major Gerald Russell of the Third Cavalry. They never halted until they regained the depths of the Sierra Madre, their chosen haunt, and towards which Russell followed them as long as his broken down animals could travel.

“Of the distinguished services rendered to Arizona by Lieutenant Cushing, a book might well be written. It is not intended to disparage anybody when I say that he had performed herculean and more notable work, perhaps, than had been performed by any other officer of corresponding rank, either before or since.”


Lieutenant Cushing was one of the best and bravest officers in Arizona, and his continued campaigns against the hostiles had had a telling effect. He was considered the most successful Indian fighter in the army; brave, energetic and tireless, he followed the foe to their strongholds and there attacked them with vigor and spirit, dealing them blows the savages could not withstand. In him Arizona lost one of her most worthy defenders; a man who, at this critical time, she could ill afford to part with. He was the Custer of Arizona, and it can be said of him: “It is a part of life and the mystery of fate, that

[page 169]

to all men who must have their will, there comes a time when there is neither turning back nor to the side. It must be on, and on, and on, to an end that is either immortal or better to be forgotten. And it is from such ends that the children get either the story of shame, or the luster of a name shining out on the dark night of the past as a star of the greatest magnitude.”

Lieutenant Cushing belonged to a family which won deserved renown during the Civil War. One of his brothers blew up the ram Albemarle; another died most heroically at his post of duty on the battlefield of Gettysburg; another, enlisted in the navy, died in the service.


© Arizona Board of Regents