11. CAMP APACHE


Up: Contents Previous: 10. A PERILOUS ADVENTURE Next: 12. LIFE AMONGST THE APACHES


[page 86]

BY THE fourth of October we had crossed the range, and began to see something which looked like roads. Our animals were fagged to a state of exhaustion, but the travelling was now much easier and there was good grazing, and after three more long days' marches, we arrived at Camp Apache. We were now at our journey's end, after two months' continuous travelling, and I felt reasonably, sure of shelter and a fireside for the winter at least. I knew that my husband's promotion was expected, but the immediate present was filled with an interest so absorbing, that a consideration of the future was out of the question.

At that time (it was the year of 1874) the officers' quarters at Camp Apache were log cabins, built near the edge of the deep cañon through which the White Mountain River flows, before its junction with Black River.

We were welcomed by the officers of the Fifth Cavalry, who were stationed there. It was altogether a picturesque and pretty post. In addition to the row of log cabins, there were enormous stables and Government buildings, and a sutler's store. We were entertained for a day of two, and then quarters were


[page 87]

assigned to us. The second lieutenants had rather a poor choice, as the quarters were scarce. We were assigned a half of a log cabin, which gave us one room, a small square hall, and a bare shed, the latter detached from the house, to be used for a kitchen. The room on the other side of the hall was occupied by the Post Surgeon, who was temporarily absent.

Our things were unloaded and brought to this cabin. I missed the barrel of china, and learned that it had been on the unfortunate wagon which rolled down the mountain-side. I had not attained that state of mind which came to me later in my army life. I cared then a good deal about my belongings, and the annoyance caused by the loss of our china was quite considerable. I knew there was none to be obtained at Camp Apache, as most of the merchandise came in by pack-train to that isolated place.

Mrs. Dodge, of the Twenty-third Infantry, who was about to leave the post, heard of my predicament, and offered me some china plates and cups, which she thought not worth the trouble of packing (so she said), and I was glad to accept them, and thanked her, almost with tears in my eyes.

Bowen nailed down our one carpet over the poor. board floor (after having first sprinkled down a thick. layer of clean straw, which he brought from the, quartermaster stables). Two iron cots from the hospital were brought over, and two bed-sacks filled with


[page 88]

fresh, sweet straw, were laid upon them; over these were laid our mattresses. Woven-wire springs were then unheard of in that country.

We untied our folding chairs, built a fire on the hearth, captured an old broken-legged wash-stand and a round table from somewhere, and that was our living-room. A pine table was found for the small hall, which was to be our dining-room, and some chairs with raw-hide seats were brought from the barracks, some shelves knocked up against one wall, to serve as sideboard. Now for the kitchen!

A cooking-stove and various things were sent over from the Q. M. store-house, and Bowen (the wonder of it!) drove in nails, and hung up my Fort Russell tin-ware, and put up shelves and stood my pans in rows, and polished the stove, and went out and stole a table somewhere (Bowen was invaluable in that way), polished the zinc under the stove, and lo! and behold, my army kitchen! Bowen was indeed a treasure; he said he would like to cook for us, for ten dollars a month. We readily accepted his offer. There were no persons to be obtained, in these distant places, who could do the cooking in the families of officers, so it was customary to employ a soldier; and the soldier often displayed remarkable ability in the way of cooking, in some cases, in fact, more than in the way of soldiering. They liked the little addition to their pay, if they were of frugal mind; they had also their own quiet room to sleep in, and I often thought the


[page 89]

family life, offering as it did a contrast to the bareness and desolation of the noisy barracks, appealed to the domestic instinct, so strong in some men's natures. At all events, it was always easy in those days to get a man from the company, and they sometimes remained for years with an officer's family; in some cases attending drills and roll-calls besides.

Now came the unpacking of the chests and trunks. In our one diminutive room, and small hall, was no closet, there were no hooks on the bare walls, no place to hang things of lay things, and what to do I did not know. I was in despair; Jack came in, to find me sitting on the edge of a chest, which was half unpacked, the contents on the floor. I was very mournful, and he did not see why.

‘‘“Oh! Jack! I've nowhere to put things!”’’

‘‘“What things?”’’ said this impossible man.

‘‘“Why, all our things,”’’ said I, losing my temper; ‘‘“can't you see them?”’’

‘‘“Put them back in the chests,—and get them out as you need them,”’’ said this son of Mars, and buckled on his sword. ‘‘“Do the best you can, Martha, I have to go to the barracks; be back again soon.”’’ I looked around me, and tried to solve the problem. There was no bureau, nothing; not a nook or corner where a thing might be stowed. I gazed at the motley collection of bed-linen, dust-pans, silver bottles, bootjacks, saddles, old uniforms, full dress military hats, sword-belts, riding-boots, cut glass, window-shades,


[page 90]

lamps, work-baskets, and books, and I gave it up in despair. You see, I was not an army girl, and I did not know how to manage.

There was nothing to be done, however, but to follow Jack's advice, so I threw the boots, saddles and equipments under the bed, and laid the other things back into the chests, closed the lids, and went out to take a look at the post. Towards evening, a soldier came for orders for beef, and I learned how to manage that. I was told that we bought our meats direct from the contractor; I had to state how much and what cuts I wished. Another soldier came to bring us milk, and I asked Jack who was the milkman, and he said, blessed if he knew; I learned, afterwards, that the soldiers roped some of the wild Texas cows that were kept in one of the Government corrals, and tied them securely to keep them from kicking; then milked them, and the milk was divided up among the officers' families, according to rank. We received about a pint every night. I declared it was not enough; but I soon discovered that however much education, position and money might count in civil life, rank seemed to be the one and only thing in the army, and Jack had not much of that just then.

The question of getting settled comfortably still worried me, and after a day of two, I went over to see what Mrs. Bailey had done. To my surprise, I found her out playing tennis, her little boy asleep in the baby-carriage, which they had brought all the


[page 91]

way from San Francisco, near the court. I joined the group, and afterwards asked her advice about the matter. She laughed kindly, and said: ‘‘“Oh! you'll get used to it, and things will settle themselves. Of course it is troublesome, but you can have shelves and such things—you'll soon learn,”’’ and still smiling, she gave her ball a neat left-hander.

I concluded that my New England bringing up had been too serious, and I wondered if I had made a dreadful mistake in marrying into the army, or at least in following my husband to Arizona. I debated the question with myself from all sides, and decided then and there that young army women should stay at home with their mothers and fathers, and not go into such wild and uncouth places. I thought my decision irrevocable.

Before the two small deep windows in our room we hung some Turkey red cotton, Jack built in his spare moments a couch for me, and gradually our small quarters assumed an appearance of comfort. I turned my attention a little to social matters. We dined at Captain Montgomery's (the commanding officer's) house; his wife was a famous Washington beauty. He had more rank, consequently more rooms, than we had, and their quarters were very comfortable and attractive.

There was much that was new and interesting at the post. The Indians who lived on this reservation were the White Mountain Apaches, a fierce and cruel


[page 92]

tribe, whose depredations and atrocities had been carried on for years, in and around, and, indeed, far away from their mountain homes. But this tribe was now under surveillance of the Government, and guarded by a strong garrison of cavalry and infantry at Camp Apache. They were divided into bands, under Chiefs Pedro, Diablo, Patone and Cibiano; they came into the post twice a week to be counted, and to receive their rations of beef, sugar, beans, and other staples, which Uncle Sam's commissary officer issued to them.

In the absence of other amusement, the officers' wives walked over to witness this rather solemn ceremony. At least, the serious expression on the faces of the Indians, as they received their rations, gave an air of solemnity to the proceeding.

Large stakes were driven into the ground; at each stake, sat or stood the leader of a band; a sort of father to his people; then the rest of them stretched out in several long lines, young bucks and old ones, squaws and pappooses, the families together, about seventeen hundred souls in all. I used to walk up and down between the lines, with the other women, and the squaws looked at our clothes and chuckled, and made some of their inarticulate remarks to each other. The bucks looked admiringly at the white women, especially at the cavalry beauty, Mrs. Montgomery, although I thought that Chief Diablo cast a special eye at our young Mrs. Bailey, of the infantry.


[page 93]

Diablo was a handsome fellow. I was especially impressed by his extraordinary good looks.

This tribe was quiet at that time only a few renegades escaping into the hills on their wild adventures: but I never felt any confidence in them and was, on the whole, rather afraid of them. The squaws were shy, and seldom came near the officers' quarters. Some of the younger girls were extremely pretty; they had delicate hands, and small feet enceased in well-shaped moccasins. The young lieutenants sometimes tried to make up to the prettiest ones, and offered them trinkets, pretty boxes of soap, beads, and small mirrors (so dear to the heart of the Indian girl), but the young maids were coy enough; it seemed to me they cared more for the men of their own race.

Once or twice, I saw older squaws with horribly disfigured faces. I supposed it was the result of some ravaging disease, but I learned that it was the custom of this tribe, to cut off the noses of those women who were unfaithful to their lords. Poor creatures, they had my pity, for they were only children of Nature, after all, living close to the earth, close to the pulse of their mother. But this sort of punishment seemed to be the expression of the cruel and revengeful nature of the Apache.

Up: Contents Previous: 10. A PERILOUS ADVENTURE Next: 12. LIFE AMONGST THE APACHES




© Arizona Board of Regents