Kristy McCaffrey writes contemporary and award-winning historical western romances. She likes the peculiar, the fascinating, and the scientific; animals and the outdoors; her husband and children; history, symbols, and mythology. Grab a cup of tea and hang out by the fireside. Let's travel together.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
The Apache and the Bascom Incident
By Kristy McCaffrey
In the latter half of the 1800’s, the westward expansion of
the United States brought with it endless clashes between immigrants and the
military with Native American peoples. Oddly enough, the Apache Indians of the
territories of Arizona and New Mexico initially tolerated Americans, and didn’t
consider them an immediate threat. Apache had their hands full with the
Mexicans, who passionately despised the Indians for all the raiding and
plundering they wreaked in northern Mexico. Historians generally agree that
this all changed with the Bascom Affair.
In January 1861, Apache marauders attacked John Ward’s farm,
located in the Sonoita Valley of the Arizona Territory, eleven miles from Fort
Buchanan near the U.S./Mexican border. Two war parties stormed the ranch, one
driving off a number of cattle, and the other abducting Ward’s twelve-year-old
adopted son, Felix Martinez, who was outside herding stock. Ward himself was
away on business at the time, and while two men from the ranch attempted to
pursue, they were unsuccessful.
When news of the raid reached Fort Buchanan two weeks later,
the post commander, Lieutenant Colonel Pitcairn Morrison, ordered Second
Lieutenant George N. Bascom to locate the Indians and recover the boy. Morrison
incorrectly assumed that Cochise and his band were accountable for the
kidnapping, so he directed Bascom to proceed east toward Apache Pass in search
of the boy and the stolen cattle. Had the military been more familiar with the
habits of the Indians in their district, they would’ve known that Cochise, a
Chiricahua Apache—while certainly not innocent in other circumstances—had never
been known to take American captives. The White Mountain Apache, however,
habitually kidnapped whites to barter with other tribes or the Mexicans.
Cochise had made efforts to keep a friendship with the U.S.
government by frequently returning token animals stolen by other bands. But the
increasing occurrence of raids on the Sonoita and Santa Cruz valleys had
hardened the army toward the Chiricahua. Morrison told Bascom that if he
located Cochise he was to settle for nothing less than the return of the boy and to use force if necessary. Bascom assembled 54 men and rode toward the
Chiricahua Mountains, known to be a winter home for Cochise.
Once they arrived, Bascom learned that Cochise was indeed in
the area and sent word to him. After a lengthy delay, Cochise finally came to
Bascom’s camp, along with his brother, three other male relatives, his wife,
and two boys. It is thought that Cochise must not have sensed danger in the meeting
since he brought immediate family members with him. When Bascom questioned him
about the raid on Ward’s farm, Cochise denied any involvement and even offered
to help find the boy, cautioning that it could take at least ten days. Bascom
agreed but would keep Cochise’s family hostage until the boy was returned. At
this point, Cochise and his brother, Coyuntura, pulled their knives and slashed
their way out of Bascom’s tent. Cochise managed to escape.
Bascom now had six Apaches in custody, many of them related
to Cochise, and he swiftly reinforced his defensive position around the camp.
They readied for a long siege if necessary. The following morning a large
contingent of Chiricahua Apache assembled in the distance, but after a time
most dispersed, leaving a small party bearing a white flag. Bascom reciprocated
with his own white handkerchief, and a warrior approached. Cochise wished to
speak with Bascom so arrangements were made for a meeting. Each leader would
be permitted to bring three men, all unarmed.
While they spoke, two civilians by the name of Culver and
Wallace, ignored the rules set forth and began to approach the meeting. Bascom
told them to stay back, but they didn’t. Apache warriors struck and managed to
drag both men into a ravine. Both sides opened fire and a battle continued
throughout the day. The following day, Cochise appeared on a hill with
Wallace—hands bound and a rope about his neck—and 16 stolen government mules
and offered to exchange them for the Apache prisoners. Bascom agreed, but
Ward’s boy also needed to be returned. No resolution could be reached.
Unbeknownst to Bascom, Cochise managed to gain three
additional prisoners by attacking a train of five wagons loaded with flour
eastbound for the Pinos Altos mines through the pass they all now occupied. Six
Mexican teamsters had been killed during the abduction. Two of the survivors
had been lashed to wagon wheels and set on fire. Cochise only spared the three
white men to use as a bargaining position with Bascom. Cochise left a dictated
note on a bush near Bascom’s camp stating that he would come in the following
day to negotiate.
But due to the lack of cooperation of the army to exchange
the prisoners, Cochise decided he would take back his people by force. He
enlisted the aid of Francisco and the White Mountain Apache as well as Mangas
Coloradas’s band of Mimbres Apaches. Over 200 Apache attacked two days later.
Bascom’s men held them off, and for days he and his men were trapped.
Reinforcements arrived and troops were sent out to scout the situation. They found
the decomposed remains of Cochise’s four prisoners—Wallace and the three men
taken from the attacked wagon train.
The dead were buried and talk soon turned to retribution. It
was suggested that the Apache hostages be hanged in reprisal for the murders of
Wallace and the three men. A Lieutenant Moore made the decision to hang the
Apache prisoners, and while Bascom objected, Moore outranked him. The bodies of
three warriors were left swinging to insure that Cochise saw them.
Felix Martinez, aka "Mickey Free"
The Bascom Affair, as it is known today, marked a
significant turning point in relations between the Americans and the Chiricahua
Apaches. It’s speculated that if Lieutenant Bascom hadn’t been duplicitous with
Cochise at the outset (by keeping those Apache who accompanied him prisoner),
then the outcome might have been much different. As for the abducted Ward boy,
Felix Martinez did live and later became an army scout called “Mickey Free.” It’s
very possible that Cochise could have obtained the boy’s freedom if Bascom had
just been more patient. In the killing of his white hostages, Cochise forever
changed the Apache-American relations, and the officers responsible for hanging
the Apache men demonstrated that, in the end, they were no better than the
savage men they condemned. This would lead to hostilities between the
Chiricahua and Americans that would last for the next 25 years.
Bounty hunter Cale Walker arrives in Tucson to search for J.
Howard “Hank” Carlisle at the request of his daughter, Tess. Hank mentored Cale
before a falling out divided them, and a mountain lion attack left Cale nearly
dead. Rescued by a band of Nednai Apache, his wounds were considered a powerful
omen and he was taught the ways of a di-yin,
or a medicine man. To locate Hank, Cale must enter the Dragoon Mountains,
straddling two worlds that no longer fit. But he has an even bigger problem—finding
a way into the heart of a young woman determined to live life as a bystander.
For two years, Tess Carlisle has tried to heal the mental
and physical wounds of a deadly assault by one of her papá’s men. Continuing the traditions of her Mexican heritage, she
has honed her skills as a cuentista,
a storyteller and a Keeper of the Old Ways. But with no contact from her father
since the attack, she fears the worst. Tess knows that to reenter Hank
Carlisle’s world is a dangerous endeavor, and her only hope is Cale Walker, a
man unlike any she has ever known. Determined to make a journey that could lead
straight into the path of her attacker, she hardens her resolve along with her
heart. But Cale makes her yearn for something she vowed she never would—love.
* * * *
McCaffrey has been writing since she was very young, but it wasn’t until she
was a stay-at-home mom that she considered becoming published. She’s the author
of several historical western romances, all set in the American southwest. She
lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, two chocolate labs, and whichever
of their four teenaged children happen to be in residence. Sign up for her monthly newsletteror visit her
website for more info.