Click here to read part one of this series.
In the column preceding this one, I told of the Cibeque Apache medicine man and Chief Nock-ay-det-klinne. His attempts to raise two Apache chiefs from the dead, along with the related dances and ceremonies on the Fort Apache Reservation, whipped his followers into a state of turmoil and ultimate rebellion against the soldiers at Fort Apache. As a result of Nock-ay-det-klinne's antics, Brevet General Carr rode from Fort Apache to Cibeque with Companies A (Apache Scouts), D, and E, of the Sixth Cavalry, to arrest the Apache leader and bring him in for questioning.
Although Nock-ay-det-klinne came along peacefully enough, many of his followers rode along with the guard. When Carr and his soldiers reached the mesa where they would camp for the night the accompanying Apaches opened fire on the soldiers. Company A Apache Scouts also joined in the battle on the side of the Nock-ay-det-klinne followers and began firing on Company D. The only scout who remained loyal to the command was First Sergeant Mose.
Just prior to the Indian attack, Nock-ay-det-klinne and two of his guards, Sergeant McDonald and First Sergeant Mose, had begun unsaddling. When the shooting started, the prisoner dropped and started scrambling for the brush. Sergeant McDonald was under orders from Carr to shoot Nock-ay-det-klinne if he tried to escape or if his followers fired on the troops. Although McDonald was shot through the right leg, he still managed to shoot Nock-ay-det-klinne through both thighs. Trumpeter Bill Benites then pulled his pistol and shot Nock-ay-det-klinne through the neck.
After the first volley was fired by Apaches and scouts, both dropped behind the brow of the mesa and took cover. Carr yelled for his command to stand fast. Most of the troopers were at or near their arms and were soon sending deadly fire in the direction of the Apaches who then broke and ran for better cover offered by the brush and tall weeds in the Cibeque River bottom.
As soon as the Indians got into the brush, they scattered and took positions on higher ground on the opposite side of the river. From their new location, they could see into the camp and resume their rifle fire into the troops. Carr's tent was hit many times and a box of canned goods was riddled. The soldiers were relegated to shooting at puffs of smoke from the Apache rifles.
As darkness came, Carr conferred with his officers, the chief packer, and others regarding their opinions as to the situation. He later related, "All were pretty unanimous in the wish to get out of there."
Carr also could see no reason to stay and plenty of reasons to leave. The decision was made and preparations followed. The dead soldiers were brought to Carr's tent within which a common grave was dug.
Lt. Carter was sent to examine the body of Nock-ay-det-klinne. Years later he was to write, "Strange to say notwithstanding his wounds, he was still alive. The recovery of this Indian if left to the hands of his friends, would have given him a commanding influence over these superstitious people, which would have resulted in endless war. General Carr then repeated his order for his death, specifying that no more shots should be fired. Guide Burns (Byrnes) was directed to carry out the order with the understanding that a knife was to be used. Burns, fearing failure, took an ax and crushed the forehead of the deluded fanatic, and from this time forward every person murdered by these Apaches was treated in a similar manner."
Carr and his troops broke camp at 11 p.m. on August 30, 1881. Many of his pack mules and horses had run off during the battle and fallen into the hands of the Apaches. Carr was determined to pack out all the rifles and ammunition lest they to fall into the hands of the Apaches. This left half the troops afoot and the remaining mules had to pack extra weight. Lt. Cruse, commander of the Company A Scouts, recalled, "Everyone had been strictly warned against noise and straggling. We felt the canyons were alive with Apaches and, after the fight, they would be as alert as ourselves."
Although the command had no further encounters with Apaches during their return to Fort Apache, they lost two mules when the over-laden animals fell while trying to negotiate steep trails. One of the mules was carrying a load of ammunition which had to be left to the Indians as the cinch had broken and the frightened mule seared his hooves making tracks for parts unknown.
The column made it into Fort Apache about 3 o'clock the afternoon of August 31. General Carr had lost seven soldiers and two of his men were wounded. Seven pack mules and 42 horses were also missing, killed, or had fallen into the hands of the Apaches. The only known causality among the Apaches was Nock-ay-det-klinne. Unknown to Carr at the time, two soldiers who manned the ferry where the Apache Road crossed the Black River and a third soldier who had been sent to tell them to return to Fort Apache, had been killed by Apaches. Additionally, three Mormon men who had been traveling north along the Apache Road were killed. A civilian mail man, Thomas Owens, who carried mail between Fort Thomas and Fort Apache, also died at the hands of the Apaches. All of these men met their deaths along a two-mile stretch of the Apache Road near Seven-Mile Hill.
General Carr found that Fort Apache soldiers under Major Cochran had prepared well to defend the post. Also, many civilians had gathered at the fort and had been supplied with arms and ammunition by Major Cochran. That evening, the Indians killed Johnny Cowden, an old cowboy at the Phipps Ranch. John Phipps heard the shots and hid in the brush until night, then slipped away and came to the fort with the news.
At about 2 p.m. on Sept. 1 Apaches started firing on Fort Apache from bluffs on all sides. Captain Gordon was wounded in the leg. The Indians set fire to several out buildings that were left unguarded as the soldiers had collected to defend the main buildings of the post. The shooting continued until near nightfall when the Apaches broke it off and left the area of Fort Apache.
Also unknown to General Carr, a new leader, Natiotish, had emerged among the followers of Nock-ay-det-klinne.
We will now follow the bloody trail left by Natiotish from the Fort Apache Reservation to Battleground Ridge.
At the Middleton Ranch on Cherry Creek, 10 miles southeast of Young, Natiotish, and his band of 80-plus strong, killed George Turner and Henry Moody. In a pasture at Middleton Ranch, the Indians found 75 head of horses which they stole for fresh mounts. They continued north into Pleasant Valley and raided the Tewksbury Ranch and the Al Rose place before hitting the Bar X Ranch where they killed Bob Sixby and wounded his brother and partner, George Sixby.
Natiotish and his recently inherited followers then continued west under the Mogollon Rim on what we now call the Highline Trail until they came to the East Verde. Here they rode down the river to the Diamond Valley Ranch where they killed John M. Meadows and wounded two of his sons, Henry and John Valentine Meadows. Henry died a month after the fight from wounds he received during the conflict.
Major A. R. Chaffee of Fort McDowell was on the trail of Natiotish. He was tired of trailing the Apaches and arriving too late at various ranches to help the families that had fallen victim to the latest Indian out break from the Fort Apache Reservation. Chaffee and his troop of Sixth Cavalry combined forces with Al Seiber and his scouts to run down Natiotish and the renegade Apaches on what was to become known as Battleground Ridge. It was on this ridge, on top of the Mogollon Rim, above the head of the East Verde, that Chaffee overtook Natiotish and his followers. The Indians were jerking meat and putting on a big feed. Chaffee had been on many Indian campaigns and he was tired of chasing Apaches all over Arizona and parts of New Mexico. He gave the order, "Shoot to kill!"
From the time of their attempted rescue of Nock-ay-det-klinne until they came up against Major Chaffee, the Apaches had done pretty much as they pleased and had suffered little retribution, but things were about to change. In what was to become known in military circles as the Battle of Big Dry Wash, a ridiculous name considering the battle took place on a ridge, a reported 80 Apaches, including Natiotish, were killed. Six were captured and six escaped. One soldier was killed and was buried near the battleground.
This encounter is generally thought of by historians as the final battle between the soldiers and the Apaches in Arizona and end of the Apache hostilities. I reckon they are about half right. That is to say Major Chaffee's troops and Natiotish's Apaches may have fought the final battle, but as we will see next week, it wasn't the end of Apache hostilities.
Git A Rope! Publishing is hosting the First Annual Payson Rodeo Reunion on Saturday, Aug. 20, at the Tonto Apache Gym from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Everyone is welcome to come out and visit with the rodeo cowboys and cowgirls and get their "Rodeo 101" books signed by them. Nancy and Lynn Sheppard will be the guests of honor. There will be live country-western music, door prizes, and a good old-fashioned barbecue.
Books by Jayne Peace-Pyle and Jinx Pyle include "Looking Through the Smoke," "Mountain Cowboys," "History of Gisela," "Rodeo 101- the History of the Payson Rodeo," "Blue Fox," "Muanami ˆ Sister of the Moon," and "Calf Fries and Cow Pies." The books can be purchased at Sue Malinski's Art and Antique Corral in Payson and from Lorraine Cline in Tonto Basin.