August 7, 2016

I Survived an Apache Attack!

Apache warrior
Howdy. My name is Fred Henry. I first entered the Arizona Territory way back in 1862 and I came to the Prescott country early on, in 1863, to prospect.

Now I know some of you tenderfoots dream about meeting a real-life Indian out in the wilderness, but I'm here to tell you that if that injun is an Apache, you'd be better off tripping over an angry bear! (Truth is, you're probably never going to see an Apache, unless that Apache wants to be seen.)

I give you fair warning: This tale ain't for youngins or the faint of heart. But if you think you have nerve enough to listen, then find a place by the campfire and I'll tell you all about it.

Back in that day, if you were prospectin', it was vital to have some friends you could trust. It wasn't just Indians that were the problem, anybody might kill you just to take your gold.

I was camping with four other men from San Bernardino, California.

There was Stuart Wall, Frank Binkley, DeMaryon ("DM") Scott, Samuel Herron and myself. We were working the Walnut Grove district and I guess we were doing o.k., but we had heard a lot of stories of jackpot finds elsewhere in this country.

Now back then, things were wide open and unexplored. There weren't enough white people here yet to cover all the possible claims. And we started thinking, what a shame it would be--us working this average pay dirt--when there might be another big jackpot in an unexplored section several miles away?

Little did we know that in taking that trip, we would be heading for a collision course with a large band of hungry, angry, Apaches.

It was the latter part of May, 1864, when the five of us set out with three pack horses and a supply of provisions to go to Black Canyon, about 40 miles east.

We took our time, hunting and prospecting as we went. Then on the 2nd of June, we settled on a large meadow area now known as "Battle Flat." It was a lovely place--plenty of food, water and grass. It was warm and cloudy, so most of us kicked off our clothing and covered up with blankets to protect against mosquitos (which were miserable!) So after worrying until late in the night before getting to sleep, we were little prepared for what would happen next.

Then, a couple of hours before daylight on the 3rd, we were attacked by the Apaches. They came yelling and shouting making more noise and fuss than I ever thought possible to be made with all the combined racket on earth without assistance from the infernal regions!

We jumped out of the covers as if a rattlesnake was just tossed on us. We scrambled and crouched, as naked as the day we were born, behind a large pine tree. We quickly returned their fire with such effect that they fell back behind rocks, brush and trees while still keeping the air around us full of arrows.

We took stock of our situation. Except for Sam, we all took injuries before we could return fire. Frank was lying on the ground presumably dead or dying; DM had his arm disabled; Stuart took several arrows to the body; and I was struck in the breast and one arm.


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We held our fire at this point. We could barely see to aim and the flash of firing our guns would only expose our own position. Soon the Apaches held their fire as well and we all sat nervously until daybreak.

I was sure that once we could see, we could whip the fight. So confident was I of it, that during a lull in their war chants, I yelled out to them that they were singing their death chants. To be honest, it was more a gesture to keep myself and the other four boys from getting too nervous.

I tell you--it will make your blood run cold hearing those Apache war chants in the dark; especially when you know they're directed toward you!

When the sun rose, our hearts sank. We found the hills covered with Apaches behind every tree, rock, and bush we could see. We saw two of our horses dead and the third looking like a porcupine with feathered arrows stuck in him. The fighting started back up.

Then, my gun got choked with a bullet. Finding I couldn’t get the ball down, I ran over to where I had last heard Frank, to get his arms and ammunition. I found him leaning against a tree, with one hand pressed against his forehead. When I reached him he took his hand from his head and held it out to me and said: “Look there, Fred, Ain’t them my brains?” I said, “No! If it was, you wouldn’t be able to ask such a damphool question!”

A bullet had cut the bridge of his nose and taken one eye with it and he had an arrow shot in his mouth and a half ounce bullet through his shoulder.

We decided that DM and Samuel should go up the ridge a bit to protect the higher ground, while Stuart and I would try and hold camp a little longer.

When Sam and DM went up the hill, Stuart told me to be sure to keep two rounds in my pistol to blow our own brains out in case we found no other means to prevent our falling alive into the hands of the Apaches.

Such was the graveness of our situation.

The Apaches were making it hot for us. Stuart was getting weak from loss of blood and could no longer hold up a gun. So I told him to make his way up the ridge to where DM and Samuel were and get one of them to come down and help back me up. But when he reached the boys, Stuart called to me to come up as no one was able to come down to me.

The Apaches saw this as their chance to take care of me and they started pressing me from all sides. I finally started up the hill, turning every few yards to fire and keep them off of me. When I finally reached the boys, I found Frank (who I thought dead,) sitting behind a rock with his pistol leveled at an Indian about 60 yards off, dodging behind trees and bushes and every now and then sending an arrow rather close to Frank, who was down to his last shot.

Poor Stuart was sitting behind Frank in a pool of his own blood still leaking from his eleven wounds. DM was a few yards off with a pistol doing his best to keep them at bay.

Samuel was a little way up the hill either dead or dying. So I went up to him and found him in great pain, apparently in the last death agonies; great drops of cold sweat on his forehead and groaning in pain.

"Look out, Fred," he said to me, "here is where I got shot! They are all around here in the bushes!"

I crouched low and looked back at our camp. As soon as I left, the Indians swarmed in like a pack of hungry coyotes and quickly disposed of our provisions. I stripped Samuel of all his arms and ammunition so they wouldn't fall into the Apaches' hands. I gave back DM his shotgun and reloaded Frank's pistol for him.

Stuart was unable to fire a weapon, so I took his Harper's Ferry musket that would throw a handful of mixed ammunition, peel the bark off a live oak, and make a noise that would scare those injuns into a backward summersault!

At one point, I saw DM punching the feathery end of an arrow up and down in his gun. I shouted to him that this was no time to be wiping out guns!

He looked up and said: “Hell! That’s what I’m loading with!” He had lost his gun’s ramrod and was using the arrow instead.

Pinned down and trying to stay hidden, all we could do was wait and watch. We could hear them chattering and laughing. They roasted our horses and were feasting to their hearts content. While we, wounded, tired, hungry, naked and suffering for water, had to look on still surrounded by a lot of Indians preventing our escape. They would send a few arrows among us now and then just to keep us from getting lonesome, I suppose.

We finally decided to move a little farther up the ridge to protect ourselves from the final charge which we were certain would commence after the Indians enjoyed their feast.

We were nearly surrounded and stuck. The only help was 20 miles away in Walnut Grove and here we were badly injured and with no horses.

How were we going to to get out of this mess alive?

Even making such a short movement was no easy matter, under the circumstances. Samuel and Stuart could not move without assistance. Frank was very nearly blind. D.M. had only one working hand and myself, wounded and badly demoralized generally.

We managed to move a few feet at a time, traveling around 70 yards. Finally, poor old Sam, who was only able to crawl on his hands and knees, finally gave out. He said that there was no use trying to coax him any further, as the torture of moving or being moved was worse than death.

He begged us to go on without him, but we couldn't. Instead we got underneath a large juniper tree for shade, waiting for our final stand.

Believing that we would all be overrun anyway, it was decided that I should try to get to the Walnut Grove camp some 20 miles away. It would be the next day, at the earliest, before help could arrive.

I insisted that Frank come with me for I knew that he would be no use to them. He was getting delirious from the ghastly wounds to his head and couldn't see to fight anyway. If the other boys could crawl into the brush and avoid a night attack, there might be a chance to save us all.

So, Frank and I started off about 11 a.m. We crawled through the brush, trying not to be seen by the Apaches. In spite of our precautions, the Indians on the hill saw our movement and came at us yelling like bloodhounds!

Seeing there was no use trying to dodge them, we started up the ridge in the direction of the Bradshaw and Hassayampa trails. Before us was a thick bunch of manzanita bushes. We were sure that there would be Apaches behind them waiting to waylay us. After all, they knew we would try to get to one of those trails and they aimed to cut us off.

So, several yards before we reached the bushes, we quickly turned toward the left, down a hill, into a thickly wooded gulch. This route was completely out of the way of any trails and passes. I figured it was our best chance not to get waylaid. Once we got a hundred and fifty yards distant from those manzanita bushes, about a half-dozen Apaches raised up from behind them and hallooed at us.

We had been only 15 to 20 yards away from them. Seeing us coming, they crouched down to jump us once we got a few feet away. But by the time they realized that we had changed our course, we were too far away for them to immediately attack. One of them started to raise a rifle, but when he saw me raise up the Harpers Ferry musket, he thought better of it.

To taunt us, one of the Apaches yelled out: "A donde vas, amigos?" Then in English: "Where are you going, friends?" We, having neither time nor breath to spare, pointed in the opposite direction of our travel and continued briskly on our way.

Close by, we found some small water tanks and we drank desperately. One of us would drink, while the other kept guard. When I was drinking, Frank would squat down pointing his six-shooter toward the right and the left making it look like he was keeping keen guard. Truth is, Frank couldn't see a torchlight procession 20 yards off!

We went out of our way several miles, purposely taking the roughest and highest part of the country to avoid the Apaches. Finally, we reached the top of the divide between the Hassayampa and Turkey Creek about sundown, only four miles as the crow flies from where we started.

I stopped to reconnoiter how to go forward. Soon it would be dark and heading in a wrong direction could prove fatal.

We traveled all night arriving at Walnut Grove about 8:00 a.m. We could have easily been tracked the last 15 miles by the blood from our feet.

We must have been quite a sight to see when we entered the camp--the only thing covering our bodies was the blood from our wounds and the dirt from Mother Earth...

Mexican volunteers win honor & respect during the Indian conflicts.

After Frank and I started our escape, the Apaches crowded pretty hard toward Stuart, DM, and Samuel. The Indians taunted and threw rocks at them. Stuart was sitting against a tree with his six-shooter at the ready. DM stood facing another direction with his shotgun. Sam was lying on the ground, unable to do anything but return the Indians' taunts since he was familiar with some of their language. Sam's taunts would bring a reply of laughter and another volley of rocks from the Apaches.

The boys stayed under the thick branches so that the Apaches could not see them to get off a shot. But several of the Indians moved around until they found positions on either side of the boys and they started shooting at them simultaneously.

DM took out one with a blast of his shotgun. Stuart sent another backward unto his head with his six-shooter. The Apaches realized the gain wasn't worth the cost and knowing that Frank and I got away, they packed up around 3 p.m. and left before help could arrive.

However, the three boys were paralyzed in their place fearing that the Indians' disappearance was a sham and they would be waylaid once they came out of hiding.

So they waited until darkness fell and began to crawl their way back into the destroyed camp for water. It took them from darkness to daybreak to move the 200 yards...

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Back in Walnut Grove, a party of ten men set out on horseback immediately, reaching the battle ground by 2 p.m. They found the three other boys in a tolerable state, everything considered. The posse brought the three men into camp and word was sent out for a Prescott doctor. He dressed our wounds, but in spite of his best efforts, poor Samuel Herron died nine days after the attack. He was only 22 or 23 years-old.

The posse found blood on many of the Indians' breastworks and one dead Apache on the hillside. Later, some prospectors found another body up the hill a little farther and eleven more in a pile a few hundred yards down the canyon from the camp for a total of 13 dead Apaches.

Perhaps my most regrettable material loss was a novel by Charles Lever that I hadn't finished. The Indians tore it into a thousand tiny pieces probably thinking it was a missionary tract...

The Aftermath:

As soon as he was able, Stuart Wall made a beeline back for San Bernardino where got married and lived happily ever after.

As soon as he could see well enough to travel, Frank Binkley also headed back to San Bernardino, where his wife and children were overjoyed to see him. He made several trips back to Prescott, freighting. Frank had another chance to fight the Indians at Skull Valley, where he played heavy toward even on that lost eye.

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DM Scott's hand healed up fine and he remained in the Arizona territory taking many chances with his life traveling and prospecting. He has never found any more Apaches and he says that he hasn't lost any that he knows of, either. He became the happy owner of a rich gold mine just as he always dreamed.

As for myself, I prospected around this country and spent a short time in Colorado. Since the fight, I have been set afoot by the Apaches several times; perfectly willing not to find them if they would not find me. I ended up working at the Copper Queen Mining Co. in Bisbee.

There is one lesson I learned from this fight: never again did I go to sleep naked!

Tourist Tip:
Back in the day, Battle Flat was in the middle of a vast wilderness. Today, it's in the middle of nowhere. There is a trail (#389) that will take you to the site, but the most popular hiking websites: The Prescott National Forest website and The Hike Arizona website have had very little to no information submitted about it! (Talk about a lightly used trail!)

"The Battle Flat Fight" Prescott Weekly Courier, 12/14/1894 pg. 1, col. 2.



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