June 3, 2018

Ft. Whipple 1869: Futile Campaigns & Public Diversions

In 1869 military campaigns against the Indians were hapless in Yavapai county. The Native Americans had not only learned that it was best to avoid the Army, but they became quite adept at doing just that.

As morale dropped for both soldier and civilian, local military leadership tried to reach out to the local community through theater and dances.

Ed Peck was one of the chief scouts during this time. Although he would successfully find signs of the Indians, they would quickly vanish. At best all the troops could do was destroy the Indians' abandoned supplies.  In January "but few Indians were seen by the command, and these were perched upon high mountain tops, where it is impossible to get at them. At one place the Indians came within range of the carbines, were fired upon, and it is believed, one of them was killed."

In February the Indians got the best of one campaign. Companies I and B under Col. Young were ambushed. After regrouping, they went after the culprits. "Plenty of Indian sign was seen, but no Indians." Despite being pursued by a vengeful army detail, "one night, the rascals shot into Col. Young's camp, killing one horse. They also stole five of his pack animals."

Later in the year "Col. Redwood Price, with a large force of cavalry, and some 'friendly' Wallapai Indians started from Camp at Toll-gate...to hunt up hostile savages." They later returned to Fort Whipple having captured "all the Indians they saw, two squaws." Such disappointing results were typical.

"A consolidation of the official War Department statistics for Fort Whipple in the year 1869 tells the story best:

"A total of 16 missions were sent out from Fort Whipple (that year) and the total distance travelled was approximately 3000 miles. The troops killed 35 Apaches, wounded 41 Indians and took one male prisoner. Captured property totaled 58 bows, 12 knives, 1 rifle, 4 horses, 2 saddles and 5 axes.

"The troops destroyed enemy property amounting to one rancheria, 20 weckups (sic), 20 lodges, a 'large amount of flour' and winter stores. All this without any losses to the Fort Whipple troops."

The Story of the Fight at Battle Flat, June 3rd, 1864, in Yavapai county, AZ. Five prospectors faced several dozen Apaches.

"This territory has 100,000 square miles," Maj. Gen. HW Halleck wrote in a public letter to the paper. "The military force...consists of two full regiments of infantry and 9 companies of calvary--that is, nearly half of all the troops in the Division suitable for service in the field."

"While there is a considerable military force in this Territory, the number available for scouts and field operations is small, and that this field force cannot be increased without leaving unprotected many necessary depots of supplies and important mining and agriculture districts," the General surmised.

For the citizens of Prescott and Yavapai county, this explanation was completely unsatisfactory. "We barely have enough troops in this Territory to do garrison duty, guard the mails, escort and make an occasional scout," the newspaper complained. "The Indians are numerous, active and relentless in their warfare upon us, devoting their whole time and attention to it, while we merely make a spasmodic, feeble war upon them."

The problem had become acute. "A team cannot go out of sight of a mill, for a load of wood or quartz without an expensive escort...a man or small party of men cannot travel a trail or road without being well armed," the paper reported.

So in order to raise the morale of both citizens and soldiers, Fort Whipple reached out to the community through theater and dances. The Fort Whipple Dramatic Association was created featuring "the best actors belonging to the garrison, and are determined to do their utmost to please and entertain the ladies and gentlemen of Prescott by acting well their parts, preserving good order and eschewing vulgarity."

The performance was advertised thusly:

"Those of our citizens who have a spare dollar cannot spend it in a more satisfactory manner than by investing it in a theater ticket for the next performance, which, we are assured, will be a good one," the paper suggested.

Although no writer from the newspaper attended the show, it learned "from parties who were (there) that the principle actors did well. The after-piece was rich, rare, and spicy." In fact the presentation was so popular that "at (the) request of several gentlemen...the company propose to give a star performance to consist of farce, burlesques, etc.," the following week--which it did.

Later in September, the Dramatic Association presented "Varieties Comique." The evening was filled with music, dancing and comedy skits in three parts.

The account of the Kakaka, the paranormal, Indian Little People who live in the mountains of Yavapai county and Arizona.

Perhaps a greater morale boost for the soldiers were the dances that the fort hosted. These were large events that were cheerfully anticipated by all. The newspaper described one dance in January: "...lovely women and brave men (moved) gracefully in the stately quadrille...in a hall carpeted with the whitest of canvas, brilliantly illuminated, and superbly decorated with evergreens, flags, clusters of sabres and bayonets, stacks of bright shining muskets and pictures of great warriors. It was hard to decide which was more beautiful--the dresses of the ladies or the decorations on the walls of the hall. Both were dazzlingly beautiful."

"The gentlemen too, appeared to great advantage in their fashionable, 19th century costumes, and smiled sweetly at the ladies. The music was delicious, and the supper...was really excellent."

The paper reiterated the popularity of the function when it added: "We hope to see many more such pleasant military and civil reunions." Indeed, they would.

Ultimately Ft. Whipple's community outreach did have a positive affect on the feelings of the citizenry. They did not blame the dashing young men at the fort, but rather, their leadership in Washington. "(Our Indian problems are) neither the fault of the military or citizens of this Territory. Both do the best they can under the circumstances," the paper declared.

#PrescottAZHistory publishes a new article four times a month on Sundays. Follow the blog in one of the following social media to be sure you get the latest article!

Want more Prescott history? Join the "Celebrating Historic Prescott" group.
(Daily pics and featured articles.)
Drew Desmond is on Facebook (For the latest article and posts about Drew's writing.)

Follow the Prescott AZ History Blog on Twitter @PrescottAZHist
(Daily pic featured at 7 am & 7 pm and featured articles.)

Prescott AZ History is on Pinterest
(For the latest article.)

Follow PrescottAZHistory on Instagram


Weekly Arizona Miner, 1/23/1869; Pg. 2, Col. 2.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 2/13/1869; Pg. 2, Col. 1.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 1/9/1869; Pg. 1, Cols. 3-4.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 11/20/1869; Pg. 3, Col. 1. 
"History of Fort Whipple" by Phillip D. Yoder, 1951. (His Master's Thesis for the University of Arizona.) pp. 82-83.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 10/16/1869; Pg. 2, Col. 2.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 1/30/1869; Pg. 2, Col. 4.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 2/6/1896; P2, Col. 4.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 8/28/1869; Pg. 3 Col. 3.
Weekly Arizona Miner, 1/23/1869; Pg. 2, Col. 4.

No comments:

Post a Comment