Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Farce of the Tombstone Rangers

     Bloody and brutal was the conflict between the Apaches and the white settlers, but there was one episode of a farce. It occurred in 1883, when General Crook was organizing an expedition into Mexico against Geronimo.
     While Crook was organizing the expedition a party of barroom Indian fighters who called themselves the "Tombstone Rangers" and who were well fortified with bottled spirits, patriotically set out for San Carlos to massacre all the reservation Apaches. Before they reached the southern edge of the reservation, however, they ran out of both whiskey and courage. They continued on their way with diminished enthusiasm until they saw an old Apache man out gathering mescal. Fortunately for them he was unarmed; fortunately for him, when they shot at him they missed. He fled north while the Tombstone Rangers dashed in the opposite direction, having completed one of the least bloody "massacres" of the Apache wars. The organization, Bourke noted, "expired of thirst".
Reference: Donald E. Worcester, The Apaches, Eagles of the Southwest, University of Oklahoma Press, p  267 of the 1992 edition.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Custer: Defender of the Indians

     A certain ironic justice has ensured that when the Red Indians achieved a major victory in the defense of their homes, the opposing general's humiliation would be compounded by having the defeat named after him. Thus, their greatest victory, which left 632 white soldiers and up to 200 female camp followers dead, and mostly scalpless, on the ground, is known as St Clair's Defeat. If it is any consolation to General St Clair - who escaped alive and unharmed, but with eight bullet wounds in his hat and clothing - his d├ębacle has been largely forgotten by his compatriots.
     Not so lucky was George Armstrong Custer. Not only was his own body included among the 258 dead near the Little Bighorn River, but his action has remained forever famous as Custer's Last Stand. In a way, this is a pity, for it has overshadowed all the other aspects of his life.