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Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

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Soldier and Brave
Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings


Location: Coconino County, in Coconino National Forest, on a rough trail road, about 7 miles north of General Springs, which is located on Mogollon Rim Road. Make local inquiry.

At this site on July 17, 1882, a column of the 6th Cavalry from Fort Whipple led by Capt. Adna R. Chaffee mauled a party of 54 White Mountain Apaches under Nantiatish. The warriors, aroused by the death of their medicine man, Nakaidoklini, the year before in the Battle of Cibecue Creek and resenting the intrusion of settlers and miners, had fled the White Mountain (Fort Apache) Reservation. They raided the San Carlos Agency, plundered settlements in the Tonto Basin, and for some time evaded the 14 cavalry troops from various Arizona forts who were giving pursuit. Spying Chaffee's force from the Mogollon Rim, the Indians planned an ambush in a canyon 7 miles to the north. Chaffee, forewarned by scouts, dismounted and formed a skirmish line with part of his force at the brink of the canyon to pin down his opponents, on the opposite rim. He then deployed two parties that surprised them on the flanks.

The trail road from Mogollon Rim passes along Chaffee's approach route and terminates at the canyon brink where the fighting began. A stone monument at the southern edge of the canyon describes the action and lists the names of the soldier participants. The heavy pine forests and rugged canyon are unchanged from 1882. A marker describing the battle is located at General Springs.

Gen. George Crook
Gen. George Crook, master tactician and military innovator, wore down Arizona's Chiricahua Apaches but was reassigned before their final surrender. (Arizona Pioneers' Historical Society)

Location: Yavapai County, town of Camp Verde.

Protector of settlers in the Verde Valley of central Arizona, this fort (1866-91) was also Gen. George Crook's major base during his Tonto Basin campaign (1872-73) against the Yavapais, or Apache-Mojaves, and the scene of their formal surrender. In 1871, the same year Crook arrived in Arizona to assume command of Army forces, President Grant's peace representatives established a reservation for the Yavapais near Camp Verde. But by the next year most of them had fled into the mountains. Defeated by Crook in 1872-73, they returned to the reservation for 2 years, and were then moved to the San Carlos Reservation.

Geronimo and Natchez
Chiricahua leaders Geronimo and Natchez (wearing hat) are on horseback in this photograph. Geronimo's son stands by his side. (photo by C. S. Fly, Denver Public Library, Western Collection)

No remains are extant at the fort's first location, on the east bank of the Verde River, but a few adobe buildings border the parade ground at the second, on the west bank of the river in the northern part of the town of Camp Verde. The Camp Verde Improvement Association, a local civic group, owns and has restored two of the three sets of officers quarters and the administration building. One of the officers' quarters is a private residence. The administration building houses a museum. When this volume went to press, plans were being made to transfer the buildings and the entire fort site to the State for historical park purposes (later established as Fort Verde State Historic Park).

The Southwest (1848-1861) (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)


Location: Navajo County, on an unimproved road, about 2-1/2 miles south of Cibecue.

Indicative of the strife that prevailed on Arizona reservations in the 1870's and 1880's. The battle fought at this site in 1881 was fomented by Indian resentment at the invasion of settlers and miners, aggravated by the doctrines of the medicine man Nakaidoklini. His mystical teachings and prophecies, which blended Christian and native elements and foreshadowed the Ghost Dance religion that was to sweep through the western tribes in the years 1889-91, gained him many adherents and stirred up the White Mountain (Fort Apache) Reservation. The alarmed Indian agent appealed to the nearby fort for aid.

On August 30, 1881, Col. Eugene A. Carr, the commander, and 85 men and 23 Apache scouts arrested the medicine man at his camp on Cibecue Creek. They then moved 2-1/2 miles down the creek and made camp. Late in the afternoon a hundred of Nakaidoklini's followers attacked. Some of the Apache scouts, sympathetic with the new religion, revolted, shot a captain and six men, and joined the attackers. During the struggle, Nakaidoklini's guard killed him. Carr's men repulsed the assailants but the next morning, while the troops were still in the field warding off a force of about 500 Indians, they joined other disaffected bands and assaulted Fort Apache. The garrison held out, and the Indians later surrendered.

Meantime, worried about the prospect of another general Apache war, the Army rushed in reinforcements. This caused the Chiricahuas residing on the reservation, innocent of any wrongdoing, to grow apprehensive. They became thoroughly frightened when the agency police began to arrest the leaders of the Cibecue revolt. On September 30 Geronimo and Natchez and 75 of the Chiricahuas fled the reservation to the Sierra Madre of Mexico. There they joined Nana and the remnants of Victorio's Warm Springs band. Hostilities did not end until Geronimo gave up in 1886.

The battle site is on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. The wide and open creek valley, through which Cibecue Creek meanders, contrasts with the broken, wooded terrain on both sides. Except for an occasional Indian cornfield and scattered Apache dwellings, neither of which is out of character, the natural scene is unimpaired.

Col. Eugene A. Carr
Col. Eugene A. Carr, commander of Fort Apache, fought the Battle of Cibecue Creek and other engagements in the Indian wars. (National Archives)

Location: Navajo County, at the Fort Apache Indian Reservation headquarters, adjacent to the town of Fort Apache.

From its founding in 1870 until the capitulation of Geronimo in 1886, this fort was closely involved in the Apache wars (1861-86). Gen. George Crook, arriving in Arizona for his first tour of duty in 1871, organized there his first company of Apache scouts, one of his tactical innovations, before moving on to Camp Verde to conduct his Tonto Basin campaign.

Fort Apache
Fort Apache in 1883. (Denver Public Library, Western Collection)

Situated on the White Mountain (Fort Apache) Reservation, which adjoined the San Carlos Reservation, the fort guarded the Fort Apache Agency, while Fort Thomas watched over the San Carlos Agency. The two reservations were the focus of Apache unrest, especially after troops moved the troublesome Chiricahuas in 1876 from Fort Bowie to the White Mountain Reservation. In constant turmoil, the reservations were noted for their unhealthful location, overcrowded conditions, and dissatisfied inhabitants. Sparking the discontent were inefficient and corrupt agents, friction between civil and military authorities, feeble attempts to make farmers of the nomadic Indians, and encroachment on the reservations by settlers and miners.

For a decade, until Geronimo laid down his arms, the resentful Apaches alternately fled into Mexico, returned to the reservations to enlist recruits, and raided along the Mexican boundary. Fort Apache troops spent much of their time in pursuit. In 1881, at the Battle of Cibecue Creek, a group of White Mountain Apaches defeated a force from the fort and then besieged it for a while before they surrendered. After 1886 Fort Apache ceased to be a significant frontier post, but it remained active until 1924.

Lt. Charles B. Gatewood with Apache scouts
Lt. Charles B. Gatewood and company of Apache scouts at Fort Apache in 1880, at the end of the Victorio campaign. Sam Bowman, civilian scout, stands behind Gatewood. (Arizona Pioneer's Historical Society)

Many fort buildings remain. The Fort Apache post office occupies the adobe adjutant's building. A log building, one of the oldest structures and reputedly the residence of General Crook, as well as the stone officers' quarters, are today the residences of teachers and other Bureau of Indian Affairs employees. The sutler's store and commissary building, cavalry barns, and guard house have not been significantly altered. One of the original four barracks, an adobe building in bad disrepair, houses the farm shop for the Indian school. The parade ground provides a recreational area. The cemetery no longer contains soldier dead, but does contain the bodies of Indian scouts.


Location: Pinal County, just southeast of the junction of Ariz. 77 and an unimproved road, about 10 miles north of Mammoth.

This was the second military post in the area of the Gadsden Purchase (1853). Troops from Fort Buchanan, the first, founded it in 1860 to assist in watching over emigrants and settlers. The next February the garrison reinforced Fort Buchanan troops during the hostilities associated with the Bascom Affair. In July, faced by a Confederate invasion of New Mexico from Texas, the Army abandoned Fort Breckinridge, as well as other posts in southern Arizona, and put it to the torch. In 1862 California Volunteers temporarily occupied the site, known as Fort Stanford. Five years later Regulars built a new post, Camp Grant.

Despite the forceful measures of the California Volunteers, when the Civil War ended Arizona Territory was still besieged by Apaches. Arizonans frantically petitioned the U.S. Government for more troops. Incensed at all Indians and embittered at governmental neglect, a mob of 54 Tucson citizens, aided by 92 Papago Indians, old enemies of the Apaches, took matters into their own hands. They blamed raids in the vicinity on a group of 300 Aravaipa Apaches, led by Eskiminzin, who had surrendered at Camp Grant and were residing about 4 miles away under its protection. On April 30, 1871, the mob descended on them; killed 118 people, mostly women; and captured 27 children, some of whom be came slaves of the Papagos or servants in Tucson homes.

The massacre and the acquittal in December of 108 persons charged with being involved, though receiving the approbation of many westerners, created indignation in the East and did much to hamper Grant's Peace Policy in Arizona. The desert tribes soon learned of it, and peace emissaries found them more reluctant than ever to trade their freedom for the apparent insecurity of reservation life. Gen. George Crook, who had taken over the Department of Arizona in June 1871, soon led expeditions against the Apaches out of Old Camp Grant and Forts McDowell and Apache in his Tonto Basin campaign (1872-73). Late in 1872 Camp Grant was relocated 50 miles to the southeast and became known as Fort Grant (New Camp Grant).

The barren site of Fort Breckinridge (Old Camp Grant), on privately owned land, is covered with mesquite and cactus and a scattering of rubble and ruins.

FORT BUCHANAN (Camp Crittenden)

Location: Santa Cruz County, just west of Ariz. 82, about 1 mile west of Sonoita.

Supplementing a number of other military posts established in the territory acquired from Mexico in 1848, Fort Buchanan (1856-61) was the first within the bounds of the Gadsden Purchase (1853). About 22 miles east of Tubac, it protected settlers and stages from Chiricahua Apaches. A detachment from the post, led by Lt. George N. Bascom, was involved in the episode with Cochise at Apache Pass that precipitated the Apache wars (1861-86). At the beginning of the Civil War, Regulars evacuated and destroyed it. The following year, General Carleton's California Volunteers occasionally camped at the site. To aid in the renewed effort against the Apaches, the post was reactivated as Camp Crittenden (1868-73) on a hill about one-half mile to the east.

The privately owned sites of Fort Buchanan and Camp Crittenden are used for grazing. The only remains are scattered rocks. mounds of earth, and fragmented adobe ruins.


Location: Apache County, town of Fort Defiance.

The name of this fort (1851-61) typifies the attitude of its garrison and that of the Navajos it sought to control. Only 3 miles west of the Arizona-New Mexico boundary, it was the first Army post in Arizona and one of many established within the Mexican Cession (1848). After the failure of several treaties with the restive Navajos, who had terrorized residents of the Southwest since Spanish times, Fort Defiance was founded to quiet them. In 1858, until which time only intermittent skirmishing had occurred, hostilities became intense. Two years later 1,000 Navajos besieged the fort but were unable to capture it.

In 1868 Fort Defiance became the Navajo Indian Agency, today at Window Rock. A Navajo tribal school and hospital, around which the town of Fort Defiance has grown up, now occupies the fort site. Modern construction has altered it considerably, but the fort outlines are visible.

Fort Defiance
Fort Defiance in 1852, the year after its founding. (National Archives)
FORT GRANT (New Camp Grant)

Location: Graham County, town of Fort Grant.

The successor of Old Camp Grant, this fort (1872-1905) was founded along a route employed by Apaches fleeing into Mexico from the San Carlos Reservation. Until the surrender of Geronimo in 1886, its troops and those from other forts in the region tried to intercept these roving bands and pursued raiding parties along the international boundary. In 1911 the State acquired the fort for use as a reform school, today called the State Industrial School.

First Infantry band
Bands boosted troop morale. First Infantry band at Fort Grant in 1882. (National Archives)

An extensive construction program has destroyed much of the historic setting, and a large swimming pool takes up part of the old parade ground. Several of the original adobe officers' quarters, most of which have been modernized, are still used.

officers' quarters
Officers and wives at Fort Grant officers' quarters in 1885. (Library of Congress)

military officials
Military officials often had disciplinary problems. Guardhouse prisoners laboring at Fort Grant in the mid-1880's. Target range and Graham Mountains in background. (Arizona Pioneers' Historical Society)

Location: Pima County, on Craycroft Road, in the north eastern part of Tucson.

A part of the system of forts guarding southern Arizona during the years of Apache hostilities, this one served more as a supply depot and administrative center than as a combat base. It occupied two sites. The first post, essentially a tent city, was established in May 1862 just east of Tucson by California Volunteers who had captured the town from the Confederates. In 1873 the post was relocated 7 miles northeast of town, where permanent adobe construction began. The garrison remained until 1891.

The Santa Rita Hotel is located on the first site. The extensive surviving adobe ruins at the second, standing 7 feet high, represent an excellent specimen of the typical southwestern fort of the 19th century. Pima County owns the eastern part of the fort grounds and commemorates them in Fort Lowell Park. Noteworthy remains are those of the hospital and one cavalry and two infantry barracks. These have been stabilized by the Arizona Pioneers' Historical Society. It has also reconstructed the commanding officer's house and furnished it in period style, and plans to restore the hospital and establish there a museum on Army medical history in the Southwest. Outside the park, about 200 yards to the west on Fort Lowell Road, is the sutler's store, now a private residence; and three officers' quarters, in varying condition, on privately owned land. Immediately to the east are the ruins of the guardhouse.

soldiers on horseback
Column leaving an unidentified southwestern post, probably in Arizona sometime in the 1880's. (photo by Baker and Johnston, National Archives)

Location: Maricopa County, town of Fort McDowell.

Founded by California Volunteers on the west bank of the Verde River in the midst of Indian country and along travel routes, this isolated post (1865-91) was ever on the alert for the Apaches who roamed the Salt and Gila River Valleys and was a key base in General Crook's Tonto Basin campaign. Columns from Fort McDowell and Old Camp Grant won the Battle of Salt River Canyon, Ariz., instrumental in bringing that campaign to a close.

The site of the fort, just west of the Fort McDowell Indian Agency, is overgrown with vegetation. The only original building is the officers' quarters. Low earth mounds and adobe remnants mark the location of other structures.

The Southwest and the Southern Plains (1862-1890) (click on imaqe for an enlargement in a new window)


Location: Mohave County, on the west fork of an unimproved road, about 5 miles south of Roger's Landing.

Active in the years 1859-90, this hardship post was founded near the head of the Mohave Valley on the east bank of the Colorado River at Beale's Crossing, which had been forded in 1857 by Edward F. Beale's camel caravan en route to California. The destruction by the Mohave Indians of an emigrant train trying Beale's route the next spring resulted in the activation of the fort by an expedition that came up the Colorado from Fort Yuma, Calif., and faced immediate Indian attacks. Until the garrison burned the post and departed at the beginning of the Civil War, it kept watch over the restless Indians and protected stages and the seldom-used emigrant road. The clamor of settlers for security from hostile Mohaves and Paiutes resulted in the reactivation of the fort in 1863.

The site, on the Fort Mohave Indian Reservation, is privately owned. The only recognizable remains are sidewalks; remnants of drainage ditches and the water system; and the littered cemetery, which no longer contains soldier burials.

Apache scouts
Apache scouts, somewhere in Arizona. Date unknown. (Smithsonian Institution)

Location: Yavapai County, at the junction of U.s. 89 and Ariz. 69, about 1 mile east of Prescott.

Sharlot Hall Museum

Centrally located in Arizona, this fort was the nerve center of the early campaigns that sought to quell the Apaches. It served as the residence and main headquarters of department commanders George Crook and George Stoneman, who maintained field headquarters nearer the scene of the action. The garrison's outstanding achievement was its victory in the Battle of the Big Dry Wash (1882). Occupying two different sites, the post was known at various times and sometimes simultaneously as Camp and Fort Whipple, Camp Clark, Whipple Depot, Prescott Barracks, and Whipple Barracks. In December 1863 California Volunteers founded it as Fort Whipple, 24 miles northeast of the site of Prescott, to protect miners. The following month, when governmental officials arrived, it became the temporary capital of newly created Arizona Territory.

The next May the fort, along with the Territorial government, moved southward to Granite Creek, east of future Prescott, which grew up as the Territorial capital. In 1870 Whipple Depot, a quartermaster installation that had been established adjacent to the fort, became a separate command. In 1879 Fort Whipple was redesignated as Whipple Barracks, which was garrisoned until 1898 and in the 1902-22 period. The Public Health Service then acquired it for hospital purposes.

A Veterans' Administration hospital today, Fort Whipple consists of a large number of brick and stone buildings, most dating from 1904, that are used as stall residences, offices, and patients quarters. The site of the original stockade is marked.


Location: Maricopa County, in Salt River Canyon, near Horse Mesa Dam. The dam is bounded on the east by Apache Lake and on the southwest by Canyon Lake (Salt River). The site is accessible only with great difficulty and the aid of guides, by boat from Canyon Lake or by unimproved road from the town of Horse Mesa.

The Army won its most striking victory in the long history of Apache warfare at this site, where Gen. George Crook also tasted triumph in his Tonto Basin campaign. At dawn on December 28, 1872, a 130-man force, consisting of about two companies of the 5th Cavalry from Fort McDowell and Old Camp Grant and 30 Apache scouts under the command of Capt. William H. Brown, surprised a band of more than a hundred Yavapais as they tried to emerge from a cave deep in the recesses of Salt River Canyon. The trapped Indians refused to surrender. Some of Brown's men shot at the roof of the cave and deflected a deadly fire into the defenders. Other soldiers completed the destruction by rolling boulders over the cliffs above. About 75 Indians died, and most of the rest were captured. This victory, along with Crook's other aggressive measures, so lowered the morale of the Yavapais that on April 6, 1873, they made peace at Camp Verde.

The natural setting is unimpaired. The cave lies on the north wall of the canyon in the angle of a sharp turn to the south. Access is gained by climbing a steep mountainside, crossing a lava bed, and descending from the rim of the gorge by a trail on the face of the cliff. The cave is an elliptical undercut about 65 by 25 feet, situated at the base of a cliff 170 feet high and at the top of a steep slope falling away some 1,200 feet to the water below. The cave's ceiling is blackened from the smoke of Indian fires and scarred by carbine bullets. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has jurisdiction over the site.


Location: Cochise County, on an unimproved road, about 8 miles southeast of the hamlet of Apache.

In this canyon, a favorite Apache haunt in southeastern Arizona, the Chiricahuas Geronimo and Natchez, son of Cochise and hereditary chief of the tribe, surrendered to Gen. Nelson A. Miles on September 3, 1886. Lasting peace had come to the Southwest. For all practical purposes the Apache wars had ended and, except for the Sioux outbreak of 1890, so had the Indian wars. The weary warriors, after being harried throughout the Sierra Madre all summer by Capt. Henry W. Lawton's picked troops, were receptive to peace overtures. Lt. Charles B. Gatewood, who had befriended Geronimo, and two Chiricahua Apache scouts set out from Fort Bowie. Meeting with Geronimo and Natchez near Fronteras, Mexico, they induced them to surrender to General Miles. Lawton's command escorted them northward to Skeleton Canyon, 35 miles southeast of Fort Bowie, where the ceremony occurred. Lawton then took the captives to the fort, from where they were shipped to Florida for imprisonment.

A cairn of rocks, 6 feet high, overgrown with mesquite, marks the surrender site. The cairn stands on a bench just south of the creek that flows out of Skeleton Canyon, 100 yards east of a privately owned ranch and barn and immediately above a stock pond and corral. The ranch facilities constitute a minor intrusion, but the desert character of the terrain is little changed from the historic period. A large stone monument on U.S. 80 at Apache commemorates the site.

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Last Updated: 19-Aug-2005