Apache Conflicts

New e-book now available! Life among the Apaches by John C. Cremony

The Rescue of Inez Gonzales
as witnessed by John Cremony, ca. 1850

On the evening of the 27th of June, 1850, Mr. W. Bausman, Mr. J.E. Wiems and myself were standing in front of the sutler's store, when we perceived a light, resembling a camp fire, about two hundred yards distant, near the banks of the creek. We knew that Indians were prohibited from being there after sundown, and as none of the Commission dwelt in that direction, it was agreed to go and find out who were the campers about the fire. We approached cautiously, and found ourselves in a bivouac of Indians and Mexicans. Among them was a young and handsome girl, clothed in a tattered chemise, with a buckskin skirt, and another skin thrown over her shoulders. This girl, who was not an Indian, appeared to be the waitress of the party, for whom she was preparing supper. As our approach had not been observed, we quietly proceeded to the cook fire, which was about four yards from the party, and I asked the girl, in a low voice, who those people were. She seemed evidently alarmed, and refusing to answer, hurried away to wait upon her associates. We remained until she came back, when I told her that it was necessary for us to know who they were; to which she placed her finger on her lips, and betokened that she dared not tell. The question was, however, pressed, when she stated in a whisper that she was a captive, and that the Mexicans present had just bought her and were going to convey her to New Mexico. As this thing was specially prohibited by the United States laws, we made our way immediately to Mr. Bartlett and laid the matter before that gentleman for his consideration. With great promptitude Mr. Bartlett communicated the facts, in writing, to Col. Craig, and asked that gallant officer for a force to rescue the girl from her unhappy condition. This request was granted as soon as possible, and Lieut. Green was ordered to take a file of men and bring the girl before the Commissioner. This was done without delay, and the captive placed for the night under the care of Mr. Bartlett, who assigned her a comfortable room, and placed a proper guard over her quarters.

In the meantime the Apaches had slipped away, but a guard was put over the Mexican traders for the night. Next day they were summoned before the Commissioner to account for their possession of the girl, and their intentions as to her future disposal. Next morning the traders respectively gave their names as Peter Blacklaws--a very appropriate nomenclature--Pedro Archeveque, which, being translated, means Peter Archbishop--a very inappropriate name--and Faustin Valdes. The testimony extracted from these men was extremely conflicting, but the tenor or it went to show that they were engaged, with some fifty others, in unlawful barter and trade with the Indians, selling them powder and arms, probably, in exchange for female Mexican captives of attractive persons, horses, skins, etc. Mr. Bartlett felt fully authorized to deprive them of the captive, but having no authority to punish the scoundrels, they were released; they were immediately afterwards waited upon by several gentlemen of the Commission, who gave them to understand that any delay in getting out of that place would be attended with imminent danger. In less than twenty minutes they had left the Copper Mines, poorer but wiser men.

The young captive gave her name as Inez Gonzales, the eldest child of Jesus Gonzales, of Santa Cruz, on the frontier of Sonora. About nine months previous, she had left Santa Cruz with her uncle, aunt, a female friend and her friend's brother, for the purpose of being present at the grande fiesta de Nuestra Senora de la Magdalena, or, the grand feast of our Lady of Magdalena. They were protected by a military escort of ten soldiers and an ensign. The second day of their journey they were ambushed by a large party of El Pinal Apaches, who killed her uncle and eight soldiers, including their officer, and carried off her and her two female friends, with the boy. For seven months she had been in their power, and made to perform all the hard labor of an Apache squaw, receiving kicks and blows as her reward. One old woman of the tribe, who had a tongue which made even the warriors quail, however, took a passing fancy for Inez, and from that time protected her from insult or harm so long as she remained among them. Her companions in captivity were subsequently purchased by a band of New Mexican traders, who took them off in a northerly direction. She never saw or heard of them afterwards. A second party had seen and purchased her, with the view of taking her to Santa Fe, for speculative and villainous purposes, when she was rescued by the Commission, every member of which vied with each other to extend their protection and care over this poor and suffering girl. Although she remained among us until her restoration to her parents and home, the sequel of her adventures will be given now.

On the morning of the 27th of August, exactly two months from the date of her rescue, the Commission left the Copper Mines, to prosecute its duties in the field, and as it had become necessary to visit Sonora again, Mr. Bartlett determined upon giving himself the gratification of restoring the fair Inez to the arms of her mourning mother. After many days' wandering, during which our small party was frequently reduced to only five or six, by reason of sending off occasional detachments, and after having lost our way and been forced to the necessity of living upon purslain and water for several successive days, we finally arrived near the town of Santa Cruz, on the 22nd of September, nearly a month subsequent to leaving the Copper Mines. On the morning of the 23rd, just one year to a day from the date of her capture, two men were dispatched to inform the family of Inez of her safety, and to add that she would be with her relations in four or five hours. About three miles from town we met a large and joyous party of Mexicans, arrayed in their gaudiest holiday costumes, and headed by the mother of our fair charge. They had come out to welcome her return and release from captivity among the Apaches, a thing never before known to have occurred. Mr. Bartlett conceded to me the privilege of placing Inez into the longing arms of her mother, who, after repeated embraces, and amidst alternate tears, prayers, thanksgivings and joyous cries, yielded her place to the strong but inferior claims of other relatives and friends, all of whom ardently and most affectionately embraced her by turns. It was one of the most affecting scenes conceivable, and, in joyous procession, the whole party entered the town, amidst the loudest acclamations of the entire population. Inez immediately entered the church, where the good priest was in attendance, and went through a solemn ceremony and thanksgiving. These scenes and all their attendant circumstances have ever been among the most pleasant in my remembrance. They form a delicious oasis amidst the unpleasant recollections of "man's inhumanity to man." Her own father had been deceased for some years, and the mother of Inez was then married to a man named Ortis, a very excellent, honest and reliable Mexican, who testified quite as much joy at her release from a captivity far worse than death, as if she had been his own child.

The future career of this young and attractive girl, whose fate was so suddenly and providentially changed, is worthy of record.

Some months after the Commission left, on its way toward California, Inez attracted and secured the admiration of a Captain Gomez in the Mexican Regular Army, and, at that time, in command of the frontier town of Tubac. The relaxed state of morals among the Mexicans seemed to warrant the poor girl in becoming his mistress for a time, but he subsequently made amends by marrying her and legitimatizing the two fine boys she bore him. Many years passed before I again saw or heard of Inez, but it was not until the fall of 1862, that I learned, while in Tucson, that she was still alive, but quite unwell. Capt. Gomez had been dead some years, and she was again married to the Alcalde of Santa Cruz, and had borne him two children--a boy and a girl. Having casualy learned that I was in Tucson, and an officer in the Union Army, she dispatched me a letter, begging that I would order some one of our physicians to visit and prescribe for her. Of course, the poor girl in her ignorance, had asked what it was impossible to grant, and I sadly dismissed the subject from my mind.

In 1864, it was again my lot to be within fifty miles of Santa Cruz, when a bold Opatah Indian chief, named Tanori, who had been commissioned as Colonel by Maximilian, had the temerity to cross our frontier with nearly seven hundred men and fire upon the people of the American town of San Gabriel, located two miles north of the dividing line, and fourteen miles from Santa Cruz. The excuse for this outrage was, that he had pursued the Liberal General, Jesus Garcia Morales, across our lines, and that he had not transcended his duty in so doing. Complaint of this raid having been made to me by the town authorities of San Gabriel, I immediately took the saddle, with one hundred and forty troopers, and marched straight to that place. Upon my arrival, I obtained affidavits of all the facts, and, having received permission from the acknowledged authorities of Sonora, determined to pursue Tanori and punish that gentleman for his audacious conduct.

He had retired upon Santa Cruz, whither I followed without delay, but, hearing of our approach, he hastened forward to Imures with wonderful celerity, and, although the Adjutant, Lieut. Coddington, was dispatched, at speed, to request a delay on his part so that we could arrange matters, he excused himself by saying that "his orders were imperative to reach Ures without delay." As a proof with what rapidity the Mexican infantry can cover the ground when an enemy is in pursuit, it is a fact that Tanori, with over six hundred men, mostly infantry, made the march from Santa Cruz to Imurez, a distance if forty-three miles, in the space of nine hours. He left Santa Cruz at five o'clock in the morning, and I subsequently learned that he conversed with the party from whom I received my information, in the town of Imurez, at two o'clock in the afternoon of the same day. About three hundred of his men were there with him at the time mentioned.

My trip to Santa Cruz offered me the opportunity to visit Inez, whom I found to be the respected wife of the chief and most influential man in that little community. She has an affectionate husband, who is my no means cramped for this world's goods; is surrounded by a fine and promising family of three boys and a girl, and is universally esteemed for her many excellent qualities. It is needless to state that my reception was most cordial and enthusiastic. This sequel of her history will undoubtedly be received with sincere pleasure by all who were members of Mr. Bartlett's Commission, and by none with more interest than Mr. Bartlett and Dr. Webb.

Apache Depredations against the Bartlett Commission
As witnessed by John Cremony, 1850

Toward the latter end of July, a number of mules for which Col. Craig was responsible, could not be found, although all the surrounding country, to the extent of thirty miles, was strictly searched. That gallant officer and accomplished gentleman invited me to his quarters, and asked my opinion on the subject. Without hesitation, I informed him that I thought the Apaches had stolen them, either for the hope of reward for bringing them back (as the Commissioner had invariably bestowed gifts upon those of the tribe who brought in strayed animals, or those supposed to have strayed) or that they had made the initiative of a war campaign. After two or three hours of conversation, the Colonel fell into my idea, and determined to go and search for them himself. Taking thirty soldiers, he visited the Apache camp of Delgadito, on the Mimbres river. The Indians were much excited, and disclaimed any participation in the robbery, or any knowledge of the missing animals; but promised to hunt them up and restore them to that officer, if found. Eight days afterward they kept their promise, in a truly Apache manner, by making another descent upon the Colonel's herd of mules, and relieving him of the necessity to guard twenty-five more of these animals, and some fine horses. Having nothing but infantry, Col. Craig felt himself unable to maintain an active campaign against these bold and well-mounted savages, and consequently invoked the aid of Capt. Buford's company of dragoons, from Dona Ana. Soon after the arrival of that officer, another batch of animals disappeared in the same mysterious manner, and a joint scout, composed of the dragoons and mounted infantry, started off to recover the lost animals, or punish the robbers, if possible. This raid proved wholly ineffective, neither animals being recovered, nor Indians being punished; but during the absence of the force, intelligence was brought that the Apaches had attacked the mining camp, about three or four miles down the canyon, and were driving off the cattle. About twenty of the Commission, headed by Lieutenant A. W. Whipple, mounted their horses and gave immediate pursuit. The Indians were overhauled in a thick forest, and one party, numbering fifty warriors, stood to give us battle, while a detachment hurried on with the cattle. The Indians concealed themselves behind large pine trees, and retreated as fast as possible, but still showing front. Our party dismounted, and, being joined by Mr. Hay, the head miner, with four or five of his associates, we left our horses in the care of eight men, and took to the trees, keeping up a lively fire from behind their friendly shelter.

Here, for the first time, all doubts as to the identity of the robbers was set at rest, for they were headed by Delgadito, who kept a safe distance and poured out torrents of the vilest abuse upon the Americans. This same scoundrel had slept in my tent only two nights before, when I gave him a good shirt and a serviceable pair of shoes.

The Government had furnished the Commission with several styles of newly-patented arms, and among these were some Wesson's rifles, which could throw their balls with fair accuracy a distance of four hundred yards--at that period a very remarkable distance. One of these rifles I had ordered to be fitted with new and fine sights, and at three hundred and fifty yards a good marksman could hit the size of his hat eight times out of ten.

Among our party was Wells, the Commissioner's carriage driver--an excellent, brave and cool man, and a crack shot. I pointed Delgadito out to Wells, and handing him my rifle, told him to approach as nearly as possible, take good aim and bring the rascal down. Wells glided from tree to tree with the utmost caution and rapidity, until he got within two hundred and sixty or seventy yards of Delgadito, who, at that moment, was slapping his buttocks and defying us with the most opprobrious language. While in the act of exhibiting his posteriors--a favorite taunt among the Apaches--he uncovered them to Wells, who took deliberate aim and fired. This mark of attention was received by Delgadito with an unearthly yell and a series of dances and capers that would put a maitre de ballet to the blush. The Apache leader was recalled to full consciousness of his exposed position by the whizzing of three or four balls in close proximity to his upper end, when he ceased his saltatory exercises and rushed frantically through a thick copse, followed by his band. We started back for our horses and having remounted, again pressed forward in pursuit. In fifteen minutes we had passed the woods and opened upon the plain, over which the Apaches were scouring for life. The pursuit lasted for thirty miles, and just at sundown we came once more upon the cattle, when the party in charge abandoned them and sought safety in flight with their beaten companions. Perceiving that further pursuit would be useless, we contented ourselves by bringing back Mr. Hay's herd. I afterward learned that the ball from Wells' rifle gouged a neat streak across that portion of Delgadito's person denominated in school parlance as the "seat of honor." His riding and general activity were spoiled for several weeks.

See also The Battle of Apache Pass

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