Lieutenant Emory meets some Apaches near the Gila

From Emory, W. H. Notes of a military reconnaissance, from Fort Leavenworth, in Missouri, to San Diego, in California, including of Part the Arkansas, del Norte and Gila Rivers, 1846. This and numerous other titles are now available as free e-books. Check the list of Free E-books on Arizona History.

October 20, 1846

My curiosity was excited to see by daylight how my camp was disposed and what sort of place we were in. It was quite certain the broad, level valley we had been traveling the last few miles was narrowing rapidly, by the intrusion of high precipices; and the proximity of great mountains in confused masses indicated some remarkable change in the face of the country. We were, in truth, but a few miles from the Gila, which I was no less desirous of seeing than the Del Norte.

The general sent word to the Apaches he would not start till 9 or 10. This gave them time to come in, headed by their chief, Red Sleeve {Mangas Colorado}. They swore eternal friendship to the whites, and everlasting hatred to the Mexicans. The Indians said that one, two or three white men might now pass in safety through their country; that if they were hungry, they would feed them; or, if on foot, mount them. The road was open to the American now and forever. Carson, with a twinkle of his keen hazel eye, observed to me, "I would not trust one of them."

The whole camp was now busily engaged in attempting to trade. The Indians had mules, ropes, whips, and mescal. We wished to get a refit in all save the mescal, offering to give in exchange red shirts, blankets, knives, needles, thread, handkerchiefs, etc., etc.; but these people had such extravagant notions of our wealth, it was impossible to make any progress. At length the call of "boots and saddles" sounded. The order, quickness and quietude of our movements seemed to impress them. One of the chiefs, after eyeing the general with apparent great admiration, broke out in a vehement manner: "You have taken New Mexico, and will soon take California; go, then, and take Chihuahua, Durango, and Sonora. We will help you. You fight for land; we care nothing for land; we fight for the laws of Montezuma and for food. The Mexicans are rascals; we hate and will kill them all." There burst out the smothered fire of three hundred years! Finding we were more indifferent than they had supposed to trade, and that the column was in motion, they became at once eager for traffic.

They had seen some trumpery about my camp which pleased them, and many of them collected there. My packs were made. One of my gentlest mules at that moment took fright, and went off like a rocket on the pack trail, scattering to the right and left all who opposed him. A large, elegant looking woman, mounted astraddle, more valiant than the rest, faced the brute and charged upon him at full speed. This turned his course back to the camp; and I rewarded her by half a dozen biscuit, and through her intervention, succeeding in trading two broken down mules for two good ones, giving two yards of scarlet cloth in the bargain. By this time a large number of Indians had collected about us, all differently dressed, and some in the most fantastical style. The Mexican dress and saddles predominated, showing where they had chiefly made up their wardrobe. One had a jacket made of a Henry Clay flag, which aroused unpleasant sensations, for the acquisition, no doubt, cost one of our countrymen his life. Several wore beautiful helmets, decked with black feathers, which, with the short skirt, waist belt, bare legs and buskins, gave them the look of pictures of antique Grecian warriors. Most were furnished with the Mexican cartridge box, which consists of a strap round the waist, with cylinders inserted for the cartridges.

Apache wickiup, Fort Bowie

Apache wickiup, Fort Bowie National Historic Site

These men have no fixed homes. Their houses are of twigs, made easily, and deserted with indifference. They hover around the beautiful hills that overhang the Del Norte between the 31st and 32nd parallels of latitude, and look upon the States of Chihuahua and Sonora; and woe to the luckless company that ventures out unguarded by a strong force. Their hills are covered with luxuriant grama, which enables them to keep their horses in fine order, so that they can always pursue with rapidity, and retreat with safety. The light and graceful manner in which they mounted and dismounted, always on the right side, was the admiration of all. The children are on horseback from infancy. There was amongst them a poor deformed woman, with legs and arms no longer than an infant's. I could not learn her history, but she had a melancholy cast of countenance. She was well mounted, and the gallant manner in which some of the plumed Apaches waited on her, for she was perfectly helpless when dismounted, made it hard for me to believe the tales of blood and vice told of these people. She asked for water, and one or two were at her side; one handed it to her in a tin wash basin, which, from its size, was the favorite drinking cup.

From W. H. Emory's Report

Free e-books now available. Emory's Report and Life among the Apaches by John C. Cremony. A first-hand account by a man who learned the Apache language and provides a vivid account of their culture. See a sample

Related topics:

Amerind Foundation Museum

The Apache Language

Archaic and Mogollon Cultures

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The Battle of Apache Pass

Chiricahua National Monument

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The Horse in North America

Murray Springs Mammoth Site, SPRNCA

Pima / Maricopa Indians

PaleoIndian Cultures

In Association with

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The Struggle for Apacheria by
Peter Cozzens
Volume I of the Eyewitnesses to the Indian Wars series
The American West in the 19th Century
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in the 19th Century
by John Grafton