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Camp Grant Massacre

April 30, 1871

by Howard Sheldon

In the pre-dawn hours of April 30, 1871, eight men and 110 women and children were brutally murdered in the brief span of 30 minutes. In addition, 28 Arivaipa ApacheCamp Grant papoose were kidnapped from the grisly scene for sale in the child slave trade. The corpses left to rot in the morning sun of Arivaipa Canyon were a macabre sight to Dr. Conant B. Briesly, the first white man to chronicle the sight when he arrived at half past seven the same morning. By eight o'clock that morning, the mongrel band responsible for the gruesome massacre was breakfasting and celebrating their victory over an Indian tribe of defenseless, sleeping victims. What prompted 148 Arizonans -- comprised of six Anglos, 94 San Xavier Papagos and 48 Mexicans -- to commit such an atrocity?

This dark page in Arizona's Territorial diary was written in Arivaipa Apache blood. There is no physical marker to mark the site. However, this day has not been forgotten by the relatives of those slain, the Arivaipa Apaches. This attempt at genocide is known as the Camp Grant Massacre.

Camp Grant 1869

The events that led up to and culminated in the Camp Grant Massacre were the severe depredations of humans and livestock in the first four months of 1871. Atrocities were committed by both the white man and the native Indians. The immigrants, white-eyed enemies or pindah-lickoyee as the Indians called them, were moving in by the thousands and exhausting the native food and water resources. The Arivaipa Apaches relied on game and native plants -- primarily mescal -- as their primary food sources.

With these problems and a host of others, which included new diseases introduced by the white man, it is easier to understand why the native peoples were unwilling to share their home with these new uninvited guests. Much to the chagrin of the settlers, government representatives were unavailable to protect the white citizenry. Unable to see any relief in sight, six white pioneers, a mixed company of San Xavier Papagos and Mexicans, took matters into their own hands, vigilante style.

Introducing the Key Players

William OuryWilliam S. Oury, organizer of the raid on Camp Grant's Apache Indians, was a hot-tempered Virginian who fought in the Texas war for independence. He was a soldier in the US/Mexican War and served at the Alamo. Known for his violent temper, he killed two men in separate duels in Tucson.

Sidney R. DeLong was a close associate of William S. Oury. Mr. DeLong was the largest supplier of goods to the Army, Indian Bureau, ranchers, contractors and prospectors. The Apaches were known to attack DeLong 's freight caravans whenever they were delivering goods. Mr. DeLong provided the food provisions for the attack on the Camp Grant Indians.

Jesus Elias was the leader of the Camp Grant Massacre. Jesus and his brother José were known as skillful trackers. They would be needed to locate the helpless tribe in darkness. They were more than willing because the Apaches had recently attacked the Elias homestead. Their cattle were stolen and two of their brothers were killed, so they were primed for a revengeful blood bath.

Lt WhitmanLt. Royal Whitman, later known as "the most hated man in Arizona," was officer-in-charge of the Camp Grant Post. Prior to the attack, he was an intermediary between the surrendering Arivaipas (400-500 of them), the US government and any citizens who had a case against them. The Apaches were technically "prisoners of war" under the jurisdiction of Camp Grant. Lt. Whitman had accepted the responsibility of protecting and feeding the now peace-desiring Indians.

General StonemanBrevet Major General George Stoneman, Lt. Whitman's direct superior, had full responsibility for any military policies in the Arizona Territory. General Stoneman was advised in February 1871, of the Apaches' intent to seek peace by their committment to live and work at Camp Grant in return for food and protection. Lt. Whitman impatiently awaited his superiors' approval and further instructions. General Stoneman, headquartered at Drum Barracks, California, was aware of the new circumstances at Camp Grant but procrastinated in communicating his orders. This no doubt contributed to the massacre of April 30, 1871. Upon his arrival in May 1870, Stoneman stationed his troops, the 3rd Cavalry, some distance northeast of Tucson -- capital of the Arizona Territory -- and left the civilian citizens virtually without military protection. In an 1870 report penned by Stoneman, he stated, "The Indian affairs are in as satisfactory condition as can be expected." Outraged that Stoneman was not more aggressive with the Indians, many American settlers in the Territory regarded his tenure as a dereliction of duty.

Chief EskiminzinEskiminzin was the Chief of the Arivaipa Indians. His name means "Men Stand in Line for Him". In February of 1871, Eskiminzin was tired of the warpath. He sent five old Apache women to inquire at Camp Grant about peace and protection. Lt. Whitman received the women courteously and worked out an appointed time for a peace talk with their leader. On subsequent meetings, it was arranged for the Indians to stay in wickiups east of Camp Grant. In exchange for protection and food, the Indians would be employed in farming, gathering hay and working for nearby ranches. This worked out well for both the Apaches and the U.S. military. Eskiminzin had a reputation that caused fear among the whites. An account states that about a month after the Camp Grant incident, Eskiminizin wanted to show his fellow Arivaipas that there could be no friendship with the white man. Eskiminzin had a close white friend of many years, a rancher named Charles McKinney. Eskiminzin shared an evening meal with McKinney, and at the conclusion of the meal, the two smoked a cigarette together. Upon finishing, Eskiminzin stood up, pulled a revolver from his pants and shot the man at point-blank range, killing him. When Eskiminzin was later asked about the incident, he was quoted as saying, "Any coward can kill his enemy, but it takes a brave man to kill his friend."

Francisco, Chief of the San Xavier Papago Indians, hated the Apaches and welcomed the opportunity for vengeance and retribution.

Hiram Stevens, a friend of Oury's, was responsible for posting a guard at the intersection on the road to Camp Grant to prevent any early warnings and detection of the forthcoming raid.

Samuel Hughes, Territorial Adjutant General, provided the guns and ammunition.

Events Leading Up to the Massacre

March 10, 1871. A baggage train was attacked by Indians. Two men were brutally murdered and 16 mules were stolen.

March 20, 1871. Tubac rancher L.B. Wooster was attacked and killed. A Mexican woman was kidnapped from a town south of Tucson.

March 22, 1871. A meeting of angry Tucson residents assembled and a Committee on Public Safety was formed. One item on the agenda was to send a delegation to General Stoneman to request military protection. General Stoneman reiterated the government's policy on pacification and objected to the request, calling it criticism. Oury then concluded that the residents were on their own. Lt. Royal Whitman assured Tucson's residents that the Apaches under his control never left the Camp Grant compound.

March 25, 1871. An editorial in Tucson's Arizona Citizen fanned the flames of Indian hatred by asking, "Will the Department Commander any longer permit the murderers to be fed by the supplies purchased with the people's money?"

April 10, 1871. Indians plundered a farm and carried off 19 head of cattle. News of this reached Tucson via the Papagos, and a posse was dispatched which gave chase for 50 miles. It caught up with a straggling Indian, killed him and identified him as an Arivaipa Apache from Camp Grant. During the chase, three more white settlers were killed. The incident was reported in Arizona Citizen. Three days later, in a community 30 miles from Camp Grant, a farmer was murdered.

Arizona Citizen Editor John Wasson had obtained General Stoneman's 1870 annual report. The report recommended that seven of 15 military posts be closed. The report also bragged about Stoneman's "much to be praised" new roads and construction projects.

April 28, 1871. Anglos and Mexicans left Tucson a few at a time -- to avoid suspicion -- and headed towards Camp Grant, where they were positive the problem originated.

April 30, 1871. After two days of traveling only at night, the vigilantes arrived at Camp Grant under the cover of darkness while the Arivaipa Indians slept. The mongrel band of Papagos, with clubs and lances in hand, and Mexicans and Anglos armed to the teeth with rifles and six-shooters, stealthily approached the sleeping, defenseless people. In a brief 30 minutes they laid to waste every man, woman and child. Upon leaving, they took 28 children as captives.

April 30, 1871, 7:30 a.m. That morning, a harried messenger arrived at Camp Grant from Fort Lowell interrupting Lt. Whitman's breakfast with an urgent message. It stated that armed citizenry from Tucson were planning a massacre of the Lieutenant's prisoners of war, the Apaches. The Lieutenant immediately dispatched two interpreters to warn the Indians and have them come to the post directly for protection.

But by the time the interpreters arrived, the camp was completely decimated. Post surgeon, Conant B. Briesly, along with 12 men, were immediately dispatched to render aid to the injured. However, the massacre was so thorough, only one woman survived. She was so emotionally paralyzed that she would not come back to the post.

May 17, 1871. Lt. Whitman wrote a widely-publicized letter in defense of the Camp Grant Arivaipa Apache Indians. It proved to be futile.

Trial Location Camp Grant

In December, 1871, 104 posse members were indicted and brought to trial in Tucson, Judge John Titus presiding. The trial was more of a formality to appease the federal government and sympathetic easterners. On the western frontier, it was impossible to convict anyone for murdering Apaches. Thus after five days of trial and 19 minutes of jury deliberation, the verdict was pronounced by the jury foreman, John B. Allen, "Not Guilty!" The 104 accused were exonerated.

That is the account chronicled from the white man's point of view. But was anything written in defense of the Indians? Many white frontiersmen and military personnel who took time to befriend the Apaches found them to be intelligent, peace-loving people. Among these white men were John P. Clum, John C. Cremony and Vincent Colyer. Their written accounts can be found at your local library.

Look at it from the Apache's point of view. From 1539 to 1820 (281 years) Spanish explorers were on a mission to conquer a new land for their King. By 1760, all of what is now California, Arizona and New Mexico were under the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, from the capital, Santa Fe, established in 1610. The Indians fought the Spaniards and Mexicans to regain their native home for hundreds of years, but to no avail. Beginning in 1806, a new conqueror was vying for a hold on the Apache homeland -- the Anglos. In 1821, Mexico declared independence from Spain and ruled the Apaches and other tribes for an additional 25 years. The U.S. declared war against Mexico in 1846. Mexico's defeat in 1848 resulted in the Apaches having new landlords of their territory to deal with. They fought tenaciously to regain what was theirs, but ultimately, they lost the final battle and were forced to live on reservations.

Arivaipa Canyon hasn't changed much in 127 years. The location of the Camp Grant post is now occupied by Central Arizona College. The creek waters that flowed past the Apache rancheria during the early 1870s still flows from springs in the Galiuro Mountains. It has been peaceful now for more than 100 years, and hopefully, will continue to be peaceful for decades to come.

Postscript

Camp Grant Massacre Reconciliation Coalition

The following is from Rick Leis, President, Coalition of Prayer Network International.

On October 5, 1996, approximately 80 people traveled from Tucson to the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Their purpose was to apologize to the San Carlos people for the Camp Grant Massacre. It took four years to set up the meeting. We met at the San Carlos Historical Museum. About 130 were present, including Chairman Stanley, Dale Miles (Tribal Historian), and David Miles from the San Carlos tribe. There were many tribal elders from the San Carlos, White River Apache, Navajo, Hopi and Desert Cahuilla (chawilla) tribes.

People representing the groups, and families that were responsible for the massacre stood before the gathering, took responsibility for the slaughter and begged forgiveness. At the conclusion of the confessions and request for forgiveness, I addressed the gathering with the following Proclamation.

Representative Reconciliation Proclamation
To the San Carlos Apache People

On April 30, 1871, a group of vigilantes out of Tucson treacherously attacked the peaceful, sleeping Apache camp. It is reported that of the 144 killed, most were defenseless women and children. Only eight were adult males. Eastern newspapers named this tragedy the "Camp Grant Massacre." The nation was outraged, but only for a short time. One year later in Tucson, an unsympathetic court acquitted the perpetrators. The citizens of Arizona stood quiet. The lost and their families still suffer the injustice.

As citizens of Tucson, Arizona, on this day of October 5, 1996, we humbly take "Representative Responsibility" for these unthinkable acts, and beg your forgiveness for them as if they were our own.

We honor the San Carlos Apache people and vow to stand with you as brothers and sisters in times of adversity and peace.

We declare this to be the first day of the year of Jubilee and profess our intent to establish growing relationships with you. We pledge to learn to stand by your side as servants, helpers and friends.

We are determined to help raise a memorial as a remembrance to remind us to stand together as brothers and sisters regardless of what the future may hold.

We sign as representatives of Tucson and Arizona:

  • Rick Leis - President, Coalition of Prayer Network International
  • Pastor Gabriel Ward - Desert Cahuilla
  • Morris Chapman - Song writer, and psalmist
  • Pastor Gil Garcia
  • Pastor Kenneth Ballenger
  • Pastor James Keen
  • Pastor Warren Anderson Jr.
  • Steven L. Dowdle
  • Brad Rollins
  • Hal J. Jensen


At the conclusion of the reading of the proclamation and presentation to Chairman Stanley and the Museum, Chairman Stanley responded, "As the elected Chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, I grant Tucson forgiveness for the Camp Grant Massacre." He then said, "I also beg your forgiveness for the many ways in which we violated you."

David Miles stood before us and said in the midst of tears, "Now, I can look a white man in the eyes. . ."

Dale Miles made a few similar comments and received the proclamation on behalf of the museum. We concluded the ceremony by providing a traditional Apache meal.

Following that ceremony, many of us then proceeded to the actual site.

References

Arnold, Elliott, The Camp Grant Massacre, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1976

Barnes, Will C., Arizona Place Names, revised by Byrd H. Granger, University of Arizona Press, 1935

Bourke, John G., On the Border With Crook, U. of Nebraska Press, Lincoln Nebraska, 1971

Brown, Dee, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc., 1971

Haley, James L. APACHES, A History and Culture Portrait, University of Oklahoma Press, 1981, 1997

Henson, Pauline, Founding A Wilderness Capital, Northland Press, Flagstaff Arizona, 1963

Schellie, Donald, Vast Domain of Blood, Westernlore Press, Los Angeles, 1968

Springs, John, John Springs Arizona, A. Gustafson Editor, University of Tucson Press, 1966

Wagoner, Jay J., Arizona Territory 1863-1912 A Political History, The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona 1970, 1980.

Newspaper Citations,

Arizona Miner, Prescott, Arizona

Arizona Citizen, Tucson, Arizona

Special thanks to the Sharlot Hall Museum.


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