Nelson Appleton Miles.

Personal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire online

. (page 46 of 51)
Online LibraryNelson Appleton MilesPersonal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire → online text (page 46 of 51)
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entire time they remained outside the reservation. On one occasion,
while camped on the crest of the Rincon Mountains at a height of about
seven thousand feet above the sea level, their camp was surprised by the
troops under Lieutenant Carter P. Johnson and all their property, includ-
ing their horses, was captured. But the Indians themselves escaped by
sliding or crawling down over ledges of rock. From this point they
traveled along the mountain ranges on foot, crossing the narrow valleys
at night, and endeavored to take refuge in the Indian camps on the reser-
vation, but were trailed and hunted down by the troops to their retreat.


On the 13th of June I left my headquarters to visit San Carlos, in
order to personally inquire into the circumstances attending the disturb-
ance, and to direct the movements of the pursuing forces. I found that
from a thousand to twelve hundred Indians had left their camps, aban-
doned their fields, and had congregated at a place called Coyote Holes,
where they assumed a most threatening attitude. Here they held their
nightly orgies and Indian dances and were harangued by their medicine
men, whose influence was decidedly prejudicial to peace. But no actual
outbreak occurred, as troops were stationed at proper points to check any
further disturbance.

On the 18th of June one of the renegades surrendered. As he had been
absent nineteen days, I sent him to the guardhouse for the same length of
time, but on the second day following he practically turned State's
evidence and gave information concerning the movements of himself
and others, so I remitted his sentence. On the 22d eight others sur-
rendered, followed by Kid with seven companions on the 25th. It was
believed that a Yaqui Indian named Miguel was the instigator of the whole
affair. According to the best obtainable evidence he had fired the shot
that opened hostilities, and with his own hand had killed the two men
who had been murdered. The outbreak was evidently unpremeditated on
the part of most of the Indians, and this, added to the fact that they had
committed such a small number of depredations, entitled them to some
consideration. Although the scouts did not fully comprehend the responsi-
bility of their obligations as enlisted men, I ordered an investigation by a
general court-martial as if they had been white soldiers. One of the cul-
prits was afterward condemned to suffer death but this sentence was
afterwards remitted, and the others were given sentences of from two to
twenty years' imprisonment. The disaffected and hostile element were
finally persuaded and forced to return to their former camps without
serious hostilities, and thus once more it was found better to avoid war
than to end one.

Two tribes on the San Carlos agency, the Yumas and Mojaves, had for
years been pleading to be allowed to return to their former homes. The
place where they were located along the Grila River was so intensely hot.
arid, desolate and sickly that the troops on duty there were obliged to be
changed every few months in order to preserve their health. The excite-
ment of these Indians over the general condition of affairs was greatly
increased by the earthquakes which occurred in that vicinity about this
time. Part of these Indians were anxious to be returned to the Colorado



River to join others of their own tribes at Yuma and Mojave, while still
others desired to go to the vicinity of their former home on the Fort Verde

The White Mountain Indians who had been forced to go to the Gila
Valley declared they would rather die than live there. They were told
that they could not have rations if they did not remain, and they said
they would rather go back to their own country, if they had to starve.
They did go back, and for years made a most heroic struggle to live with-
out receiving rations from the government. They cut wood and hay for
Fort Apache, and I have seen their women go
long distances and cut grass with knives and pack
it on their backs to the post, although the amount
of money they received for their labor was exceed-
ingly small.

The Navajo Indians of New Mexico were among
the largest and most powerful of all the tribes,
numbering twenty thousand souls, with at least
four thousand men capable of bearing arms, while
they were at the same time rich enough to supply
themselves with the most improved rifles, with an
average of one thousand rounds of ammunition per
man. This being the case, even though they were
practically at peace, I deemed it best to concentrate
as many of the cavalry as possible in that vicinity.

Whenever emergencies had arisen, requiring
active field service, it was a common occurrence
for requests or reports like the following to be
received at headquarters: " Request authority to employ scouts; " " Guides; "
"Experienced trailers;" "Men familiar with the habits of the Indians and
topography of the country," etc. ; " Trail scattered ; " " Lost trail and
command returned to station ; " " Misled by guides," etc. The condition of
affairs indicated by such applications and reports ought not to exist. Troops
serving any considerable length of time in a department should them-
selves excel in an accurate and thorough knowledge of the country and in
skillful pursuit of the enemy. While garrison duty, target practice, drills
and parades in garrison are important, yet there is another service of
vital importance the moment a command takes the field, and to this all
other duties are really preparatory. In order to render this service
entirely effective I required the troops to devote special attention



to field service for a number of years, and with the most gratifying

The element of strength that was possessed by the Indians against
which the troops found it most difficult to contend, was their skill in pass-
ing rapidly over the country, noting every feature of it, and observing the
movements and strength of their enemies, without allowing themselves
to be discovered. This faculty was the natural outgrowth of the fact that
generation after generation of the Indians had followed the life of the
hunter and warrior. The superior intelligence of the white man renders
him capable of acquiring the same art in an almost equal degree if given
the opportunity.

While the chief motive of drill in this field service was to give the
troops practice that would enable them in times of actual hostility to
render the country untenable for the Indians, yet it was also a training in-
valuable to the officers in case they should be called upon for service in
civilized warfare; for, owing to the small size of the regular army, the same
officers that might in this practice or in actual Indian campaigning be in
command of a small detachment of troops, are liable at any time to be
suddenly required to lead a division or a corps, should the necessity sud-
denly arise for greatly increasing the army.

For these reasons I determined to give special attention to field ma-
neuvers, and, therefore, while in command of the Department of Arizona
in 1887, I issued the following orders :

Los ANGELES, CAL., August 20, 1887. \

I. During the months of September and October of this year the troops of this De-
partment will be considered as on field duty, and will be instructed and exercised in all
that pertains to the practical requirements of field service. During those months all
other drills and duties will, as far as practicable, be suspended, except the target and sig-
nal practice required by orders of the War Department, which will be regulated so as to
admit of this field service.

II. On September 1st, post commanders will occupy their districts of observation by
the location of outposts, signal and heliograph stations, and establish communications with
the nearest signal stations of the adjacent posts.

III. During the first fifteen days of that month post commanders will, if necessary,
make themselves familiar with the topographical features of the district of country within
their charge, and give such instructions to the troops of their commands regarding every
detail of field service as will render them most efficient and afford them a knowledge of the
general features of the country in which they are serving, and give to them that general
knowledge of the geography and topography of the country as will enable them to pass
over it readily without the aid of guides, compass or maps.


IV. Cavalry troops will be specially instructed in movements by open order forma-
tions. To this end care will be taken to make the trooper and his horse the unit rather
than to adhere constantly to the close formation of a troop, with a view of training the
horses to act separately and independently of the close column.

V. After two weeks of this kind of practice, the commanding officer of Fort Huachuca,
Arizona, is hereby directed to send out a detachment of troops to march from that post to
Fort Apache, Arizona, and return, via. the route indicated in this order. This raiding
party will consist of two officers and twenty enlisted men, well mounted and provided
with extra horses, and sufficient pack animals to carry the necessary baggage and camp
equipage. Pack animals will not be required to carry more than one hundred pounds
per mule, all superfluous articles being left in the post, including sabers, revolvers, curb
bridles, hobbles, nose bags, extra horse equipments and camp equipage of every kind that
can be dispensed with. The detachment will be properly rationed and is authorized to
obtain necessary supplies en route in the usual form and to carry forty rounds of ammu-
nition per man, with the necessary clothing. It will start from Fort Huachuca at noon
on September 17th and will march east of Fort Bowie, west of Fort Grant, touching
the limits of the Fort Lowell district, east of Fort Thomas, west of Apache to a point
north of that post, should they reach that point without being captured.

The commanding officer will then notify the commanding officer, Fort Apache, by
courier, of the presence of his detachment. He will then select an agreeable camp and
send to Fort Apache for supplies. After remaining there ten days they will return, pass-
ing east of Fort Apache, west of Fort Thomas, east of Fort Grant, and west of Fort Bowie,
and east of Dragoon Station, on the Southern Pacific railroad to Fort Huachuca. In starting
from Fort Huachuca they will be allowed from 12 M. September 17, until 6 A. M. the
day following, before being followed by the troops from Fort Huachuca. After 6 A. M.
September 18, they will remain in camp until 12 M. of that day, and after that time they
will be limited in marches to the hours between 12 M. and midnight of each day. The
commanding officer of the detachment will select (within the above described limits) his
own line of march and conceal his men and camps according to his own judgment. Both
officers and men of the detachment should fully understand the course to be taken and
places of rendezvoux, in order to assemble again, whenever it becomes necessary to
separate because of close pursuit, or to avoid discovery.

VI. Post commanders will conceal their troops and establish lookouts in such way as
to discover, surprise and capture the detachment above mentioned, if possible, and in any
event they are directed to have the raiding party pursued until a fresh command is on
the trail. Information concerning the party to be pursued will be communicated with the
least possible delay by heliograph, telegraph or courier to the different post commanders
and to all troops placed to intercept them.

VII. Reports will be made by post commanders by telegraph to these headquarters
daily, of any observation of the raiding party, their movements and efforts made to capture
them. The party or any portion of them will be regarded as captured whenever another
detachment or command of equal numbers gets within hailing distance or within bugle

The Commanding Officers at Forts Bowie and Grant, will send one officer or non-
commissioned officer, provided with two horses each, to accompany the party and act as
witnesses in case any question should arise as to the rules to be followed or results. In case


of capture the detachment will march to the nearest post and another raiding party will
be immediately ordered from these headquarters.

Similar movements will be made in the District of New Mexico by a detachment of
cavalry from Fort Wingate, N. M., moving around Fort Bayard and returning to its
station ; also one from Fort Stanton around Fort Bayard and return to its station, each
going at some time within ten miles of that post and orders for marching and concealment
of each will be the same as those directed for Fort Huachuca.

Care will be taken to avoid breaking down either the troop horses or pack animals, or
stampeding or injuring any stock or property of citizens.

At the close of the period for field practice, post commanders will call for suggestions
from officers and men of their commands, and make brief reports of results and mention
any defects in the equipment of their command or anything that would tend to promote
their efficiency.

Post Commanders will retain communication with their detachments sufficient to enable
them to recall them to their stations without delay in case of necessity.

By command of Brigadier-General MILES:

J. A. DAPRAY, Second Lieutenant Twenty-third Infantry, A. D. C.

A. A. A. General.

An officer in command of a raiding force was credited with the capture
of a military post if he succeeded in getting his command during daylight
within one thousand yards of the flagstaff of that post.

The movements directed during the months of September and October
were continued during parts of October and November, and embraced the
country between Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and Fort Stanton, New Mexico,
and between Fort Wingate, New Mexico, and Fort Apache, Arizona, a
mountainous region three hundred miles in extent east and west, and
nearly the same distance north and south.

This series of practical maneuvers, considering their initiatory or experi-
mental nature were in the main very satisfactory, and the experience
gained by officers and troops engaged in them were of incalculable value.
The results of ten distinct field maneuvres covering an area of hundreds
of miles in extent may be stated in brief as follows: On five different
occasions the raiding parties were overtaken and captured by the troops in
pursuit, commanded respectively by Captains Chaffee, Wood and Stanton,
and Lieutenants Scott and Pershing, notwithstanding that every device was
adopted to annoy and deceive the pursuers by dispersing, destroying trails
by having herds of cattle driven over them, by false maneuvers, etc.

On five occasions different detachments commanded by Captains Wint,
Wallace and Kendall, and Lieutenants Richards and McGrath, misled and
eluded their pursuers, but were discovered and intercepted by the troops
in advance who were lying in wait for them.


Captain Wallace started from Fort Bayard, New Mexico, captured the
command sent in pursuit of him, and avoiding the troops in advance suc-
ceeded in reaching Fort Stanton, New Mexico, but was captured by Lieu-
tenant Pershing in endeavoring to return.

Captain Wint started from Fort Lowell, Arizona Territory, and escaping
from his pursuers and eluding the troops sent to intercept him, remained
several days in their vicinity in the Graham Mountains, and finally suc-
ceeded in reaching Fort Apache, with the loss of but four men, captured.
Returning, he skillfully misled and avoided the command in pursuit,
capturing a second command endeavoring to intercept him, but was finally
captured by a third command to which one of his captives had deserted
and given information of his presence. This was one of the longest and
most successful expeditions of the series.

Lieutenant C. P. Johnson made one of the most successful and remark-
able raids, exhibiting much originality in planning and skill in executing.

He started from Fort Grant to circle or capture Fort Lowell (distance
approximately one hundred miles to the south of west) ; to accomplish
this same with Fort Huachuca (distance approximately one hundred
and twenty miles), and also Fort Bowie, forty-two miles south of Fort

Starting from Fort Grant he scattered his command, partially obliter-
ating his trail by getting his command upon a heavy, sandy road that ran
north and south but a few miles west of the fort ; under cover of night he
moved north instead of southwest, as he was expected to do. This sandy
road was used by heavy teams hauling copper ore from Globe to Wilcox
on. the Southern Pacific road.

The troops that were put in pursuit from Grant moved west and south-
west, lost the scattered trail and spent two weeks in endeavoring to find
some trace of this lost command.

The commanding officer went to Fort Lowell for supplies and finally
gave up the pursuit in despair.

Notwithstanding troops were on the lookout for Lieutenant Johnson
from Grant, Lowell, Huachuca and Bowie, he was for three weeks as com-
pletely lost as if he had disappeared in a cavern in the earth, or in mid-air.
Instead of going in the direction of Fort Lowell, as he pretended to do, he
reversed his course, struck the Globe and Wilcox road, moved past his own
station (Grant), and within a few miles of it, going north about thirty-five
miles to the crossing of the Gila River, then moved down the river for
about twenty miles, leaving no more trail behind him than a bird in the


air. This skillful movement brought his command a long distance to the
northwest and in a broken, mountainous country.

In this section he concealed his command, moving still further to the
west under cover of the Santa Catarena Mountains and timber and the
darkness of the night with as much celerity and secrecy as an Indian or a
panther. Gradually beai'ing south, in the gray of the morning he passed
to the west and south of Fort Lowell, thus encircling that military post as
he rode rapidly through the town of Tucson, about eight miles from Fort
Lowell, while the occupants of that town were wrapped in blissful slumber.

Knowing he would be pursued by troops from Lowell he made rapidly
to the southwest for twenty-five miles to the Santa Rita Mountains, where
he again scattered his command and by a series of false movements, decoys
and skillful maneuvers, threw his pursuers off his trail and threatened
Fort Huachuca, and while pretending to circle that post to the south he
suddenly disappeared and, moving west a good distance, made a forced
march across country and surprised Fort Bowie.

Under the rule he was allowed to remain ten days for rest. The
colonel commanding Fort Huachuca reported this young officer as having
disregarded his orders and that he had not circled that post, little thinking
that the maneuvers were intended as a blind.

After quietly resting ten days Lieutenant Johnson apparently made all
preparations to move north from Bowie to Grant. After leaving the
former post he suddenly reversed his course and moving rapidly and
secretly across the country, succeeding in getting his command within a
thousand yards of the flagstaff of Fort Huachuca, surprised and captured
the post and garrison of six troops of cavalry.

It is needless to say that the chagrin and envy felt by the officers of the
garrison was very great, for they were a proud, spirited and enterprising
class of men. In fact, the feeling amounted almost to hostility against this
officer, though they were very gracious to him and extended to him every
civility and hospitality during his stay of ten days for rest and recuperation.

He had still a most difficult problem to solve. He was more than one
hundred miles from his own station, and when once he started from
Huachuca he was sure to be pursued by the picked troopers from that
garrison, and in addition to this he must contend against the vigilance of
those on the lookout from Bowie and Grant, for he must return to his own
post either as victor or captive.

After a good rest and ample time to study the maps and topography of
the country between Huachuca and Grant, Lieutenant Johnson marched


out at twelve o'clock, noon, for his movement against Fort Grant. Under
the rule he was allowed eighteen hours before he could be pursued six
hours of day and twelve hours of night.

Sleuth hounds never tugged harder at the leash, thoroughbred racers
never champed the bit with more impatience than did those Fourth
Cavalry troopers to be set loose on the trail or in pursuit of the successful
raiders, while there was the wildest excitement concerning its success on
the part of the pursued party, and the most intense enthusiasm on the
part of the pursuers. Fortunately the command was entrusted to an able
and experienced cavalry officer, Captain A. Wood, who demonstrated his
skill and good judgment, who instead of following the circuitous trail and
false maneuvers, with the disadvantage of a stern chase, moved directly
across country by a forced march of seventy miles to a pass in a range of
mountains that he believed Lieutenant Johnson would pass through but
not where any of his trails would indicate he was going. Towards this
gap Captain Wood's troop marched at a rapid pace and reached it as the
sun was low in the afternoon. Now the thing to be accomplished was to
find if Lieutenant Johnson's command was concealed in the vicinity.

In these maneuvers it was not uncommon for the commanding officer
to bribe the citizens to make false reports, or to give them erroneous
information in order that they might convey the same misleading intelli-
gence to their pursuers.

Lieutenant Johnson had evidently missed one civilian for, as Captain
Wood was looking for signs of the pursued party or for some trace of the
raiders, he discovered a lone missionary traveling through that country,
who, on being questioned whether he had seen anything of a command of
soldiers, stated that he had passed a small company just going into camp
in a little pocket of the mountains about five miles away. This was
a revelation and a boon for this accomplished cavalry leader and within
a very short time his bugles sounded the command for Lieutenant John-
son's surrender after his very long and very successful raid.

Thus, Captain Wood's good j udgment, enterprise and hard ride of seventy-
five miles was rewarded with most gratifying and most creditable success.

This ended one of the most skillful of the interesting practical field
maneuvers. Lieutenant Johnson is a fair representative of those Vir-
ginians like Stuart, Ashby and other brillant cavalry leaders. He in-
formed me that while a part of his plan was to capture the department
commander, in which he was, however, not successful, he believed if he
could destroy the telegraph lines he could make a successful raid from

M. 82



Arizona to the Atlantic seaboard and avoid the troops in the intermediate
districts of the country.

It is to be regretted that the untimely death by a cruel and painful
disease has deprived the service of so accomplished an officer as Captain
Wood, whose record, during the great war, on the Western frontier and in
the field of military literature was most creditable and valuable.

The results attained in this field maneuvering were most pleasing.
The excellent judgment and intelligence displayed by the commanding
officers of the districts of observation in the disposition of their troops,
the use made of the means of observation and communication, the zeal
and skill exhibited by officers in the field, and the very great interest
taken in these operations by the troops, were all most gratifying.





Online LibraryNelson Appleton MilesPersonal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire → online text (page 46 of 51)