1872 was the year of General George Crook's famous expedition into the Apache stronghold known as the Tonto Basin. Crook's command was guided by several well-known Indian fighters, among them: Al Sieber, Archie McIntosh, Joe Felmer, Augustus A. Spear, Willard Rice, John Benjamin Townsend, Lew Ellit, Dan O'Leary, and Ed Clark. In late December, 1872, a detachment of troops led by Major William J. Brown trapped and killed 82 Apaches in the Salt River Canyon, 35 miles northeast of present-day Globe, Arizona. Another detachment led by Captain George M. Randall killed 60 Apaches on Turret Mountain, a peak located near the confluence of the Verde and East Verde Rivers. Shortly thereafter, Randall's command captured the famous Apache chief Delshay with his entire band. For the first time in history, the Apache tribes of western and central Arizona were broken in defeat. The survivors were soon placed on reservations.
Unfortunately, the reservations brought together groups of Apaches who had been traditionally hostile to each other. At San Carlos (which had replaced Camp Grant in 1872), the situation quickly deteriorated as the Apaches were fragmented into two factions; a more conservative group led by Eskiminzin and a militant, still-hostile faction led by Delshay, Chunz, and Cochinay. In 1873, the hostile bands broke out of San Carlos and melted into the mountains. War parties led by Chunz, Cochinay, Delshay, and Chandeisi devastated the Arizona frontier. (One of the victims of the 1873 uprising was the famous Indian fighter and scout, John Benjamin Townsend.) The following year, Eskiminzin himself fled from the reservation.
The summer of 1874 was marked by the death of the legendary Cochise in his beloved mountains. On June 8, 1874, Cochise passed away in the rugged Dragoon Mountains. The greatest of the Apache chiefs was now dead. The summer of 1874 also witnessed General George Crook's second expedition against the Apaches of western and central Arizona. Crook's 1874 campaign resulted in the deaths of several prominent war chiefs, including Delshay, Chunz, Chapo, Cochinay, and Chandeisi.)
On August 8, 1874, another man of peace came to Arizona. John Philip Clum, who arrived at San Carlos that hot August day, proved to be the best agent the Apaches ever had. The Indians quickly learned to trust this new Indian agent. (Clum was assisted in his efforts by Clay Beauford, the chief of Indian police. Beauford, whose real name was Welford Chapman Bridwell, was an ex-Confederate veteran who joined the U.S. Fifth Cavalry after the Civil War. During his service with the Fifth Cavalry, Beauford won the Medal of Honor.)
By the spring of 1875, most of the hostile Apaches of western and central Arizona were
either dead or back on their reservation at San Carlos. Crook was now the most successful and experienced Indian fighter in the United States Army. That spring, General George Crook was transferred back east to fight the Sioux and Cheyenne. His replacement as commander of the Department of Arizona was General August V. Kautz. (August Kautz distinguished himself in the Civil War by his capture of the famous Confederate cavalryman, John Hunt Morgan. After the war, he served on the military commission that convicted Booth's accomplices in the assassination of Lincoln.)
The Apaches of the Tonto Basin had been thoroughly defeated by General Crook. The U.S. Government now turned its attention toward the Chiricahuas and the other Apache tribes living near the headwaters of the Gila River. In 1876, an attempt was made to move the Chiricahua tribe to the reservation at San Carlos. As a result, most of the Chiricahuas went on the warpath. The Gila River country was soon swept by a wave of violence. War parties led by Juh, Nolgee, and Geronimo attacked ranchers and settlers throughout southern Arizona. No white man was safe in this part of the country. (Unfortunately, it would be another 10 years before these Apaches were finally defeated.) 1876 also marked the death of the famous mountain man Joseph Reddeford Walker. He passed away on October 27, 1876, at Manzanita Ranch, California.
In the spring of 1877, a number of prominent Apache chiefs were captured by John P. Clum at the Warm Springs Agency. This was one of John Clum's last official acts as Indian agent for the San Carlos Apaches. In July, Clum resigned. That September, the Mimbres and Chiricahua Apaches broke out of the San Carlos reservation. The renegades were led by two famous war chiefs, Victorio and Loco. The following summer, a number of Apaches led by Geronimo, Ponce, and Francisco also left the reservation. These Indians crossed the border into Mexico, where they joined the hostile bands of Juh and Nolgee. Plainly, the reservation system was not working. The Chiricahua nation would have to be broken first.
In the spring of 1878, General Orlando Bolivar Wilcox replaced August Kautz as commander of the Department of Arizona. The change of command did not alter the military situation in southern Arizona. The Apaches continued to raid throughout the territory. Several military expeditions were mounted to search for the various hostile bands. (It was during one of these expeditions that two promising cavalry officers met their deaths in the Chiricahua Mountains. On July 11, 1878, 1st Lieutenant Austin Henely and 2nd Lieutenant John Anthony Rucker were caught in the White River Canyon during a flash flood and drowned.)