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WHY APACHES MADE WAR
 

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 OFFICER OBERLY, OF BROOKLYN, TELLS WHAT HE KNOWS ABOUT IT.
 

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It was all owing, he declares, to the Bad Faith and Blundering Ignorance and cruelty of a young West Point Cadet - An illustration of Duplicity Which the Indians Were Not Slow to follow.
 
Few of the residents of Brooklyn who frequent Carroll Park are unacquainted with Park Officer Oberly, or "Obe," as he is generally called, but few have heard of his adventurous life. He is a modest man, who takes particular care of the erratic youngsters while the pretty nursemaids indulge in a slight flirtation; but the way he bounces a somnolent tramp is a caution.
 
A few evenings since a World reporter rambled into the Park and happening to mention something about the Apache war, Oberly's brown eyes flashed with indignation as he exclaimed:
 
"Sir, if it were not for the insensate folly and drunken stupidity of a young West Point cadet there would never have been an Apache war, I was at the first outbreak, and I have seen it."
 
"How is that, Obe?" said the reporter. "What do you know about it?"
 
"I enlisted at the age of thirteen, on the 25th of May, 1840, and served five years in the Fourth Artillery, Company A. I was discharged in 1846 and returned to New York. I did not care for business and reenlisted in the Seventh Infantry, and joined at Corpus Christi, in Texas, under General Taylor. We went from there to the Rio Grande, opposite Matamoras. After the battle of Monterey, when we joined General Scott at Tampico, and thence to Vera Cruz; left Mexico in 1848 and returned to St. Louis. After that I was sent to Florida on the Seminole or Billy Bowlegs campaign; left there in 1849, and was sent to the Indian Nation. In 1858 went to Utah under General Sydney Johnston; thence to Santa Fe, and afterwards to Fort Buchanan, Arizona, in 1860, and was there when the Apache war broke out, so I presume to know of what I speak when I say that outbreak was the result of the outrageous brutality with which the Indians were treated by men who should have known better. When we arrived there in 1860 the Apaches were as well behaved and friendly a tribe of Indians as any in the United states.
 
They were then guarding the Butterfield mail route against the attacks of roving bands, and acted in good faith. Ka Kreese, their head chief, was a splendid-looking man. He stood about six feet two, and was powerfully built. His men were in detachments at each station on the route from Texas to the confines of California. They would guard the coach from one station to the next, where they would meet the return and escort it back to their own station, as so long the entire route."
 
"At this time I held the rank of Color-Sergeant. Lieut. Col. Morrison, of the Seventh,
 commanded the department, and one day a Mexican ranch-owner, who lived nearby, came to Fort Buchanan and complained that some Indians had stolen a herd of ponies and the boy who minded them. He ordered Second Lieutenant Bascom to take sixty men and go to Ka Kreese's headquarters, at Apache Pass, and have a talk with him and see if he would be able to get the ponies and the boy back. He had confidence in him as a friendly Indian and knew he could do better than the troops could do."
 
"Bascom was fresh from West Point and totally unfit to deal with the Apaches. He was well supplied with commissary whiskey, which he used liberally, and when the Butterfield station in Apache Pass was reached, he sent out poor Station-Master Wallace, I'll never forget his name, to the Indian village as an interpreter, to invite the head chief and three or four subordinate chiefs to come to camp and talk the matter over. Shortly after Ka Kreese, his brother, four other chiefs, a women and two little boys came into camp. He had dinner prepared for them, but he had ordered Sergeant Robinson to surround the tent and capture the Indians as soon as they had sat down, in violation of every law of honor and hospitality. When the Indians saw the armed soldiers, with a wild yell Ka Kreese and his brother and another chief cut their way through with their scalping knives. "Shoot them down", yelled Bascom, but only the chief's brother was shot through the leg, and, with the rest in the tent, was taken prisoner. Now bear in mind, these men had done nothing absolutely wrong, and came into camp on a friendly invitation from Bascom and without fear of molestation."
 
"About an hour afterwards Ka Kreese rode up to the top of a peak hard by and ask to only show his brother and all would be well. Bascom's answer was another volley. Ka Kreese raised his hand and swore to be revenged. Wallace remonstrated and pointed out the wrong and said he would be held responsible. Next day Bascom became scared and said to Wallace he had better go see the chief and have matters fixed up. Much against his better judgment, Wallace went, but was never seen again; his actual fate was never discovered and most probably never will be now. His life probably was the first lost in the Apache war."
 
"Bascom became thoroughly unnerved and refused to permit the men to go for water to a spring one hundred and fifty yards from the corral. All day they lay there, parching with thirst; at last Robinson, who was a brave man, said: "Lieutenant, one may better be shot than die of thirst; I will go to the spring." So he did, and brought back a half a dozen canteens filled with the precious fluid. Then he took down a mountain burro, or donkey, and brought back two kegs full. Then Bascom's craven fears were stilled and he ordered the now thirst maddened animals to be led out to water, and they rushed furiously down to drink. Like a flash the entire place was filled with Indians. They seemed to spring from the earth. In a second they had wounded three men and captured every one of the mules, while the air was rent with their yells, the shouts of the soldiers, the crack of their rifles as they rushed to the rescue of their comrades. Robinson was one of the wounded. Sixteen mules only remained. The wounded were suffering dreadfully, so sixteen men volunteered to return to the Fort for the Doctor. Next night they muffled the mules' feet in blankets and stole out of the fatal pass and arrived at Fort Buchanan next afternoon. 
 
The colonel in command sent an express to Fort Breckenridge, where there were troops of dragoons, which were at once ordered to succor Bascom at Apache Pass. "The doctor-Irwin was his name-was an Irishman and a splendid fellow, and at once said his place was with the wounded, and the same sixteen men started back with him to the pass.
 
On their way they captured three Indians and a herd of ponies and brought them to the pass. The dragoons arrived next morning under the command of Lieuts. Moore and Lord and raised the siege of the corral. They then had as prisoners the chief's brother, two other chiefs and the three Indians captured with the ponies. After leaving the pass there is a prairie known as the Round Prairie, in the center of which stands four oak trees as large as any in Carroll Park. It is a favorite camping place and the troops stopped to rest. Bascom wanted to hang the prisoners. Irwin objected and wanted to bring them to the Fort. Finally a pack of cards was borrowed from a soldier and the fate of the poor wretches hung on a game of Seven-up, in which the side for mercy was beaten and the death sentence pronounced. When the prisoners were made aware of their fate they asked to be shot. This was denied and then they asked for "fire water," which was also refused. Men mounted the trees and fastened short-noosed ropes to the branches. While this was going on the Indians sang their death-song and died gamely."
 
"About three months afterwards I started with a train of six wagon-loads of provisions for Fort McLean with and escort of twenty-four men, a wagonmaster and eight teamsters, thirty-three in all. When we reached the Round Prairie I saw where a train of Texas emigrants had been completely destroyed. How many were killed I know not, but all that remained was the iron-work of the wagons. I afterwards heard there were about two hundred slain. We got through Apache Pass without molestation, and camped by Sansamoan Creek, between Apache Pass and Stein's Peak, about twenty-five miles from Sonora. We stayed there next day to recruit the mules before crossing a desert of sixty miles without water. About sundown I was lying under a wagon reading a novel when I was startled by the well-known Indian yell. The men were resting and the teamsters guarding the mules. I hallooed to the men, who jumped to their arms. The prairie was literally alive with Indians. They ran off twenty of my mules and wounded two teamsters. Several of them fell from our fire, but were carried off by their comrades and in a short time had disappeared, leaving us to stare at each other in blank dismay. Next morning I unloaded three of the heaviest wagons and built a small fort. I asked for eight volunteers to stay and guard the property, and left them a box of ammunition. There would be at least four days elapse before relief could be sent to them, and with a heavy heart I started with three wagons, four mules to each, for Stein's Peak. I left the wounded Mexicans in camp. We met some troops from Fort McLean, commanded by Lieutenant Plympton, of the Seventh Infantry. He had under escort a train of fifty two horse wagons of Texan emigrants on the trail to California. He had orders to escort them through Apache Pass and then return. I told him how my men were situated. He said he would leave ten men with them at Sansamoan until his return. I told the Captain of the Texan train, a lank individual with long hair and a big hat, of the dangers of the Pass; that the warpath, and he had better return to the fort. He looked at me superciliously and said, or rather drawled out: "Stranger, how many men did you come through with?'  I told him but reminded him they were disciplined men, and we had neither women nor children with us. "Wall, stranger, we have fifty men that fight besides the youngsters, and if I am put on the other side of Apache Pass I will get to California in spite of h--l.' Further remonstrance was useless and so we parted. Clinton remained a night with them on the camping ground on the Round Prairie and then left for Sansamoan Creek to relieve my men. The Texans remained there until the next day to recruit their teams-and they never left it. That night the Apaches attacked the camp and not a soul to tell the fate of over two hundred men, women and children that composed the train. This occurred within a short distance of where the formed train had been destroyed."
 
"The Butterfield mail route was broken up, thousands of lives lost and millions of dollars spent to remedy the error of a hair-brained cadet of West Point, The Indians became so bold that three weeks afterwards they drove off forty mules within sight of Fort McLean and killed the herders, and it is my firm belief that the Apache War with all it's evils was the direct outcome of Lieutenant Bascom's outrage. I have always wished that the American public could know the real cause of the Apache war.
 
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The above is a typed copy of an interview by Colonel M.L. Crimmins, Ret. Box 63, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. This was obtained from the Manuscript collection of the Arizona Historical Society, Tucson, Arizona.

Written by Arnold Franks
Copyright © 2000 Arnold Franks

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