Thursday, January 21, 2016

The last Apache Scouts by Tomahawk

Here is an excerpt from the Tomahawk Scout Field manual. If you are interested in the book, you can purchase it as a print on demand book at this link;

With an Introduction by Snake Blocker a fellow warrior and scout of the 1st order.

The last Apache Scouts, In 1922 the last U.S. Army Indian scouts were sent from Fort Bowie, AZ to Fort Huachuca, these Scouts lived in and worked all over the Huachuca Mountains in the same stomping grounds that I have camped and hiked in over the past few years. On Post , you can still visit the Scout camp along Huachuca creek where they had their wikiups set up for their respective families. It is a pretty spot with many large Native Sycamore and oak trees with beautiful views of the surrounding hills.

I have parked my car there many times to stretch out before a run up and down the Canyon trails, it is one of my favorite spots on base and I can understand why the Indian Scouts like it too. I have seen and held in my hands a Sharps carbine rifle(the same one Sinew is holding in the picture) that belonged to Staff Sergeant Sinew J. Reilly who was the highest ranking Non Commissioned Officer(NCO) for the Scouts. This rifle was in the possession of a friend of mine for safe keeping, as I held it I could feel the history of it in my hands and I could imagine SSG Reilly with it across the front of his McClellan army saddle (Model 1903 tree), as he rode the Mountain trails. It was an interesting bit of American history to behold.

The red head band worn by the Apache Scouts came about because in the 1880s the Army was looking for distinctive color for head bands to more easily identify friendly scouts from hostile Indians. The Army Chief of Scouts chose White, but the only color available in the sutlers store at the time was red, so each Army scout was issued 1 yard of red flannel for his head band. The U.S. Army Apache scouts wore their red head bands as a badge of honor and were proud of their skill and ability to sneak up on the enemy Indians while wearing this bright color.

Other than perhaps the odd Apache running around, hostiles were not known to wear red head bands. Unlike the claims of certain “survival experts”, wild or bronco Apaches did not wear red head bands. That claim is simply not true.

A few years ago I was yarnin' with a retired Army Colonel from Fort Huachuca who actually knew the scouts when they were here in Arizona. I was told by the Colonel that the Scouts were sometimes hard to locate in the Mountains due to their disdain for radios, at times a rider had to be dispatched to track them down. The scouts were used for many different missions on base during the ww2 era and it was the last war time service seen by official Army Indian scouts.

The last Apache scouts were promoted and then retired from service in 1947; some of them had served the army for 40 years or more.

I enjoy reading the colorful names like "Sgt. Chicken", "Chow Big" , or "Short Bread" , these names and stories about the old scouts reminds me of the Native peoples I have encountered around the world. All Native peoples seem to possess a wonderful sense of humor and come up with colorful descriptive names for things and each other.

It does not take much imagination to figure out why "Chow Big" was called that, I'm sure he could pack away the chow. Probably not unlike the Nepalese Ghurkas or Aeta Negritos I have worked with. I have seen these little guys eat in a single meal an amazing amount of rice and canned meats then top it off with local fruits and veggies etc. , way more food then I would consume in an entire day.

Being from Arizona and having lived in "Apacharia" for the past several years, specifically in the Huachuca mountains where these scouts lived and worked, I can better appreciate them and their abilities more than most folks. I have walked the same trails and drank from the same streams and camped in the same side canyons as these old scouts .

There were many times when I was Camped alone in the Huachuca mountains on a cold clear winter night, sitting around my small Apache style star fire, I swear that I could hear them shouting to me "HadĂ­nyaa Ndeen~ we are still here, Aheeya!",

I sincerely hope the ghosts of these old scouts are still up there in the Huachucas' and they continue to move about like the wind.

A little info on the scouts:

Working in the hills and through the rough country surrounding Fort Huachuca in Arizona are eight men--eight of the most unique soldiers in the wide flung armies of the United States of America. These men are Apaches, the last of the remnant of the Apache scouts attached to the army. They have served Uncle Sam valiantly in the past, and in the present crisis stand ready to do so again. Although their numbers are fewer, their courage and skill remains the same as it was in the days of the Indian Wars when they helped the United States Army battle enemy tribes.

Among the innumerable enactments framed to regulate and renovate our Army is a small passage almost lost in sweeping changes far more vital. This is the act which abolishes the Indian Scout Service on the death or retirement of the remaining members stationed at Fort Huachuca. Their history and the history of their fathers who served the Army before them is a moment of loyalty and courage.

In the Indian Wars the United States Army found itself blocked at every turn. There was no way for them to fight a pitched battle. Those wily, almost intangible red men raided in large parties and escaped by seeming to vanish into thin air. So repeatedly outstanding and successful were their feats that General Nelson Miles, eventually their conqueror, found it difficult to obtain Officers for his staff who did not believe that Apaches were almost impossible to defeat.

The Apaches in the southwest were divided in their opinion of the white man. Some were for him, some against him. It was among the former that the Army obtained recruits for the Scout Service. In almost every case these Scouts were highly intelligent and excellent physical specimens. Some of the accounts of their endurance and tracking skill are almost incredible.

Slowly and patiently the Scouts began teaching the white soldiers the tricks of the trail. They explained the nature of the country and where the most likely hiding places were. They taught them which were the best methods of attacking an Indian stronghold, how to take cover and where to find the all important water. As their influence and teaching spread, the success of the renegades dwindled and faded until finally they were under complete control.

After this was accomplished, there was still plenty for the Scouts to do. Occasional bands of Indians, maddened by whiskey, left the reservation to terrorize the countryside. Children were lost, or parties of pioneers were attacked. Gradually however, as the country became more settled their importance did decrease and most of them left the service.

Then came World War I, Once more the scouts came into prominence by reason of their singular ability to do a job no one else could do. As they were not citizens, the Indians were not drafted under the laws of 1917. But no sooner was the call to arms issued than well over 12,000 of them volunteered for service. Many of them, it is true, came to the recruiting offices dressed in war paint, wearing feathers and carrying flintlocks, but there was a gleam in their eyes and a spring in their step and Army Officers were eager to get them into their regiments.

Many of the Indians could not speak English, and they were used as message carriers in the war. The few who could speak English remained at vantage points behind the lines. The carrier Scouts memorized the message they were to deliver.

If they fell into enemy hands it was impossible for them to divulge their communication in a tongue the enemy could translate. There were many excellent codes and methods of communication, but the messages of highest importance were delivered by Indians because their vital content would spell disaster in enemy hands and could not be trusted to ordinary communication channels.

The Apache Scouts worked hand in hand with the Indians of other tribes who were enlisted in the services of the Signal Corps as telephone operators to further confuse the enemy.

After World War I however, there was little for the Scouts to do. In all of the occupations offered by the Army, there wasn't one that the Scouts were particularly suited for. At home the frontiers had been conquered. Their native Arizona was cut by broad highways and ribbons of railroad. The land they had once scouted for hostile Indians was now bristling with growing towns, industry, commerce and agriculture. Their number dwindled. The remaining lived out their days as fire and game wardens, cutting trails and cleaning brush at the picturesque old Army Post at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Occasionally the staid routine was broken by visiting photographers or high ranking Officers and the Scouts would deck themselves out in their war paint and feathers and long haired wigs.

After the Officers were gone and the pictures had been taken they shed their colorful trappings, put on overalls and denims and once again picked up their picks and shovels. And then, thousands of miles away the little yellow men in screaming engines of destruction roared down from the skies to embroil the Unites States in another war.

Fort Huachuca snapped to attention. A new division was activated. Millions of dollars were allotted for its expansion, as it was found to be vital to the defense of America. And now--once again-- the Scouts have been assigned to a task which they can do better than anyone else.

First, in the Indian Wars their grandfathers did a job no one else could do. In the World War their fathers, heroically and with valor did a job few could do. And now at Fort Huachuca the Scouts are the guardians of the Post. Patrolling with eyes ever alert and piercing they watch the countryside, every ravine of which is familiar to they as the uniforms they wear. They are supplemented throughout the nation by their Indian brothers, not Scouts, but enlisted men who are being used as radio operators, their strange picturesque language once again confusing the enemy.

From an overturned pebble, from a bent blade of grass, from a dim track in the sand these men of our Army can draw the picture of what has gone before. Little escapes their searching eyes. War wise Army Officers, replete with data, topographical maps and aerial photos of the country turn often to the Scouts for accurate information.

An insignificant job in such a far flung war effort? Perhaps. But so was that of the first few scantily clad savages the Army put into service as Scouts. These "clumsy, untrustworthy heathens" won the war for us then. The information that Indians were to be used in World War I as message carriers because they couldn't speak English brought a knowing twinkle to the eyes of those who thought perhaps the Army had its tongue in its cheek. A little while later, as the news filtered in, it was that these "war whoops" were doing a workmanlike job of saving the Army men, money and material--and doing a bang-up job of distinguishing themselves for bravery under fire at the same time.

Today, in the mechanized age of war, the news that Indians who can track a month old trail over burning desert and rocky mountains are serving in our forces may only bring a smile or a shrug, but as before, when the time and place is found, these "relics of a vanished age" will do their job quietly and better than anyone else can do it. ".... and Only Eight Remain.

"Geronimo!" is today the battle cry of the US parachute troops as the swing beneath their white silk chutes on their way to behind-the-lines fighting. But once the name of the Apache Chief stood for bloody massacres, fierce Apache raids the last great Indian War. Once Army cavalrymen patrolled Arizona valleys so that settlers could work their farms.

Once friendly Apache Scouts helped protect a string of forts through the Arizona Territory, helped the Army in its 1886 roundup of hostile tribes.

Of the famous Indian Scouts, only eight remain. Today at the same Fort Huachuca that once was an important protection for Arizona, they carry no messages through the wilderness, for the telephone and radio are faster. They do no scouting, for observation planes cover miles to their yards. But they repair fences, act as game wardens, keep up the trails, recover strayed livestock, act as fire wardens.

The eight who remain are Sergeant Sinew L. Reilly, William Major, Aliejo Quintero, Corporal Antonio, Jess Billy, Kessay Y-32, Andrews Payson and Jim Lane. Many are third generation army scouts. All are part of the 25th Infantry regiment, but live with their families in a row of adobe houses they built for themselves at Fort Huachuca (pronounced Wha-choo-ka).

Although the Walky-Talky radio is one of the modern inventions that have helped make the Apache scouts technologically "unemployed," they hold no animosity to such mechanisms, and are greatly interested in the portable transmitting-receiving sets that a single soldier can carry on his back.

And although the Apaches, in the days of Chiefs Cochise, Victorio, Juh and Geronimo were known for "unsurpassed cunning and pitiless ferocity," today all of the once wild tribe are famed for agricultural ability, thrift, and ingenious basket making. No longer can a young Indian enlist as a scout, as did the eight at Huachuca, but there is still a place for the original Americans in the army. Their faces can be seen at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where Geronimo died, at Fort Benning, Georgia, where Comanches in the Signal Corps talk a radio language no fifth columnist is ever likely to learn.

**fifth columnist - A clandestine subversive organization working within a country to further an invading enemy's military and political aims.

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