Sunday, January 8, 2017

1947 the last Apache scouts

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 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 the odd  Apache running around, hostiles were not known to wear red head bands. Unlike the claims of certain “survival experts”, wild or bronco Apache scouts 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 Eight 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.

See you on the trail,


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