‘The border is secure,’ 1877 style

While doing research on Lt. Tony Rucker, whose U.S. Cavalry troop out of Ft. Bowie was responsible for the discovery of mineralization in the Mule Pass Mountains (Bisbee), I came across this interesting article about how little the local populace believed what the federal government had to say.

The article was in the Arizona Weekly Miner out of Prescott, but was reprinted from the Citizen in Tucson, and was datelined Jan. 16, 1877. It reported that Lieut. J.A. Rucker had returned to Camp Bowie, where his Sixth Cavalry unit was stationed, and had reported killing 10 Chiricahua Apaches “on the Chiricahua” instead of 8, as previously reported.

(What “on” the Chiricahua meant is ambiguous. The area south of Fort Bowie had been the Chiricahua Reservation until just a few months earlier. All of the Apaches had moved or had been moved to other reservations, and Geronimo was on the loose, having headed to Mexico rather than San Carlos, so any Chiricahuas on the former reservation likely would have been his hostiles. Or it could have meant the Chiricahua mountain range, long the homeland of that Apache group.)Fort Bowie, 1886

The Citizen also reported that Rucker had captured one Apache boy, livestock, merchandise and Mexican silver coins. “This is really the only successful piece of Indian fighting since Gen. Crook left the Territory,” the paper said. Crook had left Arizona in 1875 to take a command on the Great Plains. He would return in 1882.

It was here that the Citizen took a jab at the government: “At the same time the killing of 10 Indians on the Chiricahua when we have repeatedly been reassured by the highest authority, that there were only 3 Indians out is a little astonishing.”

The paper also said that what was recovered and what was said by the little boy indicated the band was that of Geronimo, “the worst in the Territory.”

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