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The Apache Wars 1849-1886

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The Apache Wars between 1849 and 1886

The Apache wars in the south-west United States were a number of armed engagements between the native American Apache indians and the US army between 1849 and 1886. Before this, the relationship between the Apache and the US was relatively peaceful with both sides getting along reasonably well. However, when thousands of gold miners headed west in 1850 and encroached on Apache territory this changed. Up until now the Apache had just made small raids on settlers and miners for food, horses and other equipment. Sometimes hostages were taken as they could be ransomed later.

The first major battle in the Apache wars was the battle of Cieneguilla in 1854 which resulted in a great Apache victory. Later the same year the US army was victorious at the battle of Ojo Caliente Canyon. In 1861 a group of unidentified indians stole cattle and kidnapped the stepson of a rancher called John Ward in Arizona. Ward sought the help of the US army who sent Lieutenant George Bascom to meet with the Apache leader Cochise and negotiate the return of the cattle and the boy. Cochise knew nothing about this incident but offered to help find those responsible. Bascom did not believe Cochise and arrested him and his family members. Cochise managed to escape with hostages. Both sides were unwilling to exchange hostages who were all subsequently killed. This was the beginning of 11 years of intense fighting.

In 1862 the US army met the Apache leaders Mangas Coloradas and Cochise and their followers at the battle of Apache Pass and during the battle Coloradas was injured. In early 1863 Mangas Colarodas, under a white flag, met with US army leaders at Fort McLane to discuss peace. In a cowardly move, an officer at Fort McLane - Brigadier General Joseph Rodman West - ordered his sentries to kill the Apache leader. Mangas Coloradas was tortured, shot and killed. Obviously, this tragic incident, under a white flag, simply increased the hostility of the Apache toward the United States.

In 1864 the Apache fought in one of the largest battles of the Apache wars, the First Battle of Adobe Wells. Four hundred soldiers fought with more than one thousand Comanche, Kiowa and Apache. After fighting all day the Apache eventually allowed the US army to retreat without opposition.

The Apache wars finally came to an end when the Apache leader Cochise died in 1874 and Geronimo surrendered in 1886.

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