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The Mescalero Scout of 1867

After bolting from the Fort Sumner Reservation in 1865, the Mescalero Apaches hid themselves in the canyons of the Guadalupe and Sacramento Mountains of southern New Mexico. In small, swift-riding bands their warriors darted from the mountain hideouts to plunder, burn, and kill. Settlers and travelers along the Rio Grande and the Pecos from Texas to north-central New Mexico lived in daily terror of Mescalero raids. Although Fort Stanton played the key role in contending with these Indians, Fort Union mounted one memorable offensive against them.

drawing by Remington
"A Reconnaissance," by Frederic Remington.
Century Magazine, July 1891.

In September 1867 a Mescalero war party ran off 150 head of stock near Mona, in the mountains west of Fort Union. With Troop D, 3d Cavalry, Capt. Francis H. Wilson rode out of Fort Union in pursuit. The trail led south, toward the Mescalero homeland. Reinforced by another troop of the 3d Cavalry from Fort Stanton Wilson now had 107 men. The march led them to forbidding Dog Canyon of the Sacramento Range, then across no the Guadalupes, and finally south into Texas.

The rugged peaks of the Sierra Diablo rise starkly from the desert of West Texas, and here on October 18 Wilson finally caught up with the raiders. He surprised 30 to 40 warriors, dropped 6 in the first fire, and galloped off in pursuit of the fleeing survivors. The cavalrymen kept up the chase for 15 miles, then suddenly stumbled on a winter camp of 300 to 400 Mescaleros. While the women worked frantically to move the winter food supply to safety, the warriors fought off their assailants. For 3 hours the battle raged back and forth in the canyon. Wilson's men took casualties of 7 wounded, but killed or wounded 25 to 30 of the enemy before the Indians dissolved into the mountains.

Wilson led his command to Fort Bliss for supplies and medical attention, then marched back to Fort Union. He arrived on November 12, having covered more than 1,000 miles of mountain and desert in less than 2 months. Although he had dealt the Mescaleros a severe blow, not for more than a decade were they conquered for all time.

Meanwhile, the Kiowas and Comanches once more turned the attention of the Fort Union garrison to the east.


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