April 30, 2016 is the 145th anniversary of an oft-forgotten assault on members of the Apache and Yavapi tribes of modern Arizona. These individuals, taking up the offers of peace made by President Ulysses Grant’s administration, had surrendered to the U.S. Army garrison stationed at Camp Grant – near Tucson. By 1871, about 500 people had surrendered to Lieutenant Royal Whitman, the commanding officer of the camp. Among these were a few important Apache, including Chief Eskiminzin, a prominent proponent of peace in the tribe. Lieutenant Whitman has been generous with the surrendering people; he provided rations and put the Apache and Yavapi into a camp along the Aravaipa Creek. The creek gave them access to fresh water and allowed them to grow some of their own food. Everything seemed to be going well.
However, many people were unhappy about President Grant’s policy and wanted to wipe the Apache and their allies off the land. On the morning of April 30, a group of 54 men from Tucson decided to take matters into their own hands. They rode to the camp on the Aravaipa where they met 92 Tohono O’odham allies. The Tohono rode into the sleeping camp and, using knives, clubs, and machete, started to attack the people there. Anyone who escaped was shot at by the men from Tucson, led by a man named William Oury.
By the time Whitman arrived with his troops, the raiding party had run off, but not before killing between 125 and 144 people, all but eight of them women and children. On top of this, the raiders kidnapped 29 children who were brought to Mexico by the Tohono where they were forced into slavery. When he heard of the massacre, President Grant was furious and declared that if the perpetrators were not brought to trail that he would declare martial law over all of Arizona Territory. In response, Oury, Sideny DeLong, and several others were indicted for murder and, after a six day trial, were found not guilty by a jury after just 19 minutes of deliberation. The feelings of the residence of Tucson were made clear by local newspaper publisher, John Wasson, when he called the Apache “untameable brutes; fit for nothing but slaughter.” This point was made even further when DeLong was elected mayor and Oury, sheriff, shortly after the assault. This attack put an end to peaceful cooperation between American settlers and the Apache which would eventually lead to a long series of wars between the two sides.
Featured Image. Flag of the Yavapi Apache Nation. By Xasartha – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Image 1. Aravaipa Creek. Public Domain.