Apache Indians attacking the train and party, Henry Cheever Pratt, 1851, in Bartlett II, f412.

Initially, most Apaches welcomed the Americans to the Pimería Alta, as victors in the Mexican-American War. They seemed pleased to meet these warriors who had sailed and marched all the way to Mexico City to defeat their longtime enemy in the heart of their homeland. But when unscrupulous Americans traded weapons and ammunition to them in exchange for stolen Mexican property, they may have mistaken the behavior for solidarity. Americans had been able to brush off accounts of American complicity in the Apache raids on Tucson in 1851 and 1852 as anecdotal, but records from the Santa Rita copper mines and Santa Fe just two years earlier show that Indian Agent James S. Calhoun complained to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs that Americans were illegally trading arms and ammunition to hostile tribes in exchange for livestock and captured Mexican citizens. Cremony describes in some detail the recovery of Inez Gonzales, a “young and handsome girl” who had been kidnapped by Apaches and bartered to a band of American traders. The men admitted they were among about fifty who had been “acquiring female captives of attractive persons” and livestock from Apaches. Cremony thought it likely that weapons and gunpowder were at least part of the currency used in the traders’ exchanges. When the head of the United States Boundary Commission, John R. Bartlett, found her, he removed the girl from their custody and bluntly advised the men their continued presence at Santa Rita del Cobre placed them in “imminent danger.” The traders left promptly, and the child remained with the Boundary Commission party until it passed through Santa Cruz three months later, when she was restored to her family.[1]

The Gadsden Purchase Treaty of December 1853 abrogated Article XI of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which had required the United States to “forcibly restrain” Apaches from raiding in Mexico, and to punish such raids, when found, “with equal diligence and energy, as if the same incursions were meditated or committed within its own territory, against its own citizens.” Yet this rescinding of the legal obligation to take responsibility for Apache raids into Sonora was not universally seen as a license to disregard the vulnerable situation of Arizona’s neighbor. When an anonymous Tucson contributor to the Daily Alta California complained that a local army officer had made an agreement with an Apache band to accommodate their raiding — as long as they spared Americans, the writer was likely complaining about Major Samuel Heintzelman and the Cerro Colorado Mine in Arivaca, or Fort Buchanan’s Richard Ewell and Richard Lord, who also had stakes in local mining. According to Arizonian editor Edward Cross, the uniformed managers of the Cerro Colorado, and possibly the Salero Mine in Patagonia, were not only turning a blind eye to Apache raiding incursions into Sonora, but were actively provisioning the raiders as they passed through.[2]

If Cross’s claim were true, the officers could always counter that they did so to protect all American settlement. But the unfortunate agreement, if it existed, would have been worthless: Apache raiders cleaned out the herds of the officers’ mine several times anyway. As Cross pointed out in another Arizonian editorial, facilitating Apache raiding into Mexico was not only an affront to Sonorans, but bad policy. Bribing or provisioning the Apache was clearly ineffective, and so many Arizonans had begun trading with the raiders for stolen Sonoran property that they’d created a new problem: Sonorans had begun riding north of the border to recover their property — or its equivalent — from the Americans who had received it. The current arrangement, argued Cross, was “nothing more nor less than legalized piracy upon a weak and defenceless State, encouraged and abetted by the United States government . . . With such a condition of things we shall loose more property by Mexicans than Indians, and with far less chance of regaining it.”[3]

[1] Edwin R. Sweeney, “‘One of Heaven’s Heroes’: A Mexican General Pays Tribute to the Honor and Courage of a Chiricahua Apache,” Journal of Arizona History 36, no. 3 (Autumn 1995): 229n.1. Samuel S. Calhoun to Col. W. Medill, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Santa Fe, New Mexico, October 15, 1849; to Orlando Brown, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 15 and May 10, 1850. In United States. Office of Indian Affairs. The Official Correspondence of James S. Calhoun While Indian Agent at Santa Fe and Superintendent of Indian Affairs in New Mexico . . . Annie Heloise Abel, ed. Washington, D. C.: GPO, 1915; 51, 160-61, 196-97. John C. Cremony, Life Among the Apaches (San Francisco: A. Roman and Co., Publishers, 1868), 53-56 (quotes 53, 54).

[2] The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Article XI (quotes). The Gadsden Purchase Treaty, Article II. Daily Alta California, July 22, 1859. Weekly Arizonian, April 28, May 5, 1859. Army personnel investing in businesses where they were stationed was apparently not unusual. While in command in San Diego, Heintzelman bought several beachfront lots, and when posted to Yuma he purchased shares in two competing ferry companies, the Colorado Ferry Company and, about six miles downstream, the Pilot Knob Ferry. As early as 1855, Heintzelman had invested in the Texas Western Railroad, and the following year he was one of the founders of, as well as the director of and a major investor in, the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company. There was a silver vein in the Sonora Company’s Cerro Colorado Mine on Arivaca Ranch often referred to as the Heintzelman, and the mine itself came to be called the Heintzelman Mine. Captain Ewell and Lieutenant Richard S. C. Lord had both invested in the Sonora Company’s Patagonia mine. Diane M. T. North, ed. Samuel Peter Heintzelman and the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1980), xii, 10, 11, 15, 24-25, 39. Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army . . . vol. 1, 57th Cong., 2nd sess., 1903, H. Doc. 446 (Washington, D. C.: GPO, 1903), 521. Richard Stoddert Ewell to Elizabeth Ewell, Fort Buchanan, New Mexico, August 10, 1858. In Percy Gatling Hamlin, ed., The Making of a Soldier: Letters of General R. S. Ewell (Richmond, Va.: Whittet and Shepperson, 1935), 84-86.

[3] Weekly Arizonian, April 28 (quotes), May 5, 1859. Sonora Exploring and Mining Company, Fourth Annual Report of the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company, Made to Stockholders, March 1860 (New York: W. Minns and Co., 1860), 15. Quoted in Joseph F. Park, “The Apaches in Mexican-American Relations, 1848-1861,” Arizona and the West 3, no. 2 (Summer 1961): 144n50. Pumpelly argued that even Indian agents were involved in trading weapons, alcohol, and government property to Apache raiders in exchange for stolen Mexican stock. It’s difficult, though, to imagine Michael Steck involved in such activities. Given the empathy he exhibited for the Mescaleros, it seems unlikely he would have had less for the beleaguered Sonorans. Raphael Pumpelly, Across America and Asia, 5th ed. (New York: Leypoldt and Holt, 1871), 35-36. As early as 1857, an anonymous correspondent to the Daily Alta California had documented a rumor that Major Enoch Steen not only encouraged brokering deals with the raiders, but recommended that his soldiers defend them if Mexican victims pursued them into The States. (December 29, 1857). Phocion R. Way, “Overland via ‘Jackass Mail’ in 1858,” part 3, ed. William A. Duffen, Arizona and the West 2, no. 3 (Autumn 1960): 281, 282, 289. North, ed., Samuel Peter Heintzelman, 40-41, 88, 108, 110-11, 123, 135-36, 161-62. For the complexity of Apache relations with Sonora and Chihuahua, see Edwin R. Sweeney, Cochise, Chiricahua Apache Chief (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991); Edwin R. Sweeney, “’I Had Lost All’: Geronimo and the Carrasco Massacre of 1851,” Journal of Arizona History 27, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 35-52; Max L. Moorhead, The Apache Frontier: Jacobo Ugarte and Spanish-Indian Relations in Northern New Spain, 1769-1791 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968), 124; and Robert C. Stevens, “The Apache Menace in Sonora, 1831-1849,” Arizona and the West 6, no. 3 (Autumn 1964): 214-18.