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The University of Texas
at Arlington Libraries

Vol. XV III* No. 2 * Fall 2004

Fort Davis Campaign Map Returns to Texas

By Katherine R. Goodwin

 

Special Collections is pleased to announce the acquisition of a rare manuscript map that formed the basis of the military tactics which ended the depredations in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas by the Apache Chief Victorio in 1880. The map was acquired with the assistance of a Texas collector who saw the need to have this piece of Texas history on Fort Davis, the Trans-Pecos region, and the legendary "Buffalo Soldiers" returned to the state. The map, titled "Map of scouting expeditions from camps at the Chinati Mountains: from Jan 12th to May 12 1880 under the direction of Captains L. H. Carpenter and C. D. Viele, 10th Cavalry," was drawn by Lieutenant William H. Beck of the 10th U.S. Cavalry. The map shows an extraordinary amount of detail in the area west and south of Fort Davis in 1880 as well as the roads, trails, waterholes, and camps that were instrumental in the campaign against Apache insurgents in the region.

The year was 1880 and the Apache Chief Victorio, along with 125 to 150 of his followers, had been raiding back and forth across the Rio Grande pillaging settlements in Chihuahua, New Mexico, and West Texas. Apache raiding parties were among the most formidable foes the Army encountered on the Indian frontier. They were lightly equipped, highly mobile, courageous with great endurance and had complete mastery of guerilla tactics. Their habit was to avoid direct engagement, and they eluded the U.S. and Mexican armies on the border easily. Victorio and his warriors would run from the U.S. Army into Mexico and, in turn, retreat back across the river when Mexican Federales took up the chase. Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson, commanding the District of the Pecos and the 10th U. S. Cavalry, decided to no longer pursue the wily Victorio who always managed to avoid capture on both sides of the international border. However, Grierson, aware that the Indians could not get through the Trans-Pecos region without water, decided to station troops at strategic waterholes and crossings in an attempt to cut off Victorio’s escape route.

On August 3, 1880, after a brief skirmish with the Indians near Alamo Springs by Company H of the 10th Cavalry, Grierson marched northeast with the remainder of his unit to intercept the Apaches near Van Horn’s well. Learning that Victorio had changed directions, Grierson and five companies of the regiment went in pursuit. Traveling on the west side of the mountains parallel to the Indians’ line of march, the men made sixty-five miles in less than twenty-one hours and out-marched their fast moving enemy.

An account of the battle of Rattlesnake Springs reported that "while Captain Nicholas Nolan’s Company A scouted the passes through the mountains, Captain Charles Viele positioned Companies C and G in Rattlesnake Canyon guarding the approaches to the spring there. At two o’clock in the afternoon, Viele’s men opened fire at a distance and halted the cautious advance of Victorio’s warriors. The Indians re-organized and were working their way around the soldiers when Captain Louis H. Carpenter appeared on the scene with companies H and B and drove them back into the hills and arroyos. About 4:00 p.m. Captain Gilmore and the supply train rounded a point of mountains to the southeast. A small party of Indians attacked the wagons, but quickly withdrew under fire from the infantry and cavalry escort. An attempt to scatter the soldier’s pack mules near the springs likewise failed, and Victorio retreated into the mountains."

The encounter convinced Victorio to abandon the Trans-Pecos region and, especially since their supply camp in the Sierra Diablo had been located and destroyed, to flee back across the Rio Grande. On October 15th with the American side solidly defended, Victorio engaged the Mexican forces and was killed in the Tres Castillos Mountains. With Victorio’s death the Indian threat to West Texas ended.

Grierson’s tactic of placing troops at the waterholes, springs, and crossings in the area known to be traveled by Victorio was the determining factor in forcing the Apaches across the Rio Grande and into the hands of the Mexican Federales. The commander made sure the officers in his command were familiar with the locations of the water holes, passes, and Indian campsites from the Guadalupe Mountains to the Rio Grande.

The small, 16" x 13 ¼" manuscript map acquired by Special Collections details the period when the 10th Cavalry was stationed in Texas and engaged the band of the Apache Victorio. The map was drawn in 1880 by Lieutenant William H. Beck, Grierson’s aide-de-camp, and it was done under the direction of Captains Louis H. Carpenter and Charles Viele, officers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry. The purpose of the scouting expeditions during the period of January to May, 1880, depicted on the map, was to locate the waterholes and crossings along the Rio Grande used by Victorio and his men and find a way to prevent the Apaches from exploiting these resources.

The map represents the era of the Indian wars on the frontiers of the American West and, in particular, the efforts of the United States Army in containing the Apache raids in the settlements of Chihuahua, Texas and New Mexico. The history of the region is tied to Fort Davis, the Apaches, and the legendary Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry.

The units were organized by Colonel Grierson in July of 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The regiment was composed of volunteers who were freed slaves from the southern states as well as some veterans from the Union Army. In July of 1867, the unit was moved to Fort Riley, Kansas, where their first duty assignment was to patrol the Kansas and Pacific Railroad. Later that year the unit, under the command of General Phil Sheridan, saw action against Black Kettle and his warriors, one of the Cheyenne’s most respected tribes. During that engagement, Louis H. Carpenter, the Commanding Officer of H Troop, won the regiment’s first Congressional Medal of Honor in a 26 hour fight against an overwhelming enemy force. In addition, the entire 10th Cavalry was cited for gallantry by General Sheridan.

The 10th Cavalry’s next duty station was in Oklahoma Territory where they built the post now known as Fort Sill. It was during this duty that the soldiers fought the Comanches who gave them the name "Buffalo Soldiers." By 1874, the 10th Cavalry was in Texas and fighting Apaches, chiefly Victorio and his band of 125 to 150 warriors.

The map drawn by members of the legendary Buffalo Soldiers and the significance it holds in Texas history makes it a valued addition to the Virginia Garrett Cartographic History Library. Special Collections of The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries is indebted to John Martin Davis, Jr., the Texas collector whose knowledge of the region and its history as well as his generosity made the acquisition possible.

To celebrate the arrival of the map, it will be placed on display during the October 1st and 2nd joint meeting of the Virginia Garrett Lectures in Cartographic History and the annual fall meeting of the Texas Map Society at the Central Library of The University of Texas at Arlington. For more information about the map or the meetings, please contact Kit Goodwin, Cartographic Archivist at 817-272-5329 or goodwin@uta.edu.

 


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