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     First Lieutenant William Clark Mosby, formally a Brevet Major who served in J.E.B. Stuart’s 1st Virginia Confederate Cavalry Corps was serving out his time at Fort Apache in the Arizona Territory.  The Civil War had ended in the spring of 1865, when Robert E. Lee had surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox courthouse.  With an end to hostilities, the Army of Northern Virginia was dissolved, leaving Major Mosby unattached and available, so the former West Point graduate reluctantly signed on with the victorious Union Army.  As a former belligerent he was given a cool reception by the military brass, and merely offered the reduced rank of Lieutenant.  This was followed by a less than desirable posting to a cavalry unit in the far west.

       Fifteen years later, Mosby was a hardened veteran of the Apache wars that had plagued the southwest for the past quarter century.  Although Victorio and his band of Mimbrenos Apaches had been defeated by the Mexican Army at the battle of Tres Castillos earlier that year, other groups including those under Geronimo were still an active threat.  Raiding across the border from Mexico, they would descend upon ranches, homesteads and small communities to plunder, rape and murder; only to withdraw to the safety of their mountain stronghold in the Sierra Madre Occidental.  Also creating havoc were numerous smaller groups of disaffected Apaches who operated independent of any tribal affiliation.

     If you were to ask Lieutenant Mosby for his opinion about the Apache he would probably say, “They are the scourge of the earth.” In reality, the U.S. government’s approach to all indigenous peoples including the Apache was nothing less than an undeclared genocide.  This was best summed up in the words of General of the Army Philip Sheridan, who purportedly said, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

     The history of the U.S. government’s relationship with the Apache was a series of broken treaties, lies and betrayals.  Meantime, the massive expansion westward of immigrant Americans had dispossessed these native people of their traditional hunting grounds, killed off the buffalo and destroyed other resources that had sustained their way of life. 

      They were forced to occupy reservations which were no more than soul destroying concentration camps.  Life on the reservation was confining to these free ranging hunters of the plains who were reduced to growing corn and beans, and they resented it.  Those who refused to stay on the reservation were labeled renegades, and subjected to a lengthy campaign of extermination.

     When the Apache resisted the theft of their lands, it had necessitated a large military response by the United States and Mexico.  There had been innumerable skirmishes and battles fought over the years with both sides claiming a share in the victories.  One such victory for the plains Indians to the north had occurred four years earlier when one of Mosby’s West Point alumni George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry were massacred by the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana.

     The conflict between the white interlopers and the Apache people was very one sided by virtue of the numbers alone.  When Europeans had arrived in North America they brought with them diseases like smallpox, measles and the flu to which the indigenous people had no immunity.  By some estimates, as many as ninety percent of the native North American population succumbed to these viruses.  With their numbers so sharply reduced, they now faced an endless tide of immigrants moving onto their lands.

      Militarily, the Apache functioned as a formidable mounted force that had the benefit of operating on familiar ground.  But, when one of their warriors was killed or wounded, there were no reserves to call upon to replace them.  In contrast, the U.S. army could bring on more men, horses, ammunition and supplies whenever they were needed.

     Technology also played an important role in support of the U.S. military.  This took the form of railroads, telegraph communication, heliographs and advanced weaponry including repeating rifles, Gatling guns and howitzers.  The military also had the ability to mount extended campaigns against the hostiles by carrying abundant supplies with them by mule train or wagons, whereas the Apache had to hunt or raid to sustain themselves, and had the added burden of protecting their families while fighting the enemy.


     Lieutenant Mosby had been summoned to report to the office of the Commanding Officer.  When he arrived at headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel Miles O’Brian was sitting at his desk shuffling papers, while President Rutherford B. Hays glared over his shoulder from a photograph on the wall.  Mosby, ever the traditionalist and a southern gentleman, clicked his heals together and offered a crisp salute.  He said, “Suh, you wanted to see me?” 

     The Colonel was another of Mosby’s West Point contemporaries.  Two years older than Mosby, the 40 year old Commanding Officer had risen through the ranks while his friend and subordinate had remained in a junior officer’s position.  This had nothing to do with Mosby’s proven capabilities, and everything to do with his late service to the Confederacy.  If this was an issue with Lieutenant Mosby, he kept his thoughts to himself.

     O’Brian commanded the 3rd Cavalry Regiment of black troupers who had been posted to Fort Apache two years earlier.  The 3rd Cav was one of six black regiments formed after 1866 when the Congress passed the Army Organization Act.  Their mission was to help control the unruly plains Indians and protect settlers, wagon trains, stage coaches and railway crews along the expanding western frontier.

     The Apache had named these black cavalry men ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ due to their tight curly hair and ferocious fighting ability, which reminded them of the powerful animal that was central to their wellbeing.  Led by white officers, the Buffalo Soldier’s motto was ‘We can, we will,’ and they were paid $13 dollars a month in exchange for enduring harsh conditions and for constantly putting their lives at risk.  During the Indian wars, 23 of these men were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for gallantry in the field.

     Many of the Buffalo Soldiers were former slaves, and it is ironic that they were fighting to obtain a freedom they had never known, while the Apaches were fighting to hold on to a freedom they had always had.  Also ironic, is the fact that these black cavalrymen, facing their own kind of prejudice from the U.S. government, were tasked with removing another minority group in that government’s name.

     The Colonel invited Mosby to take a seat and then said “There’s a serious problem, and I need your help.” He went on to explain that a telegraph message had been received from the Sheriff in Tucson reporting that a Butterfield Stagecoach had been attacked and destroyed.  Apparently the driver, shotgun guard and three passengers, including one woman had all been killed.  The woman had been treated badly before being killed, and the driver had been tied to one of the coach’s wheels and burned alive.

     The grisly scene had been discovered by other travelers and reported to the sheriff.  There was good reason to believe that the culprits responsible were the same small group of renegade Apaches who had committed other atrocities in the area over the past several months.  The sheriff had organized a posse to chase down the killers, but as usual they had vanished into the endless expanse of the Sonoran Desert.

     The Colonel said that he had been instructed by Command to get the problem sorted out immediately.  He explained to Mosby that in his judgement it wasn’t a job that required a full troop of cavalry, but would be better performed by a smaller group of experienced Indian fighters.  Colonel O’Brian said, “Bill, I want you to take two of your best men and a couple of Indian scouts, and track these bastards down.” 


     Ha-kuh-naiche was concealed amongst some large rocks overlooking the creek bed.  His five Apache companions were also positioned so as to be virtually invisible.  They planned to attack the Butterfield Stagecoach which was throwing up a cloud of dust as it approached in the distance.  The horses would be lathered up and slowing after a hard twenty-mile pull from the last way station.  The narrow ribbon of roadway led right across the shallow creek, where the young Indian knew the stagecoach was usually halted to give the horses a blow and let them drink some water.  It was just an hour from the conclusion of a long journey, and the driver’s guard would likely be down.

     The driver was a grizzled Butterfield veteran who’d driven this route many times before.  He knew the Apaches were on the rampage, but was confident that with the extra armed guard up front there was no reason to worry.  The man riding shotgun was a part time deputy sheriff and a member of the ‘quick reaction posse’ that was occasionally called upon to chase down rustlers or renegade Indians.  The three paying passengers included a haberdasher, the owner of small local ranch, and a pretty young woman who was travelling to begin a new teaching position in Tucson.

     As the stagecoach came to a halt, Ha-kuh-naiche loosed an arrow which struck the shotgun guard in the throat.  He dropped his weapon and slumped into the well of the bench seat.  The stunned driver attempted to urge the team back into motion, but one of the Apaches had darted from concealment and grabbed the reins of the lead horses.  As the driver attempted to pull his pistol, another attacker loomed over the opposite side of the coach and struck him with a club.  A scream issued from within the coach, as the passengers become aware of what was happening.

     One of the passengers emerged with a pistol in his hand, but when three of the attackers swarmed towards him, he panicked and raised his hands in surrender.  One of the Apaches shattered his scull with a rifle butt, while the others leaped into the coach and dragged out the screaming woman.  A third passenger exited through the opposite door of the coach and had attempted to run.  He was now face down in the creek bed with an arrow in his back.  As two of the Apaches tied the disoriented driver to the front wheel of the coach, the others taunted the young woman, and began to rip off her clothing.

     Ha-nuh-naiche gathered up the gun belts and the shotgun, and then opened up the luggage and scattered the contents, looking for anything of value.  The boots had been removed from two of the victims and one of the attackers now wore a stylish new sombrero.  The woman continued to be the center of attention, although the screams had irritated one of the men and he had mutilated her with a knife.  Soon, her anguished life would end, as would that of the stagecoach driver who watching as brush was being piled around him.  He begged for mercy, but the Apaches just laughed.  He might just as well have asked a rattlesnake not to strike.

     The sturdy draft horses were unsuitable as mounts for the Apache, who preferred their own tough ponies that were adapted to the harsh conditions of the desert.  They turned three of the horses loose and led another one away as they departed the scene of murder and debauchery.  The unlucky horse would be butchered later to provide food, once they were in a secure location.  Ha-kuh-naiche knew that once word of the stagecoach attack was reported, there would be a furious response.

     Ha-kuh-naiche and his men rode south towards the Mexican border where any pursuers were unlikely to follow.  They were a formidable group of warriors who had been toughened by a challenging environment; immune to heat, cold, hunger and pain, they were the physical embodiment of stamina and endurance.  Indefatigable.  Now, with additional firearms taken from the stagecoach they could better defend themselves against the Buffalo Soldiers and perhaps even expand their campaign of terror.  After several hours of hard riding they crossed the border near Nogales, then continued south through the rolling hills of the Sonoran county side.


     Ha-kuh-naiche was born in a small Chiricahua encampment in the White Mountains north east of present day Phoenix, Arizona.  His family’s home was an oval shaped wickiup, fashioned from branches and clad with woven grasses and bark.  They were a nomadic people who moved frequently, preferring the cool mountains in summer and the warmer lower environs during the winter.  They ranged throughout the current Coronado National Forest all the way down into northern Mexico.  Due to a multitude of hardships, child mortality was high among the Apache and only the strong survived to adolescence.  Ha-kuh-naiche was an exceptionally healthy, precocious boy who began developing his skill with the bow at the early age of three.

     The Apache were primarily hunter gatherers, but other than satisfying a basic need for food, their main preoccupation was warfare.  They had a different moral perspective towards property rights, theft, torture and killing.  Over the past two centuries they had been in a constant state of conflict with the fierce Comanches who had pushed them from the east, the Spaniards and Mexicans who had pushed them north, and now the Americans who were stealing their land and forcing them onto reservations.  Ha-kuh-naiche and his family had lived for a time on the San Carlos Reservation, but the bad water, unreliable food distribution, daily roll calls and forced labor had discouraged them.  After a short time, they had slipped away and returned to their traditional free ranging lifestyle.

     Living in a harsh environment and under constant pressure from their enemies, the Apache population was in decline.  To augment their numbers they often introduced captives into the tribe.  They had no concept of racial purity and would kidnap Mexican women, or children from other indigenous tribes, even the occasional white child.  All of the male children were trained from an early age to be warriors.  Ha-kuh-naiche participated in his first raid to steal horses as a young teenager.  By the age of twenty he was a seasoned veteran who had developed a passion for raiding and warfare.

     One day he returned from a raid that had taken him deep into Mexico.  His people had been camped in a pine forest near the Sierra foothills.  In his absence, a group of armed men had attacked and killed everyone, including his mother, sister and grandfather.  The killers may have been Mexican soldiers, bandits or even vaqueros from a rancho who were wreaking vengeance for some past deed.  Collectively, they all feared and hated the Apache and took any opportunity to exterminate them.  It was this terrible genocidal act against his family that turned Ha-kuh-naiche into a heartless instrument of revenge.

     After the attack on the Butterfield Stagecoach they had crossed into Mexico and found temporary safe haven in the mountains.  They were a group of disaffected young men with no tribal affiliation, renegades in the true sense whose only purpose was to raid and kill.  After several days of seclusion, boredom was setting in.  Also, they had no proper shelters to sleep in and the early winter nights were getting colder.  It was the time of year when most Apaches had already have moved to the lower, warmer climes.  They finally decided to mount up and slowly made their way north.   There was no sign that anyone had been pursuing them, but they remained vigilant as they had many enemies.

     Ha-kuh-naiche and his followers never attacked an adversary head on, preferring stealth, concealment and surprise; skills which they had in abundance.   In their world there was no shame in making a strategic withdrawal, although they would never go up against a larger force, or even one where they were evenly matched.  Instead, they would wait until they had a clear advantage and then strike hard without hesitation.  Hu-kuh-naiche carried a Colt six-shooter as well as the bow that he was proficient with.  One of his men had an 1873 Winchester carbine and the others an assortment of pistols and one shotgun.  A few of them carried war clubs, and they all had knives.  Replacing spent ammunition was always a challenging problem.

     Two days later they were observing a secluded homestead several miles outside of Tucson.  Smoke was drifting from the chimney and there was the tantalizing smell of food cooking.  Soon it would be dark, and having secured the horses they planned to approach cautiously and surround the building.  When the man of the house eventually emerged to visit the outhouse, they would silence him with an arrow and then burst through the unlocked door to the house.  Inside, the woman and two small children would be terrorized and easy to overcome.  It was a timely opportunity for the raiders to acquire much needed food, blankets and additional firearms.


     Lieutenant Mosby returned to his quarters reflecting on the orders he had been given by his Commanding Officer.  O’Brian had told him to track down the renegades, to follow their trail where ever it took him.  If they had to cross into Mexico, so be it.  But the search must appear to be unofficial, so there could be no uniforms or anything that might point towards the U.S. military.  Avoiding contact with any Mexican authorities was essential.  Mosby was warned that if things went sideways, the U.S. government would disavow any knowledge of their activities.  That said, he was instructed to take whatever steps he deemed necessary to find the killers and ‘eliminate the problem.’

     He had already decided on the two men he would take with him.  Sergeant Woodruff was one of the Buffalo Soldiers who had distinguished himself in several actions against the Apache.  He was tough, dependable and a natural born soldier.  The second man, Corporal Clayton shared these attributes.  Both had several years of experience on the frontier and were excellent horsemen.  Mosby called the men to his quarters and explained the orders.  Any qualms these black soldiers may have had about serving under a former Confederate officer had long since been resolved.  They knew without question that Mosby was the best officer in the Regiment.  They listened to Mosby without any show of emotion, knowing full well the dangers they would be facing.  After a short discussion about logistics, both men departed to make preparations.  

     The Chief of Scouts had been briefed by the Commanding Officer and was expecting Mosby’s visit.  He had already selected two Tarahumara Indian trackers that he recommended as being his very best.  The Tarahumara people lived in Barrancas del Cobre, a deep canyon located in the rugged wilderness of the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico.  The verdant semi-tropical canyon is a patchwork of cultivated fields and homesteads of the prosperous tribe.  These peace loving people had been preyed upon by the Apaches for centuries.  The young men of the tribe were renowned for their extraordinary ability as trackers, and were strongly motivated to apply this skill in the war against their ancient enemy.

     The next morning, riding at the head of his small column, Lieutenant Mosby shouted the order, “Scouts out.”  Even here, in the immediate vicinity of Fort Apache he planned to exercise caution, and would let the Indian scouts lead by a quarter mile to flush out any unwelcome contact.  It would be a hard sixty mile ride to reach the location where the stagecoach had been attacked, and although the trail would be cold by now, it was the only point of reference with which to begin the pursuit.  Mosby expected that the renegades had high tailed it across the border, intending to keep their heads down for a while.  Wherever these killers were hiding, he would find them.  It was just a matter of time.

     Lieutenant Mosby rode tall in the saddle.  At 38 years of age he was in his prime, hardened by years of service along the southwest frontier.  He was riding a horse and saddle obtained from the outfitter‘s stable, that didn’t have a cavalry brand on it.  Dressed in a buckskin jacket and a Stetson hat, he looked every bit the local rancher.  He felt a little naked without his cavalry sabre, but he had a rather large knife strapped to his belt, which he thought of as Roman gladius, although one of the men had humorously referred to it as an ‘Arkansas toothpick.’  A pair of binoculars hung around his neck, and in the saddle holster he carried an 1873 .44 lever-action Winchester rifle.  The Colt six-shooter at his hip was of the same calibre, and the 40 rounds of ammunition in his possession were interchangeable with both weapons.

     The Sergeant and Corporal were also dressed in civilian fashion, and each of them carried the same weapons as Mosby.  Both men led a heavily laden mule by a long rope.  The mules carried food and supplies consisting of coffee, bacon and biscuits as well as camp gear, two tents and a substantial supply of oats for the horses.  Each mule was also fitted with a double sided water satchel which could be topped up before entering a particularly dry desert area.  The army used mules because of their ability to perform work and withstand hardships that horses and donkeys were incapable of.  With these animals in tow, the riders wouldn’t be able to proceed at a gallop, although they could manage a sustained pursuit with some degree of comfort.

     When they arrived at the site of the burned out stagecoach, they found that all the tracks had been trampled by the Sheriff’s posse.   The scouts began to search the whole area in an ever increasing circle.  They discovered there had been six riders with unshod ponies, and they had covered the hooves with rawhide to try to obscure their trail.  After leaving the scene, they had split into three groups of two riders each.  Initially heading in different directions, they eventually circled, regrouped and then headed south towards the Mexican border.  Mosby decided it might be useful to ride into Tucson and speak with the Sheriff.  They were informed upon arrival that the Sheriff and his posse had just left town an hour earlier.  Apparently the renegades had struck again.


     Sheriff Samuel Rockingham was awakened in the pre-dawn gloom by a loud pounding on his door.  It was one of his deputies who excitedly reported that the Apache renegades had struck again, this time hitting a small ranch about five miles outside of town.  Apparently a neighbor noticed a large fire burning in the dark of night, and had gone to investigate.  What he found wasn’t a pretty sight.  The Sheriff sent his deputy to alert the members of the ‘quick reaction posse,’ and then went about his own hurried preparations.  He dressed, said goodbye to his wife and went out back to saddle his horse.  He strapped on a bulging saddle bag filled with food items, bedroll, rain jacket and extra ammunition that was always packed and ready for when he had to respond to an emergency like this.

     The Sheriff rode up the main street to his office, where several other men had already assembled.  Within a matter of minutes a posse of twelve men was mounted and ready to go.  They were an assortment of shopkeepers and concerned citizens who had volunteered to help keep the peace.  For many of them, these forays to pursue rustlers or hostile Indians were just an occasional adventure taking them briefly away from their dull routines.  As often as not, they never caught sight of the outlaws they were pursuing, and would return for drinks at the saloon to celebrate their bonhomie.  Although armed to the teeth, their resolve had never been tested in a serious encounter.

    The fire was still smoking as they approached the homestead.  Again, as with the aftermath of the stagecoach attack, the sight of what had been visited upon these innocent people was almost beyond belief.  The men were horrified by what they found.  None of the family members who lived there had been spared.  It was early morning now, and the killers had long departed.  The Sheriff hadn’t a clue in which direction to mount a pursuit.  While they were recovering the bodies, a man accompanied by two Indians rode up and presented himself.  After a brief exchange, the Cavalry Officer sent his Tarahumara scouts out to pick up the trail.  Minutes later they returned and pointed east.

     Rockingham sent one man back to Tucson to alert the undertaker, and he left another man to watch over the bodies and maintain the dignity of the site.  He then led the others at a fast gallop in an easterly direction towards a mountain pass where he though the renegades might be heading.  The Cavalry Officer said he would follow along as soon as his other men caught up.  The posse rode hard for an hour before one of the horses threw a shoe and came up lame.  The Sheriff told the unlucky rider to start making his way back to the burnt out ranch, while he continued on with the other men.  By mid-afternoon the horses were lathered up and exhausted.

     They had dismounted and were walking the weary horses through a forest of Ponderosa pine.  The pass was a mile or so ahead and Rockingham knew that on the opposite side it gave way to a blistering desert.  They had not come across any water during the pursuit, and other than what was left in each man’s canteen there was none available for the horses.  He reluctantly decided to call a halt for the night and instructed the men to remove their saddles and set up a camp.  They hobbled the horses and soon had a fire going.  As they sat around discussing what to do next, the Sheriff decided to send one man ahead to search for a water source.  Before he left, the man poured the last drops of his water into an upturned hat and offered it to his horse.

     As darkness fell the temperature dropped and the men huddled around a blazing fire.  Things had not gone well and it looked as if they might have to turn back in the morning.  The Sheriff posted a guard to watch over the horses that were secured in a picket line beyond the glow of the fire.  Later, as the rest of the men dozed, he walked over to speak with the man.  Suddenly he felt a stabbing pain, and all of the air wheezed out of his chest.  When he raised his hands to investigate, his fingers closed around the shaft of an arrow.  Rockingham slumped to his knees and watched helplessly as several shadowy figures led the horses away.

     The next morning the men found the two bodies of their comrades, and discovered that the horses were missing.  Worried that an attack was imminent, they formed a defensive perimeter with weapons at the ready.  When eventually nothing happened, it began to sink in that they were forty miles from home, on foot, with no water, and under threat by renegade Apaches.  Leaderless, they were uncertain what to do next.  When Mosby and his men rode into camp they all heaved a sigh of relief.


     Mosby had followed the actual trail of the renegades, rather than simply riding in an easterly direction as the posse had done.  It seemed certain that the Apaches were heading for the mountain pass, as the Sheriff had surmised. But they apparently knew the location of a waterhole and had taken an indirect route.  The powerful mules walked at a swift pace, but the cavalrymen still lagged a couple hours behind the posse.  When they reached the waterhole they filled the water satchels and paused briefly to rest the animals.  At dusk they stopped and set up camp.  They unloaded the packs from the mules, but kept the horses saddled.   In spite of the cold night, there would be no warming fire which might attract the enemy’s attention.  As a further precaution, the Tarahumara scouts were sent to establish a listening post several hundred yards from the camp.

     The next morning, as they approached the entrance to the pass, the muddled tracks told an interesting story.  Apparently the Apaches had entered the pass, but had turned around to ride back in the direction of the approaching posse.  Later, they had re-entered the pass driving several unmounted horses.  Mosby thought, ‘It’s not hard to figure out what happened.”  Although now hard on the trail of the renegades, he felt compelled to check on Sheriff Rockingham and his men.  A short time later the scouts came across a grisly sight.  A naked man was staked out spread eagled, and some unspeakable things had been done to him.  The man had been blinded, and was barely alive suffering terribly.  Mosby reluctantly drew his pistol.

     They rode into the camp where six of the twelve original members of the posse greeted them.  After he had digested all of the news, Mosby asked for a volunteer among the men to become interim leader.  He suggested that they cover the two bodies with rocks and do the same for the dead man up the trail.  Then he let the men fill their canteens from one of the water satchels.  Finally, he reluctantly assigned one of the Tarahumara scouts to guide the ill-fated party back to Tucson by way of the waterhole.  On foot, it would be an arduous journey they would never forget.  Mosby and his three remaining men mounted up to continue the pursuit.

     The track through the mountain pass was a well-established corridor that had been used by the indigenous people for centuries.  It was several miles in length, winding through rugged terrain choked with boulders and rock debris that had accumulated over the millennium.  It was the perfect place to stage an ambush, but in the absence of any alternative, there was only one way forward.  Mosby, ever the history buff, was reminded of the famous battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. when a small group of Spartans had held off the Persians in a pass like this.   Mosby had sent Corporal Clayton forward to take point with the Tarahumana scout. They were working together in leap-frog fashion when Clayton became the first casualty.

     The barrage of shots had come from a rocky gallery above, where the walls of the canyon pinched the trail into a narrow passage.  Clayton was struck several times and killed immediately, while the Tarahumara’s horse was shot out from under him.  The scout nimbly spun from the saddle and scrambled to the cover of some nearby rocks.  All of this happened in a heartbeat, and as Mosby processed the situation there was more gunfire to the rear of their position.  Attacked from front and back, Mosby and Sergeant Woodruff whipped their horses into a gallop and charged forward to break free of the ambush.  Two of the Apaches emerged to block their passage with six-guns blazing.  Mosby shot one of them with his pistol, while the Sergeant ran the other renegade down as they surged past.

     By breaking through the ambush the two cavalrymen had effectively outflanked the Apaches who were now separated from their horses.  A quarter mile up the pass Mosby and Woodruff found the Indian pony herd which was mixed in with horses stolen from the Sheriff’s posse.  They quickly cut the hobbles restraining the animals, and then fired shots in the air which sent them racing towards the far end of the pass.  After securing their own horses, they turned back and advanced towards the Apaches.  Rather than blunder into another trap, they decided to set one themselves.  They found a good spot which gave them cover and a clear field of fire across the avenue of approach.  With rifles at the ready, they waited.

     The pass was already in shadow when one of the renegades finally approached.  Moving cautiously from rock to rock, he had come to within one hundred feet of their position when Woodruff shot him.  The sound echoed through the pass, and then once again there was silence.  By Mosby’s count, three of the Apaches were either dead or seriously wounded.  That left three of them, opposed to the Sergeant and himself.  The status of the Tarahumara scout was unknown.  Later as darkness fell Mosby was thinking, ‘It’s going to be a long, unpleasant night.’ Then he heard a slight whistle followed by a grunt.  He turned just as Woodruff collapsed with an arrow in his back.


     Mosby drew his pistol, and spun around, firing at some indistinct shadows.  He scrambled to get under cover and took two more wild shots as an arrow shattered on the rock next to him.  In the rush of the attack he had lost his rifle and felt vulnerable as the attacking Apaches whooped with excitement.  There was a hail of pistol and rifle fire, but somehow he remained unscathed.  It was no doubt the darkness that saved him.  With no time to reload his pistol, Mosby retreated as fast as he could run.  Once he tripped and fell, but the exuberant cries of the Apaches spurred him to make a superhuman effort.  Ahead, by the light of the moon, he saw the entrance to a large cave.  He ran inside and with steady hands reloaded his .44 Colt.

     Twice during the night the Apaches tested his resolve by trying to force an entrance to the cave.  Both times he fired shots and drove them off.  At dawn a weak light illuminated his surroundings and made clear the desperate situation he faced.  The cave was quite large, and although there was light coming through a fissure in the rear, there was no opening large enough to offer an escape route.  Mosby noted that he was sharing the cave with a rattlesnake that lay coiled up in the corner.  But that was the least of his worries.  At last count he was down to just four cartridges.  Suddenly, a man dropped down from above the cave entrance and with a blood curding scream hurtled towards him.  Mosby fired twice and stopped him in his tracks.

     The body of the Apache lay about thirty feet in front of his concealed position.  As Mosby crept forward to retrieve the man’s six-shooter, there was a burst of rifle fire which drove him back.  Another Apache reached around the mouth of the cave and emptied his pistol.  As the shots ricocheted around the cave, Mosby responded with one shot of his own.  Then things went quiet.  Mosby had seen the terrible manner in which these savages tortured their captives, and with one bullet remaining, he thought, ‘I’ve got a decision to make.’  It was then he noticed smoke swirling around the cave entrance.  The Apaches were throwing in burning tufts of dried grass, and in a matter of minutes he could barely see.  As the smoke continued to thicken, two shapes emerged through the gloom.

     Mosby pulled the Arkansas toothpick from its sheath and with a rebel yell he charged towards the Apaches.  He fired his remaining bullet at one ghostly shape and desperately sliced at another with the big knife, and kept slicing and chopping until his opponent collapsed before him.  As the smoke began to clear, he found himself standing alone.  He picked up a discarded pistol, and after checking the load, advanced to the entrance to the cave.  He could see one of the Apaches limping towards the far end of the pass.  By now he was out of pistol range, ‘but Mosby wasn’t finished with him yet.

     Mosby entered the desert riding his own horse and leading Woodruff’s as a spare. Now with two canteens of water, some biscuit and extra ammunition, he rode in pursuit of the escaping Apache.  With his binoculars he had seen him riding, just a small speck in the distance.  Later that afternoon he had come across the body of a dead horse.  It looked as if the Indian had opened a vein in its neck to drink some blood, before cutting the spent horse’s throat.  Footprints in the sand led towards the distant mountains.  ‘He couldn’t be too far ahead.’

~                     ~                     ~

     When he finally caught up with the Apache, the wounded man lay in the sand close to death.  Mosby loomed over him and aimed his pistol.  He said, “You killed my Sergeant.”  Incomprehensible words to Ha-kuh-naiche.  The last he would ever hear.

By Michael Barlett


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