Society of the Old West

From early westward expansion through the early 20th Century.

Battle of Rattlesnake Springs

On August 7,1880, the black soldiers of the Tenth United States Cavalry and a detachment of the Twenty fourth United States Infantry fought Victorio in the climactic engagement of the Apache leader's incursion into West Texas. Since leaving the Mescalero Reservation near Fort Stanton, New Mexico Territory. In late July Victorio and 125 to 150 of his followers crossed the Rio Grande, intending either to return to the vicinity of their former reservation or to find refuge in the rugged Guadalupe Mountains on the Texas-New Mexico Territory border. Col. Benjamin H. Grierson, commanding the Tenth Cavalry and the District of the Pecos, decided not to pursue Victorio, but rather stationed troops at strategic waterholes and crossings, knowing that the Indians could not pass through the dry Trans Pecos without water. On July 30 he repulsed the band at the battle of Tinaja de las Palmas, south of the site of present Sierra Blanca. Victorio withdrew into Mexico to regroup, but soon reappeared north of the river. The fight on August 6 unfolded haphazardly. While Capt. Nicholas Nolan's Company A scouted the passes through the mountains, Capt. Charles Viele positioned companies C and G in Rattlesnake Canyon guarding the approaches to the spring. At two o'clock in the afternoon, his men opened fire at a distance and halted the cautious advance of Victorio's warriors. The Indians reorganized and were working their way around the soldiers, when Capt. Louis H. Carpenter appeared on the scene with companies H and B and drove them back into the hills and arroyos. About 4 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 soldiers' pack mules near the springs likewise failed, and Victorio retreated into the mountains. Pvt. Wesley Hardy of Company H, Tenth Cavalry, was reported missing in the engagement, and some sources reported that possibly three other troops were killed. Reports on Indian losses varied from four killed to up to thirty casualties for the combined fight at Tinaja and Rattlesnake Springs.

Although scarcely more than a skirmish, the fight at Rattlesnake Springs was important in convincing Victorio to abandon the Trans-Pecos. On August 7 Capt. Thomas C. Lebo reported to Grierson that four days earlier his Company K had located and destroyed the Indians' supply camp in the Sierra Diablo. Twice defeated, hungry, and denied access to waterholes, Victorio abandoned his effort to return to New Mexico Territory and fled back across the Rio Grande. On October 15 Mexican forces killed him in the Tres Castillos Mountains. Victorio's death ended the Indian threat to West Texas.



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This is a GOOD post Milt. Two thumbs up on your research and the background surrounding the event. There are a couple of reports that some Apache witnessed Victorio taking his own life at Tres Castillos. Mexican troops reported he was killed in action by them. Suicide was taboo to the Apache so I'm on the fence here as to what really happened to Victorio. In either case he was respected by his people as a leader and a feared enemy by his foes. 

Buffalo Soldiers, starring Danny Glover, depicts some of these events. Although it is not totally accurate some of the names you mentioned are characterized in the movie. It is worth watching 


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