Apache Pass was a stage coach stop that was built in July 1858 on a route from Lordsburg to Tucson. At the pass was a spring called Apache Springs. At this location travelers through the area would stop at the springs for water. Those who traveled through there were Native Americans, weary travelers, and military men. At the stage coach stop the high walls housed a kitchen-dining room, sleeping rooms, a storage room for feed and weapons, and a mule corral.
The Spaniards called it Puerto del Dado, the Pass of Chance, better called Puerto de la Muerte, the Pass of Death because of the violence that evolved around the pass. The springs was an undying supply of water, Apache Pass separated the Chiricahua and the Dos Cabezas mountains. It drew the emigrants, the prospectors, and military personnel to the then Apache lands. The Overland Mail Co. paid Cochise to supply wood to the stage coach stop.
It was the scene of two engagements with Cochise's Apache Warriors. The Bascom Affair of 1861 and the Battle of Apache Pass that was fought July 15 & 16, 1862 during which an Union Army who was under the command of Brig. General James Carleton was ambushed while en-route to confront Confederate Troops in Arizona and New Mexico.
The Battle of Apache Pass led to establishing Fort Bowie to protect the pass and the springs. Soldiers of the 5th California Volunteer Infantry began construction in July 1862. It was named for the regiments commanding officer, Col. George Washington Bowie. The fort was completed in less than 3 weeks and included more of a temporary camp than a military post. Thirteen tents surrounded an irregular stone breastworks thrown up in key positions on the hills. When winter set in tents were replaced by crude stone and adobe huts. Rain would pass threw these establishments like a sieve. In 1868 a less primitive establishment was established 300 yards to the southeast. Adobe barracks, homes for the officers, corrals, storehouses and a post trade center. Soon a hospital occupied the four sides of the sloping parade ground. More buildings were added over the years and by 1894 the fort was abandoned with 38 structures of which only ruins remain today.
During 1862 and 1886, Fort Bowie was the center for military campaigns against the Chiricahua Apaches followed by Geronimo. Cochise made peace in 1872 and his people were given a 3,000 square mile reservation in southeastern Arizona, that included their homeland. Cochise died in 1874 and Tom Jeffords, the Indian Agent tried to keep the unrest settled but the younger Apaches were discontented with reservation life and the conditions and escaped, adding to the growing distrust between the Indians and the settlers. The reservation was abolished in 1876 and ordered everyone to the San Carlos Reservation in the hot, barren, and disease ridden Gila River Valley near Globe, Arizona.
When Geronimo and his followers were on a raid into Northern Mexico with Gen. Crook and Brig. Gen. Nelson A. Miles on their trail, Geronimo surrendered in September of 1886 and he and his band were removed to Fort Bowie. They were then loaded into wagons to begin their journey to Florida.
With Geronimo's surrender that ended the Apache Wars and the use for Fort Bowie as a military installation. The fort remained an active post for another eight years and with the withdrawal of troops on October 17, 1894, the fort was closed.
Transcribed by Vynette Sage from information was supplied
to the Arizona Death Records,
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Trails to the Past