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Arivaca, AZ

ARIZONA BUFFALO SOLDIERS ASSOCIATION

Buffalo Soldiers in Arivaca 1916- 1920

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Arivaca Yester years, the Military In Arivaca: The Tenth: Cavalry

By Mary Noon Kasulaitis

     The Tenth Cavalry moved into Ft. Huachuca when they returned from the expedition led by Pershing into Mexico in 1916. During the Mexican Revolution and then World War I there was a need for constant vigilance in the border area. The Black soldiers of the Tenth Cavalry became a fixture in this region. Much of the time between 19 I 6 and 1921 there were soldiers’ tent camping in Arivaca in a vacant area between the store and what is now;  Double L Feeds. To my knowledge it was never named Fort Arivaca or even Camp Arivaca, but was merely a troop camp at Arivaca with detachments at Sasabe, La Osa, Oro Blanco and Bear Valley.

    The 10th Cavalry and Border Fights by Col. H.B. Wharfield (1964) is the best history we have of this period of time. Then, Lieutenant Wharfield, a white officer of Troop E of the 10th Cavalry, remembered that Border Duty was the most interesting peacetime service of the 10th Cavalry. "Between alerts for movements to border Camps, fights with raiding and cattle rustling bandits, protection of border towns, chasing smugglers, riding patrols along the fences between the' international monument markers, some exchange of shots and dodging bullets at border towns during battles between contending Mexican forces, there was seldom much monotony... now, years afterwards, the retired all proclaim that Mexican duty was the 'best time of my life.''' The last official battle between the United States Cavalry and Indians was in our own Bear Valley, east of Ruby, between Troop E of the 10th Cavalry and some Yaqui Indians from Sonora. (The Yaquis are originally from a fertile river valley in Mexico, which was coveted for development by the Mexican government beginning in the 19th century during. the regime of Porfirio Diaz. The Yaquis would have none of it, and for decades waged an almost constant battle against the Mexican government, of ten coming north into the United States where they had relatively safe haven and formed settlements in the Tucson area.) On January 9, 1918, some Yaquis were coming up through Bear Valley on their customary route north when they spotted the soldiers. Thinking they were Mexican soldiers who had strayed across the line, the Yaquis opened fire. Col. Wharfield recounted the episode this way:

           "For some months during the late fall of 1917 ranchers in the rough country south of Arivaca had seen evidences of the Yaqui's illegal crossings of the United States, Mexican border line. A few complaints to peace officers were made that remains of partially butchered cattle were found, showing that the meat was used by trespassers from across the border and not local 'cattle rustlers. . The American cowmen along the line west of Nogales were all riding armed because of these outsiders: however there had been no violence on the U.S. side and most of the slaughtered cattle were 'downed' or recent 'winter killed' animals weakened by poor range and bad weather conditions. "Even though the cattlemen as well as the miners were not troubled by any overt acts, they did not feel entirely safe with the Yaqui traveling clandestinely across the region, coupled with the possibilities of violence in case of a meeting. A miner at Ruby had a scare one night while coasting in a Model T Ford down a long grade. Around a bend of the mountain road he almost ran over a band of Yaqui, who were armed and crossing southward toward Mexico. Thereafter he quit traveling at night. II John Maloney at Ruby told some cavalry officers that once he had unexpectedly come upon a group in daylight while riding horseback to a mining claim. He greeted them in Spanish and turned off in the opposite direction. John gave the impression that the Yaqui would not bother whites. However his daughter, Aileen, knowingly commented that she thought her father put the spurs to the horse the moment he was out of their sight.

     "After the New Year celebration in January 1918 Captain Biondy Ryder and his Troop E of the Tenth Cavalry drew the assignment to the general Bear Valley area for border patrol. The troop took the Oro Blanco trail along the border, sending the impedimenta around by Arivaca a.i1d thence southward past Ruby to the Johnny Bogan place (in Bear Valley.) This location was about a mile from the border fence.

'”The terrain was well suited for the patrol work. A high ridge east from the camp gave a wide view of the region. Here a stationary sentinel look out was established with visual signal communications in view of a' camp sentry. In addition daily patrols rode the trails looking for signs, as well as any wanders, in the borderland.

          "One day Phil Clarke, a cattleman and Ruby storekeeper, stopped by for a visit. He reported that a neighbor had seen fresh Yaqui signs in the mountains to the north where a winterkilled cow had been partly skinned and sandals cut out of the hide. Captain Ryder decided to strengthen the observer post... The next day, about the middle of the afternoon, the sentry signaled 'enemy in sight.' 'Within a few minutes the troop was mounted. Galloping up to the crest the troop dropped over into a shallow brushy draw, dismounted and tied the horses to each other in circles by squad . . . Sensing that the Yaqui were somewhere in that vicinity, the captain ordered an advance up the canyon in a southwesterly direction. Within only a short distance the hiding Indians were flushed and opened up a hot fire on the soldiers. Luckily the shooting was wild. "The fighting developed into an old kind of Indian engagement with both' sides using all the natural cover of boulders and brush to full advantage. The Yaqui kept falling back, dodging from boulder to boulder and firing rapidly. They offered only a fleeting target, seemingly just a disappearing shadow. 'The cavalry line maintained its forward movement, checked at times by the hostile fire, but constancy keeping contact with the Indians. Within thirty minutes or so the return shooting lessened. Suddenly a Yaqui stood up waving his arms in surrender. Captain Ryder immediately ordered, “Cease fire”. This was a bunch of ten Yaqui, who had slowed the cavalry advance enough to enable most of their band to escape. It was a courageous stand by a brave group of Indians; and the cavalrymen treated them with the respect due to fighting men. Especially astonishing was the discovery that one of the Yaqui was an eleven-year-old boy. The youngster had fought bravely alongside his elders, firing a rifle that was almost as long as he was tall."

       Captain Ryder remembered: "After the Yaqui were captured we lined them up with their hands above their heads and searched them, one kept his hands around his middle. Fearing he might have a knife to use on some trooper, I grabbed his hands and yanked them up. His stomach practically fell out. He was wearing two belts of ammunition around his waist . . . The bullet had hit one of the cartridges in his belt ... entered one side and came out the other, laying his stomach open. He was the chief of the group. We patched him up with first aid kits, mounted him on a horse and took him to camp... I 'sent some soldiers to try and get an automobile or any transportation at the mining camps for the wounded Yaqui, but none could be located until morning. He was sent to the army hospital at Nogales and died that day."

The troop with its prisoners went on to Nogales, but 'Within a week or so we were ordered to Arivaca for station and had to take our Indian prisoners along because the Thirty-fifth Infantry colonel did not want to be bothered with guarding them."

    According to Wharfield: ''Tt1ey proved to be good workers and kept the campsite immaculately clean. . At the corral nary any droppings were allowed to hit the ground. . The Yaqui were so pleased with the routine soldier life, three square meals a day, a Cot with a straw mattress and G.I blankets at night that they all volunteered to enlist in the army. But the United States Department of Justice had other plans ... the captured Yaqui were indicted on the charge that they wrongfully exported arms to Mexico. . On April 8, 1918 Judge Sawtelle sentenced the eight adult Yaqui to thirty days in the Pima County jail, which precluded deportation. In passing sentence, the Judge evidently took all circumstances of the Yaqui Mexican government relations into consideration. He was a Westerner who believed in the right of everyone to have a chance to survive."

There were no casualties among the American soldiers.

      Down near the border there is a cemetery where several 10th Cavalry soldiers lie. There has been lots of speculation regarding their demise, but no hard evidence as to what killed them. As the Ft. Huachuca archives should have this kind of information, I inquired of the Museum archivist, James Finley. He was very familiar with this problem. When the graves were desecrated some years ago (what lengths will people go to for souvenirs?); he had been present when the graves were repaired and did identify them as 10th Cavalry, although no one could decipher their names. He believes these men died in the flu epidemic of 1918 which killed many people (especially young people) are in the Arivaca area. If they had died in the line of duty, surely there would be the evidence of military records. This flu killed people so quickly it is possible they were stricken while on patrol in this area. In the Roll of Honor listed in the following reference, showing the names of those 10th Cavalry soldiers killed in battle, there is no one listed who might have been buried in the little cemetery.

 

Reference: History of the Tenth Cavalry. 1866-1921. By Maj. E.L.N. Glass, Ft. Collins: The Old Army Press, 1972. The Black Military Experience in the American West. Edited by John M. Carroll. New York: Liveright Pub. Co.

. Note: don't confuse this story with the other ''Yaquis in Bear Valley" incident which took place in 1929. There was no fighting in that one. (See The Connection, October 1996)

 

 

 

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