Days Past: Apache Scouts – Medal of Honor winners
A tired and disgusted Apache said to the Army officer receiving his surrender, “Your Apache Scouts track us even when we leave no tracks.” Such was the skill of the Apache warriors who enlisted in the Army during Arizona Territory’s Indian Wars of the 1870s and 1880s.
Last week’s Days Past article provided an overview of the complicated subject of Apaches serving as scouts in Army units that were fighting the Apache people. This week, we explore a little of what is known about the eleven Apache Scouts who were awarded the Medal of Honor for their service. This exploration is complicated. When researching the names and personal histories of these Scouts, the researcher discovers that the Scouts themselves are hard to track.
The monument shown above lists the eleven Apache winners of the Nation’s highest military honor: Private Chiquito, Private Blanquet, Sergeant Alchesay, Sergeant Jim, Private Nannasaddie, Private Kelsae, Private Nantaje, Private Kosoha, Private Machol, Corporal Elsatsoosu, and Sergeant Rowdy. The Medal of Honor, presented in the name of Congress, recognizes a deed of bravery or personal sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty. At least two eyewitness accounts of the deed were required. Today, justification for an award of the Medal of Honor is accompanied by reams of documentation and signatures of approval up the command chain. This was not the case in the early days of the Medal of Honor; documentation and the details of these early awards are not easy to uncover.
Part of the problem was a lack of record-keeping and a big part of the difficulty was simply the names of the Scouts. They generally went by a single name, which was often what we would regard as a nickname. “Chiquito,” for example, meant “little guy.” There were several Scouts known as “Chiquito.” There were also several named “Jim”; one or another of them was also known as “Jim Dandy” or “Dandy Jim.” Some were known by several names or names with different spellings. “Elsatsoosu” was also known as “Elsatsoosa” or “Alotse,” which meant “skinny.” Odds are that none of these names were used by these men or their relatives when they were away from the Army.
Sergeant Alchesay was known by at least seven names. For reference purposes, the Army tried a system of designating the various bands (related family groups) of Apaches with a letter, from A to Z; each man of fighting age was given a number based on his perceived status within the band. Alchesay had the distinction of being “A1.” There is a lovely Arizona lake named A1 in honor of this heroic Sergeant of Apache Scouts.
Alchesay, pictured above, is the best known of the Medal of Honor winners. After his service, he twice visited the White House and met several Presidents. He championed education for young Apaches, stressing that they should “. . . learn the ways of the White people, but . . . stay true to the ways of the Indian.” Bridging old and new was a lifelong goal for Alchesay,
who lived until 1932, well into his 80s.
In contrast, very little is known about Chiquito. He remains a mystery; no photograph of him is known to exist. But, of the eleven Medals of Honor, his medal is the only one that has survived. A gentleman searching near Globe with a metal detector unearthed it in a spot that might have represented a ceremonial “burial” of the medal under some flat rocks. Chiquito’s medal is on display at the Sharlot Hall Museum.
Sergeant Rowdy, pictured above, was the eleventh, and final, Apache Scout to win the Medal of Honor. He received his medal in 1890, for guiding a patrol in one of the last clashes of Arizona’s Indian Wars.
To learn more about these heroic men, you are invited to a free lecture at 2 p.m., Saturday, June 18, at Sharlot Hall. Educator and researcher Cynthia Palcich will discuss what she has learned about these men who distinguished themselves in a critical time in the history of Arizona Territory. Also, for further study see www.wmat.us, the website of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, or pay a visit to the tribe’s Cultural Center. An excellent recently-published book on this period in the life of the Apache people is “Dispatches from the Fort Apache Scout -- White Mountain and Cibeque Apache History Through 1881,” by Lori Davisson and Edgar Perry, edited by anthropologist John Welch.
“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles to email@example.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 ext. 14, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.