By Kristy McCaffrey
Fort Bowie—located in southeastern Arizona—would become one of the most important military posts in the Arizona Territory. It not only guarded Apache Pass and its important water supply, it was situated directly in Chiricahua Apache country.
Apache Pass is a shallow saddle that separates the southeastern Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains from the Dos Cabezas. When the United States acquired the area from Mexico, they inherited a corridor that became nationally prominent as the Southern Overland Mail Road, connecting the eastern U.S. to California. Unfortunately, Apache Pass lay in the heart of Apacheria. Because there was a fairly reliable water source at Apache Springs (at the pass), this location was frequented by the Chiricahua Apache Indians.
The first Fort Bowie—named for Colonel George Washington Bowie, commander of the regiment that established the fort—was built at Apache Pass in 1862, consisting of a 4-foot high stone wall that was 412 feet long. The wall surrounded tents and a stone guard house. During the next six years, patrols attempted to subdue the Apache, who raided and killed travelers not escorted by the military. Living conditions at the fort were undesirable: isolation, bad food, sickness, crude quarters, and the constant threat of Apaches led to low morale and frequent troop rotation.
|Fort Bowie, 1886|
|Fort Bowie, 1893|
In 1868, construction began on a second Fort Bowie and encompassed barracks, houses, corrals, a trading post and a hospital. In 1876, most of the Chiricahua Indians were taken to the San Carlos Reservation, but Geronimo escaped, launching the start of a 10-year battle known as the Geronimo War. During this time, Fort Bowie was the center of military operations against the Chiricahua. Geronimo’s final surrender came in 1886. After that, Fort Bowie settled into a more peaceful existence. It was finally closed in 1894.
|Geronimo departing Ft. Bowie for Florida|