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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Fort Bowie, Arizona

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


  1. Thank you for sharing your research and insight, Cactus. I'm stealing it for an upcoming story. ;-)

    1. Tex,
      You're welcome. I've filched off you many a time. :-)

  2. Puts a whole new spin on the unfilmed Lancer script "Beef to Ft. Bowie". Interesting information Kristy.

    1. Carolyn,
      'Beef to Ft. Bowie' sounds like a good one! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Loved this info, Kristy, and the pictures are fabulous!

  4. I always appreciate research. Thank you for sharing. to paraphrase my ex-husband, you are wanting to research everything that happened in this world, and you're about 20,000 years behind. Thanks for helping me catch up. Doris

    1. Doris,
      It's overwhelming sometimes, the amount of stuff we don't know LOL. Take it one step at a time...

  5. I'm thinking about that 4 foot high wall and wondering how the heck they could protect the fort with such a low wall. It certainly sounded pretty dang miserable there. I would think a trading post and medical facilities would be helpful in cheering people up. Oh, and a church to provide both faith and social functions. A very interesting post. I wonder how long I would last in such a place before I cracked. Loved the pictures, Kristy.
    I never got to see Lancer on TV. I missed a lot of good programs.
    All the very best to you, Kristy.