Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Apacheria & the forts of Comancheria
3 miles east of Fort Sumner on Hwy. 60/84 and
3 1/2 miles south of Hwy. 60 on Billy the Kid Road
Fort Sumner, NM 88119
P.O. Box 356
Fort Sumner, NM 88119-0356
As more and more Americans settled in the territory of New Mexico, they met increasingly fierce resistance from the Mescalero Apache and Navajo people who fought to maintain control of their traditional lands and their way of life.
In an effort to subjugate them, the U.S. Army made war on the Apaches and Navajos. Those who survived these attacks were starved into submission and forced to march to the Bosque Redondo Indian Reservation in eastern New Mexico, in some cases a distance of more than 400 miles. By the end of 1864, some 9000 people were held captive at Fort Sumner and the surrounding Bosque Redondo Reservation. Conditions were awful, and many people died.
Most of the Mescalero Apaches eluded their military guards and abandoned the reservation on November 3, 1865; but, for the Navajos, another three years passed before the United States Government acknowledged Navajo sovereignty in the historic Treaty of 1868.
The Navajos began their joyful return home in June of 1868, and today the Navajo Nation is the largest Native American community in the United States.
The following is from the book, Encyclopedia of Indian Wars, by Gregory F. Michno.
After the Mescalero Apaches began living on the Bosque Redondo Reservation near Fort Sumner, they were constantly raided by Navajos. After Navajos swept through the area in December, running off thousands of sheep, Bosque Redondo agent Lorenzo Labadie and a chaplain named Joseph Fialon requested help from Maj. Henry D. Wallen, 7th Infantry, in command at Fort Sumner. Detachments of infantry companies C and D and eight men of Company B, 2nd California Cavalry, prepared to go out after the raiders, but Labadie and Fialon could not wait.
At 5:30 a.m. on 16 December, 1863, Labadie and Fialon left the post with 30 Mescaleros, soon joined by the mounted Californians. They picked up the Navajos' trail and overtook them about 30 miles northwest of the fort. Thee were about 130 warriors, but only about 29 had rifles. In the ensuing fight, which was severe, the white and Mescaleros finally routed the Navajos. Lt. Charles Newbold, 5th Infantry, and three others pursued the fleeing Navajos for three miles before giving up.
The soldiers and Mescaleros killed 12 Navajos and wounded several others. They also took 1 Navajo prisoner and recovered 13 burros and 5,259 sheep. The Mescalero Alazan was fatally wounded.
Open Wednesday through Sunday (10am to 4pm)
Closed Monday/Tuesday & Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day
Currently FREE! Previously: $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $5 for 3-12
Free for NM residents on Sundays & Wednesdays with a driver's license ID.
Guided tours for organized groups of any size and living history demonstrations every weekend throughout the summer or by reservation year-round.
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