On Wednesday I started to bring some more details re the first..by date of action. This story of the evolution of the medal goes hand in hand with the very evolution of the United States. Part of that evolution dealt with the public demand for a better communications system across the US in the 1850's that then took over a month for a letter to cross the continent.
If you missed Wednesday's blog, you might want to read it before you dig your heals into today's,
For the rest, let's move on...
As earlier mentioned, the Butterfield Overland Mail Stage route travelled through Indian held lands, lands that were not available for the white's development. As the route expanded and more and more activity started to take place, the natives rightfully started to get concerned. Knowing the traveller was simply passing through, they kept an eye on things, but things started to change. With over 200 staging areas, these took men to operate. They needed housing. They needed to raise crops to feed themselves...and those passing through. Soon staging stops and nearbye lands were becoming more and more occupied..and all under the very frustrating eye of the owners of that land... the natives.
The red line shows the route of the Mail Stage. In the area which later became the state of Arizona, and about 72 miles directly south of Tucson a rancher by the surname of Ward was off his land doing some business. The natives took advantage of this and raided his property to steal cattle. In the process they also kidnapped his 12 yr old step son named Felix Martinez. Some would say that the farmer was more concerned about his cattle, but none the less upon return home and learning of what happened he rode off about a dozen miles north to the Cavalry outpost at Fort Buchanan.
This sparked a war between the while man and native that would last some 20 years!
The Fort's commander knew he was short staffed on officers and had to turn to 2nd Lt George Bascom (right image) to help Ward recover his child and cattle. Bascom had just graduated at the academy but rather miserably...at 2nd from the last in the class to do so. But the Commander had little choice and so...off went Bascom, farmer Ward and about 60 men and mules to the rescue.
Bascom felt that the kidnapped youth was being held in this area. It was just beyond one of the Stage stops and because of the very natural spring water in the area was a well known stopping point for all... including the natives. Travelling just beyond this point Bascom set up a temporary camp. And not far from there Chief Cochise had his own camp set up.
Cochise at the time had an excellent relationship with the stage route folks and often was seen coming in for water and chats... and keeping a keen eye on developments at the same time. When he learned that Bascom had arrived and set up camp... he was told that it was temporary and that the Cavalryman he was simply enroute through the area.
So he decided to check this out and went into Bascom's camp to meet the officer.
But the meeting did not go well. The young brash Bascom's did not realize that Cochise was from another tribe than that of the kidnappers. Nor did he realize that Cochise had an excellent working relationship with the white man and was a man of honor. Bascom immediately accused the Chief of the kidnapping, arrested him and a few others and put them into a tent. Other natives outside the tent were obviously quite upset at this. In the confusion, Cochise cut his way through the back of the tent and he and several others escaped... but under fire from the Cavalry.
The war was on !
Bascom immediately broke camp and returned to the overland staging area and explained what had happened. Meanwhile some of the natives there asked the white men to come out to sort things out. When they did several men got shot on both sides as well as a few more prisoners prisoners taken on both sides. These incidents started others and on the same day the natives captured a wagon train and about 16 mules. Prisoners were taken but most of the men, being Mexican, and not well liked by the natives, were tied to their wagon wheels upside down. Then fires were lit below their heads. Soon their heads would literally blow up.
There were several such incidents before word got back to Bascom's home ground at Fort Buchannan and yet a second rescue had to be launched to save Bascom and his men.
And that's when the doctor is sent for. But that comes next Wednesday.