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Lieutanant Royal Whitman was the commanding officer in charge of Camp Grant, the small military outpost located northeast of Tucson. He had served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was thirty-seven years old when he assumed command of Camp Grant. He acquired a reputation among the Apache tribes in the area as being friendly to the Indians because he negotiated paid work on neighboring ranches for some of the Apaches, who agreed, in return, that the tribe would not join any raids on white settlers.

Chief Eskiminzin led his band of about 150 Aravaipa Apaches to Camp Grant in February, 1871, asking for refuge and permission to peacefully settle in the area. Whitman had no authority to negotiate such an arrangement, particularly since an Apache reservation territory had been established in the White Mountains. Chief Eskiminzin explained why this was not desireable.

That is not our country...Some of our people have been for a short time at the White Mountains, but they are not contented, and they all say, 'Let us go to the Aravaipa (Creek) and make a final peace and never break it.'

Whitman tried to convince the Aravaipa that they should relocate but the Indians refused, so Whitman collected their guns and designated an area along the Aravaipa Creek, near Camp Grant, where they could live and plant their crops. He also notified the military of his actions and asked for further directions.

In mid-April, 1871, bands of Apaches conducted some raids near Tuscon, including stealing some horses and killing some whites. The citizens of Tuscon blamed the actions on the Aravaipa Apache and, under the leadership of William S. Oury, a group of whites, Mexicans, and Papago Indian allies took revenge on the Camp Grant settlelment. Whitman did not receive word of the planned attack until it was too late - the messsengers he sent to warn the Indians found only carnage at the camp.

Whitman and those under his command buried the remains of the 144 dead, almost all women and children, in an attempt to preserve some semblance of peace in the aftermath of the attack. "I thought the act of caring for their dead would be an evidence to them of our sympathy at least." His assumption was correct.

Whitman worked vigorously to have the killers from Tuscon brought to court to answer for their actions. During the trial, conclusive evidence was presented to prove that the Aravaipa Apaches had not been involved in the raids on Tuscon, but the accused whites were not found guilty.

Whitman's military career was destroyed by his defense of the Apache and his actions at Camp Grant. He resigned the military in disgrace in 1879.


dadbruns | Student

At the time of the attack, Apr 30, 1871, Lt Whitman was on duty at Camp Grant as the 'DUTY OFFICER' not the 'COMMANDING OFFICER'. The Commanding Officer of Camp Grant at the time was Capt. Frank Stanwood who, by coincidence, had left the fort/camp with most of the troops to go on a 'scout'. He was, therefore, not there when it happened.

Royal Whitman 'Retired' from the Army as a full Col. on Mar 20, 1879 and died Feb 12, 1913. He was buried at Arlington with full honors.

Don't think he 'resigned' in disgrace.

My questions would be: (1) Why did the Commanding Officer take all the troops away from camp the day before a slaughter leaving a Lt. (that he didn't particularly care for) in charge? (2) If there were 500 indians on the Arivaipa and 144 were killed (different number depending on who is writing) where did the other 356 go?

Really would like to get the actual and real history of this place as there are a lot of unanswered questions yet!


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Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

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