REVIEWED: The Apache Wars

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The Apache Wars by Paul Andrew Hutton. (History Book, 2016).

This meaty (500+ pages), well-researched (check out the rather massive bibliography) and very well-written volume focuses on the years 1861-1890 and all the key people on all sides of the epic struggle for control of the lands that became the states of Arizona and New Mexico. A fast-paced tale of brutal conflict, which featured desperate acts of courage, as well as hideous cruelty and frequent betrayals from individuals (and groups) on all sides of the sprawling conflict.

Hutton ably examines the personalities and (often shifting) motivations of the leading figures involved–including such Apache leaders as Mangas Coloradas, Cochise, Victorio and Geronimo; Generals Howard, Crook, Sheridan and Miles; and such prominent frontiersmen and scouts as Al Sieber, Tom Jeffords and Texas John Slaughter. The mystical and formidable Warm Springs Apache female warrior Lozen, the White Mountain Apache warrior turned army scout Alchesay and the renegade Apache Kid are just a few of the many other fascinating characters in this all-too-real and violent drama of resistance and conquest.

But above all else, the pivotal story running from the beginning all through the tortured end of this 30-year saga concerns the boy whose kidnapping sparked the first round of fighting. He was the product of an Irish father (hence his trademark red hair and blue eyes) and a Mexican woman; a one-eyed lad (courtesy an accident with a deer antler, not–perhaps surprisingly–an act of human violence), he was adopted into one of the many nomadic bands of the contentious and divided Apache People. When he re-emerged into the white world as yet another scout, translator and negotiator, they called him Mickey Free.

It proved an ironic moniker, as Mickey was never completely free–trapped between battling cultures, both of which he identified with somewhat and scorned by most in both. He faced doubters and enemies (and a few friends) from all quarters, encountered more than his own share of the abundant tragedies and heartaches of that time and place. And in the end, he capped the very era his childhood misadventure had opened by tracking down his friend turned wanted revenge-killer (The Apache Kid).

Hutton tells this complex story with fair-handed honesty, and plenty of matter-of-fact drama. A fine historical account, stark and compelling–I recommend it highly.

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