b. Chief Victorio had between 50 and 100 Apache warriors; the Army had Company B. under the command of Lt. Byron Dawson and Company E, under command of Capt. Ambrose Hooker, plus Navajo scouts c. The Army objective was to surprise Victorio.
Victorio's objective was to draw the Army into a trap.
d. The Buffalo Soldiers advanced on horseback up into the mountains where they believed Victorio was. Victorio waited for them up in the high cliffs where he would be able to see them coming.
4. The action:
The troopers rode into a three-way trap with Victorio's men firing from the heights of Las Animas and from the side canyon They were suddenly surrounded and fell in a heavy concentration of rifle and arrow fire at the junction of Las Animas Creek (and Canyon) and a side canyon now known as Massacre Canyon. Archeologists in 1999 picked up and mapped hundreds of rifle and pistol cartridges from the battlefield. The troopers had nothing to hide behind but boulders, a few rock shelves, and the trees.
b. Taking advantage of what limited cover there was on the low ridge, the troopers held off Victorio and his warriors throughout the night. In the morning Victorio's men moved in on them.
c. But just as the Apaches were ready to attack the troops, cavalry reinforcements arrived from the north and west. The reinforcing troops included two additional companies of Buffalo Soldiers, 106 Apache scouts, and one company of 6th Cavalry from Arizona.
d. Victorio retreated to Victorio Ridge, a long ridge to the south. There they fought a rear-guard action, as the women and children escaped by climbing out of the basin to the south. The reinforced troops launched a frontal assault on Victorio Ridge, while Lts. Gatewood and Mills led a flank attack on the Apache camp, which was behind Victorio Ridge and west of Victorio Peak. The Apache on Victorio Ridge retreated. Fighting a rear-guard action from each of the ridge tops that rise out of the Hembrillo Basin, the Apache disengaged. The troops, exhausted and thirsty, fell back to the arroyos, and dug holes in the streambed in search of water. They camped overnight in the Hembrillo Basin, then moved east to the white sands on April 8. Victorio and his people went west to the Black Range the Mescalero allies went back to Mescalero.
e. The outcome. The outcome was that Chief Victorio escaped once more, while the Army lost two men and 25 horses. Eventually, in July of the same year, Chief Victorio, 60 warriors, and 18 women and children were killed by Mexican forces in northern Chihuahua as they tried to cross the border into west Texas.
5. Assess the significance of the action: U.S. Army troops were never able to defeat Chief Victorio. Had they been the victors, Chief Victorio would probably have been killed sooner. As it was, he and his people survived another six months or so.
a. Immediate. The immediate significance was only a temporary set-back in the government's plan to annihilate (wipe out) the Indians whom they regarded as a nuisance to Western expansion.
b. Long-term. The long-term significance is that genocide was committed. Most Indian cultures were wiped out and their languages lost, while those who survived were forced to live in confinement and poverty. It was all in the name of "progress." c. Military lessons learned. Don't underestimate the enemy, however small their numbers. It apparently did not occur to Colonel Hatch that Victorio wanted them to come up in the mountains where he could easily surround them from three directions and where he had the advantage of knowing the terrain. Take into account the fact that the terrain which is completely strange and rugged to you, may be "home" to the enemy and not difficult at all for them. This was one of the deciding factors in the Revolutionary War -- that the patriots knew the land and all its nooks and crannies while the British were in strange territory. It was a similar situation at Hembrillo.
6. The point of contact for this battle analysis is the undersigned at