The War to Exterminate the Lipan Apache

By 1873, so many Texas settlers were complaining that the Lipans in Mexico were crossing the Rio Grande to raid in Texas that the U.S. military decided to take action. There were three Indian villages of the Kickapoo, Lipan, and Mescalero, respectively, a shor distance west of the Mexican village, El Remolino. On May 17, 1873, Col. Ranald Mackenzie ordered six companies of cavalry from Fort Clark to cross the Rio Grande River and attack the three rancherías. The first camp in the cavalry's line of march was the Kickapoo camp. All the warriors were away with only the elderly and women and children at the camp. Elderly Lipan chief Costalites was visiting the Kickapoo camp to trade goods. As the soldiers attacked the Kickapoo camp, the Lipan and Mescalero camps, which lay further away, were alerted and they managed to flee. Nineteen Kickapoo, though, were killed and forty Kickapoo women and children were taken prisoner along with Chief Costalites who was lassoed and dragged by a Seminole scout. Costalites later died when he tried to escape from a military "prison camp" at San Antonio.

The Mackenzie raid was just the first of many cross-border attacks by the U.S. military against the Lipans in Mexico. The 1873 El Remolino attack was followed by numerous illegal cross-border raids in 1876 and 1877. Between April 1876 and October 1877, Lt. John L. Bullis of Ft. Clark and Col. William Shafter of Ft. Duncan led nine incursions into Mexico in order to seek out and destroy the Lipan Apaches. In only three cases were the incursions the result of "hot pursuits" of Lipan raiders who crossed from Texas into Mexico. In six cases, the Bullis and Shafter incursions were organized military expeditions which not only violated Mexican sovereignty, but were a direct abrogation of the terms of the San Saba Treaty, which the United States had signed with the Lipan Apaches in 1851. Bullis, Shafter and their troops crossed the Rio Grande and attacked Lipan rancherías which were located over 125 miles deep into Coahuila. These illegal cross-border attacks were followed by a second Mackenzie incursion in 1877. Illegal U.S. cross-border attacks on the Lipans became so common that General William T. Sherman was forced to privately reprimand the commander of federal troops in Texas. Not only were the Lipans chased back and forth across the border, but there were active criminal warrants against them in Texas and bounties for their scalps in Mexico.

The U.S. troops worked in conjunction with the Mexican Army in their war of extermination against the Lipan Apaches. General Gerónimo Treviño and 1,500 Mexican soldiers launched a massive campaign in 1878-1879 against the Lipans in Coahuila. Trevio’s campaign was followed by those of Generals Naranjo and Blás Flores in 1880-1881.