By Mick Woodcock

The initial fort on Granite Creek with its wood palisade had barracks, hospital and stables outside the log walls.  The number of troops assembled to campaign against the Yavapai at times numbered six companies which taxed the post’s ability to house the troops comfortably.  Generally there were two or three companies operating out of the fort, patrolling the areas around the mines and attempting to keep settlers on Granite Creek and the Agua Fria River safe.

In response to the continued fighting with the Yavapai and different Apache clans, the Army brought Colonel George Crook to Arizona.  Crook transferred the headquarters of the Department of Arizona to Fort Whipple.  He was responsible for having a new post built to replace the decrepit palisade fort.  By 1874, only the former guardhouse was left.

Crook used Indian Scouts to track their own people since soldiers were unable to find them in their mountainous homeland.  Using a policy of hunting down hostiles anywhere they went, the Yavapai and Apache soon came in to the Army posts to surrender.  Major fights at Skeleton Cave and Turret Peak caused all but the most stubborn to come in.  By fall 1872, General Crook had nine columns in the field to contain both Yavapai and Apaches.  He used Yavapai and Apache scouts as guides, and supported his troops with mule trains.  No mountain or canyon offered refuge.  Native food supplies were burned and Indians harried without relief.  By spring 1873, most Yavapai bands had surrendered.

By itself, Crook’s army was no match for the Indians, who knew their home country.  Crook pitted “savage against savage,” recruiting Yavapai and Apaches “fresh from the warpath.”  It was “no holiday,” said Bourke, “for the cavalry soldiers to follow close on the heels of the scouts.”  Scouts were enlisted in the Army and had their own non-commissioned officers.  White army officers were in command of the Scout companies, but real control rested with the civilian guides.

With the Yavapai and Tonto Apaches on reservations, Crook left Arizona.  His replacement was General August V. Kautz.  Kautz was a good administrator, but allowed himself to get in a place where he was relieved of command in March 1878.  His replacement was Colonel Orlando B. Willcox who commanded until Chiricahua Apache problems in southern Arizona brought Crook back in 1882.  Crook once again used Indian Scouts to bring in hostile Apaches.

When Geronimo fled to Mexico after promising to surrender, Crook asked to be relieved of command.  General Nelson A. Miles, who promised to use soldiers to capture the remaining Apaches, replaced him.  Miles finally had to use Scouts to bring the Apaches to where they would surrender.  All Chiricahua Apaches were shipped to Florida in September 1886.

The post had been designated Whipple Barracks in 1879 because it had Fort Whipple, the Quartermaster Depot and the Headquarters for the Department of Arizona.  As soon as General Miles had the Apaches removed, he transferred the departmental headquarters to Los Angeles and Whipple was no longer the center of activity for Army life in the territory.

Without a staff, the departmental headquarters building was turned into a barracks. The fort had been short on space since a November 7, 1883, fire had burned one of the two enlisted barracks, the band kitchen, cavalry dining room and kitchen and the non-commissioned officers quarters. An October 1878 fire had claimed three sets of officer’s quarters, which were rebuilt.

The arrival of the Prescott and Arizona Central Railway in 1886 brought hopes of prosperity to Prescott and the thought that the fort would remain open.  The railroad right of way crossed the military reservation near the Quartermaster corrals.  This rail line ceased to exist in 1891, but he Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railway took its place the same year.

Infantry companies garrisoned the post during the 1890s, performing routine training except for being called out to protect the Atlantic and Pacific Railway against strike agitators in the summer of 1893.  By 1897, the deterioration of the buildings and sewer system made it advisable to deactivate the post rather than repair it.  This was set to happen, but the war with Spain in 1898 gave the fort new life.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit ideas for articles to dayspastprescott@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastprescott@gmail.com for information.