Black Hawk rode with Manuelito 2

Black Hawk rode with Manuelito – Part 2

By John R. Winslowe

“For good reason, the Navajo’s enemies called them the “Bloody Knives.”  They were mercilessly efficient in close combat.”


Black Hawk ran off the soldiers’ horses grazing at Black Rock

NOT LONG after the abandonment of the siege, Nabahi and his Mexican son-in-law, Juan Cosinis (the father of Chief Henry Chee Dodge) led a raiding party into New Mexico. On the trail near Tohatchi they fell into an ambush set by New Mexicans; among those killed were the old chief and his son-in-law. Black Hawk came onto the battlefield while the dead were being packed out. After springing their trap, the New Mexicans had fled east. Black Hawk managed to overhaul and kill half of the hundred who had ambushed Nabahi and his band.

The following year the leading Navajo chief, Narbone, Manuelito’s  father-in-law, was killed by Zuni Indians near Wide Ruins, Arizona. The enemy was raiding for slaves and booty and Narbone’s men had intercepted them and driven them back toward Zuni. Black Hawk came up a few hours later and took the Zunis’ trail, but they raced to safety inside the pueblo’s protective walls. That night he ran off a big herd of horses he found near the salt lake beds and returned home. That same year Chico Abeyata in Santa Fe outfitted a trading and raiding party of 100 pack animals and more than 10 men. His guides were alien Navajos (former slaves) from Canoncito. The Abeyata party took the old Jemez route west to the raiders’ trail through the Chama Gateway to the Chaco Plains. While they were still on the plains, Manuelito’s scouts discovered them and that chief contacted Black Hawk. Abeyata, meanwhile, camped near a mountain lake called Laguna Grande. The Navajos closed in during the night, completing their surround just before daybreak. While the traders started cooking breakfast and packing up for an early departure, the Navajos attacked. The Abeyata party’s first warning of danger was a flight of arrows and musketballs. As they tried to rally for defense, a second fusillade drove them into worse confusion. Just then Black Hawk flashed out of the pine timber with his lancers. The survivors abandoned all their stock and goods and plunged into flight toward distant Whiskey Pass. They didn’t get far. Black Hawk’s riders overhauled them and forced them to make a stand in a small open space. Most were slain in repeated charges. Only four or five escaped by various strategems. After the battle, the bodies of those falling n the final engagement were thrown into a deep hole. As the years passed the hole slowly filled over with sand and debris and today is marked by scattered rocks. The few survirors eventually reached Santa Fe. At once Manuel Pino and Manuel Chavez organized 400 men to avenge the massacre. The Santa Fe Gazette reported on July 18 that the expedition was outfitted and on the way. Nothing more was heard of them. It is doubtful that they found any Navajos.

Navajo Long House

The ruined walls of Long House in western Navajo country where the Mounted Rifles were forced to fort up.

Three white traders in the Ute country north of the San Juan River were persuaded to accompany those tribesmen on a raid into Navajoland. The Utes were armed with the best firearms obtainable from Americans in Santa Fe. Sweeping their opposition before them, they rode into the upper Chinle Valley. But in the middle of the night Black Hawk fell upon their camp. Three Utes escaped by crawling through the surrounding line in the dark but everyone else was killed, including the white men. Several Navajo leaders besides Black Hawk and Manuelito conducted raids into New Mexico. Emboldened by one success after another, they dared attack the largest towns, and on several occasions charged into the outskirts of Santa Fe, despite nearby For Marcy. They even stole the fort’s Bermuda.

In 1863 the commanding general ordered Colonel Kit Carson to prepare for unceasing war against the Navajo nation. The big campaign of the “Navajo Roundup” began in August, 1864. Most of the tribesmen were peaceful herdsmen; only a few were raiders and outlaws. Many were killed but most were captured en masse. The invading troops were accompanied by hundreds of Ute, Zuni, Apache and Hopi Indian allies – all happy for the chance to get back at their old enemies and capture slaves and stock. As the columns progressed steadily westward, Black Hawk and Manuelito were in almost daily skirmishes with the outriders. But the Americans’ forces were too strong to be defeated and driven back. One cavalry patrol with 380 Indians thrust all the way to Navajo Mountain. A heliograph station was set up on a high point overlooking the vast canyon country. In their recesses Navajo families hid with their stock. Parties of alien Indians hunted them down, and were rewarded generously for their success. But Black Hawk (and two or three other small bands) still were hovering around with a few bravos. By many daring maneuvers he was able to whittle down his pursuers. So many fell in ambuscades that the Navajos’ enemies refused to enter the forbidding canyons after them. The soldiers began a slow withdrawal. Keeping close behind, Black Hawk watched for an opportunity to slash in and attack. Manuelito, lurking in the northwest near Todenesjhay (Kayenta), joined him, and their combined groups trailed the expeditionary force to a night camp on the rim of Tseghi Canyon. It was spread in a circle, the horses inside a double ring of men. A few guards were posted on the perimeter. The Navajos’ first wave moved in, crawling on the ground with their knives between clenched teeth. Reaching their assigned positions, they waited until they heard an owl screech in the nearby timber. Then they struck with silent fury, killing the guards and in the same motion leaping toward another victim. Bowmen and Navajos with firearms sped in to join the fighting. At the height of the battle, Black Hawk led his lancers into the melee. One charge drove the enemy Indians asunder. Most were chased down and killed. Only the solders succeeded in making a stand. A few Indians rallied about them and, managing to get mounted, broke out. The jubilant Navajos pursued them onto Black Mountain, where the enemy vanished into thick timber. Black Hawk drew off, considering it a waste of time to hunt them down one by one. By the time he had regained the battleground, Manuelito’s men had completed robbing the encampment. Almost 300 enemy Indians lay dead. None of the soldiers had been killed, although several packed wounds back to New Mexico.  That was probably the greatest victory Black Hawk and Manuelito achieved during their long, stormy careers. More professional fighters were killed in this engagement than in any other. Victory was accomplished with a mixture of stone-age weapons and the white man’s firearms. Until recent years, the skeletal remains of those slain littered acres of ground around the rim of Tseghi Canyon a few miles above present-day Shonto. Most of the skulls were carried away long ago by whites as grisly souvenirs.

Picture of a Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico

Picture of a Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico

Zuni pueblo in New Mexico was often stormed by Black Hawk and Manuelito.

About 8,000 of the Navajo tribe surrendered and were taken to the prison reservation established at Bosque Redondo on the windy Pecos River flats. But many other families did hide out in the far country. Periodically, New Mexican merceneries and a few troopers of the Volunteer  Cavalry were sent after them, but only a few were captured or killed. Black Hawk – with a remnant of his men and their families – continued to wage a private hide-and-seek war. When forced to fight, he did so in the same old dashing, fierce way. Finally he joined forces with Manuelito and they went west to hide in the depths of the Grand Canyon for awhile. Unable to take them, the U.S. Army sent emissaries to try to arrange their peaceful surrender and at last, in October, 1866, Manuelito came out of the wilderness and gave himself up. He was taken to Fort Summer. Soon horrified by the conditions there, he and a handful of bravos escaped the following year. Black Hawk, meanwhile, roved Navajoland from the Grand Canyon north to the San Juan River. To obtain food and supplies, he led several raids across the big Colorado into southern Utah. Being only a few, as he later related, his men “sneaked in like coyotes.” They struck, grabbed loot which included livestock, and fled. These hit-fast-and-run-faster attacks forced the Mormons to organize companies of militia to guard their frontier settlements but somehow the wily Black Hawk always found a means of avoiding them. Promised bountiful rewards if they could kill or capture Black Hawk, a band of Utes crossed the San Juan near Mexican Hat. There they found a trail of two Navajo riders and followed it onto the gloomy escarpment of Black Mountain near Lolomi Point. From the thick timber, Black Hawk’s men emptied saddles with arrows and rifle balls. His half-starved bravos decimated the poor Utes. On the field after the survivors retreated, they recovered many rifles and then drove the Utes north across the river.

Ganado Photograph

When peace came to Navajoland, Black Hawk engaged in freighting to Fort Defiance and remote trading posts such as that of J.L. Hubbard at Ganado. Mr Hubbell is shown standing beneath the tree.

But the warring days of the Navajo were ending. No further fights or skirmishes of importance involved Black Hawk. The tribal leaders signed a peace treaty in 1868 and the Navajos returned to their ancient homeland. When Chief Barboncito died in 1870, Manuelito became principal chief. At the request of the Fort Defiance Indian agent, he organized and led the first Navajo mounted police force. Shortly after, he fell from the agent’s good graces and his police force faded into oblivion. Old and broken, he retired to his Hogan near Manuelito, named for him. There, in 1893, he succumbed to measles (aggravated by generous draughts of whiskey).

Frank Walker, nephew of Black Hawk

Frank Walker, Black Hawk’s nephew, stands on the burial site of the massacre victims high in the Chuska Mountains.

Black Hawk made himself scarce and by 1890 his past as a crafty raider had been forgotten. He managed to become a wealthy stockraiser and, buying a number of wagons, engaged in the freighting business. His hauls were from Gallup, New Mexico, to the Fort Defiance Agency. He was known to white men as “Black Jack.” In slack times he freighted for Indian traders. One of his best customers was john Lorenzo Hubble at Ganado. Black Hawk’s freighting business began to fade in 1909 and he moved near the trading post of J. H. McAdams and Hubert Richardson at Sunrise Springs. Too old and feeble to drive his wagons any longer, he retired to his home. The gallant old warrior chief died when well past ninety years of age and was buried in a secret grave by the post traders.




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