I just returned from the Apache Wars Tour, and once again Stephen Ambrose Tours did not disappoint. The Tour was everything I had hoped for. I learned so much about the Apache Culture and history, as well as the Spanish presence in the early Southwest. The spots we visited, like Cochise’s stronghold, the many forts, and the fantastic museums were amazing. And what more can I say about Dr. John Langellier. He is the most knowledgeable man on the subject of the Southwest, and never fails to pass on this knowledge to others. I have known John for over a year, and through two tours and he has become a good friend. And our tour coordinator Connie Kennedy was also amazing. she kept things rolling right on schedule, but even more she cared and looked after her guest, as did John.. This tour is a must, as is any tour with John and Connie. Two thumbs up!
Apache Wars of the Southwest
When I was young I walked all over this country, east and west, and saw no other people than the Apaches. After many summers I walked again and found another race of people had come to take it. How is it?
Join us on our Exclusive New Tour! Apache Wars of the Southwest is an unforgettable journey through the scenic Southwest that follows in the footsteps of a cast of remarkable historical characters.
On our exclusive new Apache Wars of the Southwest Tour, author, historian, and television-motion picture consultant John P. Langellier, Ph.D. will tell tales of Cochise, Geronimo, and others based on more than a half-century of dedicated study of these legendary figures and their awesome land.
Experience their lives and discover the diverse cultures found in the tumultuous borderlands running along today’s international boundary between Mexico and the United States. Many peoples from the ancient past to the present have trod this ground. Haunting deserts and majestic mountains will serve as the dramatic backdrop for stories of conflict and ultimate reconciliation after generations of warriors gave way to peacemakers. Return to those exciting days of yesteryear contrasting history versus Hollywood with screenings and discussions of classic film and TV.
You will time-travel to former military garrisons such as El Presidio San Agustín del Tucson, Cochise’s nearly impenetrable stronghold, and the vast White Sands that once formed part of the homeland of the people now popularly referred to as the Apache. During this exceptional adventure, you will overnight in charming inns, hotels, and resorts and sample delectable local cuisine as well be enthralled by the varied vistas the Grand Canyon State and the Land of Enchantment offers.
- El Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum: A Spanish colonial garrison demonstration and tour of the museum set the stage for our journey.
- Fort Huachuca Museum: Established in 1877 and nestled in the Whetstone Mountains the post remains as one of the oldest active-duty U.S. Army garrisons west of the Mississippi River.
- Amerind Museum: This treasure situated in the rugged red rocks of Texas Canyon provides a visual reminder of the many peoples who once called the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico home.
- Cochise Stronghold West: Canyons and peaks teemed with game and plants to feed the so-called Chiricahua Apache plus afforded a natural fortress against their enemies.
- Chiricahua National Monument: Breathtaking formations and forests once provided a paradise for the Native Americans who resided amidst the bounty and beauty.
- Fort Bowie National Historic Site: Crumbling adobes recall the strategic significance of this former frontier fort.
- Lincoln Historic Site: Billy the Kid gained notoriety during the violence that erupted in this New Mexico town as factions vied for contracts to supply the nearby military post and Indian reservation.
- White Sands National Park: Sparkling white Gypsum dunes edged the traditional hunting and gathering realm of the Mescalero people.
- Mescalero Apache Cultural Center & Museum: This facility offers an intimate look at the people who continue to thrive on their ancestral lands.
- Palace of Governors Museum: A world-class cultural center standing in the heart of Santa Fe’s renowned plaza caps the tour.
DAY 1 Welcome
Flight to Tucson International Airport (TUS). Guests travel independently to the tour hotel. Our first activity is an evening Welcome Reception followed by dinner.
DAY 2 Tucson’s Presidio to Fort Huachuca, Arizona
We begin our journey in Tucson, Arizona to witness the evolution of some of the Southwest’s earliest inhabitants who dwelled in small farming villages along precious waterways that would evolve into the present-day thriving desert metropolis now home to one of the nation’s largest universities.
Our first visit will take place at the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum, a re-creation of the many scattered outposts that once dotted Spain’s New World northern borderlands’ empire. Founded in 1775, the same year that Lieutenant Colonel Juan Bautista de Anza’s expedition passed nearby on its overland trek to establish what became the city of San Francisco in Alta California, this walled fortress stood as a remote bastion against the Apache. We will learn about life in the Santa Cruz Valley for early Native American Indians, Presidio residents, and Territorial period settlers. The archaeological remains of an ancient pit house stand as mute testimony to the longevity of human habitation in the region. Walk along the original Presidio wall and stand within a 150-year-old classic Sonoran Rowhouse.
From there, en route to Fort Huachuca, we stop in Patagonia at Irish-born John Ward’s Ranch. During the early 1860s, a roving band of Apache captured Felix Martinez (aka Mickey Free) an event that triggered one of the longest wars fought by the United States military. Then it’s on to Fort Huachuca for a tour of the museum conducted by a leading authority, ending with a ride along the old parade ground, through the cemetery where Apache Indian scouts who served as a mainstay of military operations during the 1870s through 1890s lay at rest, and drive-by other vestiges of this 145-year-old garrison.
DAY 3 Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona; Silver City, New Mexico
Our first stop this morning will be the Amerind Museum in Dragoon, Arizona. This institution was started as a labor of love by its founders and seeks to foster and promote knowledge and understanding of the Native Peoples of the Americas through research, education, conservation, and community engagement. Spectacular boulders of Texas Canyon surround the museum, adjacent gallery, and research center dedicated to archaeology, Native cultures, and Western art.
Nearby, Cochise, wise in war and respected in peace, once lived with his people amidst the security of the boulders, canyons, and cliffs that bear his name. Because of its relative remoteness, the Stronghold can be reached only by a narrow, winding unpaved road.
More of the same striking scenery welcomes us to the Chiricahua National Monument. This inspiring “Wonderland of Rocks” also includes a cross-cultural lesson about Apache who thrived here, a military camp manned by buffalo soldiers of the 10th U.S. Cavalry, and the dream of a transplanted Swedish immigrant—Neil Erickson, who after his stint as a horse soldier in the American Army, established Faraway Ranch. He and his spouse Emma Erickson raised their three children at what became a headquarters for their cattle ranch.
As the day draws down, our final stop in Arizona will be Fort Bowie National Historic Site. After parking the bus in the upper lot, we’ll hike down a meandering dirt trail for nearly a mile, peeling back the modern world to emerge past the old stage stop. Before the Civil War, overland coaches traversing a rugged route from San Antonio, Texas to San Diego, California halted momentarily to exchange teams, feed passengers, and provide a respite before moving on east or west. At first, the conveyances rolled along without incident. With the passage of time, however, the Apache and ever-increasing numbers of newcomers collided particularly as more and more settlers, miners, and ranchers invaded lands of those they called the Chiricahua had long held. Duplicity, misunderstanding, the kidnapping of Felix Martinez, and a series of unfortunate events erupted into a quarter of a century of fierce fighting turning the borderlands into a “vast domain of blood.” A tour of the ghostly adobe ruins and the visitors center will help unravel the complex clash of cultures that had raged since Spain laid claim to the region, as did Mexico from the 1820s through the early 1850s, followed by civilians and soldiers from the United States.
Departing Fort Bowie, we leave Arizona for Silver City, New Mexico via Lordsburg. We’ll cross the Continental Divide, skirt the ranch of ill-fated Judge H.C. and Juniata McComas, and drive through the towering walls of one of the largest operational copper mines in the country before checking in to the Art Deco Hotel Murray in the boom-and-bust town of Silver City. The community took its name from one of the minerals that enticed wealth-seekers bent on resting fortunes from the earth for more than a century and a half. The quest for gold, silver and copper came at the expense of the American Indians, who before recorded time considered this countryside their birthright. In fact, somewhere not far to the northwest a member of the Bedonkohe band of the Apache called in his youth Goyaałé (“The One Who Yawns”) was born. He later burst on to the scene becoming better-known from a name given him by interlopers to his place of origin—Geronimo. While uncertain when or exactly where Geronimo was born, some sources say he came from Turkey Creek, a tributary of the Gila River not too distant from Silver City.
DAY 4 Forts Bayard and Selden, New Mexico and the Land of the Mescalero
Existing structures at Fort Bayard National Landmark reveal little about the post’s past, yet some visitors have deemed the surrounding hills as “eerily beautiful.” The story of the garrison that came into being during 1865 to protect the surrounding mining district unfolds at the nearby Santa Clarita visitors’ center. After orientation, it’s a short jaunt by bus to the museum and national cemetery where burials dating from the earliest forces to staff the fort intermingle with the military dead and their family members from conflicts through the 20th century and beyond. Two Medal of Honor recipients are among the graves. During its heyday, seven soldiers stationed at Fort Bayard would be recognized with this, the nation’s highest tribute for valor in combat.
We’ll head east from Fort Bayard to Hatch, New Mexico considered by many as the chile capital of New Mexico. Somewhere in the area, on Christmas Eve, 1853, a site later dubbed Fort Thorn would be occupied by soldiers sent to protect the Santa Rita copper mining operations from Apache raids. In 1889 the flooding Rio Grande washed away any evidence of the buildings which stood “a stone’s throw of the swampiest portion” of the muddy river that provided the fort with its water as well as gave rise to noxious odors and hordes of mosquitos, the then-unknown culprit contributing to high rates of malaria. Within a half dozen years, the army abandoned this “miserable place to live.” By the way, the town’s namesake and its much sought-after crop came from Colonel Edward Hatch, who for more than two decades commanded the 9th US Cavalry, another buffalo soldier regiment.
While Fort Thorn disappeared into memory by 1865 a new more than 9,600 military reservation assumed its mission. Fort Selden State Historic Site, a leisurely drive from Hatch, once presented a sprawling compound of adobes resembling a martial village where a hospital, corrals, storehouses, barracks, and officers’ quarters served varying sized garrisons. One of the youths who lived there was Douglas MacArthur, whose father reported with his family in 1884 as an infantry captain and commanding officer. As a lad, Douglas had not yet adopted the stature of the stoic future general that he became. In fact, one afternoon the youngster became so frightened that his shrill scream sent up an alarm. Were the Apache attacking? No, Douglas unexpectedly faced a strange beast—a camel that had survived from an antebellum army experiment to replace horses and mules with these “ships of the desert.” The distressed little boy soon was safe with his mother while a few soldiers evidently sent the dromedary on its way. Details of real bravery can be found in the fort’s visitor center where the deeds of five enlisted men cited for courage in battle earned them Medals of Honor.
White Sands National Park could be on another planet, and so it has been in more than one science fiction film. Approximately 10,000 years ago the lush grasslands covering this basin attracted the first humans. These nomadic hunters followed herds of mammoths, camels, bison, and other large game that roamed the area. Over millennia the ice sheets melted causing drastic environmental changes forcing the ancient hunters to adapt or die as the dunes formed. Those people who remained began pottery making, built permanent houses, and farmed, staying the course for upwards of 1,200 years when inexplicably they abandoned their homes and fields during the mid-14th century. At approximately the same time, bands of people whom the Spanish and others referred to as Apaches followed herds of bison from the Great Plains to the Tularosa Basin. They settled from the mountain slopes to mounding dunes where for centuries they fiercely kept out the Spanish and those who came afterwards. Their descendants remain on the Mescalero Indian Reservation maintaining their culture and stunning lands.
DAY 5 Mescalero Apache Cultural Center & Museum to Santa Fe
After breakfast, we visit the Mescalero Apache Cultural Center & Museum. For 50 years this intimate facility has presented a vivid picture of the Mescalero, Chiricahua, and Lipan Apache People. Ancient stone tools, weapons, clothing, and an impressive collection of beautiful baskets accompanied by a video, and other enriching elements will add to this unique experience.
Fort Stanton State Monument, established in 1855, lays claim to be one of the most intact 19th-century military forts in the country and the best-preserved fort in New Mexico. As an outpost of the Indian Wars and a pawn during the Civil War, over its 160-year history, its walls have stood as silent witnesses to westward expansion, the lawless days of Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War, the tuberculosis epidemic that peaked in the 1920s, the New Deal–era Civilian Conservation Corps, as well as the internment of German civilian sailors during World War II. Fort Stanton’s 12-building parade ground appears much as it did in the late-1800s, making it easy to imagine military life in the Old West. Here, you can also learn about some of the most unusual and little-known chapters in New Mexico's history.
Arguably, had it not been for the lucrative government contracts required to feed the men of the fort and to supply the reservation the brutal fighting in Lincoln County may never have occurred. A short distance from Fort Stanton, Lincoln State Historic Site traces the complex political and economic power struggle, which included actions by the U.S. Army that sometimes fanned the flames rather than helped keep the peace in its capacity as a federal agency dedicated to law and order. We’ll walk the very streets where this tragic event sacrificed lives and ruined or made reputations.
DAY 6 Santa Fe, New Mexico
Perched at 7,000 feet above sea level in the foothills of the southern Rocky Mountains, Santa Fe is the highest and oldest state capital in the U.S. Founded by the Spanish between 1607 and 1610, Santa Fe also lays claim to be the nation’s second-oldest city. Its existence, however, was challenged during August 1680 when the native peoples rose up during what has come down through history as the “Pueblo Revolt.” That pivotal incident and many more will unfold at the Palace of Governors our first formal stop after a leisurely breakfast. Once we’ve concluded our visit to the Palace and provided with a brief orientation, then you’ll have free time to explore shops, sites such as the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, and have lunch on your own at one of the many choices open to you in the Plaza such as the famed La Plazuela at La Fonda.
At a prearranged hour we’ll regroup and make our way to the Santa Fe Plaza Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. With this last stop, we’ll be off to the host tour hotel where our day will conclude with an early evening farewell group dinner.
DAY 7 Home
The tour officially ends with a morning drop-off at Albuquerque International Sunport, New Mexico (ABQ).