This Day In Histroy: The Apache Chief Diablo Is Killed (1880)

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On this day in history, the infamous Diablo, an Apache chief, is killed during a battle with another group of rival Indians.

Diablo was known as Eskinlaw to his own people. He was a war-chief of  the  Cibecue Apache, who lived in the White Mountains of present-day Arizona. Att first had tried to come to peace with the white settlers. Soon he and his tribes were in conflict with the settlers over land and access to water.

In July 1869, he traveled to Fort Defiance, with an offer of cooperation and assurances that he and his people wanted to live in peace. Initially, it all went well and Diablo visited the whites and they visited his camp.

Many Apaches were not happy with the approach of Diablo. They did not approve of his strategy of seeking peace with the white settlers. Some Apaches did not trust the settlers and they believed that they would eventually take their land. Tensions grew in the tribe and many younger warriors wanted to attack the whites and to drive them from their land.

Fort_Apache_Indian_Reservation_entrance
Fort Apache Reservation

In 1873, a warrior from a competing band of Apaches led by a war chief by the name of Eshkeldahsilah killed a white settler. Diablo tracked down the murderer  and killed him, winning the Americans’ praise but the undying hatred of the rival band of Indians. There was an upsurge in attacks by Indians on Americans and their property in the area.

To avoid further violence,  the government ordered that all of Apaches move close to the fort, where they could be supervised. This may have decreased the attacks on the Americans, but it led to bitter recriminations among the Apaches. Then in 1875, as white settlers flooded into the area, the army announced that all Indians had to move into a reservation many miles away.

Diablo was enraged and refused to move, he believed that he had been betrayed and vowed revenge on the white settlers and cavalry.

In January 1876, he attacked the camp near Fort Apache and later any Indian in the region who continued to cooperate with the settlers and the army. This angered many Apaches because it was Diablo who had begun the policy of cooperation and now he wanted them to treat all whites as enemies.  Diablo had by now many enemies, the army was on his trail and he had alienated many Apaches.

Eventually, the White Mountain Apache got their revenge on Diablo. On this day in 1880, the Apaches who had come to hate Diablo united and they advanced to meet him and his followers. The two rivals bands of Apache fought a fierce battle not far from  Fort Apache. The US cavalry rode out of the fort and tried to end the fighting but they arrived too late. Diablo had been killed in the battle.

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