For every famous figure in frontier history, there are others who have fallen into undeserved obscurity.
Everybody has heard of Geronimo; most folks recognize Cochise and maybe Mangas Coloradas — all famous leaders of the Chircahua Apache people.
But only close students of the Apache Wars have heard of Sergeant William Alchesay. Alchesay was the most important of General George Crook’s Apache Scouts, and he earned the Medal of Honor for his gallantry in the brutal Tonto Basin campaign of 1872-74.
In his day, he was as prominent a figure as Cochise, and he was frequently photographed. He was an exceptionally handsome man and every inch the warrior.
Film-maker Dustinn Craig is working on a documentary about the White Mountain Apache Scouts. Learn more here.
To its credit, the U.S. Army pays fitting tribute to the great Frontier Partisan on its website:
Probably the most famous of Crook’s Apache Scouts, Sergeant William Alchesay, or the “Little One,” was born between Globe and Show Low, Arizona in 1853. He enlisted in 1872 at Camp Verde, Arizona, and became a Sergeant in A Company, Indian Scouts, commanded by Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood, 6th US Cavalry.
Sergeant Alchesay was one of ten Apache Scouts who guided Crook’s columns during the winter campaign of 1872-1873 against the Chiricahua Apache. The Medal of Honor citations for all ten Scouts cited, “for gallant conduct during the campaigns and engagements with Apaches.”
In March 1886, Sergeant Alchesay was called upon again to assist General Crook in the Geronimo Campaign. Alchesay was present at Geronimo’s surrender on March 27th at Canyon de los Embudos in Sonora. The old warrior asked Alchesay to speak on his behalf. Speaking as both Scout and Apache, Alchesay said, “They have all surrendered. There is nothing more to be done… I don’t want you have any bad feelings about the Chiricahuas. I am glad they have surrendered because they are all one family with me.”
Geronimo would escape confinement one more time and have to surrender again to General Nelson Miles, but the trust that was bestowed on Alchesay by both his fellow Soldiers and his brother Apache spoke highly of his character.
Alchesay served more than fourteen years in the Army, eventually becoming a Chief of the White Mountain Apache Tribe until he retired in 1925. He made numerous trips to Washington D.C., visiting with President Grover Cleveland and acting as a counselor to Indian Agents in Arizona Territory. Chief Alchesay died in 1928, a chief to his own people and a hero to the US Army which depended so much on his abilities. He was inducted into the MI Hall of Fame in 2012 and his proud descendants traveled to Fort Huachuca to dedicate a new plaque on Alchesay Barracks, named for him in 1975.