What is BATTLEGROUND GUNFIGHT? What does BATTLEGROUND GUNFIGHT mean?
- Published on Feb 9, 2019
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What is BATTLEGROUND GUNFIGHT? What does BATTLEGROUND GUNFIGHT mean? BATTLEGROUND GUNFIGHT meaning - BATTLEGROUND GUNFIGHT definition - BATTLEGROUND GUNFIGHT explanation.
Source: Wikipedia.org article, adapted under creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ license.
The Battleground Gunfight, also known as the Battleground Shootout, was a gunfight between a posse of American lawmen and the Smith Gang. It was fought on October 9, 1901, within Arizona's Fort Apache Indian Reservation, at a clearing in the forest known today as the "Battleground". Nine Arizona Rangers and deputies caught up with the cattle rustler Bill Smith and his gang. During a long exchange of gunfire that followed, the ranger Carlos Tofolla and Deputy Bill Maxwell were killed and one or two of the outlaws may have been wounded. In the end, the Smith Gang escaped the posse and fled into Mexico.
The Arizona Rangers was established in 1901 and the Battleground Gunfight became the first major shootout to involve the new police force. The Smith Gang was one of the first targets for the rangers. In northeastern Graham County, Bill Smith owned a ranch on the Blue River, where he lived with his mother and his younger brothers and sisters. The ranch house served as a base for rustling cattle from nearby settlers, such as Henry Barrett, a former Rough Rider. In 1898, the Smith brothers were arrested for stealing unbranded calves from Barrett and Bill Phelps. Bill Smith assumed full responsibility so he was sent to jail at St. Johns. Because of this, Bill was said to have developed a grudge against Henry Barrett. During the first week of October 1901, the Smith Gang was spotted at Pat Knoll, near Springerville, heading south with a herd of fifteen or twenty stolen horses. Police informants said the gang was one their way from Utah, where they robbed a train. A few days later, Bill and his brother Al came across Henry Barrett and another cowboy in the Big Cienega range. During the confrontation, Bill threatened to kill Barrett so the latter informed the sheriff of Apache County, who organized a posse.
The posse was led by the sheriff's deputy, Hank Sharp, and included Henry Barett and two other locals named Pete Peterson and Elijah Holgate. Meanwhile, the Arizona Rangers Carlos Tofolla and Duane Hamblin were assigned to search for the Smith Gang. At Greer, the rangers and the posse met and they decided to work together in tracking and capturing the outlaws. The rangers then deputized Barrett, Peterson and Holgate and they picked up and began following the outlaws' trail to the Little Colorado River, where they forded it at a place known as Sheep's Crossing. From there the posse went to the ranch of Lorenzo Crosby to enlist his services and that of the brothers Arch and William "Bill" Maxwell, both of whom were described as being excellent scouts. These three men were deputized as well, making the posse a force of nine men altogether. After that, the posse continued along the trail south to Big Lake and then to Dead Man's Crossing on the Black River. On October 7, at a ranch belonging to Pete Slaughter, the posse found an abandoned camp that was believed to have been recently occupied by the outlaws. The rangers decided to camp at the same location for the night and then proceed down the west side of the river bank on the following morning.
On the morning of Tuesday, October 8, the posse awoke, had breakfeast, and then saddled to continue down the river. Along the way they passed the Pair-O'Dice Ranch. The area is part of the White Mountains and thus heavily forested and difficult to traverse. It was also very cold and snow covered the ground. That day the Smith Gang was camped at Reservation Creek, just inside the western border of the Fort Apache reservation, in a canyon 200 yards wide and 100 feet deep, near the source of the Black River. Today the location is near the shoreline of Reservation Lake. The Smith gang was in need of food so that afternoon they killed a bear and the shots were heard by the posse a half a mile away. Eventually, the Maxwell brothers found the location of the bear shooting and blood trails in the snow led back to the Smiths' camp, which was six miles from where the posse camped. By then it was almost night. As the posse approached the canyon, the Smiths' guard dog began barking. This alerted Bill, who went up to the canyon's rim to have a better look. There he saw the posse coming towards the camp so he ran back to tell the others....