Our Sacred History
The War of Extermination against the Lipan Apaches
By 1873, so many Texas settlers were complaining that the
Lipans in Mexico were crossing the Rio Grande to raid in Texas that the U.S. military
decided to take action. On May 17, 1873, Col. Ranald Mackenzie and six companies of
cavalry from Fort Clark crossed the Rio Grande and attacked two rancherías of
Lipan Apaches and Kickapoos at El Remolino, Coahuila. Nineteen Indians were killed and
forty one women and children were taken prisoner. Chief Costalites, who was among
the Lipan prisoners, later died when he tried to escape from a military “prison camp” at
The Mackenzie raid was just the first of many cross-border
attacks by the U.S. military against the Lipans in Mexico. The 1873 El Remolino attack was
followed by numerous illegal cross-border raids in 1876 and 1877. Between April 1876 and
October 1877, Lt. John L. Bullis of Ft. Clark and Col. William Shafter of Ft. Duncan led
nine incursions into Mexico in order to seek out and destroy the Lipan Apaches. In only
three cases were the incursions the result of “hot pursuits” of Lipan raiders who crossed
from Texas into Mexico. In six cases, the Bullis and Shafter incursions were organized
military expeditions which not only violated Mexican sovereignty, but were a direct
abrogation of the terms of the San Saba Treaty, which the United States had signed with
the Lipan Apaches in 1851. Bullis, Shafter and their troops crossed the Rio Grande and
attacked Lipan rancherías which were located over 125 miles deep into Coahuila.
These illegal cross-border attacks were followed by a second Mackenzie incursion in 1877.
Illegal U.S. cross-border attacks on the Lipans became so common that General William T.
Sherman was forced to privately reprimand the commander of federal troops in Texas. Not
only were the Lipans chased back and forth across the border, but there were active
criminal warrants against them in Texas and bounties for their scalps in Mexico.
The U.S. troops worked in conjunction with the Mexican
Army in their war of extermination against the Lipan Apaches. General Gerónimo Treviño
and 1,500 Mexican soldiers launched a massive campaign in 1878-1879 against the Lipans
in Coahuila. Treviño’s campaign was followed by those of Generals Naranjo and Blás
Flores in 1880-1881.