One Tough Hombre - a story for the CAS crowd & anybody else who likes good stories
Tales of the Jornada by Ronald Kil in MuzzleLoader Magazine (Jan/Feb. 2005).
"In 1864 a northbound stage driven by Sandy Wardell received word at Fort Selden, just before entering the Jornada, that Apaches had raided the village of Paraje at the nortern end and run off all the stage stock.
Undaunted, Wardell pressed on. He had five passengers in his coach and traveling just behind him was Epifanio Aguirre, his wife, two children and two servants traveling in a carriage. Behind them was an escort of eight cavalrymen and some wagons. Safety was found in strength and watchfulness. Surely the Apaches would find them too much to take on. They were wrong.
'We started out and had no trouble for the first two days,' Wardell wrote. 'On the second night, and just as day was breaking, right at Big Laguna 200 or 300 Apaches jumped us and the ball openned.'
With great expertise gained in massacring other stages, the Apaches knew that if they killed the team the stage would stop and be at their mercy. One Indian with a musket would stop his pony and jump off to take deliberate aim and shoot the mules in the hitch. (The custom in those days was to use five mules: three in the front, the leaders, and two in the back, the wheelers.) He managed to kill both the wheelers in this manner, but just as quick Wardell would stop the stage, jump down, cut loose the dead mule from the harness and drive on. H was wearing some pretty thick bark himself.
Epifanio Aguirre, whose family owned a freighting business extending from Chihuahua and northern Sonora to Sante Fe, was experienced in the ways of the Camino Real and the Apaches. Knowing well their peril, he took matters into his own hands. Taking a six-shooter in each hand and the bridle reins in his teeth, he would dash ahead of the coach charging into the Apaches like a Mexican Rooster Cogburn, emptying his pistols into them and then darting back to his carriage. There his wife, a woman of no little grit herself, would hand him two freshly loaded pistols while retrieving his empties. Spinning his horse back, he would go into the screeching mass of warriors. Wardell allowed as how he never saw a man with more nerve in all his life and that Aguirre fought like a demon.
With the passengers firing from the coach and the soldiers covering the rear, the caravan fought its way to within six miles of Paraje, at the northern edge of the Jornada, where the Apaches finally gave up. One passenger was hit by an arrow, the soldiers lost a mule and the stage lost its two wheelers. The stage was struck by so many arrows that it resembled a porcupine on wheels.
Wardell later wrote, 'they could not get close enough for their arrows to have much force, for our guns kept them at a distance, and I am glad of it, for I think in a case of this kind distance leads enchantment to the view.'
I reckon enchanting is one way to describe an experience like that. A postscript to this tale is that Epifanio Aguirre was killed in an Apache ambush six years later near Tucson. One feels confident that he didn't die running away."
MuzzleLoader is a great magazine for blackpowder buffs. If you like smokepoles, check it out!
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