Fri, July 19

Verde Heritage -- 1865: First Lieutenant Antonio Abeytia, Part 2.


"By Florence Dickinson, Camp Verde Editor."

The military men came into the Verde Valley on August 25. "'My men being very tired being all day without water or food, I concluded it was best to keep all together that night, and send after the desk next morning. The Indians could be heard distinctly on the mountains during the night but I kept all hands up to guard the animals which I had picketed at the foot of the mountain.'"

"'On the 26th at daylight in the morning I sent Sgt. Mullin and 4 privates to look after the desk but on their arriving at the top of the mountain they found the desk and its contents burnt up by the Indians; they had also burnt up the wagon and everything else which I did not succeed in getting down. Sgt. Mullin found a package of Muster Rolls of the company about 500 yards away from where the desk was burnt, which was all the papers left, or all that could be found after making a thorough search of a circle of a 1/4 of a mile on top of the mountain. Sgt. Mullin states that from the appearance where the Indians had been sitting on both sides of the road on top of the mountain for some 75 or 80 yards, that they must have numbered from 100 to 150 Indians. I arrived at the Verde about 5 o'clock p.m. on the 27th.'"

"The settlement at Clear Creek was not large but in the 6 months since its beginning land had been cleared and crops planted. The Indians raided regularly, carrying off corn and other grain, and driving off livestock when they could. This was frustrating and expensive for the settlers and they called repeatedly to the Army at Fort Whipple for protection. These men had been warned by the Army that attempts to settle the Verde Valley would be dangerous but they had proceeded anyway. James M. Swetnam was with the group which was headed by James Parrish. Mr. Swetnam has left an account of 'The Settlement's' beginnings."

First Lieutenant Abeytia continues; "'Capt., I am at a loss to know what to do in regard to my company books and papers. I would respectfully request that I may be furnished with a little information on the subject, so as to know what course to pursue.' Signed: Very Respectfully Your Obedient Servant, Antonio Abeytia, 1st Lt., 1st Cavalry, New Mexican Volunteers, Commanding Co. K."

"There was continuing trouble with the Indians and, no doubt, continuing complaints from Mr. Swetnam and others. James Swetnam wrote, '. . . They were of little use, several of the men, from one cause and another, being unfit for duty, and the lieutenant commanding was a coward. ...' Mr. Swetnam did not even bother to learn Lt. Abeytia's name, referring to him as 'Lt. Baty.' On October 20, 1865, a Lt. McNeil with 21 enlisted men from Company 'A,' 1st Infantry, Arizona Volunteers, was ordered to the Rio Verde camp, with 50 days rations. 1st Lt. Abeytia signed the muster roll at the camp, which by then was called Camp Lincoln, on Dec. 31, 1865, however, the matter of command at Camp Lincoln is a little cloudy. On December 30, Major Henry M. Benson, 4th Infantry, California Volunteers, was ordered to assume command on the new camp. On January 17, 1866, Abeytia transmitted a requisition for stationery from Camp Lincoln."

"Back in October of 1865, Abeytia, apparently at Ft. Whipple for some reason, had written the Ass't. Adjt. Gen. tendering his resignation from the service, stating, 'on account of my very poor health in the last 2 months which has incapacitated me for the command of my company or attend to my duties as an officer in active service. I am also suffering from a disease of the eye which is rapidly growing worse and which requires immediate attention, which I cannot possible get here.' In his letter he went on to certify that he was not indebted to the United States on any account whatever."

"His resignation was turned down although in October of 1865, he received from Edward Phelps, Surgeon with the 7th California Infantry a statement certifying that he was suffering from hypertrophy of the liver 'of some 6 months duration' and was unfit for duty."

"Finally, in Special Orders No. 81, dated June 11, 1866, at Headquarters, Military Division of the Mississippi, St. Louis, Mo., Lt. Antonio Abeytia was honorably discharged from the service of the United States, with the condition that he receive no final payments until he satisfied the pay department that he was not indebted to the government. It was more than 8 months since he penned his resignation at Ft. Whipple."

There are "2 footnotes to this story of Abeytia and the first of the military in the Verde Valley: On Dec. 15, 1865, Dr. Edward Palmer, who, with his wagon, accompanied Lt. Abeytia on that first trip to the Rio Verde, wrote Ft. Whipple asking if he could be compensated for the loss of his wagon which had been borrowed from him by the quartermaster. An endorsement in red ink on this letter reads: 'Resp. ret. Dr. Palmer must look to the person who borrowed the wagon for his pay. No officer was authorized to borrow in the name of the U.S., as pack mules were supplied for transportation and were amply sufficient for the purpose. Dec. 28.'"

"General Order No. 65, dated War Department Adjutant General's office, June 22, 1867. '1st Lt. Antonio Abeytia, 1 New Mexico Cav., appointed to be Captain by Brevet in the Volunteer Force, Army of the United States, for gallantry in battle with Apache Indians, in Arizona, to date from March 13, 1865.'"

First Lieutenant Antonio "Abeytia was discharged for medical reasons and received a promotion for gallantry in action. After that first trip" from Fort Whipple to the Verde Valley "he greatly merited the promotion."

(The Verde Independent; Thursday, February 15, 1973; page 27.)

The Camp Verde Historical Society First Tuesday Lecture Series on September 1, 2015, at 4 p.m., will feature Jeni O'Callaghan, who will discuss the LOIS BOBLETT DIARY, a remarkable journal. Although the account of James M. Swetnam about the Verde Valley during 1865 has been available in print, the diary of Lois Boblett is an unpublished manuscript. Lois, her mother, and Mrs. Elliott (Eliot) were the first white women to live in the Verde Valley.