To debunk another myth, the records indicate that there are no Buffalo Soldier graves in Hembrillo. Two troopers, Issac James and William Saunders, died of wounds at Fort Stanton. For the duration of their duty in New Mexico, the men of the 9th Calvary and their white officers faced daily ridicule from the press for persistently attempting the very difficult job of pursuing Victorio.
When asked about the significance of the Hembrillo Battlefield, the stock answers include: that it was the largest confrontation between United States troops and the Apache to take place during the Victorio War and probably larger than any other battle of the Apache War period with the exception of the Battle of Apache Pass in Arizona. It was also the beginning of the end for Victorio and his courageous war of resistance. However, those answers do not adequately define the significance of this battlefield.
The significance of the Hembrillo Battlefield is in the story of the people who were involved. In the course of our lifetimes, each of us has been caught up in circumstances over which we have little control. The web of injustice and conflict that entangled those who fought at Hembrillo was a complex one.Victorio and the Red Paint people, having been denied their rightful homeland, after 10 years of promises and compromises, were fighting for basic survival. The Mescaleros, with painful memories of their own confinement at Bosque Redondo, were fighting in support of their Apache brethren.
The Buffalo Soldiers, ex-slaves and sons of slaves, were fighting to prove that African-Americans were good soldiers and good citizens. Edward Hatch and his officers were scorned by their military contemporaries and the press because they commanded black troops. No one wanted to be here, but here they were and each did what they felt they had to do.
On a rock ledge in the Hembrillo Basin, the Mountain Gods still dance and a mounted warrior clothed in red paint rides with shield bared. Breastworks of stacked rock stand waiting for a defense that will never come again. Cartridges and numbered metal tags mark the spots where brave men from three races did their duty for their gods and their country. Reflection brings regret that these men were not the ones to make policy.Prev Page
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