Apache Warrior Versus U.S. Cavalryman, 1846–86, by Sean McLachlan, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England, 2016, $20
As with its 18 predecessors in Osprey’s Combat series, Sean McLachlan’s Apache Warrior Versus U.S. Cavalryman is replete with fascinating tidbits about the weapons, tactics and conduct of the antagonists under comparison. One learns the Apaches were slow to discard the flintlock—as flint was plentiful—and usually kept a bow and 18 arrows as a backup. Although he stripped to the bare essentials for combat, a warrior kept spare rawhide soles in case his moccasins wore out and was never without a bag of hoddentin, yellow pollen made from cattail rushes that held religious significance.
What might raise eyebrows among Western buffs are the three “characteristic” engagements the author chooses to illustrate the opponents’ approach to combat over their 40 years of conflict. Cienguilla, on March 30, 1854, sends the 1st Dragoons into a typical ambush, in this case by Jicarilla Apaches and their Ute allies in New Mexico Territory. The next, the First Battle of Adobe Walls, on Nov. 25, 1864, requires explanation by the author regarding the Kiowa Apaches who rode alongside the Kiowas, as these allied tribes spoke completely different languages. The expected likes of Cochise or Geronimo are again conspicuously absent in the third fight, Cibecue Creek, on Aug. 30, 1881, the only occasion in which Apache scouts traded shots with their white comrades-in-arms. The book may not give the reader quite what he expects, but that may be a good thing.