Cynthia Palcich: Apache scouts receive Medal of Honor for service

Apache scouts in Arizona, sometime in the early 1880s. Photo from National Archives and Records Administration

Eleven Apache scouts received Medals of Honor for their service to the U.S. military during the Indian Wars of the late 1800s. True to their name, information about the scouts remains elusive, as Cynthia Palcich of the Sharlot Hall Museum discovers:
Part of the problem was a lack of record-keeping and a big part of the difficulty was simply the names of the Scouts. They generally went by a single name, which was often what we would regard as a nickname. “Chiquito,” for example, meant “little guy.” There were several Scouts known as “Chiquito.” There were also several named “Jim”; one or another of them was also known as “Jim Dandy” or “Dandy Jim.” Some were known by several names or names with different spellings. “Elsatsoosu” was also known as “Elsatsoosa” or “Alotse,” which meant “skinny.” Odds are that none of these names were used by these men or their relatives when they were away from the Army.

Sergeant Alchesay was known by at least seven names. For reference purposes, the Army tried a system of designating the various bands (related family groups) of Apaches with a letter, from A to Z; each man of fighting age was given a number based on his perceived status within the band. Alchesay had the distinction of being “A1.” There is a lovely Arizona lake named A1 in honor of this heroic Sergeant of Apache Scouts.

Alchesay is the best known of the Medal of Honor winners. After his service, he twice visited the White House and met several Presidents. He championed education for young Apaches, stressing that they should “. . . learn the ways of the White people, but . . . stay true to the ways of the Indian.” Bridging old and new was a lifelong goal for Alchesay, who lived until 1932, well into his 80s.

In contrast, very little is known about Chiquito. He remains a mystery; no photograph of him is known to exist. But, of the eleven Medals of Honor, his medal is the only one that has survived. A gentleman searching near Globe with a metal detector unearthed it in a spot that might have represented a ceremonial “burial” of the medal under some flat rocks. Chiquito’s medal is on display at the Sharlot Hall Museum.

Get the Story:
Days Past by Cynthia Palcich and Members of the Sharlot Hall Museum Staff: Apache Scouts – Medal of Honor winners (The Prescott Daily Courier 6/12)

Earlier Column:
Mick Woodcock: Days Past: Apache scouts in Arizona’s Indian wars (The Prescott Daily Courier 6/5)

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