By Andrew Wallace
By 1875 the federal government had brought nearly all hostile Indians in Arizona Territory onto federal reservations, and that year Gen. George Crook, who had directed their pacification, departed for the Northern Plains to help subdue the Sioux. His successor was already at Fort Whipple: Col. August Valentine Kautz took over the Arizona military department with his Civil War rank of major general.
Born in Germany in 1828, Kautz was brought by his parents at four years of age to Brown County, Ohio, where his father was a pioneer wine grower. Upon the outbreak of war with Mexico in 1846 young Gus joined the First Ohio Volunteers and served with Zachery Taylor’s army as a private soldier at the Battle of Monterey. After the war he gained appointment to West Point and graduated with Phil Sheridan and George Crook in 1852. They all served on the Northwest frontier where Kautz was the first to climb Mount Rainier. In 1860 he received promotion to captain in the 6th U.S. Cavalry, one of three new cavalry regiments created just as South Carolina was about to start a civil war. Because Regular Army promotion was glacially slow in 1861 he—and a flood of would-be volunteer generals—swamped legislatures of loyal states for appointments in volunteer units where promotion was rapid. Captain Kautz quickly obtained leave from the army to accept a commission in the 2d Ohio Cavalry.
Brevet Major General August V. Kautz, commanding officer of the military department of Arizona, 1875-1878 (Photo Courtesy of Andrew Wallace).
When the Civil War ended Kautz was a brigadier general and in September 1865 he married Charlotte Todd, daughter of former Ohio governor David Todd. Although Kautz had been a famous cavalry leader in the war, in the postwar reduction of the army he wound up as a lieutenant colonel of infantry. In 1866 he was on duty in Mississippi where his wife died of typhoid fever. They had no children and his life was now empty.
In 1870 Kautz was sent to Newport Barracks, Kentucky, on recruiting duty, a plum assignment that included no troops nor close supervision. The closest superior headquarters was in St. Louis and his orders came directly from Washington. Best of all, most of his time was free and he could indulge the social life of Cincinnati across the Ohio river. There he soon succumbed to the charms of Miss Fannie Markbreit, doyen of Cincinnati society whose brother was the first professional chief of police in a U.S. city. She was 21 years his junior yet she thought Gus a prize catch. They married in 1872 and soon had a baby daughter.
Now, in 1875, with command of the Arizona department and comfortable quarters at Fort Whipple, Kautz inherited a nest of knotty problems: Indian reservations, corrupt army officers, and renegade Apaches who raided from Mexico. Isolated and populated mainly by mining interests, Prescott nevertheless had comfortable climate and was not threatened by hostile Indians after Crook’s 1872 campaign. Crook had also induced most tribesmen onto reservations and greatly strengthened his armed force by forming companies of Apache scouts.
The Arizona military department stretched across southern California to San Diego, with headquarters at Whipple Barracks in Prescott where Fannie enlivened local society. She founded a theatrical troupe and sponsored dance “hops” for the local citizens. A fine musician herself, she sponsored musical soirees to counter the Prescott saloon culture. The general rarely participated, preferring to invest in mines and write letters to the press.
Kautz was especially critical of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Federal policy was to have the Bureau, part of the U.S. Interior Department, appoint civilians to manage reservations, four of them in Arizona. Finding Indian agents, however, proved difficult and Gen. Crook had been authorized to appoint army officers who now came under Gen. Kautz’ control. Meanwhile, President Ulysses Grant was persuaded to allow various churches to sponsor agents. The Dutch Reformed Church in New York named 24-year-old John P. Clum to take over the San Carlos reservation and teach Apaches to be farmers. Clum distrusted the army and soon started the first Indian police force. Thus began the “peace policy” in Arizona
Though not the complete failure in command of Arizona as some writers have implied, Gen. August Kautz took charge of a military department beset by more insoluble problems than most. The fiercest Apache warriors had taken refuge in Mexico whence they could raid at pleasure and where U.S. forces could not touch them without permission of the Mexican government. Half the department was some of the most severe hot desert in the world, including the Mojave in California, part of the command. With no railroads in Arizona until 1883, all troops and supplies had to move on foot or with animal transport—Colorado River steamers being the only exception. Kautz took over in 1875 in the shadow of Gen. George Crook’s success. Any failure would draw an odious comparison.
Despite growing depredations from Mexico into southern Arizona and a shortage of experienced junior officers, Kautz never personally took the field against hostile Indians, leaving the job ironically to the 6th Cavalry wherein he had been a new captain in 1860. Perhaps he envied the young gentlemen who gamely intercepted raiding savages in the mountains near the new Fort Huachuca. His concerns were of a different order; he believed that incompetent or crooked Indian agents and reservation traders were responsible for most troubles in southern Arizona, a place he seldom visited.
Colonel August V. Kautz commanded the military department of Arizona with his brevet rank of Major General. (Photo Courtesy of Sharlot Hall Museum Call Number: PO-1132p. Reuse with permission only).
Soldiers in Arizona generally disliked civil agents of the Indian Bureau and young John P. Clum was especially abrasive. Kautz thought him a bustling upstart and withdrew the troops who guarded the San Carlos reservation when Clum moved most of his Indian charges to Fort Apache. To the consternation of Arizona stockmen, he also refused to allow his troops to pursue Chiricahua Apaches who were after Yankee beef and mules along the Mexican border. He claimed they were either Clum’s responsibility (some had previously been interned at San Carlos) or that Mexican smugglers and bandits were the responsibility of civil authorities.
Arizona residents petitioned President Grant to either order troops into action or to remove Kautz, an old friend of the president from prewar days. It was too bad for all concerned when newspaper editors in Tucson took up the cry to “exterminate” Apaches and abolish reservations that they called “feeding stations” for renegades. John Wasson, editor of the Tucson Citizen, dubbed the dour, contentious commanding general “The Great Mogul.” The Arizona government, now in Tucson, organized their own militia to defend the border.
Despite his many professional faults, Gen. A. V. Kautz was abstemious and a stickler for safeguarding government property. One of his complaints about Indian agent Clum was that he had burned down unused buildings at his agency. And drunkenness was common at frontier posts like Fort Whipple. Built near a small city, sometimes Arizona’s capital, and untroubled by any dissolute “hog ranch” nearby, Whipple was still too close to a town notorious for its numerous saloons and brothels popular with “cowboys.”
In 1877 Gen. Kautz, who was commanding general of the vast Department of Arizona (but was not post commander of Whipple or legally responsible for regimental officers) tried to remove a cavalry captain at Camp Apache who was charged with taking government property for personal use. Capt. Campbell when in Prescott was also a notorious drunk. The court-martial, where Kautz testified, found the officer guilty but the army judge advocate general, William McKee Dunn, quashed the proceedings with good reason: Kautz’ testimony was “command interference” and Campbell was left free to roam Whiskey Row.
The General denounced publicly the army’s Judge Advocate General whose political friends at Washington complained of Campbell’s “persecution.” At Fort Whipple Kautz printed a pamphlet defending his Indian policy and attacking not only Capt. Campbell’s friends but the J.A.G. himself. This brought military charges and he was court-martialed at a trial convened at Omaha, Nebraska, in January 1878. The trial was a national sensation, covered by papers in New York and San Francisco. Although acquitted, Kautz could not withstand the slings and arrows of the press, the Indian Bureau, and political friends of Dunn and Campbell. On March 5, 1878, William T. Sherman, commanding the army, reluctantly ordered the 8th Infantry to California, taking with them Col. Kautz.