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Fighting the Apaches on Foot –

How the Equine Influenza Epidemic was rediscovered

The study of the Great Epizootic of 1872 began when Robert White, of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, came across obscure references indicating that an equestrian epidemic had forced the United States cavalry to fight the legendary Apache chief, Cochise, on foot. Thanks to White’s diligent research, he soon uncovered copies of rare Arizona newspapers which proved that a mysterious equestrian epidemic had indeed forced combatants on both sides to the assume the temporary role of pedestrians.

The Chiricahua Apache chief, Cochise, was a famous mounted guerrilla.

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Thanks to Bob’s original discoveries, The Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation was able to locate an eye-witness account of how the lack of horses affected the outcome of the Apache War. 

Captain John Bourke was one of the most famous soldiers to emerge from that conflict. He served on the staff of General George Crook, who had been described as the greatest Indian fighter the army ever had.” After the conclusion of his military career, in 1891 Bourke wrote a detailed account of his adventures in Arizona. Entitled On the Border with Crook, in addition to detailing how the famous warrior, Geronimo, was finally captured, Bourke also left an intriguing reference to the 1872 equine influenza which had swept from Toronto, Canada to the deserts of Arizona in only a few months time.

"There was still another source of discomfort which should not be overlooked. At that time the peculiar disease known as the epizootic made its appearance in the United States and reached Arizona, crippling the resources of the Department in horses and mules; we had to abandon our animals, and take our rations and blanket upon our backs, and do the best we could" Bourke wrote.

To learn more about the life and writings of Captain John Bourke, the LRG-AF recommends -

Even though the equine influenza originated thousands of miles away in Canada, Captain Bourke witnessed its deadly effects in distant Arizona a few months later.

Click on picture to enlarge.

Despite his reputation of being a mounted militant, the equine influenza outbreak struck down the Apache horses used by Geronimo and other Chiricahua warriors.

Click on picture to enlarge.

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