For every famous figure in frontier history, there are others who have fallen into undeserved obscurity.

Everybody has heard of Geronimo; most folks recognize Cochise and maybe Mangas Coloradas — all famous leaders of the Chircahua Apache people.

But only close students of the Apache Wars have heard of Sergeant William Alchesay. Alchesay was the most important of General George Crook’s Apache Scouts, and he earned the Medal of Honor for his gallantry in the brutal Tonto Basin campaign of 1872-74.

In his day, he was as prominent a figure as Cochise, and he was frequently photographed. He was an exceptionally handsome man and every inch the warrior.

Film-maker Dustinn Craig is working on a documentary about the White Mountain Apache Scouts. Learn more here.


To its credit, the U.S. Army pays fitting tribute to the great Frontier Partisan on its website:

Probably the most famous of Crook’s Apache Scouts, Sergeant William Alchesay, or the “Little One,” was born between Globe and Show Low, Arizona in 1853. He enlisted in 1872 at Camp Verde, Arizona, and became a Sergeant in A Company, Indian Scouts, commanded by Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood, 6th US Cavalry.

Sergeant Alchesay was one of ten Apache Scouts who guided Crook’s columns during the winter campaign of 1872-1873 against the Chiricahua Apache. The Medal of Honor citations for all ten Scouts cited, “for gallant conduct during the campaigns and engagements with Apaches.”

In March 1886, Sergeant Alchesay was called upon again to assist General Crook in the Geronimo Campaign. Alchesay was present at Geronimo’s surrender on March 27th at Canyon de los Embudos in Sonora. The old warrior asked Alchesay to speak on his behalf. Speaking as both Scout and Apache, Alchesay said, “They have all surrendered. There is nothing more to be done… I don’t want you have any bad feelings about the Chiricahuas. I am glad they have surrendered because they are all one family with me.”

Geronimo would escape confinement one more time and have to surrender again to General Nelson Miles, but the trust that was bestowed on Alchesay by both his fellow Soldiers and his brother Apache spoke highly of his character. 

Alchesay served more than fourteen years in the Army, eventually becoming a Chief of the White Mountain Apache Tribe until he retired in 1925. He made numerous trips to Washington D.C., visiting with President Grover Cleveland and acting as a counselor to Indian Agents in Arizona Territory. Chief Alchesay died in 1928, a chief to his own people and a hero to the US Army which depended so much on his abilities. He was inducted into the MI Hall of Fame in 2012 and his proud descendants traveled to Fort Huachuca to dedicate a new plaque on Alchesay Barracks, named for him in 1975.

Alchesay, right, was a key scout for General George Crook.

Alchesay, right, was a key scout for General George Crook.

Alchesay became Chief of the White Mountain Apache.

Alchesay became Chief of the White Mountain Apache.

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  • My Great Grandfather Chief Achesay is an honorable man he knew change was non him an his people he helped the white because he did not want his people to vanish off the face of the earth so he helped to keep his people a live an to stay at whiteriver .he did not like hunting his people down but in order for them to survive he did what was right for them to live
  • WOW, think about this MAN's LIFE for a bit. Alchesay was present at Geronimo’s surrender, The old warrior asked Alchesay to speak on his behalf! Speaking as both Scout and Apache, Alchesay said, “They have all surrendered. There is nothing more to be done… I don’t want you have any bad feelings about the Chiricahuas. I am glad they have surrendered because *they are all one family with me.*” He was an emissary for his people and negotiated to save lives in the futile FIGHT yet desires also to stay sovereign. Secretary of State is about like what he did in this time. WOW.
  • AdminSue, for Sue, I may also pay homage, as such it is, so it was, with HONOR, IS ALSO A TRAGEDY always found for the PEACE CHIEF IS HELD IN HIGH ESTEEM and HONOR. If you did wrong and I did for that wrong also do these two wrongs make anything right at all, yet I give yet another strike, when is it enough? Should anybody be suffered to yet today live at all? Yet, here my SPIRIT WITH GODS SPIRIT now. It is not for the ACTS of WAR a warrior is due any Honor nor is there any GLORY for the COUNTING OF THE dead for which I DO NOT doubt some died by his hand and those back then at FIRST HAND affect, even more might have as you, felt what you share with us for WAR BRINGS MUCH SORROW. Your feelings are justified, such is of many mixed emotions, and I share now perception, having first paid respect of your statement with shared feeling if I might say such. It is justified for loss of any LOVED to feel first and act on emotions yet such never saved life. Yet I would as now you to maybe see now a different way in our wisdom, HONOR COMES ONLY BY THE SERVICE, for surely it was best one died by this one in his brutal mercy in granting a FAST DEATH. Whereby he may been that one fall to the hand of those of mind to bring genocide on these lands I am am survived... SERVICE IS FACING DEATH THAT SOMEONE ELSE MAY NOT NEED TO. One might say he was our PEACE CHIEF OF MERCY, for I might choose fast death over such as seeing prior to my torture to death for sport my horror of no way to protect my daughter of 10 years made a whore for murders and with her also my wife her mother as I am in horror so is she yet even worse she is done likewise as the child to her death, SUCH IS SO MUCH HONOR IN THE MAN HERE IN HIS MERCY AND ABILITY TO SAVE SOME for it was not by MERCY ANY OF US LIVE LESS IT IS HE THAT SHOWED SUCH. I wipe so many tears now to share how it is I SEE A MAN OF HONOR also. YES, I AM NOT AS HE SO SURE I MIGHT BE OF MY SELF ABLE TO BE OF SUCH HONOR for I ALSO WOULD KILL TO SPARE YOU WORSE as one female of 10 years survived to share this tale with us bastards. WHO MIGHT I HATE IF NOT ALL MEN EQUALLY FOR I AM OF NO PEOPLE AT ALL JUST A BASTARD OF BRUTALITY SOME GENERATIONS NOW PAST. And with the title of bastard and much discrimination, one by one through much denied of selves, I give now my ADMIRATION FOR DAMNED IF I MIGHT NOW SAY I WOULD GIVE MY LIFE THAT THE HORROR MIGHT NEVER HAVE COME YET I AM STILL JUST A BASTARD and also cursed for that for the blood of he dead cries from this SOIL and such is Shawnee PROFIT & the HUNTED in one bastard HUNTER FOR THE PROPHET IS THE WITCH HUNTER. Raised of dead I am come of the windwalker that ye know me as I AM.
  • I agree with you my friend. His medal, while certainly earned for bravery is tarnished by the actions that it was earned in. Remember people, the medal of honor was awarded to the murderers at wounded knee. Blackbird
  • He guided US troops fighting the Chiricahua? He may have been brave but would some not regard him as a traitor? I find this difficult to understand.
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The Medal of Honor is the highest U.S. military decoration awarded to individuals who, while serving in the U.S. armed services, have distinguished themselves by conspicuous gallantry and courage at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty.

Each recommendation for this decoration must incontestably prove that the act of bravery or self-sacrifice involved obvious risk of life and, if the risk hadn't been taken, there would be no just grounds for censure. The award is made in the name of congress and is presented by the President of the United States. Originally authorized by congress in 1861, it's sometimes called the "Congressional Medal of Honor."

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