A Bad Peace and a Good War
Spain and the Mescalero Apache Uprising of 1795–1799
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
266 Pages | 6 x 9 | 10 b&w illus., 2 maps
This conflict occurred immediately after the Spanish military had succeeded in making an uneasy peace with portions of all Apache groups. The Mescaleros were the first to break the peace, annihilating two Spanish patrols in August 1795. Galvanized by the loss, Commandant General Nava struggled to determine the extent to which Mescaleros residing in “peace establishments” outside Spanish settlements near El Paso, San Elizario, and Presidio del Norte were involved. Santiago looks at the impact of conflicting Spanish military strategies and increasing demands for fiscal efficiency as a result of Spain’s imperial entanglements. He examines Nava’s yearly invasions of Mescalero territory, his divide-and-rule policy using other Apaches to attack the Mescaleros, and his deportation of prisoners from the frontier, preventing the Mescaleros from redeeming their kin.
Santiago concludes that the consequences of this war were overwhelmingly negative for Mescaleros and ambiguous for Spaniards. The war’s legacy of bitterness lasted far beyond the end of Spanish rule, and the continued independence of so many Mescaleros and other Apaches in their homeland proved the limits of Spanish military authority. In the words of Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez, the Spaniards had technically won a “good war” against the Mescaleros and went on to manage a “bad peace.”
Mark Santiago is retired as Director of the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces and the author of Massacre at the Yuma Crossing: Spanish Relations with the Quechans, 1779-1782.
“Mark Santiago's engaging and valuable new study holds lessons for students and historians of the Spanish borderlands and small-unit military operations, but also for anyone interested in twenty-first-century irregular and guerrilla warfare.” – Michigan War Studies Review