It was in 1871 that a shipment of 24 Colt Dragoon Pistols was making its way from back East to its final destination at Fort McDowell. The pistols were under military escort, consisting of eight men. A sergeant, four soldiers a Lieutenant as well as a civilian packer.
The escort left Camp Pinal (Picket Post Mountain in Superior) beginning their arduous journey to Fort McDowell. After traveling on the only real road at the time (which was a stage road) the soldiers were attacked by between 15-25 Apaches at a spot where the road narrows tightly between two hills, making an ambush a flawless success.
As the first explosion of Apache’s gun fire erupted and in less than 15 seconds the four soldiers and the civilian packer were killed in a failed attempt to return fire. The Lieutenant and Sergeant grabbed the reigns of the pack mule that was carrying the pistols and made a frantic attempt to get away from the ambush and make their way back to the garrison Camp Pinal.
They rode like hell over several ridges and down into washes while being pursued by the Apaches, but were soon cut off by more warriors riding down on them from their chosen escape route. So the Lieutenant and Sergeant cut north and either rounded a sharp bend and took shelter inside of a small cave and prepared for their defense. The first warrior to round the bend charged the cave and was shot in the face by the Lieutenant and the pursuing Apache dispersed (at least appeared to disperse).
After about three hours of waiting and not seeing any signs of movement around them from the Apache, they decided to lighten their load to make a fast get away to Fort McDowell through the Superstition Mountains. So they took off the 24 Pistols that were packed on the mule and buried them in the floor of that small cave and then made good their escape.
As they made their way through the Superstition Mountains they could see in from a distance the Apache in return watching them from rocks high above but they didn’t make any movement to attack. As the Lieutenant and Sergeant were near the Salt River and clear of the Superstition Mountains, the Apache attacked yet again. The warriors knew exactly where to lay the ambush and exactly where they had to exit the mountains and cross the Salt River. The Sergeant was shot out of his saddle and the Lieutenant just spurred his mount and made a desperate attempt to escape and rode straight through the ambush. He was now the only survivor and eventually made his way to Fort McDowell and reported what had occurred.
General Crook dispatched two or three companies of troopers to go with the Lieutenant to the place where he had buried the Pistols and to investigate the attack. The troopers gathered up the bodies (what was left of them) but the Lieutenant could not recall where the cave was located where he had buried the pistols. He was new to Arizona and didn’t know the terrain, the only ones in his escort party who did know the Mountains and trails and passes were killed during the attack. The soldiers continued searching while in frustration but with no results.
The exact cave was never located and the pistols were never recovered and still waiting to be found to this very day. If these pistols could be found they could fetch a nice price but more importantly, they would be a priceless link to our states beautiful and bloody history.
(While on your search please carry water with you and watch for rattle snakes as the temperatures grown higher and higher. Try to stay cool and always tell someone where you will be going and when to expect you home).