Letter recommending removal of the Navajo to Bosque Redondo

Head Quarters, Department of New Mexico
Santa Fé, N.M. September 6, 1863

Brig. General Lorenzo Thomas,
Adjutant General U.S.A.
Washington, D.C.


I have the honor to report that I have this week sent fifty one Navajoe Indian men, women, and children to Fort Sumner, at the Bosque Redondo on the Pecos River, where, as I have before informed you, I have four hundred and twenty-five Mescalero Apaches, held as prisoners. The purpose had in view is to send all captured Navahoes and Apaches to that point, and there to feed and take care of them until they have opened farms and become able to support themselves, as the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico are doing. The War Department has already approved of this in the case of the Apaches, and authorized that Fort Sumner should be a chaplain post, so that the chaplain there could educate the Indian children. This year those Indians have been contented and happy. They planted under the direction of their agent and with a little help—some large fields of corn—and now that they have their acequia dug, will next year raise quite enough to support themselves. This the Navajoes can be persuaded to do as well.

At the Bosque Redondo there is arable land for all the Indians of this family: (The Navajoes and Apaches have descended from the same stock and speak the same languages.) and I would respectfully recommend, that now the war is vigorously prosecuted against the Navahoes—that the only peace that can ever be made with them must rest on the basis that they move onto these land, and like the Pueblos become an agricultural people, and cease to be nomads. This should be a sine qua non. As soon as the snows of winter admonish them of the suffering to which their families will be exposed—I have great hopes of getting most of the tribe. The knowledge of the perfidy of these Navajoes, gained after two centuries of experience, is such as to lead us to put no faith in their promises. They have no government to make treaties. They are a patriarchal people. On set of families may make promises, but the other set will not heed them. They understand the direct application of force as a law. If its application be removed, that moment they become lawless. This has been tried over and over and over again, and at great expense. The purpose now is never to relax the application of force with a people that can no more be trusted than you can trust the wolves that run through their mountains. To gather them together little by little onto a Reservation away from the haunts and hills and hiding places of their country, and there be kind to them: there teach their children how to read and write: teach them the art of peace: teach them the truths of christianity. Soon they will acquire new habits, new ideas new modes of life: the old Indians will die off and carry with them all latent longings for murdering and robbing: the young ones will take their places without these longings: and thus, little by little, they will become a happy and contented people, and Navajoe Wars will be remembered only as something that belongs entirely to the Past. Even until they can raise enough to be self-sustaining— you can feed them cheaper than you can fight them.

You will observe that the Bozque Redondo is far down the Pecos on the open plains—where those Indians can have no lateral contact with settlers. If the government will only set apart a reservation of forty miles square, with Fort Sumner at the Bosque Redondo in the centre, all the good land will be covered, and keep the settlers a proper distance from the Indians. See the enclosed map. There is no place in the Navajoe Country fit for a Reservation: and even if there were, it would not be wise to have it there: for little by little the Indians would steal away into their mountain fastnessess again—and then as of old, would come a new war, and so on, ad infinitum.

I know these views are practical—practicable—and humane:—are just to the suffering people, as well as to the aggressive, perfidious, butchering Navahoes. If I can one more full regiment of cavalry and authority to raise one independent company in each county in the Territory—they can soon be carried to a final result.

I am, General,
Your obt. servant.
James H. Carleson.
Brig. General,

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).