Having completed the surrender and exile of the Mescalero Apache, General Carleton turned his attention to solving the “Navajo problem” and again enlisted the help of Colonel Kit Carson. On June 15, 1863, Carleton issued the order to Carson to attack the Navajo “...until it is considered at these headquarters that they have been effectively punished for their long continued atrocities.”
But this would be by no means a simpler search and capture mission as it was with the Mescalero. The Navajos were large in number and their country was vast and physically challenging. Plus the Navajo had an uncanny ability to simply disappear when being pursued. Carson knew he would fail unless he had experienced guides and trackers who knew Navajo ways and hiding places. He employed 100 Ute Indians, who hated the Navajos, as well as Pueblos and Hopis to help in his attack.
During the winter of 1863-1864, Carson’s New Mexico Volunteers, aided by Indian scouts and informants, ravaged the Navajo countryside, killing Navajo, burning crops and orchards, killing livestock, destroying villages, and contaminating water sources. This ‘scorched earth’ campaign of Carson’s “designed to starve the Navajo into submission” would be aptly called by the Navajos “The Fearing Time.”
With no surplus of food, and nowhere left to hide, the starving Navajos were gathered at Fort Defiance, near modern day Grants, NM, and forced to march to the Bosque Redondo reservation, some 400 miles away, through dangerous river crossings and other perilous conditions. Over several marches, between the summer of 1863 and the winter of 1866, 11,500 Navajo were forwarded to Bosque Redondo. Around 8,500 reached Fort Sumner. Some escaped and fled west, some were captured by slave traders, and many died along the way. This time of suffering is remembered as “The Long Walk.”
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“Say to them, ‘Go to Bosque Redondo, or we will pursue and destroy you. We will not make peace with you on any other terms. You have deceived us too often and robbed and murdered our people too long—to trust you again at large in your own country. This war will be pursued against you if it take years... until you cease to exist or move.’”
—Carleton, in a letter to Carson, September 19, 1863