Published on March 3, 2013 by Carol
The Battle of Canyon de Chelly was fought in 1864 as part of the Navajo Wars. It was a successful operation for the United States Army which precipitated the Long Walk and was the final major military engagement between the Navajo and the Americans. The battle ending with the fall of the main Navajo settlements of Canyon de Chelly in present day northern Arizona.
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By the time of the American Civil War the Navajo was the largest nation in the Southwest and one of the largest remaining Native American nations within the United States. Colonel Christopher H. “Kit” Carson had been waging a successful campaign against the Navajos employing a scorched earth policy, destroying homes, food and supplies. It was Carson’s policy to treat the Navajo people as humanely as possible, capturing instead of killing them. However, by November 1863 Carson had only sent 200 people on to the reservation at Basque Redondo. Brigadier General James H. Carleton ordered Carson into the Navajo stronghold in Canyon de Chelly. The canyon had been explored once before in 1858 by Colonel Dixon S. Miles. Miles had recommended no command should re-enter it.
The Navajo in Canyon de Chelly were members of the bands led by Manuelito, Barboncito and his brother Delgado. By the time Carson’s men came into their lands, these Navajo groups had already suffered attacks from Ute warriors. The raids by the Utes and soldiers had taken its toll on some of the Navajos. Delgado’s followers concluded they would not be able to survive the winter and surrendered at Fort Defiance. Barboncito vowed never to surrender and continue fighting the army