Camp San Carlos

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Camp San Carlos (1873-1900) - A U.S. Army cavalry camp first established in 1873 on a previously occupied site on the San Carlos Apache Indian Agency, Gila County, Arizona. Abandoned in 1900. Also known as Post at San Carlos.

Coolidge dam and San Carlos Lake: Camp San Carlos Site Submerged under San Carlos Lake.

History of Camp San Carlos

In February 1873, 1,200 Apaches were marched from Fort Grant to establish the San Carlos reservation at the confluence of the San Carlos River and the Gila River. The chosen location on a gravel terrace above the combined rivers was barren, inhospitable, and could not support the population. A small detachment of soldiers remained at the new reservation and a system to supply weekly rations to the population was established. That system would last until after 1900.

On 27 May 1873, during the distribution of weekly rations, an altercation between an Apache and the Indian Agent resulted in the death of Lt Jacob Almy (Cullum 2196). As a result, three companies of 5th U.S. Cavalry arrived and set up camp two days later. The offending Apache was tracked down and killed on 30 Apr 1874 by a party under the command of Captain John M. Hamilton, 5th U.S. Cavalry. The U.S. Army camp was officially established on 29 May 1873 by I Troop, 5th U.S. Cavalry. The camp was then a sub-post of Camp Apache. The troops remained at the reservation until 26 Oct 1875.

Camp Abandoned

This camp remained in operation until it was abandoned late in 1875 in accordance with Special Order 79, Department of Arizona, dated October 16, 1875.


During the late summer and autumn of 1881, San Carlos was reoccupied. The arrest of an Indian medicine man for inciting the reservation Indians and performing the banned "Ghost Dances" had resulted in the Battle of Cibicue Creek on 30 Aug 1881. During the battle, a company of Indian scouts mutinied and turned on Troop D, 6th U.S. Cavalry, killing the company commander, Captain Edmund C. Hentig, and six of his men. Colonel Eugene Asa Carr (Cullum 1468) commanding the expedition, buried the dead at the site, and quickly departed the area.

In response to the mutiny and the defeat, troops were quickly dispatched to the San Carlos Agency to maintain order. A mixed force of cavalry, infantry, and Indian scouts made their headquarters at the agency from September 12 to November 16, 1881.

Camp San Carlos was reoccupied in 1882 as a regular garrison and became a sub-post of Fort Grant from 10 Oct 1894 to 30 Sep 1898.


Company D, 7th U.S. Infantry was in garrison at Camp San Carlos when the order came down to abandon the post in General Order 13, Department of Colorado dated 9 Jul 1900. That order was closely followed by Special Order 62, Department of Colorado, dated 25 Jul 1900, requiring that a detachment of one noncommissioned officer and ten enlisted men stay behind to guard the remaining government property. This detachment was withdrawn on 26 Feb 1901 and the military camp was abandoned.

Camp Description

First-hand account from Captain Charles P. Elliott, (Cullum 2959), describing Camp San Carlos and the surrounding area circa 1884:

"On the left bank of the Gila were numbers of huts or brush "wickiups," the home of several bands of Mojave and Yuma Indians. On the flats between the San Carlos and the Gila were the camps of the Government pack trains, thoroughly equipped, constantly in use, and always ready to move at a moment's notice to any part of the reservation where trouble might threaten.

Near the pack trains were the corrals for "C" Troop, 3rd Cavalry, when at San Carlos. On the bench just above the flats, and towards the west, stood school buildings occupied as storerooms, officers, and living rooms by the Commanding Officer and his assistants. Still further to the west down the Gila River on the same bench stood the Agency buildings, storehouse, and traders store. Below the Agency building on the flats near the river were the corrals and slaughterhouse for Indian cattle. The buildings were of adobe or sun‑dried mud‑colored brick, differing not at all in color from the sun‑baked plain on which they stood.

On one of the buildings with walls 18″ thick, I have seen a thermometer register 114 degrees at 2 P.M. The only good point that I can recall about San Carlos is its winter climate.

Opposite the Agency building across the river were the Indian camps spoken of before, and below, on both sides of the Gila, and above, on the San Carlos, numbers of camps were scattered.

Down the Gila and opposite the mouth of the San Pedro (on the right bank) was a considerable band, and on the San Pedro, Es‑him-on‑zeen, formerly a noted outlaw, had a camp and thriving fields. On the Aravaipa were several small camps, one of them the home of Capitan Chiquito, with his six lusty young wives. And so, over the reservation, wherever the ground was favorable, camps were located." Full text here.

Current Status

Under San Carlos Lake, Gila County, Arizona. The level of the lake varies from year-to-year and season to season and at times the foundations of the old town and the old camp are exposed.

Location: Under San Carlos Lake, Gila County, Arizona.
Map point is approximate and not visually verified.

Maps & Images

Lat: 33.20261 Long: -110.42947

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: .....'

GPS Locations:

See Also:



Fortification ID:

  • AZ0240 - Camp San Carlos
  • AZ0241 - Post at San Carlos

Visited: 4 Mar 2015

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