It was a bright and clear morning on Fort Huachuca as Harold DeClay, the great, great, great, great grandson of Sgt. William Alchesay stood before the dedication plaque in front of Alchesay Hall on Sept. 14. He was joined by his brother Harrisen DeClay, his grandmother Nettie DeClay and his grandfather Hansen DeClay, Sr. One of the most famous of Apache Scouts and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Willam Alchesay was posthumously inducted in to the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame Friday. The large historic barracks building was named in his honor, and the family got to see it during their visit here.
Alchesay participated in major campaigns in the Tonto Basin area in 1872 and 1873 under Maj. Gen. George Crook who had been sent to the Arizona Territory in 1872 to bring an end to the years of warfare with the Indians by negotiating peace and moving the Indian tribes to reservations according the MI Hall of Fame biographic materials. By fall of that year, he facilitated a relative peace plan by crafting a treaty with Cochise, a chief of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. In November Cook began a winter campaign to quell the remaining renegade Indians who refused to surrender. The general knew that under pressure from cavalry patrols, the Indians would be forced to retreat into the mountains to try to survive the snow and low temperatures. His target area was the Tonto Basin where Western Apache Indians and Yavapai Indians had been raiding and eluding U.S. troops for several years.
Believing it would take Apaches to find Apaches, Crook hired Apache warriors who wanted peace to help the cavalry find those who wanted war. Alchesay was one of 10 Indian Scouts who guided Crook’s columns during the winter campaign of 1872-1873. Alchesay received the Medal of Honor in 1875, cited for “Gallant conduct during the campaigns and engagements with Apaches.” Crook gave a large share of the credit for his success in these battles to the Apache Scouts.
Alchesay also advised Crook in the Geronimo Campaign in 1886. Alchesay convinced Geronimo to surrender and negotiated the peace talks. He and Geronimo remained close friends until Geronimo’s death in 1909. After serving over 14 years in the Army, Alchesay became the chief of the White Mountain Apache Tribe until he retired in 1925. He made numerous trips to Washington D.C, visiting with President Grover Cleveland and acting as a counselor to Indian agents in the Arizona Territory.
His great, great grandson Harold DeClay is following in Alchesay’s footsteps and has enlisted in the U.S. Army. He is bound for Fort Leonard, Mo., eager to take his place amongst the ranks. He will learn the skills of a combat engineer and follow the tradition that was set before him well over 100 years ago.
When asked what Alchesay’s induction into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame meant to the White Mountain Apaches, Harrisen said, “For us it shows our rich culture and our history; how we contributed to the United States Army. We are proud of being descendants of Alchesay. We would like to be able to carry that history with us and our contribution to the United States. … We had quite a few White Mountain Apaches that were scouts, and we’re proud of them today.”