Today being the 150th anniversary of the assassination of Pres. Lincoln, try an alternate history scenario: would the ultimate fate of the Apaches have been any different if Lincoln had lived to finish out his second term?
Certainly his energies and attention would have been focused on reconciliation and reunification with the South, and most of his political capital would have been spent in reining in the radicals in his own party. But Lincoln had compassion and wisdom to spare; it’s not likely he would have entirely ignored the rapid deterioration of relations with the Native American peoples to the west. He pardoned many of the warriors sentenced to be hanged after the 1862 Sioux uprising in Minnesota, and that may provide a clue as to how he would have dealt with the Indians during the turbulent years after the Civil War.
The economic and demographic forces driving events would have been almost impossible to control, but Lincoln was above all a master politician. Given the popular surge of Eastern sentiment following first Sand Creek and then Fetterman’s disastrous encounter with Red Cloud, it’s possible he could have crafted some kind of accommodation with the tribes. That would almost certainly have cost them their land in the end, but it might have avoided the bloodshed.