‘Awake! Arouse, Sir Billy!’

“There’s forage in the plain. Ah, leave your little filly, And open the campaign!” runs a satiric couplet mocking British General William Howe’s delay in taking the field against the rebels in the Revolution. (Gossips in Boston attributed Sir William’s tardiness to his infatuation with a pretty American woman in that city.)

I mention that ditty only because it runs through my head every July 17, the date when Nana officially opened his campaign in New Mexico Territory by jumping a small Army supply column in Alamo Canyon. The two packers lost their mules but escaped with their lives. They carried the news of the ambush to Fort Stanton and to Lt. Guilfoyle, who was in the mountains with a company of Apache scouts hunting Mescalero renegades. “The game’s afoot!” as Shakespeare had Henry V say (and Conan Doyle’s Holmes later echoed more famously).

Although July 13 is generally cited as the date Nana’s raiding party crossed the Rio Grande into West Texas, at least some of his warriors may have been across the river as early as July 8, when two railroad employees were killed at a spring below Fort Quitman.

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