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APACHE WARS OFFICER’S CAMPAIGN POUCH - IDENTIFIED TO LT.  GEORGE WORTHINGTON RUTHERS, 8TH US INFANTRY REGIMENT, 1886 – A RARE INDIAN WARS ERA HISTORICAL ARTIFACT:  Recently discovered in an old Texas collection, this campaign pouch is inscribed on the front panel as the property of Lt. George Ruthers, 8TH US Infantry Regiment with the notation “APACHE CAMPAIGN 1886”.

This pouch is fashioned from the same “drab duck” material the army used to manufacture haversacks and saddle bag liners during the 1870’s and 1880’s, and it is very likely the material used in this pouch was salvaged from one of those articles.  Measuring 9” high, 8” wide and 2 ˝” thick, the maker of this pouch was strongly influenced by the pouches carried by frontiersmen and Native Americans, as the edge of the covering flap and the seams that join the gusset to the front and rear panels of the pouch are decorated with native tanned buckskin fringe.  It is very possible that this pouch was, in fact, made by an Apache and Lt. Ruthers seized it from a hostile, from a captured village, or found it abandoned on the trail while on campaign.  Such an acquisition would explain why the lieutenant wrote the inscription on the face of the pouch.   

The combination of army materiel and native tanned leather is not as unusual as one might think.  Equipment such as haversacks and saddle bag liners were considered expendable items on the company inventories, expected to be used to destruction on campaign and additional quantities were maintained as replacements in store at the frontier posts.  While the army may have declared used equipment no longer serviceable, as those items were stricken from the inventory what was salvageable was gleaned from the trash pits by soldiers, civilians and Indians alike.  Even scraps of base materials such as clothing, metal, harness leather and the duck from which this pouch is made were scarce commodities on the frontier and very little was allowed to go to waste.  The maker of this pouch, whether it was Lt. Ruthers, one of his soldiers, or an Apache, availed themselves of an opportunity and created a very utilitarian accoutrement.   

George Worthington Ruthers was born on November 22, 1858 in Charleston, (West) Virginia.  Little is known of his early years until he enlisted in the U.S. Army in Washington D.C. on April 24, 1880 as a Private, in Company F, 16TH United States Infantry Regiment.  He was promoted to Corporal, serving at that rank until he was honorably discharged to accept an appointment as a 2ND Lieutenant, 8TH Infantry Regiment dated August 4, 1884.  The reasons or events which led to Ruthers’ being offered a commission are lost to history.  It is notable that while his obituary reported he had received an appointment to the United States Military Academy, the archives at West Point have no record that Ruthers ever entered or attended the academy, must less graduated and was subsequently commissioned. 

Lt. Ruthers traveled to California to join his new regiment, and then onto Arizona Territory (AT), where he arrived at Camp San Carlos on April 27, 1886.  At some point over the next month, Ruthers was posted to Ft. Thomas, AT., where from May 31ST to June 4TH, he was ordered from the fort in command of a detachment of soldiers, packers, and Indian scouts in pursuit of a “band of hostile Indians” then operating in the immediate area.  Upon his return to Ft. Thomas, Ruthers submitted a hand written detailed after-action report which survives today in its original form and a copy of that report is included in this offering.  It is of special note that Ruthers submitted his report to the commander of the Fort – Major Anson Mills, not the last famous personality with which the young lieutenant would interact.   

In addition to the details provided in this four page report being of interest to any student of the Apache Wars and the pursuit of Geronimo, the report also provides two key elements associated with this pouch.  First, it establishes that Ruthers was in the field operating against the hostile Apaches in 1886, the same date inscribed on the pouch.  And second, the handwritten report provides ample comparisons of Ruthers’ handwriting to compare to the writing on the pouch, and from all appearances, the writing on the report and the writing on the pouch were written by the same hand, that of Lt. Ruthers.   

In November of 1886, with the close of the Geronimo Campaign, the 8TH Infantry was transferred to the Department of the Platte and Company F was assigned to Ft. Niobrara in Nebraska.  Having been in the AT for less than seven months, Ruthers quite likely acquired this pouch during the week long operation against the Apaches which he described in his report. 

Ruthers remained in the army, transferring between assignments as an infantry officer and the Commissary Subsistence Department, serving during the Spanish American War, and in the Philippines during the insurrection.  Upon his own application, Major Ruthers, Commissary of Subsistence, retired from active duty service on March 10, 1912, after more than thirty-one years of service.  While retired, Maj. Ruthers performed recruiting duties in the Boston, Massachusetts area in 1912 and 1913.  He died on April 27, 1918 at Parkersburg, West Virginia, at 56 years of age, and was interred at the Arlington National Cemetery.  

The pouch is in very good condition, but does show signs of use.  The material is solid with no weak points, tears or rot, and all of the seams are intact.  The handwritten inked inscription is fully legible, though faded to the typical brown color of old ink.  The fringe is stiff with age, typical of native tanned buckskin that has aged and been exposed to the elements, and it is worn at some points along the edge of the flap.  There is a bridle leather strap sewn across the top of the rear panel which served as a spreader to maintain the shape of the top of the bag when it was carrying a load and also reinforced the points of attachment for the leather shoulder strap.  Only the butts of the shoulder strap which were sewn to the bag remain, the strap long gone.  A split native tanned buckskin loop secured the flap to a commercial wooden button sewn to the front panel.  The buckskin loop is hardened and broke off at some point, but either through fortune or forward thinking by a previous owner, the loop was kept with the pouch and was found inside.  This could be repaired or replaced, or left as is, by the new owner depending on his choice.  The duck material is generally clean, but does show some soiling on the rear panel consistent with being carried in the field against the owner’s body. 

Included with the sale of this pouch is an in depth body of biographical research that has been assembled in a binder, which includes:

*  A copy of Ruthers’ photographic portrait taken shortly after being commissioned. 

*  A detailed biography of Ruthers’ life

*  A record of Ruthers’ military service 

*  A full facsimile copy of Ruthers’ report written on June 6, 1886 at Ft. Thomas, including a copy of the hand drawn map of the area he had traversed which he submitted with the report

*  A synopsis of the history of the 8TH Infantry Regiment during the time of Ruthers’     assignment 

*  Copies of numerous newspaper articles reflecting Ruthers’ assignments, transfers, marriages, the death of his first wife, his divorces from wives 2 and 3, and his obituary 

*   A photograph of Ruthers’ tombstone at Arlington National Cemetery

While the standard array of accoutrements issued to the soldiers during the Indian War survive today in relatively substantial numbers, unique pieces such as this pouch – particularly those which are identified to a specific soldier or campaign - are quite rare.  This pouch could very easily have been used to destruction or fallen victim to poor storage, and that it survived with the inscription intact is quite remarkable.  Combining the desirable features of being one of a kind, identified to an officer serving on the frontier, being specifically linked to a famous campaign against the Apaches, and exhibiting the trans-cultural influences in its manufacture, this pouch will be an excellent addition to any serious Indian Wars collection.  SOLD 



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