By the mid 1870's, the Chiracahua Apaches had settled down on reservations and they had agreed not to raid white settlements. Then in 1876, the Indian Bureau made a decision to move the Chiracahua from the Ojo Caliente Reservation to the San Carlos Reservation. This infuriated some of the younger, more militant Chiracahua, and they began conducting raids throughout Arizona. It was under these conditions that Victorio emerged as one of the greatest Apache leaders.
The conditions at the San Carlos Reservation deteriorated over the next year, until Victorio couldn't take it any longer. In September 1877, he led 300 Mimbres and Chiracahua Apaches off the reservation in a flight for freedom. Most were captured almost immediately. However, for the next 3 years, Victorio and his large band of warriors would cause havoc in New Mexico and Arizona.
Wherever there were rumors about Victorio the 9th Cavalry went. Before long, the cavalry caught up with him in the Mimbres Mountains in New Mexico. A vicious firefight ensued, and Victorio and the Apaches were forced to flee leaving their food supply behind. The following September, Victorio and his men attacked the U.S. Army post in Ojo Caliente killing 8 people. They made off with most of the livestock. However, this time the 9th Cavalry was hot on their trail as Victorio led them into the Las Animas Canyon. Here another vicious exchange of gunfire occurred. This time, Victorio's skilled marksmen killed 5 soldiers.
Next, Victorio would battle Major Albert Morrow and the 6th an 9th Cavalry. They would meet in skirmishes at least 6 times. Over and over Victorio and his warriors would barely escape the cavalry by fleeing to Mexico. However, at this time the Mexicans did not want them either. Then on April 7, 1880 a large concentrated military force converged on Victorio's camp in the Hembrillo Canyon. Throughout the night the Apaches held their own. When dawn broke over the horizon it looked like the Apaches would win, but to everyone's surprise more cavalry re-enforcements arrived. Victorio now realized that he was outmatched, before the cavalry had a chance to attack, the Apaches vanished into the countryside.
In May of 1880, things really escalated when Colonel Hatch sent sixty scouts to hunt Victorio in the Mogollon Mountains. In only two days they found him with his men hiding in a box canyon. The U.S. Cavalry scouts attacked at sunrise, killing 30 Apaches and wounding Victorio. They were saved from total eradication when the scouts ran out of ammunition. Again, Victorio and his band headed back to Mexico. Only this time, Major Morrow and his men caught Victorio's son, Washington, and killed him along with nine others.
As soon as Victorio and his men arrived back in Mexico they were pursued by a tenacious Colonel Adolfo Valle and the Mexican cavalry. At the same time, on the United States side of the border, Colonel Grierson decided to set traps at all of the watering holes that Victorio and his men would have to access. This plan yielded results almost immediately. The first time Victorio would lose seven men. Then, just a week later Victorio would fall for the same trick, losing even more men in the ambush that ensued. Eventually, in September 1880, both the United States and Mexico joined in a three-pronged attack against Victorio. It wouldn't take long before Colonel Adolfo Valle would corner the Apache at Sierra Tres Castillos, Chihuahua, killing 60 Apaches and Victorio.