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Brent Woods was born a slave in Pulaski County, Kentucky. He spent the first ten years of his life as a slave on a farm near Somerset, Kentucky.

He joined the US Army at the age of 23 in 1873 and was assigned to Company B, 9th United States Cavalry Regiment, one of the Negro Regiments that fought in the west during the Indian campaigns.

After Victorio’s death in Mexico in 1880, the elderly Nana led a destructive raid through southwestern New Mexico in the summer of 1881.

After Nana had attacked a ranch near Camp Canada Alamosa, New Mexico, Second Lt. George Burnett took the first available detachment to pursue and attack the hostile Apache marauders. With a 50-man force, some of whom were mounted Mexicans from the plundered ranch, he located and attacked the Apaches, who out-numbered his small command two-to-one.

Three days after that Battle at Cuchillo Negro Mountain, a posse was formed by the mining superintendent George Daly, who lived at Hillsboro, NM. More support was received when Lt. George Washington Smith was dispatched to the area with elements of Companies B and H of the 9th Cavalry in hopes of blocking the advance of the Apaches any further south. It has been estimated that there were around 20 Buffalo Soldiers and the same number of civilians.


The combined force followed Berrenda Creek which dropped into Dry Gavilan Canyon. It was at this point when at approximately 10:30 AM on the 19th of August 1881, that the elderly Apache Nana and his raiders ambushed the combined group.

Accounts are ragged but it is certain that Lt. Smith and George Daly were killed in the first volley. Smith was shot from his horse, was helped to remount, when he was shot again. Many of the others were wounded as well, which caused Sgt. William Baker, of Company H to flee the field.

Sgt. Brent Woods of Company B rallied what men he could and began an orderly retreat, also evacuating the wounded, to a spot where the survivors threw up rock barricades and fought the Marauders for over six hours.

Not only did Woods distinguished himself as a brave and heroic fighter by taking command, but the manner that he went to the assistance of his wounded comrades and the injured citizens near McEver’s ranch while under intense fire saved many wounded and innocent citizens from falling into the hands of the hostile Indians.

After the initial ambush, several others were either killed or wounded, which included George Gamble of Lake Valley; William Hollins took a bullet through the lungs, John William was shot in the thigh, while Pvt. Wesley Harris of Company H was shot in the right breast. Among the soldiers killed were “saddler” Thomas Golding, Pvt’s James Brown and Monroe Overstreet of Company B., with two other Company B privates, wounded.

Nana and his warriors fled late in the afternoon of the 19th with many of the horses, supplies and approximately 1000 rounds of ammunition. Other than small pools of blood which indicated some of the Raiders had been killed or wounded, none were left behind.

As soon as the Raiders departed, Lt. Smith’s body was found lying on his face with his back and arms burnt. His face had been slashed, with his nose, ears and other body parts cut off. The lieutenant’s mustache was found hanging in a nearby bush.

George Daly was found with multiple gun shots and his body had been mutilated with sticks stuck into his body.

Sgt. Brent Woods was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism which he received on the 12th of July, 1894 which stated to Wit:

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Brent woods, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 19 August 1881, while serving with Company B., 9th US Cavalry, in action in New Mexico, Sergeant Woods saved the lives of his comrades and citizens of the detachment”.

Sgt. Woods was honorably discharged from his unit in 1902 and returned to his home in Pulaski County Kentucky. He died there in 1906 and was buried in an unmarked grave at the First Baptist Church of Somerset, Kentucky and was largely forgotten. Later, a friend of Wood’s widow located his grave and notified the appropriate authorities, who then had his remains moved and reburied with full military honors in the Mill Creek National Cemetery at Nancy, Kentucky in 1984 in grave number 930 in Section A. of the cemetery.


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