An advance guard of 96 California Volunteers, marching toward the San Simon River to establish a supplu depot for the California Column, followed the Butterfield Road through Apache Pass. As they approached the abandoned stage station, Cochise and his ally, Mangas Coloradas, with a combined force of 140 - 160 warriors, ambushed the rear of the column. The Californians countermarched from the station, driving the Apaches into the hills, only to find they had taken up new positions around the spring. The Californians attacked again, and finally reached the water, after dispersing the Apaches from rock fortifications commanding both flanks of Apache Spring.
This battle led directly to the establishment of Fort Bowie. Sergeant Albert Fountain, chronicled the event:
"The situation was by no means an enviable one. Men and officers were...worn out with fatigue...but water we must have, and to obtain it we must force the enemy's almost impregnable position: garrisoned with...the bravest warriors of the combined Apache tribes."
"Our line dashed forward, and advanced under a continuous and galling fire from both sides of the canon until we reached a point within fifty yards of the spring...Then from the rocks and willows above the spring came a sheet of flame."
ordered the men to fix bayonets and make one dash for the summit...and the next moment we were over a rough stone wall and on the inside of a circular fortification some thirty feet in diameter: fifty or more Indians were going out and down the hill on the opposite side."
"As we carried the hill a cheer came up from down below: as our comrades dashed to the spring with camp kettles and canteens, fire was opened upon them from the opposite hill, but we turned a plunging fire upon the enemy, and they were soon in full flight. The howitzers were...brought into action, and from our elevated position we could see hundreds of Indians scampering to the hills to escape the bursting shells."