The Apache Wars: Geronimo
After his family was massacred, Geronimo would wear his hair short for the rest of his life. It was a sign of mourning among the Chiricahua Apache.
Public Domain/US National Archives, Ben Wittick, 1887
Geronimo was not a
chief, but a medicine man of the Bedonkehe band of the Chiricahua Apache. He
would eventually become their leader because he believed, like Cochise before
him, that his people deserved freedom. Geronimo had been one of Cochise’s
most devout warriors. He had helped him take captives after the Bascom Affair and had fought
alongside him during the Battle of
Apache Pass. Mangas Coloradas had been Geronimo’s chief, and Geronimo
had been present at Mangas' death.
Geronimo and his warriors in the Sierra Madres of Mexico. This photograph was taken in 1886, before Geronimo surrendered to General Crook on March 27, and before he escaped again on March 30.
Public Domain/ New York Public Library, Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection, American History 1880s, C.S. Fly
Geronimo’s First Escape
John Clum, agent of
the San Carlos Reservation, struck a deal with Juh and Taza, who had taken
his father's place as chief. Juh and Taza agreed to gather their people and
things, scattered throughout the now disintegrating Chiricahua Reservation,
and move to the San Carlos Reservation. Geronimo instigated a disagreement
between the leaders. Only one third of the Chiricahua went with Taza to the
San Carlos. Two thirds followed Juh and Geronimo off the reservation, thus
breaking the deal with Clum.
Geronimo’s First Capture
The broken deal
infuriated Agent Clum. He received word that Geronimo was the instigator of
the broken deal, and that he had made it all the way to the Ojo Caliente
Reservation in New Mexico. Clum set out for the reservation at once. Geronimo
must have not realized what danger he was in at the time. Geronimo was easily
outsmarted and captured by Clum at the Ojo Caliente Reservation. This was due
mostly to the Apache scouts who had betrayed him. Clum took Geronimo back to
San Carlos where he hoped to put him to death, but Geronimo’s luck ran deep.
When Geronimo was captured on the Ojo Caliente Reservation, he accidentally brought the attention of the U.S. military to the Warm Springs band of the Apache who were living on the reservation at the time. They were led by Chief Victorio. The Ojo Caliente Reservation was closed, and Victorio and the Warm Springs band were ordered to move to the San Carlos Reservation, which they knew was far inferior to Ojo Caliente. Victorio and the Warm Springs band escaped in the night. An order was made, stating that any Chiricahua found off reservation was to be killed. The Warm Springs band were pursued across the Southwest and into Mexico fighting furiously the whole time. They were eventually killed by Mexican soldiers. Victorio was said to be the last one standing.
Chief Nana, of the Warm Springs Apache, considered General George Crook a "good enemy" because he was a worthy opponent.
Public Domain/US National Archives, Ben Wittick
The Chiricahua Apache Gather
Deep in the Sierra
Madre Mountains in Mexico, in a place called Juh’s Stronghold, the Chiricahua
Apache were beginning to gather in the largest numbers since the time of
Cochise. Great warriors came, including the ironically named Fun, perhaps the
best warrior of the group. Once Fun found himself surrounded by seven Mexican
soldiers with only a bush to hide in. He killed each soldier with a bullet to
the head and escaped with his life. Lozen, the famous woman who gave up a
life of marriage to become a warrior, attended as well. There were also Chief
Chihuahua and Chief Nana. Nana was a brilliant and shrewd leader who led some
of the most successful raids even at 75-years-old.
The Tan Wolf
George Crook returned to
fight the Apache once again. His nickname, the Tan Wolf, came from the
khaki-colored civilian clothing he wore. Chief Nana saw his return as good
because he was a "good enemy." Like Nana, Crook also had a strong
respect for his enemy. When asked about the Chiricahua Apache he said, “Acuteness
of sense, perfect physical condition, absolute knowledge of locality, almost
absolute ability to persevere from danger. We have before us the tiger of the
General Crook was
hot on the heels of Crawford and was able track Geronimo down not long after
Crawford’s death. Crook wanted to enter negotiations, but things were too
tense at first. After a short skirmish, Geronimo and his band sat on a cliff
above Crook’s company exchanging taunts with Crook’s Apache scouts. They
entered into negotiations in a way no one could have predicted. Crook was a
compulsive hunter, and the next day he wandered off on his own tracking an
animal. Before long, he found himself alone face-to-face with Geronimo and
some of his best warriors.
General Crook and Geronimo deliberate over the Chiricahua Apache's terms of surrender. Geronimo is third from the left wearing a bandana, and Crook is second from the right. They are among US soldiers, Chiricahua warriors, and Apache scouts.
Public Domain/ Library of Congress, C.S. Fly 1886
Mickey Free was "the most curious & interesting combination of good humor and sullenness, generosity, craft, and bloodthirsty cruelty to be found in America," according to Captain John G. Bourke, Chief of Scouts during the Apache Wars.
Public Domain/Charles Gatewood
Turkey Creek: A New Reservation
The war once again
entered a peaceful period, however this one only lasted a year. Agent Davis
tried to get the Chiricahua to farm. It was popular belief in the U.S. at the
time that Native Americans would have to assimilate to the ways of the white
man to survive.
The Final Run
Most of the
Chiricahua remained on reservations this time. The remaining free Chiricahua
took up hiding once again in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Crook pursued
Geronimo into Mexico one last time. When he found him, Crook was upset with
Geronimo for breaking all of their deals. Geronimo pleaded that he wouldn’t
have broken the deals if he hadn’t heard that he was going to be arrested.
Crook was not able to offer the terms of surrender that he was able to
before. Geronimo knew his cause to be hopeless and surrendered once again.
A New General Takes Charge
After this last
failed surrender, General Crook contacted President Grover Cleveland. Crook told him he still wanted to
offer the Chiricahua terms for their surrender. Cleveland rejected this,
stating that the surrender needed to be unconditional. Crook disagreed with
this method and felt that his way would bring about better results. Crook
resigned and was not looked upon favorably afterwards.
General Nelson Miles came up with the idea that brought an end to the Apache Wars.
Public Domain/US Army Military History Institute, Caroline Thurber
9,000 vs. 37
Fear gripped the
Southwest during the final summer of Chiricahua freedom in 1886. Geronimo led
through Naiche, who was still chief. The final free band of Chiricahua
numbered only 37. They included 18 warriors, 13 women, and six children
including two infants. They remained at large for five months while around
5,000 employees of the United States Army (a quarter of the force) were
stationed in the area to track the Apache. Around 3,000 Mexican soldiers and
a little less than 1,000 volunteers were also put to the task.
There were still 434 Chiricahua living on the San Carlos Reservation. Miles’ idea was to banish all of them to prison thousands of miles away in Florida. The free Chiricahua remaining had close family members in this group. Miles hoped that knowing they would never see their families again without surrendering would cause a final Chiricahua Apache surrender.
summer, Lieutenant Charles Gatewood pursued
Geronimo and his band deep into the Sierra Madre. At a place in the mountains
called Bavispe, he knew he was closing in. Gatewood sent two Apache scouts
forward who some of the free Chiricahua band had personally known. The scouts
told Geronimo and his band that the rest of their people, including their
families, had been sent thousands of miles away. This had the intended
effect. Geronimo held a conference with Gatewood and agreed to surrender.