Death in the Desert: The Fifty Years' War for the Great Southwest
Paul I. Wellman (1935)
At once began the strange, hysterical stampede known as the "California Gold Rush." Cold, heat, hunger, and every imaginable peril failed to stop it. Trampling their way westward, the gold seekers thrust out of their road the Indians who lived in the country, or slaughtered them out of hand. Almost overnight life changed for the aborigines. They found themselves in the path of a crazed typhoon of humanity, charging desperately west, deaf to every consideration except the desire to get to the coast to dig goldgoldgold. (48-9)
Mangus Colorado, in person, headed the delegation and was its chief spokesman. He outlined the position of his people as follows:
"You came into our country. You were well received. Your lives, your property, your animals were safe. You passed by ones, by twos, by threes through our country. You went and came in peace. Your strayed animals were always brought home to you again. Our wives, our women and children came here and visited your houses. We were friendswe were brothers! Believing this, we came among you and brought our captives, relying on it that we were brothers and that you would feel as we feel. We concealed nothing. We came not secretly nor in the night. We came in open day, and before your faces, and showed our captives to you. We believed your assurances of friendship, and we trusted them. Why did you take our captives from us?"
Bartlett was in an awkward position from the standpoint of logic. At the very moment there were millions of Negro slaves in the South. He did his best to explain the attitude of the United States on slaveryas practiced by somebody else. (51-2)
There is no record that Mangus Colorado winced or uttered a sound while the lash bit deeper and deeper into his flesh, cutting the skin of his back to ghastly ribbons, bringing the blood in streaming rivulets to trickle down his legs. He was no longer young, but an Apache knew how to bear agony without a sign. They finished at last. Then they released him and jeered at him as he staggered out of camp.
They could not have made a greater mistake. Better for the whole white population of the Southwest would it have been had they finished by killing him. Mangus Colorado stumbled forth from the Pinos Altos settlement a changed man. In spite of Johnson's massacre at Santa Rita; in spite of Bartlett and the Mexican murder; in spite of a score of other causes for action, he had tried to remain friendly with the White Eyes. But that whipping changed all that. He never forgot it. Deeper than the wounds on his lacerated back were the wounds in his heart. It was the greatest insult that could be inflicted even on an ordinary Indian. And Mangus Colorado was a great chief. He devoted the rest of his life to avenging his shame. (57)
Through the heart of the Chiricahua Mountains slashes the deep and narrow Apache Pass, up which went the stage road. Best proof of the peacefulness of the Chiricahuas at this time is the fact that the stage line was in operation, without molestation, through the middle of their range. (59)
The old Mosaic law had been obeyed. An eye had been demanded for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. It was war to the knife now between Cochise and the white man. The Apaches never really ceased fighting for a quarter of a century after that. Thousands of lives and an inestimable amount of property were destroyed because of the treachery toward Mangus Colorado and Cochise. (65)
When Beauregard's guns opened their thunderous bombardment of Fort Sumter, April 12th, 1861, they loosed consequences so far-reaching that people even so remote as the white frontiersmen of Arizona and New Mexico, and the Indians who lived in those territories, were affected.
Soon after the Civil War began the North was forced to abandon practically all the forts in Arizona and New Mexico. The Apaches took instant advantage of the circumstance. Believing they had driven the soldiers away, Mangus Colorado and Cochise, with the enthusiastic cooperation of all the other Apache leaders, systematically laid waste to the whole Southwest. The mines were abandoned, even the large workings at Tubac, and cities were deserted, until practically the only settlement remaining in Arizona was Tucson, whose population was reduced to two hundred persons living in daily fear of their lives. The Indians made a smoking desert out of a country as large as all of New England with New York State included. (66)
Independently both Confederate and Union leaders suggested a policy of extermination toward their common enemies. Late in 1862, Colonel John R. Baylor, appointed by Jefferson Davis governor of Arizona for the Confederacy, proposed that every Apache man, wherever found, should be killed on sight, and the women and children sold into slavery. This proposal was promptly and emphatically disapproved by President Davis, and an explanation demanded of its author.
In an attempt to justify his recommendation, Baylor wrote on December 29th to General J. B. Magruder, commanding the Confederate district of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. [...] This letter, forwarded by Magruder to Jefferson Davis, was given by him to his secretary, J. A. Seddon, with the curt note:
"(This letter requires attention. It is an avowal of an infamous crime and the assertion of what should not be true in relation to troops in Texas) &c. (Signed) J. D."
Shortly afterward, G. W. Randolph, Secretary of War, ordered Magruder to revoke Baylor's authority to raise troops for the Confederacy. The order was put into effect at once. Thus the Confederacy's high command dealt with the first attempt at an "Extermination Policy."
The North, however, was not so meticulous. Soon after General Carleton took over the command of the Southwest from General E. R. S. Canby, he instituted the very policy which the South had refused to sanction. There was no disapproval from Washington as there had been from Richmond. (85)
They conversed in Spanish. Then Mangus Colorado turned and spoke to his warriors in the Apache tongue, telling them to go back to their camp. Obediently they turned and trotted away down the trail.
Now the huge Indian came on into the camp alone with [Jack] Swilling [later to become founder of Phoenix]. He did so in good faith. He came of his own free will and alone. He believed he was protected by a truce, and that he would have a chance to discuss terms of peace with Shirland in safety.
Quickly he learned his mistake. When he was inescapably within the toils of the ambush, the concealed soldiers rose and surrounded him. As Mangus Colorado proceeded to Walker's camp, he was a prisoner and knew it. (88)
In his report, Colonel West said that he left the old Indian under a guard to make sure that he should not escape and that he was killed at midnight "while trying to get away." A disgusting detail is that the dead man's head was severed from his body by a surgeon and the brain taken out and weighed. The head measured larger than that of Daniel Webster and the brain was of corresponding weight. The skull is said now to be in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. We should hesitate long before we criticize the Indians for mutilating dead enemies. (89n.)
The following from the military report of this battle gives an interesting sidelight: "As an illustration of the way in which our men are able to beat the Indians at their own game in fighting, Corporal Charles E. Ellis crept up to a rock behind which an Apache was hidden. When he got to that place, he coughed. As the Apache raised his head, he (Ellis) shot him." (90n.)
The Apaches were completely routed. A few days later this band appeared at Fort Stanton and begged for peace. They were Mescaleros and at their head was Gian-na-tah himself. To Colonel Carson the chief said:
"You are stronger than we. We have fought you so long as we had rifles and powder; but your weapons are better than ours. Give us weapons and turn us loose, we will fight you again; but we are worn out; we have no more heart; we have no provisions, no means to live; your troops are everywhere; our springs and water holes are either occupied or overlooked by your young men. You have driven us from our last and best stronghold and we have no more heart. Do with us as it may seem good to you, but do not forget that we are men and braves."
A warrior speaking to a warrior. Carson had his orders, direct from Carleton: "The men are to be slain, whenever and wherever found. The women and children may be taken prisoners ... " But the old scout and trapper had lived too long among the Indians. He was unable to look upon them as wild animals. To him they were human, and he took them under his protection. They were sent to a newly created reservation at the Bosque Redondo, on the Pecos River, in eastern New Mexico, and placed under the control of Captain Cremony, who also understood Indians. For a time the Mescaleros ceased to be a troublesome factor.
But there were other Apaches. Captain Walker's prospecting party, which had trapped Mangus Colorado, went on to interior Arizona where Pauline Weaver had discovered gold placers, and there the prospectors found large gold fields, which brought a rush of people into the country. Although this was the invasion of lands which had immemorially belonged to the Apaches, Carleton had no scruples against ejecting the red owners in favor of white interlopers.
He proposed to the Mexican governors of both Sonora and Chihuahua, that they cooperate in running down and killing all the Apaches in their joint provinces. The general further enlisted as scouts the miners in the gold and silver districts, and the friendly Pima, Maricopa and Papago Indians, all hereditary enemies of the Apaches.
Then began a huge man-hunt in Apacheria, with orders always the same: "Kill every Indian man capable of bearing arms and capture the women and children." (91-2)
[Colonel King S. Woolsey, aide to the governor of Arizona] addressed the Indians through an interpreter, telling them that he would make a treaty with them and give them certificates of good conduct which no white man would ever question.
By this time Woolsey's followers had gathered closely about the sitting Apaches. The colonel himself gave the signal. Whipping out his pistol, he shot [Chief] Par-a-mucka dead. In an instant every white man was shooting. Part of the Indians got away, some of them wounded. But nineteen bodies remained behind, mute witnesses to the dependability of the white man's promises. (93)
Throughout the dreadful sixties when Carleton's Indian-hunters pursued his people up and down the desert, Eskimo-tzin had managed to keep clear of the troops. He watched Carleton bring the Mescaleros under control and then subjugate the Navajos. Kit Carson performed the last-named feat. He marched with four hundred men through the depths of the Canyon de Chelly, the stronghold of the Navajos in northeast Arizona. He did not find much resistance. The soldiers laid waste the peach orchards, and the corn fields they found, rounded up the sheep and cattle, destroyed the villages and killed a score of Navajos. Then the Indians sued for peace and Carson sent them down to the Bosque Redondo, where they were to remain until 1878 when they were removed to their present reservation. Exit the Navajos from the arena of history. (93-4)
Arizona in those days possessed some of the most precious scoundrels in the whole world. Driven out of California by the Vigilantes and flocking wherever mining camps promised easy pickings, a shifty population of gamblers, "road agents," cattle "rustlers," and loafers hung in a cloud about every lively town in the Territory. Tucson at this time was infested by some of the worst of these, and news that the bulk of the soldiers had left Camp Grant reached their ears almost at once. Within four days a mob of Americans, Mexicans and Papago Indians started toward the post with the expressed determination of killing the Apaches camped there.
Captain Penn, at Fort Lowell, discovered the plot, and sent a warning to Whitman. But the messenger arrived too late. Whitman received the word on April 30th, and immediately sent instructions to the Apaches to come in closer to the postthey were then camped about five miles away. His messenger was back in an hour. The Apache camp was a mass of burning ruins, he reported to Whitman, and there were no living Indians in it, while the ground was strewn with dead and mutilated women and children. (95-6)
Misfortune followed Eskimo-tzin to the last. By General Howard's order he and the seven or eight families remaining in his band were given a small piece of supposedly worthless land at San Carlos.
There he was visited in 1873 by Lieutenant Britton Davis, who commented on all the great progress the Indians had made. At that time they had adobe houses, fenced fields, farm implements, good teams and cows. They dressed like Mexicans and resembled a prosperous Mexican community. Davis dined with Eskimo-tzin and particularly praised the cleanliness of the dining table and the excellence of the meal.
At that time all seemed well. Eskimo-tzin had apparently solved the problem of following the white man's road, but appearances often deceive. Somebody discovered, under this apparently worthless land, a vein of coal. Then a reservation lawyer found that the lines of the reservation had been inaccurately surveyed and finally it was proved that the farms of Eskimo-tzin were south of the reservation line.
And so the robbery of the red man progressed. Eskimo-tzin was removed from his farm, and his friends from their homes. All fixed improvements were turned over to white settlers, while the despairing Indians were marched to another dreary waste.
Shortly after this Eskimo-tzin died. His spirit could not survive this last blow. (99n.)
Cochise's speech was a striking example of Indian oratory and logic. The essential sadness of the red man and his perplexity in facing the unsolvable problem presented by the white encroachment were all included. Toward its conclusion he said:
"When I was young I walked all over this country, east and west, and saw no other people than the Apaches. After many summers I walked again and found another race of people who had come to take it. How is it? Why is it that the Apaches want to diethat they carry their lives on their finger nails? They roam over the hills and plains and want the heavens to fall on them. The Apaches were once a great nation; they are now but a few. . . . Many have been killed in battle. . . . Tell me, if the Virgin Mary has walked throughout all the land, why has she never entered the lodge of the Apache?"
He ended his extraordinary address by saying firmly that he would never go to the Tularosa reservation in New Mexico.
"That is a long ways off," he said. "The flies in those mountains eat out the eyes of the horses. The bad spirits live there. I have drunk of these waters .... I do not want to leave here."
In spite of the specific promise made by General Granger, Cochise was ordered within a few months to take his people to the hated Tularosa reservation. The Chiricahuas went into galvanic action. Cochise took to the mountains and war flared all over the Southwest. (133-4)
There still remained, in the Tonto Basin, two strongholds where Crook believed large bodies of Indians were lurking. One of these was the almost inaccessible top of Turret Butte. The other was in the fastnesses of the Superstition Mountains. (143)
There was plenty of reason for discontent on the reservations. Many Indians objected to the tagging. Others resented the infringement on their liberties. But most of the bad feeling was caused by the grafting, unscrupulous white men who buzzed about every reservation like blowflies around carrion, using political influence to enrich themselves at the expense of the helpless red men.
A good example of this was the fate of the Camp Verde Indians. The labors of the Apaches to make that place habitable have already been described. After the Indians dug with sharpened sticks and a very few old implements an irrigation ditch, they began to cultivate a patch of ground. Some fifty-three acres were put under water. On this the Apaches soon had squashes, melons and other garden stuff. Directed by two army officers, Colonel Julius W. Mason and Lieutenant Walter S. Schuyler, both of the 5th Cavalry, they began next to plant corn, barley and other grains on a large scale. The outlook was brighter than it had been in years for the Indians.
And then the maleficent hand of the white man's graft showed itself. At Tucson there existed a political ring of federal officials, contractors and other interested persons. This gang of racketeers saw with alarm that under Crook's management the Indians at Camp Verde would soon be self-supporting. It meant that the white contractors would cease to furnish the government inferior supplies and thin cattle at exorbitant prices, to feed these Indians. But the Tucson ring had its own methods. Political influence was exerted at Washington. One day a peremptory order came to remove all Indians from Camp Verde to the barren San Carlos reservation.
The despairing people were once more driven out into the desert. From their melon patches and corn fields, the Apaches, shepherded by their only friends, the army officers, began their long, dusty journey to San Carlos. Overnight they changed from interested, industrious, cheerful people, into sullen, treacherous savages once more. Small wonder that the old, old cycle of death began to reappear in the desert. (149-50)
The reservations of Arizona were transferred from the War Department to the Department of the Interior. The Indian Bureau at once began to concentrate its Indian wards. The fate of the Camp Verde Indians has been told. Next to go were the White Mountain Indians, who were driven down out of their healthful mountains to San Carlos, in the stifling valley of the Gila. Then the Indian Bureau turned its attention to the Chiricahuas. While Crook had been busy in the Tonto Basin, General O. O. Howard, guided by an intrepid white frontiersman, Captain Jeffords, made peace with Cochise. Howard pledged his solemn word that the Chiricahuas should be allowed remain among their own mountains. Cochise died in peace, never dreaming that his treaty with the white men would be broken within eighteen months of his death, which occurred in June, 1876. (153)
At the time Clum arrested Geronimo and Pi-hon-se-ne, he had a talk with Victorio, who told him he would far rather die than go to San Carlos. All the Indians hated that place, and word was beginning to creep around among them of the "Concentration Policy" and its baleful significance.
Victoria's worst fears were realized in April, 1879. He was notified then that he and his people were to be moved to San Carlos. That was enough for the Mimbreno. Between sunset and sunrise he disappeared with thirty of his braves. Never again did he return. (163)
Then the grim brown warriors with their steel-trap mouths rode up to the little adobe casas, the owners came forth with anything they demanded and were glad to get off with their lives. Replenishing his supplies in this manner and knowing every foot of the country, Victoria matched his wits against the best in the United States and Mexican armies and won for many months. (164)
But he needed horses and, when he saw the troop herd grazing under a guard on the night of September 4th, he turned aside from his direct line of march. Victoria's shadowy skirmishers stole through the gloom. Orange flashes spurted out in the darkness as the rifles chattered angrily. With yells which sounded sharp and clear above the thunder of the stampeding horses, the Apaches were gone in a smother of dust.
Eight troopers were killed in the brief, bloody little battle, and forty-six of Uncle Sam's cavalry horses found themselves between the knees of Indian riders. Victorio did not lose a man. (165)
Victorio moved slowly down into Chihuahua. As they went south the Indians swept the country clean as far as the large ranches and prospectors were concerned, although they continued to observe the policy of sparing the sheepherders and small farmers. (169)
The word "massacre" is used because it is popularly applied to this affair, though it was not a massacre at all, but a battle in which all the members of one party were killed. No women or children or unarmed persons were involved. All the Mexicans fought until they were dead. The laughter of Apache women and children by Mexicans and Americans at Santa Rita del Cobre and Camp Grant were true massacres. An Indian speaker once aptly phrased the common attitude in this respect when he said: "In the Indian wars, white treachery was always stratagem, and white massacre was always a victory; Indian stratagem was always treachery and Indian victory was always a massacre." (170n.)
Singularly enough, although the twenty-seven corpses buried had lain on the ground for nearly two weeks, they were all in an excellent state of preservation and had not been touched by an animal or a buzzard. The Texans had a strange belief about the bodies of Mexicans. Says one Texas writer of this incident (C. G. Raht, "Romance of Davis Mountains," p. 266): "Neither wild animals nor birds had touched the bodies and it is said to be a strange fact that no wild animal or bird of prey will ever touch the body of a Mexican. If they had been Indians, negroes or whites, the coyotes, buzzards and carrion crows would have eaten them the first day and night." (176n.)
"The Indians who surrendered were told that they would be taken care of; that though they must give up their arms ... they would be properly rewarded if they would submit peacefully. This agreement was not kept. Those who surrendered were placed in a large stock pen, in which horses and cattle had been kept. The refuse from the pens was not even removed and the disconsolate Indians were forced to put up with this indignity. When they would ask concerning the return of horses, guns, etc., and their own release, noncommittal answers would be given." C. C. Rister, "The Southwestern Frontier," pp. 198-199. (183n.)
For scouts, Terrazas enlisted a company of Tarahumari Indians from the mountains of that name. These Indians, while lacking the extreme deadly vindictiveness of the Apaches, were little their inferiors in most respects, and in one respect they were the superiors, not only of the Apaches, but probably of every living race of mankind. They were, and still are, peerless foot racers. Their name signifies that and their warriors were able to boast with truth that they could outstrip any horse in a race sufficiently long. It was nothing for them to cover as much as one hundred miles in a day, and they could jog along, kicking a small ball before them, at a speed which carried them forty miles in six or eight hours with the greatest ease. (188-9)
As has been said, Victorio's best warriors were away on a raid. He was greatly outnumbered. But the Apache was always dangerous, never more so than when he was cornered. Ringed completely around with rifles, and with the bullets cutting his people down about him, the chief summoned the survivors to make their going memorable. The Mexicans paid for their victory. (191)
Most of Victoria's band died in the basin of the Tres Castillos with him. The few who escaped were harried wildly through the mountains. They were without leaders; surely Apache resistance was at an end. (193)
VIII. WARRIORS WITHOUT LEADERS 1880-1883 (194)
In spite of his utmost efforts, efforts which well-nigh killed his command, Guilfoyle was falling far behind. What cavalry could follow these raiders? It is a rule of army tactics that twenty-five miles a day is the absolute limit which cavalry can stand in overland marching. Guilfoyle exceeded that every day of his campaign. Some days he did forty miles or more. Yet, Nana, old and crippled, rode away from the troopers as if they had been infantry.
Of course the Indians had a number of advantages. Whenever their horses wore out, they changed themtheir remount depots being the nearest ranches or settlements. They carried practically nothing but their arms and ammunition. Their commissary was the countrymescal, the mesquite bean, and the prickly pear. For meat they occasionally shot a deer, but the usual repast was a horse or mule, slaughtered when it could run no longer, and cut up almost before life was extinct, to be roasted and gorged by the warriors. The Apaches knew every spot where water could be found, no matter how small and inaccessible. But they did not need water like the white man. With a pebble under the tongue to keep he saliva flowing, one of Nana's raiders could go without water under the blaze of the desert sun two days longer than a white man could survive. (201-2)
There could, of course, be but one outcome to such a contest. Nana's warriors spread out and melted through the underbrush, like the pouring coils of a great serpent. The cavalrymen also took to cover. There was a period of blind shooting. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, the Apaches were gone. Parker checked his losses. One trooper was dead and three wounded. And one man was missing. There was small doubt that he had been carried off by the Indians. The thought of his fate, somewhere back in those barren hills, when the Apaches had the leisure to devise for him a new way of dying, brought a shiver even to these veteran soldiers. (202)
Within four days of his fight with Parker, Nana again tasted the mettle of the army. This time it was Lieutenant Gustavus Valois, with another troop of the ubiquitous 9th Cavalry. Nana knew they re dogging his trail. Not far from Cuchillo Negro, named after the famous Mimbreno chief, the old warrior turned viciously. Always from cover, with never a sign of where they lurked, except for frequent spurts of fluffy rifle smoke, the Indians snaked through the mesquite and cactus. Courageously the troopers fought back. They gave a good account of themselves, but they could not deal with this enemy. They were facing the finest skirmishers in the world. (203)
One may search long for a duplicate to this raid. In less than two months, Nana, handicapped by age and physical disabilities, led his handful of braves over a thousand miles of enemy territory, maintaining himself and his followers in the country as they went. He fought eight battles with the Americans, winning them all; killed anywhere from thirty to fifty of his enemy, wounded large numbers more; captured two women and not less than two hundred horses and mules; eluded pursuit by more than a thousand soldiers, not to mention three or four hundred civiliansand did it all with a force which numbered only fifteen warriors at the start and never exceeded forty braves.
Not even Victoria himself ever equalled that record. (204-5)
As a trophy Smith took from the dead man's neck a medal commemorating the peace established by Colyer. On the obverse side of the medal was President Grant's head and the words: "United States of America. Let us have peace, Liberty and justice." On the reverse was the globe with a number of implements signifying agriculture and the sentiment, "On earth peace, good will to men. 1871." The irony of such phrases on the dead man's breast seems not to have struck anybody at the time. (221n.)
Crook took command on September 4th. He found conditions bad. The desert which he had left almost peaceful was at war again. And of the reasons for this, one of his officers, Captain Bourke, wrote as follows:
"But there was a coincidence of sentiment among all people whose opinion was worthy of consultation, that the blame did not rest with the Indians; curious tales were flying about from mouth to mouth, of the gross outrages perpetrated upon men and women who were trying faithfully to abide in peace with the whites . . . No one had ever heard the Apaches' story, and no one seemed to care whether they had a story or not." (228)
[Britton] Davis started the band, of approximately eighty-five persons, to San Carlos. They were met at Sulphur Springs by a United States marshal and a customs collector, who wished to arrest the whole body of Indians for smuggling cattle across the border without paying duty. It was so stupid that it was almost laughable, but it was serious.
Young Davis did some rapid thinking. A brother officer came along and Davis put the Indians under his charge. That night, while the marshal and the customs collector were snoring at a ranch house near, the Indians were started silently away and by morning were far on the road to San Carlos which they reached safely. The marshal and customs collector found only Davis himself at the Indian camp next morning, waiting solemnly to answer their subpoena. They were furious at first, but the frontier was always ready to laugh, even when the joke was on the person doing the laughing, and the whole thing ended in an uproarious burst of mirth with the marshal congratulating the lieutenant on his resourcefulness. (240)
Early in November, [Ulzana], with ten warriors, slipped across the line and started up into Arizona. He knew that every water hole was guarded, so he deliberately avoided them. The Apaches had developed a technique in handling water which enabled them to laugh at mere stationary guards. A horse, having gone as far at it could stumble, was killed, and the small intestine taken out. Cleanedvery sketchily according to white standards, but satisfactorily to the rudimentary Apache notion of cleanlinessthis receptacle was filled with water and thirty or forty feet of it wrapped around the body of a led horse. It contained enough water to last a band of Apaches for days. Carrying his water in this manner, and travelling only over the most difficult parts of the mountains, in the full knowledge that two thousand troops waited to cut them off and exterminate them, Ulzana and his raiders began their perilous invasion of the United States. (243)
Summing up this raid, it would be difficult to believe some of its figures, were they not attested by the military report of General Crook himself, who certainly had no wish to exaggerate the exploits of this band of Indians against him. In four weeks Ulzana and his ten warriors travelled not less than twelve hundred miles through enemy country, maintaining themselves as they went. They killed thirty-eight persons, captured and wore out two hundred and fifty horses and mules, changing mounts at east twenty times during the raid; and, although they were twice dismounted, they eventually got back safely to Mexico. And all this with the loss of only one bravekilled by the White Mountain Apaches near Fort Apache. (246-7)
Ulzana's raid proved to Crook that his cavalry was not capable of catching the Apaches. He reorganized his whole fighting system. Two battalions, largely of Indian scouts, formed to take up the trail and follow it to the end. One of these, commanded by Major Davis, consisted of one hundred and two Indians and a troop of cavalry. This organization was so handicapped by its white contingent that it accomplished little. (248)
It was interesting to the white officers to watch the methods adopted by their Indians in scouting the country. There was no need to give orders. Their system of flankers and advance guards was perfect. When they went into camp, outposts were at once put out, noiselessly and smoothly as if the command was a unit of long experience. Yet most of these Indians had never been on the war path together before. They were following the lessons of a lifetime. It showed Crawford and his lieutenants what might be expected from the hostile Apaches. (248-9)
But once more the maleficent influence of the money-grabbing white man spoiled everything. The night before Crook departed, an American bootlegger named Tribolet, who lived on the San Bernardino Springs ranch, sneaked into the Indian camp and began selling liquor to the wild Apaches. Faithful old Alchise and Ka-ya-ten-ne came to the general's tent shortly before daylight of March 28th, with word that the warriors of Geronimo's band were howling drunk. They asked permission to take a squad of their own men and deal with Tribolet. Crook refused permission. One almost wishes he had granted it. The Apaches had a singular flair for dealing unpleasantly with those whom they thought deserving of punishment. (255)
With this flying column Miles introduced an innovationthe heliograph. This device, the invention of a British army officer, had been used successfully in India. It consisted of a mirror which reflected the sun in flashes of greater or less length for the dots and dashes of the Morse Code. Arizona's atmosphere was clear and bright, and experiments showed that messages could be flashed through for fifty miles or more. The use of the heliograph entailed the establishment of twenty-seven stations on mountain peaks from twenty-five to thirty miles apart. So expert did the heliographers become that once they transmitted a message eight hundred miles over inaccessible mountain peaks, in less than four hours. They handled two thousand, five hundred and sixty-four messages during the months om May 1st to September 30th, 1886. (259)
[A more accurate appraisal of the heliograph, from David Roberts (Once They Moved Like the Wind: Cochise, Geronimo, and the Apache Wars, p. 279: "The general [Nelson Miles] was also a gadgeteer. One of his first innovations in Arizona was to set up a heliograph systemlarge, moveable mirrors that used the sun to flash signals in Morse code. Soon Miles had erected twenty-seven mountaintop stations all across southern Arizona. The general liked to show the Apaches his device, basking in their astonishment. Some of the Indians may have flattered the general, but the Chiricahua had been using mirrors for years to signal one another from mountaintops. In five months, Miles later boasted, his heliograph network sent and received 2,264 messages. Not one of them aided in the slightest in finding Geronimo. Miles's 'expensive toy,' as one historian called it, served for little more than to keep troop movements sorted out.'"]
By now Lawton's flying column had taken the trail in earnest. It was a hand-picked body of men. Everyone was a veteran and physically fit. On one occasion they marched twenty-four hours without stopping, for the last eighteen hours without water. Yet even so they were no match for the Indians. (262)
Military authorities continued to fear these reservation Indians. Miles called them a "turbulent, desperate, disreputable band." Early in his administration he recommended their removal to some other state, preferably the Indian Territory. But how was he to round up four or five hundred Indians without precipitating another outbreak which would make those which had gone before poor, trivial incidents by comparison?
The solution to this problem was suggested by Lieutenant James Parker. In June, 1886, while talking to Miles at Fort Huachuca, Parker mentioned the system in at Fort Apache, where the peaceful Indians were living. Whenever there was news of a raid, he said, the Indians, in order not to become involved in the fighting, went in to the post and were quartered in the quartermaster corral.
Parker suggested that a false report of a raid be spread and when the Apaches came to the corral, they should be surrounded by troops, disarmed, taken to the railroad and shipped east.
Miles stared at him. "Why that would be treachery," he said at last. "I could never do that."
But the thought had been planted.
Word came from the Secretary of War that the general's scheme of removing the Indians from Arizona to some territory in Texas, New Mexico, or Kansas, could not be carried out under the existing laws. Miles' next step was to send a delegation of the leading Indians to Washington, hoping so to impress them with the power of the government that they would return and recommend to their people that they go without resistance wherever they were told.
He placed Chato at the head of this delegation. The Apaches journeyed to Washington and viewed the wonders of the rancheria where the Great White Father lived. But for some reason they remained unimpressed. In spite of the pressure brought to bear upon them, the delegates sturdily refused to accede to the demands made upon them. Instead they asked to be taken back to Arizona. As they began their return journey, Captain Dorst, who had accompanied them, wired Miles that the Indians were still defiant. Immediately Miles ordered them held at Fort Leavenworth. Then he notified Dorst to tell the delegates that they must either become "treaty Indians," and work among their people for the wishes of the army, or they should consider themselves prisoners of war.
And so Chato and his companions received still another insight into the strange, incomprehensible villainy of the white man. But they were Apaches and true to their blood. Faced with imprisonment, they refused to betray their people. That was August 20th. Four days later Miles received word from Washington that if he could take into custody the Indians on the reservation, they could be "accommodated" at Fort Marion, Florida.
Miles at once put into operation the very plan suggested by Lieutenant Parker, and denounced by himself as "treachery." Colonel J. F. Wade was in command at Fort Apache. The Chiricahuas and Mimbreno Apaches were told to come in to the agency to be counted, as was the custom when a raid was reported in the section. Unsuspecting, they trooped in.
It was Sunday. Used to seeing the soldiers at the fort go through their inspection on that day, the Indians paid no attention as the regulars marched out and took positions which commanded every point of egress from the place.
Not until too late did the Apaches sense that something was wrong. Observers at the fort saw the warriors leap to their feet as if at a command, and stand looking about with wild, startled eyes. Then Colonel Wade walked boldly into the crowd, calling to everybody to sit down. The Indians were helpless and they knew it. One by one the grim warriors squatted, until not one remained standing. In the silence of despair they listened as Wade told them that they were to be removed, that they were to part from their desert homes, leave their few pitiful little fields of growing crops, and their friends and familiar scenes, and go away into the unknown as prisoners of the white man, who thus rewarded their peaceful lives and their service to his flag. br>
A little later they were herded like cattle on trains and, with the women and children wailing and the men staring in stony silence at the panorama of their beloved country whirling behind the flying wheels of their cars, they began the long journey to hot, damp Florida. (267)
They met in the river valley. One or two at a time, the Apaches rode up, unsaddled their ponies and allowed them to graze. Geronimo was among the last to arrive. His thin scar of a mouth was thinner than ever as he faced the officer. Pipes were lit and a cloud blown. Then the chief asked what Miles' word was. There was no hesitation in Gatewood's answer, though he knew his words might be his own death warrant.
"Surrender, and you will be sent with your families to Florida, there to await the decision of the President as to your final disposition. Accept these terms or fight it out," he said. (270)
The moment was tense. But Nachite, the easy-going, stepped in and smoothed things over. Gatewood now had a chance to tell them of the shipping of their friends and relatives to Florida. That was a stunning piece of news to the Apaches. Again they conferred. When they finished, Geronimo returned to Gatewood and said with intense leaning: "We want your advice. Consider yourself not a white man, but one of us; remember all that has been said today and tell us what we should do."
"Trust General Miles and surrender to him," was Gatewood's instant reply. Geronimo asked the night to think things over.
Next morning the Apaches had made their decision. They told the lieutenant they would go with him to meet Miles and surrender. That very day, August 25th, the northward trip began. (270-1)
Troops met them at Fort Bowie and loaded them on a train; within a short time they had started their long journey east. And here occurred the crowning infamy. Ka-e-ta, who had risked his life and had been held as a hostage by Geronimo while Martine carried the message to Gatewood; and Martine himself, whose record of friendliness to the white man was exemplary, were loaded on the same train with the hostile Indians, and sent to Florida with them. Protests availed nothing. Ka-e-ta and Martine were Indians. Like Chato, their services were already forgotten.
Of this cynical act of the government's Captain Bourke wrote:
"Not a single Chiricahua had been killed, captured or wounded throughout the entire campaignwith two exceptionsunless by Chiricahua Apache scouts, who, like Chato, had kept the pledges given to General Crook in the Sierra Madre in 1883. The exceptions were: one killed by the White Mountain Apaches near Fort Apache, and one killed by a white man in northern Mexico. Yet every one of those faithful scoutsespecially the two, Ki-e-ta (Ka-e-ta) and Martinez (Martine) who at imminent personal peril had gone into the Sierra Madre to hunt up Geronimo and induce him to surrenderwere transplanted to Florida and there subjected to the same punishment as had been meted out to Geronimo. And with them were sent men like Goth-kli and Toklanni who were not Chiricahuas at all, but had only lately married wives of that band, who had never been on the war path in any capacity save as soldiers of the government and had devoted years to its service. There is no more disgraceful page in the history of our relations with the American Indians than that which conceals the treachery visited upon the Chiricahuas who remained faithful in their allegiance to our people." (272-3)
Ka·e-ta and Martine were actually held as prisoners of war for twenty-six years. In 1931 they made demand upon the government for their back pay as scouts, at $2.00 a day for their entire period of imprisonment. The Secretary of War admitted that they had undoubtedly rendered service of great value to the nation, but said that there were no funds available to pay them for it. (273n.)
One member of Geronimo's band escaped on the way to Florida. Miles thus describes the incident: "Just after they passed St. Louis, one Indian contrived to make his escape from the train despite all precautions which had been taken."
Surely nobody but an Apache could have equalled the feat of this unnamed Indian warrior. He escaped from the prison train in a thickly settled part of the country. He had to find food and a hiding place each day. He crossed Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. It took him more than a year to make the trip. Yet in that entire period not a single human eye was ever laid on him. Without weapons, without a map, with only his unerring homing instinct guiding him, he journeyed straight to the desert and reached there some time in the fall of 1887. If history records the fellow to this exploit it has so far escaped the writer's attention. (274)
There is peace in the desert today. Not, however, because the Apache has in one whit abated his fiery spirit. Old Chato died just a few months ago, August 16th, 1934, at the age of ninety. His passing was at the Mescalero Agency hospital. And about his grave still lingers the aura of hate.
South of the international boundary line, outbreaks continue to occur occasionally. As recently as April 10th, 1930, Apaches from the Sierra Madre raided a settlement and killed three persons only a few miles from Nacori Chico, in northern Sonora.
But on the United States side of the border, the Indians keep a sullen, dogged peace. If the white man was too strong for them in the days of Geronimo, what would now be their fate, in the day of the machine gun and the airplane?
What men must do, they do. (274-5)