Not one Apache raid occurs in Arizona this year, a first for at least 10 years. The Apaches seemed fairly content on their respective reservations and are adjusting to a farming way of life. This will change. And Geronimo will be the agent of change.
As such, he will be vilified by those Chiricahua Apaches who wanted to stay on the reservations and at peace with the White Eyes. Geronimo will be blamed for the U.S. Government’s decision to ship all Chiricahuas, including the loyal scouts, to Florida or Alabama. Here they will lose everything: not just their homeland, but their culture – language, religion, and even their children. The tribe will be almost entirely exterminated by disease and negligence.
By contrast, Geronimo will attain super-hero status among those who wanted to remain free and fight to an honorable death for their people, their homeland, and their way of life (which includes getting drunk on tizwin and beating their wives).
Geronimo is drunk and intimidated by newspaper editorials that demand his death. He and a small band of warriors escape again to Mexico where they continue to raid and kill, primarily for food, ammunition, and horses.
Geronimo’s “Power” that warns him of impending danger, not surprisingly, coincides with his well-founded paranoia, based on the many times the Apaches have been lied to, cheated, starved, humiliated, and killed by the U.S. military and Indian agents.
On the reservation, rumors fly. What Geronimo hears is that Captain Davis has been authorized to have him and Mangus killed. Many years later, Chatto, who became General Crooks most trusted scout, says, “Talk of troops made Geronimo like a wild animal.” Read More
1885-May: The Lie
Geronimo is still a prisoner of war in the 1903 photograph.
Geronimo hatches a plan to persuade reluctant Chiricahuas led by Chiefs Naiche and Chihuahua to follow him in a mass exodus from the reservation to Mexico.
Geronimo’s plan includes having his cousins, Fun and Tisna, kill Captain Davis and Chiricahua scout Chatto, two who are most trusted by both the U.S. military and the reservation Chiricahuas.
Geronimo knows that with Davis and Chatto dead, the reservation Chiricahuas, particularly the Apache scouts, will feel hopelessly vulnerable and will then follow him in a desperate attempt to escape to Northern Mexico and continue the good fight.
The charismatic Chief Chihuahua fears that Crook will deport him to Alcatraz. Chiefs Naiche and Chihuahua throw their support in favor of Geronimo’s plan to escape from the reservation when Geronimo tells them that Davis and Chatto are already dead. It’s a lie. It’s a lie that will have devastating consequences for the Chiricahuas and divide the Apaches between those who want the relative comfort and security of the reservation and those who prefer an arduous life on the warpath defending their ancestral homeland against the despised White Eyes and Mexicans.
When Chief Chihuahua realizes he has put the lives of his people in serious danger because of Geronimo’s lie, he vows to kill the shaman-turned-war-chief. Had he been successful, it is likely the war would have ended and the remaining hostiles would have returned peacefully to the San Carlos Reservation.
But the war continued and President Cleveland, with the support of his Secretary of War and Lt. General Phil Sheridan, decides the fate of all Chiricahuas, not just the hostiles.
Lozen fights alongside Geronimo and his few remaining warriors in a desperate attempt to survive and not be herded back to the San Carlos Reservation. Unbeknownst to them, this is the last campaign in the Apache Wars. Pursued relentlessly, she uses her mysterious power to sense the whereabouts and strength of the U.S. and Mexican cavalries.
Alexander Adams writes in his book, Geronimo, “she would stand with her arms outstretched, chant a prayer to Ussen, the Apaches’ supreme deity, and slowly turn around.” (until she senses the presence and number of the enemy and the direction of their impending attack.)
Leading General Crooks second expedition into Mexico in pursuit of the renegade Apaches led by Geronimo, Captain Crawford and his scouts are attacked by Mexican militia led Mauricio Corredor. One of Corredor’s scouts claimed to have shot and killed Chief Victorio six years earlier at Cerro Tres Castillos. (The Indian version has Victorio fall on his own knife rather than be captured and tortured by the despised Mexicans.)
Crawford attempts to get the Mexicans to cease fire by waving a white handkerchief so he can explain to Corredor that his troops and scouts are in pursuit of the Apaches. The Mexicans don’t listen and one shoots Crawford in the head.
Dutchy, one of the Apache scouts, pulls the mortally wounded Crawford to safety, and then kills the Mexican who had shot him. He then kills the Mexican commander.
Crook’s army and Chiricahua Apache scouts, now led by Chatto, go after Geronimo and his warriors. They catch up with them again just over the Mexico border in March. At first, there are negotiations and hope that Geronimo will surrender.
March 1886. Gen. Crook (rt in round hat) tries to peruade Geronimo to surrender unconditionally.
Crook is only authorized to negotiate unconditional surrender, but Geronimo refuses. Crook makes concessions. He tells Geronimo that, if he and his people give up, they will be confined in the East with their families for NOT MORE THAN TWO YEARS; then be returned to Arizona. Geronimo accepts these terms.
That night, Naiche, Geronimo and their little band get roaring drunk, reconsider their surrender, and disappear into the mountains. Crook’s vast army with all its Apache scouts cannot catch them.
After the conference with General Crook (March 1886) Naiche and Geronimo head back to the relative security of the Sierra Madre Mountains in Northern Mexico as fast as they can. With Naiche is his 3rd wife Ha-o-zinne.
Crook is ridiculed unmercifully in the newspapers. But far worse for his command, Crook received word from the President through Gen. Sheridan that the government will accept only unconditional surrender, and orders to renegotiate with Geronimo & Naiche.
Crook knows that this would be impossible. More important to Crook is his honor. He negotiated concessions with the hostiles in good faith and cannot now go back on his word. He asks Sheridan to relieve him of command.
Sheridan quickly complies.
In April, General Crook, who had tried to help the Apaches on their reservations, is replaced by the arrogant, pompous, shamelessly self-promoting General Miles. He deploys over two dozen heliograph points to coordinate the movements of 5,000 soldiers, 500 Apache scouts, 100 Navajo scouts, and thousands of civilian militia against Geronimo and his 24 exhausted warriors who, in order to survive, continue raiding in Northern Mexico.
(Note. The heliograph signaling system was Miles solution to poor communications and coordination in pursuit of the hostiles. Their use was one of the ways Miles employed to distinguish his campaign from his failed predecessor’s. Despite Mile’s claims to the contrary, the heliograph system was of little benefit to his pursuing army in locating the hostiles. The hostiles moved primarily at night. No sun, no heliograph signal. You can see a heliograph machine at the Fort Lowell Museum at 2900 N. Craycroft Road in Tucson.)
September 3, 1886
Lt. Charles Gatewood, now reporting to Miles, leads a party of 6, including himself, an interpreter, 2 packers and 2 Chiricahua scouts, in an exhausting pursuit of Naiche and Geronimo. Later that summer, scouts Kayihtah and Martine guide Lieutenant Gatewood to the Naiche and Geronimo camp.
Gatewood tells Naiche that his mother, wife and daughter have been shipped to Florida with Chief Chihuahua and his people. Gatewood tells Geronimo that his family is in Florida and if he ever wants to see them again, he will have to surrender now and go there too. This was a lie. The Chiricahuas had not yet been exiled, but they soon would be.
Broken, Naiche decides to surrender. Many other hostiles surrender too. Geronimo, war-weary and missing his family, knows he cannot continue his struggle for freedom without them. Naiche and Geronimo surrender to General Miles at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona Territory, not far from present-day Douglas.
It was a momentous event in the history of the Apaches and the United States. On Route 80 south of Rodeo, New Mexico, near Apache, Arizona, stands a marker commemorating Geronimo’s surrender. A short distance south of the marker is a road that leads east and then south/southeast to the actual surrender site in Skeleton Canyon.
NEXT: The Apache Wars: A Timeline Part 6