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首页 » 英文名人传记 » Lives of Famous Indian Chiefs » CHAPTER XV.
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With the possible exception of the Sioux, the Apaches were the most formidable of all our Western Indian tribes. Indeed it is conceded that in cunning, ferocity and endurance they have never had an equal on this continent, or a superior on this globe.
General Crook, who was an acknowledged authority, has seen an Apache lope for fifteen hundred feet up the side of a mountain without showing any sign of fatigue, there being neither an increase of respiration or perspiration. A band of Apaches have been known to ambush a party of whites on an open plain, where there was neither tree, shrub, nor blade of grass growing. It was done by burrowing in the sand and covering their bodies, all but their eyes, and remaining motionless until the unsuspecting whites were within a hundred yards of them.
Capt. John G. Bourke, who served under Crook against the Apaches, thus describes those warriors: "Physically, he is perfect; he might be a trifle taller for artistic effect, but his apparent 'squattiness' is due more to great girth of chest than to diminutive stature. His muscles are hard as bone, and I have seen one light a match on the sole of his naked foot. Twenty years ago, when Crook took him in hand, the Apache had few wants and cared for no luxuries. War was his business, his life, and victory his dream. To attack a Mexican camp or isolated village, and run off a herd of cattle, mules or sheep, he would gladly travel hundreds of miles, incurring every risk and displaying a courage which would have been extolled in an historical novel if it had happened in a raid by Highlanders upon Southrons; but when it was your stock or your friends, it became quite a different matter. He wore no clothing whatever, save a narrow piece of calico or buckskin about the loins, a helmet, also of buckskin, plentifully crested with the plumage of the wild turkey and eagle, and long-legged moccasins, held to the waist by a string, and turned up at the toes in a shield which protected him from stones and 'cholla' cactus. If he felt thirsty he drank from the nearest brook; if there was no brook near by, he went without, and, putting a stone or twig in his mouth to induce a flow of saliva, journeyed on. When he desired to communicate with friends at home, or to put himself in correspondence with persons whose cooperation had been promised, he rubbed two sticks together, and dense signal smoke rolled to the zenith and was answered from peaks twenty and thirty miles away. By nightfall his bivouac was pitched at a distance from water, generally on the flank of a rocky mountain, along which no trail would be left, and up which no force of cavalry could hope to ascend without making a noise to awaken the dead."
The Apache had another practice which made it still more difficult to trail or capture a roving band. After striking a murderous blow, and when closely pursued, they would break up into small parties, which, if hard pressed, would continue to dissolve until each one was pursuing his way alone through the mountain fastnesses. When pursuit was suspended and the danger over, they reunited at some remote rendezvous well known to all.
Another great advantage which the Apache had over the soldier is the fact that these people were familiar with all the ravines, caverns, ca?ons, defiles, gorges and places inaccessible to horses, which are almost innumerable in the mountain ranges of Arizona, New Mexico and across the headwaters of the Rio Grande. The Apache, when on a raid, could live on rats, mice, terrapin and rabbits; and if all these failed and he was hard pressed, he would kill and eat his horse.
Among the arts possessed by these red men was that of concocting a beverage from the maguey plant, called "Tizwin," compared to which fusel oil and Jersey lightning are as mild and harmless as Jersey milk. But the Apaches are not at all squeamish as regards the flavor of their liquors; strength and results are all that is demanded, and "Tizwin" had plenty of both. So when they wished to indulge in a debauch they would drink copious draughts of this horrible concoction, which brought out all the latent demon in them, provided it had not already come to the surface.
Ellis, in his "Indian Wars," says: "The climate of Arizona and other parts of the Southwest, for weeks at a time, is like a furnace. Were not the air dry, life would be unbearable to the whites. If those who remained at home had any conception of the sufferings of our officers and soldiers when prosecuting their Indian campaigns, their lips, instead of speaking criticism, would utter expressions of wonder and admiration.
"When the troops were trying to run down the Apaches, the thermometer, day after day, marked one hundred and twenty degrees, and often more. The metalwork on their guns became so hot that it could not be touched with the bare hand. The air pulsated and the soil was baked under their feet. Sometimes, when aflame with thirst, they toiled mile after mile, cheered by the expectation of reaching some spring, they found the Apaches had been there ahead of them and befouled it beyond all use for man or beast."
Various reasons have been assigned to account for the Apache outbreak of the spring of 1885. Perhaps the following is the most probable of those mentioned. Rendered desperate by long-enforced temperance restrictions, the Apaches concocted a quantity of their native drink, "Tizwin," and the braves got uproariously drunk. With returning sobriety came repentance and a wholesome fear of General Crook, who was then in command of the forces in the Southwest and had supervision of the posts and reservations. Such sprees by his Indian charges were strictly forbidden, and surely punished. Lieutenant Davis, in command of the post, was interviewed regarding their offense and the probability of punishment. "I must report the matter to General Crook," replied the officer; "I can not say what steps he will see fit to take in the matter."
The braves withdrew anxious and fearful, but concealing their real feelings beneath a sullen gravity. The envoys reported the ominous reply of the lieutenant to the others of the band, and the matter was discussed at length. Among those who had the most to say was a woman, Huera, the squaw of Mangus, one of the principal chiefs of the Apaches, who possessed an influence over the braves seldom equaled by Indian women. More than once her intercession cast the balance in the fate of a captive, and meant death by torture or life and adoption into the tribe. She now addressed the warriors about as follows: "Are you men, old women or children? If old women and children you will stay here and wait to receive your punishment. But if you are warriors you will take the warpath, and then the 'Grey Fox' must catch you before you are punished. May-be-so you go to Sonora, and he no catch you. I have spoken."
To her fierce utterances they listened with attention, because she told them what they wanted to hear, and the next day saw them upon the warpath. They had escaped punishment, for a time at least, for it is an axiom of Indian warfare, the truth of which is at once apparent, that you can not do anything to an Indian until you have caught him.
The leader of this band of Chiricahua Apaches is the subject of this sketch—the far-famed Geronimo, the best advertised Indian on earth. He is a son of Tah-Clish-Un, and a pupil of Cochise, from whom he had learned every detail of Indian generalship, and had succeeded him in his marvelous influence over the tribe.
Lieut. Britton Davis, Third Cavalry, under whose control the Chiricahuas were, telegraphed at once to General Crook a report of the case, but the wires were working badly and the message was never delivered. Had the message reached Crook, he would at once have taken action to head them off and it is quite probable no trouble would have occurred, as he would have nipped it in the bud.
The troops were at once prepared for pursuit, and the long chase began about the middle of April, 1885. Their earliest field of operations was in that portion of New Mexico between the Ladron and Magdalena Mountains and the boundary of Arizona, and just north of the Gila River. "Geronimo knows this country as well as if he had made it himself," was the quaint remark of a newspaper correspondent; and indeed it would not have suited his purpose better, had it been made to order.
From mountain fastnesses beyond the reach of the ordinary white soldier, the warriors of Geronimo and Naiche could look down upon the troops sent in pursuit. From their hiding-places among the caves and ca?ons they could make a sudden dash upon scouting parties, or cut off supply trains; and the cunning savages knew how to time these descents so as to avoid danger of diminishing their band.
"But," as Kelsey says, "it was not only in finding secure hiding-places that the Indians were too much for the whites. Had that been all, they might have been surrounded by a cordon of soldiers and reduced by famine. They had pathways known only to themselves, by which they could elude pursuit. Issuing from their rocky caves and lofty eyries, the untiring children of the plains would descend upon the isolated settlements which are scattered over the two territories, and write in fire and blood the message of defiance to the general whom they had once feared. Now and then, perhaps a captive woman or child would be carried off to a fate worse than death; but more often all fell beneath the murderous stroke of the Apache. Possessing themselves of the horses which had once belonged to the murdered settler, they would ride off. However hot the pursuit they were not to be caught.
"The cavalry must have rest, not only for themselves, but for their horses. But if the steeds of the Indians tired, they had but to steal others at the settlements which they passed, and freshly mounted, the unwearied red men laughed at the white men's best speed. From ninety to one hundred miles in the course of the day was no unusual achievement, though they were encumbered with their women and children; and if necessity required they could travel much farther without resting."
General Crook had a theory that the best way to catch Geronimo and his band of marauders was to employ other friendly Apache warriors as scouts, trailers and Indian police.
This was accordingly done, and between two and three hundred were sworn into the service of the United States, and placed under the command of Captain Crawford.
With the aid of these Apache scouts they were now able to match cunning with cunning, to interpret the smoke signals, to trail the enemy night or day where no track was visible to the eyes of the regulars.
Geronimo now fled across the Mexican line into the provinces of Chihuahua and Sonora, where in the Sierra Madre Mountains the country was even more rugged than on the American side.
Fortunately a treaty existed with Mexico at this time, whereby troops from either country were permitted to cross the boundary when in chase of fugitive Indians.
Geronimo had with him when he started thirty-four warriors, eight boys and ninety-one women. Who were almost as fierce as the bucks. Never did so small a band of savages give our Government as much trouble.
General Crook and Captain Crawford were on their mettle, and the pursuit was continued across the Rio Grande. From place to place along the border the soldiers followed the fugitives. Now and again a sudden encounter would result in the death of one or two on either side, and the retreat of the Apaches.
The soldiers and Indian scouts pushed matters so hard that they finally corraled Geronimo. They held him just one night, when he escaped again and the flight was continued. Several nights later he had the temerity to steal into camp with four warriors, and, seizing a white woman, told her that the only way to save her life was to point out his wife's tent. She obeyed. Geronimo set her down, caught up his squaw, and was off before the alarm could be given.
During the fall of 1885, the death of Geronimo was regularly reported about every two weeks, but during the first part of November he was sufficiently alive to have three running fights with the pursuing soldiers.
The Mexicans had also suffered severely from the depredations of the marauding Apaches, and they, too, had organized a company of irregular troops from the Tarahumari Indians, who were almost as wild and fierce as the Apaches themselves, and had been their mortal enemy for the past two hundred years. This company, one hundred and fifty strong, officered by Mexicans and under the command of Santa Anna Perez, a captain in the Mexican army, had trailed a band of thieving Apaches seventeen days.
Meantime Captain Crawford and his regulars and Indian scouts were relentlessly pursuing Geronimo and his band, and during the month of January, 1886, they came up with them near Nacori, in the State of Sonora, and surrounded their camp just before daylight. For once Geronimo was surprised; probably worn out at last by the continuous pursuit, the Indians slept sounder than usual. Certain it is, the surprise was complete, and after a few volleys had been fired the Indians saw their case was hopeless and prepared to surrender.
Hoisting a white flag, which was the signal for the firing to cease, and relying on the white man's chivalry, the squaws of the camp were dispatched, as messengers, to the commanding officer. The squaws stated that Geronimo, Xaiche and their warriors wished to confer with Captain Crawford; that they were worn out with the long chase, and were ready to meet General Crook and surrender to him. They had no terms to propose, but would throw themselves on the mercy of the victor. Captain Crawford now demanded that they should surrender their horses, mules, wagons, ammunition and camp outfit. His requirements were at once complied with, and it was agreed that a conference should be held the next day to arrange a meeting between General Crook and the hostiles.
Thus matters stood when the band of thieving, murdering Apaches pursued by the Mexican soldiers, reached Geronimo's band. The fugitives found their comrades treating with a United States officer. They had literally jumped out of the frying-pan into the fire. The Mexicans were hot in pursuit, and were not to be deprived of their revenge simply because their foes had received unexpected reinforcements. They promptly opened fire, which was as promptly returned. Suddenly above the conflict a shrill voice is heard: "For God's sake, stop firing! These are United States troops."
The captain at once ordered his men to stop, but before the command was understood, there was a report from a Mexican rifle, and the gallant Captain Crawford fell back with a bullet in his brain. With a muttered curse, a young Apache called Dutchy returned the shot and avenged the death of his beloved captain that he was unable to prevent.
In this unfortunate skirmish the Mexicans lost one of their bravest officers, Mauricio Coredor, who was one of their best Indian fighters, and had rendered great service to both nations by ridding the earth of Victorio, that bloodthirsty and cruel Apache, a worthy predecessor of Geronimo. They also lost another officer and two privates; while four of their number were wounded, or, according to some accounts, nine.
Of the United States force, two privates were wounded; the commanding officer being the only one whose injury was fatal.
When the firing ceased, Lieutenant Maus, the second in command, accompanied by one comrade, advanced to confer with Capt. Santa Anna Perez. The United States uniform is not always an all-sufficient guarantee in such cases, and the Mexican commander was doubtful what course to pursue. Lieutenant Maus proposed that when they should reach Nacori, he would produce papers to show that he was what he claimed to be. But Captain Perez resolved that he would not fail in discretion and refused to allow an Apache to approach his camp, even though a United States scout. Matters between the two officers were finally adjusted, by each giving the other a letter, stating the manner in which the fight occurred; so that neither would be censured by his superior officer for firing upon the troops of a friendly nation. Having escorted the body of Captain Crawford to Nacori, where it was temporarily interred (and afterward conveyed to Kearney, Nebraska, for burial), Lieutenant Maus took the command and encamped with all his force on the bank of the San Bernardino Creek, whence he sent a courier to Fort Bowie to inform General Crook of the request of Geronimo's band for an interview, looking to a surrender. Meanwhile, as usual, the wishes of the settlers had far outrun the facts, and it was confidently asserted that Geronimo had already surrendered with all his warriors. General Crook at once assented to the request, and set off for the rendezvous.
The journey of forty miles was soon made and communications opened with the hostiles, whose camp was about twenty-five miles south of that of Lieutenant Maus. The Indians called for more time, on the plea that it was difficult to collect all the braves belonging to the band, as they were scattered through a rough mountain country difficult of access by couriers. Meantime the settlers were anxious for the surrender, for well they knew that their lives and stock were in constant jeopardy while Geronimo and his marauders were at large, so they gave their imaginations full rein, and had the whole business arranged to their satisfaction several times before General Crook had even fixed a date for it. So it came about that the slippery Geronimo surrendered as many times in the spring of 1886 as he had been killed the previous fall. Unfortunately for the peace and safety of the people of the three territories, surrendering in imagination and on paper was no more effective than killing done in the same way; and Geronimo remained in his camp until the latter part of March.
At last the interview took place under the shade of large sycamore and cottonwood trees. Captain Bourke, who was present, made a verbatim record of the conference. Said he:
"Geronimo began a long disquisition upon the causes which induced the outbreak from Camp Apache; he blamed 'Chato,' 'Mickey Free,' and Lieut. Britton Davis, who, he charged, were unfriendly to him. He was told by an Indian named 'Nodiskay' and by the wife of 'Mangus,' that the white people were going to send for him, arrest and kill him; he had been praying to the Dawn (Tapida) and the Darkness, to the Sun (Chigo-na-ay), and the Sky (Yandestan), to help him and put a stop to those bad stories that people were telling about him and what they had put in the papers. [The old chief was here apparently alluding to the demand made by certain of the Southwestern journals at the time of his surrender to Crook in 1883, that he should be hanged.] 'I don't want that any more; when a man tries to do right, such stories ought not to be put in the newspapers. What is the matter that you [General Crook] don't speak to me? It would be better if you would speak to me and look with a pleasant face; it would make better feeling; I would be glad if you did. I'd be better satisfied if you would talk to me once in a while. Why don't you look at me and smile at me? I am the same man. I have the same feet, legs and hands, and the sun looks down on me a complete man; I wish you would look and smile at me. The Sun and the Darkness, the Winds, are all listening to what we now say. To prove to you that I am now telling you the truth, remember I sent you word that I would come from a place far away to speak to you here, and you see me now. Some have come on horseback and some on foot; if I were thinking bad or if I had done bad, I would never have come here. If it had been my fault would I have come so far to talk with you?' He then expressed his delight at seeing 'Ka-e-ten-na' once more; he had lost all hope of ever having that pleasure; that was one reason why he had left Camp Apache."
"To this speech General Crook replied, through the interpreter, 'I have heard what you have said. It seems very strange that more than forty men should be afraid of three; but if you left the reservation for that reason, why did you kill innocent people, sneaking all over the country to do it? What did those innocent people do to you that you should kill them, steal their horses, and slip around in the rocks like coyotes? What had that to do with killing innocent people? There is not a week passes that you don't hear foolish stories in your own camp; but you are no child—you don't have to believe them. You promised me in the Sierra Madre that that peace should last, but you have lied about it. When a man has lied to me once I want some better proof than his own word before I can believe him again. Your story about being afraid of arrest is all bosh; there were no orders to arrest you. You sent up some of your people to kill 'Chato' and Lieutenant Davis, and then you started the story that they had killed them, and thus you got a great many of your people to go out. Everything that you did on the reservation is known; there is no use for you to try to talk nonsense. I am no child. You must make up your mind whether you will stay out on the warpath or surrender unconditionally. If you stay out I'll keep after you and kill the last one if it takes fifty years. You are making a great fuss about seeing 'Ka-e-ten-na'; over a year ago I asked you if you wanted me to bring 'Ka-e-ten-na' back, but you said 'no.' It's a good thing for you, Geronimo, that we didn't bring 'Ka-e-ten-na' back, because 'Ka-e-ten-na' has more sense now than all the rest of the Chiricahuas put together. You told me the same sort of a story in the Sierra Madre, but you lied. What evidence have I of your sincerity? How do I know whether or not you are lying to me? Have I ever lied to you? I have said all I have to say; you had better think it over to-night and let me know in the morning.'"
Thus the conference ended with the best of prospects for a treaty, and an immediate end of hostilities. The Indians were subdued and had determined to surrender, but it was not to be. There is one power which was not taken into account, but which proved to be more potent for evil than the representatives of the Government—Crook and his army—were for good. John Barleycorn appeared at this turning point of the treaty, and proved to be stronger than Uncle Sam, by promptly undoing all that Crook and the lamented Crawford had done.
According to Captain Bourke, "'Archaise' and 'Ka-e-ten-na' came and awakened General Crook before it was yet daylight, on March 28, and informed him that 'Nachita,' one of the Chiricahua chiefs, was so drunk he couldn't stand up and was lying prone on the ground; other Chiricahuas were also drunk, but none so drunk as 'Nachita.' Whisky had been sold them by a rascal named Tribollet, who lived on the San Bernardino ranch, on the Mexican side of the line, about four hundred yards from the boundary. These Indians asked permission to take a squad of their soldiers and guard Tribollet and his men to keep them from selling any more of the soul-destroying stuff to the Chiricahuas. A beautiful commentary upon the civilization of the white man! When we reached Cajon Bonito, the woods and grass were on fire; four or five Chiricahua mules, already saddled, were wandering about without riders. Pretty soon we came upon 'Geronimo,' 'Kuthli' and three other Chiricahua warriors riding on two mules, all drunk as lords. It seemed to me a great shame that armies could not carry with them an atmosphere of military law which would have justified the hanging of the wretch, Tribollet, as a foe to human society. Upon arriving at San Bernardino Springs, Mr. Frank Leslie informed me that he had seen this man Tribollet sell thirty dollars' worth of mescal in less than one hour—all to Chiricahuas—and upon being remonstrated with, the wretch boasted that he could have sold one hundred dollars' worth that day at ten dollars a gallon in silver. That night, during a drizzling rain, a part of the Chiricahuas—those who had been drinking Tribollet's whisky stole out from Maus' camp and betook themselves to the mountains, frightened, as was afterward learned, by the lies told them by Tribollet and the men at his ranch. Two of the warriors, upon sobering up, returned voluntarily, and there is no doubt at all that, had General Crook not been relieved from the command of the Department of Arizona, he could have sent out runners from among their own people and brought back the last one without a shot being fired. Before being stampeded by the lies and the vile whisky of wicked men, whose only mode of livelihood was from the vices, weaknesses, or perils of the human race, all the Chiricahuas—drunk or sober—were in the best of humor and were quietly herding their ponies just outside of Maus' camp.
"Thus was one of the bravest, and, up to this point, most successful generals and his army defeated by one villainous wretch with a barrel of cheap whisky. What did Tribollet care how many settlers' homes were burned, their stock driven off, and their families butchered, if he could only sell his vile adulterated whisky at ten dollars a gallon in silver."
Many settlers of the Southwest had long believed that General Geronimo was a better officer than General Crook, and this result, just at the time of the proposed surrender, seemed to justify them.
About the most charitable construction we can put upon General Crook's action, or rather want of action, is that he was failing at this time, by reason of age, and "eight years of the hardest work of his life." He certainly was slow, careless and showed a lack of firmness in dealing with the villainous wretch, Tribollet.
If no other way was open, he could have arrested him, or acted on the suggestion of the Apache scout, and detailed a squad of soldiers to guard Tribollet and his men to keep them from selling whisky to the Indians, contrary to orders.
General Crook now tendered his resignation as commander of the Department of the Southwest, and was succeeded by Gen. Nelson A. Miles.
General Crook's policy had been to surround the hostiles and crush them as an anaconda does his prey; but he might as well have tried to crush an air-cushion. General Miles, who was our most successful Indian fighter, because he was somehow nearly always present when hostile Indians were ready to surrender, adopted a more active and vigorous campaign. He organized the expedient of offering a reward for each Indian or head of an Indian brought in. It is said that the price of an ordinary brave was $50, while Geronimo, dead or alive, was worth $2,000 to the one who should kill or capture him. In spite of these drastic measures, those who predicted a speedy end of the war were doomed to disappointment.
Capt. H. W. Lawton, Fourth Cavalry, took the field with his command, May 5, 1885. He intended at first to operate exclusively in Mexico, as it was thought that Geronimo had fled to his stronghold in the Sierra Madre. But this was only a ruse to send the soldiers on the wrong trail, while the band of that wily chief broke up into small companies and raided through southwestern Arizona and northwestern Sonora. But Lawton soon learned the deception and followed the raiding parties.
Captain Lawton's command consisted of thirty-five men of Troop B, Fourth Cavalry, twenty Indian scouts, twenty men of Company D, Eighth Infantry, and two pack trains. Fresh detachments of scouts and infantry took the places of those first sent out, and by the first part of July the Apaches had been driven southeast of Oposura. Up to this time Lawton's command had marched a distance equal to two-thirds of the breadth of the continent, surprised the hostiles once, and forced them to abandon their camps on three different occasions. The country at this time was burned over, and in many places there was neither grass nor water.
"Every device known to the Indian," wrote Captain Lawton, "was practiced to throw me off the trail, but without avail. My trailers were good, and it was soon proven that there was not a spot the enemy could reach where security was assured."
During the month of July the cavalry were so worn out, a fresh start was made with only infantry and Indian scouts. Assistant Leonard Wood was given the command of the infantry, while Lieutenant Brown led the scouts. These charged the camp of the hostiles and captured all their ponies and baggage, but the elusive Geronimo and his band escaped, to supply themselves with fresh horses from the nearest corral.
When the infantry in turn became exhausted and their shoes worn out on the rocks, they were sent back to the supply camp for rest, while fresh cavalry, under Lieut. A. L. Smith, continued the campaign.
General Miles's order at this time was: "Commanding officers are expected to continue a pursuit until capture, or until they are assured a fresh command is on the trail." In obedience to this command, the hunt for Geronimo was taken up by twenty-five different detachments representing four regiments.
This continuous trailing, together with five encounters, soon convinced the Apaches that there was no safety in Arizona, and they hurried to the mountain fastnesses of the Sierra Madre in Sonora, where they frequently rise 6,000 and 7,000 feet above the plain, which is a mile above sea level.
Surgeon Wood, in his report, describes Sonora as "a continuous mass of mountains of the most rugged character. Range follows range with hardly an excuse for a valley, unless the narrow ca?ons be so considered." Spencer says these ca?ons are a mile deep.
Lawton's command now resumed the trail, clinging to it like bloodhounds, in spite of heat, hunger, thirst and fatigue. Geronimo and Naiche could not shake him off. Pursued and pursuers reached a point three hundred miles south of the boundary line.
The relays of troops on their trail night and day were too much even for Geronimo's band, in spite of their marvelous powers of endurance. They were at last perfectly exhausted and willing to surrender. At this time Lieut. C. B. Gatewood, of the Sixth Cavalry, at the risk of his life, went into Geronimo's camp, where he met him face to face and demanded his surrender. As he and his entire band were helpless and hopeless they expressed themselves as willing to submit.
The only terms Lawton or his superior, General Miles, would consider was unconditional surrender. At last, after some consultation with his warriors, the oft-killed and much surrendering Apache submitted himself to the United States authorities on the morning of September 3, 1886, at Skeleton Ca?on, Arizona. When the band surrendered, General Miles noticed that Chief Naiche was not among the Indians; and messengers were sent after him to induce him to come in; but he delayed until the evening of the next day. The chief explained that his delay was due to two reasons. In the first place, he was fearful of being treated as his grandfather, Mangus Colorado, had been, that is, murdered after he surrendered.
His second reason for delay was that he thought it appropriate that he, the son of the great war-chief, Cochise, and the first chief of the Chiricahuas, should be the last to lay down his arms and cease fighting the white men, whom he and his fathers had fought for two centuries.
Never was the surrender of so small a number of savages deemed of more importance. Twenty-two warriors comprised the entire fighting force that remained. About eighteen months had been spent in the pursuit, which covered a distance of two thousand miles. General Miles had been in command just twenty-one weeks, during which time his men traversed more than one thousand miles.
The Geronimo war, now ended, had cost the Government more than a million dollars.
When the news was received, and confirmed by later reports, that Geronimo and his band had actually surrendered, there was much rejoicing throughout western Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and even across the Rio Grande in Mexico. Bonfires were made, and congratulatory telegrams poured in upon General Miles and Captain Lawton from many sources. Families who had been in daily terror of their lives, now felt they could retire at night with some assurance of living to see the sunrise of the next morning.
It was not thought prudent to let Geronimo and his band remain in the Southwest, even as United States prisoners, as the settlers would have still been in terror lest they should again break out of the reservation or prison and renew their depredations.
For this reason, Geronimo and sixteen members of his band, including the leading chiefs, were sent to Fort Pickens, Florida. The rest of his band, and the four hundred Chiricahua and Warm Spring Indians of Fort Apache were sent to Fort Marion, near St. Augustine, Florida, about the same time. May 1, 1887, the prisoners from the latter fort were removed to Mount Vernon, Alabama, to improve their health. Here they were afterward joined by Geronimo and the other prisoners from Fort Pickens.
At least two of the officers engaged in this campaign afterward became distinguished in the Spanish-American and Philippine wars. We refer to Capt. H. W. Lawton and Surgeon Leonard Wood, whose subsequent histories are well known.
Capt. John G. Bourke, near the close of his work, "On the Border with Crook," states that a number of the prisoners sent to Florida, including "Chato" and his band, "had remained faithful for three years, and had rendered signal service in the pursuit of the renegades." Continuing, he wrote, "Yet, every one of those faithful scouts—especially the two, 'Ki-e-ta' and Martinez, who had at imminent personal peril gone into the Sierra Madre to hunt up 'Geronimo' and induce him to surrender—were 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 'To-Klanni,' who were not Chiricahuas at all, but had only lately married wives of that band, who had never been on the warpath in any capacity except 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."
If these statements are true, and they are quoted from documents of the War Department, then the loyal Indians of this period have been terribly wronged. And every honorable soldier, and just citizen, should demand that reparation be made and the wrong righted as much as possible, even after the lapse of years. If these Indians were unjustly imprisoned, as is here claimed, the accumulating years only serve to augment the shame of those responsible for such an outrage.
In the spring of 1889 a school was opened for the Indian children at Mount Vernon, Alabama, and Geronimo was not only present at the opening, but acted as head usher on the occasion.
October 4, 1894, Geronimo and a portion of his band, including Naiche and other chiefs, were removed to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. They now number 240 people and are called prisoners of war.
Naiche, the last of the band to surrender, seems to be, according to his own statement, an hereditary chief of the Chiricahua Apaches. He is said to be a clever artist, and a crack shot, either with the primitive bow and arrow or Winchester rifle. He is now one of the United States soldiers at Fort Sill, having enlisted as a Government scout.
As we were anxious to learn more of these two noted Indians, especially Geronimo, we determined to make a visit to Fort Sill, which is in Comanche County, Oklahoma Territory, three miles from Lawton. This we did in April of 1905.
The commandant at the fort, Lieut. George A. Purington, extended every courtesy, and among other things gave me this bit of information. Said he: "When Geronimo was about to start to Washington I gave him a check for $171. He took it to Lawton and deposited $170 of it in the bank, and started to Washington with only $1 in his pocket. But wherever the train stopped and people learned that Geronimo was on board they crowded around the car windows and bought his autograph as fast as he could write it at 50 cents each." The interpreter, George M. Wratton, who was with Geronimo, said he had trouble getting him from one depot to another because of the people crowding around, eager for his autograph. He attracted more attention than any one in Washington, the President alone excepted. He soon had his pockets full of money. He bought a trunk and filled it with good clothes, and had money in his pocket when he returned to Fort Sill, ahead of the interpreter, having become separated from him in Washington.
The commandant also informed us that Geronimo's imprisonment was of the mildest form possible. His treatment is kind and humane, and, in fact, he is a well-to-do Indian, with money in the bank at Lawton and the proceeds of a herd of about two hundred cattle, kept on the reservation by his good friend, Uncle Sam. Continuing, the lieutenant said, warming with his theme; "Why, as a matter of fact, Geronimo enjoys comparative freedom. Besides going to Washington City recently and coming all the way back by himself, he is continually going somewhere. Here is a letter which I have just received from one of the Miller Brothers, proprietors of 101 Ranch of Bliss, Oklahoma, asking me to let Geronimo be with them June 11 in their great Wild West Cowboy and Indian outfit, which is being arranged to entertain the National Editorial Association, which will meet at Guthrie about that time. They propose to pay Geronimo his own price, and I am perfectly willing he should go and earn something for himself. Out of the fifty or sixty thousand people expected on the ground that day, it is thought that at least ten thousand will come purposely to see Geronimo, as he is the best advertised Indian in America. Just last night I gave him a permit to visit Quanah Parker, and he will go to-day. Here he enjoys comparative liberty and protection, but should the President pardon him, and he return to his old haunts in Arizona or Texas, there are a number of white men, whose families he and his warriors butchered, have sworn to kill him on sight."
In walking around the grounds of the fort, I went into a sutler's store and purchased a bow and arrow made by Geronimo, but I failed to find the chief, and was passing near the depot, going to the home of Mr. Wratton, the interpreter, to make inquiry, when the station agent called to me and said Geronimo was then in the depot waiting for a train. Hurrying back, I found the noted chief on the platform of the depot; he took my proffered hand with a smile and a hearty "How!" and pulled me up on the platform. I had expected to see a gray-haired, sour-visaged, skinny-looking old Indian, with a scowl on his face and nervous twitching fingers, as if eager to shed more blood. But instead I saw a smiling, well-kept, well-dressed Indian, about five feet nine inches tall, with square shoulders and deep chest, indicating the marvelous power of endurance for which he and his warriors were noted. His actual weight that day was 169 pounds, but an old soldier who had followed him over desert and mountain assured me that his fighting weight used to be about a ton.
He is rather darker than the average of the Apaches, his skin being more of a chocolate than copper color. He has the usual Indian features with broad face and high and prominent cheekbones, each covered at the time with a vermilion spot about the size of a silver dollar. But the most remarkable of all his features are his eyes, which are keen and bright and a decided blue, something very rare among Indians.
He was dressed in a well-fitting blue cloth suit of citizen's clothes, and it was hard to realize that he was the same Indian designated by General Miles as "the tiger of the human race." I found that while he was quick to understand much that was said to him, he spoke but a few words of English, therefore I suggested by signs that we go to the interpreter's house and have him talk for us. Turning to the station agent and looking up the track he asked, "How much?" The agent pulled out Geronimo's open-faced silver watch from his vest pocket and running his finger around the dial, and half around again, he indicated an hour and a half. "Good," he exclaimed, and we started off to the interpreter's house, about one-fourth of a mile across the prairie from the depot. Imagine the writer and Geronimo walking arm in arm across the pasture. Well, that is what happened. There are other things besides politics which make strange companions.
About half way to the house there was a little stream to cross, its width being a good jump for a man. Now I rather excelled in jumping in my college sports and saw a chance to test the old chief's activity, so running forward, I vaulted over the stream, but it required an effort, and to my astonishment Geronimo leaped it with ease and went a foot farther than where I landed.
Near the interpreter's yard was a prairie-dog town, the first I had ever seen. It consisted of a number of little hills with a hole in the side least exposed to rain; on top of some of these hills prairie dogs were to be seen, and heard, barking at us as we approached until we got quite near, when they would dart into their holes. The aged chief noticed them, and throwing an imaginary Winchester to his shoulder and sighting along the barrel, he made his mouth "pop" several times in imitation of a gun. In the distance I noticed three more hills, each with a prairie dog sentinel on top. Calling his attention to them by pointing in that direction, he at once raised the sights on his imaginary gun and again his "pop! pop! pop!" was heard, showing that his eyes are still good.
When we reached the house of the interpreter, George M. Wratton, and I had explained the object of our call, and convinced him that I was a historian searching for facts and information, he was ready to help me. I found him a very intelligent, well informed gentleman, who, as the commandant had assured me, probably knows more about Geronimo than the chief does himself.
Mr. Wratton was present, and one of the two interpreters who did the talking, when Geronimo surrendered to General Miles. He was a famous scout during the Geronimo war and is now interpreter at Fort Sill. He it was who interpreted Geronimo's speech to the "Great Father," President Roosevelt, in Washington, as also the reply. My first question to Geronimo was, "Where were you born?" "In Arizona," was the reply. "How old are you?" "He says he is seventy-three," said my interpreter, "but I tell you he is at least eighty, if not more." Continuing, he added, "I don't believe he knows his age, few Indians do." "Is he a full-blood Indian?" I asked. "Yes," was the reply. "Then how is it that he has a Mexican or Spanish name? Geronimo is from one of those languages and is the same as Gerome." The chief's reply was that this name was given him in Mexico many years ago, when but a youth, and took the place of his Indian name, as it was much easier to pronounce.
"Do you know this Indian name?" I asked, "and will you kindly write it on my note-book?" "Certainly," he answered, and this is what he wrote: "Go-Yat-Thlay." Having obtained through the interpreter a promise from Geronimo to write his autograph on my bow and note-book, we returned to the depot, where this promise was at once made good. While waiting for the trains, which were to meet at Fort Sill. I showed Geronimo a book which I had bought in Lawton that morning. It was a short history of the Comanche and Apache tribes and contained a number of Indian pictures, including several of Geronimo. He was greatly interested in these cuts, especially those of himself, and took pains to show them to the other Indians around. At last he turned to me, and pointing first to himself and then to the picture, he uttered one expressive word, "Me."
A few minutes later Geronimo and the writer waved a last adieu to each other from the rear platforms of receding trains and the interview ended. I learned at Fort Sill that Geronimo, in point of fact, is not a chief at all, that honor belonging to Naiche, but, like Sitting Bull, is an Indian medicine man with the authority of a chief. Be that as it may, he is recognized not only as a chief but as the most famous living chief. The words of Spartacus to the gladiators would be as true if spoken by this barbarian, "Ye call me chief and ye do well."
While in Washington last March attending the inauguration of President Roosevelt, Geronimo called on the President, accompanied by the five other chiefs who were in the procession, and his interpreter, Mr. Wratton. At this time he made the following address to the "Great Father," through his interpreter, and received a characteristic reply:
"Great Father, I look to you as I look to God. When I see your face I think I see the face of the Great Spirit. I come here to pray to you to be good to me and to my people.
"When I was young, many years ago, I was a fool. Did I know that I was a fool? No. My heart was brave. My limbs were strong. I could follow the warpath days and nights without rest and without food. I knew that fear of me was in the heart of every chief of red men who was my enemy.
"Then came the warriors of the Great White Chief. Did I fear them? No. Did I fear the Great White Chief? No. He was my enemy and the enemy of my people. His people desired the country of my people. My heart was strong against him. I said that he should never have my country.
"Great Father, in those days my people were as the leaves of the trees. The young men were strong. They were brave. The old men were glad to die in battle. Our children were many. Should we let strangers take their country from them? No. Should our women say that our livers were white? No. I defied the Great White Chief, for in those days I was a fool.
"I had a bad heart, Great Father. My heart was bad then, but I did not know it. Is my heart bad now? No. My heart is good and my talk is straight. I am punished and I suffer. I ask you to think of me as I was then. I lived in the home of my people. I was their chief. They trusted me. It was right that I should give them my strength and my wisdom.
"When the soldiers of the Great White Chief drove me and my people from our home we went to the mountains. When they followed we slew all that we could. We said we would not be captured. No. We starved, but we killed. I said that we would never yield, for I was a fool.
"So I was punished, and all my people were punished with me. The white soldiers took me and made me a prisoner far from my own country, and my people were scattered. What was Geronimo then? Was he the great chief of the Apache nation? No. His hands were tied. He was no more than a woman.
"Great Father, other Indians have homes where they can live and be happy. I and my people have no homes. The place where we are kept is bad for us. Our cattle can not live in that place. We are sick there and we die. White men are in the country that was my home. I pray you to tell them to go away and let my people go there and be happy.
"Great Father, my hands are tied as with a rope. My heart is no longer bad. I will tell my people to obey no chief but the Great White Chief. I pray you to cut the ropes and make me free. Let me die in my own country, an old man who has been punished enough and is free."
Roosevelt's reply.
"Geronimo, I do not see how I can grant your prayer. You speak truly when you say that you have been foolish. I am glad that you have ceased to commit follies. I am glad that you are trying to live at peace and in friendship with the white people.
"I have no anger in my heart against you. I even wish it were only a question of letting you return to your country as a free man. Then I should not have the same feeling about it. I must think and act for the good of all the people of this country.
"You must remember that there are white people in your old home. It is probable that some of these have bad hearts toward you. If you went back there some of these men might kill you, or make trouble for your people. It is hard for them to forget that you made trouble for them. I should have to interfere between you. There would be more war and more bloodshed.
"My country has had enough of these troubles. I want peace for all, for both the red and the white men. You and your people are not confined within doors. You are allowed to cut the timber and till your farms. The results of your labor are for your own benefit.
"I feel, Geronimo, that it is best for you to stay where you are. For the present, at least, I can not give you any promise of a change. I will confer with the Commissioner and with the Secretary of War about your case, but I do not think I can hold out any hope for yon. That is all that I can say, Geronimo, except that I am sorry, and have no feeling against you."
We have had some correspondence with Mr. Wratton, the interpreter, and are indebted to him for much information contained in this sketch. In a recent letter, he says: "Geronimo has a daughter at Fort Sill named Eva, aged sixteen years; a daughter at Mescalero, New Mexico, named Lena, aged twenty years; also a son at Mescalero, New Mexico, aged about eighteen years. The aged chief also thinks he has some children living in Old Mexico, who were captured by the Mexicans many years ago."
Geronimo was the most conspicuous figure at Miller Brothers' "Last Buffalo Hunt," at Ranch 101, near Bliss, Oklahoma Territory, June 11, 1905. And when one of the visitors, Dr. Homer M. Thomas, of Chicago, shot and wounded a buffalo from his automobile, it was Geronimo who rushed forward and finished the animal with neatness and dispatch.
His latest achievement was his marriage to his eighth wife, a widow named Mary Loto, which took place Christmas day. Perhaps now he will be more contented at Fort Sill.


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