Mexican Soldiers No Match for Horn and His Apache Scouts
BY TOM HORN
Originally published in 1904 (from Life of Tom Horn)
We had, I think, sixteen [renegade Apache] prisoners, and some of them were cutting up a good deal on account of having seen their people killed, and an old squaw can always make her share of noise when she is doing the weeping act. They don’t cry, they just pitch out one long screeching yell after another, all the time lying flat on their stomachs. A dozen of them in camp is no treat.
We were all tired and worn out, more especially the scouts who had been with me, and I, myself, was worn completely out. I always tried to carry a hundred rounds of cartridges on a trip where we were working as we had to work there, for we always calculated that if we got cornered in the day time, we could make a stand-off fight till night and then get away. I never did make any calculations on getting killed. Well, a hundred rounds of 45-70 cartridges weighs eleven pounds when you first put them on, and at the end of twenty days, they weigh about as much as a small sized locomotive.
It kept raining all night, and was still raining at daylight.
All of us began to stir at daylight, and very shortly after we saw Mexican soldiers coming toward us. I saw they were getting ready to make a fight, and I could hear their orders as plainly as I could hear Captain Crawford’s, who stood beside me. I told the scouts to get ready for a scrap, and to listen to me and do as I said, and not fire one shot if they could keep from it. I heard the Mexican commander say to his men to throw out flankers on each side of us, and for some of them to get ready to charge. I got Shipp out on one side to stop their flankers, and Maus on the other side to do the same, and told each of them to start the game when they were compelled to for their own protection.
I yelled to the Mexicans many times, that we were American troops from the line, but that did not stop them. They must have heard me, for Captain Crawford and I could hear them plainly. They had formed for a fight about three hundred yards from us. We had ample time to get into position, and we were in a strong natural fortification. I knew a thousand Mexicans could not move us.
Finally, I heard the commander ask if the men were all in position for the flank move, and the answer came back that they were all waiting. “Follow me, valientes!” cried the Mexican Captain, and at us they came on a run across a little basin, directly toward us. Crawford said, “My God, Chief, can’t you stop them? These scouts will kill them all!”
I ran out towards them, and Crawford jumped up higher still, on a big prominent rock, and had a white handkerchief in his hands. He could not speak Spanish, but he could swear in a moderately clever way, not like Sieber or Chaffee, but still he was doing very well. I kept on talking to the Mexicans all the time, and was also talking to the scouts and telling them not to fire.
When they reached the middle of the basin the Mexicans began to shoot. Some would stop and shoot, and then come on towards us on a trot, and others would do the same, so that some were coming on a trot and some were firing all the time.
One of my scouts yelled to me to come back, that Crawford was killed. I was half-way down meeting the Mexicans, and was out in the opening. I was wondering why it was that they did not hit me, and then all at once I wondered no more, for I was struck in the arm.
My scouts saw I was hit, and they yelled, “Come back!” I did not start right away, although the Mexicans were within fifty feet of me, but I yelled to my scouts to give it to them!
All my scouts seemed to shoot at once, and how it did paralyze those Greasers! They went down in groups and bunches! Their advance was stopped as though they had come to the end. Some of my scouts wanted to be down where I was; and, Chi-kis-in and about a dozen came down and kept on shooting at some of the wounded Mexicans who were trying to crawl away. I believe the Mexicans afterwards said there were thirty-six killed and thirteen badly wounded. There were one hundred and fifty-four Mexicans, so they said later. After all the Mexicans had gotten out of sight, one of them yelled over to us: “O, you white man that talks Mexican, I want to talk to you.” I said, “What do you want? I spoke to you many times and you would not answer.” They replied, “Now we want to talk.”
I had gone over to where I had left Captain Crawford standing on a rock. Some of the Indians had said that he had been killed, and I wanted to see if it were true. The scouts told me he was lying out in front of a big pile of boulders. I ran around there, and sure enough, there he lay. Shot in the center of the forehead, a glancing shot, but it had torn out a whole lot of his brains. I should say as much as a handful. When I stepped around to where he lay I guess I was in plain view of the Mexicans, as they commenced to shoot at me again, and I tried to get Crawford back, but I had only one arm that I could use, and I could not lift him. I could not get the scouts to help me, as they do not like to do anything with a wounded man. So I had to drag him with one hand. It was about fifty feet from there to the sheltering rocks, but I finally got him around there. He was unconscious. I poured a little water down his throat, but he did not revive any.
The fight was going on again quite briskly, and it was not worth my while to try to stop it! Chi-kis-in came to me and wanted to scatter out our men and go after the Mexicans and kill all of them, but I talked to them and told them not to do so until I ordered them. Old Nana came crippling up to me and said : “Captain, though I am a prisoner and an old man, I would like to take the rifle and ammunition of the dead Captain and help to entertain the Mexicans.” I gave him the gun and belt and told him to do as I told him, or rather as I told the rest of the scouts. He said, “I will do so. If this is a fight to the death, here I will die, for I will never be shamed by running, as I did yesterday.”
I went around among my scouts and told them not to waste their ammunition too freely, as we were in the Mexicans’ country, and two weeks’ travel from the line, and may be the Mexicans had taken in all our command. I did not know, and could not guess, why we had been attacked. I thought Mexico and the United States were at war, and that we were in it. I was sure the Mexicans did not want to do anything but fight, and I knew, also, that my men were wanting to advance awfully bad, and I knew, also, that if I did let my scouts go they would kill all of the Mexicans, or nearly all, as an Apache has no fear of Mexicans.
I went and saw Lieutenant Maus, and had a talk with him, and told him how things were. We could not make out why we were attacked by the Mexicans, unless Mexico had declared war against our country, and, as we had left Bowie on December 1, 1885, and it was now January 11, 1886, we had not had any word for a long time from the line.
Maus was now in command, as Crawford was dying, and I asked him if I should turn the Indians loose and make a ramp on the Mexicans. Maus said to speak to them again, and if they did not answer, to do as I wanted to, which, I tell you, meant go to ’em!
Just then I caught sight of Lieutenant Shipp and his bunch of scouts, right around over where the Mexicans were, and in a splendid commanding position. I could see that the Mexicans were getting excited, also, and so I spoke to them and asked them how they liked the entertainment. One of the Mexicans asked me who we were, and I told him we were a bunch of sports down from the United States, looking for some game, and thanked him for the nice little time we were having, and invited him to get his “valientes” together again, and try another charge. He asked me what those Apaches were doing, getting up over them, and I told him that if they did not charge or run soon, my men were going to try it, and see how charging went; but as we were now on three sides of them, and a steep ledge in front of them, that they had better act as though they had some sense.
“What do you want?” asked the Mexicans. “Everything you have,” replied I.
They talked awhile among themselves, and then they asked what the soldier they saw (meaning Crawford) and I were doing with the Apaches. I told them that our business originally had been to hunt down renegade Chiricahuas, but that we were attacked by their outfit and that we had to defend ourselves, which we were perfectly able and willing to do.
Just here a loud yell broke out on the side of the Mexicans that we did not have guarded, and old Geronimo bobbed up and began to call to me. He shouted to me to give the word, and we would all strike the Mexicans at once and kill them all and get their pinole. Mexicans, when they go upon a campaign or trip, take only pinole, a kind of parched meal, and the Indians all like it and would do anything to get it.
Some of Geronimo’s men began to talk to the Mexicans in Spanish. I could easily distinguish old Jose Maria among them. The Mexicans were getting pretty badly worked up by this time and they asked me to come over there to their camp. I went and saw Maus and told him I was going over, and then I told the scouts that I was going and to be sure to kill all the Mexicans if they killed me. I told Geronimo, also, that I was going into the Mexican camp, and I heard Jose Maria tell the Mexicans that if they harmed me that the scouts and renegades would combine and kill every mother’s son of them!
Then I walked over. I went in among them and asked where their commander was, and they said that he lay dead on the field of battle. I told them we had not had a battle yet, only a skirmish; that if their commander had been killed they had better go back home and get a new one; that we were the same as Mexican troops, as we were; and were allowed all the rights and privileges of Mexican troops within certain limits and that we were within those limits, and that on this occasion, by our treaty, our rights and privileges were equal to their own. I told them that they had come and attacked us, and that we had merely defended ourselves.
One of them then asked me who I was, and I told him. “Well,” he said, “we don’t know anything of this treaty you are talking about, but we think it is all right, and we will let it go, though we have had many men killed and among them is Don Maurice Corredor, the bravest man that ever lived. We will have to take you with us to the city of Chihuahua to settle this thing.” I told them that I would have to decline the order or invitation, whichever it was, and they said they would take me anyhow, and that I was their prisoner!
Geronimo was closer to me than my own men and I spoke to him and told him what these Mexicans were talking of doing, and he yelled to my scouts what I had told him, and in a minute every scout and renegade com- menced to yell and get ready for an advance.
The Mexicans asked me what the Indians were doing, and I told them that I was chief of the Indians, and they did not propose to see me taken away. “What did you say to the Indians?” asked the Mexicans. I informed them that I had told the Indians I was a prisoner.
The Mexicans could see that they were surrounded and that they would be exterminated in a few minutes more “We will kill you,” said one of them, “if the Apaches fire upon us.” “I know you will,” replied I, “and I know, also, that you will never smile again after you do kill me, for no one but myself can handle or control those Indians, and when they know I am killed you will all be killed. Not one of yon will escape.”
All the Indians were closing in now, and one Mexican said to me: “Go quick and stop them, and then come back and see if we can not fix this thing up.”
I called to Geronimo not to fire till I told them, or till they saw me fall. I was in plain sight of the Chiri- cahuas and of most of the scouts, and I stepped up where I could be more plainly seen by all of them. I then asked the Mexicans if they did not think it unnecessary to take me to the city of Chihuahua, as my presence was very necessary there with my scouts.
“Have you not got a commissioned officer with your outfit?” asked one, and I told him that there were two of them with the scouts.
“You go over and take care of the scouts, and send one of the officers over and let us talk to him.”
“Neither of them can talk Mexican,” said I.
“Well, if you can control the Indians, go on back to them,” said one of the Mexicans.
I went back and told Maus all about the whole business; also that the Mexicans, such as were there, were a very uncertain lot and would not do to trust. Maus asked me to go and get one of the prominent Mexicans to come over and talk to him. I went back to the Mexican camp and asked them to send over a man or two, or a dozen if they liked, to talk to our officer. Two of them concluded to go. Jose Maria, of the Chiricahuas, asked me what we were going to do, and I told him. “May I come over, too, and hear what they have to say?” And I told him yes, to come on.
Jose Maria came down and the four of us went over to our camp. I introduced them to Maus and told them who Maus was. The Mexicans then told Maus that they had made a mistake and did not know we were from the United States, that they were sorry for what they had done, and that they had suffered a much more serious loss than we had, as Maurice Corredor was a great man and would be a great loss to Mexico. I did not tell them of Crawford being shot. They wanted to know if we had any men killed and I called a scout that had gotten a shot in the wrist, and told him there were our wounded.
The Mexicans did not know what to do and I could not see that we were doing any good, so I told them to go on back to their camp. We had not had any breakfast and it was 10 o’clock by this time, so we went to work to get something for all hands.
Along about noon a Mexican came over and asked if I could let our doctor go over and attend to their wounded. I told Dr. Davis he could do as he liked, and he went over and dressed a whole lot of wounds for them. Dr. Davis said one of them was shot eight times. While Dr. Davis was over there, one of them came over and asked for Maus to go over, as they wanted to talk to him. I told Maus not to go, as he could not do any talking to amount to anything, but he said he would go, and go he did.
About the time Maus went over, Dr. Davis came back and said he did not like the looks of things. That the Mexicans did not treat him right. Presently Maus sent over a note, saying he was held prisoner; that the Mexicans wanted us to divide our rations with them; they wanted our mules to carry their wounded and they wanted everything we had. They talked of taking him to Chihuahua. I told the Mexican who came over with the note, to go over and get men to take the mules and grub back; told him to bring four or five men. This he did, and the man who came back to receive the mules and rations said he was the man now in charge of the Mexicans. He had four men with him, making five altogether. I told them that I was surprised that they should hold Lieutenant Maus as they were doing, and he told me that they were bound to have their own way, and we had better not make any trouble. I told him if that was their game, they should see how it was going to work. I told them to get upon a rock that was close by. “What are you going to do?” asked their spokesman. “You are playing a Mexican trick of bluff on us,” said I, “and I am going to show you what joy means.” I made them get up on the rock, and then I called old Nana and Jose Maria, and about a dozen of my scouts, and told them to get ready to do as I told them. I told them that as soon as I gave the word, I wanted them all to shoot into the Mexicans. By this time the Mexicans could see that they were going to be executed. I told them to call over to their comrades and tell them just the kind of a fix they were in, and after they told them that Lieutenant Maus must be sent back in one minute, or I would allow the Apaches to shoot them. The man then commenced to tell his companions how things were, and that they would surely be killed in a minute if Maus did not appear.
For many a day we laughed at the way that Mexican did talk! Nana and Jose Maria were also telling them they were all the same as dead men already, and how much pleasure they were going to have.
I did not wait long till I told them that it was no use; that their friends had quit them, and they would have to die. Their friends wanted to talk, but I told them “No savvy,” and it was getting time for my lieutenant to be coming. The talk of this man sounded so sincere that the lieutenant came over and said that the Mexicans were doing a lot of bluffing on him, but they would not do any more.
Maus said the Mexicans demanded everything when he got over there, and he could not talk much Spanish, and the Mexicans could not understand a word of American, and I guess there had been big doin’s. Well, that ended the row. I told the Mexicans to come over and get a lot of extra horses I had, and I took about forty head of the best and turned the rest of the captured horses (and there must have been three hundred of them) over to the Mexicans.
The Mexicans came from the Chihuahua side of the Sierra Madre, and the horses belonged to the Sonora side, but I was not going to take any more horses to the line or to Bowie, as I already had enough of that.
Late that evening the Mexicans pulled out, and I sent half a dozen scouts to follow and watch them. They were in very bad shape, as they had a good many wounded. I let old Jose Maria go back to the renegades, and told him to tell Chihuahua, and any others who wanted to talk to me, to come on the next day to where we would camp. Crawford was unconscious, and remained so till he finally died, three days later. He had a great hole in his head, and it looked as though a handful of brains had been shot out; but with all that, he lived until the third day, and died while on the way out of the mountains. We were carrying him in a travois, carried by pack mules. We were rather a sorrowful lot ourselves, as we pulled towards home. We did not want to bury Crawford there in the mountains, so we were taking him out to the nearest settlement, which was Nacori.
I had sent five scouts on ahead with dispatches from Maus to our camp at Nacori, and two others we sent to General Crook. From Nacori we could send in helio dispatches, and by the time we arrived at Nacori with the body of Captain Crawford, all the world knew of his death, and how it came about.
We buried Crawford at Nacori. The packers and soldiers had the grave prepared when we arrived there with the body. His body was taken up the next summer and sent to either Lincoln or Beatrice, Nebraska, where his mother and sister lived, and I have always understood that it was buried at Lincoln.
To go back to the Chiricahuas. As we went into camp, the first day after we left the battle ground, a woman came and told me Chihuahua was close there, and for me to come out, as he wanted to see me. I told Maus I was going out to see him, and he told me to do as I liked, and to come back and see him, and tell him what Chihuahua wanted. I went with the squaw, and joined the chief, and he said he would follow Geronimo no more, as Geronimo was “all on the run and drink muscal.”
He said Geronimo was the war chief, and it was the custom of all other chiefs to obey the order of the war chief. He said Geronimo was too much on the talk; and gave me to understand that he was going to follow him no more. He wanted me to make arrangements for him to meet General Crook and talk to him, and said he would be a renegade no more. Chihuahua was one of the most determined, and of the best hereditary standing of any chief in the Chiricahua tribe, but he never aspired to rank high as chief. Natchez and Chihuahua were half brothers, and both of them grandsons of old Cochise, the most noted of all old-time Chiricahua chiefs.
Natchez was the greatest warrior, and the best man physically, in the bunch of renegades; he was also a man of great personal pride and courage. So, knowing his pride, I asked Chihuahua to try to see if he could not get Natchez to come with him. He said he would see, but that he thought Natchez would consider himself bound to stay with Geronimo. I did all I could in a talk, and made arrangements to bring General Crook to meet him in the full of the March moon, at the San Bernar- dino Peak. I told him I could not be sure General Crook could come, but that I would take his message to him.
That evening several more women and children came in and said they were going back with us. We had now about twenty-five prisoners to take back. I never put them under guard at all, as they were all willing to go, and they were perfectly contented when not within the sound of Geronimo’s voice. Geronimo certainly had an influence over them that controlled them when he was with them, but once away from him, they would do as they pleased.
Now, for the first time, I could begin to see dissatisfaction in the renegade camp, and that was what I wanted to see. At that camp on the Arras, where we jumped Geron- imo, he could easily have given us a licking, or else a stand-off, had he made a fight, and all the Indians in the renegade camp thought that I had planned the fight to come off just as it did, and ran them down the draw among my best scouts. It was true, I did send some of my best men with Shipp, but I did it because Shipp was young and inex-perienced, and I thought he would need good men to take care of him, as I was sure we would have a hard fight. Of course, I never let on but that everything came out as I wanted it to. Maus and Shipp knew different, but as they could not talk to either the scouts or the renegades, they could not give me away, and I took advantage of the wisdom I was supposed to have displayed. Then, too, the renegades all began to think more of me because I had headed off the scouts and would not let them kill any more women and children; and, taking it altogether, I was getting to be a great man in my own estimation!
Will Geronimo Surrender?
Well, after getting to Nacori and burying Crawford, we hired a large room in the town, our camp being several miles from there. We put all the supplies in the big room, left a guard of soldiers there, and we all pulled out for the line. I guess General Crook ordered the storing of the rations in Nacori for future use. I did not know anything about that.
We were stopped at the Batipita Ranch as we were on our way up, to wait there with the command till Maus and I could go to Bowie and report in person to General Crook. Maus and I left the command and went on in and had a long talk with the General, and I told him of the dissatisfaction among the Chirica-huas, and he made arrangements to come down as soon as he was notified by helio that the renegades were on hand. Maus and I then went back and established camp on the San Bernardino Creek, about twelve miles below the line, to wait for the March moon.
We would have to wait about six or seven weeks. A long and tedious wait it was, with a message coming in from General Crook every day to see if we had heard anything.
We had a helio station [for sending signals of reflected sunlight with a mirror] in camp. At last the welcome signal came. It was on the San Bernardino Peak. And, though it came at 9 o’clock at night, I started out right away to go and find the messenger. I found him to be a young buck, who said he was a nephew to Chihuahua. He said that Chihuahua would be there whenever I said the word. I sent him word to be there in four days, and then went back to report to General Crook by helio. General Crook sent word back he would be there at the appointed time, and I went on back, leaving the General to follow. General Crook was very anxious, for, as I learned later, the Department was hurrying him up as much as they could, and he was depending upon me. But I could not hurry the renegades; and so it stood.
When the appointed day came along, all parties were on hand and Chihuahua said that he did not have any more talk to make, but that he was willing to go to the guard house and stay there till Geronimo came in, for he said Geronimo would not stay out long now, as many of the men with him were much dissatisfied. There were about twenty-five men and a good many more women and children with Chihuahua.
All at once there was some commotion up on the Peak and a big bunch of renegades came into sight coming to our talk. Geronimo was at their head. The desire to make a peace talk was too strong in him to miss the chance. I asked Geronimo if he had come in to surrender and he replied by telling me to take him to General Crook. This I did, and he wanted to make a great long talk about the way he was treated up on Turkey Creek, and General Crook asked him what he wanted to do, and Geronimo said he wanted to have an understanding. General Crook told him if he wanted to go along as a prisoner to come on, and if he did not, to go on back to the mountains and he would send more scouts there to find him. He said: “Geronimo, you are so much of a liar that I do not want to trust you any more, and if you go with me you will have to go to the guard house till the authorities at Washington decide what to do with you.”
He told Geronimo he would camp for the night up at the scout’s camp on the San Bernardino Creek, and if he wanted to talk to come up there. General Crook then pulled out, and as Crook had brought Micky Free down to me, I asked Micky if he wanted to stay back with me and talk to Geronimo and he said he would, so I told the outfit to go on to camp and that I would stay and talk to Geronimo a while.
Crook and his escort went on and Micky and I sat down to have a talk with Geronimo. The chief had about twenty men, well armed and very well mounted. I asked him where he got his horses, and he said that the Mexicans were raising horses for him in Sonora, and he went and got them when he wanted or needed them. I told him that General Crook was very mad at him for leaving the Reservation, and he said he knew Crook was mad, but if he could talk to him he could explain a good many things. I told him to come on and go to camp with me and I would try and get the General to talk to him. He asked me how many scouts and soldiers there were in camp and I said I would not tell him. He asked me if I would try to trap him and I told him he could come and make his talk and if he and the General could not agree, that he could again go to the mountains. He said he would go with me.
Geronimo and I rode ahead of the rest of his men, and he made a great complaint to me about a man like Chihuahua doing as he was doing, and said that Chihuahua was jealous because he could not be war chief. I then told Geronimo that Chihuahua would not talk that way of him, and he said, “Yes, he would,” and added, that Chihuahua told him that it was no more good to be on the war path and he only said so because some Mexican killed his favorite boy on their last raid before I struck them on the Arras. Geronimo seemed to feel very bad about Chihuahua’s giving up, and well he might, for it showed to me an open break in their camp.
To be continued…