The Famous Apache War Chief Pledges Return to San Carlos, But Has Tricks Up His Sleeve
BY TOM HORN
Originally published in 1904
“I know that the white man will rule. Can I make you believe that?” [Chief of Scouts Seiber asked Geronimo, after having found him in Mexico]. “Yes, I will answer that question. I can make you believe it, for you know I speak only the truth.
“I am an old man. You know when I was a young man—twenty-five years of my life have been spent with the Government, and during all of that time my one business has been to hunt down the Indians who were marauders and enemies to my people. Some men never get killed, and I must be one of them. You know if my words have ever been words of wisdom and truth. I always do my best. Sometimes I have made mistakes, but never have I told an Indian a deliberate lie. Geronimo, I say to you. Take my advice and tell General Crook tomorrow that you and your people will go with him to San Carlos. Now you know that you can not hold out and from here there is no further place for you to go. How can I say more?”
Geronimo sat for a long time and did not say a word.
At last, after a long sigh, he said:
“Sibi, your words have touched me. They have struck deep into my heart. I will consider well what you have said, for I know it is the truth; but I am and always have been a proud man, and such words from you make my heart heavier than even the words of General Crook. I will talk to the General in the morning, you, of course, will be there. I will not forget what advice you have given me.”
It was past midnight and we all started to our camps.
The woman who was to keep up our fire had gone to sleep; our fire had nearly gone out. Geronimo gave her a slight kick and told her to go to her tent. So ended our first day in the Chiricahua camp.
The following morning, bright and early, we went to the council of General Crook. Only a few of the Chiricahuas were present. By that, we, who were acquainted with their ways, knew that Geronimo was going to promise to go back with General Crook to the Reservation.
Geronimo commenced his talk to General Crook, and if ever an old horse thief did try to make a squaring talk for himself and his people, that man was Geronimo.
What a great confidence man he would have made!
“I listened to your talk yester-day,” said Geronimo, “and it made me feel that I had done some great wrong.
Perhaps I have done wrong, as a white man looks at my actions. I know that a white man does not see as an Apache sees, and I know that what is life to a white man is death to an Apache. My influence with my people is great, as you have said, but there are warriors here whom no one can control. Within the last year some men of my tribe have raided into the American’s country.
This I am not going to deny. It would be idle for me to attempt to deny it, for this young man who does your translating, and this old man who always leads your war parties (meaning Sieber and myself), have met my people raiding up in your country. This old man here, Sieber, killed one of my young men, and this interpreter ran up to one of my women and caught her by the hair and dragged her from her horse and took her captive, and took her to San Carlos, and she was the means of bringing about this talk.
You complain of my people raiding and killing up in the American’s country. Do you not think I should complain of your war chief killing my warriors? Well, I make no complaint of that kind, for so, and in that fashion, do many of my young men want to die. I know, and my men know, that sooner or later all will get killed who keep up such a life; and now I am going to tell you that a life of this kind no longer pleases me. I have grown old on the war path, and what have I accom- plished? Only this: today I stand before you as a supplicant. Today I am going to ask of you what I, the proud war chief of the Chiricahua tribe, never thought to ask of any white man. I ask you to take me to the Reservation, and there to do with me as you see fit, and as your judgment says is right for you to do. I will go with you tomorrow, or when you say.
There are a good many of my people who are not here now. They are scattered through these mountains, and I will summon them as soon as my runners can get the news to them, that they must come. It will take several days to reach them, for I know not where they are. I now only wait for you to say: ‘Geronimo, summon your people and come with me.’ I am under your orders from now on. I will have my family move my camp up here to your camp, and here I will remain till we are all ready to start to the United States. Give me the order to bring my camp here, and to send and gather my people to go with you. No one could say or do more than this.”
I will do as you say,” said General Crook.
Lieutenant Gatewood was then called and told to arrange to issue rations to all the renegades each day, and to arrange to count them each day, and to take entire charge of them.
He told Geronimo that Gatewood would attend to all of that. He told Geronimo to bring his camp up to the soldiers’ camp, and that his family would also draw their rations, and then he told Geronimo he would talk to him again in the evening. “For,” said General Crook, “Lieutenant Gatewood will be busy with you most of the day.”
Geronimo and Gatewood then went about the ration business, for that is the joy of every renegade’s heart, when he wants to make peace. Flour and sugar cut a big figure in all they do when once they conclude to accept it.
General Crook asked Sieber to go with him to his tent, as he wanted to talk to him. Sieber said he might want me, and for me to come with them.
When we got to General Crook’s tent, Crook asked Sieber what to do next. Sieber said: “That talk was all right, and Geronimo will do as he said he would; but the old wolf has something up his sleeve, and I think this is what he intends to do. I think his men have gone now that they left last night to raid and rob out in the Mexican settlements, so as to get stock such as mules and horses, to take up with them, and to save my life I can’t think of anything to do to stop them. We could call Geronimo up and tell him not to do this, and he would say that he would not think of doing such a thing; but he was cute enough to send these men away before he made his talk to you.
Now, when they come in with their stolen stock, he will say they were not here when we first came here. If he gets cornered still more closely he will say that he or no other can control some of his men. I think we will have to take hundreds of head of stolen horses and mules to the Reservation with us. There is some consolation in knowing that they think of staying, or they would not take that “trouble.”
Sieber then told General Crook how he and I had taken them, or a good many of them, up out of the Terras Mountains three years before, when General Wilcox was Department Commander, and that while many of them did not go at that time, the ones who went did this very same thing; that the Mexicans raised a big row, and were upheld by the newspapers; that Sieber and I were accused by El Fronterizo (a Mexican newspaper published in Tucson, Arizona) of standing in with the Indians and encouraging them to do this thing, and then protecting them after they got to San Carlos with their stolen stock.
“Now, that same thing is going to occur again,” said Sieber, “and you will be blamed in place of Tom and me.
Now, I can not think of any way to stop this, can you? We can send and tell Gatewood to make a good count on the bucks and find how many there are here. When they came to the council yesterday I counted 193 warriors. In my opinion there won’t be ninety-three for Lieutenant Gatewood to count today.”
General Crook called his orderly and sent word to Gatewood to count the bucks and report to him the number after he had given them rations.
Late that evening Lieutenant Gatewood reported forty-one bucks and 362 squaws and children. General Crook sent for Sieber, after Gatewood made his report, and told him of the count. “We can not do a thing to help ourselves,” was what we all concluded.
At least 150 warriors had gone in the night to steal horses from the Mexicans, and the American troops, with General Crook personally in command, were to protect them in it, and give safe transportation to the Indians and their booty to the United States.
We must stop it at any sacrifice!” cried General Crook. “Call Geronimo immediately,” said he to me.
I can not and will not tolerate such a thing as this. I should be courtmartialed for it.”
I went and brought Geronimo to the general alone.
Geronimo no longer looked down hearted and broken in spirit, as at our previous talks. He was smiling, and looked as happy as a king. When he had taken a seat, General Crook said to him:
Where are all your warriors who were here at the talk yesterday morning?”
“They are gone into the mountains to find and bring back the scattered Apaches,” replied Geronimo. “I want to take all of them to the Reservation and some of them don’t know that I am going. I have just sent them word by the men who have gone from this camp. Last night I spoke with them, and told them to go, and most of them, or maybe all of them, left last night.”
General Crook said to him: “You have sent them off to rob and steal stock to take to the reservation. Why did you do this? I can not allow you to get stock in such a manner to take up there.”
I don’t think they will rob or steal,” said Geronimo, “they have only gone for the rest of my people and will soon return. Maybe we had better all go up to the line and let my young men come and join us there. Many of my people are between here and the line, and we can pick them up on our way. No one can tell where they are and no one can call back the men who have gone after them. We will have to wait here till they come back, or better still, we can go slowly north and wait for them in the San Luis Mountains.”
But I won’t allow them to take stolen horses to the Reservation,” said the General.
Oh,” said Geronimo, “you need not pay any attention to a lot of howling Mexicans. They are only good to raise horses for the Chiricahuas. My men won’t steal.
They have a good many horses cached in the mountains and they will likely pick them up, but they won’t raid and steal now.”
I may send for you again shortly,” said the General, and Geronimo went off smiling.
“He has got all the best of us and he knows it,” said Sieber. “We had as well pull out for the line, for so long as we camp here so long will we see no more Apaches.”
Nothing else could be done, so next morning we set out for the line. General Crook said he felt like a horse thief himself, and Sieber went along swearing softly to himself.
I knew that old wolf was cute, but I was going to do something to prevent this very thing,” said Sieber, “and now he has got the best of us on the one point we were going to guard against. No wonder to me now that he came up and offered to go with us without any more talk. Do you know that Geronimo knew we would try every way in the world to prevent this very thing, and that was the way he took to get the best of our talk. He knew we thought he would want to talk several days and that he would then consent to go. But instead of three or four days talk he says, ‘All right, I am ready.’ There will not be a Mexican in Mexico, or a newspaper in the United States that won’t swear we allowed them to do this, and that we just shut the other eye while they did it. Of course we may be mistaken and the bucks that have gone may not raid the Mexicans, but one who knows the Apaches can only think that is what they are going to do.”
The next day, as I said, we pulled out toward the United States and the renegades with us, but there seemed to be no one but women and children. Slowly we kept on and not an Indian joined us.
Gatewood counted them morning and night, but they were always the same number. We were twelve days getting back up on the San Bernardino. We did not come back the route we took going down, for old Geronimo had said we might find more of the renegades in the Terras Mountains. We did not find an Indian. From the San Bernardino we pulled over onto the Cajon Bonito to catch any that might come in that way.
We had been on the Bonito about three days and calculated to start toward Fort Bowie the following morn- ing. After night, twelve Indians came in and reported to Gatewood for rations. Gatewood gave them rations and reported to General Crook. He sent for Geronimo and asked about the men who had just come in. Geronimo told him there were twelve. Crook then asked if they had brought in any extra horses, and Geronimo said they brought in fifty head. General Crook told Geronimo that he would make them turn all of those fifty loose in the morning. Geronimo told him that would make all the Indians go back on the war path again.
General Crook then said he would pull out of Mexico, so on the following morning we did so. The General told Geronimo that he would leave soldiers on the line to escort any Indians that came in, back to Fort Bowie, and there he would wait for them. Rations were getting scarce. We no sooner got to Fort Bowie than the renegades began to come in in a stream. Every bunch of them had a great drove of horses, and soon after the Indians commenced to come in, Mexicans also began to come. All wanted their stock, and the Indians refused to give it up.
I guess there, were more than a thousand head of the stolen horses and there were several Mexican lawyers on the ground, and things began to look interesting.
Arrangements were finally made to pay the Mexicans for their stock as they could prove it. And on that basis that part of the trouble was finally settled, though even until now I do not know where the money came from to pay them.
About this time Sieber was taken down with the rheumatism, and some of his old wounds broke out, so he was sent to the hospital. General Crook went to Fort Whipple, and Captain Crawford, Gatewood and I were left with the Indian problem on our hands.
We were ordered to take the Indians to San Carlos, which we did. Geronimo then wanted to move up on Turkey Creek, close to Camp Apache, and in the fall we moved them all up there.
Sieber got no better, and he sent for me to come to Fort Bowie in November. There he told me he had made all arrangements for me to be Chief of Scouts, for he said he would never go on another trip. He said he was old and worn out. That was the last time he ever did go on a trip. He was still kept at Whipple and San Carlos by turns and drew $100.00 a month, but the only thing he ever did after that trip was to sit around and give advice regarding the Indians.
No white man ever knew Indians as Sieber knew the Apaches. The Apaches in turn, had the greatest respect for him. His courage was only matched by his regular bull-dog hang on and stay a long time qualities. All quartermaster’s men told of how he, one time, lifted a pack mule up and set it on a ledge from which it had fallen. This was an example of his strength.
For myself, personally, I always thought he was the greatest and best man I ever knew.
Some said Sieber was no fit company for man or beast. That was because he would go for days at a time and never speak to any one. No one knew where he came from originally. A few people in Arizona had known him in California, but before that he was a blank. I don’t think any one ever did ask him where he was born or raised, for he was not the kind of a man that one cared to ask such a question.
His face always looked stern, and perhaps savage, to one who did not know him, but to me he was always good and kind and never, unless in the heat of battle, did he speak loud or cross. He was spoken of by the Indians as the “man of iron,’’ and of iron he must have been. He was shot in Indian battles twenty-eight times with bullets and arrows, and the twenty-ninth time he was crippled for life. That was when the Apache Kid broke out, as I will describe when I get to it.
Capt. Crawford was now stationed at San Carlos with his troop of cavalry. I also put in a big portion of my time there. All the Cibicus were as good and quiet as mean Indians could be. The hanging of Dead Shot, Dandy Jim and Loco had a good effect on them.
About Christmas time, Gatewood sent word for me to come up and see him, as he was having some trouble. He did not say what it was. I mentioned to Captain Crawford that I was going up to the Chiricahua camp and asked him if he wanted to send any word up to Gatewood.
Captain Crawford said he would go with me and we would stay and have Christmas dinner with Gatewood.
I had enlisted twenty-five Apache scouts and Micky Free was my first sergeant, so I told him to detail a scout to take some messages from Captain Crawford and myself to Lieutenant Gatewood, also for him to get ready five of his men as an escort for the Captain and myself to go up to Gatewood’s camp.
We started a couple of days before Christmas and got there on Christmas eve. Gatewood complimented us very highly on our military appearance.
Crawford said we looked a good deal more like a band of border outlaws than we did like the military commander of San Carlos and the Chief of Scouts. The only thing military in the whole outfit was our rifles. We all had Springfield rifles, but our clothes, and horses and equipments were of every kind from buckskin to calico shirts, and from corduroy pants to no pants at all. There was not a soldier’s uniform in the whole outfit. Crawford and I both had Mexican saddles, as did Micky, but the rest of our escort had no saddles at all.
Usually the Apache just puts a raw-hide or hair-rope in a horse’s mouth and that is a complete outfit for him.
The Apaches said that the Americans were always leaving something in camp; but an Apache never. With an Indian rig (a horse-hair rope), you had all that was needed. When you went into camp the rope was used to stake out the horse, and when you wanted to move, all you had to do was to tie it around his under jaw and you had a bridle and no traps or parts of your equipment were left in camp.
We had a big Christmas dinner with Gatewood.
The Chiricahuas were also given ten head of steers for a Christmas treat. Gatewood waited till after dinner and then he told Crawford and me his trouble. He said he could not keep his count of the Indians any ways near the same. One count day there would be six hundred, and the next count day there would be from five to fifteen short, and he could not get any satisfaction out of Geronimo about where these people were. Geronimo said he did not know. Noche was in charge of the Chiricahua police and he said he did not know where these people were when they were missing. Gatewood had counted them the day we got to camp and they were twenty-two short.
I concluded that it was now up to me, for as chief of the scouts, it was my business to see to such things. I called Micky, who was having a good time in the Chiricahua camp, and told him that we would count the Chiricahuas at sunup next morning and for him to tell Geronimo that I would expect to find every Indian there, as none had permits to be absent.
Micky said: “Well, I have learned that there are about fifteen bucks gone back to Mexico to steal horses, and if my information is right you won’t find them here.”
A correct count next morning revealed the fact that there were twenty Indians missing. As Chief of Scouts, I asked Geronimo, Chief of the Camp, where they were.
He said he did not know. I told him then, that his people would have to be counted at sunup and sundown every day. Geronimo did make a strong kick at this, but he had to come to it. He said his people did not want to be herded like goats and that they were not molesting anyone and counting them so often was an imposition.
While we were listening to Geronimo, trying to square himself and his people, the soldier who carried the mail up to Turkey Creek from Camp Apache, came in. Captain Crawford was looking over the latest San Francisco Examiner and found an article copied from a Mexico paper, saying that the Apaches were still raiding in Mexico. Told of the place and the number of Indians supposed to be in the band. Geronimo was still talking when Captain Crawford called to Gatewood that he had found his missing Indians. He brought the paper over and read the article and I translated it to Geronimo. He swore that the paper lied, but as some of his people were missing, he could not make a very good showing in a talk.
Horn Gathers His Scouts, Smoke Signals
I sent Micky to San Carlos for the balance of the company of scouts and made arrangements for them to go to Camp Thomas, where I would meet them. I made arrangements to have the Indians in Geronimo’s camp counted twice a day and then I went to Camp Thomas to meet my scouts.
I met my men and they were all in good shape. Each had two war horses, and an extra one to carry a little grub and to herd on. I struck out for Fort Bowie and there made arrangements with the quarter-master to bring me grub and grain to old Camp Rucker. I then went on towards the Mexican line to try to intercept the renegades as they came in. I scattered out my scouts and gave each sergeant in charge of his four men a district to work in, so I could cover well all the country that these renegades would have to pass through coming back to Arizona.
My scouts were enlisted men and could not again go into Mexico, but I was a civilian and could go alone anywhere. I went into the Terras Mountains in Mexico. I felt sure the renegades would come through that way.
I was making camp on the very top of the Terras Mountains and, as it was quite a bit after night, I was thinking of building a fire, and I knew, also, that it was not the proper thing to do, because if the renegades did come through there, they could see or smell my fire. I was on the side of the mountain, where I could plainly see a place on the Bavispe River called Los Pillares. I was hobbling one of my horses that I called Pilgrim.
When I got him hobbled, I saw he was looking intently at something in the distance, so I glanced down towards the Pillares and on one of the Pillares (Pillares in Mexican is pillars, or buttes), I saw an Indian signal fire. Of course I knew what the Indian was trying to do. He was trying to signal some Indians and he did not know where they were. I knew the signal was not there when I started to hobble my horse, and was sure I would learn something before morning. Presently the signals were repeated, and they plainly said to me: “Answer!” After an hour they were repeated, “Answer!” Of course I did not build any fire, but wrapped myself up in my blankets, for it was cold (it was the first half of January), and set me down to wait and see if the signal was answered.
About 10 o’clock the man doing the signal act had received an answer, but I could not see the point his answer came from. He signaled, one long flash and four or five small or short ones, then two flashes and two again. The signals meant to me that they “were all right and would wait there two days.” I knew that the rest of the Indians had asked them from some distance to wait for them two days.
I knew it was time for me to be moving to get my scouts together and try to intercept the renegades in Arizona. I was not going to bring my men into Mexico, for I had had enough of that. I traveled all night, and after sunup next morning rode into Slaughter’s Ranch, on the line at the head of the San Bernardino Creek. I saw John Slaughter and told him I wanted the best horse he could let me have. I then told him where I had been and what I had been doing. He gave me a good breakfast and told one of his Mexicans to saddle up one of the best horses on the ranch while I ate. I told Slaughter I wanted to leave my two horses there that day and night, for I had ridden very hard, and wanted a Mexican to bring them on to Camp Rucker the next day.
This he promised to do (and did do), and then I got on my fresh horse and was ready to pull out. Slaughter came out and said: “Tom, that is the best horse on this ranch, but I have got three thousand more, so you can keep that one. I know you never spare your own horses, and I am going to give you that one, so you will have no excuse to spare him.”
I pulled out for Rucker, about forty miles away, but I was on a good fresh horse, and I let him go. I was within about fifteen miles of Rucker and I saw some one coming down out of the hills to intercept me, and I saw, also, that it was an Indian, in a very great hurry.
It proved to be one of my scouts on the look out for anything he could see. He saw me at a distance and recognized me, but he could not make out my mount, as I was riding a horse strange to him.
I learned that the squad he was with was only a short distance away, so we went to where it was. I wanted all of the scouts, and I wanted them that night. They were on the head of the Guadaloupe and up at Skeleton Cañon, and on the southern point of the Chiricahua Mountains.
I started a scout for each of the squads of scouts, and told them I wanted every man of them by daylight next morning. I then went to a place called Tex Spring and waited for them, for that was the place we were to meet.
I kept one of the scouts with me, and when he and I got to the spring I told him to keep an eye open and look after my horse, as I was going to sleep. It was about 2 o’clock when I lay down and pulled my blanket over me, and, as I had not slept a wink the night before, I was soon dead to the world.
To be continued…