Chihuahua Cavalry Massacre Apache Innocents
BY TOM HORN
(From Life of Tom Horn, originally published 1904)
This was about noon, and Sieber told me to go back to the command and move them up to the place where we were [after the Apache Outbreak at San Carlos and in Mexico]; that we would likely get there by sundown or before, and to wait there till he came, as he said he and Micky Free [the fearless and reckless government scout raised by the Apache] would go into the camp before he came back. He gave me more details, and cautions, not to shoot or make a fire, but to camp as soon as I got the soldiers up to this point.
I went back and reported to [Major] Tupper, gave him Sieber’s instructions, and we pulled out for the place where we were to meet Sieber [chief of scouts]. Major Tupper was “tickled” to get a chance to get at the Apaches, as he said, he wanted anyhow to have a scrap of some kind and to capture a pony for his little girl.
We got to the appointed place quite a while before sundown, and camped, fed the stock, and prepared to make battle. The only question was, would the hostiles move camp again that night? Sieber felt sure they would not, as they were tired and as they thought, free from pursuit.
It was close to midnight when Sieber got back to where we were. He said he left the hostile camp about 10 o’clock and that they were singing and dancing, and Micky told me he heard the wedding drums beating and could plainly hear the chants they sing at weddings.
Sieber said Micky wanted to get a few ponies and bring them back to Tupper, as he seemed to want ponies worse than anything else. While Sieber and Micky got something to eat, I got their change of horses. We left six soldiers with the pack train, which remained there, and we started out for the hostile camp.
We went up a swale that ran close to the camp and had to wait a good while for daylight to come. We were within less than a thousand yards of the camp, but they had so many horses running around that they had not heard us.
Sieber, Micky, Sage and I all knew every foot of the land, and we were each put to pilot some soldiers for a charge when we should be discovered at daylight. There were nine soldiers in the bunch I had to guide. Micky Free was assigned to go with Major Tupper. Tupper was spoiling for a fight, and any one that went where Micky would go in a scrimmage, was bound to see the biggest part of it.
Just at daylight five Broncos [Apache braves] came close up to where Sage and his squad were waiting. They saw the soldiers as soon as the soldiers saw them, and the fight was on.
The soldiers with Sage made a run at those five Indians, and got every one of them, and they were the only Indians killed, that is, that we were sure of.
The sergeant with Sage told me Sage killed three out of the five with his six shooter, as they ran. Sage rode his big, white war horse, and he could run right over the Indians. These five Indians were on horseback and were just starting out, evidently to round in their loose horses.
As for my part of the fight, I did not get to see much of it. Murray, a sergeant, was in charge of the bunch of soldiers I was guiding, and as we charged toward the camp we saw about a dozen Indians in a little bunch of rocks, and we took a run at them. When we got up close to the rocks, we were not forty yards from them when we saw them. Old Murray got a shot in the side, gave a big grunt and fell off his horse. I looked around and saw him get partly up so I stopped (for we were going at a run), went back and got off. I could see that he looked awfully white. He said he was shot in the side.
His horse had gone on with the rest of the men in our squad, and I tried to get him on my horse, and I finally succeeded, but when I tried to start, I saw the horse had a hind leg broke.
The Indians were firing terribly fast at us, so I pulled old Murray off the horse, took him on my back and carried him about forty yards, then I gave out and had to put him down. Both of us had dropped our rifles, and he told me to go ‘back and get them. My horse was still standing there, both rifles lying on the ground; but the Indians that were in that little bunch of rocks had undoubtedly gone, as they did not shoot at me any more.
I went back to Murray. He was sitting up swearing, and he said he felt better. “But listen,” said he, “to that damned racket.”
Well, there were “things doin’ “ all right just then.
Indians were yelling and squaws were yelling. There must have been a thousand dogs barking, and horses were running every which way. There were probably three thousand horses there, and it was not very light yet. The soldiers had been ordered previously to get all the horses they could, but the horses would not leave the Indian camp, and the soldiers could not drive them away. At sunup we heard the bugler with Tupper sounding “Assembly,” and as Murray could walk pretty well by this time, I headed off towards where I heard the bugle.
There we found all the command except one soldier who had been killed. Micky and several of the soldiers had a big bunch of horses and mules. Tupper sent several soldiers to get the dead man, and we pulled still farther away from where the hostiles had taken shelter in the rocks. After a little we stopped on a slight rise and waited for the men to come up with the dead soldier.
When they came we laid him in a gulch, put a Government blanket over him and piled rocks on the blanket.
We put Murray on behind another soldier, Micky roped a horse for me out of the bunch they were holding, and we started back to our camp. The hostiles afterwards told me they thought there was a big bunch of soldiers concealed somewhere close, and that we were just trying to draw them out. It was lucky for us that they did think so, for they could have come out and cleaned us up in a minute.
We had a big lot of horses, and I think there were eight different ones had saddles on them. We caught a big pinto mule with a saddle on, and I took that saddle and the horse Micky had roped for me as my share of the booty. Tupper took all the ponies himself; I think we counted 260 at that time. When we got back to the pack train and had something to eat, Major Tupper was the happiest man I ever saw.
About an hour before sundown Murray and I saw a dust up towards the [border] line and we thought it might be more Indians coming, but we soon saw they were following the trail of our cavalry, and we decided they must be soldiers, which they proved to be. It was a colonel named Forsythe, and his scouts had assured him that there were troops ahead of him, so he came on and went into camp where we were located. There were five troops in this command, and there were now men enough to make a good fight. It was the first time since the outbreak, ten days before, that we had seen soldiers enough at one time to make a good fight. Of course, our outfit was pretty well worn out, having been up all the previous night. Forsythe was not in very good shape himself, but the sight of the captured ponies made him want some ponies of his own.
Forsythe sent for Sieber, and asked him if we could get him up to where he could get a lick at the Indians and get a few ponies. Sieber said he could, if we would go promptly. Then Sieber told him we would have to pull out at once. Sieber thereupon told Micky, two of the Apache scouts and myself to go back to the hostile camp, and if they had gone, or were getting ready to go, to send back the two Apache scouts to a place named by him, and that he would meet them with the soldiers.
Micky and I were to keep on after the hostiles and join him and the command at a place called Panuela. Sieber said if he got there first he would wait for us, and if we got there first to wait for him.
When Micky and I got back to the Sierra Media, where we had left the hostiles by the hundred in the morning, we found it as still as a graveyard. We looked around and found a trail, and it headed direct for the Panuela, and we sent the two Apaches back to Sieber.
It was 10 o’clock at night, but there were so many of the Indians they made a trail that even at night could be followed as easily as can Capitol Avenue in Cheyenne.
At the Panuela were two or three horses dropped by the hostiles. Micky and I had just reached this water and got a drink when we heard the troops coming, and in a few minutes they arrived. We told Sieber we were on the trail. Forsythe was keen to keep on, and as it was about 1 o’clock at night we had to travel pretty lively to get across the plains before sunup.
We traveled on till just about daylight, and then left the Indian trail and turned into the hills at a place called Sousita. The soldiers and their mounts were all completely worn out, and Forsythe ordered camp.
While the soldiers were going into camp we scouts went up to the top of a peak near there, so we could look ahead. At sunup we could plainly see the dust of the hostiles, not more than eight or ten miles ahead of us, and instead of going towards the Ojitas, as we had sup- posed they would, they were pulling into the Carretas Canon.
While we were watching this dust, the sound of rifles was heard by all of us, and by the troops going into camp, also, and a great cloud of dust came up where the Indians were. We could not for a while understand what it meant. Finally we concluded the Indians had run into the Mexican troops and were fighting. We could not see anything but dust and smoke.
After we had eaten breakfast, Forsythe was so anxious to know what the row was where we could hear the firing, we again pulled out for Carretas to learn the exact cause of the trouble. About two hours’ march brought us to the place, and, sure enough, it was the Fifth Regiment of Chihuahua Cavalry, under Colonel Garcia.
They were just returning from Sonora, where they had been fighting all winter with the Yaquis, and had been camped on Carretas Creek that night, and on this morning the guards reported a big dust coming across the plains headed for the point where the regiment was camped.
Colonel Garcia was an old Indian fighter, and knew in a minute that it was Indians. They were still a couple of miles away, and coming up parallel with where the Carretas Creek runs out and sinks into the plain. Garcia threw his men out down this creek, and concealed in the brush on the creek and under the creek banks. He let all the bucks, who were mostly in the lead, pass on, then he struck the rear of the Indian column. The rear of the Indians consisted principally of squaws and children, and any loose horses there might have been. Garcia slew them all women and children. One hundred and sixty-seven were killed and all dragged close together by the time we got there. They were killed all around over the country for a distance of about a mile square, but Garcia had dragged all of them together.
There were also fifty-two women and children captives.
Garcia’s command saw us coming when we were within half a mile of them. They did not know what to make of us at first, and then they recognized us as American troops. Colonel Garcia and about a dozen of his officers came to meet us, and his orderly was blowing his bugle for all he was worth.
Forsythe halted his command, and several of his officers and all the scouts went forward to meet the Mexicans. When we got within one hundred yards of them, they halted; we rode up to them and civilities were exchanged. Colonel Garcia did not have any one who could speak English and I was put in to do the interpreting.
Colonel Garcia immediately told Colonel Forsythe that we were an armed force of Americans on Mexican territory and that we must consider ourselves under arrest. He said he was Justo Garcia, Colonel of the Fifth Chihuahua Cavalry, and asked Colonel Forsythe who he was. Forsythe told him who we were and that we were following the Indians whom he, Garcia, had just engaged.
We saw the pile of dead Indians and Garcia told us of the prisoners.
Colonel Forsythe was then informed that his command would be allowed to retain their arms for the present, and he and several of his officers were invited to go further up the creek where there was good water, and have breakfast with Colonel Garcia. Forsythe accepted the invitation. We all went further up the creek and made camp. Garcia and his command had not had breakfast, as the Indians came onto them too early in the morning to allow them time to get breakfast. That regiment of Garcia’s, which he said was one of the best in the Mexican Army, had twelve burros for their trans-portation. They had no grub and no clothes, and many of them did not have a cartridge after their fight with the Indians.
Colonel Forsythe had five troops of cavalry and there were about thirty of us scouts, Indian and white together, and he had about fifty pack mules loaded with grub and ammunition. Forsythe soon saw that breakfast with Garcia was nothing at all, so he asked Garcia to have breakfast with him, which he did.
After breakfast, which was about 10:00 o’clock in the morning, Gar- cia told Colonel Forsythe that he would have to go to El Valle, the head of the district and would have to remain a prisoner till such an invasion could be settled by their respective governments.
Garcia asked Forsythe to be his guest during the time he would be detained, and said he hoped there would be no hard feeling between them. Garcia said he would have to dismount Forsythe’s troops and confiscate the rations, and was going on at that rate when Forsythe interrupted him and said:
“I know I am violating an international agreement and I knew what I was doing when I came in here, and I know what I am going to do now. I am going to mount my command and go back as I came down here, and that was without order or command. I will not submit to go anywhere with you and your command. I will now bid you good day.”
Forsythe ordered the troops to get ready for a row if it was necessary to have a row ; he ordered the packers to pack up, which they did in a very few minutes, and we mounted and pulled back toward the United States line.
Garcia did not attempt to stop us or to interfere at all.
He had given the Indians a very severe blow. While he had killed only women and children, he had captured more than four hundred horses, and the Indians would not learn for a long time that it was an accident or a scratch that we ran them into the arms of the Mexicans.
This was the thirteenth day since the outbreak at San Carlos. Sieber, Micky and I returned to San Carlos and the remainder of the troops went to their respective posts.
Sieber, as chief of scouts, had to make a written report of the whole trip to the Department Commander, and in that report he said that from the time the Indians broke out at San Carlos and killed Chief of Police Stirling, till we quit them on Carretas Creek in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, that the scouts had been constantly on the flank of the hostiles, assisting and ready to give correct information to any one of the different troop commanders we came in contact with. He then gave the details very much as I have described them. He made a “general big kick” against the idea of sending detachments of from twenty men to forty men to chastise a bunch of from 260 to 320 Chiricahua braves. He also got in a roar about the transportation and poor condition of the field organization and the lack of available troops for a pursuit such as we had just been on. He said, also, he had again employed me on his own responsibility and wanted me kept on regular; also predicted a big, general row all over the Reservation and on the Mexico line. He said that on our recent raid we had engaged the Indians three different times and all the Indians killed were five [omitted text] killed by a bunch of nine soldiers and one scout. Spoke also of the number of captured horses.
The Department Commander sent this report on to the Secretary of War. He notified Sieber in a personal letter what he had done, and said he could do no more, as there was not sufficient money appropriated with which to do anything.
We stayed at San Carlos a while till I could get my affairs straightened out with the beef contractors, then we all went up into the White Mountain country. By “all,” I mean Sieber, Micky Free and myself.
Old Pedro [the Apache chief], my friend, was very glad to see all of us, and the first night I got to his camp he kept me up all night long, telling him of the Chiricahua outbreak and raid. He made me go over the story again about how the Chiricahuas ran into the Mexican troops. He asked all the details of the raid and the exact route taken by each band of Indians after they parted and broke up into smaller bands. Of course he knew all the hostiles well, and as I would describe certain parts of the raid, the old chief would say: “Yes, that was Natchez,” or “That was Chihauhau,” or “That was old Loco, himself.”
After I had told him the whole story it was daylight and Sieber had got up and come to the fire where we were sitting, and then the old chief showed his wisdom.
“Sibi,” said Chief Pedro, “this ‘Talking Boy’ and I have been up here all night talking of this raid of the Chiricahuas. This boy has told me the whole and I am sadly disappointed in one thing. I can’t see the work of that chief of all devils, called Geronimo. He was not in the raid. Where was he? Things are bad now, but they would have been far worse had he been there.”
Afterwards we learned sure enough that during this raid Geronimo had been laid up with a shot through the shoulder. Chief Pedro could tell them [the Chiricahuas] all by their actions as described by me. He said he was very tired, as he was not used to being up all night, and for us to make ourselves at home and not to leave, as he wanted to talk to Sieber and me, both, on the following night. We did not calculate to go away anyhow, so we did as he said.
That night Pedro sent for Sieber and me about 10 o’clock, and we again talked nearly all night about troubles we were going to have on Cibicu territory, or with the Cibicu Indians. Pedro told us they were all bad and that they were making lots of trouble for Indians who were actually trying to be good and peaceful. Sieber asked the old warrior what could be done.
I will give you 150 warriors, all good, picked men,” said Pedro, “and you can go over there and kill a good many of them, and then come back and rest up a while, then go back and kill some more, and keep that up the rest of the summer. By winter time there will still be trouble, but there will not be so many mean Indians to help out with it.”
Sieber explained to the old man that we could not do that. Sieber asked me in English, so Pedro could not understand, if I thought it would do to tell Pedro how things stood in the Department, and how poorly equipped we were for a big Indian war, such as we thought there was going to be.
“I know what you think, and maybe it was what you were saying,” said Pedro, “and that is, that your soldiers are not prepared for so much war as you both know there is going to be. Both of you are well acquainted with both soldiers and renegade Indians, and you know that while your white soldiers are without fear, they can never meet the Apaches in battle where the white soldier will have a chance. Brave though your soldiers may be, you must remember that while the Indians are renegades and outlaws, they also are brave as any, and perfectly well acquainted with all the country, and can live like the wolf and evade the white soldier, who has never had such training as the Indians. A mad man, though his will be ever so good, can not overtake, in the mountains, a bad man who is trying to get away. I am an old man, now; I am very old, and am a chief. I have fought the white soldiers many a time, and I know just how they act in battle and on the trail, and I am better able to give you truth than any other man you can find, be he white or red. I can not read in books, and I can not write on paper, but I can look at the forest, and the mountains, and on the ground, and I can read every sign there. I can look at the action of a bad Indian, and can tell how he feels and what he will do. Sibi, you are a great hunter. You know what kind of a place to go to for deer and turkey. When you see a band of deer or turkey you know what they will do and how they will act. I am an old, broken down warrior, and many years of my life have been spent at war with Americans and Mexicans, and I know them as you know them, and as you know the deer and turkey; and now I am going to tell you what you know well, and you may think I am a fool to tell you, but there is going to be a great lot of war, of which this last outbreak is the starter, and it will continue for many years. Apache soldiers you will have to use, for, as brave as your white soldiers are, they can not endure the hardships necessary to overcome the bad Apaches.
To be continued…