Pioneer Museum

Esperanza’s World – Military Forts Center – Geronimo

Esperanza’s World – Military Forts Center – Geronimo



 
Activities / Teacher Resources
 

Geronimo - 1887

1887

Geronimo - 1898

1898

Geronimo - 1905

1905

 

Pursuit and Capture of Geronimo

Geronimo’s Apache name was Goyahkla meaning, “one who yawns,” although there are conflicting interpretations about the meaning of the name. He was born (sometime in the 1820s) into the Bedonkohe band of Chiricahua Apaches.  His adult life was greatly impacted by the murders of his mother, first wife, Alope, and three children at the hands of Mexican soldiers under General Carracsco at Janos, Mexico (1850).

In a battle of revenge at Arispe (1852), Sonora, Goyahkla earned his famous name, “Geronimo” for his furious, courageous and frenzied combat.  He himself said of the battle to avenge his family’s death, “In all the battle I thought of my murdered mother, wife and babies, of my father’s grave and my vow of vengeance, and I fought with fury. Many fell by my hand and constantly I led the advance.”  After this battle, all recognized Geronimo’s courage and leadership skills.

Important note: Geronimo was never a Chiricahua chief; he was a medicine man, a spiritual leader and a warrior.  He did, however, become a legend, in his own lifetime, because of his steadfast resistance to the effort to remove him and his people from their homelands and to change their way of life.  (Feelings about Geronimo are mixed, however. Some believe that ultimately, all Chiricahuas suffered as a result of Geronimo’s resistance, for they all lived out their lives as prisoners-of-war.  They were not permitted to return to Arizona.)

In 1872, when Cochise made peace with the U.S. government and agreed to live on the Chiricahua Reservation, Geronimo also agreed to the peace.  However, when in 1876, Indian Agent John Clum was ordered to bring the Chiricahuas to the San Carlos Reservation and close the Chiricahua Reservation, Geronimo escaped with about 400 other Chiricahuas.

In 1877, John Clum’s men captured and imprisoned Geronimo by a ruse (trick) and forced him to join other Chiricahuas on the overcrowded and dismal San Carlos Reservation.   Clum boasted that he was the only one to ever capture Geronimo; Geronimo taunted Clum by pointing out that “shooting” was not involved in his capture.

He escaped again in 1878 and in 1881. His escapes alternated with returns to the San Carlos Reservation until his fourth and final escape and subsequent agreement to submit to the arrangements for his people made by the U.S. government.

In May 1885, a band of 144 Apaches, led by Geronimo and others, left the San Carlos reservation and fled to Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains.  General George Crook pursued them for ten months unsuccessfully until he enlisted the help of Apache scouts.

In March, 1886, Geronimo agreed to surrender to Crook at Camp el Cañon de los Embudos, but, on the night before, changed his mind because he heard a rumor he was to be killed, and again took off across the border, leaving General Crook to explain his disappearance to his superiors.

Because he believed that General Sheridan and the President no longer supported his decisions, General Crook resigned his command (Department of Arizona) after Geronimo’s escape and was immediately replaced by the General Nelson A. Miles.

At this point, Geronimo’s group consisted of only 39 people, mostly family members.  To track them down, 5000 U.S. soldiers, 3000 Mexican soldiers, and 500 scouts took up the pursuit; surprisingly, Geronimo’s party successfully evaded capture.  At last, one of Geronimo’s group members left the stronghold and returned to the reservation.  He led the Army back to Geronimo’s base.

In August 1886, Lieutenant Charles Gatewood met with Geronimo and persuaded him to meet with General Nelson Miles.  After negotiating what he believed to be only a brief exile from his homelands, Geronimo agreed to General Miles’ surrender terms for the final time.

This meeting took place at Skeleton Canyon (near Douglas) in September 1886.  From there, Geronimo’s band and all other Chiricauhuas – even those who had not resisted and were living peaceably at Turkey Creek – were escorted to Fort Bowie and later removed to Florida.  A year later, the Chiricahuas were transferred to Alabama; many of them had died of malaria in Florida and now died of tuberculosis in Alabama.  Only about 300 people – including Geronimo – were transferred to Oklahoma; for 27 years, they lived as prisoners-of-war.

Geronimo lived until 1909 at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, becoming a public figure and national celebrity in his old age.  He rode in Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade, attended the St. Louis World’s Fair and sold the buttons off of his jackets as souvenirs to the unsuspecting who didn’t realize that Geronimo had a stash of the buttons.  He posed for photos and dictated an autobiography of his life.  When he died he had $10,000 in a bank account.

Geronimo's  Burial Site in Oklahoma

Geronimo's Burial Site in Oklahoma

 
Read through the following pages in Esperanza Means Hope to reacquaint yourself with Carlos’ view and description of meetings with Geronimo.  On page 162, Carlos describes Geronimo during a war council meeting, and on page 182, Carlos talks about escaping with Geronimo when the Chiricahuas are ordered to the San Carlos Reservation.  What was Carlos’ opinion of Geronimo? General Nelson Miles described Geronimo: “He was one of the brightest, most resolute, determined looking men that I have ever encountered.  Every movement indicated power, energy and determination.  In everything he did, he had a purpose.”

 

Official Correspondence Between Generals Sheridan, Crook, Miles and Drum about the Surrender of Geronimo and His Followers – A Four-Part Reading

Sheridan

Sheridan

Crook

Crook

Miles

Miles

Drum

Drum

Reader A:
FR: Camp el Canon de los Embudos, 20 miles SE of San Bernardino, Mexico
– March 26, 1886
TO: Lieutenant-General P.H. Sheridan, Washington DC

I met the hostiles yesterday at Lieut. Maus’ camp, they being located about five hundred yards distant. I found them very independent, and fierce as so many tigers. Knowing what pitiless brutes they are themselves, they mistrust everyone else. After my talk with them it seemed as if it would be impossible to get any hold on them, except on condition that they be allowed to return to their reservation on their old status. Today things look more favorable.
George E. Crook, Brigadier General

Reader A: 
FR: Camp el Canon de los Embudos, March 27, 1886
TO: Lieutenant-General P.H. Sheridan, Washington DC, Confidential

In conference with Geronimo and the other Chiricahuas I told them they must decide at once on unconditional surrender or to fight it out. That in the latter event hostilities should be resumed at once, and the last one of them killed if it took fifty years. I told them to reflect on what they would to do before giving me their answer. The only propositions they would entertain were these three: That they should be sent east for not exceeding two years, taking with them such of their families as so desired, leaving an Apache Nana who is seventy years old; or that they should all return to the reservation upon their old status; or else return to the war-path with its horrors.

As I had to act at once I have today accepted their surrender upon the first proposition. Kaetena, the young chief who less than two years ago was the worst Chiricahua of the whole lot, is now perfectly subdued. He is thoroughly reconstructed, has rendered me valuable assistance, and will be of great service in helping to control these Indians in the future. His stay at Alcatraz has worked a complete reformation in his character. I have not a doubt that similar treatment will produce same results with the whole band, and that by the end of that time the excitement here will have died away.

Mangus, with thirteen Chiricahuas, six of whom are bucks, is not with the other Chiricahuas. He separated from them in August last, and has since held no communication with them. He has committed no depredations. As it would be likely to take at least a year to find him in the immense ranges of mountains to the south, I think it inadvisable to attempt any search at this time, especially as he will undoubtedly give himself up as soon as he hears what the others have done.

I start for Bowie tomorrow morning, to reach there next night. I respectfully request to be informed whether or not my action has been approved, and also that full instructions meet me at that point. The Chiricahuas start for Bowie tomorrow with the Apache scouts under Lieutenant Maus.
George Crook, Brigadier General

Reader B:
FR: Washington DC, March 30, 1886
TO: General George Crook, Fort Bowie, Arizona

You are confidentially informed that your telegram of March 29th is received. The President cannot assent to the surrender of the hostiles on the terms that their imprisonment last for two years, with the understanding of their return to the reservation. He instructs you to enter into negotiations on the terms of their unconditional surrender, only sparing their lives; in the meantime, and on the receipt of this order, you are directed to take every precaution against the escape of the hostiles, which must not be allowed under any circumstances. You must make at once such disposition of your troops as will insure against further hostilities by completing the destruction of the hostiles unless these terms are accepted.
P.H. Sheridan, Lieut.-Gen.

Reader A:
FR: Fort Bowie, A.T., March 30, 1886
TO: Lieut.-Gen. P.H. Sheridan, Washington, DC

A courier just in from Lieut. Maus reports that during last night Geronimo and Natchez with twenty men and thirteen women left his camp, taking no stock. He states that there was no apparent cause for their leaving. Two dispatches received from him this morning reported everything going on well and the Chiricahuas in good spirits. Chihuahua and twelve men remained behind. Lieut. Maus with his scouts, except enough to take the other prisoners to Bowie, have gone in pursuit.
Geo. Crook, Brigadier-General

Reader B:
FR: Washington, DC, March 31, 1886
TO: General George Crook, Fort Bowie, A.T.

Your dispatch of yesterday received. It has occasioned great disappointment. It seems strange that Geronimo and party could have escaped without the knowledge of the scouts.
P.H. Sheridan, Lieut.-General

Reader A:
FR: Fort Bowie, A.T., March 31, 1886
TO: Lieut.-General P.H. Sheridan, Washington, DC

In reply to your dispatch of March thirtieth, to enable you to clearly understand the situation, it should be remembered that the hostiles had an agreement with Lieut. Maus that they were to be met by me twenty-five miles below the line, and that no regular troops were to be present. While I was adverse (very against) such an arrangement, I had to abide by it, as it had already been entered into. We found them in camp on a rocky hill about five hundred yards from Lieut. Maus, in such a position that a thousand men could not have surrounded them with any possibility of capturing them. They were able, upon the approach of any enemy being signaled, to scatter and escape through dozens of ravines and canons, which would shelter them from pursuit until they reached the higher ranges in the vicinity. They were armed to the teeth, having the most approved guns and all the ammunition they could carry. The clothing and other supplies lost in the fight with Crawford had been replaced by blankets and shirts obtained in Mexico. Lieut. Maus, with Apache scouts, was camped at the nearest point the hostiles would agree to their approaching.

Even had I been disposed to betray the confidence they placed in me, it would have been simply an impossibility to get white troops to that point either by day or by night without their knowledge, and had I attempted to do this the whole band would have stampeded back to the mountains. So suspicious were they that never more than from five to eight of the men came into our camp at one time, and to have attempted the arrest of those would have stampeded the others to the mountains. Even after the march to Bowie began we were compelled to allow them to scatter. They would not march in a body, and had any efforts been made to keep them together they would have broken for the mountains. My only hope was to get their confidence on the march through Kaetena and other confidential Indians, and finally to put them on the cars, and until this was done it was impossible to disarm them.
George Crook, Brigadier-General, Commanding

Reader B:
FR: Washington, DC, April 1, 1886
TO: General George Crook, Fort Bowie, A.T.

Your dispatch of March thirty-first received. I do not see what you can now do except to concentrate your troops at the best points and give protection to the people. Geronimo will undoubtedly enter upon other raids of murder and robbery, and as the offensive campaign against him with scouts has failed, would it not be best to take up the defensive and give protection to the people and business interests of Arizona and New Mexico. The infantry might be stationed by companies at certain points requiring protection, and the cavalry patrol between them. You have in your department forty-three companies of infantry and forty companies of cavalry, and ought to be able to do a good deal with such a force. Please send me a statement of what you contemplate for the future.
P.H. Sheridan, Lieut.-General

Reader A:
FR: Fort Bowie, A.T., April 1, 1886
TO: Lieut.-General P.H. Sheridan, DC

Your dispatch of today received. It has been my aim throughout present operations to afford the greatest amount of protection to life and property interests, and troops have been stationed accordingly. Troops cannot protect property beyond a radius of one-half mile from their camp. If offensive movements against the Indians are not resumed, they may remain quietly in the mountains for an indefinite time without crossing the line, and yet their very presence there will be a constant menace and require the department to be at all times in position to repress sudden raids, and so long as any remain out they will form a nucleus for disaffected Indians from the different agencies in Arizona and New Mexico to join. That the operations of the scouts in Mexico have not proven as successful as was hoped, is due to the enormous difficulties they have been compelled to encounter from the nature of the Indians they have been hunting, and the character of the country in which they have operated, and of which persons not thoroughly conversant with both can have no conception. I believe that the plan upon which I have conducted operations is the one most likely to prove successful in the end. It may be, however, that I am too much wedded to my own views in this matter, and as I have spent nearly eight years of the hardest work in my life in this department, I respectfully request that I may now be relieved from its command.
George Crook, Brigadier-General

Reader C:
FR: Washington, DC, April 2, 1886
TO: General N.A. Miles, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Orders of this day assign you to command the Department of Arizona to relieve General Crook. Instructions will be sent you.
R.C. Drum, Adjutant-General

Reader A:
FR: Fort Bowie, A.T., April 2, 1886
TO: Lieut.-General P.H. Sheridan, Washington, DC

The hostiles who did not leave with Geronimo arrived today. About eighty. I have not ascertained the exact number. Some of the worst of the band are among them. In my judgment they should be sent away at once, as the effect on those still out would be much better than to confine them. After they get to their destination, if they can be shown that their future will be better by remaining than to return, I think there will be but little difficulty in obtaining their consent to remain indefinitely. When sent off a guard should accompany them.
George Crook, Brigadier-General

Reader B:
FR: Washington, DC, April 2, 1886
TO: Gen. Geo. Crook, Fort Bowie, Ariz.

The present terms not having been agreed to here, and Geronimo having broken every condition of surrender, the Indians now in custody are to be held as prisoners and sent to Fort Marion without reference to previous communication and without, in any way, consulting their wishes in the matter. This is in addition to my previous telegram of today.
P. H. Sheridan, Lieut.-General

Reader C:
FR: Washington, DC, April 2, 1886
TO: General George Crook, Fort Bowie, A.T.

General Miles has been ordered to relieve you in command of the Department of Arizona and orders issued today. Advise General Miles where you will be.
R.C. Drum, Adjutant-General

Reader A:
FR: Fort Bowie, A.T., April 3, 1886
TO: General N.A. Miles, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Adjutant-General of the Army telegraphs that you have been directed to relieve me in command of Dept. of Arizona. Shall remain at Fort Bowie. When can I expect you here?
George Crook, Brigadier-General

Reader D:
FR: Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, April 3, 1886
TO: General George Crook, Fort Bowie, A.T.

The order was a perfect surprise to me. I do not expect to leave here for several days, possibly, one week.
N.A. Miles, Brigadier-General

Reader C:
FR: Headquarters of the Army, Washington, DC, April 3, 1886
TO: General Nelson A. Miles, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

The Lieutenant-General directs that on assuming command of the Department of Arizona, you fix your headquarters temporarily at or near some point on the Southern Pacific RR.

He directs that the greatest care be taken to prevent the spread of hostilities among friendly Indians in your command, and that the most vigorous operations looking to the destruction or capture of the hostiles be ceaselessly carried on. He does not wish to embarrass you by undertaking at this distance to give specific instructions in relations to operations against the hostiles, but it is deemed advisable to suggest the necessity of making active and prominent use of the regular troops of your command. It is desired that you proceed to Arizona as soon as practicable.
R.C. Drum, Adjutant-General