Last of the Fierce Chiricahuas Board a Special Train, Never to Return
BY TOM HORN
Originally published in 1904 (Life of Tom Horn)
That night Geronimo wanted to talk to General Crook, but Crook told him if he wanted to go to [Fort] Bowie to the guard house to come on, and if he did not, that his talk was no good and for him to go on back to the mountains and he would soon be after him with the scouts. Geronimo wanted to talk to the scouts, but I would not let any of the scouts see him except Micky, and I knew he was immune from the influence of Geronimo.
While I was giving the scouts orders to keep away from Geronimo, Chihuahua came up and said, in a low tone, to me, to put him and all the people with him under a close guard.
This I did, and, while Chihuahua would not tell me anything, I could plainly see that Geronimo was only with us to try and get some of the men belonging to Chihuahua’s band to desert and go with him on the war path.
Geronimo saw me putting a guard over the prisoners who had before been entirely free, and he asked me why I was doing it. I told him I would take all of them to the guard house at Bowie, and that no more “good talk” was going to go; that if ever the Chiricahuas did go back to the Reservation they would only go to the guard house, as they would never be turned loose again.
Geronimo said that was very hard, and no more of them would surrender under those conditions. I told him I could do no good talking to him, and that if he was there at sunup next morning that he would be taken prisoner by force.
When morning came there was no Geronimo. He and his band had gone, and, as long as I was not allowed to make a prisoner of him, I was glad to know he was gone, for he had a wonderful influence with all Indians. He was such a great talker that he could make right seem wrong.
We took all the prisoners we had up to Bowie and put them in a new guard house we had made especially for our Chiricahua prisoners. We had a couple of hundred by this time, and we were also informed (anyhow, I was) that General Crook had been relieved, and that General Nelson A. Miles was to take command of the Department.
Things in an Indian way were at a standstill for a couple of months, and then I was informed by the Quartermaster that there would be no more Chief of Scouts, and that I was to be sent to Camp Apache as interpreter.
This was quite a blow to my pride, but one of my best friends was a Captain Thompson, of the Fourth Cavalry; he was made Adjutant General under Miles, and he told me to go to Apache and stay there till General Miles looked around and saw the lay of the land. He told me that Miles was going to try the renegades a lick with cavalry. The proposition was to enlist five Apaches in each troop of cavalry to do the trailing and scouting for the troops.
So things were arranged and started under the new administration.
Huachuca was now made headquarters of the Department. All the newspapers said that Miles was a brilliant officer, and was a great Indian fighter, and that the career of Geronimo and of Horn was about at an end. A San Francisco newspaper had come out with an article, say- ing that Horn was as much Apache as he was Mexican; that I had more influence with the hostiles than Geronimo himself; that I went to his camp whenever I wanted to without the least fear of being hurt, and that I was always the interpreter, and could say anything I wanted and no one could dispute what I said, as no other white man could talk their language, or was trusted by them.
When this article came out I went to the Quartermaster, at [Fort] Apache, where I was stationed, and told him that I would quit the Government, as I was evidently very much in disgrace. I left at once and went over to a ranch in the Aravaipa Cañon, which I had always called home, and where I had always kept some extra saddle horses. I had some mines there that I had wanted to work for a long time, and I did not want to work for the Government any more while things were going as they were. Again, the newspapers said that, as I had now left the Government employ, General Miles would not have any traitors in his own command, and would soon put down the renegades or kill them all!
I knew the cavalry would never be able to do anything but get whipped, but had I told anyone so, I should have been laughed at for my pains; soldiers could easily whip the renegades if they could get at them, but the renegades could avoid them till they got the soldiers into a trap, and then give them both barrels. Had I told General Miles this, he would doubtless have called me a fool.
Well, two companies of the Tenth Cavalry, under Captain Leebo, ran onto a camp of renegades down towards Calabasas, and got whipped, and never saw one Indian. Two days later the same thing happened to a troop of the Fourth Cavalry. About a month later a big bunch of renegades came up by Fort Bowie and across by the Dragoon [Mountains]. They killed a man in the Dragoons, and turned back on their route and killed two men and a boy in Pinery Cañon, in the Chiricahua Mountains. They then went into Mexico and killed four Mexicans, just on the line, at a vinataria, or muscal still. These stills are scattered all over northern Mexico, and, previous to this, not a man connected with any of them had ever been killed.
Four or five squaws got lost from this bunch that came through last, or else they deserted and came into Fort Bowie, and they said that Ju, a Warm Spring chief, and a half-brother to Nana, had been killed by the Mexicans over in Janos, in Chihuahua. The way we afterwards got the story was that twenty-six bucks went into this town of Janos and got drunk; the Mexicans gave them all the muscal they could drink, and killed nearly all of them. Ju, in trying to get away, was running his pony at the top of its speed, and it fell down a bank and killed him. This was why Geronimo was killing the muscal men.
Things were looking bad for the Chiricahuas, and for the troops, also; and the newspapers that had expected so much from Miles now said that he was a failure!
The Apache scouts, with each troop of cavalry, would not work well, and they could not understand the troop commanders, and the troop commanders could not under- stand them.
In August, a detachment of troops came to the ranch where I was, and brought me a letter from the Quartermaster at Fort Huachuca. He wanted me to come over and go to work. I sent back word that I was all ready to go to mining, and did not care to go to work for the Government again. Again came a detachment with a second letter, this time from General Miles himself, asking me to come to Huachuca and see him, and have a talk with him about the Indians.
I made arrangements with the boys who were in with me on the mine to do my share while I was gone, then I got on my horse and went to Huachuca to meet General Miles.
The General told me there that he wanted me to go to Mexico and find Captain Lawton (the General Lawton killed in the Philippines), and act as Chief of Scouts with him and see what we could do.
I went down and struck Lawton’s camp at a place in Sonora, called Sierra Gordo. I crossed a trail of Indians in the Heiralitas Mountains as I went down, and, after I reported to Lawton, I told him what I had seen, and he asked me what to do. He had twenty-five Apache scouts and two troops of cavalry and four or five white scouts. I told him to leave all the outfit except the scouts and to go and take up the trail I had just left. This we did, and as we were all in light traveling order, we went at a good lively gait, and, as Dr. Wood (General Leonard Wood, of Cuban fame) said, “We will run them off the earth!”
For once the state troops of Sonora were out and trying to co-operate with us; but all that was necessary for anyone to do was to keep in the mountains and give us supplies and all the information they could, and we would make the last of them run till they got tired of running. We had already captured a great many women. (The renegades told it that we killed seventy-five women and children on the Arras, where Captain Crawford was killed by the Mexicans.)
Geronimo was from ten hours to four days ahead of us for five weeks, and his rear guard saw us many times, so they afterwards said. It was a great race, and I knew the renegades could not stand it much longer. They had no time to raid and get fresh horses, except as they could pick them up, and when they would gain a few days on us we would hear of them by the helio, and we could drop the trail where we were and cut in ahead.
As we were coming up by Fronteras, as usual, we found a couple of women that had given out, and we put them on pack mules and took them on to Fronteras. There Captain Lawton had a helio dispatch to drop the chase, and for me to come to Huachuca. The dispatch had been there for two days.
Before I got ready to start, there came another to wait there, as Lieutenant Gatewood and a couple of Chiricahua bucks were coming to try to open up communications with Geronimo. These were two men who had come in with the chief Chihuahua.
The Chiricahuas had been leaving signs for a couple of weeks that they wanted to talk, and these signs had all been reported by me to Captain Lawton, and by Lawton to General Miles.
We stopped close to Fronteras for four days to let Gatewood and his two men get ahead, so they could communicate with Geronimo, but at the end of that time Gatewood came back and reported to Captain Lawton that he could not get his two friendly Indians to approach the Chiricahuas.
Gatewood told Captain Lawton that he could not open communications in that way. Lawton asked me if I could do anything, and I told him frankly that I was the only one who could do anything! Gatewood said that General Miles did not want me to go into the camp alone, as he did not know if he could trust me. I had previously told Lawton that I could and would go alone, but would not go if anyone went with me, as I did not care for myself, but anyone else might get killed.
That was the way the thing stood. I would go alone or not at all; and Gatewood was ordered by Miles not to let me go alone. There we all stopped and waited till Lawton could send a heliograph to General Miles, explaining the situation to him.
While we were waiting for his answer the soldiers brought in a squaw. Lawton told me to ask her where she came from, and she said she had come from the renegade camp of Geronimo, and that Geronimo wanted to see me and talk to me. I was very much put out at the way I was being treated, and would not tell Lawton, but told him to call George Wratton, a boy who was with Gatewood, and let him do the interpreting. This he did. The squaw said that Geronimo was in the mountains, forty or fifty miles from there, and wanted me to come to him, and wanted all the soldiers to stop chasing him till he saw me. Lawton still had not heard from Miles, and so he sent this word, also to him.
Next day Miles sent word to send Gatewood and myself to see what we could do. Then I could not go, be- cause I did not know what I could tell Geronimo, and Lawton said: “Tell him anything you want to, but get him to come and talk to Miles.” I said that was what I wanted to do, but could not unless Miles said he wanted to talk to him. I told Lawton that I could never tell Geronimo but one lie, for he would find it out, and the next time I went into his camp he would tell me I had lied to him, and then he would kill me. I refused to go unless General Miles promised me he would meet old Geronimo at a date Geronimo and I should fix.
This word was sent to Miles, and he said for me to fix a date and he would keep it. Ten minutes after I got this dispatch I mounted my horse to start, and Gatewood said he would take his chances if I would let him go. I told him he would not be taking any chances, and to come on.
We struck the camp up on the Terras, as the squaw told me we would, but she would not tell me where it was until I was on my horse ready to go.
We did not have to go up to the mountain, as Geronimo met us down on the Bavispe River, and we had a long talk. I made arrangements to go with him to the Skeleton Cañon, in the United States, and meet Miles there in twelve days. That would give Miles time and to spare, and I was afraid he would not come, as he was the kind that wanted to make a renegade Indian think he was a big man, and Geronimo was just about as vain as Miles was, and thought that he, too, was a big man.
The only courier I had was Gatewood, and I sent him back to tell Captain Lawton the arrangements I had made with Geronimo, and for all the troops with him at Fronteras to come to the mouth of the Caballon Creek, and I would meet him there with the renegades. Geronimo had told me to have the American soldiers around close, as he did not want to get mixed up with the Mex- icans. His idea and mine were one on that; and, anyhow, I calculated to stay with the renegades, as they had no grub, and I did not want them to kill cattle, of which there were plenty around there. I wanted to get rations from our command, which I did when I met them.
Captain Lawton was very much gratified to see how well I had done, and he said for me to stay with the renegades and he would do as I said. He told me he had sent a dispatch to Miles to meet us at the Skeleton Cañon, as I had directed.
I went over and told Geronimo, and he asked me if this dispatch had come to me direct, and I told him that it had come to Captain Lawton.
“You go,” said he to me, “and send a dispatch yourself, and get an answer from him direct, saying he will meet me.”
I went back to Lawton’s camp and told him I must have a dispatch from Miles himself, saying he would meet Geronimo and me. Captain Lawton said he did not think Miles would send me a dispatch of that kind. Anyhow, I sent Miles the dispatch, and told him I wanted word from him direct, to say if he would meet Geronimo at Skeleton. The dispatch I received in reply was: “See Captain Lawton. He is in command in the field. I can’t do any business with a civilian.”
I told Lawton, after showing him the dispatch, that the stuff was all off, and that Geronimo would be on top of the Terras Mountains by morning. Captain Lawton did not know what to do. It was night by this time, and we could not send any more messages. I was thinking Miles was a monkey, as I rode back to Geronimo’s camp.
It was dark when I reached there, as he was camped about four miles from our troops’ camp. I told Geronimo how I had come out, and I translated the dispatch to him, and he, without answering, called to his people to get ready to pull out, and in less than five minutes all began to say: “We are ready.”
Geronimo then said he could not do business with General Miles through an officer, and said time might change the big soldier, and rode off in the darkness, followed by his people. (There were only 136 of them left at this time.)
I rode back to Lawton’s camp and told him that I was going home, and if General Miles ever needed me again, if ever he could condescend to do business with an Indian through me when I had all the responsibility to shoulder, that I should be at his service. I told him Geronimo was gone, and before Lawton could understand the situation I rode away and went up to John Slaughter’s ranch.
It was daylight when I reached the ranch. I turned out my horse, and, as breakfast was soon ready, I ate, then lay down on Slaughter’s bed and went to sleep.
There was a troop of cavalry camped at Slaughter’s, and about noon a Lieutenant came up and asked Slaughter if I ever stopped there as I came through the country. Slaughter said: “He never passes here without stopping.”
“Well, then,” the Lieutenant said, “he may come by here today.” He had heard by helio that I was coming north.
Slaughter said, “He is here now, asleep. He got here at daylight.”
The Lieutenant said, “Wake him up, for God’s sake! I have a dispatch for him from General Miles.”
John came in, gave me a kick, and told me that I was wanted. I went out and the officer handed me the dispatch. It read: “Make any arrangements you want to for me to meet Geronimo. I will go where and when you say to meet him.”
That was a stunner! Here Geronimo had been riding south all night, and I had ridden forty miles north, and both had started from the same point! There were easily seventy-five or eighty miles between us now.
I went to the helio station and sent a dispatch, saying Geronimo had gone back south, but to order the troops to lie still and I would try to see if I could find him.
In just one week I had Geronimo back in the same neighborhood and had communicated with Lawton. Everybody was afraid I could not get the renegade chief back the second time. I sent word to Miles to meet me in four days at Skeleton Cañon, and he was there on time.
Miles came up into the cañon, and I took Geronimo and Natchez and came down to meet him. Miles had three interpreters with him, and, after I brought him and Geronimo together, he said to one of his interpreters to tell Geronimo that he wanted to have a good, long talk with him, and that they had better get where they could sit down. Geronimo did not answer Miles, but said to the interpreter, “You are a Tonto, and I will have nothing to do with you. I will only talk through the chief. I will have nothing to do with any one but him.”
General Miles said: “Oh, all right, but the chief is not a sworn Government interpreter, and these other men are.”
“I don’t ask for him to be sworn,” retorted Geronimo, “when he comes to my camp do you suppose I ask him if he is telling me the truth? No! That I never do. I am a liar,” went on Geronimo, “when it suits my way of doing, but this boy and I speak only the truth to each other. You do not like him; I do not know why, and still when you do not like or trust him to do your business you must have a cause for it. What is the reason? Tell me what he has done, for there was a time when he was trusted, and he is a son of the old chief, Sibi; and Sibi, the man of iron, and my people have been fighting each other for thirty years and Sibi never lies. Nothing a man does is wrong if he tells the truth. Tell me what this boy has done that was wrong? You sent him word that you would have nothing to do with him, and I sent you word I would not have anything to do with anyone else.”
Miles said: “Do not let us talk about that; let us talk of what you want to do.”
Geronimo said, “I want to surrender with all my people. I will do as you say, and go where you tell me to go or send me. I am tired of the war path, and my people are all worn out.”
General Miles then told him to come on in to Bowie and he would see what would be done with them. So, after all, the great talk was very small.
When we got to Fort Bowie, all the soldiers formed on the parade ground, and Geronimo and his outfit rode in and laid down their arms.
Then General Miles did do a fine act without any authority or orders from the War Department. He wired down to Bowie station, on the Southern Pacific railroad, got a special train, took all the Chiricahuas, the ones we had brought in and the ones in the guard house, marched them down, loaded them on the train, locked them in the cars and put guards all over the train. Then they pulled out and the dreaded Chiricahuas, the terror of Mexico and all the Southwest, were gone, never more to return, and Arizona was left in a more peaceful condition than it had ever enjoyed before.
The old Mexican Captain, Jose Maria, did not come in, and I learned that he was still in Mexico with five other Indians. A Chiricahua named Wasse jumped off the train down in Texas while the train was running at full speed. He turned up in the Sierra Madres later, having made all the distance on foot, through the settlements of Texas, and the Texas marshals were after him all the time. He spoke Mexican like a native, and could pass for one anywhere in Texas. He was an outlaw for many years, living around in the mountains, and coming in to the Reservation once in a while to get a fresh squaw. Any kind was good enough for him. He would take a Yuma squaw as soon as any other kind, and he could not speak a word of the Yuma language.
I took all my scouts to the Reservation, discharged them and was then discharged myself. I went back to the Aravaipo to go to work on the mine. I stayed and worked at the mine all winter.
To be continued…