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Geronimo Surrenders

Geronimo Surrenders

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On September 4, 1886, Apache leader Geronimo surrenders to U.S. For 30 years, the Native American warrior had battled to protect his tribe’s homeland; however, by 1886 the Apaches were exhausted and hopelessly outnumbered. General Nelson Miles accepted Geronimo’s surrender, making him the last Native American warrior to formally give in to U.S. forces and signaling the end of the Indian Wars in the Southwest.

Geronimo was born in 1829 and grew up in what is present-day Arizona and Mexico. His tribe, the Chiricahua Apaches, clashed with non-Native settlers trying to take their land. In 1858, Geronimo’s family was murdered by Mexicans. Seeking revenge, he later led raids against Mexican and American settlers. In 1874, the U.S. government moved Geronimo and his people from their land to a reservation in east-central Arizona. Conditions on the reservation were restrictive and harsh and Geronimo and some of his followers escaped.

READ MORE: How Geronimo Eluded Death and Capture for 25 Years

Over the next decade, they battled federal troops and launched raids on white settlements. During this time, Geronimo and his supporters were forced back onto the reservation several times. In May 1885, Geronimo and approximately 150 followers fled one last time. They were pursued into Mexico by 5,000 U.S. troops. In March 1886, General George Crook (1829–90) forced Geronimo to surrender; however, Geronimo quickly escaped and continued his raids. General Nelson Miles (1839–1925) then took over the pursuit of Geronimo, eventually forcing him to surrender that September near Fort Bowie along the Arizona-New Mexico border.

Geronimo and a band of Apaches were sent to Florida and then Alabama, eventually ending up at the Comanche and Kiowa reservation near Fort Sill, Oklahoma Territory. There, Geronimo became a successful farmer and converted to Christianity. He participated in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade in 1905. The Apache leader dictated his autobiography, published in 1906 as Geronimo’s Story of His Life.

He died at Fort Sill on February 17, 1909.

Geronimo Surrenders, Ending Major Indian Wars

After nearly 30 years fighting the Americans and Mexicans that invaded his home, Geronimo surrendered on September 4, 1886.

Born in 1829, Geronimo was known to his Apache people as Goyaalé, or, “the one who yawns.” In the 1850s, a group of Mexican soldiers attacked his village while he was in a nearby town trading. Geronimo returned home to find his mother, wife, and children among those killed that day. From then on, Geronimo and his followers killed any Mexicans they crossed paths with out of revenge.

Item #4902068 – Geronimo First Day Proof Card

Geronimo spent the next 30 years waging war with Mexicans and Americans. In 1874, he and his tribe were relocated to a reservation in Arizona. Geronimo didn’t agree with the strict rulers there and led his followers on a number of daring escapes over the years. After these escapes, Geronimo and his band of Apaches launched raids on white settlements, but were always eventually forced back to the reservation.

Geronimo made his final escape in May 1885, leading some 150 followers. They were followed into Mexico by 5,000 U.S. troops and eventually caught by General George Crook. He forced Geronimo to surrender. But as he’d done many times in the past, Geronimo escaped and launched more raids.

U.S. #UX190 – Geronimo First Day of Issue Post Card

Following Crook’s failure, General Nelson Miles was brought in to pursue Geronimo. Miles caught Geronimo near Fort Bowie along the Arizona-new Mexico border. After decades of fighting and years of running dozens of miles a day, Geronimo and his men were tired. This time Geronimo actually surrendered – making him the last Indian warrior to do so, ending the major fighting of the Indian Wars in the Southwest.

Native History: Geronimo Is Last Native Warrior to Surrender

This Date in Native History: On September 4, 1886, the great Apache warrior Geronimo surrendered in Skeleton Canyon, Arizona, after fighting for his homeland for almost 30 years. He was the last American Indian warrior to formally surrender to the United States.

Born in June 1829 near the Gila River in Arizona, Geronimo was a mild-mannered youth, said Mark Megehee, museum specialist at the Fort Sill Museum in Oklahoma. His birth name was Goyalkla or “One Who Yawns.”

At age 17, Geronimo married Alope, with whom he had three children. His life changed in 1858 when a company of Mexican soldiers led by Colonel Jose Maria Carrasco attacked the Apaches and murdered Geronimo’s wife, mother and children.

�rrasco said he struck and meant to rub out every man, woman and child of the Apaches, but the warriors by and large escaped while their families were the ones that were slaughtered,” said Megehee, a member of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma. “That changed the personality of Geronimo. His friends noticed he was no longer mild and pleasant to deal with. He was unexpectedly violent and had a temper. He became very grieving, but he was going to settle the score.”

In his own words, translated in 1909 and published in the 1996 book Geronimo: His Own Story, Geronimo described the incident.

“I found that my aged mother, my young wife, and my three small children were among the slain,” he said. “There were no lights in camp, so without being noticed I silently turned away and stood by the river. How long I stood there I do not know, but when I saw the warriors arranging for a council I took my place.”

Only 80 warriors remained, so the chief directed survivors to return home to Arizona, Geronimo said. He had “no purpose left” because he “had lost all.”

“I was never again contented in our quiet home,” he wrote. “I had vowed vengeance upon the Mexican troopers who had wronged me, and whenever I came near (my father’s) grave or saw anything to remind me of former happy days my heart would ache for revenge upon Mexico.”

Geronimo went on to lead a band of Apache warriors throughout southern Arizona and New Mexico, successfully keeping white settlers off Apache lands for decades and becoming a “symbol of the untamed freedom of the American West.”

“He was not just a tough guy, but he had leadership abilities,” Megehee said. “He looked out for men, women and children in a way that all their needs were met. Geronimo did more with less. In today’s vocabulary, he multiplied his force by stealth, by firepower and by mobility.”

By 1886, however, Geronimo was tired. After leading 39 Apaches across the Southwest, running as much as 80 miles per day to stay ahead of 5,000 white soldiers, Geronimo surrendered to General Nelson A. Miles on September 4.

Miles, in his memoirs, described Geronimo as “one of the brightest, most resolute, determined-looking men I have ever encountered.”

After his trial, Geronimo was put to work as a prisoner of war, doing heavy labor for the South Pacific Railroad. This was in violation of the agreement he made with the U.S. when he surrendered.

He spent the rest of his life as a prisoner of war and a scout for the U.S. Army, though he gained popularity as an attraction at the St. Louis World&aposs Fair and Wild West shows. He also was one of six Indians to march in the 1905 inaugural parade for President Theodore Roosevelt.

He died at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1909, still on the federal payroll as a scout.

Geronimo’s Appeal to Theodore Roosevelt

When he was born he had such a sleepy disposition his parents named him Goyahkla—He Who Yawns. He lived the life of an Apache tribesman in relative quiet for three decades, until he led a trading expedition from the Mogollon Mountains south into Mexico in 1858. He left the Apache camp to do some business in Casa Grandes and returned to find that Mexican soldiers had slaughtered the women and children who had been left behind, including his wife, mother and three small children. “I stood until all had passed, hardly knowing what I would do,” he would recall. “I had no weapon, nor did I hardly wish to fight, neither did I contemplate recovering the bodies of my loved ones, for that was forbidden. I did not pray, nor did I resolve to do anything in particular, for I had no purpose left.”

He returned home and burned his tepee and his family’s possessions. Then he led an assault on a group of Mexicans in Sonora. It would be said that after one of his victims screamed for mercy in the name of Saint Jerome—Jeronimo in Spanish—the Apaches had a new name for Goyahkla. Soon the name provoked fear throughout the West. As immigrants encroached on Native American lands, forcing indigenous people onto reservations, the warrior Geronimo refused to yield.

Born and raised in an area along the Gila River that is now on the Arizona-New Mexico border, Geronimo would spend the next quarter-century attacking and evading both Mexican and U.S. troops, vowing to kill as many white men as he could. He targeted immigrants and their trains, and tormented white settlers in the American West were known to frighten their misbehaving children with the threat that Geronimo would come for them.

Geronimo (third from right, in front) and his fellow Apache prisoners en route to POW camp at Fort Pickens in Pensacola, Florida, in 1886. (Wikipedia)

By 1874, after white immigrants demanded federal military intervention, the Apaches were forced onto a reservation in Arizona. Geronimo and a band of followers escaped, and U.S. troops tracked him relentlessly across the deserts and mountains of the West. Badly outnumbered and exhausted by a pursuit that had gone on for 3,000 miles—and which included help from Apache scouts—he finally surrendered to General Nelson A. Miles at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona in 1886 and turned over his Winchester rifle and Sheffield Bowie knife. He was “anxious to make the best terms possible,” Miles noted. Geronimo and his “renegades” agreed to a two-year exile and subsequent return to the reservation.

In New York, President Grover Cleveland fretted over the terms. In a telegram to his secretary of war, Cleveland wrote, “I hope nothing will be done with Geronimo which will prevent our treating him as a prisoner of war, if we cannot hang him, which I would much prefer.”

Geronimo avoided execution, but dispute over the terms of surrender ensured that he would spend the rest of his life as a prisoner of the Army, subject to betrayal and indignity. The Apache leader and his men were sent by boxcar, under heavy guard, to Fort Pickens in Pensacola, Florida, where they performed hard labor. In that alien climate, the Washington Post reported, the Apache died “like flies at frost time.” Businessmen there soon had the idea to have Geronimo serve as a tourist attraction, and hundreds of visitors daily were let into the fort to lay eyes on the “bloodthirsty” Indian in his cell.

While the POWs were in Florida, the government relocated hundreds of their children from their Arizona reservation to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. More than a third of the students quickly perished from tuberculosis, “died as though smitten with the plague,” the Post reported. Apaches lived in constant terror that more of their children would be taken from them and sent east.

Indian students sent to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania died by the hundreds from infectious diseases. (Wikipedia)

Geronimo and his fellow POWs were reunited with their families in 1888, when the Chiricahua Apaches were moved to Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama. But there, too, the Apaches began to perish—a quarter of them from tuberculosis— until Geronimo and more than 300 others were brought to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1894. Though still captive, they were allowed to live in villages around the post. In 1904, Geronimo was given permission to appear at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, which included an “Apache Village” exhibit on the midway.

He was presented as a living museum piece in an exhibit intended as a “monument to the progress of civilization.” Under guard, he made bows and arrows while Pueblo women seated beside him pounded corn and made pottery, and he was a popular draw. He sold autographs and posed for pictures with those willing to part with a few dollars for the privilege.

Geronimo seemed to enjoy the fair. Many of the exhibits fascinated him, such as a magic show during which a woman sat in a basket covered in cloth and a man proceeded to plunge the swords through the basket. “I would like to know how she was so quickly healed and why the wounds did not kill her,” Geronimo told one writer. He also saw a “white bear” that seemed to be “as intelligent as a man” and could do whatever his keeper instructed. “I am sure that no grizzly bear could be trained to do these things,” he observed. He took his first ride on a Ferris wheel, where the people below “looked no larger than ants.”

In his dictated memoirs, Geronimo said that he was glad he had gone to the fair, and that white people were “a kind and peaceful people.” He added, “During all the time I was at the fair no one tried to harm me in any way. Had this been among the Mexicans I am sure I should have been compelled to defend myself often.”

After the fair, Pawnee Bill’s Wild West show brokered an agreement with the government to have Geronimo join the show, again under Army guard. The Indians in Pawnee Bill’s show were depicted as “lying, thieving, treacherous, murderous” monsters who had killed hundreds of men, women and children and would think nothing of taking a scalp from any member of the audience, given the chance. Visitors came to see how the “savage” had been “tamed,” and they paid Geronimo to take a button from the coat of the vicious Apache “chief.” Never mind that he had never been a chief and, in fact, bristled when he was referred to as one.

The shows put a good deal of money in his pockets and allowed him to travel, though never without government guards. If Pawnee Bill wanted him to shoot a buffalo from a moving car, or bill him as “the Worst Indian That Ever Lived,” Geronimo was willing to play along. “The Indian,” one magazine noted at the time, “will always be a fascinating object.”

In March 1905, Geronimo was invited to President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade he and five real Indian chiefs, who wore full headgear and painted faces, rode horses down Pennsylvania Avenue. The intent, one newspaper stated, was to show Americans “that they have buried the hatchet forever.”

Geronimo (second from right, in front) and five Native American chiefs rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s Inauguration Day Parade in 1905. (Library of Congress)

After the parade, Geronimo met with Roosevelt in what the New York Tribune reported was a “pathetic appeal” to allow him to return to Arizona. “Take the ropes from our hands,” Geronimo begged, with tears “running down his bullet-scarred cheeks.” Through an interpreter, Roosevelt told Geronimo that the Indian had a “bad heart.” “You killed many of my people you burned villages…and were not good Indians.” The president would have to wait a while “and see how you and your people act” on their reservation.

Geronimo gesticulated “wildly” and the meeting was cut short. “The Great Father is very busy,” a staff member told him, ushering Roosevelt away and urging Geronimo to put his concerns in writing. Roosevelt was told that the Apache warrior would be safer on the reservation in Oklahoma than in Arizona: “If he went back there he’d be very likely to find a rope awaiting him, for a great many people in the Territory are spoiling for a chance to kill him.”

Geronimo returned to Fort Sill, where newspapers continued to depict him as a “bloodthirsty Apache chief,” living with the “fierce restlessness of a caged beast.” It had cost Uncle Sam more than a million dollars and hundreds of lives to keep him behind lock and key, the Boston Globe reported. But the Hartford Courant had Geronimo “getting square with the palefaces,” as he was so crafty at poker that he kept the soldiers “broke nearly all the time.” His winnings, the paper noted, were used to help pay the cost of educating Apache children.

Journalists who visited him depicted Geronimo as “crazy,” sometimes chasing sightseers on horseback while drinking to excess. His eighth wife, it was reported, had deserted him, and only a small daughter was watching after him.

In 1903, however, Geronimo converted to Christianity and joined the Dutch Reformed Church—Roosevelt’s church—hoping to please the president and obtain a pardon. “My body is sick and my friends have thrown me away,” Geronimo told church members. “I have been a very wicked man, and my heart is not happy. I see that white people have found a way that makes them good and their hearts happy. I want you to show me that way.” Asked to abandon all Indian “superstitions,” as well as gambling and whiskey, Geronimo agreed and was baptized, but the church would later expel him over his inability to stay away from the card tables.

He thanked Roosevelt (“chief of a great people”) profusely in his memoirs for giving him permission to tell his story, but Geronimo never was permitted to return to his homeland. In February 1909, he was thrown from his horse one night and lay on the cold ground before he was discovered after daybreak. He died of pneumonia on February 17.

Geronimo (center, standing) at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. (Library of Congress)

The Chicago Daily Tribune ran the headline, “Geronimo Now a Good Indian,” alluding to a quote widely and mistakenly attributed to General Philip Sheridan. Roosevelt himself would sum up his feelings this way: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”

After a Christian service and a large funeral procession made up of both whites and Native Americans, Geronimo was buried at Fort Sill. Only then did he cease to be a prisoner of the United States.

Articles: “Geronimo Getting Square With the Palefaces,” The Hartford Courant, June 6, 1900.” “Geronimo Has Cost Uncle Sam $1,000,000,” Boston Daily Globe, April 25, 1900. “Geronimo Has Gone Mad,” New York Times, July 25, 1900. “Geronimo in Prayer,” The Washington Post, November 29. 1903. “Geronimo Seems Crazy,” New York Tribune, May 19, 1907. “Geronimo at the World’s Fair,” Scientific American Supplement, August 27, 1904. “Prisoner 18 Years,” Boston Daily Globe, September 18, 1904. “Chiefs in the Parade,” Washington Post, February 3, 1905. “Indians at White House,” New York Tribune, March 10, 1905. “Savage Indian Chiefs,” The Washington Post, March 5, 1905. “Indians on the Inaugural March,” by Jesse Rhodes, Smithsonian, January 14, 2009. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/specialsections/heritage/Indians-on-the-Inaugural-March.html “Geronimo Wants His Freedom,” Boston Daily Globe, January 28, 1906. “Geronimo Joins the Church, Hoping to Please Roosevelt,” The Atlanta Constitution, July 10, 1907. “A Bad Indian,” The Washington Post, August 24, 1907. “Geronimo Now Good Indian,” Chicago Daily Tribune, February 18, 1909. “Chief Geronimo Buried,” New York Times, February 19, 1909. “Chief Geronimo Dead,” New York Tribune, February 19, 1909. “Native America Prisoners of War: Chircahua Apaches 1886-1914, The Museum of the American Indian, http://www.chiricahua-apache.com/ “’A Very Kind and Peaceful People’: Geronimo and the World’s Fair,” by Mark Sample, May 3, 2011, http://www.samplereality.com/2011/05/03/a-very-kind-and-peaceful-people-geronimo-and-the-worlds-fair/ “Geronimo: Finding Peace,” by Alan MacIver, Vision.org, http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/article.aspx?id=12778

Books: Geronimo, Geronimo’s Story of His Life, Taken Down and Edited by S. M. Barrett, Superintendent of Education, Lawton, Oklahoma, Duffield & Company, 1915.

Geronimo’s Last Surrender

On September 5, 1886, Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles sent a telegram to his superiors in Washington, D.C., announcing that the 16-month war with Geronimo and Naiche was finally over. An era had also ended. Twenty-five years of intermittent warfare between the Chiricahua Apaches and Americans had reached its ultimate and inevitable destiny. At the forefront of the resistance was Geronimo, a Chiricahua shaman who had a hand in virtually every major incident between his people and Americans during the previous quarter-century. He was not a chief in the traditional sense. His tribal authority prevailed over relatives and close friends. Yet most Chiricahuas recognized that he had almost supernatural powers: an unquestioned ability to predict enemy movements and the outcome of battles.

During his last flight from the reservation on May 17, 1885, he could convince only 143 followers (41 fighting men) to join him. More than half left only because they had panicked when Geronimo told them a lie, that his men had killed the agent. The balance of the tribe, some 385 individuals, had stayed on the reservation. Hoping to put a quick end to the war, 60 of the 80 Chiricahua men actually enlisted as scouts for the military. They were led by Chatto, a 40-year-old chief, who would perform yeoman’s service during the campaign of 1885. Without Apache scouts (which included Western Apaches), the military would have accomplished little.

Today, on the 120th anniversary of Geronimo’s September 3 surrender, Chatto and Geronimo have become the faces of the peace and war factions, the symbolic characters of the nation’s last significant Apache war. Once Geronimo formally capitulated at Skeleton Canyon in Arizona Territory, General Miles sent the hostiles to Florida, where they were kept under military control and classified as prisoners of war. Miles’ decision was just, for over the previous decade Geronimo had left reservations on four occasions (in 1876, 1878, 1881 and 1885), escaping to the Sierra Madre in Mexico.

Miles then made a recommendation, this one unjust. He asked his superiors to authorize the removal of the entire Chiricahua tribe to Florida. He did not value the contributions made by Chatto and the 60 Chiricahua scouts. And he purposely ignored the inconvenient fact that 385 Chiricahuas not only had lived peacefully on the reservation but had never provided aid or recruits to the hostiles. He argued that the reservation was a breeding ground for new leaders, implying that malcontents had joined Geronimo. His specious arguments convinced Secretary of War William Endicott and President Grover Cleveland to approve his egregious betrayal. Those who had helped Brig. Gen. George Crook and Miles to end the war suffered the same fate as those who had raided and killed citizens of the United States and Mexico. Miles sent them to Florida, where they, too, were classified as prisoners of war under control of the War Department. Incredibly, this designation continued for 27 years.

Though remembered today for their contempt for each other, Geronimo and Chatto had a similar history. Each spent his early years living with Mangas Coloradas, who was Chatto’s uncle. Each vividly remembered the military’s treachery toward Cochise and Mangas Coloradas in the early 1860s, which left the tribe suspicious of Americans and contributed mightily to the strife in the 1870s and 1880s. Each was captured at Ojo Caliente by Indian Agent John Clum, who shackled them before transferring them to San Carlos. Finally, in September 1881, fearing that American soldiers planned to arrest them, each jumped the reservation for Mexico. Chatto explained that talk of troops made [Geronimo] nervous [as] a wild animal.

For reasons not entirely clear, once in Mexico their friendship ended. Then tragedy struck Chatto. On the frigid morning of January 24, 1883, Tarahumara Indians from Chihuahua surprised a Chiricahua camp, slaying about 20 and capturing 33, including Chatto’s wife and two children. The loss devastated him, haunting him for the next 50 years. His heart was sick with grief. A few months later Chatto led a famous raid into Arizona and New Mexico territories that captured a young white, Charlie McComas. Soon after, Chatto organized a war party to strike Chihuahua. His objective was captives, whom he planned to trade for his family. While he was absent, however, Captain Emmet Crawford’s Western Apache scouts surprised Chatto’s base camp. Every chief accepted Crook’s offer to return to the San Carlos Reservation. The general took some 300 with him, leaving 200 to come in soon after. Chatto stayed behind, hoping to recover his family. Negotiations with Chihuahua, however, broke down, and he finally returned to San Carlos in February 1884. Chatto explained his delay to Captain Crawford: If you were in my position with your relatives in captivity, I think you would have done the same.

Chatto adapted quickly to reservation life, but the thought of his family consumed him. When he met General Crook in May 1884, Chatto asked him for help to free his people held in Mexico. Over the next year the general did all in his power, urging officials in Washington to write Mexican officials about the captives. To show his gratitude, Chatto enlisted as a scout on July 1, 1884. Lieutenant Britton Davis, the Chiricahuas’ agent near Fort Apache, appointed him sergeant. The two developed a strong friendship grounded in trust. Davis would later characterize Chatto as one of the finest men, Red or White, I have ever known.

Crook especially felt betrayed by Geronimo’s final uprising. He told Davis to tell the reservation Chiricahuas that he would have to suspend efforts to recover their captives until peaceful times are restored. Chatto took command of the reservation. He organized a war dance for the scouts and then left to pursue the hostiles. Chatto surprised one camp, capturing 15 women and children. Years later he recalled the arduous and dangerous time: I carried a double cartridge belt with 45 to 50 cartridges on each belt. My rifle was loaded and my finger on the trigger following fresh tracks of hostiles, not knowing when a bullet might go through my forehead. Chatto was friendly with the two Chiricahua guides, Martine and Kayitah, who helped the Army locate the elusive leader’s camp in Mexico. In fact, Chatto had recommended Martine, who took Lieutenant Charles Gatewood to meet with Geronimo on August 25.

Geronimo and Chatto remain controversial among their own people. To some, Geronimo was the last of the Chiricahua patriots, fighting to preserve his way of life. To others, however, he had outlived his time. Those who remained on the reservation thought Chatto was on the right side. Yet some followers of Geronimo, unable to appreciate the reasons for Chatto’s decision, thought him a traitor.

Historians are just beginning to understand why Chatto served so eagerly as a scout for Crook. Personal animosity toward Geronimo was perhaps one reason, but another was gratitude to Crook for trying to recover his family. Unfortunately, without Mexico’s cooperation even the general could not arrange a happy outcome.

Geronimo has achieved a notoriety accorded to only a very few American Indians. One could argue that his fame stems from the fact that his surrender in 1886 effectively marked the end of Indian resistance in North America.

This once obscure Apache warrior, not even recognized by most Americans until he was in his mid-50s, has today become a legend of mythical proportions, and his fame steadily continues to grow.

This article was written by Edwin R. Sweeney and originally published in the October 2006 issue of Wild West Magazine. For more great articles, subscribe to Wild West magazine today!

The Apache Wars: A Timeline Part 5 – Geronimo Surrenders

Previously: In the Apache Wars: A Timeline Part 4 Lozen makes her mark: Victorio Dies. If you missed the beginning of the Apache Wars Timeline click here.

Not one Apache raid occurs in Arizona this year, a first for at least 10 years. The Apaches seemed fairly content on their respective reservations and are adjusting to a farming way of life. This will change. And Geronimo will be the agent of change.

As such, he will be vilified by those Chiricahua Apaches who wanted to stay on the reservations and at peace with the White Eyes. Geronimo will be blamed for the U.S. Government's decision to ship all Chiricahuas, including the loyal scouts, to Florida or Alabama. Here they will lose everything: not just their homeland, but their culture - language, religion, and even their children. The tribe will be almost entirely exterminated by disease and negligence.

By contrast, Geronimo will attain super-hero status among those who wanted to remain free and fight to an honorable death for their people, their homeland, and their way of life (which includes getting drunk on tizwin and beating their wives).


Geronimo is drunk and intimidated by newspaper editorials that demand his death. He and a small band of warriors escape again to Mexico where they continue to raid and kill, primarily for food, ammunition, and horses.

Geronimo's "Power" that warns him of impending danger, not surprisingly, coincides with his well-founded paranoia, based on the many times the Apaches have been lied to, cheated, starved, humiliated, and killed by the U.S. military and Indian agents.

On the reservation, rumors fly. What Geronimo hears is that Captain Davis has been authorized to have him and Mangus killed. Many years later, Chatto, who became General Crooks most trusted scout, says, "Talk of troops made Geronimo like a wild animal." Read More

1885-May: The Lie

Geronimo is still a prisoner of war in the 1903 photograph.

Geronimo hatches a plan to persuade reluctant Chiricahuas led by Chiefs Naiche and Chihuahua to follow him in a mass exodus from the reservation to Mexico.

Geronimo's plan includes having his cousins, Fun and Tisna, kill Captain Davis and Chiricahua scout Chatto, two who are most trusted by both the U.S. military and the reservation Chiricahuas.

Geronimo knows that with Davis and Chatto dead, the reservation Chiricahuas, particularly the Apache scouts, will feel hopelessly vulnerable and will then follow him in a desperate attempt to escape to Northern Mexico and continue the good fight.

The charismatic Chief Chihuahua fears that Crook will deport him to Alcatraz. Chiefs Naiche and Chihuahua throw their support in favor of Geronimo's plan to escape from the reservation when Geronimo tells them that Davis and Chatto are already dead. It's a lie. It's a lie that will have devastating consequences for the Chiricahuas and divide the Apaches between those who want the relative comfort and security of the reservation and those who prefer an arduous life on the warpath defending their ancestral homeland against the despised White Eyes and Mexicans.

When Chief Chihuahua realizes he has put the lives of his people in serious danger because of Geronimo's lie, he vows to kill the shaman-turned-war-chief. Had he been successful, it is likely the war would have ended and the remaining hostiles would have returned peacefully to the San Carlos Reservation.

But the war continued and President Cleveland, with the support of his Secretary of War and Lt. General Phil Sheridan, decides the fate of all Chiricahuas, not just the hostiles.

Lozen fights alongside Geronimo and his few remaining warriors in a desperate attempt to survive and not be herded back to the San Carlos Reservation. Unbeknownst to them, this is the last campaign in the Apache Wars. Pursued relentlessly, she uses her mysterious power to sense the whereabouts and strength of the U.S. and Mexican cavalries.

Alexander Adams writes in his book, Geronimo, "she would stand with her arms outstretched, chant a prayer to Ussen, the Apaches’ supreme deity, and slowly turn around." (until she senses the presence and number of the enemy and the direction of their impending attack.)


Leading General Crooks second expedition into Mexico in pursuit of the renegade Apaches led by Geronimo, Captain Crawford and his scouts are attacked by Mexican militia led Mauricio Corredor. One of Corredor's scouts claimed to have shot and killed Chief Victorio six years earlier at Cerro Tres Castillos. (The Indian version has Victorio fall on his own knife rather than be captured and tortured by the despised Mexicans.)

Crawford attempts to get the Mexicans to cease fire by waving a white handkerchief so he can explain to Corredor that his troops and scouts are in pursuit of the Apaches. The Mexicans don't listen and one shoots Crawford in the head.

Dutchy, one of the Apache scouts, pulls the mortally wounded Crawford to safety, and then kills the Mexican who had shot him. He then kills the Mexican commander.


Crook's army and Chiricahua Apache scouts, now led by Chatto, go after Geronimo and his warriors. They catch up with them again just over the Mexico border in March. At first, there are negotiations and hope that Geronimo will surrender.

March 1886. Gen. Crook (rt in round hat) tries to peruade Geronimo to surrender unconditionally.

Crook is only authorized to negotiate unconditional surrender, but Geronimo refuses. Crook makes concessions. He tells Geronimo that, if he and his people give up, they will be confined in the East with their families for NOT MORE THAN TWO YEARS then be returned to Arizona. Geronimo accepts these terms.

That night, Naiche, Geronimo and their little band get roaring drunk, reconsider their surrender, and disappear into the mountains. Crook’s vast army with all its Apache scouts cannot catch them.

After the conference with General Crook (March 1886) Naiche and Geronimo head back to the relative security of the Sierra Madre Mountains in Northern Mexico as fast as they can. With Naiche is his 3rd wife Ha-o-zinne.

Crook is ridiculed unmercifully in the newspapers. But far worse for his command, Crook received word from the President through Gen. Sheridan that the government will accept only unconditional surrender, and orders to renegotiate with Geronimo & Naiche.

Crook knows that this would be impossible. More important to Crook is his honor. He negotiated concessions with the hostiles in good faith and cannot now go back on his word. He asks Sheridan to relieve him of command.

Sheridan quickly complies.

In April, General Crook, who had tried to help the Apaches on their reservations, is replaced by the arrogant, pompous, shamelessly self-promoting General Miles. He deploys over two dozen heliograph points to coordinate the movements of 5,000 soldiers, 500 Apache scouts, 100 Navajo scouts, and thousands of civilian militia against Geronimo and his 24 exhausted warriors who, in order to survive, continue raiding in Northern Mexico.

(Note. The heliograph signaling system was Miles solution to poor communications and coordination in pursuit of the hostiles. Their use was one of the ways Miles employed to distinguish his campaign from his failed predecessor's. Despite Mile's claims to the contrary, the heliograph system was of little benefit to his pursuing army in locating the hostiles. The hostiles moved primarily at night. No sun, no heliograph signal. You can see a heliograph machine at the Fort Lowell Museum at 2900 N. Craycroft Road in Tucson.)

September 3, 1886

Lt. Charles Gatewood, now reporting to Miles, leads a party of 6, including himself, an interpreter, 2 packers and 2 Chiricahua scouts, in an exhausting pursuit of Naiche and Geronimo. Later that summer, scouts Kayihtah and Martine guide Lieutenant Gatewood to the Naiche and Geronimo camp.

Gatewood tells Naiche that his mother, wife and daughter have been shipped to Florida with Chief Chihuahua and his people. Gatewood tells Geronimo that his family is in Florida and if he ever wants to see them again, he will have to surrender now and go there too. This was a lie. The Chiricahuas had not yet been exiled, but they soon would be.

Broken, Naiche decides to surrender. Many other hostiles surrender too. Geronimo, war-weary and missing his family, knows he cannot continue his struggle for freedom without them. Naiche and Geronimo surrender to General Miles at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona Territory, not far from present-day Douglas.

It was a momentous event in the history of the Apaches and the United States. On Route 80 south of Rodeo, New Mexico, near Apache, Arizona, stands a marker commemorating Geronimo's surrender. A short distance south of the marker is a road that leads east and then south/southeast to the actual surrender site.
NEXT: The Apache Wars: A Timeline Part 6

Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood: Premier Cavalry Soldier of the American West

History affords the unique perspective of offering clarity through retrospection. Even though Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood, using mutual respect and negotiation—not bullets and bravado—potentially saved the lives of countless cavalrymen, settlers, Native Americans, and Mexicans by ensuring Geronimo’s surrender in 1886 after years of contentious and bloody Indian wars, he was continually overlooked for promotion and denied a much-deserved Medal of Honor, awarded for personal acts of exceptional courage and valor—literally defined as “strength of mind in regard to danger.” Few would argue that standing face to face on a hot August day in Mexico with a justifiably enraged Geronimo and the son of Cochise took that strength of mind. Nevertheless, when Gatewood achieved a peaceful resolution to years of hard fighting, he displayed an uncommon valor worthy of our nation’s highest honor. The single opponent to his nomination argued that since Gatewood had not come under enemy fire during this event, he was unworthy of the award. However, history should accurately reflect the true impact of this quiet man who changed the face of the Southwest, using words and not weapons.

Shortly after graduating from West Point, Gatewood was assigned to the Arizona Territory and became one the Army premier “Apache men,” having developed a detailed knowledge of the Apaches and their customs and commanding detachments of Apache scouts. This photograph shows Apache scouts under Gatewood’s command encamped near the Mexican border in 1883. (National Archives)

Born in Woodstock, Virginia, on 6 April 1853 as the oldest son of newspaper editor John Gatewood and his wife Emily, Charles Bare Gatewood had a normal if not exceptional early childhood. This, however, would all change after epochal events in the United States would lead him toward a career in the military. When the Civil War erupted in 1861, eight-year old Charles saw his father march off to fight for the South. When John Gatewood returned, he moved his family to Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he opened a print shop and edited the Commonwealth, a local newspaper. Charles would finish his education there and later briefly teach school before receiving an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point in 1873 from Representative John T. Harris, M.C., of Harrisonburg.

Graduating with the West Point Class of 1877 on 14 June 1877, Gatewood was ranked twenty-third out of a class of seventy-six. The five-foot-eleven-inch Virginian was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 6th U.S. Cavalry. Henry Ossian Flipper, the first black graduate of USMA, was also a member of this class, as well as Thomas Henry Barry, the twenty-seventh Superintendent of USMA (1910-1912). The great majority of this notable class would see duty on the frontier and participation in the Indian Wars, with twenty-six reaching the rank of colonel, five brigadier general, and five major general. Gatewood, however, appeared destined to be overlooked continually for promotion.

By the time Major General George Crook (USMA 1852) assumed command of the Department of Arizona in July 1882, Lieutenant Gatewood had become one of the Army’s premier “Apache men.” He had become familiar with the Arizona Territory and commanded Apache scout units almost constantly since his arrival in the Southwest in January 1878. He had also taken part in the U.S. Army’s campaign against Apache chief Victorio in 1879-80. Gatewood’s life depended upon the scouts under his command accepting and obeying his orders at all times. Crook recognized Gatewood’s detailed knowledge of the Apaches and their customs. Because of this, in 1882, he appointed Gatewood as the military commandant of the White Mountain Indian Reservation, headquartered at Fort Apache, Arizona Territory. Gatewood’s inherent honesty of character, fairness, and respect for Apaches allowed him to excel in this assignment.

Gatewood (right) is shown here with Lieutenant M.F. Goodwin, 10th Cavalry, shortly after the conclusion of the Army’s campaign against Apache chief Victorio in 1880. At the time, Gatewood was serving in the 6th Cavalry. (National Archives)

Officers who drew Apache duty found it to be very demanding. Patrols often lasted for months. The harsh rigors of living in the field and the continued exposure to extreme weather and inhospitable terrain had consequences. As early as 1881, doctors reported that Gatewood “had rheumatism of knee, ankle, hip and shoulder, the result of exposure in line of duty in Arizona.” Gatewood’s declining health would plague him throughout his career.

On 17 May 1885, Geronimo and Apache Chief Naiche (son of Cochise and the last hereditary Apache chief of the Chokonen, or Chiricahua, tribes) fled the reservation with their band of followers and crossed the border into Mexico. Making periodic raids into the United States as well as in Mexico, they successfully eluded pursuit by both U.S. and Mexican troops. In March 1886, Crook met the warring Apaches at Cañón de los Embudos, Sonora, Mexico, to discuss their surrender. During the talks, Crook threatened and talked down to Geronimo. Although the Apaches surrendered and agreed to return to the United States, Geronimo, Naiche, and some followers feared for their lives and ran one last time on 28 March 1886. Crook resigned his command, and the Army replaced him with Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles. On 13 July 1886, after several attempts to apprehend Geronimo and his band met with failure, Miles asked Gatewood to “find Geronimo and Naiche in Mexico and demand their surrender.”

Displaying incredible skill and bravery, Gatewood and five others followed the Apaches and caught up with them on 25 August 1886 at a bend in the Bavispe River in the Teres Mountains in Mexico. Suddenly, however, the Apaches vanished. Several tense minutes passed before thirty-five or forty Chiricahua Apaches, including many heavily armed warriors, exploded out of the brush. Gatewood did not notice Geronimo among them but welcomed the Apaches cordially, removed his weapons, and passed out tobacco and paper. Everyone rolled cigarettes and smoked.

In March 1886, Crook met with Apache leaders Geronimo and Naiche at Cañón de los Embudos, Sonora, Mexico, to discuss the Apaches’ surrender. While Geronimo and Naiche agreed to terms and returned to Arizona , they once again fled to on 28 March to Mexico with a small group of Apaches. Crook resigned his command shortly thereafter the Army replaced him with Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles. (Arizona Historical Society, Tucson, PC 19 – #78166)

Geronimo then walked out of the brush and set his Winchester down, greeted Gatewood, and asked about his thinness (Gatewood was ill and extremely frail and gaunt). The two men sat together—too close, Gatewood would later note since he could feel Geronimo’s revolver. For a while they conversed in an English-Apache-Spanish pidgin dialect that allowed them to communicate with interpreters occasionally confirming their statements. When Gatewood delivered Miles’s surrender message, Geronimo wanted to know the terms. Gatewood replied, “Unconditional surrender!” The Apaches would be sent to Florida, where they would await President Grover Cleveland’s decision on their lives. Gatewood concluded by adding, “Accept these terms or fight it out to the bitter end.”

An angry Geronimo stared at Gatewood. After talking about a few other less profound issues, he spoke of all the bad that both countries, the United States and Mexico, had done to his people. Warrior tempers erupted, and the group of Apaches moved away from Gatewood so they could discuss the possible surrender. An hour later, they returned with Geronimo demanding terms similar to those offered in the past: “Take us to the reservation or fight.” Gatewood, however, could not do this. The atmosphere again turned tense, but before anything happened, Chief Naiche spoke up, saying Gatewood would not be harmed.

Geronimo holds a rifle in an iconic photograph of the Apache chief taken around 1887. (National Archives)

Breathing easier, Gatewood gambled and said that the remaining Chiricahuas in Arizona had been sent to Florida. Although untrue, he knew it would happen. An irate Geronimo and the Apaches spoke again between themselves. Nothing changed—they demanded a return to the reservation or they would fight. Danger loomed, but Gatewood kept his composure. Eventually Geronimo asked Gatewood what he would do. When Gatewood replied that he would accept Miles’s terms, Geronimo said he would announce their decision in the morning.

The next day, after Geronimo and Naiche agreed to return to the United States, Gatewood, realizing that his knowledge of the Apaches—especially the White Mountain Apaches—was unique, wrote a letter to his wife declaring that it was time for him to begin working on a memoir. Because of this, not only did he record Apache oral history before it became known as “oral history,” he documented arguably one of the most spectacular feats of the Indian Wars—meeting Naiche and Geronimo in Sonora, Mexico, talking them into surrendering, and getting them safely back to the States even though some within the Mexican and U.S. Armies wanted the famed Apache leaders dead.

As 1886 ended, Gatewood’s health once again began to fail. He had never recovered from the hardships suffered while in Mexico and the southwestern United States. As a result, the Army granted him an extended leave of absence. In May 1887, he returned to Miles’s headquarters (then in Los Angeles), where he served as aide-de-camp. In the fall of 1890, he re-joined the 6th U.S. Cavalry and was assigned to H Troop.

On 18 May 1892, a band of small ranchers and rustlers became enraged at the gunmen hired by the larger rancher owners in Johnson County, Wyoming. They set fire to the buildings at Fort McKinney, Wyoming, where the Army had confined a local cattle baron’s hired killers. The fire spread, threatening to destroy the entire post. Gatewood joined a small group of volunteers as they hurriedly placed cans of gunpowder in the burning buildings. The plan was to blow up the structures already engulfed in flames to save the remaining buildings. Suddenly, some burning rafters parted, fell, and prematurely detonated a can of powder. Gatewood was blown violently against the side of a building and badly injured.

This map shows the route Gatewood and his detachment followed as they pursued Geronimo and his band of Apaches. Gatewood’s party caught up with the Apaches in northern Mexico on 25 July 1886 and convinced the Indians to surrender. (Map courtesy of Louis Kraft)

Gatewood took a physical examination at Fort Custer, Montana, on 3 October 1892, with the following diagnosis: “Lieutenant Gatewood has suffered intermittently with articular rheumatism during the past twelve years. At present it exists in a sub acute form, and affects chiefly the right shoulder and hip. When combined with his injury from the explosion, which rendered his left arm almost completely disabled, the result was a foregone conclusion: Permanently disqualified physically to perform the duties of a captain of cavalry, and that his disability occurred in the line of duty.” Gatewood expected to be retired from the service but instead found himself remaining on the active duty roles as a member of the 6th Cavalry. Nevertheless, he was often on extended leaves of absence as the rapid deterioration of his health continued.

On 2 May 1895, Captain Augustus P. Blocksom recommended Lieutenant Gatewood for the Medal of Honor. It was endorsed by the commanding officer of the 6th Cavalry, Colonel D.B. Gordon, and the Commanding General of the Army, General Nelson A. Miles, but disapproved by Joseph B. Doe, Acting Secretary of War, on 24 June 1895 because Gatewood did not come under hostile fire during his pursuit of Geronimo and his band of Apaches. Gatewood had displayed extreme bravery. His services were extensive and, in fact, indispensable. Nevertheless, four Medals of Honor had been given to others during the efforts to capture Geronimo, but not to the one man instrumental in achieving the surrender.

The news greatly disappointed Gatewood. He spent the last year of his life nursing his ill health. The Army did, however, allow him to remain on the payroll instead of forcing him to retire. His health, however, continued to deteriorate, and he entered the hospital at Fort Monroe, Virginia, on 11 May 1896. On 20 May, he died from a malignant tumor in his liver. At the time of his death, he was forty-three years old and the senior lieutenant of his regiment, having never achieved the rank of captain after nineteen years service. Gatewood’s wife, Georgia, did not have enough money to bury her husband, so the Army arranged for burial in Arlington National Cemetery. Georgia survived the next twenty-four years on a pension of $17 a month she received from the government. She eventually moved to California to live with her son, “Charlie Junior,” born on 4 January 1883, at Fort Apache, Arizona Territory.

Charles B. Gatewood, Jr., was thirteen years old when his father died in 1896. He would later graduate from West Point with the Class of 1906 and retire as a colonel after thirty years service. Charles, Jr., launched a lifelong crusade to establish as record his father’s impact on the history of the Indian Wars. His fastidious and continuous effort to document his father’s participation in the last Apache war is now housed at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson. Lieutenant Gatewood’s son laid the groundwork for authors such as Louis Kraft (quoted extensively in the second half of this article) to discover his father’s life and contributions.

Apache chiefs Naiche (left) and Geronimo stand for a photograph at Fort Bowie, Arizona Territory, in September 1886, shortly before they were transported to Florida. (National Archives)

The words of Major General Augustus Perry Blocksom, Gatewood’s West Point classmate who served as a lieutenant with Gatewood in the 6th Cavalry and also commanded Indian scouts, aptly captured the character of Charles Gatewood. Blocksom wrote Gatewood’s obituary for the annual reunion of the USMA Association of Graduates in 1896 which states: “His life was simple and unassuming. He suffered many hardships, but his kind heart, genial humor, and gentle manners always gave evidence that nature had created him a true gentleman. His work was done in a comparatively limited field, and was unknown to and therefore unappreciated by the vast majority of our people but to us who knew him and his deeds so well, it seems hard that he should have received no just reward for his services. His name is still on the lips of the people of Arizona and New Mexico, and will not soon be forgotten by his comrades in the Indian campaigns.”

One might wonder how such an instrumental figure in America’s westward expansion such as Lieutenant Charles Gatewood could have escaped acclaim and, at minimum, placement in archives of those most interested in the all-important period of our country’s history following the Civil War. Thanks to Gatewood’s own proclivity for language and his desire to record the oral history of the Apaches—not to mention the dedication of his son, Charles, Jr., to preserving the legacy of his late father—future writers of note, such as acclaimed author and historian Louis Kraft, would become interested in the life of Lieutenant Gatewood, whose story attracts compassion and spurs that uniquely American desire to help the underdog—or those apparently treated unfairly—in the annals of history.

In a recent discussion with Kraft, much of the background surrounding the “Gatewood Enigma” became clear. To be sure, it is a story rife jealously and ambition—none of which appear to have emanated from Gatewood himself but from those close to him and envious of his accomplishments. Fortunately, Gatewood’s memories of the Apaches are as special as his achievements, as evident in a number of chapters he drafted for a book he planned to complete. Sadly, his premature death at age forty-three prevented him from finishing the project. Kraft generously offered to discuss how his personal interest in Gatewood turned into a quest to set the record straight.

Just before Kraft’s first book on the Apache Wars, Gatewood & Geronimo (University of New Mexico Press, 2000), moved toward publication, he realized how much of Gatewood’s experiences among the Apaches would not be told because of page limitations. Gatewood’s words would then remain in obscurity for another year until Kraft decided to contact the Arizona Historical Society to ask for permission to compile Gatewood’s notes into a readable manuscript. He then pieced together and edited the lieutenant’s writing, which became Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir (University of Nebraska Press, 2005), resulting in a major reference for both researchers and historians. Kraft has also written extensively about cavalry operations in the American West, including a book on George Armstrong Custer. Few author/historians are as qualified as Kraft to assess the level of bravery inherent in Gatewood’s actions when confronting Geronimo.

A group of Apaches, including Naiche, Geronimo, and Geronimo’s son, sit before a railroad car that will take them to Florida and captivity, 10 September 1886. The Apaches would later end up at Fort Sill, Indian Territory (later Oklahoma) until 1913, when the U.S. government allowed them to settle on reservations in Oklahoma and New Mexico. (National Archives)

Kraft further explained how his interest in Gatewood first occurred, an interest which has grown and been reinforced by others over the years. “My initial visit to the Gatewood Collection at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson spurred my interest and encouraged what has become a passion. I didn’t know anything about Charles Gatewood and never thought I would write about him. However, when I stumbled upon him I was floored.” Kraft continued, “The history of the Indian Wars had relegated him to a minor character—read, he served his country, period. Perhaps Generals Miles and Crook (especially Miles) are responsible for this—it is shocking that Gatewood never rose above lieutenant when almost every other officer serving in Mexico in 1886 retired or died a colonel or general. There are superstars in the West (Custer, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Geronimo, Earp, Holliday, Cody, Hickok, Crockett, Carson to name a few) and then there are major players (Crook, Miles, Roman Nose, Black Kettle, Naiche, Ned Wynkoop, Chivington again to name a few—this list is much longer). Telling Gatewood’s story was almost heresy. The plus is that now Gatewood is a player and will someday appear in documentaries. Hopefully others will learn more about him and put their findings to words for even though he was only a lieutenant, he played a major role in the last Apache war—and even more so if one considers his stand for human rights.” Kraft further added, “Gatewood was slender, tall, and at times struggled with his health. The Apaches called him ‘Bay-chen-daysen,’ which means big nose. Contemporaries considered him quiet, cool, courageous, intolerant of injustice, and honest, but the trait that best served him was his ability to accept and treat fairly the Apaches he commanded and oversaw on the White Mountain Indian Reservation.”

Kraft continued: “Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the valor of Lieutenant Gatewood on that day with Geronimo was that far from a brash bit of bravado his actions were rather an intelligent display of an incredible understanding of his foe. Yet, the essential question sustains: Why did he succeed when a force of 5,000 cavalrymen had failed?” For Kraft, it came down to the fact that “First, American and Mexican troops intended to hunt down and kill the Apaches, and the Indians knew this. Gatewood, who they knew, entered their camp with three interpreters, an Apache scout who was related to band members, and maybe one soldier. He did not come to kill, and the story he told of the removal of their people in Arizona to Florida, even if it had not happened yet, sounded true. This would give them nothing to return to if they re-crossed the border. Also, they knew that it was a matter of time before other soldiers caught and killed them.” Kraft contends that Gatewood offered Geronimo and the Apaches “the best deal they could possibly get—return to the United States, exile to a place called Florida where they would be reunited with the rest of their people, and the promise to return to their homeland sometime in the future. Gatewood offered them a chance to live, and they took it.”

As for Gatewood’s lack of fame, Kraft stated that “people wonder why history has forgotten this man. General Nelson Miles is the major culprit here, as he did everything possible to ensure that his command, the 4th U.S. Cavalry, got all the credit for the capture of Geronimo and the last of the warring Apaches—about thirty-eight people, including warriors, women, and children. Gatewood belonged to the 6th U.S. Cavalry, Crook’s regiment at the time. Crook had previously turned his back on Gatewood when the lieutenant refused to drop charges against a territorial judge for defrauding the White Mountain Apaches and had no intention of supporting Gatewood when Miles attempted to remove his name from the surrender of the Apaches.

“After the surrender of Geronimo, Gatewood would become an aide-de-camp to General Miles but always seemed to remain an outsider and few understand why,” said Kraft. “Again, Miles wanted all the glory to go to the 4th Cavalry. Ridiculous as it sounds, Gatewood was known as a ‘Crook man.’ In November 1887, a year after the Apaches surrendered, Tucson, Arizona Territory, hosted a festival to honor Miles and the 4th Cavalry at the San Xavier Hotel. The general made certain that the ‘Crook man’ did not attend by ordering him to remain at headquarters, which further distanced the lieutenant from the events that ended the war. At the celebration, when Miles was asked about Gatewood’s participation in the surrender, Miles stated that he ‘was sick of this adulation of Lieutenant Gatewood, who only did his duty.’”

In 1895, while serving as Commanding General of the Army, Major General Nelson A. Miles was one of the officers who endorsed Gatewood for the Medal of Honor for his pursuit of Geronimo in 1886, but it was disapproved by acting Secretary of the Army Joseph B. Doe because Gatewood’s actions did not come under hostile fire. (U.S. Army Military History Institute)

Kraft added that “During the celebration, when Gatewood realized that some of Miles’ servants were on the Army’s payroll, he refused to sign the order for them to be paid as ‘bearers,’ as it was against military regulations. If we can believe Gatewood’s wife, Georgia, this angered Miles, who looked for ways to court-martial her husband. Gatewood was a first lieutenant and Miles’s officers were lieutenants or captains during the hunt for Geronimo that summer and fall of 1886. Nevertheless, all Miles’s officers retired or died with the rank of colonel or general, while Gatewood was still a first lieutenant at the time of his death, next in line via the seniority rule to become a captain. The military even refused to award Gatewood the Medal of Honor for his extraordinary feat, as it was not performed during the heat of battle.” Kraft further added, “In my humble opinion this was a sad statement about U.S. Army values.”

The 1993 movie, Geronimo: An American Legend, which featured Gatewood as a central character (played by Jason Patric), brought his name to an unaware American public, even though the film was filled with inaccuracies. Kraft said the movie was actually his introduction to the lieutenant as well and added, “Britton Davis (played by Matt Damon), a lifelong friend of Gatewood was just out of West Point when Geronimo (Wes Studi) crossed the border in 1884 to be escorted back to the reservation by Gatewood (who did not perform this duty—Davis did). It was not until I began researching the books that I realized that although the film pretends to be factual, it is fiction from the beginning to end.” Kraft stated that it mixes up events and dates, and often places characters in events in which they never participated. “Geronimo never made a great shot to scare off a posse. At the time of the film, Gatewood rode a mule, commanded Apache scouts and not troopers, and never killed an Apache warrior in one-on-one combat,” said Kraft. “Also, he never tracked the recalcitrant Apaches with Chatto (Steve Reevis) and Al Sieber (Robert Duvall). There was no shootout with scalp hunters in a cantina, Davis was not with Gatewood in 1886, and the lieutenant was not hit or harmed when he met the Apaches and talked them into returning to the United States. The errors are endless.”

Kraft continued to discuss additional inaccuracies, saying, “Actually Lieutenant Britton Davis resigned his commission in 1885, which did not become official until 1886, and later wrote The Truth About Geronimo (Yale University Press, 1929). Davis wrote this about Gatewood: ‘Cool, quiet, courageous firm when convinced of right but intolerant of wrong with a thorough knowledge of Apache character.” Davis was a good soldier and a fair administrator of the Apaches at Turkey Creek, a forested area east of Fort Apache. His compassion for the Apaches, along with the rough excursion he survived in Mexico in 1885, contributed to his disillusionment with the Army, the U.S.’s treatment of the Apaches, and his decision to resign his commission. The fact that Gatewood did not totally fade into oblivion is in large part due to Lieutenant Davis and his book.”

In discussing Geronimo, Kraft said, “While Geronimo would live a long life, dying while still incarcerated in 1909, he was never permitted to return to his native lands despite pleas to President Theodore Roosevelt. Geronimo recounted his life to S. M. Barrett, who assembled it as Geronimo: His Own Story (reprinted by E.P. Dutton in 1970).” Still many historians still ponder why Geronimo trusted Lieutenant Gatewood—or if he ever regretted that later in life. Kraft stated he believes that “by the summer of 1886 Gatewood’s fair handling of the White Mountain Indian reservation and his ability to deal with Apache scouts in the field were well known to the Apaches. They knew that Gatewood did not lie and would buck the military if he thought the Apaches had been wronged. There were not many white men who would do this. Daklugie, Chief Juh’s (pronounced ‘Who’) son translated Geronimo’s words for Barrett and said that Geronimo regretted trusting Miles, who had lied to him. But he never blamed Gatewood for the general’s perfidy.”

In the conclusion of his commentary, Kraft expressed hope for continued attention for Gatewood “…whose actions during his entire tenure with the Apaches were exemplary. He quickly viewed them as human beings who should be treated as such. Gatewood was a most special man, and more historical papers such as this will encourage sustained and justified interest in his life. One must remember that during the Indian Wars there weren’t many white men on the frontier who would put their careers at risk and stand up for a people whose entire way of life was coming to an end, as the citizens of the United States carved their new land.”


The canyon was the site of several battles during the American Old West. In 1879, a group of outlaw Cowboys attacked a group of Mexican Rurales and stole their cattle. In July 1881, Curly Bill Brocius attacked and killed about a dozen Mexican smugglers carrying silver and heading to the United States. In retribution, the Mexican government attacked and killed Newman Haynes Clanton and others as they were driving cattle through Guadalupe Canyon. In 1883, Apache Indians from Chihuahua's band surprised eight troopers of Troop D, Fourth Cavalry, killed three men, burned the wagons and supplies, and drove off forty horses and mules. [1]

Geronimo's final surrender to General Nelson A Miles on September 4, 1886, occurred at the western edge of this canyon. As the surrender site is now on private property, commemorative monument has been erected to the northwest along SR 80, where it intersects with Skeleton Canyon Road in Arizona, at geographic coordinates 31°41′28″N 109°07′56″W  /  31.69111°N 109.13222°W  / 31.69111 -109.13222 . The mouth of the canyon lies about 9.5 mi (15.3 km) to the southeast just west of the Arizona – New Mexico line. [2]

On November 4, 1889 Judson "Comanche" White was found dead in Skeleton Canyon after being killed by persons or persons unknown all his possession had been stolen as well. [4]

On August 12, 1896 a shoot-out between the Christian gang and a posse resulted in the Skeleton Canyon shootout.

  1. ^ ab Hurst, George (January 9, 2003). "Geronimo's surrender — Skeleton Canyon, 1886". Archived from the original on 26 August 2015 . Retrieved 24 October 2014 .
  2. ^ abChiricahua Peak, Arizona – New Mexico, 30x60 Minute Topographic Quadrangle, USGS 1994
  3. ^
  4. "Skeleton Canyon". Ghost Towns . Retrieved 2013-03-18 .
  5. ^The Deseret News November 7, 1889

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Geronimo – A Brief History

The Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway is named for Geronimo, a famous Apache warrior. He was born Goyakla, meaning ‘one who yawns,’ in the 1820s near the headwaters of the Gila River. This would be in the Gila Wilderness area of Southwestern New Mexico today. He was born into the Bedonkohe Chiricahua tribe.

His early life was peaceful until the 1850s when the Bedonkohe group went to Mexico to trade with the Mexicans in a town the Apaches called Kas-ki-yeh. The women and children remained in camp while the men went into town. When they returned, they discovered that Mexicans from a nearby town had attacked the camp and massacred the women and children. Among those killed were Geronimo’s widowed mother, wife and three children. When the Apaches attacked the town in revenge, Geronimo fought so wildly that the Mexicans cried out to San Geronimo (Saint Jerome) for aid. The name became applied to Geronimo and stuck.

Geronimo spent most of the rest of his life seeking revenge. He became a war leader and led many raids on Mexican towns and villages, as well as settlements in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

By the 1870s, the European immigration of settlers was well underway. The Apache threat was so intense that the reservation system was created with the Army controlling the Apaches from raids. Most of the Chiricahua tribes were removed to the San Carlos reservation in southeast Arizona.

Geronimo left the reservation on raiding parties frequently. In 1883 he and his band sought refuge on the Warm Springs Reservation at Ojo Caliente, north of Winston, NM. The Indian agent, John Clum, found out he was there, and took a group of Indian scouts to arrest Geronimo. They set a trap and he was surrounded and captured. Because of this incident, the Government decided to close the Reservation at Ojo Caliente and move the Warm Springs Apaches to San Carlos with the other Chiricahua tribes.

Geronimo continued to escape from the reservation and lead raiding parties. He and his band of less than 150, mostly women and children, eluded General Crook and over 3,000 soldiers for some time. Apache scouts were finally used to track him and talk him into surrender so the Apaches could be reunited with their families. They were told they would be able to settle on a reservation in their homelands after a few years of exile. Crook’s superior officer reversed this decision, and Geronimo and several other Apaches fled again.

General Nelson A. Miles led a pursuit with 42 companies of U.S. Cavalry and 4,000 Mexican soldiers. Again the Apache scouts had to locate Geronimo and persuade him to surrender peacefully. The agreement was made September 4, 1886 in Skeleton Canyon, near present day Douglas, Arizona, with a promise of the Apaches being pardoned and reunited with their families. Miles also promised that Geronimo’s people would be granted a reservation in their homeland.

All the Chiricahua groups were sent by train to Florida where the warriors were detained for a year at Fort Pickens and their families at Fort Marion. The children of school age were shipped to the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania to be educated into the ‘White Man’s’ ways. The following year the warriors were reunited with their families at Mount Vernon, Alabama. Because the Apaches were from the dry desert climates of the southwest, the high humidity in Florida and Alabama lowered their resistance to diseases such as tuberculosis and many died. In 1894 they were moved to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, which was a more agreeable climate for them.

Geronimo lived at Ft. Sill until his death in 1909, when he would have been in his mid-80s. During his later life he became a celebrity, making appearances at the 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition, the 1901 Pan American Exposition, and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. He rode with several Chiefs in Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade in 1905, after which he was given a personal audience with the President. He pled to be returned home to his homeland. This wish was not to be granted. The following winter he fell off his horse, laid in a cold ditch through the night, and died a few days later of pneumonia.

Because of Geronimo and the Apache love of the Black Range and southwestern New Mexico, it is fitting that the scenic byway be named for a man whose spirit remained with this country he considered his homeland.

For More Information

Barrett, S. M. Geronimo's Story of His Life. New York: Duffield and Company, 1906.

Debo, Angie. Geronimo: The Man, His Time, His Place. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976.

Hermann, Spring. Geronimo: Apache Freedom Fighter. Springfield, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 1997.

Kent, Zachary. The Story of Geronimo. Chicago: Children's Press, 1989.

Mancall, Peter C.Deadly Medicine: Indians and Alcohol in Early America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.

Miles, Nelson. Personal Recollections. New York: Werner, 1897.

Shorto, Russell. Geronimo and the Struggle for Apache Freedom. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Silver Burdett Press, 1989.

Wyatt, Edgar. Geronimo: The Last Apache War Chief. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1952.

Watch the video: Geronimo (July 2022).


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