NINE

Cochise and the Apache Guerrillas

1871January 28, Paris capitulates to German Army. March 18, Communist uprising in Paris. May 10, Franco-German peace treaty signed; France cedes Alsace-Lorraine to Germany. May 28, uprising in Paris is suppressed. October 8, the Great Chicago Fire. October 12, President Grant issues proclamation against Ku Klux Klan. November 10, in Africa, Henry M. Stanley finds Dr. Livingstone. Impressionist painters hold first exhibition in Paris. Darwin’s Descent of Man is published.

1872—March 1, Yellowstone National Park is reserved for the people of the United States. James Fisk’s and Jay Gould’s corrupt Erie Ring collapses. June, U.S. Congress abolishes federal income tax. October, leading Republicans accused of receiving stock of Crédit Mobilier in exchange for political influence to benefit Union Pacific Railroad. November 5, in Rochester, N.Y., Susan B. Anthony and other women’s-rights advocates arrested for attempting to vote. November 6, President Grant reelected.

When I was young I walked all over this country, east and west, and saw no other people than the Apaches. After many summers I walked again and found another race of people had come to take it. How is it? Why is it that the Apaches wait to die—that they carry their lives on their fingernails? They roam over the hills and plains and want the heavens to fall on them. The Apaches were once a great nation; they are now but few, and because of this they want to die and so carry their lives on their fingernails.

—COCHISE OF THE CHIRICAHUA APACHES

I don’t want to run over the mountains anymore; I want to make a big treaty. … I will keep my word until the stones melt. … God made the white man and God made the Apache, and the Apache has just as much right to the country as the white man. I want to make a treaty that will last, so that both can travel over the country and have no trouble.

—DELSHAY OF THE TONTO APACHES

If it had not been for the massacre, there would have been a great many more people here now; but after that massacre who could have stood it? When I made peace with Lieutenant Whitman my heart was very big and happy. The people of Tucson and San Xavier must be crazy. They acted as though they had neither heads nor hearts … they must have a thirst for our blood. … These Tucson people write for the papers and tell their own story. The Apaches have no one to tell their story.

—ESKIMINZIN OF THE ARAVAIPA APACHES

AFTER THE VISIT of Red Cloud in the summer of 1871, Commissioner Ely Parker and other government officials discussed the advisability of inviting the great Apache chief, Cochise, to Washington. Although there had been no military campaigns in the Apache country since the departure of Star Chief Carleton after the Civil War, there were frequent encounters between roving bands of these Indians and the white settlers, miners, and freighters who kept intruding upon their homelands. The government set aside four reservation areas in New Mexico and Arizona for the various bands, but few Apaches would come in to live on any of them. It was Commissioner Parker’s hope that Cochise could help bring about a permanent peace in the Apache country, and he asked his bureau’s representatives in that area to invite the chief to come to Washington.

Not until the spring of 1871 was any white man able to find Cochise, and when at last communication was established, the chief declined the government’s invitation. He said simply that he could not trust either the military or the civilian representatives of the United States.

Cochise was a Chiricahua Apache. He was taller than most of his people, broad-shouldered, deep-chested, his face intelligent, with black eyes, large straight nose, very high forehead, thick black hair. White men who met him said he was gentle in his manners, and very neat and clean in his appearance.

When the Americans first came to Arizona. Cochise had welcomed them. In 1856, during a meeting with Major Enoch Steen of the First U.S. Dragoons, Cochise promised to let Americans cross the Chiricahua country on the southern route to California. He did not object when the Butterfield Overland Mail established a stage station in Apache Pass; in fact, Chiricahuas living-nearby cut wood for the station, trading it for supplies.

Then, one day in February, 1861, Cochise received a message from Apache Pass asking him to come in to the station for a conference with a military officer. Expecting that this would be a routine matter, Cochise took along five members of his family—his brother, two nephews, a woman, and a child. The military officer who wanted to see him was Lieutenant George N. Bascom of the Seventh Infantry, and he had been sent with a company of soldiers to recover cattle and a half-breed boy stolen from the ranch of John Ward. Ward had accused Cochise’s Chiricahuas of taking the cattle and the boy.

As soon as Cochise and his relatives entered Bascom’s tent, twelve soldiers surrounded it, and the lieutenant peremptorily demanded that the Chiricahuas return the cattle and the boy.

Cochise had heard about the captured boy. A band of Coyoteros from the Gila had raided the Ward ranch, he said, and probably were at Black Mountain. Cochise thought he might be able to arrange a ransom. Bascom’s reply was an accusation that the Chiricahuas had the boy and the cattle. At first Cochise thought the young officer was joking. Bascom was short-tempered, however, and when Cochise made light of the accusation, the lieutenant ordered the arrest of Cochise and his relatives, declaring that he would hold them as hostages for return of the cattle and the boy.

At the moment the soldiers moved in to make the arrest, Cochise slashed a hole in the tent and fled under a volley of rifle fire. Although wounded, he managed to escape Bascom’s pursuit, but his relatives were held as prisoners. To get them free, Cochise and his warriors captured three white men on the Butterfield Trail, and tried to make an exchange with the lieutenant. Bascom refused the exchange unless the stolen cattle and the boy were included.

Infuriated because Bascom would not believe his people innocent, Cochise blocked Apache Pass and besieged the infantry company at the stage station. After giving Bascom one more chance to exchange, Cochise executed his prisoners, mutilating them with lances, a cruel practice the Apaches had learned from the Spaniards. A few days later Lieutenant Bascom retaliated by hanging Cochise’s three male relatives.

It was at this point in history that the Chiricahuas transferred their hatred of the Spaniards to the Americans. For a quarter of a century they and other Apaches would fight an intermittent guerrilla campaign that would be more costly in lives and treasure than any of the other Indian wars.

At this time (1861) the great war chief of the Apaches was Mangas Colorado, or Red Sleeves, a seventy-year-old Mimbreño who was even taller than the towering Cochise. He had followers among many of the bands in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Cochise was married to Mangas’ daughter, and after the Bascom affair the two men joined forces to drive the Americans from their homeland. They attacked wagon trains, stopped the movement of stagecoaches and mails, and drove several hundred white miners out of their territory from the Chiricahua Mountains to the Mogollons. After the Bluecoats and the Graycoats began their Civil War, Mangas and Cochise fought skirmishes with the Graycoats until they withdrew eastward.

15. Cochise. Reproduced from a painting in the Arizona Historical Society.

And then, in 1862, Star Chief Carleton came marching from California with his thousands of Bluecoats, using the old trail that ran though the heart of Chiricahua country. They came in small companies at first, always halting for water at a spring near the abandoned stage station in Apache Pass. In the Moon of the Horse, July 15, Mangas and Cochise deployed their five hundred warriors along rocky heights overlooking the pass and spring. Three companies of Bluecoat infantry escorted by a troop of pony soldiers and two wheeled vehicles were approaching from the west. When the column of three hundred soldiers was strung out along the pass, the Apaches attacked suddenly with bullets and arrows. After returning fire for a few minutes, the soldiers hurriedly retreated from the pass.

The Apaches did not pursue. They knew the Bluecoats would come back. After re-forming, the infantrymen pushed into the pass again, this time with the two wagons rolling close behind them. The soldiers came within a few hundred yards of the springs, but there was no cover to shield them there, and the Apaches had the water supply ringed in from above. For several minutes the Bluecoats held their position. Then the wagons came rolling up. Suddenly great flashes of fire burst from the wagons. Clouds of black smoke arose, a great thundering echoed among the high rocks, and bits of flying metal screamed through the air. The Apaches had heard the little cannons of the Spaniards, but these big thundering wagon-guns were filled with terror and death. Now the warriors retreated, and the Bluecoats moved up to take possession of the sweet-flowing waters of the springs.

Mangas and Cochise were not yet ready to quit. If they could draw small bands of soldiers away from the wagon-guns, they might still defeat them. Next morning they saw a platoon of pony soldiers riding back toward the west, probably to warn other soldiers coming from that direction. Mangas took fifty mounted warriors and went dashing down to cut them off. In the running fight which followed, Mangas was wounded in the chest, falling unconscious from his horse. Dismayed by the loss of their leader, the warriors broke off the fight and carried Mangas’ bleeding body back up to the heights.

Cochise was determined to save Mangas’ life. Instead of trusting to the medicine men and their chants and rattles, he placed his father-in-law in a sling, and with an escort of warriors rode steadily southward for a hundred miles into Mexico to the village of Janos. A Mexican surgeon of great reputation lived there, and as he was presented with the helpless body of Mangas Colorado he was given a terse ultimatum: Make him well. If he dies, this town will die.

Some months later Mangas was back in his Mimbres Mountains, wearing a broad-brimmed straw hat, a sarape, leather leggings, and Chinese sandals that he had acquired in Mexico. He was thinner and his face more wrinkled than before, but he could still outride and outshoot warriors half a century younger than he. While he was resting in his mountains he heard that Star Chief Carleton had rounded up the Mescaleros and imprisoned them at Bosque Redondo. He learned that the Bluecoats were searching out Apaches everywhere and killing them with their wagon-guns as they had killed sixty-three of his and Cochise’s warriors at Apache Pass.

In the Time of the Flying Ants (January, 1863) Mangas was camped on the Mimbres River. For some time he had been thinking of how he might obtain peace for all the Apaches before he died. He remembered the treaty he had signed at Sante Fe in 1852. In that year the Apaches and the people of the United States had agreed to perpetual peace and friendship. For a few years there had been peace and friendship, but now there was hostility and death. He wanted to see his people live in peace again. He knew that even his bravest and most cunning young warriors such as Victorio and Geronimo could not defeat the great power of the United States. Perhaps it was time for another treaty with the Americans and their Bluecoat soldiers, who had become as numerous as the flying ants.

One day a Mexican approached Mangas’ camp under a truce flag. He said that some soldiers were nearby and wanted to talk peace. To Mangas their coming seemed providential. He would have preferred counseling with a star chief, but he agreed to go and see the little capitán, Edmond Shirland, of the California Volunteers. The Mimbreños warriors warned him not to go. Did he not remember what had happened to Cochise when he went to see the soldiers at Apache Pass? Mangas shrugged off their fears. After all, he was but an old man. What harm could the soldiers do to an old man who wanted only to talk peace? The warriors insisted that a guard accompany him; he chose fifteen men, and they started up the trail toward the soldier camp.

When they came within sight of the camp, Mangas and his party waited for the capitán to show himself. A miner who spoke Spanish came out to escort Mangas into the camp, but the Apache guards would not let their chief go in until Captain Shirland mounted a truce flag. As soon as the white banner was raised, Mangas ordered his warriors to turn back; he would go in alone. He was protected by a truce, and would be perfectly safe. Mangas rode on toward the soldier camp, but his warriors had scarcely disappeared from view when a dozen soldiers sprang from the underbrush behind him, with rifles cocked and ready. He was a prisoner.

“We hurried Mangas off to our camp at old Fort McLean,” said Daniel Conner, one of the miners who was traveling with the California Volunteers, “and arrived in time to see General West come up with his command. The general walked out to where Mangas was in custody to see him, and looked like a pigmy beside the old chief, who also towered above everybody about him in stature. He looked careworn and refused to talk and evidently felt that he had made a great mistake in trusting the paleface on this occasion.” 1

Two soldiers were assigned to guard Mangas, and as night came on and the air turned bitter cold, they built a log fire to keep themselves and their prisoner from freezing. One of the California Volunteers, Private Clark Stocking, afterward reported hearing General Joseph West’s orders to the guards: “I want him dead or alive tomorrow morning, do you understand, I want him dead.”2

Because of the presence of Mangas’ Apaches in the area, extra sentinels were assigned to patrol the camp after darkness fell. Daniel Conner was pressed into service, and as he was walking his post just before midnight he noticed that the soldiers guarding Mangas were annoying the old chief so that he kept drawing his feet up restlessly under his blanket. Curious as to what the soldiers were doing, Conner stood just outside the firelight and watched them. They were heating their bayonets in the fire and touching them to Mangas’ feet and legs. After the chief had endured this torture several times, he raised up and “began to expostulate in a vigorous way by telling the sentinels in Spanish that he was no child to be playing with. But his expostulations were cut short, for he had hardly begun his exclamations when both sentinels promptly brought down their minié muskets to bear on him and fired, nearly at the same time, through his body.”

When Mangas fell back, the guards emptied their pistols into his body. A soldier took his scalp, another cut off his head and boiled the flesh away so that he could sell the skull to a phrenologist in the East. They dumped the headless body in a ditch. The official military report stated that Mangas was killed while attempting escape.

After that, as Daniel Conner put it, “the Indians went to war in earnest … they seemed bent on avenging his death with all their power.” 3

From the Chiricahua country of Arizona to the Mimbres Mountains of New Mexico, Cochise and his three hundred warriors began a campaign to drive out the treacherous white men or sell their lives in the attempt. Victorio assembled another band, including Mescaleros who had escaped from Bosque Redondo, and they raided settlements and trails along the Rio Grande from the Jornado del Muerto to El Paso. For two years these tiny armies of Apaches kept the Southwest in turmoil. Most were armed only with bows and arrows, and their arrows were frail three-foot reeds, tri-feathered, with triangular inch-long quartz heads chipped to fine points. Held to their shafts by jagged notches instead of thongs or wrappings, these missiles had to be handled with great care, but when the heads reached their marks, they imbedded with the tearing force of minié bullets. With what they had, the Apaches fought well, but they were outnumbered a hundred to one, and they could see nothing in the future but death or imprisonment.

After the Civil War’s end and General Carleton’s departure, the United States government made overtures of peace toward the Apaches. In the Moon of the Big Leaves (April 21, 1865) Victorio and Nana met at Santa Rita with a representative from the United States. “I and my people want peace,” Victorio said. “We are tired of war. We are poor and have little for ourselves and our families to eat or wear. We want to make a peace, a lasting peace, one that will keep. … I have washed my hands and mouth with cold fresh water, and what I said is true.”

“You can trust us,” Nana added.

The agent’s reply was brief: “I did not come to ask you to make peace, but to tell you that you can have peace by going to the reservation at the Bosque Redondo.”

They had heard much, and all of it bad, about Bosque Redondo. “I have no pockets to put what you say in,” Nana commented dryly, “but the words have sunk deep into my heart. They will not be forgotten.” 4

Victorio asked for a two-day delay before starting to the reservation; he wanted to gather up all his people and their horses. He promised to meet the agent again on April 23, at Pinos Altos.

For four days the agent waited at Pinos Altos, but not a single Apache appeared. Rather than go to the hated Bosque, they preferred to face hunger, privation, and death. Some drifted southward into Mexico; others joined Cochise in the Dragoon Mountains. After his experience at Apache Pass and then the murder of Mangas, Cochise had not even responded to the overtures of peace. During the next five years, the warrior Apaches generally stayed clear of American forts and settlements. Whenever a rancher or miner grew careless, however, a band of raiders would swoop down to capture horses or cattle, and thus they carried on their guerrilla war. By 1870 raids were growing more frequent, and because Cochise was the chief best known to white men, he was usually held responsible for hostile actions no matter where they occurred.

This was why in the spring of 1871 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs so eagerly petitioned Cochise to visit Washington. Cochise, however, did not believe that anything had changed; he still could not trust any representative of the United States government. A few weeks later, after what happened to Eskiminzin and the Aravaipas at Camp Grant, Cochise was even more positive that no Apache should ever again put his life in the hands of the treacherous Americans.

Eskiminzin and his little band of 150 followers lived along Aravaipa Creek, from which they took their name. This was north of Cochise’s stronghold, between the San Pedro River and the Galiuro Mountains. Eskiminzin was a stocky, slightly bow-legged Apache with a handsome bulldog face. He could be easygoing at times, fierce at others. One day in February, 1871, Eskiminzin walked into Camp Grant, a small post at the confluence of Aravaipa Creek and the San Pedro. He had heard that the capitán, Lieutenant Royal E. Whitman, was friendly, and he asked to see him.

Eskiminzin told Whitman that his people no longer had a home and could make none because the Bluecoats were always pursuing them and shooting at them for no reason other than that they were Apaches. He wanted to make peace so they could settle down and plant crops along the Aravaipa.

Whitman asked Eskiminzin why he did not go to the White Mountains where the government had set aside a reservation. “That is not our country,” the chief replied. “Neither are they our people. We are at peace with them [the Coyoteros] but never have mixed with them. Our fathers and their fathers before them have lived in these mountains and have raised corn in this valley. We are taught to make mescal,* our principal article of food, and in summer and winter here we have a never-failing supply. At the White Mountains there is none, and without it now we get sick. Some of our people have been for a short time at the White Mountains, but they are not contented, and they all say, ‘Let us go to the Aravaipa and make a final peace and never break it.’” 5

Lieutenant Whitman told Eskiminzin that he had no authority to make peace with his band, but that if they surrendered their firearms he could permit them to stay near the fort as technical prisoners of war until he received instructions from his superior officers. Eskiminzin agreed to this, and the Aravaipas came in a few at a time to turn in their guns, some even disposing of their bows and arrows. They established a village a few miles up the creek, planted corn, and began cooking mescal. Impressed by their industry, Whitman employed them to cut hay for the camp’s cavalry horses so they could earn money to buy supplies. Neighboring ranchers also employed some of them as laborers. The experiment worked so well that by mid-March more than a hundred other Apaches, including some Pinals, had joined Eskiminzin’s people, and others were coming in almost daily.

Whitman meanwhile had written an explanation of the situation to his military superiors, requesting instructions, but late in April his inquiry was returned for resubmission on proper government forms. Uneasy because he knew that all responsibility for actions of Eskiminzin’s Apaches was his, the lieutenant kept a close watch on their movements.

On April 10 Apaches raided San Xavier, south of Tucson, stealing cattle and horses. On April 13 four Americans were killed in a raid near the San Pedro east of Tucson.

Tucson in 1871 was an oasis of three thousand gamblers, saloon-keepers, traders, freighters, miners, and a few contractors who had made fortunes during the Civil War and were hopeful of continuing their profits with an Indian war. This backwash of citizens had organized a Committee of Public Safety to protect themselves from Apaches, but as none came near the town, the committee frequently saddled up and rode out in pursuit of raiders in the outlying communities. After the two April raids, some members of the committee announced that the raiders had come from the Aravaipa village near Camp Grant. Although Camp Grant was fifty-five miles distant, and it was unlikely that Aravaipas would have traveled that far to raid, the pronouncement was readily accepted by most of the Tucson citizens. In general they were opposed to agencies where Apaches worked for a living and were peaceful; such conditions led to reductions in military forces and a slackening of war prosperity.

During the last weeks of April, a veteran Indian fighter named William S. Oury began organizing an expedition to attack the unarmed Aravaipas near Camp Grant. Six Americans and forty-two Mexicans agreed to participate, but Oury decided this was not enough to ensure success. From the Papago Indians, who years before had been subdued by Spanish soldiers and converted to Christianity by Spanish priests, he recruited ninety-two mercenaries. On April 28 this formidable band of 140 well-armed men was ready to ride.

16. Eskiminzin, head chief of the Aravaipa Apaches. Photographed probably by Charles M. Bell in Washington, D.C., 1876. Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

The first warning that Lieutenant Whitman at Camp Grant had of the expedition was a message from the small military garrison at Tucson informing him that a large party had left there on the twenty-eighth with the avowed purpose of killing all the Indians near Camp Grant. Whitman received the dispatch from a mounted messenger at 7:30 A.M. on April 30.

“I immediately sent the two interpreters, mounted, to the Indian camp,” Whitman later reported, “with orders to tell the chiefs the exact state of things, and for them to bring their entire party inside the post. … My messengers returned in about an hour, with intelligence that they could find no living-Indians.” 6

Less than three hours before Whitman received the warning message, the Tucson expedition was deployed along the creek bluffs and the sandy approaches of the Aravaipas’ village. The men on the low ground opened fire on the wickiups, and as the Apaches ran into the open, rifle fire from the bluffs cut them down. In half an hour every Apache in the camp had fled, been captured, or was dead. The captives were all children, twenty-seven of them, taken by the Christianized Papagos to be sold into slavery in Mexico.

When Whitman reached the village it was still burning, and the ground was strewn with dead and mutilated women and children. “I found quite a number of women shot while asleep beside their bundles of hay which they had collected to bring in that morning. The wounded who were unable to get away had their brains beaten out with clubs or stones, while some were shot full of arrows after having been mortally wounded by gunshot. The bodies were all stripped.”

Surgeon C. B. Briesly, who accompanied Lieutenant Whitman, reported that two of the women “were lying in such a position, and from the appearance of their genital organs and of their wounds, there can be no doubt that they were first ravished and then shot dead. … One infant of some ten months was shot twice and one leg hacked nearly off.” 7

Whitman was concerned that the survivors who had fled into the mountains would blame him for failing to protect them. “I thought the act of caring for their dead would be an evidence to them of our sympathy at least, and the conjecture proved correct, for while at the work many of them came to the spot and indulged in their expressions of grief too wild and terrible to be described … of the whole number buried [about a hundred] one was an old man and one was a well-grown boy—all the rest women and children.” Death from wounds and the discovery of missing bodies eventually brought the total killed to 144. Eskiminzin did not return, and some of the Apaches believed he would go on the warpath in revenge for the massacre.

“My women and children have been killed before my face,” one of the men told Whitman, “and I have been unable to defend them. Most Indians in my place would take a knife and cut his throat.” But after the lieutenant pledged his word that he would not rest until they had justice, the grieving Aravaipas agreed to help rebuild the village and start life over again.

Whitman’s persistent efforts finally brought the Tucson killers to trial. The defense claimed that the citizens of Tucson had followed the trail of murdering Apaches straight to the Aravaipa village. Oscar Hutton, the post guide at Camp Grant, testified for the prosecution: “I give it as my deliberate judgment that no raiding party was ever made up from the Indians at this post.” F. L. Austin, the post trader, Miles L. Wood, the beef contractor, and William Kness, who carried the mail between Camp Grant and Tucson, all made similar statements. The trial lasted for five days; the jury deliberated for nineteen minutes; the verdict was for release of the Tucson killers.

As for Lieutenant Whitman, his unpopular defense of Apaches destroyed his military career. He survived three court-martials on ridiculous charges, and after several more years of service without promotion he resigned.

The Camp Grant massacre, however, fixed the attention of Washington upon the Apaches. President Grant described the attack as “purely murder,” and ordered the Army and the Indian Bureau to take urgent actions to bring peace to the Southwest.

In June, 1871, General George Crook arrived at Tucson to take command of the Department of Arizona. A few weeks later Vincent Colyer, a special representative of the Indian Bureau, arrived at Camp Grant. Both men were keenly interested in arranging a meeting with the leading Apache chiefs, especially Cochise.

Colyer first met with Eskiminzin in hopes of persuading him to return to his peaceful ways. Eskiminzin came down out of the mountains and said he would be glad to talk peace with Commissioner Colyer. “The commissioner probably thought he would see a great capitán,” Eskiminzin remarked quietly, “but he only sees a very poor man and not very much of a capitán. If the commissioner had seen me about three moons ago he would have seen me a capitán. Then I had many people, but many have been massacred. Now I have got few people. Ever since I left this place, I have been nearby. I knew I had friends here but I was afraid to come back. I never had much to say, but this I can say, I like this place. I have said all I ought to say, since I have few people anywhere to speak for. If it had not been for the massacre, there would have been a great many more people here now; but after that massacre who could have stood it? When I made peace with Lieutenant Whitman my heart was very big and happy. The people of Tucson and San Xavier must be crazy. They acted as though they had neither heads nor hearts … they must have a thirst for our blood. … These Tucson people write for the papers and tell their own story. The Apaches have no one to tell their story.”

Colyer promised to tell the Apaches’ story to the Great Father and to the white people who had never heard of it.

“I think it must have been God who gave you a good heart to come and see us, or you must have had a good father and mother to make you so kind.”

“It was God,” Colyer declared.

“It was,” Eskiminzin said, but the white men present could not tell in the translation whether he spoke in confirmation or was asking a question. 8

The next chief on Colyer’s agenda was Delshay of the Tonto Apaches. Delshay was a stocky, broad-shouldered man of about thirty-five. He wore a silver ornament in one ear, his facial expression was fierce, and he usually moved at a half-trot as though in a constant hurry. As early as 1868 Delshay had agreed to keep the Tontos at peace and use Camp McDowell on the west bank of the Rio Verde as his agency. Delshay, however, found the Bluecoat soldiers to be exceedingly treacherous. On one occasion an officer had fired buckshot into Delshay’s back for no reason the chief could fathom, and he was quite certain that the post surgeon had tried to poison him. After these occurrences, Delshay stayed clear of Camp McDowell.

Commissioner Colyer arrived at Camp McDowell late in September with authority to use soldiers to open communications with Delshay. Although truce flags, smoke signals, and night fires were used extensively by parties of cavalry and infantry, Delshay would not respond until he had thoroughly tested the intentions of the Bluecoats. By the time he agreed to meet with Captain W. N. Netterville in Sunflower Valley (October 31, 1871), Commissioner Colyer had returned to Washington to make his report. A copy of Delshay’s remarks was forwarded to Colyer.

“I don’t want to run over the mountains anymore,” Delshay said. “I want to make a big treaty. … I will make a peace that will last; I will keep my word until the stones melt.” He did not want to take the Tontos back to Camp McDowell, however. It was not a good place (after all, he had been shot and poisoned there). The Tontos preferred to live in Sunflower Valley near the mountains so they could gather the fruit and get the wild game there. “If the big capitán at Camp McDowell does not put a post where I say,” he insisted, “I can do nothing more, for God made the white man and God made the Apache, and the Apache has just as much right to the country as the white man. I want to make a treaty that will last, so that both can travel over the country and have no trouble; as soon as the treaty is made I want a piece of paper so that I can travel over the country as a white man. I will put a rock down to show that when it melts the treaty is to be broken. … If I make a treaty, I expect the big capitán will come and see me whenever I send for him, and I will do the same whenever he sends for me. If a treaty is made and the big capitán, does not keep his promises with me I will put his word in a hole and cover it up with dirt. I promise that when a treaty is made the white man or soldiers can turn out all their horses and mules without anyone to look after them, and if any are stolen by the Apaches I will cut my throat. I want to make a big treaty, and if the Americans break the treaty I do not want any more trouble; the white man can take one road and I can take the other. … Tell the big capitán at Camp McDowell that I will go to see him in twelve days.” 9

The closest that Colyer came to Cochise was Cañada Alamosa, an agency which had been established by the Indian Bureau forty-two miles southwest of Fort Craig, New Mexico. There he talked with two members of Cochise’s band. They told him that the Chiricahuas had been in Mexico, but the Mexican government was offering three hundred dollars for Apache scalps, and this had brought out scouting parties who attacked them in the mountains of Sonora. They had scattered and were returning to their old Arizona strongholds. Cochise was somewhere in the Dragoon Mountains.

A courier was sent to find Cochise, but when the man crossed into Arizona Territory he unexpectedly met General Crook, who refused to recognize his authority to go to Cochise’s camp. Crook ordered the courier to return immediately to New Mexico.

Crook wanted Cochise for himself, and to find him dead or alive he ordered out five companies of cavalry to scour the Chiricahua Mountains. Gray Wolf was the name the Apaches gave General Crook. Cochise eluded the Gray Wolf by crossing into New Mexico. He sent a messenger to the Star Chief at Santa Fe, General Gordon Granger, informing him that he would meet him at Cañada Alamosa to talk peace.

Granger arrived in a six-mule ambulance with a small escort, and Cochise was waiting for him. The preliminaries were brief. Both men were eager to get the matter settled. For Granger it was an opportunity to win fame as the man who took the surrender of the great Cochise. For Cochise it was the end of the road; he was almost sixty years old and was very tired; streaks of silver dominated his shoulder-length hair.

Granger explained that peace was possible only if the Chiricahuas agreed to settle on a reservation. “No Apache would be allowed to leave the reservation without a written pass from the agent,” the general said, “and permission would never be given to go on any kind of excursion across the line into Old Mexico.”

Cochise replied in a quiet voice, seldom gesturing: “The sun has been very hot on my head and made me as in a fire; my blood was on fire, but now I have come into this valley and drunk of these waters and washed myself in them and they have cooled me. Now that I am cool I have come with my hands open to you to live in peace with you. I speak straight and do not wish to deceive or be deceived. I want a good, strong and lasting peace. When God made the world he gave one part to the white man and another to the Apache. Why was it? Why did they come together? Now that I am to speak, the sun, the moon, the earth, the air, the waters, the birds and beasts, even the children unborn shall rejoice at my words. The white people have looked for me long. I am here! What do they want? They have looked for me long; why am I worth so much? If I am worth so much why not mark where I set my foot and look when I spit? The coyotes go about at night to rob and kill; I cannot see them; I am not God. I am no longer chief of all the Apaches. I am no longer rich; I am but a poor man. The world was not always this way. God made us not as you; we were born like the animals, in the dry grass, not on beds like you. This is why we do as the animals, go about at night and rob and steal. If I had such things as you have, I would not do as I do, for then I would not need to do so. There are Indians who go about killing and robbing. I do not command them. If I did, they would not do so. My warriors have been killed in Sonora. I came in here because God told me to do so. He said it was good to be at peace—so I came! I was going around the world with the clouds, and the air, when God spoke to my thoughts and told me to come in here and be at peace with all. He said the world was for us all; how was it?

“When I was young I walked all over this country, east and west, and saw no other people than the Apaches. After many summers I walked again and found another race of people had come to take it. How is it? Why is it that the Apaches wait to die—that they carry their lives on their fingernails. They roam over the hills and plains and want the heavens to fall on them. The Apaches were once a great nation; they are now but few, and because of this they want to die and so carry their lives on their fingernails. Many have been killed in battle. You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight to our hearts. Tell me, if the Virgin Mary has walked throughout all the land, why has she never entered the wickiups of the Apaches? Why have we never seen or heard her?

“I have no father nor mother; I am alone in the world. No one cares for Cochise; that is why I do not care to live, and wish the rocks to fall on me and cover me up. If I had a father and mother like you, I would be with them and they with me. When I was going around the world, all were asking for Cochise. Now he is here—you see him and hear him—are you glad? If so, say so. Speak, Americans and Mexicans, I do not wish to hide anything from you nor have you hide anything from me; I will not lie to you; do not lie to me.”

When the discussion came around to a location for the Chiricahua reservation, Granger said that the government wanted to move the agency from Cañada Alamosa to Fort Tularosa in the Mogollons. (At Cañada Alamosa, three hundred Mexicans had settled and made land claims.)

“I want to live in these mountains,” Cochise protested. “I do not want to go to Tularosa. That is a long ways off. The flies on those mountains eat out the eyes of the horses. The bad spirits live there. I have drunk of these waters and they have cooled me; I do not want to leave here.” 10

General Granger said that he would do what he could to persuade the government to let the Chiricahuas live in Cañada Alamosa with its streams of clear cold water. Cochise promised that he would keep his people there in peace with their Mexican neighbors, and he kept his promise. A few months later, however, the government ordered the removal of all Apaches from Cañada Alamosa to Fort Tularosa. As soon as he heard of the order, Cochise slipped away with his warriors. They divided into small parties, fleeing once again to their dry and rocky mountains in southeastern Arizona. This time, Cochise resolved, he would stay there. Let the Gray Wolf, Crook, come after him if he must; Cochise would fight him with rocks if need be, and then if God willed it, the rocks could fall on Cochise and cover him up.

In the Time When the Corn Is Taken In (September, 1872) Cochise began receiving reports from his lookouts that a small party of white men was approaching his stronghold. They were traveling in one of the Army’s little wagons that were made for carrying wounded men. The lookouts reported that Taglito, the Red Beard, was with them—Tom Jeffords. Cochise had not seen Taglito for a long time.

Back in the old days after Cochise and Mangas had gone to war with the Bluecoats, Tom Jeffords contracted to carry the mail between Fort Bowie and Tucson. Apache warriors ambushed Jeffords and his riders so often that he almost gave up the contract. And then one day the red-bearded white man came all alone to Cochise’s camp. He dismounted, unbuckled his cartridge belt, and handed it and his weapons to one of the Chiricahua women. With no show of fear whatsoever, Taglito walked over to where Cochise was sitting and sat down beside him. After a proper interval of silence, Taglito Jeffords told Cochise he wanted a personal treaty with him so that he could earn his living carrying the mails. Cochise was baffled. He had never known such a white man. There was nothing he could do but honor Taglito’s courage by promising to let him ride his mail route unmolested. Jeffords and his riders were never ambushed again, and many times afterward the tall red-bearded man came back to Cochise’s camp and they would talk and drink tiswin together.

Cochise knew that if Taglito was with the party coming into the mountains, they were searching for him. He sent his brother Juan to meet the white men, and then waited in concealment with his family until he was certain that everything was all right. Then he rode down with his son Naiche. Dismounting, he embraced Jeffords, who said in English to a white-bearded man in dusty clothing: “This is Cochise.” The right sleeve of the bearded man’s coat was empty; he looked like an old warrior, and Cochise was not surprised when Taglito called him a general. He was Oliver Otis Howard. “Buenos dias, señor,” Cochise said, and they shook hands.

One by one Cochise’s guard of warriors came in, and they formed a semicircle, sitting on blankets, for a council with the one-armed graybeard.

“Will the general explain the object of his visit?” Cochise asked in Apache. Taglito translated the words.

“The Great Father, President Grant, sent me to make peace between you and the white people,” General Howard said.

“Nobody wants peace more than I do,” Cochise assured him.

“Then,” said Howard, “we can make peace.”

Cochise replied that the Chiricahuas had attacked no white men since their flight from Cañada Alamosa. “My horses are poor and few,” he added. “I might have brought in more by raiding the Tucson road, but I did not do it.”

Howard suggested that the Chiricahuas could live better if they would agree to move to a big reservation on the Rio Grande.

“I have been there,” Cochise said, “and I like the country. Rather than not have peace I will go and take such of my people as I can, but that move will break up my tribe. Why not give me Apache Pass? Give me that, and I will protect all the roads. I will see that nobody’s property is taken by Indians.”

Howard was surprised. “Perhaps we could do that,” he said, and then went on to point out the advantages of living on the Rio Grande.

Cochise was no longer interested in the Rio Grande. “Why shut me up on a reservation?” he asked. “We will make peace. We will keep it faithfully. But let us go around free as Americans do. Let us go wherever we please.”

Howard tried to explain that the Chiricahua country did not belong to the Indians, that all Americans had an interest in it. “To keep the peace,” he said, “we must fix metes and bounds.”

Cochise could not understand why boundaries could not be fixed around the Dragoon Mountains as well as on the Rio Grande. “How long, General, will you stay?” he asked. “Will you wait for my capitánes to come in and have a talk?”

“I came from Washington to meet your people and make peace.” Howard replied, “and will stay as long as necessary.”

General Oliver Otis Howard, straitlaced New Englander, graduate of West Point, hero of Gettysburg, loser of an arm in battle at Fair Oaks, Virginia, remained in the Apache camp for eleven days and was completely won over by the courtesy and direct simplicity of Cochise. He was charmed by the Chiricahua women and children.

“I was forced to abandon the Alamosa scheme,” he wrote afterward, “and to give them, as Cochise had suggested, a reservation embracing a part of the Chiricahua Mountains and of the valley adjoining on the west, which included the Big Sulphur Spring and Rodgers’ ranch.” 11

One more matter had to be settled. By law a white man must be appointed agent for the new reservation. For Cochise this was no problem; there was only one white man that all the Chiricahuas trusted—Taglito, the red-bearded Tom Jeffords. At first Jeffords objected. He had no experience in that line, and besides, the pay was poor. Cochise insisted, until at last Jeffords gave in. After all, he owed the Chiricahuas his life and prosperity.

Less fortunate were Delshay’s Tonto Apaches and Eskiminzin’s Aravaipas.

After Delshay’s offer to the big capitán at Camp McDowell to make a treaty if a Tonto agency was established in Sunflower Valley, the chief received no reply. Delshay accepted this as a refusal. “God made the white man and God made the Apache,” he had said, “and the Apache has just as much right to the country as the white man.” He had made no treaty and received no piece of paper so that he could travel over the country as a white man; therefore he and his warriors traveled over the country as Apaches. The white men did not like this, and late in 1872 the Gray Wolf sent soldiers hunting through the Tonto Basin for Delshay and his warrior band. Not until the Time of the Big Leaves (April, 1873) did the soldiers come in sufficient numbers to entrap Delshay and the Tontos. They were surrounded, with bullets flying among their women and children, and there was nothing to do but raise a white flag.

The black-bearded soldier chief, Major George M. Randall, took the Tontos to Fort Apache on the White Mountain reservation. In those days the Gray Wolf preferred to use his soldier chiefs instead of civilians as reservation agents. They made the Apaches wear metal tags like dogs, and these tags had numbers on them so that it was impossible for anyone to slip away to the Tonto Basin even for a few days. Delshay and the others grew homesick for their timbered, snowy-topped mountains. On the reservation there was never enough of anything—food, or tools to work with—and they did not get along well with the Coyoteros, who looked upon them as intruders on their reservation. But it was lack of freedom to travel over the country that kept the Tontos miserable.

At last, in the Time of Ripeness (July, 1873), Delshay decided he could no longer bear confinement at White Mountain, and one night he led his people in flight. To keep the Bluecoats from hunting them down again he decided to go to the reservation on Rio Verde. A civilian agent was in charge there, and he promised Delshay that the Tontos could live at Rio Verde if they made no trouble for him. If they ran away again, they would be hunted down and killed. And so Delshay and his people went to work building aranchería on the river near Camp Verde.

That summer there was an uprising at San Carlos agency in which a little soldier chief (Lieutenant Jacob Almy) was killed. The Apache leaders fled, some of them toward the Rio Verde, and they camped near Delshay’s ranchería. When the Gray Wolf heard of this, he accused Delshay of aiding the fugitives, and sent an order to Camp Verde to have the Tonto chief arrested. Forewarned, Delshay decided he would have to flee once again. He did not want to lose what little freedom he had left, to be locked in irons and shut into the sixteen-foot hole that the soldiers had dug out of the canyon side for Indian prisoners. With a few loyal followers he ran away to the Tonto Basin.

He knew that the hunt would soon begin. The Gray Wolf would not rest until he had tracked Delshay down. For months Delshay and his men eluded the hunters. At last General Crook decided that he could not keep troops forever prowling through the Tonto Basin; only another Apache could find Delshay. And so the general announced that he would pay a reward for Delshay’s head. In July, 1874, two mercenary Apaches reported separately to Crook’s headquarters. Each presented a severed head, identified as Delshay’s. “Being satisfied that both parties were earnest in their beliefs,” Crook said, “and the bringing in of an extra head was not amiss, I paid both parties.” 12 The heads, with those of other slain Apaches, were mounted on the parade grounds at Rio Verde and San Carlos.

Eskiminzin and the Aravaipas also found it difficult to live in peace. After Commissioner Colyer’s visit in 1871, Eskiminzin and his people started life anew at Camp Grant. They rebuilt their wickiup village and replanted their grain fields. Just as everything seemed to be going well, however, the government decided to move Camp Grant sixty miles to the southeast. Using this move as an excuse to clear the San Pedro Valley of Indians, the Army transferred the Aravaipas to San Carlos, a new agency on the Gila River.

The move was made in February, 1873, and the Aravaipas were beginning to build a new ranchería and to plant new fields at San Carlos when the uprising occurred in which Lieutenant Almy was killed. Neither Eskiminzin nor any of the other Aravaipas had anything to do with the killing, but because Eskiminzin was a chief, the Gray Wolf ordered him arrested and confined as a “military precaution.”

He remained a prisoner until the night of January 4, 1874, when he escaped and led his people away from the reservation. For four cold months they roamed the unfamiliar mountains in search of food and shelter. By April most of the Aravaipas were sick and hungry. To keep them from dying, Eskiminzin returned to San Carlos and sought out the agent.

“We have done nothing wrong,” he said. “But we are afraid. That is why we ran away. Now we come back. If we stay in the mountains, we will die of hunger and cold-sickness. If American soldiers kill us here, it will be just the same. We will not run away again.”

As soon as the agent reported the return of the Aravaipas, an order came from the Army to arrest Eskiminzin and his sub-chiefs, hobble them with chains so they could not escape, and transport them as prisoners of war to the new site of Camp Grant.

“What have I done?” Eskiminzin asked the soldier chief who came to arrest him.

The soldier chief did not know. The arrest was a “military precaution.”

At the new Camp Grant, Eskiminzin and his subchiefs were kept chained together while they made adobe bricks for the new buildings at the post. At night they slept in their chains on the ground, and they ate food discarded by the soldiers.

One day in that summer a young white man came to see Eskiminzin and told him that he was the new agent at San Carlos. He was John Clum. He said the Aravaipas at San Carlos needed their chief to lead them. “Why are you a prisoner?” Clum asked.

“I have done nothing,” Eskiminzin replied. “White men tell lies about me, maybe. I always try to do right.” 13

Clum said he would arrange his release if Eskiminzin would promise to help him improve conditions at San Carlos.

Two months later Eskiminzin rejoined his people. Once again the future looked bright, but the Aravaipa chief was wise enough not to hope for too much. Since the coming of the white men, he was never sure of a place where he could spread his blanket; the future for any Apache was very uncertain.

In the spring of 1874 Cochise became very ill from a debilitating disease. Tom Jeffords, the Chiricahua agent, brought the Army surgeon from Fort Bowie to examine his old friend, but the surgeon could not determine the ailment. His prescriptions brought no improvement, and the muscular body of the great Apache leader began wasting away.

During this time the government decided that money could be saved by consolidating the Chiricahua agency with the new Hot Springs agency in New Mexico. When officials came to discuss the matter with Cochise, he told them the transfer was a matter of indifference to him, that he would be dead before he could be moved. His subchiefs and his sons objected strongly, however, declaring that if the agency was moved, they would not go. Not even the United States had enough troops to move them, they said, because they would rather die in their mountains than live at the Hot Springs.

After the government officials departed, Cochise grew so weak and was suffering from such intense internal pain that Jeffords decided to ride to Fort Bowie for the surgeon. As he was preparing to leave, Cochise asked: “Do you think you will see me alive again?”

Jeffords replied with the frankness of a brother: “No, I do not think I will.”

“I think I will die about ten o’clock tomorrow morning. Do you think we will see each other again?”

Jeffords was silent for a moment. “I don’t know. What do you think about it?”

“I don’t know,” Cochise answered. “It is not clear to my mind, but I think we will, somewhere up there.” 14

Cochise was dead before Jeffords returned from Fort Bowie. After a few days the agent announced to the Chiricahuas that he felt it was time for him to leave. They would not hear of it. Cochise’s sons, Taza and Naiche, were especially insistent that he remain. If Taglito deserted them, they said, the treaty and promises made between Cochise and the government would be worthless. Jeffords promised to stay.

By the springtime of 1875 most of the Apache bands were either confined to reservations or had fled to Mexico. In March the Army transferred General Crook from Arizona to the Department of the Platte. The Sioux and Cheyennes, who had endured reservation life longer than the Apaches, were growing rebellious.

A forced peace lay over the deserts, peaks, and mesas of the Apache country. Ironically, its continuance depended largely upon the patient efforts of two white men who had won the regard of Apaches simply by accepting them as human beings rather than as bloodthirsty savages. Tom Jeffords the agnostic and John Clum of the Dutch Reformed Church were optimistic, but they were wise enough not to expect too much. For any white man in the Southwest who defended the rights of Apaches, the future was very uncertain.

* Eskiminzin was not referring to the alcoholic beverage known by the same name but to roasted leaves of the agave, a sweet and nutritious food that was cooked in earthen pits. The Mescalero Apaches received their name from it.

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