Apache War

. . . .  Easy reading for the student  . . . .  




By 1688 the Apache groups customarily supplemented their hunting and cultivating economies with raids on settlements of the Mexican and, later, on the westward-migrating American settlers. They attained their greatest fame as guerrilla fighters defending their mountainous homelands under the Chiricahua leaders Cochise, Geronimo, Mangas Coloradas, Victorio, and Juh. The surrender of Geronimo and Juh in 1886 marked the end of Apache resistance and their way of life.

For generations, the Apaches resisted white colonization of their homeland in the Southwest, presently New Mexico and Arizona, by both Mexicans and North Americans. In 1848, when gold was discovered in California, the Apache were threatened by the incursions of the white fortune-seekers.

In an incident at a mining camp, Mangas Coloradas, chief of the Mimbreņo Chiricahua, was whipped, an act that resulted in his life-long hostility against the white man. His son-in-law, Cochise, had long resisted fighting Anglos. Cochise had granted white men the use of Apache Pass. In 1861 he was falsely accused of stealing cattle, and kidnapping a settlers son. All relations between the Anglo and Apache evaporated.

Under a flag of truce Cochise with a party went to discuss the incident with the soldiers. They were taken captive. Cochise managed to escape by cutting the side of the tent. He had three bullet holes in him. He soon seized three civilian captives to exchange for his relatives, but the offer was refused, and Cochise, enraged, killed the hostages. The army in turn hung his brother and nephews, leaving their bodies hanging until they were skeltons. This triggered the furious vendetta known as the Cochise War.

Before it was over, some 150 whites were dead, and the combined forces of Cochise and his father-in-law, Mangas Coloradas-"Red Sleeves," had brought all California-bound traffic through Apache Pass to standstill. During a pitched battle in July 1862, an estimated 500 Apache fighters...engaged the Californians in ferocious combat until the enemy HOWITZERS forced them to retreat.

In a later skirmish Mangas, then in his seventies, was struck by a bullet in the chest. It is said that Mangas's men carried him for many miles...(it is said 100 miles) to get their Chief medical help. Surviving, but in fragile health, Mangas sought to parley for peace.

In January 1863 Mangas agreed to meet with an officer of the California militia. It turned out to be a trap. Mangas was locked up at Ft. McLane. Some soldiers began to taunt him one night with heated bayonets, he rose to protect himself and was shot dead. The official report was that he was trying to escape.



Cochise assumed leadership. From his stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains of southern Arizona, he and about 200 warriors renewed their attacks on white settlements.

At this point another US commander, General George Crook, tried a strategy that proved more effective than any firearms. Cook used Apache scouts as diplomats. They traveled from band to band, urging their people to move onto federal reservations.

Cochise was reassured that his people would not be forced to relocate to the dreaded Fort Tularosa in western New Mexico. They could retain their ancestral lands on a reservation in the Chiricahua mountains, Cochise and his followers left for the reservation in the fall of 1872.

There was three years of peace for the Apache. In 1875, the government sought to combine all the Apache bands on the San Carlos Reservation along the Gila River.



Many warriors among the Warm Springs and Chiricahua groups refused the idea. Victorio, fled from the San Carlos reservation in September 1877 with more than 300 followers. Recaptured a month later, he staged another breakout with 80 warriors within a year.

Victorio's swift-moving bands crossed the Rio Grande repeatedly-until a soldier shoot and killed him in Chihuahua, Mexico in October 1880.

Shortly after Victorio's death the appalling conditions on the San Carlos Reservation sparked a further series of Apache breakouts.



A new leader emerged from among the Apaches, a seasoned fighter who had fought alongside Cochise and Victorio. He was named Goyahkla....."One Who Yawns," but he was better known as Geronimo.

Geronimo led about 70 Chiricahua warriors along with their families across the Rio Grande. A regiment of Mexican troops managed to cut off most of the Apache women and children and slaughtered them all.

General Crook was back in Arizona territory. In May 1883, Crook located Geronimo's base camp and took all the women and children hostage. The last of Geromino's band finally gave themselves up in March 1884.

In May 1885 Geronimo and other leaders were caught consuming home-brewed corn beer, a violation of army rules. While the authorities debated his punishment, Geronimo cut the telegraph wires, killed a ranching family, and slipped back to Mexico's Sierra Madre with 134 warriors.

In March 1886, Crook finally managed a two-day parley with Geronimo in Mexico's Canon de los Embudos. Geronimo agreed to surrender and accept a two-year imprisonment at Fort Marion, 2,000 miles away in Florida. While being led to Fort Bowie by Apache scouts, Geronimo and a handful of his followers broke free again.

The army at this point replaced Crook with General Nelson Miles, who committed 5,000 troops and 400 Apache scouts to the recapture of Geronimo. Even when confronted by a force of this magnitude Geronimo's band of 38 men, women, and children still eluded their pursuers for six months. When Apache scouts finally talked Geronimo into laying down his gun in early September 1886, the surrender was bloodless and strangely anticlimactic.

During this final campaign, at least 5,000 white soldiers and 500 Indian auxiliaries were employed at various times in the capture of Geronimo's small band. Five months and some 1,645 miles later, Geronimo was tracked to his camp in the Sonora mountains.

Recounted Geronimo's cousin Jason Betzinex:
"Kayitah, an Apache scout, delivered General Miles' message. The general wanted them to give themselves up without any guarantees. The Indians seemed stunned. Finally Geronimo's half-brother, White Horse, spoke out. 'I am going to surrender. My wife and children have been captured. I love them, and want to be with them.' Then another brother said that if White Horse was going, he would go too. The third and youngest brother made a similar statement. Geronimo stood for a few moments without speaking. At last he said slowly, "I don't know what to do. I have been depending heavily on you three men. You have been great warriors in battle. If you are going to surrender, there is no use in my going without you. I will give up with you.'"

Almost immediately General Miles had Geronimo's band taken into custody-along with the Apache scouts who had tracked Geronimo down. They were put on a train for Florida. Their destination was Ft Marion, the old Spanish fortress in St.Augustine where the army imprisoned its most dangerous Indians. Geronimo spent the next eight years there.

Released from confinement in 1894, he accepted an offer from the Kiowa and Comanche to share their reservation in Indian territory. Geronimo farmed outside Oklahoma's Fort Sill. He joined the Dutch Reformed church, where he taught Sunday school. He was told to leave the church because of his love of gambling! Later, with government approval, Geronimo spent a year with a Wild West show and appeared in Omaha, Buffalo, New York, and at the St. Louis World's Fair, where he made money selling his photographs and bows and arrows. In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt invited Geronimo to Washington DC to ride in the inaugural parade. But to the day of Geronimo's death in 1909, Arizona never considered him safe enough to let him set foot in his homeland again.




Around 1917 after the Selective Service Act was passed. Many Native Americans joined the armed forces. By war's end, about 17,000 were in uniform....close to 30% of adult Indian males, double the national average. Commanding General John J. Pershing authorized an Apache company of scouts. Some of them were descendants of warriors Pershing himself had fought on the Southwestern frontier 30 years earlier.

In protest of Nazi Germany's aggression in Europe, the Apache along with the Navajo, Papago and Hopi, banned the swastika, an ancient native symbol, from their blanket and basket designs. They knew was decimation of a race was like! Apache, Miguel Flores and Hopi, Fred Kabotie signed the document proclaiming the ban in February 1940.

Today the Apache occupy reservations in New Mexico and
Arizona, with some Chiricahua, Lipan, and Kiowa Apache in
Oklahoma. In 1680 the Apache population was estimated at
5,000, in 1989 it was estimated at about 30,000, of whom
most lived on reservations. While accommodating to changed
economic conditions, the Apache on reservations have
maintained much of their traditional, social and ritual
activities.



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Updated on November 13, 2008 by Who Else....PurpleHawk