written by Lieutenant Marion P. Maus, First Infantry
Preface by General Nelson Miles
In 1883 General George Crook made an expedition into Mexico which resulted in the return of the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Indians under Geronimo and Natchez to the Apache reservation. For nearly two years they remained quiet, when tiring of peaceful pursuits, Geronimo, Natchez, Mangus and many others, in May, 1885, again went on the warpath and fled into Mexico. They were vigorously pursued but succeeded in eluding the troops and commenced again their work of death and destruction from their base in the Sierra Madre mountains.
Despite constant pursuit these Indians succeeded in crossing back into the United States, murdering people, and destroying property. One band, Josanie with ten men, crossed into the United States, raided the Apache reservation, killed some of the friendly Indians as well as thirty-eight white people, captured about two hundred head of stock, and returned to Mexico. This expedition occupied only four weeks and the Indians traveled a distance of over twelve hundred miles.
Two expeditions were formed to go in pursuit. One consisted of a battalion of Indian scouts, (one hundred and two men) and a troop of cavalry under Captain Wirt Davis, Fourth Cavalry, and the other of a battalion of Indian scouts (one hundred men) under Captain Crawford, Third Cavalry. The first battalion (Davis) was composed of San Carlos and White Mountain Indians, principally, and the second (Crawford) was composed of Chiricahuas, Warm Springs and White Mountain Apaches. *** Captain Crawford selected the people composing his command on account of the fact that they were mountain Indians and knew the haunts of these to be pursued, being, indeed, a part of their bands. Many doubted the wisdom of taking these men alone with no troops, and predictions of treachery were freely made, but still officers volunteered for the duty. Those selected were Lieutenant Marion P. Maus, First Infantry, and Lieutenant W.E. Shipp, Tenth Cavalry, to command the companies, while Lieutenant S.L. Faison, First Infantry, was the adjutant, quartermaster and commissary officer, and Acting Assistant Surgeon T. B. Davis was the medical officer. The scouts were selected and enlisted, fifty each, by Lieutenants Maus and Shipp, thus forming the battalion of one hundred men.
The history of this expedition into Mexico, its unique formation, the almost unparalleled hardships and dangers it encountered, the tragic death of its commander, Captain Emmet Crawford, and the international phase of the affair, all give it an especial interest, and we will follow its movements in detail from the time the command left Apache till its return and muster out of the service–a period of six months. This account is best given in the narrative of Captain Marion P. Maus, who accompanied Captain Crawford, and is himself one of the most experienced officers in the service. His account illustrates the difficulties to be overcome, as well as the fortitude and courage of our officers and soldiers.
A Campaign in the Sierra Madre, 1885-1886
a narrative by Lieutenant Marion P. Maus, First Infantry, U.S. Army
with illustrations by Frederic Remington
The command, fully equipped for field service, left Apache, Arizona, on November 11, 1885, for Fort Bowie. Here it was inspected by Lieutenant-General Sheridan and Brigadier-General Crook, and with words of encouragement from these officers, the command started south by way of the Dragoon Mountains, endeavoring to find the trail of a band of Indians who were returning to Mexico after a raid into the United States. Thoroughly scouting these mountains without finding a trail, we went on to the border and crossed into Mexico twenty miles north of the town of Fronteras, with the object of pursuing the renegades to their haunts in southern Sonora. We believed that if we could trace this band we could find the entire hostile camp under Geronimo and Natchez. Under instructions from Captain Crawford, I preceded the command to the town of Fronteras to notify the Presidente of the town of our approach, of our object in coming, and to gain information. It was a small place, composed of the usual adobe buildings, and its people lived in a constant state of alarm about the movements of the hostiles. The command arriving, we proceeded to Nocarasi, a small mining town in the Madre mountains. On account of the roughness of these mountains we found great difficulty in crossing them with the pack-train. We found one horse which had evidently been abandoned by the hostiles, but no distinct trail.
In marching the command it was interesting to notice the methods adopted by our Indians in scouting the country to gain information and prevent surprise. It illustrated to us very clearly what we must expect from the hostiles, who would employ the same methods. It was impossible to march these scouts as soldiers, or to control them as such, nor was it deemed advisable to attempt it. Among them were many who had bloody records; one named Dutchy had killed, in cold blood, a white man near Fort Thomas, and for this murder the civil authorities were at this time seeking to arrest him. Their system of advance guards and flankers was perfect, and as soon as the command went into camp, outposts were at once put out, guarding every approach. All this was done noiselessly and in secret, and without giving a single order. As scouts for a command in time of war they would be ideal. Small of stature, and apparently no match physically for the white man, yet when it came to climbing mountains or making long marches, they were swift and tireless. The little clothing they wore consisted of a soldier’s blouse, discarded in time of action, light undergarments and a waist cloth, and on the march the blouse was often turned inside out to show only the gray lining. Nothing escaped their watchful eyes as they marched silently in their moccasined feet. By day small fires were built of dry wood to avoid smoke, and at night they were made in hidden places so as to be invisible. If a high point was in view, you could be sure that a scout had crawled to the summit and, himself unseen, with a glass or his keen eyes had searched the ground around. At night only was the watch relaxed, for these savages dread the night with a superstitious fear. It was necessary to allow them their way, and we followed, preserving order as best we could by exercising tact and by a careful study of their habits. Under the influence of mescal, which is a liquor made in all parts of Mexico and easily procured, they often became violent and troublesome and we could not help realizing how perfectly we were in their power. However, no distrust of them was shown. One of my Indians, a sergeant named Rubie, followed me one day while I was hunting. I thought his actions were curious, but they were explained when he suddenly came from the front and told me to go back. He had seen the footprints of the hostiles nearby. In the action which followed later he came to me and warned me to cover. There was, however, very little evidence of affection or gratitude in them as a class.
“His Actions Were Curious”
Continuing the march, we reached the town of Huasavas in the valley of the Bavispe. Orange and lemon trees were filled with golden fruit, although it was now the 22nd of December. This valley, surrounded by high mountains, was fertile though but little cultivated. The only vehicles in use were carts, the wheels of which were sections sawed from logs. The plows were pieces of pointed wood. The people were devoid of all the comforts of life. Corn flour was obtained by pounding the grains on stones. They were a most desolate people, and completely terrorized by the Apaches, who were a constant menace to them, as they were to the inhabitants of all these towns. Here occurred the first serious trouble with the Indian scouts. One of them, who was drunk but unarmed, was shot by a Mexican policeman. At the time I was on my way to the town and met the Indian, who was running down the road toward me, followed by two policemen or guards firing rapidly. One ball passed through his face, coming out through the jaw. The other Indian scouts were much incensed, and at once began to prepare for an attack on the town, giving us much trouble before we were able to stop them. The officers were unable to sleep that night, as many of the Indians had been drinking and continued to be so angry that they fired off their rifles in the camp. The next day I released one of them from prison, and subsequently had to pay a fine of five dollars for him. It was claimed by the Mexicans that the Indians had committed some breach of the peace.
Here we got the first reliable news of the hostiles who were murdering people and killing cattle to the south. Crossing the mountains we passed the towns of Granadas and Bacedahuachi, the latter being the site of one of the fine old missions built by the daring priests who sought to plant their religion among the natives many years before.
Proceeding on our way over a mountainous country, we finally came to the town of Nacori. This place was in a continual state of alarm, a wall having been built around it as a protection against the Apaches, the very name of whom was a terror. From our camp, sixteen miles south of this town, two of our pack-trains were sent back to Lang’s Ranch, New Mexico, for supplies. To our surprise a deputy United States marshal from Tombstone came here to arrest Dutchy. Captain Crawford declined to permit the arrest, and in a letter to the marshal (now on file in the State Department) asked him to “delay the arrest till I may be near the border where protection for myself, officers and white men, with my pack trains, may be afforded by United States troops other than Indians,” offering to return if desired. The scouts were intensely excited, and under the circumstances the marshal did not wish to attempt to arrest Dutchy, and returned without delay.
We had now penetrated over two hundred miles into the mountains of Mexico, and we were sure the hostiles were near. It was decided to move immediately in pursuit of them. In this wild and unknown land even our Indians looked more stolid and serious. One by one they gathered together for a medicine dance. The Medicine Man, Noh-wah-zhe-tah, unrolled the sacred buckskin he had worn since he left Apache. There was something very solemn in all this. The dance, the marching, the kneeling before the sacred buckskin as each pressed his lips to it and the old man blessed him, impressed us too, as we looked on in silence. Afterward, the Indians held a council. They said they meant to do their duty, and would prove that they would fight to those who said they would not, and they seemed very much in earnest. I am satisfied that they desired to get the hostiles to surrender, but do not believe they intended or desired to kill them–their own people. In view of their relations it was little wonder that they felt in this way.
It was decided that all must go on foot, and that officer and scout alike must carry his own blanket, all else being left behind. Leaving a few scouts (the weakest and the sick) to guard the camp, a force of seventy-nine was equipped with twelve days’ rations, carried on three or four of the toughest mules best suited for the purpose, and we started forward. We marched to the Haros river, which we forded, and then ascending the high hills beyond, discovered a small trail, and then a large, well-beaten one, evidently that of the entire band of hostiles.
The trail was about six days old, and as we passed over it, here and there, the bodies of dead cattle, only partially used, were found. The hostiles had but a short time previously moved their camp from the junction of the Haros and Yaqui rivers a few miles to the west, and were going to the east of the fastnesses of some extremely rugged mountains: the Espinosa del Diablo, or the Devil’s Backbone–a most appropriate name, as the country was broken and rough beyond description. The march was now conducted mostly by night. We suffered much from the cold, and the one blanket to each man used when we slept was scanty covering. Often it was impossible to sleep at all. At times we made our coffee and cooked our food in the daytime, choosing points where the light could not be seen, and using dry wood to avoid smoke. Our moccasins were thin and the rocks were hard on the feet. Shoes had been abandoned, as the noise made by them could be heard a long distance. The advance scouts kept far ahead. Several abandoned camps of the hostiles were found, the selection of which showed their constant care. They were placed on high points, to which the hostiles ascended in such a way that it was impossible for them to be seen; while in descending any pursuing party would have to appear in full view of the lookout they always kept in the rear. The labor of the Indian women in bringing the water and wood to these points was no apparent objection.
Crossing the Haros river the trail led direct to the Devil’s Backbone, situated between the Haros and Satachi rivers. The difficulties of marching over a country like this by night, where it was necessary to climb over rocks and to descend into deep and dark canyons, can hardly be imagined. When we halted, which we sometimes not until midnight, we were sore and tired. We could never move until late in the day, as it was necessary to examine the country a long distance ahead before we started. No human being seemed ever to have been here. Deer were plentiful, but we could not shoot them. Once I saw a leopard that bounded away with a shriek. It was spotted and seemed as large as a tiger. At last, after a weary march, at sunset on the 9th of January, 1886, Noche, our Indian sergeant-major and guide, sent word that the hostile camp was located twelve miles away.
The command was halted, and as the hostiles were reported camped on a high point, well protected and apparently showing great caution on their part, it was decided to make a night march and attack them at daylight. A short halt of about twenty minutes was made. We did not kindle a fire, and about the only food we had was some hard bread and some raw bacon. The medical officer, Dr. Davis, was worn out, and the interpreter also unfortunately could go no further. We had already marched continuously for about six hours and were very much worn out and footsore, even the scouts showing the fatigue of the hard service. These night marches, when we followed a trail purposely made over the worst country possible, and crossing and recrossing the turbulent river, which we had to ford, were very trying. But the news of the camp being so close at hand gave us new strength and hope, and we hastened on to cover the ten or twelve miles between us and the hostiles. I cannot easily forget that night’s march. All night long we toiled on, feeling our way. It was a dark and moonless night. For much of the distance the way led over solid rock, over mountains, down canyons so dark they seemed bottomless. It was a wonder the scouts could find the trail. Sometimes the descent became so steep that we could not go forward, but would have to wearily climb back and find another way. I marched by poor Captain Crawford, who was badly worn out; often he stopped and leaned heavily on his rifle for support, and again he used it for a cane to assist him. He had, however, an unconquerable will, and kept slowly on. At last, when it was nearly daylight, we could see in the distance the dim outlines of the rocky position occupied by the hostiles. I had a strong feeling of relief, for I certainly was very tired. We had marched continuously eighteen hours over a country so difficult that when we reached their camp Geronimo said he felt that he had no longer a place where the white man would not pursue him.
My command was now quickly disposed for an attack, our first object being to surround the hostile camp. I was sent around to the further side. Noiselessly, scarcely breathing, we crept along. It was still dark. It seemed strange to be going to attack these Indians with a force of their own kindred who but a short time before had been equally as criminal. I had nearly reached the further side, intending to cut off the retreat, when the braying of some burros was heard. These watchdogs of an Indian camp are better than were the geese of Rome. I hurried along. The faint light of the morning was just breaking, and I held my breath for fear the alarm would be given, when all at once the flames bursting from the rifles of some of the hostiles who had gone to investigate the cause of the braying of the burros, and the echoing and re-echoing of the rifle reports through the mountains, told me that the camp was in arms. Dim forms could be seen rapidly descending the mountain sides and disappearing below. A large number came my way within easy range–less than two hundred yards. We fired many shots but I saw no one fall. One Indian attempted to ride by me on a horse; I fired twice at him, when he abandoned the horse and disappeared; the horse was shot, but I never knew what became of the Indian.
We pursued for a time, but as few of our Indian scouts could have gone farther, we had to give up the pursuit. The hostiles, like so many quail, had disappeared among the rocks. One by one our scouts returned. We had captured the entire herd, all the camp effects and what little food they had, consisting of some mescal, some fresh pony meat, a small part of a deer and a little dried meat, which the scouts seized and began to devour. I had no desire for food. Everyone was worn out and it was cold and damp. In a little while an Indian woman came in and said that Geronimo and Natchez desired to talk. She begged food, and left us bearing word that Captain Crawford would see the chiefs next day. The conference was to be held about a mile away on the river below our position, and he desired me to be present. What would have been the result of this conference will never be known on account of the unfortunate attack of the Mexicans next day. It was fortunate that we occupied the strong position of the hostile camp. Our packs as well as the doctor and interpreter had been sent for, but unfortunately did not arrive that night.
We built fires and tried to obtain a little rest, but I could not sleep on account of the intense cold, and, besides, we had been without food for many hours; in fact, we had not partaken of cooked food for days. With the continual marching day and night no wonder our Indians were tired out and now threw themselves among the rocks to sleep, failing to maintain their usual vigilance. We had no fear of an attack. At daylight the next morning the camp was aroused by loud cries from some of our scouts. Lieutenant Shipp and I, with a white man named Horn employed as chief-of-scouts for my companies, ran forward to ascertain the cause of alarm. We thought at first the disturbance must have been occasioned by the scouts of Captain Wirt Davis. A heavy fog hung over the mountains, making the morning light very faint. But by ascending the rocks we could see the outlines of dusky forms moving in the distance. Then all at once there was a crash of musketry and the flames from many rifles lighted up the scene. In that discharge three of our scouts were wounded, one very badly, and we quickly sought cover. The thought that it was our own friends who were attacking us was agonizing and we had not the heart to retaliate, but the scouts kept up a desultory fire until Captain Crawford, whom we had left lying by the campfire, shouted to us to stop. In about fifteen minutes the firing ceased and it now became known that the attacking party were Mexicans, a detachment of whom, about thirteen, were seen approaching, four of them coming toward the rocks where we were. As I spoke Spanish, I advanced about fifty or seventy-five yards to meet them and was followed by Captain Crawford. I told them who we were and of our fight with the hostiles, that we had just captured their camp, etc. Captain Crawford, who did not speak Spanish, now asked if I had explained all to them. I told him I had. At this time we were all standing within a few feet of each other.
The officer commanding the Mexicans was Major Corredor, a tall, powerful man over six feet high, and he acted as spokesman. Looking to the rocks we could see the heads of many of our Indian scouts with their rifles ready, and could hear the sharp snap of the breechblocks as the cartridges were inserted. I can well recall the expression on the faces of these Mexicans, for they thought that our scouts were going to fire; indeed I thought so myself. At the same time I noticed a party of Mexicans marching in a low ravine toward a high point which commanded and enfiladed our position, about four hundred yards distant. I called Captain Crawford’s attention to this as well as to the aspect of our own scouts. He said, “For God’s sake, don’t let them fire!” Major Corredor also said, “No tiras,”–Don’t fire. I said to him “No,” and told him not to let his men fire. I then turned toward the scouts saying in Spanish “Don’t fire.” holding my hand toward them. They nearly all understood Spanish while they did not speak it. I had taken a few steps forward to carry out the Captain’s instructions, when one shot rang out distinct and alone; the echoes were such that I could not tell where it came from, but it sounded like a death knell and was followed by volleys from both sides. As we all sought cover, I looked back just in time to see the tall Mexican throw down his rifle and fall, shot through the heart. Another Mexican, Lieutenant Juan de la Cruz, fell as he ran, pierced by thirteen bullets. The other two ran behind a small oak, but it was nearly cut down by bullets and they were both killed. About nine or ten others who were in view rapidly got close to the ground, or in hollows behind rocks, which alone saved them as they were near, and formed a portion of the party that advanced. Upon reaching the rocks where I had sought shelter, I found Captain Crawford lying with his head pierced by a ball. His brain was running down his face and some of it lay on the rocks. He must have been shot just as he reached and mounted the rocks. Over his face lay a red handkerchief at which his hand clutched in a spasmodic way. Dutchy stood near him. I thought him dead, and sick at heart I gave my attention to the serious conditions existing. The fall of Captain Crawford was a sad and unfortunate event, greatly to be deplored, and cast a gloom over us which we could not shake off.
Being next in command, I hastened to send scouts to prevent the attack attempted on our right above referred to, and after an interval of about two hours the Mexicans were driven entirely away and the firing gradually ceased. They now occupied a strong line of hills, with excellent shelter, were double our strength, and were armed with calibre 44 Remington rifles, which carried a cartridge similar to our own. Our command was without rations and nearly without ammunition, the one beltful supplied to each scout having in many cases been entirely exhausted in the two fights. It was true that many of them had extra rounds, but I estimated that between four and five thousand rounds had been fired and that some of the men had none left.
The Mexicans now called to us saying they would like to talk, but they were too cautious to advance. When Mr. Horn and I went forward, to talk to them, three or four advanced to meet us about one hundred and fifty yards from our position. The brother of the lieutenant who had been killed was crying bitterly, and the whole party seemed a most forlorn company of men, and sincere in saying that they thought we were the hostiles. All their officers were killed, and I believe others besides, but how many we never knew. The fact that our command was composed almost entirely of Indians was a most unfortunate one. With regular soldiers all would have been clear. Our position at this time, confronted as we were by a hostile Mexican force, while behind us the entire hostile band of Indians evidently enjoying the situation, is probably unparalleled. We had scarcely any ammunition, no food, and our supplies were with the pack train almost unprotected–no one knew where–while we were many days’ march from our own country, which could only be reached through a territory hostile to our Indians. The governor of Sonora had made serious charges against the Indians for depredations committed on the march down, and besides, there was a bitter feeling existing caused by this fight. If the Mexicans had attacked us in the rear, where we were entirely unprotected, our position would have been untenable. Had such an attack been made the result would probably have been the scattering of our command in the mountains, our Chiricahuas joining the hostiles.
It looked very serious, and my future course was governed by the condition. If it were possible I was bound to protect the lives of the white men of the command, the pack train, and our Indian scouts. Lieutenant Shipp and I were in accord, he appreciating as I did our desperate position. The first attack had been a mistake, and the second had been brought on before the Mexicans could know what had been said to their officers who had been killed. The Mexicans deplored the affair and seemed sincere. I felt a pity for them. They asked me to go with them while they carried their dead away. A small detail took the bodies one by one to their lines, and I went with each body. They then asked me to send our doctor to care for their wounded, and to loan them enough of the captured stock to carry their wounded back. I agreed to do this, but could give them no food, which they also asked. Late in the day the doctor arrived, and after he had attended to our wounded I sent him to look after theirs, some of whom were in a dangerous way. He attended five of them.
The next day I decided to move on, as the surgeon said that the death of Captain Crawford was a matter of but a little time, and our condition made it necessary for us to try and reach our pack train for supplies and ammunition. I was afraid that the Mexicans might take our pack train as it had but a poor escort of the weak and sick. Besides, most of the packers had been armed with calibre 50 carbines (Sharps), while they had been supplied with calibre 45 ammunition. I was in hopes that when away from the Mexicans I might succeed in effecting a conference with the hostile chiefs, and possibly a surrender. This could not be done while the Mexicans were near, and they would not move before we did, as they said they were afraid they might be attacked by the scouts. In order to move Captain Crawford, I had to make a litter and have him carried by hand. As there was no wood in the country, I sent to the river and got canes, which we bound together to make the side rails, using a piece of canvas for the bed.
While busy attending to the making of this, I heard someone calling, and going out a short distance, saw Concepcion, the interpreter, standing with some Mexicans about two hundred yards away. He beckoned to me and I went forward to talk to the men, as I was the only one who could speak Spanish, Horn being wounded. I had sent Concepcion to drive back some of the captured Indian stock which had wandered off during the fight. As I advanced toward the Mexicans they saluted me very courteously, and in a friendly way said that before they left they wanted to have a talk. It was raining and they asked me to step under a sheltering rock nearby; this was the very point from which they had first fired. On stepping under the rock, I found myself confronted with about fifty Mexicans, all armed with Remington rifles, and a hard looking lot. I would here state that I had sent them, according to my promise, six of the captured Indian horses, which, however, they had not received, as they said the horses were no good, being wounded and worn out; but of this I did not know at the time. Old Concepcion was detained by them. He was a Mexican who had been stolen by the Apaches when a boy, and was employed as an interpreter, as he knew the Apache language.
The manner of the Mexicans when they found me in their power had undergone a marked change. They became insolent, stating that we had killed their officers and that we were marauders and had no authority in their country. They demanded my papers. I explained that there was a treaty between Mexico and the United States, but that I had no papers, as Captain Crawford had left all our baggage with the pack train. Their language was insolent and threatening. I now appreciated my position and realized that the consequence of my being away from the command with the interpreter was that there was no one with the scouts who could make himself understood by them. The Mexicans stated that I had promised them animals to take back their wounded, and had not furnished them, as those I had sent were worthless. I told them I would send them other animals on my return, and started to go, when they surrounded me, saying that I must remain until I had sent the mules.
By this time our Indians were yelling and preparing to fight. A few shots would have precipitated matters. The Mexicans called my attention to the action of my scouts, and I told them that the Indians evidently feared treachery and that I could not control them while away. They then said I could go if I would sent them six mules, after which they would leave the country. This I promised I would do, but they would not trust my word of honor and held old Concepcion a prisoner till I sent them the mules. I demanded a receipt, which they gave, and afterward Mexico paid our government the full value of the animals.
It was now too late in the day to move, but the next morning I proceeded on the homeward march, carrying Captain Crawford by hand. The Indians, always superstitious, did not want to help, but were persuaded, Lieutenant Shipp and I also assisting. To add to the difficulty, it was the rainy season and the steep mountain sides were climbed most laboriously. It would be difficult to describe this march. With great effort, the first day we only made two or three miles. The wounded Indian was placed on a pony, and although badly hurt, seemed to get along very well. The two other wounded scouts and Mr. Horn were so slightly injured that they moved with no trouble.
An Indian woman came into camp that night and said that Geronimo wanted to talk. I concluded to meet him, and the next morning, after moving about two miles, I left the command and went with the interpreter, Mr. Horn, and five scouts, to a point about a mile or so distant. We went without arms as this was expressly stipulated by Geronimo as a condition. The chiefs did not appear, but I had a talk with two of the men, who promised that the chiefs would meet me the next day. They said I must come without arms. The next day I went to meet them and found Geronimo, Natchez, Nana and Chihuahua with fourteen men. They came fully armed with their belts full of ammunition, and as I had come unarmed according to agreement, this was a breach of faith and I did not think it argued well for their conduct. Apparently suspicious of treachery, every man of them sat with his rifle in an upright position, forming a circle nearly around me with Geronimo in the center. He sat there fully a minute looking me straight in the eyes and finally said to me: “Why did you come here?”
“I came to capture or destroy you and your band,” I answered.
He knew perfectly well that this was the only answer I could truthfully make. He then arose, walked to me and shook my hand, saying that he could trust me, and then asked me to report to the department commander what he had to say. He enumerated his grievances at the agency, all of which were purely imaginary or assumed. I advised him to surrender and told him if he did not that neither the United States troops nor the Mexicans would let him rest. He agreed to surrender to me Nan, one other man, his (Geronimo’s) wife, and one of Natchez’s wives, with some of their children, nine in all, and promised to meet General Crook near San Bernardino in two moons to talk about surrendering. With this understanding I returned to camp. In a short time he sent the prisoners with the request that I give him a little sugar and flour. This request I complied with, having in the meantime sent some of my scouts for the pack train, which they had found and brought back. Here, almost at midnight, I was awakened by the scouts who had assembled saying that they had seen the Mexicans approaching to attack us, and that they must have ammunition. I had not intended to issue any more just then, as we only had about three thousand rounds left, but they begged so hard that I finally issued one thousand rounds, though I could hardly believe this report. No Mexicans appeared. The hostiles had plenty of money and it was afterward reported that our scouts had sold them ammunition at the rate of one dollar per round.
The next day we continued on our march, which was very difficult on account of our being encumbered with our wounded. On the 17th of January, while sitting with Captain Crawford, he opened his eyes and looked me straight in the face and then pressed my hand. No doubt he was conscious, and I tried to get him to speak or write, but he could not. I assured him I would do all in my power to arrange his affairs, and he put his arm around me and drew me to him, but could only shake his head in answer. This conscious interval only lasted about five minutes, and then the look of intelligence seemed to pass away forever. The next day he died while we were on the march, passing away so quietly that no one knew the exact time of his death. We wrapped his body in canvas and placed it on one of the pack mules. We now moved more rapidly, but when we reached the Satachi river we could not cross it, as it was swollen by the late rains and was deep and turbulent. We were thus forced to go into camp and lose a day. In the meantime the body of Captain Crawford began to decompose, so we hurried on, crossing the river the next day and on the day following reached Nacori. Here we buried Captain Crawford, putting his body in charge of the Presidente of the town and marking well the place of his burial. I could only get four boards (slabs) in the town and used them in making a coffin, the body being wrapped in canvas.
The disposition of the people was decidedly unfriendly, and at Baserac and Bavispe about two hundred of the local troops were assembled with hostile intent. To add to the trouble, the scouts obtained mescal and were very unruly. I had to use great care to prevent a conflict at Baserac. I was obliged to pass through the town, as there was a mountain on one side and a river on the other. The officials refused at first to let me pass, but I moved some of the troops through, supported by the remainder, and avoided a conflict. At Bavispe the Indians obtained a large quantity of mescal, and the civil authorities tried to take our captured stock. I sent them out of the camp, and had they not left when they did I am sure the intoxicated Indians would have fired upon them. Here occurred a quarrel between a company of White Mountain Indian scouts and one of the Chiricahuas. They loaded their rifles to fire upon each other, while the first sergeants of the two companies fought between the lines, but I finally succeeded in quelling the disturbance. The next day I hurried away, and without further difficulty reached Lang’s Ranch, [New Mexico] arriving there on the first day of February. Up to that time we marched over one thousand miles.
I was ordered to return, February 5, to Mexico and look out for the hostiles, who had agreed to signal their return. I camped about ten miles south of the line on the San Bernardino river, and remained there until the 15th of March, when a signal was observed on a high point about twenty miles south. I went out with four or five scouts and met some messengers from Geronimo and Natchez, near the point from which the signal had been made. They informed me that the entire band of hostiles were then about forty miles away, camped in the mountains near Fronteras. I told them to return and bring Geronimo and his band at once, as the Mexicans were in pursuit and liable to attack them at any time. On the nineteenth the entire band came and camped about half a mile from my command. One more warrior with his wife and two children gave themselves up, and I now had thirteen prisoners. I endeavored to persuade Geronimo and his band to go to into Fort Bowie, telling them they were liable to be attacked by Mexican troops, but could only induce them to move with me to the Canyon de los Embudos, about twelve miles below the border, where they camped in a strong position among the rocks a half a mile away.
I had notified the department commander upon the arrival of the messengers on the 15th, and on the 29th he arrived at my camp. In the interval, however, before General Crook arrived, Geronimo had almost daily come into my camp to talk to me and ask when the general would get there. On his arrival a conference was held and the hostiles promised they would surrender. General Crook then returned, directing me to bring them in. This I endeavored to do, but this surrender was only an agreement, no arms being taken from them, nor were they any more in my possession than when I had met them in the Sierra Madre mountains. It was believed, however, that they would come in. Unfortunately, they obtained liquor, and all night on the 27th I could hear firing in their camp a mile or so away. I sent my command on, and, accompanied only by the interpreter, waited for the hostiles to move, but they were in a bad humor. They moved their camp at noon that day and I then left. I met Geronimo and a number of warriors gathered nearby on Elias Creek, many of them being drunk, and Geronimo told me they would follow, but that I had better go on or he would not be responsible for my life. I then proceeded to my camp. I had ordered the battalion to camp at a point ten miles on the way back on the San Bernardino. That afternoon the hostiles camp up and camped about half a mile above me in a higher position.
I went into camp and found trouble. Natchez had shot his wife, and they were all drinking heavily. I sent Lieutenant Shipp with a detail to destroy all the mescal at a ranch nearby, where they had previously obtained all their liquor. During the day all seemed quiet, but at night a few shots were heard. I sent to find out the cause and found the trouble was over some women; this trouble soon ceased, however, and quiet was restored. I felt anxious about the next day’s march, as I would then cross the line and be near troops. The next morning I was awakened and told that the hostiles were gone. I caused a careful search to be made, and ascertained that Geronimo and Natchez with twenty men, thirteen women and two children had gone during the night, and not a soul as I could ascertain, knew anything of the time they had gone, or that they had intended to go. Chihuahua, Ulzahney, Nana, Catley, nine other men, and forty-seven women and children remained. The herd was brought in, and only three of their horses were missing. I directed Lieutenant Faison, with a sufficient detail, to take the remaining hostiles to Fort Bowie; then, with all the available men left, Lieutenant Shipp and I at once started in pursuit.
About six miles from camp we struck the trail going due west over a chain of high mountains. This gave us a full view of the mountains in all directions, but the trail suddenly changed its direction to the south and went down a steep and difficult descent, across a basin so dense with chapparel and cut up with ravines as to make travel very difficult and slow, especially as every bush was full of thorns which tore ourselves and animals. Across this basin about ten miles, the trail ascended a high mountain, very steep and rocky. The trail of the one horse with the hostiles induced us to think it might be possible to ride; but after reaching the top we found this horse stabbed and abandoned among the rocks; they were unable to take it farther. Beyond, the descent was vertical and of solid rock from fifty to three hundred feet high for miles each way. Here the trail was lost, the Indians having scattered and walked entirely on the rocks.
No doubt our pursuit had been discovered from this point when we crossed the mountains on the other side of the basin, ten miles away. These Indians were well supplied with telescopes and glasses, and a watch had doubtless been maintained here according to their usual custom. It is in this way, by selecting their line of march over these high points, that their retreat can always be watched and danger avoided. In the same way they watch the country for miles in advance. These never-failing precautions may serve to show how difficult is the chance of catching these men, who once alarmed are like wild animals, with their sense of sight and of hearing as keenly developed.
We could not descend here, so we were obliged to retrace our steps down the mountain and made a circuit of ten miles to again strike the trail beyond. This we did, but when the stream beyond was reached it was dark, and further pursuit that night was impossible. The next morning we moved down the creek, cutting the trails which had come together about four miles below, and we followed this for about ten miles to the south. The hostiles had not stopped from the time they had left, and now had made forty-five miles and had good ten hours the start. The trail here split and one part, the larger, crossed over the broken mountains north of Bavispe, into the Sierra Madres, while the other crossed into the mountains north of Fronteras.
The scouts now seemed discouraged. Their moccasins were worn out by the constant hard work of the past five months, and the prospect of returning to the scenes of their last trials was not inviting. Besides, their discharge would take place in about one month. They appealed to me to go no further, telling me that it was useless, etc. This I appreciated and decided to return. We then retraced our way and continued the homeward march. While returning, two of the escaped hostiles joined me and gave themselves up. I arrived at Fort Bowie on the third of April. The results of the expedition were by no means unimportant as we had secured the larger part of the hostiles, seventy-nine in all, of whom fifteen were warriors.
I cannot speak too highly of the noble and soldierly qualities of Captain Crawford, killed by Mexican troops while doing all in his power to help them. He was ever ready, ever brave and loyal in the performance of his duty, and his loss is indeed a serious one.
Lieutenant Shipp suffered all the hardships of the campaign and his services are entitled to high consideration.
Lieutenant Faison showed much ability and energy in supplying the command and in handling the trains. While not with the command during the action with the Indians and Mexicans, his duty was not only a hard one, but full of danger and suffering.
Doctor Davis was very faithful and efficient.
I cannot commend too highly Mr. Horn, my chief of scouts; his gallant services deserve a reward which he has never received.
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This account by Lieutenant Marion Maus is included in full in the memoirs of General Nelson Miles cited below:
Miles, Nelson A. Personal Recollections and Observations of General Nelson A. Miles. Originally published by the Werner Company, Chicago in 1896. The illustrations by Frederic Remington appear in the original edition.
This campaign led to the resignation of General George Crook and his replacement by General Nelson A. Miles. See the 1886 Official Correspondence
For information on General Crook’s earlier campaign in Arizona, see General Crook in the Indian Country.