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OUT OF THE PAST
History Lessons 
1886
Geronimo Surrenders 

Two centuries of Apache resistance to white colonization of their homeland in the Southwest (presently New Mexico and Arizona) by both Spaniards and North Americans ended in 1886 with the final surrender of Geronimo, medicine man and shaman to the Chiricahua Apaches .

Th final surrender of Geronimo and his comrades in 1886 was the last significant guerrilla action by Native Americans in the United States.

Following the death of Cochise in 1874, the 45-year-old Geronimo had became the war leader of a small group of Apaches who repeatedly bolted from the San Carlos Reservation. The Apaches had tried farming peacefully on the reservation, but a restless homesickness drove them to leave on several occasions and resume their raids on both Mexicans and Americans.

In 1882, General George F. Crook -- who had succeeded in establishing relative peace in the territory in the 1870s -- was recalled to Arizona to conduct a campaign against the Apaches who had left the reservation under Geronimo's leadership.  General Crook pursued Geronimo for 10 months, finally locating Geronimo's base camp and taking its women and children hostage. Geromino's band gave themselves up and agreed to live on the San Carlos Reservation.

A year later, however, Geronimo and other Apaches were caught drinking home-brewed corn beer, a violation of reservation rules. While their punishment was being debated, Geronimo and a band of 134 warriors left San Carlos reservation and fled to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, cutting down telegraph wires and murdering a ranch family on the way.

Again, Crook pursued. In the spring of 1886, Geronimo agreed to surrender after a two-day parley with Crook in Mexico's Canon de los Embudos. and accept a two-year imprisonment at Fort Marion in Florida. While being led to Fort Bowie by Apache scouts, Geronimo and a handful of his followers took off again across the border, leaving the embarrassed General Crook to explain the fiasco to his superiors.

Determined to put a stop to Geronimo, the U.S. Army replaced Crook with General Nelson Miles and committed an incredible 5,000 troops and 400 Apache scouts to his recapture. Still, the shaman and his small band eluded their pursuers for five months and more than 1,600 miles.

At a brief meeting with Miles on September 4, 1886, at Skeleton Canyon in Arizona, Miles convinced Geronimo to surrender once again, sending him to an indefinite exile in Florida. "Miles, accompanied by Geronimo, Naiche, three warriors, and a woman, returned to Fort Bowie the next day, arriving shortly after dark," Douglas McChristian recouts in his history, Fort Bowie, Arizona. "The general immediately ordered Major Beaumont to form a cordon of troops around the military reservation to prevent trigger-happy civilians from attacking the captives.

"Their brief stay at the post was uneventful, though Geronimo, freshly outfitted in white man's clothing and new boots, took the opportunity to strike a defiant pose for a local photographer, C.S. Fly. To avoid the possibility of any further trouble, or worse yet, another stampede, Miles had the Apaches disarmed, dismounted, and escorted out of the post on September 8 to catch a special train awaiting them at Bowie Station. The puzzled Apaches failed to comprehend the wry smiles among the soldiers as the Fourth Cavalry band played their old foes out of the post to the strains of Auld Lang Syne. Miles and his staff departed the same day, punctuating an abrupt end to three hundred years of bloody warfare with the Apaches in Arizona."

Geronimo and his fellow prisoners were put to hard labor in Florida. Moved to Fort Sill in the Oklahoma Territory in 1894, he attempted to "take the white man's road," farming and joining the Dutch Reformed Church, which eventually expelled him because of his inability to resist gambling. He never again saw his homeland in Arizona.  He died a prisoner of war at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, on  February 17, 1909.


Fort Bowie, Arizona
Combat Post Of The Southwest, 1858-1894
by Douglas C. McChristian 
University of Oklahoma Press, 2005.

Apache Pass in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeast Arizona is an inconspicuous site that reverberated with events of historic consequence in the 19th century. The history of Fort Bowie, a U.S. Army outpost established in 1862 and decommissioned in 1894, is rife with battles and massacres, the beating of war drums and the braying of mail-coach mules. 

With a summit elevation of 5,115 feet, Apache Pass lies between the Dos Cabezas Mountains on the north and the Chiricahua Mountains, traditional home of the Apache, on the south. Fort Bowie was situated in its saddle, a location some 12 miles south of the Bowie exit on present-day Interstate 10.

This comprehensive history details the mission of Fort Bowie, its role in the bitter conflict with the Chiricahua Apaches, and the everchanging parade of monumental figures who passed through its gates.

Douglas McChristian, a retired National Park Service historian, writes a lucid and compelling narrative of the fort's history, describing the personalities, politics and private passions that ignited a powdertrain of events in the Southwest.


Geronimo, 1885
Geronimo, 1885

 
 
 
 
 


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