Official Correspondence between department commander General George Crook and the higher authorities in 1886 regarding the surrender of Geronimo.

Camp el Canon de los Embudos, 20 miles SE of San Bernardino, Mexico
March 26, 1886

Lieutenant-General P.H. Sheridan, Washington DC

I met the hostiles yesterday at Lieut. Maus' camp, they being located about five hundred yards distant. I found them very independent, and fierce as so many tigers. Knowing what pitiless brutes they are themselves, they mistrust everyone else. After my talk with them it seemed as if it would be impossible to get any hold on them, except on condition that they be allowed to return to their reservation on their old status.
Today things look more favorable.

George E. Crook, Brigadier General

Camp el Canon de los Embudos, March 27, 1886

Lieutenant-General P.H. Sheridan, Washington DC, Confidential

In conference with Geronimo and the other Chiricahuas I told them they must decide at once on unconditional surrender or to fight it out. That in the latter event hostilities should be resumed at once, and the last one of them killed if it took fifty years. I told them to reflect on what they wee to do before giving me their answer. The only propositions they would entertain were these three: That they should be sent east for not exceeding two years, taking with them such of their families as so desired, leaving at Apache Nana who is seventy years old and superannuated; or that they should all return to the reservation upon their old status; or else return to the war-path with its attendant horrors.

As I had to act at once I have today accepted their surrender upon the first proposition. Kaetena, the young chief who less than two years ago was the worst Chiricahua of the whole lot, is now perfectly subdued. He is thoroughly reconstructed, has rendered me valuable assistance, and will be of great service in helping to control these Indians in the future. His stay at Alcatraz has worked a complete reformation in his character. I have not a doubt that similar treatment will produce same results with the whole band, and that by the end of that time the excitement here will have died away.

Mangus, with thirteen Chiricahuas, six of whom are bucks, is not with the other Chiricahuas. He separated from them in August last, and has since held no communication with them. He has committed no depredations. As it would be likely to take at least a year to find him in the immense ranges of mountains to the south, I think it inadvisable to attempt any search at this time, especially as he will undoubtedly give himself up as soon as he hears what the others have done.

I start for Bowie tomorrow morning, to reach there next night. I respectfully request to be informed whether or not my action has been approved, and also that full instructions meet me at that point. The Chiricahuas start for Bowie tomorrow with the Apache scouts under Lieutenant Maus.

George Crook, Brigadier General

Washington DC, March 30, 1886

General George Crook, Fort Bowie, Arizona

You are confidentially informed that your telegram of March 29th is received. The President cannot assent to the surrender of the hostiles on the terms that their imprisonment last for two years, with the understanding of their return to the reservation. He instructs you to enter into negotiations on the terms of their unconditional surrender, only sparing their lives; in the meantime, and on the receipt of this order, you are directed to take every precaution against the escape of the hostiles, which must not be allowed under any circumstances. You must make at once such disposition of your troops as will insure against further hostilities by completing the destruction of the hostiles unless these terms are accepted.

P.H. Sheridan, Lieut.-Gen.

Fort Bowie, A.T., March 30, 1886

Lieut.-Gen. P.H. Sheridan, Washington, DC

A courier just in from Lieut. Maus reports that during last night Geronimo and Natchez with twenty men and thirteen women left his camp, taking no stock. He states that there was no apparent cause for their leaving. Two dispatches received from him this morning reported everything going on well and the Chiricahuas in good spirits. Chihuahua and twelve men remained behind. Lieut. Maus with his scouts, except enough to take the other prisoners to Bowie, have gone in pursuit.

Geo. Crook, Brigadier-General

Washington, DC, March 31, 1886

General George Crook, Fort Bowie, A.T.

Your dispatch of yesterday received. It has occasioned great disappointment. It seems strange that Geronimo and party could have escaped without the knowledge of the scouts.

P.H. Sheridan, Lieut.-General

Fort Bowie, A.T., March 31, 1886

Lieut.-General P.H. Sheridan, Washington, DC

In reply to your dispatch of March thirtieth, to enable you to clearly understand the situation, it should be remembered that the hostiles had an agreement with Lieut. Maus that they were to be met by me twenty-five miles below the line, and that no regular troops were to be present. While I was very averse to such an arrangement, I had to abide by it, as it had already been entered into. We found them in camp on a rocky hill about five hundred yards from Lieut. Maus, in such a position that a thousand men could not have surrounded them with any possibility of capturing them. They were able, upon the approach of any enemy being signaled, to scatter and escape through dozens of ravines and canons, which would shelter them from pursuit until they reached the higher ranges in the vicinity. They were armed to the teeth, having the most approved guns and all the ammunition they could carry. The clothing and other supplies lost in the fight with Crawford had been replaced by blankets and shirts obtained in Mexico. Lieut. Maus, with Apache scouts, was camped at the nearest point the hostiles would agree to their approaching.

Even had I been disposed to betray the confidence they placed in me, it would have been simply an impossibility to get white troops to that point either by day or by night without their knowledge, and had I attempted to do this the whole band would have stampeded back to the mountains. So suspicious were they that never more than from five to eight of the men came into our camp at one time, and to have attempted the arrest of those would have stampeded the others to the mountains. Even after the march to Bowie began we were compelled to allow them to scatter. They would not march in a body, and had any efforts been made to keep them together they would have broken for the mountains. My only hope was to get their confidence on the march through Kaetena and other confidential Indians, and finally to put them on the cars, and until this was done it was impossible to disarm them.

George Crook, Brigadier-General, Commanding

Washington, DC, April 1, 1886

General George Crook, Fort Bowie, A.T.

Your dispatch of March thirty-first received. I do not see what you can now do except to concentrate your troops at the best points and give protection to the people. Geronimo will undoubtedly enter upon other raids of murder and robbery, and as the offensive campaign against him with scouts has failed, would it not be best to take up the defensive and give protection to the people and business interests of Arizona and New Mexico. The infantry might be stationed by companies at certain points requiring protection, and the cavalry patrol between them. You have in your department forty-three companies of infantry and forty companies of cavalry, and ought to be able to do a good deal with such a force. Please send me a statement of what you contemplate for the future.

P.H. Sheridan, Lieut.-General

Fort Bowie, A.T., April 1, 1886

Lieut.-General P.H. Sheridan, Washington DC

Your dispatch of today received. It has been my aim throughout present operations to afford the greatest amount of protection to life and property interests, and troops have been stationed accordingly. Troops cannot protect property beyond a radius of one-half mile from their camp. If offensive movements against the Indians are not resumed, they may remain quietly in the mountains for an indefinite time without crossing the line, and yet their very presence there will be a constant menace and require the department to be at all times in position to repress sudden raids, and so long as any remain out they will form a nucleus for disaffected Indians from the different agencies in Arizona and New Mexico to join. That the operations of the scouts in Mexico have not proven as successful as was hoped, is due to the enormous difficulties they have been compelled to encounter from the nature of the Indians they have been hunting, and the character of the country in which they have operated, and of which persons not thoroughly conversant with both can have no conception. I believe that the plan upon which I have conducted operations is the one most likely to prove successful in the end. It may be, however, that I am too much wedded to my own views in this matter, and as I have spent nearly eight years of the hardest work in my life in this department, I respectfully request that I may now be relieved from its command.

George Crook, Brigadier-General

Washington, DC, April 2, 1886

General N.A. Miles, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Orders of this day assign you to command the Department of Arizona to relieve General Crook. Instructions will be sent you.

R.C. Drum, Adjutant-General

Fort Bowie, A.T., April 2, 1886

Lieut.-General P.H. Sheridan, Washington, DC

The hostiles who did not leave with Geronimo arrived today. About eighty. I have not ascertained the exact number. Some of the worst of the band are among them. In my judgment they should be sent away at once, as the effect on those still out would be much better than to confine them. After they get to their destination, if they can be shown that their future will be better by remaining than to return, I think there will be but little difficulty in obtaining their consent to remain indefinitely. When sent off a guard should accompany them.

George Crook, Brigadier-General

Washington, DC, April 2, 1886

Gen. Geo. Crook, Fort Bowie, Ariz.

The present terms not having been agreed to here, and Geronimo having broken every condition of surrender, the Indians now in custody are to be held as prisoners and sent to Fort Marion without reference to previous communication and without, in any way, consulting their wishes in the matter. This is in addition to my previous telegram of today.

P. H. Sheridan, Lieut.-General

Washington, DC, April 2, 1886

General George Crook, Fort Bowie, A.T.

General Miles has been ordered to relieve you in command of the Department of Arizona and orders issued today. Advise General Miles where you will be.

R.C. Drum, Adjutant-General

Fort Bowie, A.T., April 3, 1886

General N.A. Miles, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Adjutant-General of the Army telegraphs that you have been directed to relieve me in command of Dept. of Arizona. Shall remain at Fort Bowie. When can I expect you here?

George Crook, Brigadier-General

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, April 3, 1886

General George Crook, Fort Bowie, A.T.

The order was a perfect surprise to me. I do not expect to leave here for several days, possibly, one week.

N.A. Miles, Brigadier-General

Headquarters of the Army, Washington, DC, April 3, 1886

General Nelson A. Miles, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

The Lieutenant-General directs that on assuming command of the Department of Arizona, you fix your headquarters temporarily at or near some point on the Southern Pacific RR

He directs that the greatest care be taken to prevent the spread of hostilities among friendly Indians in your command, and that the most vigorous operations looking to the destruction or capture of the hostiles be ceaselessly carried on. He does not wish to embarrass you by undertaking at this distance to give specific instructions in relations to operations against the hostiles, but it is deemed advisable to suggest the necessity of making active and prominent use of the regular troops of your command. It is desired that you proceed to Arizona as soon as practicable.

R.C. Drum, Adjutant-General

See also General Miles' Capture of Geronimo

GeneralCrook in the Indian Country

The Struggle for Apacheria
The Struggle for Apacheria by
Peter Cozzens
Volume I of the Eyewitnesses to the Indian Wars series
1865-1890
The American West in the 19th Century
The American West
in the 19th Century by John Grafton