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Robert M. Utley
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Renowned for ferocity in battle, legendary for an uncanny ability to elude capture, feared for the violence of his vengeful raids, the Apache fighter Geronimo captured the public imagination in his own time and remains a figure of mythical proportion today. This thoroughly researched biography by a renowned historian of the American West strips away the myths and rumors that have long obscured the real Geronimo and presents an authentic portrait of a man with unique strengths and weaknesses and a destiny that swept him into the fierce storms of history.

    Historian Robert Utley draws on an array of new sources and his own lifelong research on the mountain West and white-Indian conflicts of the late nineteenth century to create an updated, accurate, and highly exciting narrative of Geronimo's life. Utley unfolds the story through the alternating perspectives of whites and Apaches, and he arrives at a more nuanced understanding of Geronimo's character and motivation than ever before. What it was like to be an Apache fighter-in-training, why Indians as well as whites feared Geronimo, how Geronimo maintained his freedom, and why he finally surrendered-the answers to these questions and many more fill the pages of this irresistable volume.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18900-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-XII)
    (pp. 1-4)

    Not until the age of fifty-three did Geronimo come to the attention of the American people. For thirty years he had raided and made war on Mexicans, whom he detested, and occasionally raided in the American Southwest. Apache raids typically ranged from simply stealing stock and other plunder to killing and mutilating or capturing victims. Geronimo practiced all forms of raiding and accumulated a record of brutality that matched that of any of his comrades.

    In 1876 Geronimo grew careless and boldly demanded government rations from the agent at the Ojo Caliente agency in New Mexico. He used this place...

  5. ONE Apache Youth
    (pp. 5-14)

    History would award the youth born sixty-three years earlier with hundreds of such articles in newspapers all over the United States. Some were mere rumors or fabrications, but the stories were bad enough to brand this man a bloody butcher who shot, lanced, or knifed dozens of victims throughout his adult life. His name induced fear and horror in settlers in Arizona and New Mexico as well as the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora. And the public at large knew the name to stand for terrible atrocities. His youth featured nothing that portended such a record.

    He first glimpsed...

  6. TWO Apache Manhood
    (pp. 15-22)

    Every adult who passed the required tests and grew to manhood had been trained to be a fighter. It was a way of life mandated by Apache culture. Now that he was a man, Geronimo could join other men in expeditions as he had long desired. First, however, he had another mission: marriage.

    He had long admired a young woman he called “the fair Alope.” He described her as slender and delicate and long a “lover,” although the term likely does not connote sexual relations. Her Bedonkohe father, No-po-so, demanded many ponies in return for her hand. Geronimo returned “in...

  7. THREE Battle and Massacre
    (pp. 23-28)

    As the 1850s opened, Chihuahua and Sonora continued to divide the Chiricahuas. Many, up to half the Chihennes and some Nednhis, succumbed to the lure of Janos, with its prospect of rations and trade. The largest of a cluster of communities in northwestern Chihuahua, about fifty miles below the US boundary, Janos had been a center of Chiricahua attention for a generation, a place to trade plunder from raids in Sonora and to draw rations when the government wanted peace. By the end of 1850 Chihuahua had treaties in place at Janos and issued rations. The rest of the Chihennes,...

  8. FOUR “Americans”
    (pp. 29-35)

    While launching raids and conducting war against Mexicans, Chiricahuas knew about other white people approaching from the north and east. The newcomers called themselves “Americans.” As early as the 1820s, these white people had appeared in Mangas Coloradas’s country. They were American fur trappers, and they began to base themselves at Santa Rita del Cobre for westward expeditions into the Gila country. Located about thirty-five miles east of Santa Lucía Springs, at the southern edge of the Pinos Altos Range of southwestern New Mexico, they lay within the homeland of Mangas Coloradas and his Bedonkohe and Chihenne followers. The Santa...

  9. FIVE War with the Americans
    (pp. 36-44)


    Beginning with the great California discovery in 1848, the cry of “Gold!” invariably brought swarms of unruly American prospectors in search of elusive riches. It occurred repeatedly throughout the mountain West in the decades following the California strike of 1848. Always, gold-seekers encountered resident Indians, shouldered them aside, ignored any government effort to protect them, and treated any who resisted with violence and death. Tribe after tribe lost their lands, some their lives. Apaches enjoyed no immunity from the ruling American conviction that mineral extraction prevailed over all other forms of land use.

    Mexican lessees who mined at the...

  10. SIX Return of the Bluecoats
    (pp. 45-54)

    As mangas coloradas and Cochise plotted further war on the Americans during the summer of 1861, they could not have been ignorant of events that drew more white men into the Chiricahua domain. They doubtless knew nothing of the conventions assembled in Mesilla and Tucson in March 1861 that voted to create a Confederate Territory of Arizona in southern New Mexico and Arizona. But they surely watched the military force that reached Mesilla from the south in July. They wore gray rather than blue uniforms (if they wore uniforms at all), and they forced the surrender of the bluecoats gathered...

  11. SEVEN Cochise: War and Peace, 1863–72
    (pp. 55-60)

    Demoralized by the murder of their venerable chief Mangas Coloradas and fearful of aggressive campaigning by the soldiers, the Bedonkohes abandoned the headwaters of the Gila River and moved west. As Geronimo recalled, “We retreated into the mountains near Apache Pass.” This was Cochise country, and as Geronimo noted, Cochise “took command of both divisions.” The Chokonen chief assumed the mantle of Mangas Coloradas, although he lacked the qualities to bind the Bedonkohes as solidly to his leadership.

    Neither the Chokonens nor Bedonkohes remained quietly in the Chiricahua Mountains around Apache Pass. The killing of Mangas Coloradas demanded revenge. On...

  12. EIGHT Cochise: Peace at Last, 1872
    (pp. 61-71)

    Although the chiricahua mountains remained the homeland of the Chokonens, Cochise passed much time in his two strongholds, east and west, in the Dragoon Mountains, a lesser range forty miles west of the Chiricahuas. The base of the mountains consisted of pile on pile of huge boulders, and the strongholds could be reached only by intricate pathways. The strongholds provided open spaces for councils, with wood and water surrounded by rock walls and accessible only to Apaches. Between the two mountain ranges lay the flat, grassy Sulphur Springs Valley. Anyone approaching the Dragoons from the east could not avoid being...

  13. NINE The Chiricahua Reservation, 1872–76
    (pp. 72-80)

    Whether or not geronimo acted as Cochise’s Spanish interpreter at the councils with General Howard in October 1872, he was present and observed what happened. He promptly returned to his ranchería near Janos, Chihuahua, where he had been living with Juh’s Nednhis since military forces drove them out of Sonora the previous summer. They hoped the Janos authorities could be persuaded to issue rations. On Geronimo’s heels, runners arrived bearing Cochise’s invitation to Juh and others near Janos to settle on the new reservation. Cochise’s Chokonens were already there, since it was their home country. If Juh had any doubts,...

  14. TEN Removal to the Gila River
    (pp. 81-91)

    With general kautz’s troops strategically placed to head off trouble, John P. Clum’s removal of the Chiricahuas from their reservation went relatively smoothly despite the monthlong rift between Taza and Skinya. All the reservation leaders had vowed to die rather than move, but they either fled or accommodated.

    Most of Cochise’s people had remained loyal to Taza. But Skinya formed a militant group under his own leadership and late in 1875 took sixty Chokonens to settle in the Dragoon Mountains. They included fourteen men, of whom one was his notorious half-brother Pionsenay.

    Early in 1876 word reached the Indians that...

  15. ELEVEN Geronimo’s First Breakout, 1878
    (pp. 92-97)

    On may 20, 1877, the day Agent John P. Clum reached San Carlos Agency with the people from Ojo Caliente, the shackled Geronimo and his “renegade” cohorts had been thrown in the agency jail. There they remained week after week. Years later Geronimo recalled only that he was tried or perhaps only heard that he was tried. More likely, he picked up occasional tidings of the administrative turmoil afflicting San Carlos, the departure of Clum, and the long-delayed arrival of a new agent. After three months of this infuriating humiliation, the prisoners were set free and, without explanation, walked out...

  16. TWELVE Back to San Carlos, 1878–79
    (pp. 98-103)

    Geronimo and juh had been close friends since youth and became close allies in the 1860s. Even before Cochise began to lose strength and journey frequently to Ojo Caliente in search of a satisfactory peace, Geronimo and Juh were tightly aligned. Mangas Coloradas had been a mentor more than a comrade. Cochise had been an admired leader of the Chokonens, whom Geronimo followed at times. But even before Cochise’s death in 1874, Juh and Geronimo had become true comrades, in war and peace.

    Many thought Geronimo a Nednhi. Although he remained a Bedonkohe by heritage, by the 1870s his Bedonkohe...

  17. THIRTEEN Geronimo’s Second Breakout, 1881
    (pp. 104-112)

    In january 1880 geronimo and his personal following, mainly Bedonkohes, settled in with Juh and his Nednhis at the site designated by Captain Chaffee near the subagency on the north bank of the Gila, about fifteen miles upstream from the San Carlos Agency. The Chokonen camp of Naiche spread out nearby.

    Naiche’s camp included not only the Cochise Chokonens but also the followers of Chief Chihuahua, a superior leader and a fierce fighting man who maintained his separate group among the Chokonens. Although shorter, lighter, and paler than Mangas and Cochise, he possessed the typical Apache physical attributes. About the...

  18. FOURTEEN Geronimo Abducts Loco, 1882
    (pp. 113-124)

    Having thrown off all the army could mobilize against them and found safety in Mexico, the Apaches moved directly to Juh’s old refuge in the Carcay Mountains, near Janos. Shortly afterward, they teamed up with Nana. After his summer raid into New Mexico to avenge Victorio, he and his Warm Springs Chihennes returned to the Sierra Madre. Juh and his cohorts lost no time in linking with Nana and reaching agreement to cooperate, which they cemented with a nighttime feast and dance. Combined, the followers of Nana and Juh numbered between 425 and 450 people.¹

    The chiefs talked over their...

  19. FIFTEEN Mexico: Massacres and Raids, 1882–83
    (pp. 125-133)

    Despite the efforts of some rivals to portray Geronimo as a coward at Alisos Creek, he had emerged from the massacre with enhanced reputation. He had proved the ablest leader and fighter in the bloody combat in the ravine, and he had steered the pathetic survivors out of the trap. In the aftermath of Alisos Creek, he continued to provide strong leadership in guiding the survivors through the Carcay and other mountains to the south. After Alisos Creek, no one questioned his role as the dominant leader. Finally, traveling forty laborious miles, about May 5 they reached Juh’s camp in...

  20. SIXTEEN Geronimo Confronts Crook in the Sierra Madre, 1883
    (pp. 134-142)

    The general who replaced Orlando Willcox as commander of the Department of Arizona on September 4, 1882, brought a fresh and unorthodox persona back to Arizona, after a five-year absence. Making extensive use of Indian scouts and pack trains, in 1872–73 Brigadier General George Crook had defeated and rounded up all the Apaches but the Chiricahuas, who had remained safe on the Chiricahua Reservation established by General O. O. Howard.

    Unlike other generals, Crook believed that only an Apache could catch an Apache, so he placed more confidence in Apache scouts than regular troops. He also regarded pack mules...

  21. SEVENTEEN Return to San Carlos, 1883–84
    (pp. 143-148)

    When general crook left Bugatseka early in June 1883 with Loco, Bonito, and their people, the chiefs who remained behind intended to keep their promise to follow. They had told the general they had to round up their scattered people before they could start, a sensible enough explanation. But they had other matters to attend to before the move to San Carlos, and that would take more time than simply gathering their people.¹

    Most pressing was the need for more horses and mules. Chatto had lost his herd when Crawford’s scouts fell on his ranchería. “He knew it was hard...

  22. EIGHTEEN The Last Breakout, 1885
    (pp. 149-159)

    Geronimo had been on at San Carlos only five days when he gave the customary statement of Chiricahua leaders arriving from Mexico. His opening sentence put Captain Emmet Crawford on notice that Geronimo would be likely to make trouble. After begging General Crook to receive him at San Carlos, he had passed nearly a year tearing up Mexico and apparently thinking little about returning to the reservation. He had shed his humbling experience with Crook and, speaking directly to Captain Crawford, set forth in great detail his expectations. “Geronimo said that he has come here with the understanding that everything...

  23. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  24. NINETEEN Back to the Sierra Madre, 1885
    (pp. 160-167)

    The mountains of arizona and New Mexico are high, steep, tangled, rocky, slashed by deep canyons and gorges, and for humans on foot or horseback, except the Apaches, virtually impossible to penetrate except at lower elevations and along the rivers and creeks that flow from their heights. South of the international boundary, similar ranges of mountains carpet both Chihuahua and Sonora, dominated by the towering Sierra Madre separating the two Mexican states. The mountains of Mexico resemble some of the most rugged north of the border, but the Sierra Madre dwarf all others in tortuous topography.

    No Indian tribe mastered...

  25. TWENTY Chased by Crook’s Scouts, 1885–86
    (pp. 168-181)

    Two days after the attack on Geronimo’s ranchería at Bugatseka on August 7, 1885, Captains Crawford and Wirt Davis met on the Bavispe River, and Crawford learned of the fight and the scattering of the Chiricahuas. By August 13 Crawford and his command had reached the site of the encounter and picked up Geronimo’s trail to the east. With Lieutenant Britton Davis and fifty scouts ranging in advance, Crawford followed over the Sierra Madre and down into Chihuahua. At the crest, he sent word forward to Davis to take thirty-two picked scouts (including Chatto), three packers, and seven good mules,...

  26. TWENTY-ONE Canyon de los Embudos, 1886
    (pp. 182-191)

    Since the meetings between the Chiricahua leaders and Lieutenant Marion P. Maus, following the killing of Captain Crawford on January 11, 1886, Sonora had borne the brunt of destructive raids on ranches and travelers. The raiders worked in two bodies, Geronimo and Naiche leading one, Chihuahua and his brother Ulzana the other. By early March 1886, two months after they had told Maus they needed time to collect their stock, they united in the Teras Mountains, nestled in the bend of the Bavispe River. Mexican troops had been combing Sonora trying to bring the raiders to battle, and the Apaches...

  27. TWENTY-TWO Miles in Command, 1886
    (pp. 192-202)

    In two autobiographies general Nelson A. Miles denied any wish ever to serve in Apache country. When as commanding general of the Department of the Missouri he received orders on April 2, 1886, to replace General Crook as commanding general of the Department of Arizona, he later recalled that “it seemed a very undesirable duty and a most difficult undertaking.” For two years, however, he had freely hurled criticisms at Crook and his methods and, within and outside of the army, strongly implied not only that he could do a better job but that he wanted to. Now he had...

  28. TWENTY-THREE Geronimo Meets Gatewood, 1886
    (pp. 203-212)

    Captain lowton’s force of cavalry and Indian scouts had not succeeded in his mission of destroying the Chiricahuas or inducing them to surrender. Nor had Lieutenant Gatewood and his two Chiricahuas succeeded in talking with Geronimo.

    Meanwhile, General Miles had other problems to address. On July 13, 1886, he received authority to send a ten-man delegation under Chatto to Washington. In charge of Captain Joseph M. Dorst, they entrained for the capital as Miles urged that Congress be asked to lift the ban on Apaches in the Indian Territory. On July 15 General Sheridan wired Miles that this was wholly...

  29. TWENTY-FOUR Geronimo Surrenders, 1886
    (pp. 213-220)

    For captain henry w. lawton, the crucial day was August 26, 1886. Gatewood and his two Apache scouts, Kayitah and Martine, had accomplished their mission. Geronimo and Naiche came to Lawton’s bivouac and met with him. They all stayed in his camp the rest of the day and the next. Geronimo continued to talk both days, including dictating his letter to General Miles. Lawton felt certain the war would soon be over if only Miles would consent to meet personally with Geronimo and Naiche.¹

    But Miles did not want to meet with them. Preoccupied with getting the reservation Chiricahuas off...

  30. TWENTY-FIVE Prisoners of War, 1886–87
    (pp. 221-234)

    As the train rattled across Arizona and New Mexico on September 8, 1886, the twenty-seven Apaches pondered their future. As Naiche later explained his last breakout to General Crook, he didn’t know anything about Florida, but he didn’t think he would like it. All the travelers probably thought the same thing. Most painful, they knew they were leaving their mountain-and-desert homeland. But they had tired of running. They had looked into General Miles’s eyes and liked what they saw. He did not “talk ugly” to them like General Crook. They decided to trust his promise eventually to put all the...

  31. TWENTY-SIX Geronimo at Mount Vernon Barracks, 1888–94
    (pp. 235-247)

    On may 13, 1888, the train bearing Geronimo and the men and their families who had been incarcerated at Fort Pickens, forty-six in all, steamed to a stop at the railroad platform two miles west of Mount Vernon Barracks, Alabama. Not a person stood on the platform, even though the rest of the Chiricahua tribe had lived in a camp outside the post for a year, since moving from Fort Marion, Florida. The post surgeon watched the drama unfold and two years later described the appearance of Geronimo in a magazine article. He overdramatized the scene and got some of...

  32. TWENTY-SEVEN Geronimo’s Final Home, 1894–1909
    (pp. 248-254)

    As the chiricahuas left Mount Vernon for a new life at Fort Sill, they did not know what to expect. They had led a miserable life in the Alabama pine barrens for seven years. Except for occasional drunkenness, they had apparently lived an exemplary life. Captain Wotherspoon had sought, like Captain Pratt at Carlisle Indian School, to “civilize” them. But could the transformation they and other officers sought be achieved in seven years or less—or ever? To what degree had the Indians surrendered their old traditions and way of life? What went through their minds as they did what...

  33. TWENTY-EIGHT Geronimo’s Last Years
    (pp. 255-262)

    Fort sill had denied Geronimo the chance to pose before the public and sell his craftwork, as he had done at Mount Vernon. That changed only a few weeks after the scare of an Apache uprising swept Fort Sill as the garrison marched off for the Spanish American War. The Trans-Mississippi International Exposition of 1898 opened in Omaha, Nebraska. A major segment of the exposition was the “Indian Congress,” which drew five hundred Indians from thirty-five tribes and opened in August. Over the objections of their overseer, Lieutenant Francis H. Beach, Geronimo and Naiche headed a Chiricahua delegation of twenty-two...

    (pp. 263-274)

    A quart of whiskey, a fall from his horse, and pneumonia killed only the mortal Geronimo. The immortal Geronimo lives on, one of the enduring icons of American and Native American history.

    Neither Geronimo’s persona nor the legend explains why his name continues to resonate so vividly in the public mind. The reason is simple. The white citizens of Arizona and New Mexico endured a decade of Apache depredations, 1876–86. Hundreds died as Apache raiders swept down on farms, ranches, villages, mining claims, and travelers to exact an appalling toll of plunder, destruction, mutilation, and death. Their bursts of...

    (pp. 275-275)
  36. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 276-276)
  37. NOTES
    (pp. 277-318)
    (pp. 319-334)
  39. INDEX
    (pp. 335-348)