Peace Negotiations (March 1886)

The following year, Chiricahua leaders decided to negotiate with General Crook. They met with him on March 25 and 27, 1886.

“In conference with Geronimo and other Chiricahuas … (t)he 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 … or that they should all return to the reservation on their old status; or else return to the warpath with all its antecedent horrors. As I had to act at once, I have today accepted their surrender upon the first proposition.”  (General George Crook, Commander, Department of Arizona, to Lieutenant-General Philip Henry Sheridan, Commanding General of the Army, March 29, 1886.)

After agreeing to go east for no more than two years, Chihuahua, Nana, and their people went with Crook to Fort Bowie. Geronimo, Naiche, Fun, Perico, and others originally agreed to accompany Crook, but changed their minds. They went back to the Sierra Madres.

“(I started to go) … back to the United States, but I feared treachery and decided to remain in Mexico. We were not under any guard at this time. The United States troops marched in front and the Indians followed, and when we became suspicious, we turned back…. It was hard for me to believe (Crook) at that time. Now I know that what he said was untrue….”  (Geronimo, Geronimo’s Story of his Life, 1971:137-140. Orig. 1906.)

There is more to this story. On March 28, an American whiskey dealer sold mescal to some of the Apache men, who became drunk.

“(The trader) and his Mexican subordinates gave Geronimo and (Naiche) to understand that imprisonment and death awaited them in the United States…. This incident so alarmed and disgusted me and was so pregnant with significance that I rode up to Genl. Crook and asked him to have … (the dealer) killed as a foe to human society….”  (Captain John Gregory Bourke, Third U. S. Calvary, Staff Member, General George Crook, Commander, Department of Arizona, Journal 81, pp. 142-46. Also, On the Border with Crook, 1962:480. Orig. 1891. Quoted in Porter 1986:177.)

“There is not the slightest doubt that their surrender was made in good faith. The fact that Geronimo and Naiche, having been filled with fiery mescal and alarmed by the lies of a designing man, stampeded on the route to Fort Bowie with a party of their following was an unfortunate but not irreparable accident.”  (General George Crook, “Résumé of Operations against Apache Indians, 1882 to 1886.”  Headquarters, Department of the Platte, Omaha, Nebraska, December 27, 1886. Quoted in Cozzens 2001:577.)

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The Chiricahua Apaches become Prisoners of War (1886)