San Carlos Chiricahuas Sent to Fort Marion, FL (Sept 1886)

The United States continued to break its commitments to the Apaches. President Cleveland decided to imprison not only the resisters, but also Chiricahuas living peacefully at San Carlos.

“I do not think that these Indians (at San Carlos) should be treated otherwise than as prisoners of war, as it is quite certain they do not agree with the Government as to their location, which I am satisfied should be Fort Marion; and since we are informed that their removal can now be successfully accomplished, I think it should be done at once….”  (Grover Cleveland, President of the United States, to General R. C. Drum, Acting Secretary of War, August 23, 1886. Quoted in Herbert Welsh, “The Apache Prisoners in Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Florida.”  Philadelphia: Office of the Indian Rights Association. 1887:24-25.)

“I concur fully with the views expressed by the President.”  (General Philip H. Sheridan, Lieutenant-General, Commanding, Endorsement of Cleveland’s telegram, August 24, 1887. Quoted in Herbert Welsh, “The Apache Prisoners in Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Florida.”  Philadelphia: Office of the Indian Rights Association. 1887:25.)

“Your dispatch conveying the President’s telegram received.”  (Brigadier-General Nelson, Miles, telegram to Adjutant-General Drum, Acting Secretary of War, Washington, D. C., August 28, 1886. Quoted in Herbert Welsh, “The Apache Prisoners in Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Florida.”  Philadelphia: Office of the Indian Rights Association. 1887:25.)

On September 7, 1886, troops rounded up 383 Chiricahua women, children, and non-combatants at San Carlos and herded them 90 miles to Holbrook, Arizona. Cleveland shipped them to Fort Marion on September 13.

“Many of (the) … scouts and most of the other … (Chiricahuas) were farming all this time at the agency. Some of them had sheep, some had goats, some had mule teams, wagons, harnesses; some of them had horses and fine saddles….

“That night the Western Apache gave a big social dance, and the women were dancing. No one was worried. Suddenly the escort wagons were there. They herded the children, the women, and the old men at the camps down to the agency. They loaded them on escort wagons … They just let them take what they had on, a shawl, a blanket. (Sam Kenoi, Chiricahua Apache POW, In “A Chiricahua Apache’s Account of the Geronimo Campaign of 1886,” The Journal of Arizona History, Vol. 27, 1986:84.)

Among those from San Carlos whom Cleveland imprisoned were 65 Apache scouts and their families.

“They surrounded us with scouts and soldiers…. They told us that where we were going it was the same as it was there. We were scouts in one place and would be in the other. When they had surrounded us, the White Mountain Indians drove off our horses and cattle; they went to our farms and took what they wanted while we were surrounded…. They told us that we were going to be taken off, but not very far away, about a day’s travel by railway.”  (Coonie, Chiricahua Apache scout and POW, Message from the President of the Unites States, U. S. Senate Exec. Doc. 35 (51-1), pp. 34-35.)

Experienced military officers judged Cleveland’s act dishonorable.

“I assert … without reserve or qualification of any nature, that these Chiricahua scouts … did most excellent service, and were of more value in hunting down and compelling the surrender of the renegades than all other troops engaged in operations against them combined.”  (General George Crook. Quoted in Herbert Welsh, “The Apache Prisoners in Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Florida.”  Philadelphia: Office of the Indian Rights Association. 1887:22.)

“There is no more disgraceful page in the history of our relations with the American Indians than that which conceals the treachery visited upon the Chiricahuas who remained faithful in their allegiance to our people.”  (Captain John Gregory Bourke, Third U. S. Calvary, Staff Member, General George Crook, Commander, Department of Arizona, On the Border with Crook, 1962. Quoted in Davis 1976:234-235.)

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