Life and Conditions at Mount Vernon Barracks

Environmental and health conditions were as bad at Mount Vernon Barracks as they had been at San Carlos.

“We had thought Fort Marion a terrible place with the mosquitoes and rain, but (Mount Vernon) was worse. It rained nearly all the time… On top of that the mosquitoes almost ate us alive. Babies died from their bites…. It was worse than … St Augustine; it was terrible…. (O)ur people got the shaking sickness…. We burned one minute and froze the next. No matter how hot and muggy it was, no pile of blankets would keep us warm. We chilled and shook…. We had our own Medicine Men, but none of them had the Power over this malaria.”  (Eugene Chihuahua, Chiricahua Apache POW, In Eve Ball, 1980:152-153.)

“The three hundred and eighty-eight … at Mount Vernon Barracks are now in a condition which needs prompt action to avid positive inhumanity. The normal death rate of civilized people is 2 percent per annum. That of these people … is more than three times as great. A number equal to one-quarter of those brought east has died in three and a half years…. They have been told that good behavior would secure action towards permanent homes of their own, and this promise so long deferred has increased their hopeless feeling. Each year’s delay is a greater injury to them.”  (First Lieutenant Guy Howard, Twelfth Infantry, report on Mt. Vernon to General J. M. Schofield, Adjutant General, December 23, 1889. Quoted in Skinner 1987:269.)

“In the winter time, when the ice freezes, it stays the same size; but when the hot weather comes it all melts away … so with us…. (W)e have, since you last saw us, been melting away like ice in the sun.”  (George Noche, Chiricahua Apache Scout and POW, to Captain John Gregory Bourke, Third U. S. Calvary, Staff Member, General George Crook, Commander, Department of Arizona, June 24, 1889 at Mount Vernon Barracks.)

“The sick are always carefully, if not gently, attended by relatives, and when death comes, as come it does very often, they consider it a duty to contribute of their household goods and wearing apparel valuable articles, to enable the dead one to make a good appearance in the next world.”  (Dr. Walter Reed, Mount Vernon Barracks Post Surgeon, “Geronimo and his Warriors in Captivity,” The Illustrated American, August 16, 1890:231-235.)

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