March 27th, 1886 – The Surrender of Geronimo

On March 27th, 1886, the famous Apache warrior, Geronimo, surrendered to the U.S. Army, ending the main phase of the Apache Wars.

Apache_chieff_Geronimo_(right)_and_his_warriors_in_1886

Geronimo (Mescalero-Chiricahua: Goyaałé [kòjàːɬɛ́] “the one who yawns”; June 16th, 1829 – February 17th, 1909) was a prominent leader from the Bedonkohe band of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. From 1850 to 1886 Geronimo joined with members of three other Chiricahua Apache bands—the Chihenne, the Chokonen and the Nednhi—to carry out numerous raids as well as resistance to US and Mexican military terrorism in the northern Mexico states of Chihuahua and Sonora, and in the southwestern American territories of New Mexico and Arizona. Geronimo’s raids and related combat actions were a part of the prolonged period of the Apache-American conflict, that started with American settlement in Apache lands following the end of the war with Mexico in 1848. The Apache-American conflict was itself a direct outgrowth of the much older Apache-Mexican conflict which had been ongoing in the same general area since the beginning of Mexican/Spanish settlement in the 1600’s.

800px-GoyaaleEarly in his life, Geronimo became invested in the continuing and relentless cycle of revenge warfare between Apache and Mexican. On March 5th, 1851, when Geronimo was in his 20’s, a force of Mexican militia from Sonora under Colonel Jose Maria Carrasco attacked and surprised an Apache camp outside of Janos, Chihuahua, slaughtering the inhabitants which included Geronimo’s family. Col. Carrasco claimed he had followed the Apaches to Janos, Chihuahua after they had conducted a raid in Sonora, taken livestock and other plunder and badly defeated Mexican militia. Geronimo was absent at the time of the attack on the Apache camp, but when he returned he found that his mother, wife, and his three children were among the dead. In retaliation, Geronimo joined in an extended series of revenge attacks against the Mexicans. This event left Geronimo with a bitter and very personal hatred for Mexicans, and he often killed them indiscriminately and with a special vehemence. Throughout Geronimo’s adult life his antipathy, suspicion and dislike for Mexicans was demonstrably greater than for Americans.

Edward_S._Curtis_Geronimo_Apache_cp01002vDuring Geronimo’s final period of conflict from 1876 to 1886 he “surrendered” three times and accepted life on the Apache reservations in Arizona. Reservation life was confining to the free-moving Apache people, and they resented restrictions on their customary way of life. While Apaches were shielded from the violence of warfare on the reservation, disability and death from diseases like malaria was much more prevalent. On the other hand, rations were provided by the government, though at times the corruption of Indian agents caused rationing to become perilously scarce. Rebelling against reservation life, other Apache leaders had led their bands in “breakouts” from the reservations. On three separate occasions — August, 1878; September, 1881; May, 1885 —Geronimo led his band of followers in “breakouts” from the reservation to return to their former nomadic life associated with raiding and warfare. Following each breakout, Geronimo and his band would flee across Arizona and New Mexico to Mexico, killing and plundering as they went, and establish a new base in the rugged and remote Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains.

In 1886, after an intense pursuit in Northern Mexico by U.S. forces that followed Geronimo’s third 1885 reservation “breakout”, Geronimo surrendered for the last time to General Nelson Miles at Skeleton Canyon, just north of the Mexican/American boundary. Miles treated Geronimo as a prisoner of war and acted promptly to remove Geronimo first to Fort Bowie, then to the railroad at Bowie Station, Arizona where he and 27 other Apaches were sent off to join the rest of the Chiricahua tribe which has been previously exiled to Florida. This prompt action prevented the Arizona civil authorities from intervening to arrest and try Geronimo for the death of the many Americans who had been killed during the previous decades of raiding. The Chiricahuas remained at Fort Pickens in Florida until 1888 when they were relocated to Mt. Vernon Barracks in Alabama. In 1894 the Chiricahuas, including Geronimo were relocated at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they built villages scattered around the post based on kindred groups. Geronimo, like other Apaches, was given a plot of land on which he took up farming activities.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

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