Nelson Appleton Miles.

Personal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire online

. (page 39 of 51)
Online LibraryNelson Appleton MilesPersonal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire → online text (page 39 of 51)
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ascending the high hills beyond, discovered first a small trail, and then a

large, well-beaten one, evidently that of
the entire band of hostiles. 'The trail was
about six days old, and as we
passed over it, here and there,
the bodies of dead cattle, only
partially used, were found.
The hostiles had but a
short time pre-
viously moved
their camp
from the junc-
tion of the
Haros and
Yaqui Rivers a
few miles to
the west, and
were going to
the east to the
fastnesses of
some extremely
rugged moun-
tains : the Es-
pinosa del Diablo, or the
Devil's Backbone a most
appropriate name, as the
country was broken and
rough beyond description.
The march was now con-
ducted mostly by night.
We suffered much from
the cold, and the one blanket to each man used when we slept was
scanty covering. Often it was impossible to sleep at all. At times we
made our coffee and cooked our food in the daytime, choosing points
where the light could not be seen, and using dry wood to avoid smoke.
Our moccasins were thin and the rocks were hard on the feet. Shoes



had been abandoned, as the noise made by them could be heard a long
distance. The advance scouts kept far ahead. Several abandoned camps
of the hostiles were found, the selection of which showed their constant
care. They were placed on high points, to which the hostiles ascended in
such a way that it was impossible for them to be seen; while in descending,
any pursuing party would have to appear in full view of the lookout they
always kept in the rear. The labor of the Indian women in bringing the
water and wood to these points was no apparent objection.

Crossing the Haros River the trail led direct to the Devil's Back-
bone, situated between the Haros and Satachi Rivers. The difficulties of
marching over a country like this by night, where it was necessary to
climb over rocks and to descend into deep and dark canons, can hardly be
imagined. When we halted, which was sometimes not until midnight, we
were sore and tired. We could never move until late in the day, as it was
necessary to examine the country a long distance ahead before we started.
No human being seemed ever to have been here. Deer were plentiful, but
we could not shoot them. Once I saw a leopard that bounded away with
a shriek. It was spotted and seemed as large as a tiger. At last, after a
weary march, at sunset on the 9th of January, 1886, Noche, our Indian
sergeant-major and guide, sent word that the hostile camp was located
twelve miles away.

The command was halted, and as the hostiles were reported camped
on a high point, well protected and apparently showing great caution on
their part, it was decided to make a night march and attack them at day-
light. A short halt of about twenty minutes was made. We did not
kindle a fire, and about the only food we had was some hard bread and
some raw bacon. The medical officer, Dr. Davis, was worn out, and the
interpreter also unfortunately could go no further. We had already
marched continuously for about six hours and were very much worn out
and footsore, even the scouts showing the fatigue of the hard service.
These night marches, when we followed a trail purposely made over the
worst country possible, and crossing and recrossing the turbulent river,
which we had to ford, were very trying. But the news of the camp being
so close at hand gave us new strength and hope, and we hastened on to
cover the ten or twelve miles between us and the hostiles. I cannot easily for-
get that night's march. All night long we toiled on, feeling our way. It was
a dark and moonless night. For much of the distance the way led over
solid rock, over mountains, down canons so dark they seemed bottomless.
It was a wonder the scouts could find the trail. Sometimes the descent


became so steep that we could not go forward, but would have to wearily
climb back and find another way. I marched by poor Captain Crawford,
who was badly worn out; often he stopped and leaned heavily on his rifle
for support, and again he used it for a cane to assist him. He had, how-
ever, an unconquerable will, and kept slowly on. At last, when it was
nearly daylight, we could see in the distance the dim outlines of the rocky
position occupied by the hostiles. I had a strong feeling of relief, for I
certainly was very tired. We had marched continuously eighteen hours
over a country so difficult that when we reached their camp Geronimo
said he felt that he had no longer a place where the white man would
not pursue him.

The command was now quickly disposed for an attack, our first object
being to surround the hostile camp. I was sent around to the further
side. Noiselessly, scarcely breathing, we crept along. It was still dark.
It seemed strange to be going to attack these Indians with a force of their
own kindred who but a short time before had been equally as criminal. I
had nearly reached the further side, intending to cut off the retreat, when
the braying of some burros was heard. These watch dogs of an Indian
camp are better than were the geese of Rome. I hurried along. The faint
light of the morning was just breaking, and I held my breath for fear the
alarm would be given, when all at once the flames bursting from the rifles
of some of the hostiles who had gone to investigate the cause of the bray-
ing of the burros, and the echoing and reechoing of the rifle reports
through the mountains, told me that the camp was in arms. Dim forms
could be seen rapidly descending the mountain sides and disappearing be-
low. A large number came my way within easy range, less than two
hundred yards. We fired many shots but I saw no one fall. One Indian
attempted to ride by me on a horse; I fired twice at him, when he aband-
oned the horse and disappeared; the horse was shot, but I never knew what
became of the Indian. We pursued for a time, but as few of our Indian
scouts could have gone farther, we had to give up the pursuit. The
hostiles, like so many quail, had disappeared among the rocks. One
by one our scouts returned. We had captured the entire herd, all
the camp effects and what little food they had, consisting of some
mescal, some fresh pony meat, a small part of a deer and a little dried
meat, which the scouts seized and began to devour. I had no desire for
food. Every one was worn out and it was cold and damp. In a little
while an Indian woman came in and said that Geronimo and Natchez
desired to talk. She begged food, and left us bearing word that Captain



Crawford would see the chiefs next day. The conference was to be held
about a mile away on the river below our position, and he desired me to
be present. What would have been the result of this conference will
never be known on account of the unfortunate attack of the Mexicans
next day. It was fortunate that we occupied the strong
position of the hostile camp. Our packs as well as the
doctor and interpreter had been sent for, but unfortu-
nately they did not arrive that night.

We built fires
and tried to ob-
tain a little rest,
but I could not
sleep on account
of the intense
cold, and, besides,
we had been with-
out food for many
hours ; in fact, we
had not partaken
of cooked food for

days. With the ___ _^^

continual march- ^T **|^
ing day and night
no wonder our In-
dians were tired
out and now threw
themselves among
the rocks to sleep,
failing to main-
tain their usual vigil-
ance. We had no fear
of an attack. At daylight the
next morning the camp was
aroused by loud cries from
some of our scouts. Lieutenant Shipp and I, with a white man
named Horn employed as chief-of-scouts for my companies, ran for-
ward to ascertain the cause of alarm. We thought at first that
the disturbance must have been occasioned by the scouts of Cap-
tain Wirt Davis. A heavy fog hung over the mountains, making the



morning light very faint. But by ascending the rocks we could see
the outlines of dusky forms moving in the distance. Then all at once
there was a crash of musketry and the flames from many rifles lighted
up the scene. In that discharge three of our scouts were wounded, one very
badly, and we quickly sought cover. The thought that it was our own friends
who were attacking us was agonizing and we had not the heart to retaliate,
but the scouts kept up a desultory fire until Captain Crawford, whom we
had left lying by the camp fire, shouted to us to stop. In about fifteen
minutes the firing ceased and it now became known that the attacking
party were Mexicans, a detachment of whom, about thirteen, were seen
approaching, four of them coming toward the rocks where we were. As I
spoke Spanish, I advanced about fifty or seventy-five yards to meet them
and was followed by Captain Crawford. I told them who we were and of
our fight with the hostiles, that we had just captured their camp, etc.
Captain Crawford, who did not speak Spanish, now asked if I had explained
all to them. I told him I had. At this time we were all standing within
a few feet of each other.

The officer commanding the Mexicans was Major Corredor, a tall,
powerful man over six feet high, and he acted as spokesman. Looking to
the rocks we could see the heads of many of our Indian scouts with their
rifles ready, and could hear the sharp snap of the breechblocks as the
cartridges were inserted. I can well recall the expression on the faces of
these Mexicans, for they thought our scouts were going to fire ; indeed I
thought so myself. At the same time I noticed a party of Mexicans march-
ing in a low ravine toward a high point which commanded and enfiladed
our position, about four hundred yards distant. I called Captain Crawford's
attention to this as well as to the aspect of our own scouts. He said, " For
God's sake, don't let them fire !" Major Corredor also said, "No tiras;"
-Don't fire. I said to him, "No," and told him not to let his men fire.
I then turned toward the scouts saying in Spanish " Don't fire," holding my
hand toward them. They nearly all understood Spanish while they did
not speak it. I had taken a few steps forward to carry out the Captain's
instructions, when one shot rang out distinct and alone ; the echoes were
such that I could not tell where it came from, but it sounded like a death
knell and was followed by volleys from both sides. As we all sought cover,
I looked back just in time to see the tall Mexican throw down his rifle
and fall, shot through the heart. Another Mexican, Lieutenant Juan de
La Cruz, fell as he ran, pierced by thirteen bullets. The other two ran
behind a small oak, but it was nearly cut down by bullets and they were


both killed. About nine or ten others who were in view rapidly got close
to the ground or in hollows behind rocks, which alone saved them as they
were near, and formed a portion of the party that advanced. Upon reach-
ing the rocks where I had sought shelter, I found Captain Crawford lying
with his head pierced by a ball. His brain was running down his face and
some of it lay on the rocks. He must have been shot just as he reached
and mounted the rocks. Over his face lay a red handkerchief at which his
hand clutched in a spasmodic way. Dutchy stood near him. I thought
him dead, and sick at heart I gave my attention to the serious conditions
existing. The fall of Captain Crawford was a sad and unfortunate event,
greatly to be deplored, and cast a gloom over us which we could not
shake off.

Being next in command, I hastened to send scouts to prevent the attack
attempted on our right above referred to, and after an interval of about two
hours the Mexicans were driven entirely away and the firing gradually
ceased. They now occupied a strong line of hills, with excellent shelter,
were double our strength, and were armed with calibre 44 Remington
rifles, which carried a cartridge similar to our own. Our command was
without rations and nearly without ammunition, the one beltful supplied
to each scout having in many cases been entirely exhausted in the two
fights. It was true that many of them had extra rounds, but I estimated
that between four and five thousand rounds had been fired and that some
of the men had none left.

The Mexicans now called to us saying they would like to talk, but they
were too cautious to advance. When Mr. Horn and I went forward, to
talk to them, three or four advanced to meet us about one hundred and
fifty yards from our position. The brother of the lieutenant who had been
killed was crying bitterly, and the whole party seemed a most forlorn
company of men, and sincere in saying that they thought we were
the hostiles. All their officers were killed, and I believe others be-
sides, but how many we never knew. The fact that our command was
composed almost entirely of Indians was a most unfortunate one. With
regular soldiers all would have been clear. Our position at this time, con-
fronted as we were by a hostile Mexican force, while behind us was the en-
tire hostile band of Indians evidently enjoying the situation, is probably
unparalleled. We had scarcely any ammunition, no food, and our supplies
were with the pack-train almost unprotected no one knew where while
we were many days' march from our own country, which could only be
reached through a territory hostile to our Indians. The governor of Sonora

M. 27


had made serious charges against the Indians for depredations committed
on the march down, and besides, there was a bitter feeling existing caused by
this fight. If the Mexicans had attacked us in the rear, where we were en-
tirely unprotected, our position would have been untenable. Had such an
attack been made the result would probably have been the scat-
tering of our command in the mountains, our Chiricahuas joining the

It looked very serious, and my future course was governed by the con-
dition. If it were possible I was bound to protect the lives of the white
men of the command, the pack-train, and our Indian scouts. Lieutenant
Shipp and I were in accord, he appreciating as I did our desperate position.
The first attack had been a mistake, and the second had been brought on
before the Mexicans could know what had been said to their officers who
had been killed. The Mexicans deplored the affair and seemed sincere.
I felt a pity for them. They asked me to go with them while they carried
their dead away. A small detail took the bodies one by one to their lines,
and I went with each body. They then asked me to send our doctor to
care for their wounded, and to loan them enough of the captured stock
to carry their wounded back. I agreed to do this, but could give them no
food, which they also asked. Late in the day the doctor arrived, and after
he had attended to our wounded I sent him to look after theirs, some of
whom were in a dangerous way. He attended five of them.

The next day I decided to move on, as the surgeon said that the death
of Captain Crawford was a matter of but a little time, and our condition
made it necessary for us to try and reach our pack-train for supplies and
ammunition. I was afraid that the Mexicans might take our pack-train,
as it had but a poor escort of the weak and sick. Besides, most of the
packers had been armed with calibre 50 carbines (Sharps), while they had
been supplied with calibre 45 ammunition. I was in hopes that when away
from the Mexicans I might succeed in effecting a conference with the
hostile chiefs, and possibly a surrender. This could not be done while the
Mexicans were near, and they would not move before we did, as they said
they were afraid they might be attacked by the scouts. In order to move
Captain Crawford, I had to make a litter and have him carried by hand.
As there was no wood in the country, I sent to the river and got canes,
which we bound together to make the side rails, using a piece of canvas
for the bed.

While busy attending to the making of this, I heard someone calling,
and going out a short distance, saw Concepcion, the interpreter, standing



with some Mexicans about two hundred yards away. He beckoned to me
and I went forward to talk to the men, as I was the only one who could
speak Spanish, Horn being wounded. I had sent Concepcion to drive back
some of the captured Indian stock which had wandered off during the
fight. As I advanced toward the Mexicans they saluted me very cour-
teously, and in a friendly way said that before they left they wanted to
have a talk. It was raining and they asked me to step under a sheltering
rock near by ; this was the very point from which they had first fired. On
stepping under the rock, I found myself confronted with about fifty
Mexicans, all armed with Remington rifles, and a hard looking lot. I
would here state that I had sent them, according to my promise, six of the
captured Indian horses, which, however, they had not received, as they
said the horses were no good, being wounded and worn out ; but of this I
did not know at the time. Old Concepcion was detained by them. He
was a Mexican who had been stolen by the Apaches when a boy, and was
employed as an interpreter, as he knew the Apache language.

The manner of the Mexicans when they found me in their power had
undergone a marked change. They became insolent, stating that we had
killed their officers and that we were marauders and had no authority in
their country. They demanded my papers. I explained that there was a
treaty between Mexico and the United States, but that I had no papers, as
Captain Crawford had left all our baggage with the pack-train. Their
language was insolent and threatening. I now appreciated my position
and realized that the consequence of my being away from the command
with the interpreter was that there was no one with the scouts who could
make himself understood by them. The Mexicans stated that I had
promised them animals to take back their wounded, and had not furnished
them, as those I had sent were worthless. I told them I would send them
other animals on my return, and started to go, when they surrounded me,
saying that I must remain until I had sent the mules.

By this time our Indians were yelling and preparing to fight. A few
shots would have precipitated matters. The Mexicans called my attention
to the action of my scouts, and I told them that the Indians evidently
feared treachery and that I could not control them while away. They
then said I could go if I would send them six mules, after which they
would leave the country. This I promised I would do, but they would not
trust my word of honor and held old Concepcion a prisoner till I sent them
the mules. I demanded a receipt, which they gave, and afterward Mexico
paid our government the full value of the animals.



It was now too late in the day to move, but the next morning I pro-
ceeded on the homeward march, carrying Captain Crawford by hand. The
Indians, always superstitious, did not want to help, but were persuaded,
Lieutenant Shipp and I also assisting. To add to the difficulty, it was the
rainy season and the steep mountain sides were climbed most laboriously.

It would be difficult to describe this march.
With great effort, the first day we only made
two or three miles. The wounded Indian
was placed on a pony, and although


badly hurt, seemed to get along very well. The two other wounded scouts
and Mr. Horn were so slightly injured that they moved with no trouble.

An Indian woman came into camp that night and said that Geronimo
wanted to talk. I concluded to meet him, and the next morning, after
moving about two miles, I left the command and went with the interpre-


ter. Mr. Horn, and five scouts, to a point about a mile or so distant. We
went without arms as this was expressly stipulated by Geronimo as a con-
dition. The chiefs did not appear, but I had a talk with two of the men,
who promised that the chiefs would meet me the next day. They said I
must come without arms. The next day I went to meet them and found
Geronimo, Natchez, Nana and Chihuahua with fourteen men. They came
fully armed with their belts full of ammunition, and as I had come
unarmed according to agreement, this was a breach of faith and I did not
think it argued well for their conduct. Apparently suspicious of treach-
ery, every man of them sat with his ritie in an upright position, forming a
circle nearly around me with Geronimo in the center. He sat there for
fully a minute looking me straight in the eyes and finally said to me:

"Why did you come down here?"

" I came to capture or destroy you and your band," I answered.

He knew perfectly well that this was the only answer I could truth-
fully make. He then arose, walked to me and shook my hand, saying that
he could trust me, and then asked me to report to the department com-
mander what he had to say. He enumerated his grievances at the
agency, all of which were purely imaginary or assumed. I advised him to
surrender and told him if he did not that neither the United States
troops nor the Mexicans would let him rest. He agreed to surrender to
me Nana, one other man, his (Geronimo's) wife, and one of Natchez's
wives, with some of their children, nine in all, and promised to meet Gen-
eral Crook near San Bernardino in two moons to talk about surrendering.
With this understanding I returned to camp. In a short time he sent the
prisoners with the request that I give him a little sugar and flour. This
request I complied with, having in the meantime sent some of my scouts
for the pack-train, which they had found and brought back. Here,
almost at midnight, I was awakened by the scouts who had assembled say-
ing that they had seen the Mexicans approaching to attack us, and
that they must have ammunition. I had not intended to issue any more
just then, as we only had about three thousand rounds left, but they
begged so hard that I finally issued one thousand rounds, though I could
hardly believe this report. No Mexicans appeared. The hostiles had
plenty of money and it was afterward reported that our scouts had sold
them ammunition at the rate of one dollar per round.

The next day we continued on our march, which was very difficult on
account of our being encumbered with our wounded. On the 17th of
January, while sitting with Captain Crawford, he opened his eyes and



looked me straight in the face and then pressed my hand. No doubt he
was conscious, and I tried to get him to speak or write, but he could not.
I assured him I would do all in my power to arrange his affairs, and he
put his arm around me and drew me to him, but could only shake his
head in answer. This conscious interval only lasted about five minutes,
and then the look of intelligence seemed to pass away forever. The next
day he died while we were on the march, passing away
so quietly that no one knew the exact time of his death.

We wrapped the body in canvas
=< ' ; ":^x an d placed it on one of the pack

mules. We
now moved
but when we reached
the Satachi River we
could not cross it, as
it was swollen by the late rains
and was deep and turbulent.
We were thus forced to go into
camp and lose a day. In the meantime the body of Captain Crawford
began to decompose, so we hurried on, crossing the river the next day and
on the day following reached Nacori. Here we buried Captain Crawford,
putting his body in charge of the Presidente of the town and marking well
the place of his burial. I could only get four boards (slabs) in the town
and used them in making a coffin,the body being wrapped securely in canvas.



The disposition of the people was decidedly unfriendly, and at Baserac
and Bavispe about two hundred of the local troops were assembled with
hostile intent. To add to the trouble, the scouts obtained mescal and were
very unruly. I had to use great care to prevent a conflict at Baserac. I
was obliged to pass through the town, as there was a mountain on one side
and a river on the other. The officials refused at first to let me pass, but
I moved some of the troops through, supported by the remainder, and
avoided a conflict. At Bavispe the Indians obtained a large quantity of
mescal, and the civil authorities tried to take our captured stock. I sent

Online LibraryNelson Appleton MilesPersonal recollections and observations of General Nelson A. Miles embracing a brief view of the Civil War, or, From New England to the Golden Gate : and the story of his Indian campaigns, with comments on the exploration, development and progress of our great western empire → online text (page 39 of 51)