Apache War Campaign

Apache at the Ford, Edward S. Curtis, 1903

Apache at the Ford, Edward S. Curtis, 1903

After Brigadier General George Crook became commander of the Department of Arizona in 1871 he undertook a series of winter campaigns by small detachments which pacified the region by 1874. In the years that followed, the Indian Bureau’s policy of frequent removal created new dissatisfaction among the Apache. Dissident elements went off the reservations, led by Chato, Victorio, Geronimo, and other chiefs, and raided settlements along both sides of the border, escaping into Mexico or the United States as circumstances dictated. To combat this practice the two nations agreed in 1882 to permit the reasonable pursuit of Indian raiders by the troops of each country across the international boundary.

Chief Victorio

Chief Victorio

Victorio was killed by Mexican troops in 1880, but Chato and Geronimo remained at large until May 1883 when they surrendered to General Crook and elements of the 6th Cavalry, reinforced by Apache scouts, at a point some 200 miles inside Mexico.

Two years later Geronimo and about 150 Chiricahua Apache again left their White Mountain reservation in Arizona and once more terrorized the border region. Elements of the 4th Cavalry and Apache scouts immediately took up the pursuit of the Chiricahua renegades. In January 1886 Captain Emmet Crawford and 80 Apache scouts attacked Geronimo’s main band some 200 miles south of the border, but the Indians escaped into the mountains. Although Crawford was killed by Mexican irregulars shortly thereafter, his second in command, 1st Lieutenant M. P. Maus, was able to negotiate Geronimo’s surrender to General Crook in late March 1886.

But Geronimo and part of his band escaped within a few days on March 29th. Captain Henry W. Lawton’s column surprised Geronimo’s camp in the mountains of Mexico on July 20th. Although the Chiricahuas again fled, by the end of August they indicated a willingness to surrender. On September 4, 1886, 1st Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood of Lawton’s command negotiated the formal surrender to Brigadier General Nelson Miles who had relieved General Crook in April. Geronimo and his band were removed to Florida and finally to the Fort Sil, Oklahoma military reservation.

Geronimo, Apache War Leader

Geronimo, Apache War Leader

© Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2021.

Source: U.S. Army Center of Military History

Also See:

Arizona Indian Battles

Battles and Massacres of the Indian Wars

Indian War List and Timeline

Indian Wars Across America

Three Indian Campaigns

Indian Wars of the Frontier West by Emerson Hough