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18282 George Crook ALS, 2pp, to Charles Gatewood. “Prescott, Feb. 10, 1885.
My dear Gatewood, It was thought until just before my trip to the Supai Country last
fall that the purchase of Indian supplies at San Carlos and White Mountain had all
been arranged, but the mistake was thus discovered in order to protect the disbursing
office it was necessary to get the authority from the Sec. of War for this direct
purchase. It ws thought best to advertise at once so that in case the authority was not
granted we would be on the safe side. No dissemination was intended. I had no
intention in my former letter of alluding to any matters which had passed, but merely
intended it as a precautionary measure in the future for the lines are being drawn
tighter in me every day. Yours sincerely, George Crook.” $1,100
In 1882, the US Army sent Brigadier General George Crook to take command of Indian
operations in Arizona Territory. Crook was an experienced Indian fighter who had long since
learned that regular soldiers were almost useless against the Apaches and had based his
entire strategy on employing "Indians to fight other Indians". The Apache, as a mark of
respect, nicknamed Crook Nantan Lupan, which means "Grey Wolf". Despite having
subjugated all the major tribes of Apaches in the Territory; the Apaches had once again
taken up arms, this time under the leadership of Geronimo. Crook repeatedly saw Geronimo
and his small band of warriors escape every time.
Knowing Gatewood's reputation as one of the army's "Best Apache Men", Crook made him
Commandant of the White Mountain Indian Reservation at Fort Apache under Emmet
Crawford. Gatewood and Crook disagreed on handling of the reservation and treatment of
the Apaches. After a clash with local politicians over grazing rights on reservation land,
Crook had Gatewood transferred in 1885 to command Navajo Scouts. That same year Crook
resigned from the Army and Philip Sheridan had him replaced by General Nelson Miles in
the Geronimo Campaign.
Although Crook and Gatewood had a falling-out, Gatewood was regarded by Miles as a
"Crook Man"; despite this and Gatewood's failing health, Miles knew that Gatewood was
well known to Geronimo, spoke some Apache, and was familiar with their traditions and
values; having spent nearly 10 years in the field with them and against them.
Gatewood was dispatched by General Miles to seek out Geronimo for a parley. On July 21,
when he reached Carretas, Chihuahua, Gatewood encountered another Army officer,
Lieutenant James Parker of the 4th Cavalry, who had orders to follow Geronimo's trail.
Parker told Gatewood, "The trail is all a myth—I haven't seen any trail since three weeks ago
when it was washed out by the rains."
Despite his rapidly deteriorating health, Gatewood refused to quit and Parker guided him to
Captain Henry Lawton, who was leading a mission to find and kill Geronimo with the Fourth
Cavalry. It took two weeks through 150 miles of desert mountain ranges to locate Lawton on
the banks of the Aros River on August 3, 1886. Lawton reluctantly allowed Gatewood and
his scouts to join his command. Gatewood's health continued to deteriorate. On August 8 he
asked Lawron's Surgeon, Leonard Wood, to medically discharge him, but Wood refused. On
August 23, 1886, Gatewood led 25 men and two Apache scouts into the Sierra Madre and
found Geronimo's camp: his band reduced to 20 men and 14 women and children. On August
24 Gatewood approached Geronimo's camp with only 2 soldiers: George Medhurst Wratten,
who was fluent in all Apache dialects and one other; 2 interpreters: Tom Horn and Jesús
María Yestes; and two Chiricahua scouts: Kayitah, a Chokonen, and Martine, a Nedni, so as
not to alarm the Apaches. Kayitah and Martine made the initial contact, being invited into
the camp by the Bavispe River. Kayitah remained in the camp as a hostage while Martine
left and returned with Gatewood and 15 pounds of tobacco. After Gatewood made gifts of
tobacco, Geronimo teased Gatewood about his thinness and sickly look, Gatewood was then
told by Geronimo, "you are always welcome in my camp, and it was always safe for you to
come".Gatewood encouraged Geronimo to abandon his fight against the US Army. When
asked by Geronimo what Gatewood would do in his situation and to "think like an Apache",
Gatewood advised him to "put your trust in Miles".
Agreeing to meet with General Miles, Geronimo's band rode with Gatewood to Lawton's
camp in Guadalupe Canyon, the entrance to the United States. Lawton received Geronimo
and agreed to allow the Apaches to retain their weapons for defense against nearby Mexican
troops. Lawton left for a heliograph station to send word to Miles, leaving Lieutenant Abiel
Smith in command. Smith and Wood wanted to disarm the Apaches because they were
prisoners-of-war. Smith told Gatewood that he wanted a meeting with Geronimo's men, but
Gatewood refused because he knew Smith wanted to murder Geronimo, rather than bring
him to Miles. Smith persisted and Gatewood threatened to "blow the head off the first soldier
in line", who was Leonard Wood. Wood left to write a dispatch and Gatewood turned to the
next man, Smith, who finally relented.
The troops and the Apaches arrived at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona, in the Peloncillo
Mountains without incident on September 2, 1886. Miles arrived on September 3, 1886, and
Geronimo formally surrendered for the fourth and final time on September 4. At the
conclusion of the surrender, Geronimo turned to Gatewood and said to him, in Apache,
"Good. You told the truth".The following day Naiche surrendered, he had been in a nearby
canyon mourning his brother, who had been killed by Mexican soldiers, bringing the Apache
wars to an official end in the Southwest.
Despite his success, Miles chastised Gatewood for "disobeying orders" as Gatewood made
the final approach to Geronimo with only a party of 6 instead of 25. Gatewood reasoned that
a larger party would have scared the Apache and made them flee.The city of Tucson,
Arizona, held a Gala event to celebrate Geronimo's surrender and invited Gatewood to be
the guest of honor, but Miles refused to let him attend.Miles appointed Gatewood as his
"Aide-de-Camp", to keep the lieutenant under scrutiny, Miles downplayed Gatewood's role
in Geronimo's surrender mostly because it would have given legitimacy to Crook's strategy.