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An Apache Campaign in the Sierra Madre

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An Apache Campaign in the Sierra Madre
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Author(s): John G. Bourke
Date Published: 2010/11
Page Count: 108
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-408-0
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-407-3

With Crook in pursuit of Geronimo and his band

The author of this book was a U.S soldier in addition to being a well known and highly regarded author on the Apache Wars of the later nineteenth century—in which he was an active participant. He maintained an interest, respect for and in some measure an affection for the Apaches and he also made a serious study of and wrote notable works on their customs and culture. He is perhaps best known for his classic account of the Apache Wars, ‘On the Border with Crook.’ This small account was written prior to his larger and more expansive work. It originally appeared as a series of articles in the Boston published ‘Outing Magazine.’ Bourke decided to bring his earlier writings back into print in book form, at a time when the Apaches had once again taken the war trail, to provide the American public with context to then current events. This fascinating account, which centres on the events of the Spring of 1883, concerns Crook’s pursuit of the Chiricahua Apaches who broke out of San Carlos reservation to raid through Arizona and Mexico before vanishing into the fastness of the Sierra Madre. Those with any interest or knowledge in this subject will find themselves familiarly introduced to the corps of Apache Scouts, Al Sieber (Zieber), the scout and interpreter, Crook, Gatewood, Chato and of course the renowned Geronimo, as well as other names long associated with this remarkable time in the history of the Apaches and Arizona. This book is an invaluable addition to the library of the early frontier of the South West of America. Available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket for collectors.

Look out! came the warning cry from those in the lead, and then those in the rear and bottom dodged nervously from the trajectory of rocks dislodged from the parent mass, and, gathering momentum as each bound hurled them closer to the bottom of the cañon. To look upon the country was a grand sensation; to travel in it, infernal. Away down at the foot of the mountains the pack-mules could be discerned—apparently not much bigger than jack-rabbits,—struggling and panting up the long, tortuous grade. And yet, up and down these ridges the Apache scouts, when the idea seized them, ran like deer.<br>
One of them gave a low cry, half whisper, half whistle. Instantly all were on the alert, and by some indefinable means, the news flashed through the column that two Chiricahuas had been sighted a short distance ahead in a side cañon. Before I could write this down the scouts had stripped to the buff, placed their clothing in the rocks, and dispatched ten or twelve of their number in swift pursuit.<br>
This proved to be a false alarm, for in an hour they returned, having caught up with the supposed Chiricahuas, who were a couple of our own packers, off the trail, looking for stray mules.<br>
When camp was made that afternoon the Apache scouts had a long conference with General Crook. They called attention to the fact that the pack-trains could not keep up with them, that five mules had been killed on the trail yesterday, and five others had rolled off this morning, but been rescued with slight injuries. They proposed that the pack-trains and white troops remain in camp at this point, and in future move so as to be a day’s march or less behind the Apache scouts, 150 of whom, under Crawford, Gatewood, and Mackey, with Al. Zeiber and the other white guides, would move out well in advance to examine the country thoroughly in front.<br>
If they came upon scattered parties of the hostiles they would attack boldly, kill as many as they could, and take the rest back, prisoners, to San Carlos. Should the Chiricahuas be intrenched in a strong position, they would engage them, but do nothing rash, until reinforced by the rest of the command. General Crook told them they must be careful not to kill women or children, and that all who surrendered should be taken back to the reservation and made to work for their own living like white people.<br>
Animation and bustle prevailed everywhere; small fires were burning in secluded nooks, and upon the bright embers the scouts baked quantities of bread to be carried with them. Some ground coffee on flat stones; others examined their weapons critically and cleaned their cartridges. Those whose moccasins needed repair sewed and patched them, while the more cleanly and more religious indulged in the sweat-bath, which has a semi-sacred character on such occasions.<br>
A strong detachment of packers, soldiers, and Apaches climbed the mountains to the south, and reached the locality in the foot-hills where the Mexicans and Chiricahuas had recently had an engagement. Judging by signs it would appear conclusive that the Indians had enticed the Mexicans into an ambuscade, killed a number with bullets and rocks, and put the rest to ignominious flight. The “medicine-men” had another song and pow-wow after dark. Before they adjourned it was announced that in two days, counting from the morrow, the scouts would find the Chiricahuas, and in three days kill a “heap.”