The troopers of the United States Cavalry under the command of General Nelson A. Miles watched in silent tribute as the last long train of military wagons wound its way along the dust choked road, down the mountain from Fort Bowie, Arizona Territory, to the nearby railhead. The year was 1886 and the wagons were carrying Geronimo and all the remaining Chiricahua Apaches in Arizona to be loaded into waiting railroad cars like so many heads of cattle, and at long last shipped off to a Florida prison camp.
It was the end of more than fifty years of warfare between the Apache Indians and the United States. It marked the termination of one of the most colorful eras in Southwestern history. It had been an exciting era-one compounded of action and heroism. It was the story of Tom Jeffords and the one-armed General O. O. Howard riding into the heart of Cochise’s stronghold, deep in the crags of the Dragoon Mountains, to negotiate a lasting peace.
It was the story of Lt. John Rucker trying to rescue another officer from a flooded canyon and dying in the attempt. It was the story of a determined General George Crook struggling to cover vast territory with a handful of men. It was the story of an embittered Geronimo fighting against hopeless odds. It was the story of a gallant Captain Crawford being killed by Mexican irregulars, deep in the Sierra Madre Mountains of old Mexico.
In Arizona Territory during the 1870’s and 1880’s a gallant group of Indians tried to stop the march of Western civilization. The soldiers and civilians who led that march were no less gallant. The bitter fighting that focused there forced the army to develop sophisticated guerilla warfare techniques, giving this long-ago history a pertinence to modern events that illustrates the adage: “The past is prologue to the future.’
The story of their effort is but one small segment in the history of a long and bloody struggle. It is unique in that the circumstances and events surrounding it are strange and unmatched in the usual means by which the Apache people fought and attempted to halt the on-rushing tide of the white man. And yet, at the same time, it is fairly consistent with the actions and characteristics demonstrated by all civilizations throughout world history who have found their cultures outmoded and decayed. When all practical-logical methods of rescuing their way of life have failed, they acquire a code of ethics embodied in the mystic and supernatural as a last desperate measure of re-asserting themselves.
The circumstances which surround this hysteria of desperation befell the Apaches of the White Mountain Reservation in East’
Central Arizona for a brief period in 1881. It is known as the Cibicu incident and includes the Battle of Cibicu fought on August 30, 188l.The important events leading to this battle deal with the Sixth United States Cavalry stationed at Fort Apache and the usually peaceful Apache scouts. These scouts were enlisted in the army’s service and lived with many more of their kinsmen on the White Mountain Reservation. At this time most of the Indians living on the reserve belonged to the White Mountain and Cibicu groups. Sometimes these groups are classified as one by scholars and simply named White Mountain Apaches.
Among the white men in the Arizona and New Mexico territories during the nineteenth century, the different bands of Apaches were often known by more than one name. History has been confused by this practice, but Greenville Goodwin in “Experiences of an Apache Scout” sets forth the following classification.3 Goodwin states:
“It must be understood that all Apaches were divided into groups or tribes, and that certain sets of these groups or tribes which were more or less alike in custom and speech, went to make up the several Apache divisions. Thus the Western Apache Division to which John Rope (an old White Mountain scout who was Goodwin’s informant for this article) belonged was composed of five groups: White Mountain people, San Carlos people, Southern Tonto people and Northern Tonto people. The only other Apache division here mentioned is that of the Chiricahua and their two allied tribes, the Warm Springs people and the Nin-da-hi. Due to the often hostile feelings between this division and the Western Apache division, it was not hard to enlist the Western Apaches against the Chiricahuas and their two allied tribes. The Yavapais were a Yuman tribe, closely related to the Western Apaches in culture, who had been compelled to come and settle on the San Carlos Reservation … The third tribe of the Apache division to which Chiricahua and Warm Springs people belonged, the ‘N-n-da-hi,’ whose proper home was mainly in the north end of the Sierra Madre in Mexico, meant ‘outlaw people’ (The Western Apaches were known to the Chiricahua and their two allied tribes as ‘Bi-ne·dine’), which meant brain less people’ … The Western Apaches do not seem to resent it much.”
It was this confusion over the various Apache bands plus the greed of white merchants, traders, miners and cattlemen, as well as political machines in Arizona, New Mexico and Washington, D.C., that ultimately created the bloody Frankenstein known today as the Apache troubles, including Cibicu.6 A central theme for the mystery which shrouded the circumstances at Cibicu Creek in 1881 seem fairly certain. In that year most of the Apache groups could not find leaders capable of achieving the hopes and aspirations commonly persistent in all Apache tribes. Specifically they needed a war leader, one who could unite them. They could not find one great enough in power and stature. The last chief that had met this criteria ‘was the infamous Victorio. For three years, 1879-1881, Victorio and his warriors left a trail of blood across Arizona, western New Mexico and west Texas that is virtually unmatched in the long history of Apache warfare against the white man. During this period he fought and eluded soldiers of the 9th U. S. Cavalry, citizens of three states, and soldiers and citizens of Sonora and Chihuahua in Old Mexico. Finally in August, 1881 he was driven out of Texas across the Rio Grande into Mexico by Colonel Grierson, and was virtually annihilated with most of his warriors a few weeks later by Mexican troops.7 Jason Betzinez, who knew Victorio quite well, . describes the Chief in his autobiography, I Fought w~th Gei;onimo.Betzinez states:
“Victorio and Nanay, together with forty warriors and some women and children, slipped away. from the reservation (1879) and went on the warpath, most of them never to return. I had known both these Chiefs since my earliest .childhood. They had fought under Chief Roan Shirt (Mangas Colorado). Victorio, together with Loco, had succeeded to the chieftainship of the Warm Springs Ba.nd. In our opinion he stood. head and shoulders above several war chiefs such as Mangas, Cochise, and Geronimo who have bigger names with the white people. At the same tim~ of this outbreak both Victorio and Nanay were well along in years, Nanay being quite an old man. But together they caused more fear among the settlers and killed more people in a shorter time than any other Apaches.”
Betzinez further describes the tragic way in which Victorio met his end:
“They approached th~ir campsite in a box canyon some time in the afternoon, a place where there was a welcome pond of water surrounded by rocks and crevices in the cliffs. The advance party reached this spot undisturbed only to be fired upon by the Mexicans lying in ambush on the surrounding heights. Instead of fleeing as they should have done the Indians made a standat the same time the main party closing up, was attacked. Neither party was able to join and reinforce the other. The Indians had no chance of escape. Both groups were surrounded. The firing lasted all afternoon and on into the night. The rear party coming up was unable to cut through to help their comrades hence they were forced to watch the final act of tragedy from a distance. Some time after dark the Apacnes had fired all their cartridges. A captive Mexican boy with them slipped away and told the enemy that the Indians were out of ammunition.
The Mexicans stealing closer threw dynamite into the pockets and crevices where the Indians had concealed them·selves. Soon all had been destroyed. Victorio’s death occurred t a place which the Indians call Twin Buttes, (Mexico).” After the death of Victorio, the Apache sub-chiefs, still at war south of the Mexican border, looked in vein for a new leader who would match the “great Wolf’s” prowess Victorio had been the last war chief to achieve any cohesion among the various bands ofApaches. The only others who had brought this about had been Mangas Colorado and Cochise. With the possible exception of the leadership during the Cibicu incident, there were to be no more war chiefs in Apacheria capable of uniting the tribes. With Victorio’s passing, hostile Apaches began roving in small scattered bands. Raids into Arizona, New Mexico and Sonora were chiefly efforts of these independent bands. Chiefs such as Nanay, Loco, Chato and Nachite led numerous raids across the parched basins of the Arizona and New Mexico Territories, inflicting death and destruction on Americans and Mexicans in those areas. Retaliation was quick however. Due to the efforts of American and Mexican armies, the Apaches were driven back again into their strongholds deep in the Sierra Madre Mountains of old Mexico.I ‘ Still without a unifying force the Tribesmen searched blindly for someone or something which would give them power, strength and leadership so that the Apache whirlwind could flame across the skies of the Arizona desert and drive the hated “White-eyes” from Apacheria forever. Many warriors had died in the war that they waged upon two nations.
Furthermore, only a few Apache groups remained at war. For the most part, the Western Apaches had been living in peace after their first contact with the whites, or, as in the case of the Tontos groups, had been swept from the Tonto basin and had surrendered to General George Crook by 1873. Generally, they were living at peace, settled on the San Carlos and Fort Apache (White Mountain) Reservations. The warriors in Mexico realized this. They observed their once powerful and gallant way of life slowly decay. Somewhere a new system of values had to be found to replace the old ones which no longer provided security. So, following the pattern of all crumbling civilization, the desperate Apaches yearned in their extremity for a code of mysticism and supernatural aid to give them the hope they needed to survive. Strangely enough this development was embodied in a medicine man of the White Mountain group who declared he had the power to bring the dead to life, if the living would first drive the white man from the country. The man’s name was Nock-ay-del-Klinne, and, if only for a brief moment in the perspective of their long and tragic history, many of the kinsmen of Apacheria placed their trust for survival and a return to power in this one man.14 Nock-ay-del-Klinne was a member of the White Mountain group of the Western Apache division and had been living at peace with his people since childhood. IS His mother was thought to have been a Navajo woman. As a child he was always inclined to be a dreamer; hence he gravitated into being a medicine man. Among the Apaches, a medicine man is one who has a trend for the legends of his people, and who occupies the position of legal advisor and story-teller, as well as physician through his knowledge of the medical properties of native plants and herbs. Nock-ay-del-Klinne was believed to have possessed also certain crude powers of hypnotism. He was said to have been one of the first Scouts enlisted by General Crook in 1872. In 1871 when he was about twenty-six and already a medicine man of some influence, Nock-ay-del-Klinne was chosen as a member of a small delegation of his tribe to be sent to Washington to see President Grant and the marvels of the East. When he returned home he attempted to relate to his people tales about the fabulous buildings, trains, bridges, etc., he had seen in the East, but soon discovered that his kinsmen completely failed to grasp his tales.16 While in Washington he was presented with a silver medal about two inches in diameter by President Grant as a souvenir. On the front side of the medal was engraved the portrait of President Grant and the words: “United States of America. Let us have Peace, Liberty, Justice and Equality.” On the back side of the medal were the words “On Earth Peace, Goodwill toward men-(1871).” The dies for this medal were engraved by Paguet, who at the time (1871) was assistant engraver in the United States Mint in Philadelphia. Nock-ay-delKlinne wore this medal as a pendant around his neck when he died.17 Sometime after his return from Washington, he went to school in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he absorbed but hardly understood the elements of Christianity. The story of the Resurrection made a deep and lasting impression and is important in that it eventually formed the basis for his philosophies and prophecies which ignited the Cibicu troubles. When he returned to his people, he isolated himself in the wilderness to fast and pray and contemplate religion, especially the withdrawal of Christ for meditation. He became determined to follow that example. As the years passed he counseled the troubled and treated the sick of his people. In 1881 says Thomas Cruse, “he was about thirty-six years old, about five feet six inches tall, very spare and ascetic looking, weighed about one hundred and twenty-five pounds and was very light colored for an Apache. By this time his philosophies had gained a great popularity and Nockay-del-Klinne had achieved much influence among his people.” John Clum stated that while living on the reservation the medicine man became somewhat influenced by the convincing jibberishes of Geronimo.
However, he was not yet considered a menace by the Agency authorities or the Army.
The first serious actions of the medicine man occurred in June of 1881. In that year he had started a series of revival meetings very similar to our old-fashioned Southern ‘camp meetings’ that the Negoes held ever so often, wherein the participants worked themselves into the frenzy of ‘getting religion’ and expressing it vocally and physically with the most sincere belief in its efficacy. Actually, the Apaches attending these dances did very little shouting, but they did dance a new and particular step to the rhythm of tom-toms for hours, even days, until some sort of religious frenzy overcame them and they dropped unconscious from exhaustion. About August 1st a very large dance was held on Carizo Creek about eighteen miles from Fort Apache. It was attended by representatives from several of the tribes which formerly and usually were hostile toward each other and had been so for centuries.
It is interesting to note the importance of this particular revival of August 1st. For the first time in many years the various bands of Apaches were finally united behind one universal cause. Indeed, this was the first time in the history of Apacheria that Western Apaches joined forces of consort with Chiricahuas. Perhaps in Nockay-del-Klinne there was not simply a leader but an entire code of ethics that would once again unite Apache tribes as their great War Chiefs of the past had done to some extent.
When the word of the Carizo revival reached Fort Apache, Sam Bowman, Chief of Scouts, went to see what was going on. When he returned, he promptly submitted his resignation to Cruse, giving for a reason that he had been in Arizona for six or seven years and that he wanted to return to his people in Oklahoma. His request was accepted and he left the territory. Cruse later learned from Chief Parker Nat Nobles that such dances as were being held at the revivals were always a source of trouble and that he (Bowman) wanted no part of it. John Burnes, a sergeant in the Sixth Cavalry replaced him as Chief of Indian Socuts, Co. A, 6th Cavalry.
About this time the Indian Agent, Major Tiffany, a veteran of the Civil War, came up from San Carlos to visit the post. Nock-aydel-KUnne came to see him and secured the agent’s permission to move his meeting place to a large flat on the north Fork of White River, approximately two miles from the post. Tiffany, joined by Cruse, attended the dance held there and were much interested in it as they still had no notion of the reasons or the meaning of the rituals; only that perhaps they might be a possible source of trouble. Cruse commented on the mixture of the audience which “included Apaches who had been prosecuted as murderers, horse thieves, women stealers-all these mingled with the best elements of the tribes who only a short time before had been trying to locate and exterminate these same renegades, together with Indians from every tribe on the reservation who, under normal circumstances, hated each other with a deadly· aversion.”
Later, the revivals were moved back to Carizo Creek and then to Cibicu Creek, about forty-five miles from the post. It was then that trouble began to stir. Everyone of the scouts at Fort Apache requested passes to attend the dance at Cibicu. The passes were issued but the scouts overstayed them and returned to the post exhausted, without sleep and generally unfit for duty. They did not want to work either. Cruse recalls that most of them seemed to be contemplating some deep thought. The Post Trader refused further credit to a scout who told him contemptuously, “no matter, I will sooIi have it all anyway:”
It was at this point that governmental action was first taken. Agent Tiffany sent a request to Nock-ay-del-Klinne to come to San Carlos and hold his dances there, but the medicine man promptly and respectfully declined. Tiffany then sent his highly reputable Indian Police to arrest Nock-ay-del-Klinne and bring him to San Carlos. After two or three days they returned, disarmed, disgruntled, and sullen. 2sThe military authorities during this time, concerned with the tense situation that was mounting, were anxious to take some sort of action but were unable to do so until a request should come from the Indian agent, as no overt act had been committed on the Fort Apache Reservation. .
The fact of the matter was that the crucial situation which was arising did not stem from Nock-ay-del-Klinne himself nor from his preachings in essence. Indeed he had always been a peaceful Indian. The bad elements of the tribes as usual were simply taking advantage of the unifying situation which had occurred as a result of the medicine man’s philosophies which had now gotten out of his control and threatened to engulf him. These Indians were all grasping for power whether they believed the philosophies or not, and were eager to utilize the situation as a means for starting a war on organized society.26 It was true that many innocent Indians were· caught upin the situation and, rendered desperate by their circumstances, fell under the influence of Nock-ay-del-Klinne.
Finally “Nock-ay-del-Klinne performed a coup that brought him even greater power and influence than he had possessed-but also brought about his downfall.”28 After a typical frenzied dance, one of the medicine man’s fanatic followers faced Nock-ay-del-Klinne and made a new demand. “It is known to us,” the Indian cried, “that those of our people who have died are still living, but only invisible.
1£ you are the great one we believe you to be, go call to those of our great leaders who have died. Ask them to help us, their people. Ask them to tell us what we shall do now about our country and the whites who rule it.” This demand was probably made by a delegation of the war-hungry elements on the reservation. Anyhow, a request of this nature could not be refused.
c, along with three of his disciples ascended a high mesa above Cibicu and fasted and meditated for many hours, making appeals to the great ones to rise from the dead and appear. “Come to us” they prayed. “Show yourselves to us again. Tell us your people what we must do.” Then three of their dead chiefs supposedly did actually rise out of the ground slowly coming up no farther than their knees. They looked all about them and then said:
“Why do you call upon us? Why do you disturb us? We do not wish to come back. The buffalo are gone. White people are everywhere in the land that was ours. We do not wish to come back.” Nock-ay-del-Klinne and his companions then said: “But tell us what we must do.” The spirits answered them: “Live at peace with the white man and let us rest.” Then they began to sink into the ground and became shadows.
This experience was told to Cruse several years later by one of the witnesses with Nock-ay-del·Klinne on the mesa. He swore he saw the three chiefs rise from the ground, take solid form and speak these words. But he admits that he was very weak from fasting, exhausted from much dancing, and the whole experience seemed very much like a dream. However, when the witnesses made their report to the rest of the Apaches there was nothing dreamlike about the effect. Each faction among the Indians interpreted the visions to suit themselves. None doubted the appearance of the three dead chiefs. To most of them it was an assurance that the dead lived on, invisibly, and that a future life did in truth, exist. “To the warring factions who had been preaching extermination of the whites, the vision was a solemn injunction,” says Cruse, “to clear the Apache Country of the enemy. To no more than a handful was it a command to remain at peace.”
Naturally, it was the war faction that aroused the interest of the military at Fort Apache. After the first report of the vIsIon, various stories began to spread among all the Indians on the reservation, no doubt the propaganda work of the malcontents. One version had it that the medicine man would bring the dead to life after which the White Mountain people would meet in the Tonto basin to wipe the hated pale-face from the land.31 Another version stated that the medicine man could not bring the dead to life because of the presence of the white people; that when the white people left, the dead would return, and the whites would be out of the country when the corn was ripe, and there would be a return to prosperous times.32 This last version probably came about when Nock-ay-del-Klinne did not in fact bring anybody back to life in order to repopulate the Apache’s war effort.
Among other things, it was said that the medicine man had a “ghost shirt” through which no white man’s bullet could pass. He was supposed to have worn the shirt at the dances and to have asserted that he was safe from any attack that might be made upon him. sS Furthermore, it was thought that any Indian who followed Nock-ay-del-Klinne and his cause would, likewise, be done no harm by the white man’s bullets. It is interesting to note at this point how the philosophies of Nock-ay-del-Klinne closely parallel the “ghost dance” craze that swept the reservations of the Plains Indians after 1888. James Mooney, one of the most famous ethnologists of the Nineteenth Century, in his book The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890 gives a definition of this philosophy. Mooney states:
“The great underlying principle of the Ghost Dance doctrine is that the time will come when the whole Indian race, living and dead, will be reunited upon a regenerated earth, to live a life of aboriginal happiness, forever free from death, disease, and misery. The White race, being alien and secondary and hardly real, has no part in this scheme of aboriginal regeneration, and will be left behind with the other things of earth that have served their temporary purpose, or else will cease entirely to exist.”
Mooney goes on to assert that:
“Of the tribes southward from the Paiute, according to the best information obtainable, the Ghost Dance never reached the Yuma, Pima, Papago, Maricopa, or any of the Apache bands in Arizona or New Mexico. It is said that six Apaches attended the first large dance at Walker Lake in 1889. This seems improbable, but if true it produced no effect on any part of the tribe at large.” The term Ghost Dance was not in use in 1881; indeed if Mooney is correct in his assertion that the first large dance was held in
1889 it seems improbable that the movement had even begun to any great extent at the time of Cibicu. However, if Mooney is correct in stating that the Apache never practiced the Ghost Dance, in the same manner that the Plains Tribes did, at least, he is surely overlooking Nock-ay-del-Klinne’s movement. Perhaps it is fact that the ceremonial aspect of the dance differed between the Apaches at Cibicu and the Plains Tribes, possibly due to their different cultures. It is also probable that the Apache movement and the Plains Tribes movement had completely different origins. But, never-the-less, if the statement made by Mooney is to state the underlying principle as to what the Ghost Dance advocated, it seems quite clear that the Apache movement correlates precisely and in this case may be classified generally, as a “Ghost Dance.” At any rate, like the Sioux a few years later, the Apaches would not place their hopes in the unearthly.
Meanwhile, the situation at Fort Apache and San Carlos was worsening. After the rumors of regeneration of the dead were spread, Nock-ay-del-Klinne began to stir the Apaches into even a wilder frenzy and a more fierce attitude towards the whites than ever before. The Indian scouts at Fort Apache were harder to handle and shrugged their duties. Mutterings were heard around the post from the Indians that if the whites did not get out of the Apache country they would be driven out. At San Carlos when Agent Tiffany refused to give any more passes to the Indians to go to Cibicu, hundreds of them went anyway without permission. When the Apache Police were ordered to stop them the police reported themselves helpless.
The situation had mushI’oomed to such an extent by this time that the civilian Indian Bureau could no longer control it. Therefore at long last the military at Fort Apache was requested by Agent Tiffany to intervene. Fort Apache was the regimental headquarters of the Sixth United States Cavalry. The regimental commander was Colonel Eugene Asa Carr. Colonel Carr was an officer of long distinguished service in the army and he had a most gallant record in combat since the Civil War. He was born in New York and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1850. Between 1850 and 1861 he served as Colonel of the Third Illinois Cavalry. In 1862 he was decorated for conspicuous bravery at the Battle of Pea Ridge and in that same year, was appointed brigadier-general of Volunteers in command of the Thirteenth Army Corps during the Vicksburg Campaign of 1863. After the Civil War he participated in campaigns against the Plains Indians in Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado. In 1873 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given command of the Fourth Cavalry. Later he replaced Lieutenant-Colonel J. P. Hatch, as commander of the Fifth Cavalry, stationed at Camp Lowell, Tucson, Arizona unti11874. Eventually he was given command of the Sixth Cavalry and moved to Fort Apache. He was there scarcely five weeks when the trouble with Nock-ay-del-Klinne was brought to his attention.
Carr’s immediate superior and commanding officer was General Orlando B. Willcox, Commander of the Department of Arizona, with headquarters at Whipple Barracks, Arizona. General Irwin McDowell was in command of the Division of the Pacific which encompassed the Departments of Arizona and New Mexico. However, the local situation of the Cibicu trouble for the time being concerned only the immediate authorities which included Carr, Willcox, and Agent Tiffany.
Colonel Carr first heard of the dances through an interpreter, Pvt. Charles Hurle of Company D. He informed Carr that Nock-aydel-KUnne had been holding dances near Cibicu Creek in order to raise the spirits of dead warriors. Carr didn’t think much of the matter at the time, nor did he believe the situation to be serious when he was later informed by Hurle as to the reason the dead spirits were to be raised. Nevertheless he thought department headquarters should know of the situation and he sent a telegram to General Willcox on August 1. However, the department headquarters did not receive the message until the 5th of August because the telegraph wire was out of order. Carr’s telegram read as follows:
“It is now reported to me by interpreter Hurle that Nock-ay-delKlinne is telling the Indians that the dead say they will not return because of the presence of white people-that when the white people leave, the dead will return and that the whites will be out of the country when the corn gets ripe. Hurle thinks his next move may be to induce the Indians to hasten the departure of the whites, and that he may be working them up to a frame of mind suitable for the purpose-I do not know whether all this is of any consequence, but feel it my duty to report it to the department commander.”
When General Willcox received the telegram, he answered it immediately stating to “watch the matter closely, and take steps necessary to prevent trouble. Communicate with Agent (Tiffany) at San Carlos.”41 It is not clear just what Willcox meant by “necessary steps” but Carr guessed correctly that it might involve Nock-ay-delKlinne’s arrest.
1873 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given command of the Fourth Cavalry. Later he replaced Lieutenant-Colonel J. P. Hatch, as commander of the Fifth Cavalry, stationed at Camp Lowell, Tucson, Arizona until 1874. Eventually he was given command of the Sixth Cavalry and moved to Fort Apache. He was there scarcely five weeks when the trouble with Nock-ay-del-Klinne was brought to his attention.
Carr’s immediate superior and commanding officer was General Orlando B. Willcox, Commander of the Department of Arizona, with headquarters at Whipple Barracks, Arizona. General Irwin McDowell was in command of the Division of the Pacific which encompassed the Departments of Arizona and New Mexico. However, the local situation of the Cibicu trouble for the time being concerned only the immediate authorities which included Carr, Willcox, and Agent Tiffany. Colonel Carr first heard of the dances through an interpreter, Pvt. Charles Hurle of Company D. He informed Carr that Nock-aydel-Klinne had been holding dances near Cibicu Creek in order to raise the spirits of dead warriors. Carr didn’t think much of the matter at the time, nor did he believe the situation to be serious when he was later informed by Hurle as to the reason the dead spirits were to be raised. Nevertheless he thought department headquarters should know of the situation and he sent a telegram to General Willcox on August 1. However, the department headquarters did not receive the message until the 5th of August because the telegraph wire was out of order. Carr’s telegram read as follows:
“It is now reported to me by interpreter Hurle that Nock-ay-delKlinne is telling the Indians that the dead say they will not return because of the presence of white people-that when the white people leave, the dead will return and that the whites will be out of the country when the corn gets ripe. Rurle thinks his next move may be to induce the Indians to hasten the departure of the whites, and that he may be working them up to a frame of mind suitable for the purpose-I do not know whether all this is of any consequence, but feel it my duty to report it to the department commander.”
When General Willcox received the telegram, he answered it immediately stating to “watch the matter closely, and take steps necessary to prevent trouble. Communicate with Agent (Tiffany) at San Carlos.” It is not clear just what Willcox meant by “necessary steps” but Carr guessed correctly that it might involve Nock-ay-delKlinne’s arrest. Carr contacted Tiffany on August 10th and told him that in his opinion, the medicine man’s activities were not particularly dangerous even though it might be desirable to make the arrest. Carr stated “I would not like to take the responsibility (for the arrest) as it might precipitate a war.”
Tiffany, however, did not agree with Carr. True, he may have believed that the situation was a definite threat to peace. But on the other hand he was engaged in corrupt activities which were revealed after his resignation, and perhaps he wished to avoid public scrutiny of his dealings at San Carlos. Therefore he requested Carr to send him regular reports of the medicine man’s activities, and telegraphed General Willcox to request a shipment of arms and ammunition. In obedience to Tiffany’s request Carr sent another report to San Carlos.
“Pvt. Hurle says Indian Doctor puts food in Medicine lodge and pretends that the dead come and eat it. Says that the Indians think this Doctor will be the head of all the Indians, that he says the ground will turn over, the dead will rise and the Indians be above the whites; that they will have possession of this Post. Agent Tiffany answered the request by August 13, stating that it was unsafe to let the matter run its course. General Hatch, the commander of the Department of New Mexico, meanwhile reported to Tiffany that a band of hostile Apache was moving west toward Arizona and Tiffany believed it was time to stop the troubles. On the same day, Carr received the following orders from Department headquarters:
“The commanding General directs that you arrest the Chief and Medicine Man, if you deem it necessary, to prevent trouble, after consultation with the agent at San Carlos.” Carr protested once again to Tiffany that the arrest might provoke violent hostilities, and requested a clarification of orders from the Agency. On August 15, Carr received the clarified statement from Tiffany: “I want him arrested or killed, or both and think it had better be before dance next Saturday night.” Also on the 15th, a confirmation of Tiffany’s orders came in from Willcox: “The commanding General desires that you arrest the Indian doctor, who you report as stirring up hostilities, as soon as possible.”
Soon after its receipt the telegraph line was once again cut by the Apaches. The break was discovered near Fort Thomas. By August “I wish it to be observed that I did not ‘report’ the Indian doctor ‘as stirring up hostilities,’ see your telegram of the 13th ordering his arrest, but merely the reported statements and the inference of the Interpreter to the Department commander for what they might be worth.”
Carr was still convinced that Nock-ay-del-Klinne’s activities were not dangerous, and that only trouble would follow if the medicine man were arrested. Nevertheless, he now had specific orders from his superior officer. He reluctantly resolved himself to the burdensome task of deciding how to carry them out. August 20 was the deadline Tiffany had proposed to Carr. Nockay-del-Klinne was planning another dance that night and the general believed action should be taken before this occurred. He devised a plan by which he would attempt to coax the medicine man into the post just before the dance and make the arrest there. This show of military force must cause no more alarm than need be among the Indians. On August 20, before initiating his plan, Carr called Lieutenant Cruse into his office and questioned him about the Apache scouts’ loyalty in view of the situation. The general told Cruse that he had heard nasty rumors about them and Cruse told him quite frankly that if an outbreak came from the medicine man’s meetings, he expected trouble. “I think my scouts want to be loyal,” Cruse said, “but if it comes to a showdown I don’t see how they can side with us. Their families are all with Nock-ay-del-Klinne and they will probably be swept off their feet and go along.” General Carr replied, “But the scouts have always been loyal! They have obeyed orders under the most adverse conditions, even shooting some of their relations when occasion demanded it.”so Cruse admitted this but reminded the General that none of the usual conditions were present in this situation and that they were facing Indians roused as they had never seen them due to the regilious implications of Nock-aydel-KUnne’s preachings.
Upon hearing Cruse’s opinion of the matter, Carr asked him if he could suggest a plan. Cruse replied:
“My suggestion would be that you order me and my scouts to proceed at once to (Fort) Huachuca. We can go by the Stevens Ranch and Solomonsville and avoid the (San Carlos) Agency. I suggest that you order Lieutenant Mills and his Company C of Scouts to come at once to Fort Apache in our place. C is a mixed company-Mojaves, Yumas, and a scattering of Chiricahuas.
They have no such interest in conditions here as my scouts have.” After Cruse’s suggestion, Carr sent for interpreter Hurle and received almost an identical opinion from him. Hurle added that although the medicine man himself was not planning an outbreak, he was sure that certain “bad-men” among the Apaches were planning an uprising. After dismissing Cruse and Hurle, Carr sent a telegram to General Willcox requesting the changes they suggested. In addition he requested that two troops of Cavalry be sent on force march from Fort Grant to Fort Apache. Just after the message was sent the telegraph line went down again and was not repaired until a week later. Meanwhile, Carr’s orders kept confidential until this time had leaked out. Some of the soldiers had been using the information to taunt the Apaches. About this time an old Apache chief, Not-chi-clish, came into the post and asked to talk to Carr. Speaking through interpreter Hurle, he told the Colonel that he was the white man’s friend and that he (Carr) should not listen to idle talk about the Indians. He stated that he would keep the military aware of what was happening. This of course provided evidence that the Indians had been talking to enlisted men and had reported the conversations to their comrades.
Meanwhile, Nock-ay-del-K1inne had apparently been informed of several of the false rumors and therefore sent a refusal to Carr’s invitation to come to the Fort. He gave for a reason that he had been forced to cancel his Dance Saturday night, August 20, in order to go on a hunt. Furthermore, he said that many of his people were sick and needed his help. However, another Dance was scheduled for August 27 and he might come in at that time. August 27 came but no medicine man appeared at the Fort. On August 28 he sent word to Carr that he would not come to the fort.
Carr, was now backed against the wall. Agent Tiffany’s deadline of August 20th had long since passed. His orders from Willcox were precise and needed no further clarification. He still believed that the medicine man’s activities were not dangerous, although he had greatly underestimated his influence over the Indians. On the other hand two companies from Fort Thomas were due, and their appearance at Fort Apache might overawe the Indians while he carried out the arrest order.
The arrest order in itself was either an oversight or the mere lack of responsibility on the part of Willcox because the medicine man had, in truth, brought no one back to life. The ideal solution would have been to tell the Indians their Nock-ay-del-Klinne was a false prophet and then let Carr prove it. The order from Willcox only gave the Indians greater confidence in the medicine man by making them think that the whites were afraid of his powers. Carr knew this and had been trying to avoid or at least hide from the
Indians any circumstance that would arouse this sort of feeling among them. But he had failed to coax the medicine man into the Fort. He had attempted a bluff and lost. There was no small risk involved and the orders had to be carried out. Carr knew he must act now. He would go down to Cibicu Creek and arrest Nock-aydel-KUnne. The result was the bloody battle of Cibicu.