The chief himself was in his late fifties and perhaps decided that it was time to retire from the more athletic activities of his career. Nonetheless, when he finally gave up once and for all, on September 4, 1886, it was a negotiated surrender, and not a capture.

Geronimo and Naiche (son of Cochise) surrendered to Gen. Nelson Miles on this date in 1886 at Skeleton Canyon, near the Arizona-New Mexico line just north of the border with Mexico. It was the fourth time Geronimo had surrendered — and the last. With them were 16 men, 14 women and six children. The band was taken to Fort Bowie and by the 8th were on a train to Florida as prisoners of war.

“General Miles is your friend,” said the interpreter. The Indian gave Miles a defoliating look. “I never saw him,” he said. “I have been in need of friends. Why has he not been with me?”


In 1894, after time in Florida and Alabama, Geronimo and the other Chiricahua Apaches were moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma Territory. Geronimo, despite remaining a prisoner of war, became a marketable celebrity, paid to appear at expositions and fairs. He died at Fort Sill in 1909, about age 80.

In its obituary of Geronimo, The New York Times provided this quote:

Gen. Miles, in his memoirs, describes his first impression of Geronimo when he was brought into camp by Lawton, thus: “He was one of the brightest, most resolute, determined-looking men that I have ever encountered. He had the clearest, sharpest dark eye I think I have ever seen, unless it was that of Gen. Sherman.”

Some have wondered what motivated Geronimo to fight so fiercely. Perhaps this from his autobiography (written with S.M. Barrett in 1905) explains much:

In the summer of 1858, being at peace with the Mexican towns as well as with all the neighboring Indian tribes, we went south into Old Mexico to trade. Our whole tribe (Bedonkohe Apaches) went through Sonora toward Casa Grande, our destination, but just before reaching that place we stopped at another Mexican town called by the Indians Kas-ki-yeh. Here we stayed for several days, camping outside the city. Every day we would go into town to trade, leaving our camp under the protection of a small guard so that our arms, supplies, and women and children would not be disturbed during our absence.

Late one afternoon when returning from town we were met by a few women and children who told us that Mexican troops from some other town had attacked our camp, killed all the warriors of the guard, captured all our ponies, secured our arms, destroyed our supplies, and killed many of our women and children. Quickly we separated, concealing ourselves as best we could until nightfall, when we assembled at our appointed place of rendezvous–a thicket by the river. Silently we stole in one by one: sentinels were placed, and, when all were counted, I found that my aged mother, my young wife, and my three small children were among the slain. There were no lights in camp, so without being noticed I silently turned away and stood by the river. How long I stood there I do not know, but when I saw the warriors arranging for a council I took my place.

Two quotations at top are from Geronimo! by E. M. Halliday, published in American Heritage in June 1966.

2 thoughts on “Geronimo”

  1. I’ve missed reading your reminders of history. There’s a lot to learn from it.

    It’s good to see you back. I hope you’ve been well and spending lots of time with the grandkids.

  2. I consider Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Chief Joseph, and a host of others prime candidates for the list of great Americans kids should learn in school.

    I know this is not viewed kindly by people who prefer a more whitewashed version of US history, but I think our true exceptionalism lies in our fitful progress toward the values we espouse and our ability to own the mistakes and horrors of our past and learn from them.

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