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...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...
"I had no weapon, nor did I hardly wish to fight, neither did I contemplate recovering the bodies of my loved ones, for that was forbidden. I did not pray, nor did I resolve to do anything in particular, for I had no purpose left...I was never again contented in our quiet home. True, I could visit my father's grave, but I had vowed vengeance upon the Mexican troopers who had wronged me, and whenever I came near his grave or saw anything to remind me of former happy days my heart would ache for revenge upon Mexico..."
That was the beginning of the violent career of Geronimo, one of the most feared Indian fighters of the old West. His people decided to go on the warpath and sent him to woo the support of other tribes, which he did. About a year later, the Apache and their allies encountered the Mexicans. They chose Geronimo to lead them.
"I was no chief and never had been, but because I had been more deeply wronged than others, this honor was conferred upon me, and I resolved to prove worthy of the trust. I arranged the Indians in a hollow circle near the river, and the Mexicans drew their infantry up in two lines, with the cavalry in reserve. We were in the timber, and they advanced until within about four hundred yards, when they halted and opened fire. Soon I led a charge against them, at the same time sending some braves to attack the rear. In all the battle I thought of my murdered mother, wife, and babies--of my father's grave and my vow of vengeance, and I fought with fury. Many fell by my hand, and constantly I led the advance. Many braves were killed..."
Geronimo harassed the Southwest for many years, but was captured in 1886. He escaped and renewed his raids. It took the U.S. army eighteen months to nab him. He remained in military custody until his death in 1909, but was allowed to raise stock.
On this day, July 1, 1903, the Apache fighter was baptized into the Methodist Church in Medicine Creek, Oklahoma Territory. "Believing that in a wise way it is good to go to church, and that associating with Christians would improve my character, I have adopted the Christian religion...I am not ashamed to be a Christian...I have advised all of my people who are not Christians, to study that religion, because it seems to me the best religion in enabling one to live right."
Was he really born again into Christ by the Holy Spirit as Methodists teach? If so, Geronimo "backslid," for he soon drifted back into alcoholism and out of church fellowship. However, he was not completely hardened. A sense of dissatisfaction with his course made him ask later if he could be reunited with the church; and he was.
- Geronimo. Geronimo's Story of his Life, as told to S. M. Barrett. New York: Duffield & company, 1906, [all quotes are from this account].
- "Geronimo; his own story." http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/B/geronimo/geronixx.htm
- "Geronimo." http://www.indians.org/welker/geronimo.htm
- Various encyclopedia and internet articles.
Last updated May, 2007