Mr. Lincoln to
Sir: The Department duly received your
letter of the 3d ultimo, inclosing, with request for an expression
of the views of this Department thereon, a copy of a note from the
Mexican chargé d’affaires ad interim here of
August 16 last, relative to the return of the articles stolen from
citizens of Mexico by the Indians recently captured by General Crook
in the Sierra Madre, and suggesting that a formal agreement be
entered into between the United States and Mexico providing for the
return in future of such articles as may be recovered from captured
Indians when ascertained to belong to the citizens of either
In reply I have the honor to state that the subject was duly referred
to General Crook, who is thoroughly conversant therewith, and from
whose report thereon, dated the 30fch ultimo, a copy of which is
herewith inclosed, it would seem to be difficult, if not wholly
impracticable, to carry out the suggestion presented by the chargé
d’affaires of Mexico in his above-mentioned note.
to the Adjutant-General.
Headquarters Department of Arizona,
Sir: Referring to a communication of the 3d
instant from the Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of War,
inclosing a note from Mr. Romero, Mexican chargé d’affaires at
Washington, with reference to the return of articles in the
possession of the Indians surprised by my command in the Sierra
Madre, &c., upon which my views are requested, I have the honor
to report that before starting upon this expedition I enlisted as
scouts a number of Apache Indians from the White Mountain
Reservation for service during the trip.
These Indians thoroughly understood the dangers which would probably
be encountered, and knew that it would entail upon them a march on
foot of over one thousand miles, over exceedingly difficult country.
You cannot expect to hire Indians for a trip of the nature of the
one in question for $13 per month, and I therefore promised them
before starting that they should have any property they might
capture from the Chiricahuas. This property would really be the
spoils of war, and belong to them under any circumstances.
That on the 15th of May my scouts attacked and captured the rancheria
of Chato and Bonito, finding therein few articles of value other
than perhaps as many as forty head of horses and mules, some of them
with Mexican and some with American brands, and others unbranded.
These animals, in accordance with my agreement, wth the other
plunder of the camp, fell into the hands of the scouts. A number of
the animals were killed and eaten for food by the Indians, others
died or were abandoned on the trail.
The Indian prisoners had some money, but this was either taken from
them by the scouts or was retained in their own possession. To
consent now to the reclamation of these animals would result in
serious trouble, and would open wide the door for the disreputable
cowboys and rustlers of the two countries to make false and
fraudulent claims for stock never lost, which would result perhaps
in applications for every hoof of stock on the White Mountain
Reservation. It would also have the effect of creating an uneasy
feeling among these Indians that my agreement with them might be
overruled by higher authority, which would seriously impair my
influence over them.
In reference to the concluding portion of Mr. Romero’s note, I have
to remark that in my judgment it will not be advisable to add the
stipulation referred to to to the agreement for the reciprocal
crossing of troops, for the reasons above stated, that it would
offer an opening for fraud, and for the further reason that in my
opinion it would be practically of no value, and might form the
basis for mutual recriminations between the citizens of the two
Very respectfully, &c.,