No. 297.
Mr. Porter to Mr. Jackson.

No. 122.]

Sir: I inclose to you a copy of a letter from the Secretary of War of the 30th ultimo, covering a copy of dispatch from Lieut. Marion P. Maus, of the United States Army, of the 27th ultimo, reporting the circumstances of the fatal wounding of Capt. Emmet Crawford, who was in command of the detachment of troops now operating in Mexico against the hostile Chiricahua Indians.

When the first startling intelligence was received that Captain Crawford had been killed while bearing a flag of truce, this Government refrained from asking an explanation until further confirmatory advices should be received. Lieutenant Maus’s report gives the facts which were awaited. It appears that the Mexican attack on the camp was made “at daylight,” when it was light enough to see that the assailants were ununiformed; that after fifteen minutes Captain Crawford, with two or three other officers, fully uniformed, advanced into the open, bearing a flag of truce to meet a party of the Mexicans; that in open field and in clear view of both camps a conference was held, in which Captain Crawford announced his nationality, name, and rank, and gave and received assurance that the firing should cease, and that immediately thereafter fire was reopened by the Mexicans on Captain Crawford and his little group of officers, resulting in the death of Captain Crawford and the wounding of Mr. Horn. By this time it was broad daylight and the uniformed officers were distinctly visible, as the fatal accuracy of the aim shows. Lieutenant Maus says:

I had a talk with the man in command, their captain having been killed. I was told by many that they were sore we were hostiles; that they took oar train for a hostile train, and it being dark could not tell. They seemed very sincere in their regrets and signed a paper stating all was a mistake.

The exculpatory statements made to Lieutenant Maus may be deemed to have rational application to the first surprise and attacking volley at daylight. They can have no possible value as to the second volley after the conference in the open in daylight, when the nationality and friendly mission of Captain Crawfords were plainly announced, and when the white signal of a parley was displayed. It is difficult to conceive how the allegation of a “mistake” could be soberly made under such circumstances.

You will, therefore, ask a searching examination into the facts of this unfortunate occurrence, with a view to locating the responsibility therefor, and preventing the recurrence of like “accidents” in the border operations against the hostiles which the two Governments have undertaken in their common and joint interest.

I am, &c.,

Acting Secretary.

(Inclosure in No. 122.)

Mr. Endicott to Mr. Bayard.

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith, for your information, a copy of a telegram, dated the 27th instant, from Brig. Gen. George Crook, embodying a dispatch from First Lieut. M. P. Maus, First Infantry, dated at camp near Sonora, Mexico, [Page 571] January 21, 1886, reporting the operations of the detachment of troops under the command of Capt. Emmet Crawford, Third Cavalry, sent into Mexico in pursuit of the hostile Chiricahuas, and also relative to an attack made on the 10th instant upon the detachment by a force of one hundred and fifty-four Mexican soldiers from Chihuahua, who wore no uniform, but who were supposed to be Nationales, and the subsequent wounding of Captain Crawford, which resulted in his death on the 18th instant. Lieutenant Maus also reports the result of an interview which he held on the 11th instant with Natchez and Gerónimo.

A copy of the inclosed telegram has been sent to the President.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Secretary of War.

General Crook to Lieut. Gen. P. H. Sheridan.

The following just received:

Camp near Sonora, Mexico, January 21, 1886.

Capt. C. S. Roberts, A. D. C.,
Fort Bowie, A. T.:

Sir: I have the honor to report that this command, under Captain Crawford, Third Cavalry, after a march of eighteen hours, struck, on Sunday, the 10th instant, the hostile camp about 50 miles to the southwest of Nacori, and 1 mile north of the Ara River, or Rio Grande. The hostiles, evidently fearing an attack, had placed their camp among the rocks, a commanding position, where a few men could successfully resist a large force. The four companies of this post were so disposed as to nearly surround the hostile camp, the attack to commence at daylight. A company was assigned to each officer and one to each of the chiefs of scouts.

The camp was situated in a country so broken that with difficulty the command was made to move at night, the ground being covered with broken rocks. Every one in the command wore moccasins to avoid making noise, including officers and others. However, some burros, belonging to the Indian herd, about 400 yards from their camp, hearing our approach, commenced braying and alarmed some of the hostiles, three in number, who came out to the herd and ran near to the company in command of Lieutenant Shipp, Tenth Cavalry. Some shots were fired, which soon became general from all the companies, the Indians flying, leaving their entire camp outfit and herd, with the exception of a few horses. A running fight ensued, which was kept up for about two hours. None of them were secured. The only evidence that any of them were hit was blood left in two places on the ground.

Some of the scouts returned, saying the hostiles wished to send in a woman to talk. This Captain Crawford assented to, and had a talk, agreeing to see Natchez and others the next day. The interpreter, Mr. Horn, and myself were directed to be present. The hostiles were without any food or camp outfit, and had no animals. Had this talk taken place, I believe most of the band would have surrendered. Our ten packs, left about 8 miles distant, were sent for, but did not arrive that night. We went into camp about 100 yards above the Indian camp; on the same line of rocks.

At daylight the next morning, Monday, the 10th, the camp was alarmed by loud cries from some of the scouts, followed immediately by a shower of bullets into our camp. I, with Lieutenant Shipp and Mr. Horn, ran forward to stop it, as it was supposed to be an attack by Captain Davis’s scouts through mistake. However, it was soon discovered that the attacking party was a large force of Mexican soldiers from Chihuahua, numbering, as I afterwards ascertained from them, one hundred and fifty-four. They wore no uniform, but I suppose were Nationales. Although we tried in every way, by waving handkerchiefs and by calling out in Swinish who we were, they continued a sharp fire for about fifteen minutes. Then it seemed we had made them understand that we were American soldiers, and friends. A party of them then approached, and Captain Crawford and I went out about 50 yards from our position in the open and talked with them. They did not stop moving. I told them in Spanish we were American soldiers; called attention to our dress, and said we would not fire. They answered they would not fire, but all the time moved toward a hill a short distance away, a little higher than our position, with some scattering oak wood. Captain Crawford then ordered me to go back and insure no more firing. I started back, when again a volley was fired. Of course we all sought shelter. I am sure that they knew who we were perfectly well at this time. Lieutenant Shipp and Mr. Horn were also [Page 572] shouting at another point, telling whom we were—that all was right. Mr. Horn speaks Spanish very well. When I turned again I saw the captain (Crawford) lying on the rocks, with a wound in his head and some of his brains upon the rocks. This had all occurred in two minutes; he was said to be waving his handkerchief when shot. Mr. Horn was also wounded at the same time in the left; arm, and slightly. It is remarkable no others were shot. There can be no mistake, these men knew they were firing at American soldiers at this time. I took command, and endeavored by all means to prevent more firing. I do not believe the scouts fired more than was necessary to keep the Mexicans away.

After about half an hour longer firing ceased and an answer to our cries came from the Mexicans. I sent Mr. Horn to go out and talk with one of them, who advanced and soon followed him to a point some 300 yards away. I had a talk with the man in command, their captain having been killed. I was told by many that they were sure we were hostiles; that they took our train for a hostile train, and it being dark could not tell. They seemed very sincere in their regrets, and signed a paper stating all was a mistake. They asked me for horses to take away their wounded and wanted rations. I promised to do what I could, and also promised, as they requested, to send the doctor to dress the wounded.

The result of this unfortunate affair was the loss to us of Captain Craw ford, Third Cavalry, mortally wounded; Mr. Horn, chief of scouts, slightly; two Indian scouts slightly and one severely. The loss on the part of the Mexicans, so far as I could determine, was four killed and five wounded. I saw the dead bodies of four carried away from within 100 yards of our camp. I examined each of them myself. I had to cause the men carrying them away to come without arms, as I feared the scouts would fire at them again, and I remained with them till they were carried off the field.

It seemed hardly possible that these men should continue this attack when they knew who we were, but I now believe they expected to drive us off with an overwhelming force and also secure our camp and effects. I do not believe that they had any idea we wore so strong or had taken such a strong position, for which we are indebted to the hostiles. Fearing afresh conflict, as the scouts seemed much excited and would not leave the rocks, I decided to make litters for the wounded and move the next day. This I did with the advice of Dr. Davis, who reported it was a matter of only a short time as to Captain Crawford’s life, and besides he was insensible to pain and would remain so until he died. He died on the 18th instant, having lived seven days and four hours, remaining unconscious until his death.

On the following morning, the 12th instant, I sent six of the captured ponies to the Mexicans, with a request they return receipt. I busied myself with fixing for the march and getting the litters ready for the wounded, when I heard the interpreter, Concepcion, crying out to me. I had sent him with the horses for the Mexican wounded, and to drive back some of the herd taken from the hostiles that had strayed into the Mexican camp. There was no one who could speak Spanish but myself, Mr. Horn being wounded and suffering. So, to expedite matters, I left and went a short distance to see what was the matter. They said to come; they wanted to fix about the horses and receipt. Concepcion was detained by them. I was reassured that all was right and friendly, and I went over a small hill a few yards further, when I was surrounded by these men, a hard-looking crowd. They were armed with a caliber 44 Remington rifle, carrying a cartridge much like our brass cartridges. Their manner was threatening; they made many demands, said I had no authority in Mexico, and asked me to produce my papers. I cannot now explain all their questions. I had no papers to show them; Captain Crawford had left all behind with the train. They asked me for six mules to take their wounded away. I did not expect to get away, but I told them that on my word of honor I would send them if they would let me go back. They refused to take the ponies, as they said they were very worthless. They were not very good. The Indians were shouting and stripping at this time for a fight again. I was then permitted to go. I went to camp and sent them four of my pack and two riding mules, taking receipt for them.

It was now too late to move and I was obliged to remain till the next day. Our rations were nearly out, and although I had sent for the pack train, I did not know when we could hope to see (it) as the country was so difficult.

The next morning I moved camp, carrying the wounded by hand to camp about 4 miles distant. I took all precautions to prevent any trouble from the Mexicans when leaving, as I believed they would attack us if they were sure of success. Shortly after I got in camp two squaws asked permission to come and talk. I granted this, and arranged to meet the chiefs of hostiles next morning. I moved camp about 2 miles, and went down with five Indian scouts, Mr. Horn, and the interpreter to a point a mile distant, where I had a talk with two of the bucks. I told them if they would come in and give themselves up, without arms, with their families, I would take them safely to you, feed, and care for them, but could offer no more. None of the chiefs were present. They were said to be looking for their families, scattered in [Page 573] the fight. The bucks promised to toll them, and the next day they would come and talk.

The following day they came—Natchez and Gerónimo. They told me they wanted me to talk to you. I took down what they said, in writing, for your information. In this they explain the cause of their leaving the reservation. They agreed next day to arrange to send in some of the band. This they did, and I have secured Nana and one buck, who turned in his rifle; the wife and child of both Gerónimo and Natchez, and one boy; also the sister of Gerónimo, and one other woman—nine in all. They are my prisoners, and I ration them of course. The chiefs will meet you, if you so wish, near the line, where they will have a talk, and, I think, surrender to you. They are tired of being out. I think they wish to meet you in a month; meanwhile they do not intend to do any act of hostility. I believe these people mean to do as they say.

The band consists of Natchez, Gerónimo, Chihuahua, and Nana, chiefs, and twenty bucks, with some women and children. I have Nana and one buck. Twenty-two of the men, therefore, remain out. They have scarcely anything, and are poor and miserable. All I saw had belts full of ammunition. I saw eighteen men.

I will bury the body of the captain at Nacori and mark it well. I will place it in the grave-yard in the care of the president, Señor Casa Mira. The doctor did all he could for the captain. His case was utterly hopeless. The command, without exception, has behaved well, and Indians in carrying the body did more than expected, as they are so superstitious, &c. The gloom cast upon the entire command by the death of Captain Crawford, to whom all were much attached, and who has so faithfully done all possible to accomplish the object for which we were sent, has been very depressing.

The animals are wearing out and I will have to abandon some. I have been delayed by swollen streams. We had to wait one day to cross the Satoche River, 25 miles from Nacori. Our trains from Lang’s branch were over five days behind time, I believe on account of the Bavispe River being too high to ford.

In making this report I am unable to write with any facility, and am unable to send you more than an incomplete report, which I hope you may understand. On my return I will give a thorough account of all having taken place and a complete account of all from the date we left. From here I will proceed with all possible dispatch under the circumstances to Lang’s branch, which I hope to reach by the 4th proximo or sooner, although the train is overloaded by reason of the absence of the other train sent to Lang’s branch for rations on the 28th December, 1885, from Nacori. I have plenty rations, and, with the Indian stock, hope to get along well.

I am in hopes that I will not be molested more by the Mexicans from Chihuahua, and will take all possible care to avoid further bad feeling, and will hurry this report to you by courier.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

First Lieutenant First Infantry, Commanding.

Have deemed it best, in order that all information in my possession may be known to the Department, to telegraph Lieutenant Maus’s dispatch entire.

Brigadier-General, Commanding.