Monday, December 4, 2017

Aerial Telegraphy




As is inevitably the case, many events, including several of consequence, must be omitted from the official report. This account chronicles occurrences arising during the Signal Corps’ deployment with General Nelson Miles in Arizona territory during the third, and final, campaign against the Apache rebel, Geronimo. I have written this narrative as an obiter dicta to my official report filed with the Department of the Army. Readers interested in that writing are directed to Aerial Telegraphy by Heliograph in the Campaign against Geronimo 1885 - 1886, a publication of the Department of the Army, U.S. Veteran Signal Corps Organization (1893).

In the Winter supervening between 1885 and 1886, I was dispatched to Arizona Territory to observe and evaluate heliograph communication supporting General Miles pursuit of the Apache warrior, Geronimo. Although never a chief in his tribe, Geronimo was respected as a wily and formidable leader of Chiricahua Apache raiding parties. Twice engaged in belligerent activity against pioneers in central Arizona territory, and twice defeated, in 1885, Geronimo was confined on a government reservation with elements of his tribe. For a third time, Geronimo led a band comprised of about 40 armed men from the confines of the San Carlos reservation. This war party raided along the border between the Arizona territory and Mexico, committing depredations as far west as Tucson and extending eastward across basin and range to Mesilla. Supporting themselves by the theft of cattle and other victuals seized from the settlers that they attacked, Geronimo’s party evaded federal cavalry pursuit and when close pressed, reverted to mountain bastions in Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental as well as the Chiricahua range near the mining camp of Bisbee. Indeed, in these same Chiricahua mountains, a terrain well-known to the Apache tribe bearing that name, a lofty redoubt of escarpments and wild peaks formed the refuge known as Cochise Stronghold, a natural fortification from which the hostiles could launch their attacks with impunity.

Headquarters in the campaign against Geronimo were established at two points in this theater of operations – Fort Huachuca, southeast of Tucson, in the foothills of the mountain range of the same name and Fort Bowie, located 13 miles from the railhead at Bowie Station, an encampment occupying Apache Pass between Dos Cabezas mountains and the wilderness surrounding Cochise Stronghold. Dispatched west from Anapolis, I reached Bowie Station in mid-November 1885. Transported from the railhead by wagon with armed escort, I reported to the adjutant at Fort Bowie, announcing that I had been charged with documenting the use of heliograph telegraphy in the war effort against the renegade Geronimo. In the course of my arrival at Bowie Station and, indeed, during my transit to the Fort, I observed that the civilians in the region were much excited by the presence of the marauders in their midst and that a certain feverish fear commingled with a desire for retribution animated both the settlers and enlisted military that I encountered. Atrocities had been reported and the savages had seized women and children as hostages. All along the rail-line west of El Paso, similar temperament prevailed, exacerbated by the fact that the enemy war party was elusive, rumored to be everywhere poised for imminent attack, and, yet, never actually discovered by our forces. It was said that the Apaches came and went like ghosts.

Since the heliograph plays a notable role in this narrative, I think it necessary to describe this instrument and its use in a theater of war. The heliograph is a wireless solar telegraph designed to transmit messages by capturing a ray of sunlight and, then, reflecting that beam to its target. Transmittal apparatus consists of a mirror mounted on a tripod. Equipped with a gunsight, the mirror can be aimed with great accuracy toward the target of its transmission – generally, another heliograph operator occupying a mountain top fifteen to 25 miles distant. The gunsight relies upon an unsilvered central point in the mirror that facilitates target the light captured by the device. A sighting vane assists the operator in setting the heliograph’s target and the instruments alignment with its receptor is fixed by use of azimuth and lateral screws at the tripod head. Our command was outfitted with two different types of heliograph. The British Mance instrument is light and highly mobile. It’s keying device is mechanically linked to a pivot in the solar telegraph’s mirror. Morse code conveys messages, rhythmically interrupting the beam of light by key-strokes tilting the mirror up and out of alignment with its target. A pivot of 15 degrees is sufficient to interrupt the beam transmitted to the receiver, an almost imperceptible motion of the mirror, but, nonetheless, efficacious in producing the "dot" and "dash" signals characteristic of Morse code telegraphy. Our American-made Signal Corps. heliograph operated on a slightly different principle – in that case, the reflected sunbeam was broken by a shutter mechanism located on a separate tripod interposed between the mirror and its target. Our Signal Corps. heliograph requires the use of two tripod-mounted devices, the reflective mirror and shutter respectively, and is somewhat more cumbersome than the Mance instrument acquired from the British manufacturer. In practice, the Mance instrument was deployed at sites less readily accessible than those where we established heliograph stations using the Signal Corps. transmitter.

Arizona Territory is an ideal theater for aerial telegraphy. The climate is arid and warm. The sun shines unimpeded by clouds almost every day for several hours. The vast majority of the time, skies are entirely unblemished by clouds – army observers note that there are more than 300 days of unremitting sunshine in the desert and mountains near Cochise Stronghold and Fort Bowie. Also advantageous to heliograph deployment is the unique terrain in this theater of operations. The landscape of south-central Arizona Territory is comprised of numerous mountain ranges rising steeply from circumjacent desert and grassland. These ranges present steep slopes, wooded with pine and fir at higher elevations, rising to summits between 8,000 and 10,000 feet. The mountains are disconnected, interspersed with generally flat and treeless intermontane basins. In most instances, the ranges consist of a single ridge angling toward old Mexico, in longitudinal aspect rising as a dome across a distance of 10 to 20 miles, and, although these mountains may be steep and afford considerable inconvenience to travelers, they are nonetheless bisected by passes and their heights accessible by water-courses that are dry for most of the year. (The peaks retain snow above 7000 feet from November through April.) A half-days exertion will generally suffice for the climb from the desert or chaparral to the apex of these mountain ranges. And the summits afford favorable vantages for aerial telegraphy, heliographs placed so as to survey the intermontane basins and transmit messages between the peaks of these sky-island mountains. The air is south-central Arizona Territory has a peculiar quality of crystalline translucency and the absence of trees or other vegetation makes it possible for a scout perched atop one of the mountain summits to reconnoiter a vast expanse of desert landscape. Troops of men crossing the plains between the mountains will be readily visible to the mountain-based sentinel by reason of the dust cast upward into the clear air by their livestock. Therefore, heliograph operators placed on the mountainous heights of land may signal the presence and intentions of an advancing foe with the greatest alacrity.

During the third Geronimo uprising, heliograph stations were established on Mount Miller at the crest of the Huachuca range at the western bounday of the renegade’s range of operations. The heliograph technician located at Mount Miller could communicate readily with a heliograph station located on Whetstone peak in the Dragoon Mountain, the beam flashing across a distance of 15 miles. Twenty miles east of Whetstone Peak lies Rhodes Peak, the summit of the Galliuro Mountains. From that heliograph station it is approximately 20 miles to Mount Graham on the Graham Ridge also called the Pinalero Mountains. Graham Ridge represented the northwestern boundary of the territory wherein Geronimo’s raiding parties were active. It is 22 miles from the high point of Graham Ridge to Cochise Head where another heliograph station occupied a barren peak central to the Chiricahua Range – south of that range lies the Mexican border. Midway between Cochise Head and Mount Miller overlooking Fort Huachuca lies Swisshelm, an isolated peak roughly equidistant between those two summits. Swisshelm completed the ring of heliograph stations, capable of transmitting solar telegraphy messages either due east to Cochise Head or directly west to the operator on Mount Miller. A telegraph message transmitted on beams of sunlight from Mount Graham or Cochise Head down to the railhead at Bowie Junction could then be carried by wire to the Department of Army headquarters at El Paso about 300 miles to the East.

All of this is preliminary to the anecdote that I wish to tell in this highly unofficial chronicle. As previously related, the reader interested in additional details as to the military import of this system of heliographs may study my official account on file with the Department of the Army. In those pages, the reader will also find several figures including a map showing the disposition of the surveillance stations comprising the heliograph network used to corral the wily Geronimo within a ring of mountain peaks flashing lightning-like messages as to his movements. Photographs of the Mance V heliograph on use on Mount Miller in the Huachuca range and the other Signal Corps. instruments are also appended to the official report.

In early February, I made my way, escorted by division of cavalry, across the vast and barren deserts from Fort Bowie to Fort Huachuca at the western edge of the war-zone. We saw no Apaches during that three-day march. Itinerant Mexicans that we encountered said that Geronimo had withdrawn across the border and was making his winter camp in the fastness of the Sierra Madre Occidental, an inaccessible and, indeed, mostly unexplored and uncharted territory to the west of El Paso. We paused underway to visit the heliograph station on the stony summit of Swisshelm. At that place, the heliograph operator, a tubercular Polish lieutenant with a racking cough, was defended by a platoon of ten sharpshooters, occupying sniper positions encircling the rocky heights. The sun was relentless at the mountain peak and the lieutenant and his men were badly sun-burned. But the lieutenant averred that the dry climate was advantageous for him and had much arrested the progress of his disease.

Above Fort Huachuca, the ascent to Mount Miller was arduous. My party encountered several Mexican shepherds tending their flocks in the well-watered mountain meadows below the snowfields prevailing at higher elevations. Major Gregory commanded the heliograph atop the mountain. The instrument itself was perched atop a prominent spire of granite, a windy and exposed height where the cold wind almost immediately numbed my nose and fingers. Major Gregory’s telegraphy station was equipped with a Mance instrument – it would have been difficult to wrestle the more cumbersome and unwieldy Signal Corps equipment up the steep defile leading to the peak. A fissure in the granite capping the mountain led several hundred feet upward between sheer, gloomy walls of rock. At the upper end of the crevasse, the troops had built a wooden ladder, a lattice fashioned from the pine and fir growing in profusion below the peak, the rude and splintery rungs affixed to the rock by tenons pounded into cracks in the stone. On the summit, there were several campstools and the heliograph enclosed within a rough cairn of stones heaped breast-high around the instrument to protect it from the powerful, if erratic, winds. Major Gregory also had a fine German nautical telescope, a three-draw instrument with brass fittings mounted on a similarly brass tripod.

On the day that I made my ascent to heliograph station on Mount Miller, the sun blazed overhead and water melting from the snow accumulated under the summit made the passage upward muddy and treacherous. Twice, my boots, slimy from the mire on the lower paths, slipped on the rungs of the ladder climbing to the height occupied by Major Gregory and his small detail. Only my firm grip on the rungs above averted catastrophe. Atop the peak, I discovered Major Gregory and his assistants encamped under a makeshift canvas shelter intended to keep the worst of the wind from them.

Major Gregory was a handsome fellow, a cavalier with an ornate and sculpted moustache and flashing eyes under a dark brow. He did not stand as tall as he looked – Major Gregory was one of those men who imposing mien lent stature to him. When I asked him for a demonstration of his instrument, Major Gregory unveiled the mirror of his Mance heliograph, and, then, paused for a moment, awaiting the signal from the receptor station atop the Dragoon Mountains about 15 miles to the north and west. After a hiatus of five minutes, we descried a pinpoint of light blazing atop the blue ridge in that direction and, then, Major Gregory, using Morse telegraphy, flashed this message: TEST – LOVE ALTERS NOT WITH HIS BRIEF HOURS AND WEEKS – BUT BEARS IT OUT EVEN TO THE EDGE OF DOOM. I commended Major Gregory on his taste and learning, and, then, we reposed on the high, naked slab of rock to await the response as the message was flashed from station to station across this theater of operations. After a half hour, Major Gregory gestured to the serrated ridge of the Swisshelm, twenty to twenty-five miles remote across the treeless waste of chaparral. Another point of light, exceedingly tiny but so bright that its beam burned an imprint on the retina, began to flash against the sky. Major Gregory directed that his amanuensis transcribe the message into a ledger book installed within a small rocky niche and, thereby, prtected against the elements. The message read: TEST – LOVE’S ALTAR IS NOT BRIEFLY OURS AND WEAK – BUT BARE OUT EVEN TO THE LEDGE OF DOOM.

Major Gregory smiled at the distortion in his message. "The diction was complex and passed through a half-dozen heliograph stations before returning to this point of dispatch," he said. "Nonetheless, you will see that much of the message has survived." I nodded. "But is it enough?" I asked. "Indeed," Major Gregory told me, "messages required for the war effort in these basins are much simpler, more direct, and, therefore, less prone to deterioration by transmission." I passed several hours with Major Gregory and we discoursed upon a variety of topics. I found the Major to be a man of vibrant, if somewhat, melancholy imagination: his speech was vivid and adorned with many fantastical references to poetry that he know or books that he had read. And, although he was vivacious and purported to good humor, I sensed that he was harboring a very great and unspoken sorrow. At the end of our conversation, I expressed to him again my amusement at the way that the Morse signal had been altered by its transmission from mountaintop to mountaintop. "It is the fate of everything beautiful and intricate," Major Gregory told me, smiling pensively. "But do not doubt the efficacy of the instrument if the savages are actually afoot."

And, indeed, this was demonstrated to me on the next morning. After our colloquy on the heights, I withdrew from the peak, descending that same treacherous ladder, to the snowfields and, then, a lower encampment sheltered by a grove of aspen, all of them quite bare in this season. At that point, several cabins had been built from logs harvested in the forests covering the graceful flanks of the range and there was a spring affording sweet and voluminous waters as well as several corrals for pack animals. These accommodations were comfortable enough. Early, the next morning, a courier from the heliograph station came to our abode and advised that there was villainy underway: the Indians had been sighted and were in motion on the plains below.

On this morning, the wind was blowing a veritable gale atop the peak and I was much concerned to keep my hat in place by pressing it down firmly upon my skull. The cold ached in our bones and the men attending the heliograph were miserable, trembling in the wintry blast, their teeth chattering. Major Gregory was picturesquely clad, his shoulders draped in a malodorous mule blanket, and a kind of turban of scarves and bandanas tied about his temples. I took note that his fingers were raw and red as were the tips of his ears and his nose.

Major Gregory shouted in my ear against the tumult of the elements. "The station atop the Dragoon Mountains has sighted smoke or dust rising from the foothills to the range. It seems to be a sizeable encampment of savages." I asked if the Indians were mounting a raid. "This remains to be seen," Major Gregory replied. "But the force at the base has been alerted." And, indeed, even as we spoke, I saw a small detachment of men on horseback sallying forth across the desert waste. Although I am certain that to ride among those men would have been most exciting, and that there would have been furious motion with pennants and banners arrayed, weapons clanking against saddles, and the drumming of iron-shod hooves on the hard pavement of the desert, all seemed utterly remote from our mountain eyrie. The wind rampaged against us but we heard not a whisper from the cavalry proceeding across the flat and endless wasteland and their motions seemed minute, like an insect laboriously creeping across several yards of scuffed and grassless earth. After about an hour, we lost sight of the cavalry and there was nothing to do but wait. The sun’s approach toward the zenith stilled the winds and the rocks on the peak, hitherto, cold as ice began to bake in the immoderate rays pouring forth from the clear sky.

In the early afternoon, the heliographs lit up atop the mountains. Major Gregory spelled out the message: NO INDIANS – SMOKE WAS MIST FROM CAVE. We puzzled over this enigmatic communication a bit and, then, saw the battalion returning, moving more slowly now, horsemen dispersed at intervals across the plain. The next day I conferred with Adjutant at Fort Huachuca at the bottom of the mountain escarpment and he explained that the troop of cavalry, expecting to encounter the savage foe, instead discovered that a column of mist was rising from a depression in the foothills of the Dragoon Mountains. This mist was the product of warm and wet air emerging from some hidden, underground cavern, and, then, condensing in the morning air, a phenomenon simulating the campfires of an Apache raiding party. Several soldiers had climbed down into the depression and found there a blow-hole about the size of a baseball from which a great quantity of warm foggy air was expelled.

At the fort, I first learned of Major Gregory’s dilemma and source of sorrow, an affair about which everyone I encountered had some intelligence. This tale comprises an anecdote worthy of something found in a wild poem by Lord Byron or encountered in the prose of a Russian like Turgenieff. It seemed that Major Gregory was the scion of an old New England family, a clan that had distinguished itself as soldiers during the War of the Rebellion and from whom many sagacious lawyers and judges were descended. After attending Harvard, Major Gregory married an heiress of a family of similar repute. Unfortunately, the marriage was loveless and without issue and Major Gregory sought solace in a liaison with a beautiful young woman resident in his city. The young woman was the daughter of an industrialist who operated mills were many thousands were employed in weaving textiles. The maiden was betrothed to an older man, also of the commercial class, but on the eve of her wedding eloped with Major Gregory. The couple were soon embattled by relations on both sides and, ultimately, returned to their respective obligations. Major Gregory’s beloved, Emma, submitted to the marriage that had been plotted by her parents and the soldier, unable to endure the calumny and whispers in his native city, abandoned a lucrative law practice and enlisted in the Signal Corps, a branch of the service in which he had previously distinguished himself.

What followed seems as outlandish as the plot of an Italian opera. Emma disguised herself as a man and, also, enlisted in the Corps so as to be near the man that she esteemed as her true husband. She traveled west with Major Gregory and, indeed, reached the wilds of Arizona territory with him about a year before I made his acquaintance. Inevitably, the ruse was discovered and Emma’s gender was, as it were, unmasked. There being no other accommodation for her, Emma was consigned to work among the laundresses, many of them half-breed camp followers of the enlisted men. Her station was not a happy one and she found herself subjected to the undesired advances of some of our troops, including as well the civilian master of the laundresses, an Irishman named Mr. McCarthy. When Emma rejected, Mr. McCarthy’s endearments, Major Gregory beat the man with a buggy whip and, then, challenged him to a duel. Of course, a duel between a Major of the Corps and a mere civilian would have constituted a serious breach of protocol as well as something banned by regulation, although I don’t doubt that an affair of honor might have been condoned had the gentlemen involved been persons of equal rank. But this was not the case with respect to the surly Irishman and Major Gregory and, so, the duel was forbidden.

As you may imagine, I was quite keen to see Emma and, even, converse with her. But the troops to whom I directed inquiries about this woman were vague as to her appearance and, indeed, I received contradictory accounts as to the color of her eyes, the cut of her figure, and shade of her hair. Several women pointed out to me as candidates for the role of Major Gregory’s inamorata were clearly too old or too ugly or, even, half-castes, either part Apache or half-Mexican. One morning, I watched the laundresses plying their trade on the stony banks of the small river that came toppling down from the cold heights of the mountains. Although I looked very closely, I saw no one matching the description that I had formed in my imagination as to Major Gregory’s ill-fated lover. Some of the ladies were fetching and others winsome, but I detected none so self-possessed, haughty, and beautiful to conform to what I had been told about Emma.

And, then, after I had been in camp for about ten days, rumor reached our ears that Emma’s husband from East had arrived in Fort Bowie and that, even now, he was crossing the desolate basin to retrieve his erring wife. It seemed that Mr. McCarthy, the spurned lover, had somehow transmitted intelligence as to Emma’s whereabouts to her husband with the result that the man had come to the railhead, hired a phaeton, and set forth on the rough trails leading to Fort Huachuca. Everyone conceded that the wronged husband was a man of mettle, indeed, invested with courage even approaching recklessness, to set out alone across the wild desert when the Apaches were raiding along the frontier. At this time, I was much inconvenienced by a bloody flux of the bowels and, so, confined to quarters. Therefore, I recount events as they were narrated to me, without vouching, necessarily, for their accuracy.

As it happened, Emma’s husband reached the camp at twilight demanding that he be shown into the company of his wife. Mr. McCarthy made the mistake of casting aspersions on the lady and received another thrashing, this time with a buggy-whip. On this occasion, a duel ensued and Mr. McCarthy was shot dead by Emma’s husband. The weather had become frightfully cold with a blizzard blowing out of the Sierra Madre Occidental in old Mexico. Snow fell even in the foothills of the Huachucas where the fort was located and I felt the chill in my apartments despite the fire burning in my hearth. It was said that the corpse of Mr. McCarthy was found frozen rigid on the field of honor. A phaeton had departed from the military base and its wheel marks as well as the trample of it horses were seen inscribed in the snow on the slopes leading down from the fort to the desert badlands.

The Apache were on the march at that time and, although Major Gregory asked to be relieved of his frigid duties atop the mountain, his surveillance and heliograph could not be spared. Although an order was issued that no one was to tell Major Gregory of the contretemps at the fort, somehow, the news had reached him and, so, three times he solicited permission to depart from his station. The message flashed to the mountaintop from the camp was as severe as stern: "You will be courtmartialed if you abandon your post."

At nightfall, half-breeds advised that a sizeable Apache raiding party had been seen storming across the desert in the direction of Fort Bowie. The troops were told to stand to order and preparations were made to pursue the savages notwithstanding the inclement weather. After the sunset, the clouds attendant upon the blizzard cleared and the velvet blackness of the sky was illumined with the innumerable stars visible in the clear air of this climate. The cold was very great, as if the icy emptiness of outer space had dipped down to touch our earth.

A little before dawn, the high peak where Major Gregory was stationed flared with light. The heliograph station was equipped with a carbide or lime light for use after dark and, apparently, Major Gregory ignited that flame in order to flash a message across the vast and perilous darkness of the desert basins and ranges. At first, it was thought that Major Gregory may have lit the flare merely to afford himself some vestige of warmth against the deadly cold on the summit. But the heliograph flashed against the night and was intelligible: FOR I HAVE SWORN THEE FAIR AND THOUGHT THEE BRIGHT – WHO ARE BLACK AS HELL AND DUMB AS NIGHT.

The sun rose and the day was bright and cold. By midmorning the light-telegraphy had completed the circuit of the mountain and stations was observed at the Fort. The message as received was garbled and only a few words could be read: BLACK, HELL, and NIGHT.

Major Gregory’s mental state, of course, came under suspicion and several men were despatched from the Fort to communicate with him. The climb to the height was arduous for the paths were much obstructed with snow and the peak slick with accumulations of ice that glittered with menace in the afternoon sun. At the summit, the relief party found Major Gregory’s assistants befuddled by rum and huddled together in their tents near the base of the wooden espalier affixed to the rock crevasse. Two troopers, lashed together with cable, crept upward on the perilous assemblage, at least, reaching the heliograph station as the February sun was setting.

Major Gregory reclined against a boulder, frozen to death with eyes open and grey hoar-frost upon his whiskers. It seemed that he had been dead for many hours. Despite vigorous search, no trace was found of the lime light. It was thought that he had thrown the discarded flare from the precipice although there were others that averred that the pre-dawn message flashed across the wasteland had taken for its illumination the incineration of Major Gregory’s combustible heart. The inebriates at the base of the cliff recounted that the day before the heliograph message, word had reached them through a Mexican shepherd that Major Gregory’s beloved had been spirited away by her husband. When this intelligence was conveyed to Major Gregory, he was, at first, merely very silent, standing apart from the men and gazing across the barren basins below. Then, he said that he would search the landscape with the German nautical telescope for some sign of the refugees, ascending alone to the heliograph station with strict orders that he not be disturbed. (It was then that Major Gregory had signaled that he wished to relieved of his duties at the post.) The storm ensued and the peak became impossible to access. No one could have survived for long on that exposed summit and the men who had passed the night below in their tents were convinced that if Major Gregory’s heliograph had flashed signals before dawn, it was the aerial telegraphy of a dead man.

Later, I learned of another circumstance also exceedingly peculiar and, some might say, uncanny. The circuit of mountain peaks by which heliograph messages were transmitted included the stony height of the Swisshelm. On that mountain, a lieutenant of Polish birth was stationed. This man suffered from a tubercular constitution and, on the night that Major Gregory perished, was overcome by a fit of consumption. The Pole was borne from the mountaintop on a litter spitting blood. None of the other soldiers in this command were literate in Morse Code and, therefore, any message flashed across space to the Swisshelm would, perforce, have ended in that place – there was no one capable of transmitting the aerial telegraph to its next station. And, yet, it is indisputable that the heliograph operators downstream from that beacon-point detected a pulse of light emitted at the summit of the Swisshelm and, indeed, sufficiently intelligible to be transcribed and re-transmitted to the other stations comprising the circuit. This was the source of the garbled message returned to Fort Huachuca – BLACK, HELL, and NIGHT.

Superstitious minds maintained that the continuance of Major Gregory’s message beyond the vacant station at the peak of the Swisshelm was evidence that passion exceeds not only death, but optics, in its power. I am not so sure. Upon recovery from illness, I undertook a brief expedition to inspect the Swisshelm heliograph station. On that expedition, I discovered that there was an immense boulder immediately contiguous to the stone plinth on which the heliograph device was mounted. Upon closer inspection, I determined that the boulder was comprised, in part, of quartzite crystals and, indeed, one of its facets was prismatic with this mineral intermixed with pyrite, otherwise known as "Fool’s Gold." It is not beyond surmise that the message transmitted across the many aerial miles to the Swisshelm encountered this reflective surface and was, then, flashed to the next operator by this specular mineral, albeit in an attenuated and garbled form. Natural explanations for anomalous events are always to be preferred to the supernatural.

There is an appendix to this tale. Several years later, army officials intent upon writing a chronicle of the conflicts with Geronimo interviewed a number of Indians who admitted participation in raids led by that wily Caudillo. These interviews were transcribed where they occurred, at Fort Sill in the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. Apache informants recalled that in late February 1886, they encountered a buggy racing across the chaparral alone and undefended. The Indians attacked this conveyance. A man and woman were aboard the phaeton. The man fired several shots from his revolver at the advancing Apaches and, indeed, injured one of the warriors slightly. He, then, turned his pistol upon the woman and dispatched her with a single shot through the brain. His revolver was, then, empty and the man fell into the hands of the savages. Although they did not recount what next occurred, one can imagine, only too readily, the torments that thereafter ensued.

Before dawn, the next morning, the Apache war party prepared to set forth. However, the keen eyes of the war chief observed that the White men were flashing messages made from bright light from peak to peak. The mountaintops surrounding the entire basin seem afire with the swift and intelligible beams of the heliographs. Geronimo determined that the presence of his troop had been discovered and that they could no longer rely upon stealth to mask their depredations. Conscious of being greatly outnumbered by the Federal troops in the vicinity, Geronimo ordered that his war party withdraw into the rugged mountains, abandoning their mission so that they could sally forth, undetected, at some future time. Thus, the message flashed from Fort Huachuca from summit to summit on that February morning dissuaded the Apaches from persisting in their attack, forced them to take refuge, and, indeed, may have led to their ultimate investment and surrender at Skeleton Canyon six months later.

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