The Fox and the Whirlwind: General George Crook and Geronimo, A Paired Biography

The Fox and the Whirlwind: General George Crook and Geronimo, A Paired Biography

by Peter Aleshire

View All Available Formats & Editions


"An invaluable addition to western history."–Evan Connell, author of Son of the Morning Star

"Written like fine historical fiction, but substantial, substantive, enlightening."–Kirkus Reviews

This captivating dual biography chronicles

…  See more details below



"An invaluable addition to western history."–Evan Connell, author of Son of the Morning Star

"Written like fine historical fiction, but substantial, substantive, enlightening."–Kirkus Reviews

This captivating dual biography chronicles the lives and battles of two of America’s most famous warriors, the legendary Apache shaman, Geronimo, and the nation’s most successful Indian fighter, General George Crook. Artfully constructed from their own words, as well as newspaper accounts and the firsthand recollections of those who fought with–and against–them, here is a compelling and uniquely evenhanded account of the intriguing men at the center of one of American history’s most definitive, longest-running struggles–the infamous Apache Wars. Born to defend their respective cultures–and destined to destroy each other in the process–the vengeful, spiritually powerful Indian warrior and the remorseless, consummate professional officer are inextricably bound to each other in the fabric of our country, and in the hearts of their peoples.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Aleshire (professor of American Studies at Arizona State University and author of Reaping the Whirlwind) seeks to replicate the format of Stephen E. Ambrose's 1975 Crazy Horse and Custer in a "paired biography" of two warriors of the 19th-century American Southwest: U.S. Gen. George Crook and Apache leader Geronimo, who waged a battle of wits and wills for 15 years. If their culture and characters were different, still they came to understand each other both as men and as representatives of their respective value systems. Aleshire's Crook is an archetypal American: a common-sense intellectual who doesn't hesitate to act on his convictions. Understanding the culture of the Apache so well that he earned their nickname "Grey Fox," Crook nevertheless regarded the tribe as doomed by a white advance whose legitimacy he did not question. His task was only to make conquest as complete--and as merciful and honorable--as possible. Tragically, Crook was so much outside his own system that he was unable to prevent the defeated Apaches' deportation to Florida. Aleshire's Geronimo is Crook's counterpoint. A shaman and a warrior, he was a whirlwind both to his people and to the Anglos and Mexicans who made him a symbol of terror. Though Geronimo vigorously defended his tribe at all costs, Aleshire suggests that the total defeat he eventually suffered was unavoidable. Giving a voice to each protagonist, Aleshire tells their stories by drawing on personal memoirs and government reports and dispatches. Although more conventional scholars might be disconcerted by his face value acceptance of Geronimo's claim to supernatural powers, Aleshire's approach works; presenting each culture on its own terms rather than simply inverting stereotypes and making the white man the true savage, he depicts a mortal combat between men of conviction, principle, and spiritual power. B&w photos, maps. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
If many Americans know the celebrated warrior and shaman Geronimo, far fewer are familiar with his opposite number and skilled pursuer, the Indian fighter George Crook, whose respect for Apache culture helped him to devise a style of campaigning that effectively subdued Indian resistance. Aleshire (American studies, Arizona State Univ.) brings alive both men and the societies they represented in this provocative account of conflict and conquest. Alternating chapters between his two protagonists, each combatant represented by a distinctive narrative voice, Aleshire offers a refreshing approach to understanding the Apache wars, allowing readers to grasp the conflict from multiple perspectives. Recommended for public and academic libraries.--Brooks D. Simpson, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\

Read More

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
0.86(w) x 6.00(h) x 9.00(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


The Price of Power

Geronimo watched the dancers circle the bonfire, their long shadows flung, flickering outward by the flames. The old man listened to the singers, their long voices rising to a wail and falling to a moan. All this while the once-terrible warrior stared wordlessly at the chanting shaman Lot Eyelash, who was now seeking out the evil that had dogged Geronimo's family, his band, his life.

    Who could doubt that Geronimo had been witched?

    Were not all of the eight wives of his life dead or gone away? Had not five of his children died already, from the bullets of the Mexicans or the diseases of the White Eyes? And was not his beloved Eva now sick herself-dwindling toward death like all the others? Had he not wielded Power all of his life, protecting his life, and the lives of his warriors, but come nonetheless to this place, lost to even the most distant call of a single coyote-from whence Geronimo's Power came? Geronimo had lifted up his knife, struck down his enemies, and fulfilled the obligation of revenge. He had gone where his Power directed him-even through the bullets of his enemies. He had healed the sick, held back the sun from rising, and looked into the fatal future, like holding coals in his open palm. Even when the warriors had so little hope that they called themselves "the Dead"-still he fought on. He had done everything asked of him, and still his children died, and still The People died. So it seemed only reasonable to wonder who had called so much evil down on him.

    After all,Geronimo had earned many enemies. The Mexicans still frightened their children with his name in the dark, and the White Eyes still thrilled with the fear of him although he was an old man far from the warpath. Even many among his own people spoke against him, blaming their long imprisonment and exile on his war against all hope, and against all reason, and against all other people.

    Knowing this, Geronimo had gone to Lot Eyelash. He had gone in his pain and his humility to this other shaman, and asked for the dance, and the songs, and the whispering of the Power which cupped Lot Eyelash in its palm. Geronimo wanted to know finally who had done this thing. Who had witched him so that everyone he loved sickened and died as with the ghost sickness?

    So Geronimo listened-waiting to learn the name of his enemy.

    Lot Eyelash sang the first song his Power had taught him-as Geronimo had learned his Coyote songs, and his Ghost songs, and all the other songs by which an honorable man might live his life even in times that made no sense.

    Lot Eyelash sang his second song on into the night, as the dancers shuffled, and the singers chanted.

    Lot Eyelash sang the third song as the night grew long, and the legs of the dancers trembled.

    And Lot Eyelash sang the fourth song-which was the sacred number.

    So Geronimo waited then for the name of his enemy, his warrior face held perfectly expressionless.

    Suddenly, Lot Eyelash fell silent, as though a voice had broken into his song. The shaman turned about, and flung his arm out, pointing at Geronimo.

    You did it! cried Lot Eyelash, into the sudden silence of The People. You did it so that you could live on.

    Some of those who heard it drew back from Geronimo—for those who wield Power are both admired and feared. Power seeks its price for the gifts it barters. You might charm it, or cajole it, or placate it-but Power must have its own way. No one could know which was the hand, and which was the knife. Geronimo's Power had stopped the sun in its path, taken the gunpowder from the cartridges of the enemy, showed him the future, and saved him from more wounds than you could count-some of the healed bullet holes deep enough to hide pebbles. Who could say what such a Power might ask, or offer?

    But others of those who heard Lot Eyelash dismissed the claim, knowing weaker men had always feared Geronimo. These weak men resented the rebuke of his refusal to surrender. Geronimo had used his great Power on behalf of The People for all of his long life-and now he pulled his grandson in the little red wagon, and urged the children to their lessons, and played with the babies with perfect happiness. He would not do such a thing—trading Eva for a few years added to a life already heavy with regret.

    As for Geronimo, he did not speak, but sat staring still at Lot Eyelash, his black eyes glittering in the firelight. Geronimo held the reins of his expression tight, as he had when the White Eyes put the shackles on him, as he had when they loaded him on the train, as he did through all the death, and loss, and futile triumph of his long life.

    And who can say what long, dark thoughts enfolded him in that moment.

    Perhaps, looking back on his terrible journey, he wondered whether it might be true after all. For he had tried to do right, but had called down great wrongs on his people. Loss had haunted him all his life-like a ghost called back by the reckless use of the name of one who has gone. Surely he had earned a warrior's death—not this long burning down to ash in the midst of his enemies.

    Had he somehow earned the great punishment of his life? Or had he merely lived in the wrong season, the last leaf clinging to the last branch in foolish defiance of winter?

Chapter Two



The Cost of Duty

General George Crook, whose command covered a vast sprawl of the West he had struggled all his life to pacify, fumed. General Nelson A. Miles's lies had once again strained Crook's famous restraint. It was maddening, the twists of truth and the slights on character inflicted on Crook in his honorable struggle to win the release of the imprisoned Chiricahua—who were winnowed more severely by disease with each passing year.

    Crook had devoted much of the past year to this question. He could not let it go, seeing it now as a question of honor. He had devoted the best and hardest years of his life to breaking the Apache resistance. He had convinced the great majority of the Apache-even the redoubtable Chiricahua-to live peacefully on the reservation. In the end, only a handful of bloodthirsty, unreconstructed troublemakers inspired by the damnable Geronimo had treacherously and persistently refused to accept the inevitable. Geronimo's repeated broken promises and his final drunken bolt into the wilderness had led to Crook's resignation from that command and Miles's appointment. Miles had then proceeded to make a grand fool of himself, calling for more and more troops until he had a quarter of the U.S. Army chasing a handful of savages without result. Miles had disdained the use of scouts, which had been the mainstay of Crook's long, successful campaign against the Apache—a campaign that had stretched with some interruptions from 1870 to 1885. In this, Miles comforted Crook's legions of harsh critics, who insisted the scouts had actually prevented the capture of the renegades. Some of those same former scouts had finally found Geronimo and the last of his warriors in Mexico, and convinced them to talk with General Miles, who had promised them a two-year exile on a reservation in the East with their families, followed by a return to the reservation. But the government had betrayed that promise, imprisoning the renegades along with the former scouts for years. Crook had served on a commission to investigate and recommended settling the Chiricahua prisoners at the Mount Vernon, Alabama, military barracks, to which they had been transferred from a disease-ridden prison camp in Florida. Crook had found them at Mount Vernon still dispirited and subject to disease, and had recommended their removal to a much more suitable reservation in the Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

    But Crook's recommendation had borne with it the implication that General Miles had dealt treacherously with the Chiricahua-punishing the innocent along with the guilty and violating his own promises to the surrendering warriors.

    Miles had vigorously defended his position as a bill authorizing the relocation of the Chiricahua came before Congress. By sending the scouts and the peaceful Chiricahua into exile with Geronimo, Miles had betrayed Crook's own promises to the Chiricahua and so made a liar of a man who had spent his entire life living by his own stern code of honor and integrity. Miles had imprisoned even the loyal scouts like Chato. Crook maintained the scouts had made possible every single success against the hostiles. They had saved his life many a time, and proven unflinching, honorable, and unswerving-once their loyalty could be won.

    Miles had betrayed that loyalty by imprisoning nearly four hundred peaceful Chiricahua. Miles wrote, "In July of 1886 I found at Fort Apache over 400 men and women and children belonging to the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Indians, and a more turbulent, desperate, disreputable band of human beings I had never seen before, and hope never to see again. When I visited their camp they were having their drunken orgies every night, and it was a perfect pandemonium. One of the most prominent among the Indians was Chato, who at one time had led what was perhaps the bloodiest raid ever made in that country. The young men were insolent, violent, and restless, and anxious to go on the warpath. I received reliable information that another outbreak was contemplated by the Indians, and was then being arranged amongst them."

    Captain John G. Bourke, who had served loyally as Crook's chief aide through these battles, responded.

Crook was not the man to lie to anyone or deal treacherously by him. If there was one point in his character which shone more resplendent than any other, it was his absolute integrity in his dealings with representatives of inferior races.... For Geronimo and those with him, any punishment that could be inflicted without incurring the imputation of treachery would not be too severe; but the incarceration of Chato and the three-fourths of the band who had remained faithful for years and had rendered such signal service in pursuit of the renegades can never meet with the approval of honorable soldiers and gentlemen.... Not a single Chiricahua had been killed, captured, or wounded throughout the entire campaign—with two exceptions-unless by Chiricahua-Apache scouts, who, like Chato, had kept pledges given to General Crook in the Sierra Madre in 1883 ... There is no more disgraceful page in the history of our relations with the American Indians than that which conceals the treachery visited upon the Chiricahua who remained faithful in their allegiance to our people.

    Crook had also fired off a volley in response to Miles's claims that the scouts had proved treacherous. "This is all false. These stories are being circulated for a purpose. Chato was not only faithful, but it was due entirely to the efforts of his Indian scouts that the hostiles under Nachez and Geronimo surrendered to me in March 1886. It is true that General Miles did discharge the Apache scouts and after operating against thirty-three Indians for over five months without killing or capturing a single one of them, he sent Lieutenant [Charles] Gatewood and two of Chato's scouts, who succeeded in securing the surrender of the renegades upon the promise that they should not be harmed, and should be sent to join their families in Florida."

    Maddening. Crook had worn himself out in the service of his country-four decades of almost continuous fighting-only to have his honor, and his judgment, and his integrity impugned by placeholders, politicians, and wretched journalists.

    Galling. The savages themselves sometimes seemed exemplars of honor and courage, next to the thieving, drunken wretches who had persistently foiled peace-and frustrated his efforts. Repeatedly, his superior officers had undone his promises and rebuffed his recommendations. Corrupt civil officials had defrauded, debased, and abused the Indians-driving them to war and then calling in the army for the killing. The wretched contractors had sold whiskey and ammunition, and done everything possible to keep the Indians stirred up-seizing their share of graft and provender even at the expense of the lives of innocent women and children. The worst elements among the settlers had murdered wantonly. then heaped infamy on Crook. And in the final indignity, that lying old murderer Geronimo had snatched the victory he had earned away from him-casting a shadow across Crook's career and bringing this unjust doom down on the Chiricahua.

    But Crook could do so little, really. The end was inevitable. The savages must give way to civilization. He had done everything he could in his life to hasten the transformation-and to save individual Indians by convincing them to submit. Still, he wondered sometimes at the way things had worked out.

    As he had said to the class at West Point in 1884: "With all his faults, and he has many, the American Indian is not half so black as he has been painted. He is cruel in war, treacherous at times. and not overly cleanly. But so were our forefathers. His nature. however, is responsive to a treatment which assures him that it is based on justice, truth, honesty and common sense; it is not impossible that with a fair and square system of dealing with him the American Indian would make a better citizen than many who neglect the duties and abuse the privileges of that proud title."

    But on the morning of March 21, 1890, after his customary exercise, Crook felt a sudden pressure on his chest-a slow, choking sensation. He staggered to the sofa, and fell down upon it, crying out to his wife, "Mary! Mary! I can't breathe."

    She came to him quickly, and found him on the couch gasping for breath. He had spent his life in the most arduous service on the frontier. He had been shot, pierced by arrows, and endured sickness-and now lay dying at the age of sixty-two, the most successful Indian fighter in the nation's history.

    "I am choking," he said quietly. A short time later he was dead.

    When the news reached the Sioux leader Red Cloud that "Three Stars" was dead, he said, "When Three Stars came; he, at least, had never lied to us. His words gave the people hope. He died. Their hope died again. Despair came again."

    When news of Crook's death reached the camps of the Apaches living around Camp Apache they "let their hair down, bent their heads forward on their bosoms, and wept and wailed like children" for the man they had known as Gray Fox.

    But when the news reached Geronimo-Crook's greatest enemy among the Indians-Geronimo grunted in satisfaction. Gray Fox had earned many deaths, said Geronimo, with his lies.

    But Geronimo should have mourned him, because Crook's death killed the chances for the relocation of the Chiricahua. Miles triumphed and the Chiricahua remained prisoners for another twenty years.

    A terrible question had haunted Crook's life-just as it did Geronimo's.

    All his life, Crook labored to do right. He had lived by a code of honor, and acted with fierce determination, justice, and compassion.

    But had the achievement of his life been a terrible injustice? Had he done his best and most enduring work in destroying men whose courage resembled his own, on behalf of the weak and the corrupt? Had he helped to destroy everything he loved best?

Read More

Meet the Author

PETER ALESHIRE is senior lecturer in the Department of American Studies at Arizona State University, West Campus, and the author of Cochise: The Life and Times of the Great Apache Chief and Reaping the Whirlwind, a history of the Apache Wars. He is also a contributing editor to Phoenix Magazine and writes for Arizona Highways and other publications. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >