The year was 1881 and the time of year was mid-May, a chief and medicine man Nock-ay-det-klinne moved to the Cibecue creek area of the White Mountain Apache reservation for the summer. About a month after setting up their summer camp, reports came in to Fort Apache that Nock-ay-det-klinne was holding meetings stating that he was going to raise two chiefs who were recently killed from the dead. “The reports said that the corpses of the chiefs were partly out of their graves and were resurrected to the knees and ‘visible to all Indians.’” Here is a letter written to the commissioner of Indian affairs from Joseph C. Tiffany describing the events seen by Albert D. Sterling, chief of the San Carlos Indian Police,
Considerable excitement had been caused by a medicine man who had given out word that he was going to bring two chiefs who had been killed during the year (Di-ab-a-lo and es-ki-o-le) to life and when he did he was going to be a ruler of the Indians as he would be a greater man than the Great and he would take care of the Indians and kill the white people in the agency and etc. I sent scouts up to find out the truth of the report, as he had sent works to the Indians he had them alive up to the knees and I felt sure there was something wrong. They went and the followers tried to make them believe the man was talking to him but they would not hear what he said. They told him he hid and would come and tell me so. The Indians up at Cibicu said if he fooled them they would kill him. I have sent the scouts up to bring him in if they can find him. I shall make an example of him in order to deter and such foolishness, as it excited a great many foolish young warriors and bucks to the detriment of good order and the peace of the reserve(Collins, Tiffany's letter to commissioner of Indian affairs).
At this point Tiffany did not see any reason in arresting Nock-ay-det-klinne since he was only tricking the chiefs into giving him gifts. Instead of attempting to arrest him Tiffany simply informed the three chiefs of his lying ways and that they should not believe anything he says, the chiefs agreed to this and on return to the camp Nock-ay-det-klinne knowing they would forcefully take back the gifts announced new details. He announced that these dead could not be brought back until the whites were driven out of the country, this worked in gaining back the trust of the chiefs and the people. The time after this the Indians became very proud and excited about these future events promised to them telling farmers they “Would fight soon and get even with him.” Col. Eugene Asa Carr later received a letter from Tiffany stating,
Sam Bowman thinks the White Mountain will break out when they have their corn gathered and cached. Hurrle thinks same, says they are making sacrifices. Indian doctor puts food in medicine lodge and pretends that the dead come and eat it, says that Indians think this doctor will be the head of all Indians; that he says the ground will turn over, the dead will rise and the Indians [will] be above the whites; that they will have possession of this post, that the soldiers will have to give up their horses to them, etc.
Hurrle says they intend to have another dance here in Pedro’s camp a week from next Saturday night which will be the 20th. It might be well to arrest the Indian Doctor and send him to Alcatraz, but I would not like to take the responsibility as it might precipitate a war. Sam Bowman thinks our company of scouts will break when the others do. He says there is another medicine man at work also(Collins,Carr's letter to Tiffany).
After receiving this letter Carr also received a letter from General Orlando Bolivar Willcox stating that Carr was to arrest Nock-ay-det-klinne “if you deem it necessary, to prevent trouble, after consultation with the agent at San Carlos.” When Carr was ordered to arrest Nock-ay-det-klinne the only soldiers he had were the soldiers stationed at Fort Apache, this worried him because some of these troops were men that lived on the apache reservation themselves and had been attending to the dances and rituals put on by Nock-ay-det-klinne and while in the past they had been quick to communicate anything unlawful taking place were very uncommunicative about these events as stated by Second Lieutenant Thomas Cruse who commanded Company A (Apache Scouts). Carr later on August 10th asked Cruse about the loyalty of his troops and Cruse responded with “he entirely distrusts his scouts in event of the rising of the White Mountains and believed all of nearly all would go with the enemy and recommended their discharge.(Collins, Cruse quote)” Carr later telegraphs for permission to discharge the company but the lines go down and he does receive a telegraph back saying he can until 2 and half weeks after he returns from Cibecue. Carr decided to take the scouts only to find Nock-ay-det-klinne and later states that if not for them he would never have been able to find him. Carr then sent Cruse and some troops forward to find Nock-ay-det-klinne’s campsite, Carr later came to the campsite to meet with Nock-ay-det-klinne in person. Here Carr recites how the event happened,
I told him through the interpreter what I had come for, as I had told the scouts the night before. This was told him in the presence of the other Indians, in their own language, so all should understand. I then told him I would treat him as a friend till those charges had been investigated and if not true he would be released. He had already denied them. he showed me a pass from the agent for himself and others to plant corn on Cibicu for 60 days, dated May 13th and extended July 13th for another 60 days.
I told him the agent wanted me to bring him in to talk & etc. he made [an] excuse for not coming before, that he had a patient to attend to, and the Indians would have blamed him if he had left the sick man; but said he had cured him, and he had gone home this morning and he, Nock-ay-det-klinne, was now ready to go with me. I told him that was all right and if it was all explained he would be released in a few days. I then ordered a guard detailed; told him who was in charge of that, Sergeant McDonald, Troop E, 6th Cavalry; that if he tried to escape he would be killed. He smiled and said he did not want to escape, he was perfectly willing to go.
I then told him that if there were an attempt at rescue he would be killed. He smiled at that also, and said no one would attempt to rescue him. I also told him he could take part of his family along with him.
This talk was all in the presence of other Indians, purposely to reassure them and make a good care to their minds. Mose at times repeated and explained, when he did not seem to catch the meaning of Interpreter Hurrle.
I thought that the possession of his person, as a hostage, would make them particularly careful not to bring on a collision(Collins, Carr recollecting meeting with medicine man).
Once the men started to head out Carr took one half of his troops and marched ahead, followed by Cruse and his men along with Nock-ay-det-klinne and his guard. As they were traveling along Apaches would appear out of the surrounding areas and would go with the caravan. Cruse noticed that all of these men seemed to be prepared for battle but thought nothing of it for he knew some of them personally and others were talking with the scouts with him as well on a personal level. As the scouts were making camp they began to make war cries and loud noises and turned toward Troop D who had already begun to prepare for camp for the night and opened fire. After the Foreign Indians started firing the scout apaches had also begun to fire at the Troop D along with them. Once the initial firing had stopped the scouts and foreign Apaches dropped down the mesa and the Troop D formed a defensive formation behind whatever they could find, mostly saddles, and began to prepare for the battle. Once they had opened fire back at the Indians, the Indians then retreated to the brush at the bottom of the mesa. Carr seeing this rushed to Stanton and ordered him to take his Troop E and rush the left flank of the brush to confuse and dismantle the Indians themselves, then Carr later said, “Saved the day.(Collins)” the Indians then retreated from the campsite. During the first 15 minutes of the shooting Nock-ay-det-klinne had attempted to make an escape, while even being shot in the leg Sergeant McDonald then shot Nock-ay-det-klinne through both of his thighs, trumpeter William O. Benites, seeing he was still alive, shot Nock-ay-det-klinne in the neck. Once the battle was over the men buried the dead and returned to Fort Apache, to prepare for the future hostilities that followed the battle. After returning to the Fort Carr heard word that hostile Apaches had been killing farmers and a group of Mormons attempting to cross the Apache Road even though warned not too.at about 2P.M. the Indians began to fire into the Post from all sides. Moving closer to the mill just outside of the Post Carr ordered some men to go stop the Indians from taking the mill and they did so preventing the Indians from moving any closer. The Indians continued firing into the post with no affects and returned to the mountains after failing the attack on the fort.(Collins) After this failed attempt at breaking into the Fort the Indians the attacks on the fort came to a stop.
Col. Eugene A. Carr, sketch of the Cibecue battlefield. 1882, unknown. From: Apache Nightmare: The Battle at Cibecue Creek, (university of Oklahoma Press, 1999).
Charles Collins, Apache Nightmare: The Battle at Cibecue Creek, (University of Oklahoma Press, 1999)
Willian B. Kessel, “The Battle of Cibecue and its Aftermath: a White Mountain Apache’s Account,” Ethno history; Spring74, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p123-134