NINE YEARS WITH THE APACHES AND COMANCHES - Part Two
This is the thrilling second part of the story of Apache and Comanche captive, Herman Lehmann. See part one here
From J. Marvin Hunter’s Frontier Times Magazine, July, 1954
Written by JOHN WARREN HUNTER in 1906
Mrs. Caroline Dye, a sister to Mrs. Keyser, related her recollection of the battle at her mother's home. She adds, however that on the front porch of the dwelling there was a large goods box in which clothing and other articles were kept. The Indians emptied this box, and among other things they found the little pistol mentioned in Mrs. Keyser's statement. The little gun was without a load of any kind and the savages made great glee over it, snapping it at one another, and peals of savage laughter greeted every Indian who dodged when it was snapped at him. At length the chief walked boldly to the window and made a movement as if to get in. It was then the heroic pioneer mother turned loose her artillery, and but for the shield the savage carried there would have been a dead Indian then and there.
When the Indians who had captured Herman reached the village, the boy captive became the object of particular attention on the part of the squaws and the children. They would gather around him in large groups, and each young Indian vied with the others in heaping taunts and insults on the boy. These he bore with sullen silence the first day, but when they began it the second day, the spirit of his brave mother rose up in him and with a desperation most unexpected in one so young, he lay about him with stones, clubs or whatever else came within his reach, and soon put the rabble to flight. His pugnacity was greeted with uproarious laughter on the part of the men who had witnessed the affray, and from that moment he received better treatment. He was initiated into the tribe and became to all intents and purposes a full-blooded Apache. He was adopted into a family, given an Indian name, and about the village he had all privileges conceded to his new associates. He was encouraged to ride and practice horsemanship with the Indian lads, but was not permitted to go on these rides alone. He was taught the art of making bows and arrows and special lessons were given him in the preparation of sinew and the fashioning of that material. And thus the captive's life glided along uneventfully until the return of the raiders who had attacked his mother's house. The wounded chief was in sore straits and was immediately placed in a tepee which belonged to the Big Medicine Man. For several days after his arrival he had to submit to having small shot picked out of his lazy old carcass, and every time he underwent the operation the captive boy was unmercifully beaten with switches. He begged for protection at the hands of his new foster parents but they told him they were powerless to help him and further assured him that if the wounded chief should die he would be put to torture and slain. The chief recovered, but the hatred he entertained towards the boy continued, and four years later resulted in his own death at the hands of the captive, whose cool nerve and splendid marksmanship finished the work his heroic mother had undertaken.
In the course of two years Herman had developed into a full blown Indian. He had learned their language and in point of horsemanship, endurance and skill with the lasso, the lance, the bow and arrow, he was the peer of any of their young braves. The fascination of the free and untrammeled life of the roving Indian had obliterated all affection for those at home and hushed all desire to return to his father's house. It has often been said by old frontiersmen that the worst of all Indians is the white captive taken in early childhood and raised up among the Indians. He seems to inherit the bravery and shrewdness of the white man, to which is added the cunning craftiness and something more than the blood thirstiness after a four year sojourn with the Apaches. His first raid with his new associates was made in the region of Fort McKavett, where they stole a span of large sorrel mules out of the post corral, almost under the eyes of the guard. They stole also, a number of horses, and on their return they came out by way of the Lipan Flat, near Fort Concho. During the night Herman and an Indian came up near the post, but while prowling around, the two became separated. They were on foot, having left their horses in care of their comrades, who were concealed on the South Concho, about a mile above the post. Herman saw a fine horse in a lot close to a house that was just outside the soldier's quarters, and while trying to lead the horse out of the lot he was fired upon by someone, presumably the owner. Herman had left his bow with his comrades, but he had a six shooter which he drew and opened fire on his assailant, who dodged around the corner of the house, and returned the fire, the second shot striking Herman's pistol and knocking it from his hand. In the meantime the horse had jerked loose and the alarm had been given. Herman was disarmed and his only alternative was precipitate flight. He made for the nearest point of the river, south of the post and escaped. He gives many graphic accounts of raids into Texas, and New Mexico; he knew Victorio, the noted Apache chief, but never met Geronimo, as that chief confined most of his operations to Arizona. He joined in raids in West Texas, even going so far as House Mountain and Loyal Valley, where they stole horses belonging to his former neighbors and friends. On one occasion after being restored to his people and before he had acquired a good vocabulary of his mother tongue, he asked his mother if she remembered seeing watch fires on House Mountain one cold night. "Yes," said the mother, "I remember the time, there was snow on the ground, and the Indians made a raid and got off with a large number of horses." "Me got heem!" said Herman, exultingly, "Me got heem!" and stooping down, he traced in the loose sand with his finger, different brands belonging to men who lived in the village and vicinity and all these had lost horses on that particular occasion.
About the closest call this boy captive ever experienced was that when the rangers under Captain Roberts overtook and whipped a band of marauding Indians on the plains above San Angelo. Of this action, I will give first Herman's version and next, I will give the account as related by Mr. Tom Gillespie, who was a ranger in Robert's Company, and participated in the battle. I have heard the narrative related by Captain Roberts, Captain Lamb Sieker and the late Ed Sieker, all of whom took part in the fight and their accounts all coincide with that given by Captain Gillespie.
"We had been down in the settlement on a raid and secured a large bunch of horses. We went out by way of Kickapoo Springs and it was not far from that point that our scouts brought us word that the rangers were close after us. We dreaded the rangers because they were well armed and always shot to hit. So we headed for the plains, and rode day and night. We knew how these rangers could ride without sleep or food and our only hope was to outride them. When one of our horses showed signs that he was fagged out, we would rope a fresh horse from the herd and continue the race. At one time we halted long enough to kill a burro that some Mexican had left on the range. We roasted the meat of this burro and ate it. We were very hungry and we relished it. The day following we killed and ate a mustang and thinking that we had outwitted the rangers, we allowed our horses to rest and graze.
We started at daylight the next morning and when the sun was just rising the rangers dashed upon us from the east, taking advantage of the sunrise, so they could not be seen. They were quite near when we discovered them coming toward us at a charge. Our chief ordered us to stay close together and fight, as there was no chance to take by running, but the braves lit out, every man for himself, except four of us who stayed by the chief. Several of the rangers pursued the fleeing Indians and it soon became a running fight. A shot from a ranger's pistol broke the leg of a horse, ridden by one of the Indians, who, when his horse fell, jumped up behind Gray Wolf. About the same time the rangers brought down another horse and seeing the rider on foot and running for dear life, I dashed up alongside him and told him to get up behind me. All this time the rangers were crowding us and I was shooting as fast as I could. I put two arrows into a ranger's saddle. No sooner had this Indian mounted behind me, than the rangers had cut us off from our comrades. The Indian behind me used his shield for protection in the rear. We had not gone far before a bullet from a ranger's gun killed my horse, and as he fell he pinioned me to the ground, and broke the bow carried by the Indian behind me. This Indian seized my bow and hit the earth running. As he took my bow, I begged him not to leave me, but he paid no attention to me. Two or three rangers dashed by me when my horse fell and one of them threw his pistol down on me and I thought my time had come, but just then another ranger called out to him, and said something which I could not understand, and they all ran on in pursuit of the Indian who had just left me. I lay still until I heard the shots that killed the Indian and then with an effort I got my leg from under the horse and crawled a distance in the high grass and hid near a little mesquite tree. Shortly the rangers came back for me. I could hear them talking and more than once they rode quite near where I lay concealed. They continued the search for more than an hour and to me it seemed an age. Finally they gave it up, and after stripping my horse of everything, they left, going back towards the east. When the rangers had gone I went to where they had overtaken and killed the Indian who had rode behind me. They had cut off his head and carried away all of his weapons. At the beginning of the fight we had with us a little Mexican boy. During the fight this boy ran to the rangers, and, I suppose they carried him away with them, as I never saw or heard anything more of him. My condition was deplorable. Our camps were at least 300 miles to the westward, and I alone, afoot, unarmed, without food, and in the way of clothing I had only a buckskin jacket. However, I started, I could do nothing else. It was a long, lonely journey, and I came near perishing from hunger and thirst. I ate prickly pear, lizards, grasshoppers, and at times was almost delirious. I was so far exhausted when I reached the village that I lay sick for a long time. Those who had escaped the rangers, reached the village long before my arrival and reported that I, with others, had been killed. My appearance took them by surprise, and they showed me every kindness during my subsequent illness."
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During Herman's four years' captivity among the Apaches, he had formed some strong attachments for members of the tribe. His foster father and mother were kind and affectionate towards him and treated him in every way as their own son. The hatred of the chief, who was wounded by Mrs. Lehmann, was shown on many occasions, and of this the boy often spoke to his adopted parents, but the only counsel they could offer him was to the effect that they were powerless; that the persecutor was a petty chief and a dangerous man, and that the boy should avoid him, and under no circumstances provoke his rage. It was sometime during his last year's stay with the Apaches that he met with Adolph Korn and Fischer, two German boys the Comanches had stolen from the settlement near Fredericksburg. The occasion of this meeting was at a time when a vast number of Apaches and Comanches had assembled to engage in horse racing. These two captive boys were brought along by the Cornanches, and although the races were kept going for three days, and many horses changed hands, the three boys were not permitted to be together long at a time. Korn and Fischer were afterwards restored to their people, but the latter had become so thoroughly Indianized that he could not adapt himself to the ways of his people, and finally returned to the Comanches. Adolph Korn remained with his people and became a useful citizen. He died at Mason, Texas, only a few years ago.
Kills The Hated Chief
One day it fell to Herman's lot to go on duty as herdsman for a large caballada of horses. By some means during the day some of the stock became scattered, among those which had strayed off were a number belonging to the hated chief. When Herman found he could not round up the herd and recover the horses, he sent an Indian boy, who had assisted him during the day, to the village, about a mile away, for help. On the way into the village the boy met the chief and told him of the horses having strayed off. The chief hastened to the herd in a great rage. When Herman saw him coming he knew there was going to be trouble, and the first thought was to escape the infuriated Indian by flight. Within a half a mile, and in the direction of the village, was a high, rocky hill. too steep for a horse to climb, and to this hill the boy directed his horse at full speed, the Indian in close pursuit, and yelling as if to add to the boy's fright. When Herman reached the hill, or that point of declivity where the horse could go no further, he abandoned his horse and ran up the hill and was soon out of sight among the boulders. When he left his horse he was careful to hold on to his bow and shield, and when he found that he succeeded in getting to cover, he began to breathe easy, and for the moment felt quite safe. But the Indian was not to be baffled by the hated paleface. Doubtless he recalled the many long days of suffering he had passed in pain and agony, caused by that boy's mother — and an Indian never forgets. He also dismounted and silently, stealthily, wended his way up among those rocks, crags and boulders, until he came up face to face with his intended victim and the struggle began. Herman told the writer that he met that Indian with as much coolness and self possession as he ever felt while shooting a buffalo or lancing snake. He rather felt elated over the opportunity of forever settling the matter as to which of the two should survive. The chief was armed with his bow and lance. His shield he had left when he dismounted. When he came up with Herman he had just turned the corner of a large boulder and his first pass was to hurl his lance. This was turned aside by Herman's shield. The Indian then threw himself in position and as he threw his right hand to his quiver to draw forth an arrow, Herman drove a feathered shaft through his body. The Indian reeled and turned half around, only to receive another arrow in the region of the heart, and, with a yell, fell forward — dead.
In the meantime the boy sent by Herman had procured help and had returned to the herd. From his high perch of concealment. Herman could overlook the plain and see what was going on. He saw the Indians round up the stock and saw them when they found the horses ridden by himself and the chief. He could see by their actions that they were excited and knew that the vengeance of nearly all the tribe would be wreaked upon him if found. Until that moment he had not recalled the awful predicament in which he was placed. The hill, or rather range of hills, that afforded his concealment swept around north of the village, forming a half circle. The scene of the killing was nearly due west of the village. Knowing that searching parties would soon be on the ground. he bore away and followed the ridge to a point north of the village where he lay in close concealment until after dark. He had the utmost faith in the fealty of his foster parents, but he knew their utter inability to protect him. His only hope lay in instant flight. But whither? The Comanches and the Apaches were not on good terms at that time: he did not know a word of the Comanche dialect, and should he fly to them, the nearest tribe, his condition might not be improved. But fly he must, but before leaving he must secure a mount and provisions, and in order to do this he must see his foster father. Towards nine o'clock he emerged from his place of concealment and approached the village. It was intensely dark, and when he came near he could hear the wailing of the squaws—wives of the dead chief—and by their screams he knew that the body had been found and brought in. With the utmost caution he approached his father's tepee and quietly made known his presence. The Indian directed him to go immediately and conceal himself at a certain place outside the village and wait; that others at that moment were on the lookout for him.
When the herd had been driven in in the late evening, Herman's horse and that ridden by the chief had been brought in with the others, and Herman's foster father had taken charge of the boy's horse, removed the saddle and turned the horse back into the herd. As directed, Herman went to the place designated and after waiting a half hour, the old squaw came to him, bringing with her a small supply of dried buffalo meat, a number of arrows and a canteen which had been taken from a soldier killed by some of the Apaches during a raid the summer before. The old squaw wept bitterly when she told him goodbye and said she would never see him alive again. She had not been gone long on her return to the tepee before the foster father came, bringing the boy's saddle, bridle, a blanket and lasso. He told Herman to go to the herd and take a certain horse, which, for endurance and hardihood, was considered the best of any owned by the tribe. He bewailed the fact that he could not shield or protect him, although he loved him as his own son. He urged him to get as far away as possible before dawn, and to continue with all speed during the next day and night. The old Indian refused to advise him as to what direction to pursue or where to go. He only said "go." and when the two parted, Herman says he began to realize that of all mortals on the earth, he was the loneliest.
In trying to secure the horse he had chosen he assumed imminent risk, and it was past the hour of midnight when he finally succeeded in getting the animal away from the herd and it required but a few moments to saddle up, mount and be off. He shaped his course eastward and was many miles away when the morning sun came up. He found himself on a vast plain with a low range of hills far away to the north. This plain was wholly without vegetation except cactus and in places a growth o f sagebrush. The soil was loose and sandy, and this gave him uneasiness, since his trail would be easily followed by his pursuers. During the day horse and rider suffered from the effects of thirst, but in the evening they came to a creek where an abundance of water was found. The sun was about an hour high when Herman reached the creek. and after having slaked his thirst and filled his canteen he rode forward in the direction of a high ridge that lay a short distance east of the watering place. Just over this ridge he found grass in a small cove and here he dismounted to allow his horse to rest and graze a few hours. Leaving his horse he went back to the crest of the ridge to keep watch, as the elevation enabled him to see a great distance in the direction from whence he came. The sun was low in the heavens and he had not been on the watch longer than half an hour before he discovered what he took to be horsemen—mere specks on the horizon—far away to the west and directly on his trail. Hastily remounting, he resumed his journey, and that was the last he saw or heard of his aforetime friends, the Apaches, for several months. After many days of travel over arid plains, rugged hills, and deserts, during which time he came near perishing from hunger and thirst he came to a deep canyon in which there was a small stream of pure clear water and a growth of cottonwoods along the margin. His horse had become exhausted and most of the day he had led the faithful beast. The walls of the canyon were almost perpendicular in places, and he experienced some difficulty in finding a place of descent to the creek below. Finally he discovered a narrow trail leading down the declivity and when once in the canyon he found not only good water, but an abundance of good grass, and here he took up his abode. How long he remained in this canyon Herman could not say but, according to his statement, he must have stayed six or eight months, perhaps longer. On his first coming, he found deer tracks and the footprints of other wild animals that made this stream their watering place, and later discovered that game was plentiful. He says that after a few weeks stay in this solitude he became reconciled to his lonely life. He regarded all men as his enemies and had but one friend in the world, and that was his horse. In a friendly cavern in the walls of the canyon, he found shelter and concealment at night, and as game came in to water near his place of hiding, he had no occasion to wander beyond the narrow precincts of the canyon. But with all this there was a sense of dread weighing upon his mind—a presentiment of evil days to come, a racking fear lest the abundance of grass should attract the attention of the enemy and he should be discovered and slain.
To be continued...
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