The Apache Kid vs. Al Sieber, Then Everyone in Arizona

June 1, 1887

Absent from duty for five days, the Apache Kid, along with four other Apache scouts under his command, rides single file into the headquarters of the San Carlos Reservation (near Globe, Arizona). The Kid has been serving as the acting chief of scouts while Al Sieber was away at Fort Apache and the White River Subagency.


Al Sieber felt totally betrayed by the Kid and blamed him for his career-ending injury. All Photos Courtesy True West Archives


Now that Sieber is back in San Carlos, he has summoned the Kid after hearing he killed another Apache in an alcohol-fueled family feud. (The offending liquor? Tiswin, a traditional Apache drink made from the heart of the mescal plant.)

Told by a messenger that the Kid wants to powwow, Sieber contacts the commanding officer, Capt. Francis Pierce; two interpreters are also notified. The clock is approaching 5 p.m. as Sieber and Pierce proceed, on foot, from headquarters to Sieber’s tent (a 75-yard walk) to meet the incoming party.

Despite the appearance of the Kid and his men, who are carrying their arms openly in direct violation of camp regulations, none of the men in Sieber’s party is armed.

As word of the scouts’ arrival has spread, other Apaches from the nearby camps are gravitating toward the tent, and some of them are armed, as well.

Walking up to the scouts, Sieber says, “Hello, Kid.” Returning the greeting, the Apache Kid and his scouts dismount, with their weapons in their hands.

Captain Pierce asks, “Where are the five scouts who have been absent?” The Apache Kid and the others step forward.

“Give me your rifle,” Pierce orders the Kid. The Kid complies. Pierce demands his gun belt, too, and the Kid gives it up. The captain places the rifle against Sieber’s tent and the gun belt in a chair. He then demands the same from the other four scouts. They, in turn, give up their arms and gun belts.

Pointing in the direction of the guardhouse, the captain barks, “Calaboose!” (Spanglish for jail). Several of the Indians pick up their gun belts and remove their knife scabbards.


After a group of Apache defendants is found guilty in a Globe courtroom, they are photographed before they depart for the Yuma Territorial Prison. Note that the Apache Kid (standing, second from right) is still wearing his brass reservation tag on his left breast pocket.


At this point, both Pierce and Sieber hear an “unusual commotion.” They turn to see mounted Indians loading their rifles. (The assembled Apaches later claim one of the interpreters, Antonio Diaz, had intimated, with Apache sign, that  the arrested scouts would be sent to the “island,” which signified Alcatraz or even Florida, where Geronimo and other Apache leaders were being held as prisoners of war; see quote, below.)

Alarmed by this prospect, several of the disarmed scouts lunge for their weapons as Capt. Pierce jumps in between them, trying to shove their guns away and out of reach. The Kid makes a grab for his carbine, but Sieber grabs the rifle with his right hand, while shoving the Kid back with his left.

Unable to retrieve his weapon, the Kid runs around the tent and disappears.

“Look out, Sieber!” Pierce yells, “They are going to shoot!”

Sieber kicks the guns toward the tent as two shots ring out, one right after the other. Sieber and Pierce dive into the tent as bullets rip through the twin openings, from front to back.

Sieber grabs his weapon and runs out to engage the shooters. He fires at a mounted Apache who has just fired at him. But before Sieber can fire again, a .45-70 slug tears into his left leg below the knee, breaking the bone and knocking him flat. He crawls back into the tent as the Apaches disappear into the twilight.

The unexpected gunfight is over, but the long, tragic nightmare of the Apache Kid has just begun.

“The Indians know by motions. We know by signs. Antonio reached out his hand and made a circle in his hand and spoke in Apache at the same time. He said that the five scouts will be sent down to the islands.” —Chief Gonshayee, an eyewitness to the fight, who testifies that Antonio Diaz’s sign conveyed to the Indians that the scouts would be sent to Alcatraz or Florida, which triggered the shoot-out


Chief of Scouts Al Sieber is crippled for life after his leg stops a .45-70 slug during the Apache Kid melee.


Aftermath: Odds & Ends

After 24 days of running, the Apache Kid surrendered. A military court convicted him and four other scouts. When the jury was deemed prejudicial, the Kid’s sentence was overturned and he was sent home after serving 16 months.

Angry Arizona citizens demanded and got a civilian trial in which the Apache de-
fendants were sentenced to seven years. While the Kid and the scouts were being transported to Yuma Territorial Prison in November 1889, they escaped.

Military and civilian authorities launched a colossal manhunt for the escapees. By the summer of 1890, all the fugitives had been killed or captured—all except the Apache Kid. By 1892, the State of Arizona offered a $6,000 reward for the Kid, and several officers were commanded to bring in the Kid, dead or alive. No one ever claimed the reward.

New research by historian Lynda Sánchez has uncovered evidence of the Apache Kid being slain by Mormon fighters living in Sonora, although others believe the Apache Kid escaped and lived out his life in the Sierra Madres.

Recommended: “The Final Nail in the Apache Kid’s Coffin,” True West (Feb. 2019) by Lynda A. Sánchez; The Apache Kid by Phyllis de la Garza, published by Westernlore Press; Al Sieber: Chief of Scouts by Dan L. Thrapp, published by University of Oklahoma Press.

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