al-sieber-apache-kid-gunfightsJune 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.

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.

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, opposite page.)

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.


Related Articles

  • margaret_ep_gordon

    Margaret E.P. Gordon lived a century (1866-1966) and documented the changes and progress she witnessed…

  • The long title of Lori Davisson’s Dispatches from the Fort Apache Scout: White Mountain and…

  • ask-the-marshall

    ftlupton From True West’s Online Forum Al Sieber was chief of scouts for Gen. George…