"Look out! here they come!" over the rampart, guided by one impulse, moving as if they were all part of one body, jumped and ran twenty of the warriors - superb-looking fellows, all of them; each carried upon his back a quiver filled with the long reed arrows of the tribe; each held in his hands a bow and a rifle, the latter at full cock. Half of the party stood upon the rampart, which gave them some chance to sight our men behind the smaller rocks in front, and blazed away for all they were worth - they were trying to make a demonstration to engage our attention, while the other part suddenly slipped down and around our right flank, and out through the rocks which had so effectively sheltered the retreat of the one who had so nearly succeeded in getting away, earlier in the morning. Their motives were divined, and the move was frustrated;
* A Death Song, probably the one used here, is: "Father we are going out to die, Let not fear enter into our hearts.
For ourselves, we grieve not, but for those that are left behind. We are going out to die." our men rushed to the attack like furies, each seeming to be anxious to engage the enemy at close quarters. Six or seven of the army were killed in a space not twenty-five feet square, and the rest driven back within the cave, more or less wounded.
One of the charging party, seeing that so much attention was converged upon our right, had slipped down unnoticed from the rampart, and made his way to the space between our two lines, and had sprung to the top of a huge boulder, and there had begun his war-whoop, as a token of encouragement to those still behind. I imagine that he was not aware of our second line, and thought that once in our rear, ensconced in a convenient nook in the rocks, he could keep us busy by picking us off at his leisure. His chant was never fiendish; it was at once his song of glory and his death song; he had broken through our line of fire, only to meet a far more cruel death. Twenty carbines were gleaming in the sunlight just flushing the cliffs; forty eyes were sighting along the barrels. The Apache looked into the eyes of his enemies, and in not one did he see the slightest sign of mercy; he tried to say something; what it was we never could tell. "No! no! soldadoes!" in broken Spanish, was all we could make out, before the resounding volley had released another soul from its earthly casket and let the bleeding corpse fall to the ground, as limp as a wet moccasin. He was really a handsome warrior; tall, well-proportioned, finely muscled, and with a bold, manly countenance. "Shot to death," was the verdict of all who paused to look upon him, but that didn't half express the state of the case. I have never seen a man more thoroughly shot to pieces than was this one; every bullet seemed to have struck, and not less than eight or ten had inflicted mortal wounds.
The savages in the cave, with death staring them in the face, did not seem to lose their courage - or shall we say despair? They resumed their chant, and sang with vigor and boldness, until Brown determined that the battle or siege must end. Our two lines were now massed in one, and every officer and man told to get ready a package of cartridges; then, as fast as the breech-block of the carbine could be opened and lowered, we were to fire into the mouth of the cave, hoping to inflict the greatest damage by glancing bullets, and then charge in by the entrance on our right flank, back of the rock rampart which had served as the means of exit for the hostiles when they made their attack.
The Apaches did not relax their fire, but, from the increasing groans of the women, we knew that our shots were telling, either upon the women in the cave, or upon their relatives among the men for whom they were sorrowing.
It was exactly like fighting with wild animals in a trap; the Apaches had made up their minds to die, if relief did not reach them from some of the other "rancherias" supposed to be close by.
burns and several others went to the crest and leaned over, to see what all the frightful hubub was about. They saw the conflict going on beneath them and in spite of the smoke, could make out that the Apaches were nestling up close to the rock rampart, so as to avoid as much as possible the projectiles which were raining down from the roof of their eyrie home.
It didn't take burns five seconds to decide what should be done; he had two of his men harnessed with the suspenders of their comrades, and made them lean well over the precipice, while the harness was used to hold them in place; these men were to fire with their revolvers at the enemy beneath, and for a volley or so they did very effective work, but their Irish blood got the better of their reason and, in their excitement, they began to throw their revolvers at the enemy; this kind of ammunition was rather too costly, but it suggested a novel method of annihilating the enemy. Brown ordered his men to get together and roll several of the huge boulders, which covered the surface of the mountain, and drop them over on the unsuspecting foe. The noise was frightful, the destruction sickening. Our volleys were still directed against the inner faces of the cave and the roof, and the Apaches seemed to realize that their only safety lay in crouching close to the great stone heap in front; but even this precarious shelter was now taken away; the air was filled with the bounding, plunging fragments of stone, breaking into thousands of pieces, with other thousands behind, crashing with the momentum gained in a descent of hundreds of feet. No human voice could be heard in such a cyclone of wrath; the volume of dust was so dense that no eye could pierce it, but over on our left, it seemed that for some reason we could still discern several figures guarding that extremity of the enemy's line - the old Medicine Man, who, decked in all the panoply of his office, with feathers on head, decorated shirt on back, and all the sacred insignia known to his people, had defied the approach of death, and kept his place, firing coolly at everything that moved on our side, that he could see, his rifle reloaded and handed back by his assistants - either squaws or young men - it was impossible to tell which, as only the arms could be noted in the air. Major Brown signaled up to burns to stop pouring down his boulders, and at the same time our men were directed to cease firing and to make ready to charge; the fire of the Apaches had ceased, and their chant of defiance was hushed. There was a feeling in the command as if we were about to rush through the gates of a cemetery, and that we should find a ghastly spectacle within, but, at the same time, it might be that the Apaches had retreated to some recesses in the innermost depths of the cavern, unknown to us, and be prepared to assail all who ventured to cross the wall in front.
Precisely at noon we advanced, Corporal Hanlon, of Company G., Fifth Cavalry, being the first man to surmount the parapet. I hope that my readers will be satisfied with the meagrest description of the awful sight that met our eyes. There were men and women dead or writhing in the agonies of death, and with them several babies, killed by our glancing bullets, or by the storm of rocks and stones that descended from above. While one portion of the command worked at extricating the bodies from beneath the pile of debris, another stood guard with cocked revolvers or carbines, ready to blow out the brains of the first wounded savage who might in his desperation attempt to kill one of our people. But this precaution was entirely useless. All the warriors were dead or dying.
Thirty-five, if I remember aright, were still living, but in the number are included all who were still breathing; many were already dying, and nearly one half were dead before we started out of that dreadful place. None of the warriors were conscious, except one old man, who serenely awaited the last summons; he had received five or six wounds, and was practically dead when we sprang over the entrance wall. There was a general sentiment of sorrow for the old Medicine Man who had stood up so fiercely on the left of the Apache line, we found his still warm corpse crushed out of all semblance to humanity, beneath a huge mass of rock, which has also extinguished at one fell stroke the light of the life of the squaw and the young man who had remained by his side." - ("On the Border with Crook"; Bourke; pp. 196-9).
Seventy-six, including all the men, were killed. Eighteen women and six children were taken prisoners. Thus was wiped out a band of heroic men whose victorious foes admitted that their victims were in the right.