Friday, January 04, 2019

The Strange Case of Geronimo's Picture


In 1873, General George Crook fought the Apaches before being posted north to fight the Sioux (including participation in the 1876 campaign in which George Armstrong Custer was massacred at the Little Big Horn). In 1882, Crook returned to Arizona to lead a column in pursuit of Geronimo, Chato and other Apache warriors raiding Arizona and New Mexico, whom he eventually subdued.

Geronimo

I remember looking at the iconic picture of Geronimo, the fierce and gruesome Apache leader, and thinking that some intrepid newspaper photographer had journeyed into Geronimo’s lair to take a true action shot of the great warrior.  This old time photo certainly looks like it was taken in the desert wastelands.  Unfortunately, the photo is a fake.  It was taken by A.F. Randall who did photographic studies of Apache Indians in the comfort of his studio.  Individuals, including the great warriors Geronimo and Chato were posed against a neutral backdrop, surrounded by desert plants.

Geronimo in the studio


Chato in the studio


The real action photographer was Camillus "Buck" Sydney Fly of Tombstone Arizona, who accompanied General Crook’s expedition, and got this picture of Geronimo in his camp during surrender negotiations with General Crook. 

Geronimo in camp

C.S. Fly captured the only known images of Native Americans while still at war with the United States. 

Geronimo with his warriors







Custer’s Last Stand: Portraits in Time

For almost one hundred and fifty years, Custer has been a Rorschach test of American social and personal values. Whatever else George Armstrong Custer may or may not have been, even in the twenty-first century, he remains the great lightning rod of American history.




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