Emmet Crawford – Captain, United States Army

From various published sources:

Emmet Crawford was in overall charge of Apache scouts after General George Crooks's return to the Department of Arizona in 1882.

Captain Emmet Crawford was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,  September 6, 1844. He had enlisted in the California Volunteers at the outbreak of the Civil War and had risen to the rank of  First Lieutenant of Volunteers. At the end of the was, deciding to make the army his career, he accepted a commission as a Second Lieutenant when the war ended. In December 1870, by then a First Lieutenant in the 3rd Cavalry, he had come to Arizona. Early in 1872 his regiment had been transferred north to fight the Sioux, and a decade passed before he returned to the desert Southwest. By then he was a Captain and was detached from his regiment as military commandant at San Carlos. He led his scouts into Sonora in 1883 and aided in forcing Chiricahuas back to reservation.

At San Carlos he concentrated on teaching his charges how to farm, and in the process they learned to trust him. Britton Davis, a lieutenant serving under Crawford, later wrote of him: “Crawford was born a thousand years too late. Mentally, morally and physically he would have been an ideal knight of King Arthur's Court. Six feet one, gray eyed, untiring, he was an ideal cavalryman and devoted to his troop, as were the men of it devoted to him. He had a keen sense of humor but something had saddened his early life and I never knew him to laugh aloud. Modest, self-effacing, kindly, he delighted in assigning to his subordinates opportunities and credit he might well have taken to himself – a very rare trait in an officer of any army. His expressed wish was that he might die in the act of saving the lives of others.”

Crook ordered both Crawford and Davis into Mexico. On December 11, 1885, at Agua Prieta, Carwford's battalion jogged across the border looking for “sign.” For Apache scouts, life in Mexico was extremely hazardous. Apache scalps were paid for in silver, and the price was the same whether it came from Geronimo himself or from some reservation Apache in U.S. government service. Finding fresh signs on January 8, 1886, Crawford pushed his men 48 hours without sleep in a desperate attempt to find and attack the hostile village. The march left the scouts' clothing literally in shreds. As they approached the enemy camp, the scouts, fearful that the enemy would learn of their proximity and flee, asked the officers to “take off their shoes and put on moccasins.” According to Lieutenant Marion P. Maus, Crawford's command “toiled over the mountains and down into canyons so dark on this moonless night (January 9-10) that they seemed bottomless. However, an hour before light, after an eighteen-hour march, within a mile and a half or the hostile camp, tired and foot-sore, many bruised from falling during the night march, the companies of scouts were disposed of as near by as possible, so as to attack the camp on all sides at the same time. At daybreak on the morning of January 10, at a site some 60 miles northeast of Nacori, the attack was made. But it was no surprise to the renegades. The braying of the pack burros warned them. Most of the hostiles made good their escape, but Crawford had captured their horses and camp equipment, along with a number of prisoners.

Toward the middle of the afternoon, as Crawford and his men were taking a well-deserved rest, a squaw came into the camp, an emissary from the renegades. She said that Geronimo and his followers were camped across the Arros River a few miles away and wished to talk to Crawford about surrender. The Captain agreed to meet with Geronimo, Chinuahua, and Nachez the following day. A place for the conference was arranged and the squaw departed.

Everyone in the American camp visibly relaxed, thinking the Apache wars were about to come to conclusion. The conference never took place, however. Shortly before dawn on the morning of January 11, the day the meeting with the Apaches was to take place, Crawford was awakened by his sentries and told that troops were approaching. One of the scouts, believing that the oncoming party was Captain Wirt Davis and the 1st Battalion of Apache Scouts, began yelling to them in the Apache tongue. His guess was incorrect. The newcomers were Mexican irregulars, or nacionales, some 150 of them, and at the sound of Apache voices, they opened fire. They did not know whether the voice was from an Apache scout or a hostile Apache, indeed they probably would have opened fire had they been certain of the identity.

Unknown to Crawford, Sonoran officials were growing alarmed at the presence of Apache scouts in their state. Governor Luis E. Torres of Sonora, had written earlier to Crook to complain of “depredations” committed by scouts in Crawford's command. Crook's reply, ironically dated January 11, 1886, stated, “You cannot regret more than I do that any trouble, great or small, should arise between our military forces and the Mexican people. I have sent copies of your communication to Captain Crawford by courier and directed him to make a thorough investigation and report.” He concluded by saying that any outrages committed by Apache scouts would bring the “severest punishment.” Crawford never received copies of these communications, but that very morning “severest punishment” was inflicted on him and his scouts.

There is evidence that the Mexican irregulars would have attacked Crawford and his scouts even had they been aware of their identity. These irregulars received no pay either from the national or state governments. Their remuneration came from booty taken in raids on Indian camps and from the scalps they collected – 200 pesos for the hair of a warrior and 100 for that of squaws and children. The action of the Mexicans subsequent to the opening of fire and statements made at a subsequent investigation conducted by the Mexican government indicate that these irregulars knew they were attacking Apache scouts, not renegades. Hearing shots being exchanged and anxious to avoid bloodshed, Crawford climbed atop a  prominent rock in plain view of the Mexicans. There, dressed in his Army field uniform and waving a white handkerchief, he shouted in a loud voice, “Soldados Americanos,” at the same time signaling his own troops not to return the fire. Tom Horn also shouted in Spanish to the Mexicans the identity of the American force.

Lieutenant Marion P. Maus's official report of the events that followed stated: “A party of them (the Mexicans) then approached and Captain Crawford and I went out about 50 yards from our position in the open and talked to them. I told them in Spanish that we were American soldiers, called attention to our dress and said we would not fire. Captain Crawford then ordered me to go back and ensure no more firing. I started back, when again a volley was fired. When I turned again I saw the Captain lying on the rocks with a wound in his head, and some of his brains upon the rocks. This had all occurred in two minutes. There can be no mistake. These men knew they were firing at American soldiers at this time.”

The man who reportedly fired the shot that hit Crawford was Mauricio Corredor, and the weapon was the nickle-plated .50 caliber Sharps rifle presented to him 6 years  earlier for killing Victorio. The shooting of Crawford enraged the scouts, and they returned the fire. For an hour the Apaches and Mexicans blazed away at each other – while Crawford lay bleeding, obviously still alive, in plain view between the two forces. Ed Arhelger, a civilian packer, later declared that Lieutenant Maus was unnerved by the shooting and hid in the rocks. Apache marksmanship soon proved superior to that of the Mexicans, and the latter ceased fire, waved a white flag, and asked for a conference. Four of their number had died, including Mauricio Corredor, and five had been wounded. The Americans had lost Crawford, and four of them had been wounded, including Tom Horn.

After the shooting halted, Lieutenant Maus, who had taken command, and Tom Horn, his arm bandaged, entered the Mexican lines. They discovered that the force consisted mainly of Tarahumara Indians, bitter enemies of the Apaches, seeking scalps for the bounty being paid. They apparently had been deceived by the ease with which Crawford maintained control over his scouts at the initial outbreak of firing. Normally, Apaches in battle got very excited, and nothing could dissuade them from firing recklessly. The Mexicans had therefore believed that Crawford's command was small and could be easily overwhelmed. The Mexicans allowed Maus and Horn to leave their lines in safety, but the next day they lured Maus back into their camp on the pretext of further negotiations and refused to release him until he provided them with mules to transport their wounded. Maus immediately complied, giving them six mules and some equipment, but still the Mexicans proved reluctant to allow the lieutenant to leave. Only after the Apache scouts raised their near one-hundred voices in a chorus of war cries did the Mexicans release him.

The next day Maus moved his camp 4 miles away to ease tensions caused by the proximity of the Mexican camp. Crawford did not die of his wound until January 18, seven days after the battle, although he never regained consciousness. He was hastily buried near Navori, Sonora, wrapped only in a blanket. Stone slabs were placed over the grave to protect the remains from wild animals. Two months later, E. C. Bunker, a civilian packer, was commissioned to bring out the body. With an undertaker, he journeyed to the lonely grave near Nacori. As no boards were to be had within miles, he and the undertaker made a frame of poles, lined it with canvas, put in the body, and strapped it to a mule's back for the two-hundred mile trip to Bowie Station. This rude casket was transferred from 1 mule's back to another and packed over the torturous mountain trails to the Southern Pacific station in Arizona. The remains were first reinterred in Nebraska and later in Arlington National Cemetery.

On January 11, 1896, Congress appropriated $5,000 for the Crawford estate with the comment, “Captain Crawford's untimely death resulted from his courageous and strict pursuit of his duty as a soldier of the United States.”

Shortly after Crawford's murder, the U.S. government officially protested to Mexican officials, who in turn ordered the state of Chihuahua to investigate the incident. On February 11, 1886, a district judge in Chihuahua City opened hearings on “the armed collision that took place between an American force of Indian auxiliaries and a Volunteer force from Guerrero.” By May of that year more than thirty individuals had testified. Finally, in February 1887, the Mexican government offered to return the mules and equipment which Lieutenant Maus had been forced to give the nacionales. No apology was forthcoming.

Gen Crook paid the most fitting tribute to Crawford. He maintained that, had Crawford lived, the renegades would all have surrendered in January of 1886, thereby saving almost eight more months of pursuit and death.

Arlington National Cemetery Records: Died January 18, 1886 at Cecora, Mexico. Buried: December 1908. No one buried in site with him. Section 2, Grave 1054-SS.

Emmet Crawford (December 22, 1844 – January 18, 1886) was an American soldier who rose through the ranks to become an officer. He was most noted for his time spent in the Arizona Territory under General George Crook in the United States Cavalry. He was killed in pursuit of the Apache leader Geronimo in January 1886 in Mexico.

Emmet Crawford was the second of four sons of William and Jemima Crawford of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (according to the 1850 U.S. Census). Charles was the eldest of the four brothers, followed by Emmet, Zachariah, and Henry, the youngest. By 1860, the family had been split, with Emmet, Zachariah, and Jemima showing up in the 1860 census living separately but still in Philadelphia. William Crawford does not show up in the 1860 census in Philadelphia. While Emmet continued to have contact with Charles and his mother, he only remained close to his brother Zachariah (or Zachary T Crawford).

Lying about his age, in May 1861, in order to join the army, Crawford enlisted in the 71st Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, fighting in many actions as part of the Army of the Potomac, including the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Fredericksburg. Wounded in the Second Battle of Fredricksburg in spring 1863, Crawford was sent to Philadelphia to convalesce. During his recovery, he attended the first officer training school designed to train white officers assigned to command U.S. Colored Troops. Returned to duty in June 1864, just in time to be mustered out with the rest of the 71st Pennsylvania Regiment, Crawford and brothers Charles and Zachary all reenlisted in the 197th Pennsylvania Regiment. Crawford received his appointment as a First Lieutenant with the Colored Troops, but was not reassigned until September 1864. The war's ending found Crawford assigned to the 13th U. S. Colored Artillery (Heavy) in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Crwaford was recommended for retention of service and, in February 1866, accepted an appointment as Second Lieutenant in the 37th U.S. Colored Infantry in Wilmington, North Carolina. He survived the post-war trimming of the Army in the late 1860s and, on January 2, 1871, he was assigned to the 3rd U.S. Cavalry as a first lieutenant. He was sent to Camp Verde, Arizona Territory, north of Tucson.

On January 2, 1872, the 3rd Cavalry was transferred north to fight the Sioux in Nebraska and Wyoming Territory. Emmet was stationed at Fort D.A. Russell (later F.E. Warren Air Force Base). His company was sent to the Red Cloud Agency to assist J. J. Saville in March 1874. The camp they established was named Camp Robinson, later renamed Fort Robinson. In November 1874, Crwaford and his company were transferred to Sidney Barracks and served in many capacities in Nebraska.

In early summer 1876, the 3rd Cavalry under General George Crook was sent to Montana Territory as part of a three-pronged effort to force the Sioux back to the reservation. The other two commanders were General John Gibbon and Lieutenant Colonel George Custer. On June 17, 1876, Crook's forces were attacked at Rosebud Creek by the Sioux in strength. After a six hour battle, Crook claimed a narrow victory and retreated to his base camp. On June 25, only a short distance away, along the Little Bighorn River, Colonel Custer and many of his men were killed in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

In late 1876, Crawford was reassigned to recruiting duty in Baltimore, Maryland, for 2 years. He returned to the 3rd Cavalry in Nebraska before the end of 1878. He was stationed at Camp Sheridan and Fort Robinson and later at Fort D.A. Russell.

In the spring of 1882, the 3rd Cavalry was transferred to Arizona to deal with the Apache. Crawford was assigned to Fort Thomas, near the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. In September 1882, General Crook assigned Crawford to San Carlos as military commandant, where he was to work with the civilian agent to maintain peace and help the Indians become self-supporting. He was also to enlist and train Apaches as scouts. To assist him were Lt. Charles Gatewood, 6th Cavalry, and Lt. Britton Davis of the 3rd. The Apache scouts proved their worth on a campaign in 1883. Crawford's concern that the Apaches be treated fairly led to friction with the agent, P. P. Wilcox. This led to Crawford requesting a transfer to Texas, but a month later he was recalled to deal with Geronimo.

Geronimo headed for Mexico with the cavalry in pursuit, thanks to a border-crossing agreement with Mexico. They spent the spring of 1885 in a fruitless attempt at capturing Geronimo. After returning to Fort Bowie to refit, Crawford headed out with only Apache scouts, Tom Horn (the civilian chief of scouts), two officers (Lt. Marion Maus and Lt. William Shipp), and the surgeon Dr. Davis. On December 11, 1885, they crossed the border into Mexico, and according to the border agreement, Crawford stopped to inform the Mexican authorities that they were in pursuit of the hostiles before pushing on into the rugged Sierra Madres.

The Apache scouts picked up Geronimo's trail and, on January 9, 1886, they located his camp. They continuted through the night and successfully attacked the next morning. Geronimo's band fled, leaving all their stock, provisions and blankets. Geronimo sent an old woman to Crawford to talk, and a meeting was set the following morning.

The next morning started with an attack by Mexican irregular troops. Crawford attempted to get them to stop by waving a white handkerchief, but was shot in the head. Dutchy, one of the Apache scouts, pulled the mortally wounded Crawford to safety, and then killed the Mexican who had shot him. He also slew the Mexican commander. Emmet Crawford did not die immediately, but he never regained consciousness. On January 13, Lieutenant Maus met with Geronimo, obtained the surrender of some of his band and an agreement that Geronimo would meet with General Crook in two months. Maus proceeded to carry the wounded Crawford back to the border, but on January 18, he quietly slipped away. His body was buried in the little village of Nacori. Crawford's death nearly sparked a second war between the United States and Mexico, but after an official hearing, no further action was taken.

General Crook did meet with Geronimo as agreed, but Geronimo did not return. Crook resigned over the incident and Geronimo was not brought in until September. Later, Crook stated his belief that if Crawford had not been killed, he would have been successful in obtaining Geronimo's surrender and ending the Apaches' bloody raids.

 Emmet Crawford's Grave in ArlingtonCrawford's body was exhumed and reburied in Kearney, Nebraska, where his younger brother Zachary lived. Emmet had never married and Zachary and his family were his closest relatives. It was one of the largest funerals Nebraska had ever seen.

In 1908, Crawford's former comrades, by then including many generals, were granted permission by his closest relative, sister-in-law Caroline Crawford, to have his body moved to Arlington National Cemetery. On December 1, 1908, with full military honors, the body of Emmet Crawford was finally put to rest. His grave is located down the hill from General Crook's tomb and is marked by a marble obilisk.


The town of Crawford, Nebraska, incorporated in 1886, was named after Emmet Crawford. In 1986, the descendants of Zachary Crawford were invited to the centennial celebrations of the town and served as grand marshals of the centennial parade.

Fort Crawford in Colorado was also named after him.


  • DATE OF DEATH: 02/18/1888


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