After Geronimo surrendered Sept. 4, 1886, the U.S. imprisoned 100s of Apaches as POWs for 27 years
Just a month after Geronimo and his warriors arrived in Florida, the rest of the Chiricahua men, women, and children were arrested, had their land seized, and were sent by rail to the Florida prison camp in sealed boxcars. At Fort Marion, 447 adults were being held by early 1887. They were separated from all but their youngest children and sent to Fort Pickens in Pensacola where they were forced into hard labor. They were said to “die like flies at frost time” in the unfamiliar climate.
By 1894, all those still alive had been transferred to Fort Sill. Those who survived had been held as prisoners of war for 27 years, longer than any other POWs held by the American government on or off U.S. soil. Disease and age took many lives over the years, but another big killer was malnutrition. Surviving POWs were not allowed to return home until 1913, a quarter-century after the three dozen warriors of Geronimo’s band and the hundreds of other Chiricahua were supposed to have been released to the reservation.