August 9, 2020

My Life as an Indian Scout

Pleasure to meet you. 

My name is Albert Sieber and I was considered one of the best Indian scouts in the Arizona Territory, if not the Southwest. I was born in Germany February 19, 1844 and came to America as a young boy; the 13th of 14 children. 

Early in 1862 I enlisted in Company B, 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. I saw some terrible sights during the Peninsula Campaign in the Army of the Potomac as a Corporal and a sharp-shooter. I thought I was a goner at Gettysburg when a piece of a shell hit me in the head. I sat laying on the battlefield until long after the fighting before they found me. 

Luckily, I did recover, and I traveled to California during the gold rush. But by the time I got there, all the claims were taken and I ended up getting work driving horses into Arizona where I later got hired on CC Bean’s ranches in the Williamson and Verde Valleys. I was hired to protect the property and livestock from both hostile Indians and renegade whites. I learned a lot about Indian tactics over the next several years—enough to impress Gen. Stoneman. He hired me as a scout in July, 1871. I worked at Camp Hualpai and Fort Verde where I was put in charge of from 30 to 100 Apaches.

Things got hot in the winter of 1873, so to speak. "It seemed that all the Indians in Arizona were on the warpath."* I scouted all over the Territory for weeks at a time, constantly fighting, standing out as the only white man on the field of battle. In those days, neither side sought, nor gave quarter. 

The Apaches would tell me that I lived a charmed life—that is, if you consider surviving 28 bullet and arrow wounds to be charming. As a matter of fact, their name for me was the “Iron Man.” I ended up killing 50 hostile Injuns while in the midst of over 100 fights! I was in the chase after Geronimo and the Apache Kid. It was one of the latter's band that gave me my worst injury. The bastard crippled my leg for life.

Sure I was fearless; you had to be! I won the respect of the Apaches because of it, and also because I always treated them fairly and told them the truth. 

We "would fight and whip them today and then enlist them as scouts tomorrow; and once they enlisted, they proved faithful in almost every instance."* I made sure my men were well-fed. My sharp-shooting skills brought down the game and my cooking was considered to be as good as any woman’s.

I must admit: I always liked the idea of prospecting, and whenever I was scouting, I always kept an eye open looking for potential outcroppings and pay-dirt.

Al Seiber & his scouts.

In May of 1875, I brought 40 of my scouts into Prescott to put on a show on the Plaza. They dressed in their warpaint, and demonstrated pursuing a victim with their blood-curdling screeches. Now the miners, I respect them; many were familiar with what was going on. But the lawyers and bankers and their wives turned as white as snow as they tried to swallow the lumps in their throats—the tenderfoots!

Later that year I helped oversee a relocation of 1500 Indians to San Carlos and spent time there seeing that they stayed put.

It was about 8 years later when General George Crook appointed me Chief Scout on the Sierra Madre expedition. I suppose my reputation proceeded me. But when I returned to San Carlos, I had to report to a different group of officers who treated our Indian scouts terribly and with disgust.

I "worried a lot over the unjust way in which the Apaches were being treated, and hated to order [my] scouts to round up Indians on charges that were trumped up. [I] told the captain just what I thought of him,"* and he responded by telling me to "leave the reservation with only a few hours notice."* 

I started going back to the promising mining places I had noted, but never struck it rich. Then in 1907, I was hired to supervise a work crew of Apaches building a road to Roosevelt when we had a tough time removing a large boulder that was blocking the right-of-way. A small rock was keeping it propped-up and the Indians wouldn’t go near it. I suppose I shouldn’t have, but the rock needed moving and somebody had to do it. So I climbed under to get the small rock out of the way.

The last thing I remember was that giant boulder rolling on top of me.

They tell me that the older Apaches from San Carlos to Fort Apache weeped over my accident, while the Territorial legislature passed a resolution stating that I “was one of the bravest scouts ever enlisted and my counsel and advice did much to settle the long war with the Indians.”

Now tell me about yourself. You aren't one of them tenderfoots, are you?

NOW ENJOY: 1872: The Gruesome Fate of the Young Braggart

The story of a young pioneer braggart traveling to Yavapai county, Arizona and his terrible fate during the Indian Wars in 1872.


CLICK HERE for a listing of all the INDIAN CONFLICT stories on Prescott AZ History


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* “Al Sieber, Famous Scout of the Southwest,” by Dan R Williamson. Arizona Historical Review, PP. 60-76

Weekly Arizona Miner, 5/21/1875; Pg. 3, Col. 2.

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