Cochise

Cochise (ca. 1825-1874) was both hereditary and war chief of the Chiricahua Apache band of American Indians. His ability earned him the designation "the Apache Napoleon."

Born probably in southern Arizona, Cochise grew to imposing manhood. A newspaper correspondent in 1870 described him as 5 feet 9 1/2 inches tall, weighing 164 pounds, with broad shoulders, a stout frame, black eyes, high forehead, hair straight back, large nose, "scarred all over his body with buckshot," and "for an Indian, straight."

As leader of the Chiricahua Apache, Cochise fought the Mexicans relentlessly, as had been his tribe's custom for centuries. Often these raids were conducted in concert with the Warm Springs Apache, who were led by Mangas Coloradas.

Cochise maintained a strong friendship for Americans when they began arriving in numbers in Arizona during the 1850s until the "Bascom affair" of 1861, when Cochise was wrongly accused of kidnapping the stepson of an Arizona rancher, John Ward, and of stealing Ward's cattle. Troops commanded by Lt. G.N. Bascom were sent from nearby Ft. Buchanan to secure the boy's release. Bascom arrested Cochise, who escaped, but hanged his other six prisoners, mainly relatives of Cochise. This sent Cochise on the warpath, determined to kill all white men in Arizona.

In June 1861 Cochise attacked Ft. Buchanan but was driven off. Then, as American troops were withdrawn from Arizona during the Civil War, he led his braves in bloody assaults against the Americans. In 1862 he attacked 700 troops of the California Column at Apache Pass in southeastern Arizona, but howitzer fire drove him off.

Yet Cochise could make exceptions to his hatred of the white man. Thomas J. Jeffords, government superintendent of the mails from Ft. Bowie to Tucson, walked into Cochise's camp to plead for the safety of his mail carriers, which Cochise granted, and thereafter the two men became close friends. In 1869 Henry Clay Hooker, a contract supplier of beef to reservations, was surrounded by Apache warriors and boldly rode into Cochise's camp; there Cochise entertained him and returned his guns, and Hooker was allowed to depart in peace. When he evinced surprise at this treatment, Cochise said he had not been killed because he was supplying beef eaten by Indians.

Jeffords led Gen. Oliver Otis Howard, special Indian commissioner sent by President U.S. Grant to secure peace in the Southwest, to Cochise's camp in October 1872. Cochise signed a peace treaty giving the Chiricahua a reservation some 55 miles square in southeastern Arizona with Jeffords as agent.

Cochise spent his last 2 years in peace, honoring the treaty. He died on June 8, 1874, while visiting Jeffords at the reservation and was buried there.

Further Reading on Cochise

Two contemporary views of Cochise are offered in Samuel Woodworth Cozzens, The Marvellous Country, or Three Years in Arizona and New Mexico (1873; repr. 1967), and James Henry Tevis, Arizona in the '50's (1954). A general history of the period that gives an excellent overview is Dan L. Thrapp, The Conquest of Apacheria (1967). But the best book for understanding the life of Cochise is a novel: Elliot Arnold, Blood Brother (1947).

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