Cochise - Strong Apache Leader
of the most famous
leaders to resist westward expansion by white settlers was Cochise of the
Cochise was known to his
people as A-da-tli-chi, meaning hardwood, and lived in the area that is now
the northern Mexican region of Sonora, as well as
These lands had long been home to the Apache until
the Europeans arrived.
However, when the early Spaniards began to encroach upon the
tensions began between the two conflicting cultures. Later, when the
Mexicans took over the lands, the Mexican government at first issued food
rations to the Apache in order to placate them.
Unfortunately, the Apache
became increasingly dependent upon these supplies, which abruptly ceased
in 1831. The
bands then began to raid to acquire food and the
Mexican government retaliated with a series of military operations to
attempt to capture or neutralize the
the Storm, by Edward S. Curtis, 1906. This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
However, they met
stiff resistance from Cochise and the other Apache.
The Mexican troops then began to kill Apache
civilians, including Cochise's father, which hardened his resolve
against the Mexicans. In 1848, Cochise was captured by the Mexican
troops but was exchanged for nearly a dozen Mexican hostages.
Cochise, who was
described as a large man (for the time), with a muscular frame,
classical Roman features, and long black hair had married Dos-Teh-Seh,
the daughter of
in the 1830s. The pair would have two children -- Taza, born in 1842, and Naiche,
born in 1856.
were annexed by the United States, which ushered in a brief period of
relative peace. For more than a decade, Cochise worked with
the new settlers and even helped the new settlers by teaching them how
to live on the dry, arid land.
In 1856 Cochise became the
principal war leader of the Chokonen band after the death of its
chief, Miguel Narbona and the peace between the Apache
and the United States continued.
When the Apache Pass
Stage Station was built in 1858, he even worked for a time as a
woodcutter for the Butterfield Overland line, and also helped protect
the stagecoaches from attack.
However, the tenuous
peace would not last as more and more white settlers began to encroach
lands, and formally ended in 1861, when an Apache
raiding party drove away a local rancher's cattle and kidnapped his
eleven-year-old step-son. The rancher, John Ward, believed Cochise was
responsible for the raid and demanded that the military confront the
leader to recover the boy and livestock.
Before long, on February 3, 1861, 2nd
Lieutenant George Bascom, a young graduate of West Point, brought a
detachment of 54 men to Apache Pass to confront Cochise regarding the
kidnapping of the boy and livestock. When Bascom asked for return of
the captive and the stolen cattle, Cochise said Coyotero Apache
had committed the crime and volunteered to negotiate for the return of
the boy. Evidently unbelieving, Bascom then had Cochise, his brother,
two nephews, a woman, and two children arrested until the boy and the
livestock were returned.
However, Cochise was able
to escape and to ensure the safety of those he had left behind, captured
three Americans before sending Bascom this message: "Treat my people well,
and I will do the same for yours, of whom I have three." The
inexperienced Bascom, decided instead to flex his muscle, hanged the
hostages, and began to make preparations for war against Cochise. In retaliation
for their deaths, Cochise
killed the three Americans he had taken hostage and joined forces with
his father-in-law, and the leader of another
Chiricahua band. The two
leaders, along with their warriors then set on a series of retaliatory
skirmishes and raids of the white settlements.
On July 15 and 16, 1862,
General James H. Carleton, leading a Federal army eastward to head off the
Confederate invasion of
encountered Cochise and
at Apache Pass fighting for control the nearby Apache Springs.
The two leaders, along
with 500 warriors held their ground against the force of California
volunteers until the U.S. Army employed a howitzer against the Indian
forces. Though it was the first time that they had faced artillery fire,
they continued to fight stubbornly for several hours before fleeing.
Apache at the
ford, Edward S. Curtis 1903. This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
General James Carlton
subsequently took over as commander of the territory. In January,
1863, General Joseph Rodman West, under orders from General Carleton, was
able to capture
by meeting with him under a flag of truce. Though allegedly a peaceful
conference, the U.S. Army took
Mangas Coloradas prisoner
and later executed him. This, of course, very much angered Cochise, who retaliated
in all out war against the white settlers, which continued for the next
nine years. At the same time,
Geronimo was also fighting against white
encroachment and the two leaders often paired in their retaliation.
The U.S. Army captured
Cochise in 1871 and
prepared to transfer the
Chiricahua to a reservation hundreds of miles
but he escaped and renewed the resistance campaign.
Finally, in 1872,
Ulysses S. Grant sent General Oliver O. Howard, a peace
emissary, to meet with army scout and Indian Agent, Thomas Jeffords and
Cochise. Cochise agreed to peace
as long as his band was allowed to stay on the current reservation with
Jeffords as their agent. General Howard agreed. Cochise made Thomas
Jeffords his blood brother and a full member of the tribe. Afterwards, he
quietly retired on the reservation, where he stayed until his death two
years later on June 8, 1874.
Before he died, Cochise had requested
that he be buried in an unmarked grave so that the white man would not
find his body. One account says that he was buried along with his favorite
horse and dog in a deep rock crevice in Stronghold Canyon. Another version
tells that he was buried several miles east of the Stronghold, and that
his warriors then galloped their horses over the grave so it could not be
identified. In any event, the location of his burial remains a mystery
Chief Cochise was succeeded as
chief by his son,
Naiche also known as Natchez.
In the meantime, some of
younger warriors did not agree with the peace that he had made with the
U.S. Government and broke away to join Geronimo’s continued fighting
efforts against the U.S. Army and white encroachment. The fighting
continued until Geronimo's surrender in 1886.
Afterwards, the remnants of
Chiricahua were shipped off to reservations in the east where most of
them died. Today, there are only a few descendants of the
living in Oklahoma and
and there are none at all on their original land.
of America, updated April, 2017.
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Wickiup, Edward S. Curtis 1903. This image available for
photographic prints and downloads