Cochise was a Chiricahua chief and one of the most famous Apache leaders to resist U.S. expansion into western America. His tribe lived in present-day New Mexico and Arizona, and as they began to feel pressure from both the Spanish and Mexican peoples, they grew increasingly uncompromising, until at last the Spanish implemented the Galvez Peace Policy to encourage Indian dependence on the colonial government. When Mexico gained control of the area, the policy was dropped, and the Native Americans resumed their practice of raiding to acquire provisions. In response, the Mexican government conducted several military operations to nullify the Chiricahua threat. During these attacks, Cochise’s father was killed, and he was himself captured but later exchanged for Mexican prisoners.

A temporary peace had been established when the United States acquired western lands in 1850, but as settlers continued to pour into the area, the Apache began to feel threatened once more, and any attempt at negotiation ended with the disastrous Bascom Affair of 1861. A group of Apaches had raided a local ranch and carried off a twelve-year-old boy, and Cochise, all the while protesting his innocence, was brought to the nearby Army base and blamed for the crime. The officer who had invited him into the encampment attempted to arrest him, at which Cochise jumped up and fled, slashing through the tent walls with his knife. Cochise escaped, but several of his relatives were held for ransom and later killed. The deaths of his family members further turned Cochise against the Americans, and he led a relentless eleven-year assault that resulted in the murders of hundreds of settlers and essentially cleared Arizona of white men and Mexicans alike. He joined with his father-in-law, powerful Chihenne-Chiricahua chief Mangas Coloradas, in several raids against the Americans, and while many died on both sides, the U.S. government was primarily concerned with the impending Civil War and therefore had few resources to offer those fighting in the West, giving the Apache a strong advantage.

Finally, in 1862, Cochise’s followers abandoned their former guerilla tactics, meeting a troop of California volunteers led by James Carleton at Apache Pass. Their weapons were no match for those of the soldiers, however, who arrived bearing cannons that the Indians had never before encountered. Mangas was captured and later murdered under pretense of a peaceful parlay. Cochise took his men and continued their raids against American and Mexican settlements until 1872, when the Apache were driven into the Dragoon Mountains and a treaty finally established. After making peace, Cochise retired to the newly established Apache reservation and passed away two years later. Cochise County, Arizona, is named after him.

Key events during the life of Cochise:

The Bascom Affair
Apache Pass Conflict.
Capture of Mangas Coloradas.
Negotiated a treaty with General Oliver Howard.
  Retired to the Apache reservation.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Cochise, the Chiricahua Apache Chief  in  Famous Indian Chiefs I Have Known  by  Oliver Otis Howard

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