(Native Americans: A Comprehensive History)

0111303881-Cochise_stronghold.jpg Apache chief Cochise's stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains of Arizona, from which he led raids against the U.S. Army and American settlers (National Archives) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Article abstract: As principal chief of the eastern Chiricahua Apaches from 1860 to 1872, Cochise orchestrated and led raids against U.S. and Mexican settlements.

Cochise was born in the Spanish colony of Sonora (in present-day Arizona) during the revolution of 1810-1821, which eventually established the modern nation of Mexico. Although details of his ancestry remain uncertain, Cochise was probably the son of Pisago Cabezon, the leader of one of four bands of the Chiricahua Apaches who ranged over the area that is now southern Arizona and New Mexico and the northern Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua. As he grew to manhood, the long peace that had marked Mexican-Chiricahuan relations since around 1790 was coming to an end. By 1830, a bloody cycle of raiding, plundering, and murder had begun between the Apaches and Mexicans that determined the course of Cochise's life.

Virtually nothing is known about Cochise's life before 1835. He almost certainly received the special training his people reserved for the sons of chiefs, who were expected to become leaders when they matured. Such a child learned more discipline than other children, including controlling one's temper, patience with other children, and respect for the property of others. Religious ritual accompanied every phase of the instruction of all Apache children.

Cochise entered the pages of history for the first time in 1835, when Mexican documents mention him as a leader of the Chokonen band of Chiricahua Apaches raiding in Sonora. His name appears again on the lists of those Apaches drawing rations from the Mexican government at Janos in modern Chihuahua in 1842 and 1843. By that time, the Apaches were in an almost perpetual state of war with the Mexican population of the area. Beginning about 1830, raiding (what Cochise called in his later years “making a living”), livestock stealing, and plundering became an integral part of the economies of many Apache tribes.

The man who was most likely Cochise's father died by treachery during the Mexican-Apache wars in 1845 or 1846. Cochise never forgave the Mexicans and continued to raid south of the U.S. border until almost the end of his life.

After the Mexican-American War in 1846-1848, the United States acquired the territory known as the Mexican Cession (modern New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California). The Apache bands quickly learned that they could raid in northern Mexico, flee across the border into Arizona or New Mexico, and have relative immunity from Mexican pursuit. The Apaches also found unscrupulous U.S. citizens eager to buy their Mexican plunder.

The Chiricahuas continued to live in the United States and raid primarily in Mexico for the...

(The entire section is 1131 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Military History)

Article abstract: Military significance: Cochise’s life revolved around raiding and warfare in the American Southwest and Mexico. From 1861 to 1872, he led the Chiricahua Apaches in a guerrilla war—sometimes called Cochise’s War—against Mexican and American settlements and military troops.

Cochise was the son of a Chiricahua Apache band leader. He undoubtedly participated in the raiding, pilfering, and murder that took place between the Apache and Mexicans after 1830. He probably served as a subchief under his father-in-law Mangas Coloradas, and by the late 1850’s, he was the band leader of the Choken Chiricahuas.

Cochise and the Apache avoided serious conflict with U.S. troops and settlers until 1861, when hostilities broke out over the Bascom affair. This misunderstanding over a young captive held by another Apache band resulted in executions in which Cochise’s brother and two nephews were killed. This incident sparked over twenty years of sporadic yet bloody warfare. Led by Cochise, the Apaches raided U.S. and Mexican settlements, killed travelers and miners, and fought federal troops. In 1862, Cochise led an ambush against General James H. Carleton’s California Column at Apache Pass.

Warfare came to an end on October 10, 1872, when Cochise and General Oliver O. Howard negotiated a treaty that allowed Cochise’s people to live on part of their homeland. Cochise died, probably of cancer, on June 8, 1874.

Further Reading:

Sweeny, Edwin R. Cochise: Chiricahua Apache Chief. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

Thrapp, Dan L. Conquest of Apacheria. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967.