One of the greatest Apaches was the Chiricahua chief, Cochise,
whose wisdom and sense of honor are legendary to this day. Before he
became a man of peace, however, Cochise was equally noted for his
cruelty to his enemies and his prowess in battle.
With the assassination of the great chief Mangus Colorado in 1863,
Cochise became chief of the Chiricahuas. His retaliation was swift
and savage, several settlements in Arizona Territory suffering raids
from his band. In 1861 some Pinal Apaches kidnapped a white boy,
Mickey Free, and stole some stock. The Chiricuahas were blamed
unjustly, and Cochise met in council with Lieutenant George Bascom
of the Seventh Cavalry at a troop camp near Apache Pass. Bascom
demanded the return of the boy and the stock. Cochise said his band
was not responsible, but that he would try to find the boy and get
him back safely. Bascom, who was not long out of West Point, called
Cochise a liar and ordered his arrest. Cochise furiously cut his way
free and escaped, but his three colleagues were seized.
Cochise then captured several white men as hostages and returned to
demand the release of his friends. The hostages pleaded with Bascom
to exchange prisoners with the Apache, and several of the soldiers
tried to reason with the officer, but Bascom was adamant in his
refusal. The result was that the Apaches tortured their prisoners to
death and Bascom hanged his.
From his rocky stronghold in Southern Arizona's Dragoon mountains,
Cochise went on the warpath in earnest, plundering and killing over
a wide range. His strategic abilities were so great that he never
lost a battle and he invariably outwitted any Army detachments that
were sent against him. At the height of his vendetta against the
whites, Cochise met a most remarkable white man who changed the
future course of his life.
Captain Thomas Jeffords, a New Yorker, came West as a young man and
worked as a hunter, a road builder, a prospector and an Army scout.
During the Civil War he came to Arizona and became superintendent of
Mails. Cochise and his warriors were raiding the stagecoaches with
astonishing regularity. Jeffords himself was wounded when the
Apaches held up one of his coaches. Fourteen of his drivers were
killed over a short period of time.
Jeffords decided to try to reason with Cochise and, in a move which
is indicative of his courage, went to see the feared chief alone.
Somehow the two men developed a high mutual regard and Cochise
agreed to let the mail coaches pass in peace thereafter. Jeffords
went often to the Apache fortress to visit with his friend and the
two men later became blood brothers in accordance with the ancient
Apache ceremony. Elliott Arnold's book, "blood Brother", source of
several films and a TV show is based upon this incident.
When President Grant sent General O.O.Howard to Arizona to make
peace with the Apaches, Jeffords guided the peace party to Cochise's
headquarters. Jeffords insisted that no soldiers should accompany
then, and he and Howard negotiated terms after several days of
discussion. The Chiricahuas were given a reservation at Ojo Caliente
in western New Mexico, but Cochise became restive there and returned
to the Dragoons with a band of his followers. However, he returned
to the reservation in 1871 and kept the peace ever after. Jeffords
became Indian Agent at the Apache reservation. Cochise died in 1874.
Cochise's son Tazi succeeded his father as hereditary chief, and he
in turn was succeeded by Nachi, the second son. Both sons had
distinguished themselves in warlike action and it was Nachi who led
a number of raids in Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora and northern
Chihuahua for which old Geronimo was blamed. Nachi was regarded as
the Chiricahua's principal chief in the later days at Fort Sill
Military Reservation, Oklahoma.
Cochise's name has been perpetuated in a park at his onetime
fortress in the Dragoons, a town, a county and another park in
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