Chief Cochise, The Apache Napoleon

chief cochise history

Chief Cochise was the father-in-law of Geronimo and leader of the Chiricahua Apache Tribe.

He is known today for his fearless and relentless fighting against Mexican and American armies and settlers and much of his adult life was consumed by war. The Apaches were a nomadic tribe that roamed what is now known as Sonoran Mexico, New Mexico and Arizona. They followed the seasons and hunting.

Fighting with American settlers was not a choice of Cochise. After years of war with the Mexican army, Cochise welcomed white settlers in what was then part of the United States. He helped the new settlers learn to live in the harsh desert landscape. But the peace didn’t last and the treatment of Cochise by whites would turn him into one of the most feared Native American chiefs history has ever known.

As more settlers flooded in however, tensions mounted. Those tensions came to a head when Chief Cochise was falsely accused of kidnapping in 1861, as retribution for the supposed kidnapping, several of Cochise’s family members were killed.

After that incident, Cochise vowed to kill as many white men as possible in the state of Arizona. The tensions culminated in a battle against U.S. forces in what is known as the Battle at Apache Pass. Chief Cochise and his band lost the battle, but escaped and continued attacking settlements and travelers until 1872, when he signed a peace treaty with the United States in 1872.

After making peace, Cochise retired to his new reservation, where he would die just two years later in 1874. Cochise was buried in the rocks near one of his favorite camps located in the Dragoon Mountains in southeastern Arizona. His only white friend, Tom Jeffords, and a few of his own people knew the exact location of his grave. They all kept the secret until their deaths.


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