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A Man Called Cochise

On the eve of the Civil War, Cochise (1812-74) emerged as leader of the Apaches. Feared throughout the Southwest by whites as well as other Indian tribes (Apache is a Hopi word for enemy), the Apaches had been fierce warriors and raiders for centuries. However, Cochise was actually inclined to like the American whites who settled in Arizona, and he even secured a contract with the Butterfield Overland Mail to supply fuel wood to the station at Apache Pass.

In 1861, Cochise was falsely accused of raiding a local rancher (a thoroughly disreputable drunk named John Ward), rustling his cattle, and abducting his son. Second Lieutenant George N. Bascom asked Cochise for a parley on February 4, 1861; Cochise came voluntarily, only to be taken captive with five others. The chief managed to escape by slitting a tent with his knife, and, enraged, he raided the Butterfield station, killing one employee and taking another prisoner. Cochise then ambushed a small wagon train and seized eight Mexicans and two Americans, He burned the Mexicans alive but offered to exchange the Americans for the Apache prisoners Bascom still held. When Bascom refused, Cochise murdered his remaining captives, and Bascom retaliated by summarily executing his hostages.

This scenario was the way of white-Indian war in the West: a crescendo of eye for eye, usually escalating into a full-scale war. In this case, war with the Apaches would consume the next quarter century.


Blue, Gray —and Red | Complete Idiots Guide to American History | Southwestern Terror







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