The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans


A great leader
If you take Highway 10 south
east from Phoenix, you pass near the town of Chandler, AZ and, after Tucson,
turn east heading towards Las Cruces. But before crossing the Arizona/New Mexico
state line, you drive through Apache Pass. It’s quite impressive and it makes
you think of Cochise.
Who was Cochise?

Cachise, Cheis, or A-da-tli-chi, in Apache K’uu-ch’ish, usually known as Cochise, was born
somewhere in the Chiricahua lands in about 1805. He became
principal chief
or nantan of the Chokonen band of the Chiricahua Apache and the leader
of an uprising that began in 1861. His
name ranks with those of Mangas Coloradas and Geronimo as one of the greatest
leaders of the Apache people.
A bronze bust of Cochise by Betty Butts in Fort Bowie
He was an unusually tall and large-framed
man for his time and people, standing at 5’10” (1.78m) and weighing maybe 175
lbs. His name means oak tree. We have no certain photographic likeness of him, so have to imagine what he looked like.

The Mexicans try to exterminate the Apache

As Spain, then Mexico tried to
wipe out the Apache peoples, the various groups resisted more. A series of
Mexican government campaigns against them were fought to a standstill. As Mexican
forces, often aided by Americans and members of non-Apache Native American tribes,
killed Apache women and children, putting a bounty on Apache scalps (Cochise’s
father was one victim), Apaches made bloody retaliatory raids on settlers and travelers.
It was a brutal time. Mexican forces captured Cochise in Sonora in 1848 but
released him in return for Mexican captives.

The United States does no better

When a large part of the area
was taken by the United States, there was a period of relative peace in the
1850s. But the peace came to a bloody end after the Bascom Affair in 1861.
 George N Bascom

George N Bascom (1837 – 1862)
graduated (just) from West Point in 1858 and was stationed at Fort Buchanan in Arizona
Territory as 2nd Lt. of the US 7th Infantry. In 1862, as
a captain, he was killed at the Civil War battle of Val Verde but not before he had
sparked an Indian war by his disastrous incompetence in January 1861.

When Indians raided the ranch
of John Ward and carried off livestock and Ward’s stepson Felix, Lt. Bascom was
ordered to recover the boy. Bascom was wrongly convinced that the Chiricahua
Apaches had carried out the attack and met for a parley with chief Cochise in
Apache Pass in early February. Bascom did not honor the terms of the parley and
ordered the arrest of Cochise who, however, escaped by cutting the tent with
his knife. Nevertheless, Bascom held some of Cochise’s supporters as hostages,
including his
brother Coyuntwa
and two nephews. On February 5, Cochise and his band attacked some Americans
and took three hostages, whom he offered in exchange for the Apache prisoners.
Bascom refused and on February 7 Cochise attacked the camp. After the
inconclusive fight both sides killed their captives. It was the start of over a
decade of relentless war.


Cochise joined with his
father-in-law, Mangas Coloradas
(Red Sleeves,
Kan-da-zis Tlishishen), the powerful Chihenne-Chiricahua chief, in a long
series of skirmishes, including the battle of Dragoon Springs in May 1862 near
present-day Benson, AZ., when Cochise attacked a Confederate force.

The region concerned
The Apaches were generally very successful, partly because
the US forces were increasingly occupied with the Civil War and partly because
the Apaches were such superb guerrilla fighters and knew the terrain


The Battle of Apache Pass

The Battle of Apache Pass was one of the rare pitched battles the
Apaches fought against the United States Army. Cochise and Mangas Coloradas,
with around 500 men, held their ground against a force of California volunteers
under General James Henry Carleton until howitzer artillery fire was brought to
bear on the Apache positions in the rocks above, when they withdrew.

Mangas Coloradas

In January 1863 General Joseph R. West, under orders from
Carleton, captured Mangas Coloradas by tricking him into a conference under a
flag of truce. During what was to be a peaceful parley session, just as they had
tried to do with Cochise, the Americans took the unsuspecting Mangas Coloradas
prisoner and later murdered him. Naturally, this disgraceful affair only
inflamed the enmity between the two sides.

General O. O. ‘Bible’ Howard
Years of raids

Cochise and his men were gradually driven into the Dragoon
Mountains but were still able to continue attacks against white settlements and
travelers until 1872. A treaty was finally negotiated by General O.O. ‘Bible’
Howard with the help of Tom Jeffords, who was Cochise’s only white friend.

The Dragoon Mountains
Tom Jeffords

Jeffords (1832 – 1914) came to Arizona in 1862 as a scout
for the Army. He became the superintendent of a mail line that later became
part of the famous Pony Express system. After some of his mail riders were killed
by Apaches, he rode alone into the camp of Cochise to parley. This bravery so
impressed the chief that he became friend and blood brother to Jeffords,
granting his mail riders safe passage.
Tom Jeffords
Peace again

When President Grant sent General Howard to deal with the
situation in Arizona, Howard enlisted the help of Jeffords in concluding a treaty.
Jeffords trusted Howard and took him to Cochise’s camp. A treaty was signed in
1872, ending the decade-long war with the Chiricahuas. Cochise asked that his
people be allowed to stay in the Chiricahua Mountains and that Jeffords be made
Indian agent for the region. These requests were granted, and the Indian raids

No honor among thieves

After 1872, Jeffords met with increasing hatred from whites
wishing to exploit the copper and silver to be mined on Apache lands and was
branded an “Indian lover”. In 1875, they succeeded in having him removed as agent and,
in contravention of the agreement, the Chiricahuas were relocated to the San Carlos reservation. However, Cochise
did not live to see this because he died of cancer in 1874.

(Tom Jeffords became a stagecoach driver, a deputy
sheriff in Tombstone, AZ and finally a gold prospector. He lived out the last
22 years of his life in the Tortolita Mountains north of Tucson, AZ, at a
homestead near the Owlhead Buttes. He died in 1914 and was buried in Tucson’s
Evergreen Cemetery.)

Cochise in fiction

Elliott Arnold

The story of Tom Jeffords, General Howard, Cochise, and
the Apache wars was told in historically-based but dramatized form in a novel
by Elliott Arnold (1912 – 1980) a journalist, screenwriter and novelist. Blood
came out in 1947 and was enormously influential in putting the Indian
side of the case, which had been notably ignored for so long.

Broken Arrow
 Jimmy Stewart as Tom Jeffords

In 1950, the book was turned into the Fox movie Broken Arrow, directed by Delmer Daves
and starring James Stewart. In that film Stewart as Jeffords argues with white
men over the Bascom Affair and then sets out to do a deal with Cochise. Jeff
, a burly New York actor, was an excellent Cochise (in the days
when Native Americans were rarely cast in lead parts) and Jeffords leads
General Howard (Basil Ruysdael) to Cochise to negotiate peace. Cochise is shown
as a dignified and far-sighted statesman and most whites (with the exception of Jeffords and Howard) are racist bigots.
Jeff Chandler was Cochise
The movie spawned an ABC prime-time TV series that ran two
seasons from 1956 to ’58 for a total of 73 episodes. Michael Ansara as Cochise found
the role unchallenging. He said in a 1960 interview, “Cochise could do one
of two things – stand with his arms folded, looking noble; or stand with arms
at his sides, looking noble.” The TV show took more historical liberties
than the book or film, as was probably to be expected, but it was very popular.
Among the writing credits you can find Sam Peckinpah (3 episodes) and Gerald
Drayson Adams (2 episodes).
John Lupton as Tom Jeffords
Caruso, Lupton, Ansara in the TV show
Apache Pass

In 1952 Gerald Drayson Adams wrote the story for a sort
of ‘Cochise 2’, a Universal movie entitled The Battle at Apache Pass. It’s not of the quality of Broken Arrow but it is quite a good cavalry Western and it does
stick unusually close to the facts, for a Hollywood movie. It’s a pre-Jeffords
story set in 1861 and tells the tale of the Bascom Affair. Jeff Chandler was
again Cochise and very good he was. The ‘goody’ is a US Army Major Colton played
by John Lund, in his first Western. He is supported by a wise Sergeant Bernard,
very well played by Richard Egan (Kansas Raiders, Love Me Tender, These Thousand Hills). After the treachery, Cochise
allies with Geronimo (Jay Silverheels, who played Geronimo in several different movies) and there’s war. History goes a bit awry
at the end, though, as Colton and Cochise make peace after the battle at Apache


Universal felt it was successful enough to contemplate a
sequel. Unfortunately, as is often the case with sequels, it wasn’t very good.
It was Taza, Son of Cochise (1954).
Chandler appears in it only
briefly, just long enough to die and urge his two warring sons to continue the
peace he had made with James Stewart. The elder, Taza (Rock Hudson) is,
naturally, statesmanlike yet brave while his younger brother Naiche (Rex
Reason) wants to follow the way of Geronimo and fight the white eyes.


Non-Chandler Cochises

we go back before Drayson Adams’s book, Cochise (played by Antonio Moreno) appeared in Valley
of the Sun
, a 1942 Lucille Ball picture set in
1868. A sort of Tom Jeffords-ish Army scout Johnny Ware (James Craig) is court-martialed
for helping Indians against their white oppressors, but escapes and crosses
paths with Christine Larson (Ball) who is about to marry one of the crooked
Indian agents…but not if Johnny can help it. Ho hum.

of course Cochise was the Apache leader played by Miguel Inclán in John Ford’s Fort Apache. In a kind of Apache Pass
moment, John Wayne’s Captain York persuades
Cochise to talk about returning to the
reservation. But martinet Colonel Thursday ‘bascomishly’ breaks his word and
leads an attack against the Apaches, which results in Thursday and his men being
needlessly slaughtered.

Broken Arrow and The Battle at Apache Pass, in 1951, Cochise (played by Chief
) appeared along with Mangas Coloradas and Geronimo (all
uncredited) in a Ronald Reagan/Rhonda Fleming B-Western, The Last Outpost.

John Hodiak as Cochise in Conquest of Cochise (1953)
1953 John Hodiak was top-billed as Cochise in Columbia’s Conquest of Cochise. The IMDb plot
summary runs as follows:
It’s the 1850s and the Gadsden Purchase has just brought
part of Mexico into the United States. An Army Major has been sent to Tucson to
make peace with the Indians. He is successful with Cochise, the Apache leader,
but Cochise is unable to get the Comanches to agree. The Apaches then turn back
a raid by the Comanches. There is a man in Tucson who wants the Indian war
against the Americans to continue and when a stray Army rifle is found and it
kills Cochise’s wife, it appears the Apaches will break the peace treaty.

Michael Keep was Cochise in a 1967 Audie Murphy Western, 40 Guns to Apache Pass. It’s a very
unhistorical affair. The Apaches are on the warpath.
Audie’s mission is to get a shipment of rifles, but it’s stolen by greedy white
traders with the help of mutinous soldiers.


appeared in three Rin Tin Tin
episodes played by X Brands (the
Indian in Yancey Derringer) in two and Dean
in one, and a Bonanza episode in 1961, played by Jeff Morrow. The Bonanza show, The Honor of Cochise, was in fact quite good, with DeForest Kelley as a murderous Army Captain who has poisoned Apache women and children – though what he and Cochise were doing up there on the Ponderosa is rather a mystery. Cochise was in no fewer than four High Chaparral shows, played by Michael Keep again, Paul Fix (twice) and Nino Cochise. Nino Cochise was the
legendary chief’s grandson (a son of Taza). He was 90 when he appeared in the
TV show and only had one leg. Impressive.

Nino Cochise, grandson

didn’t appear in the Walter Hill movie Geronimo: An American Legend (1993) but he was in the 1993 TV movie Geronimo, played by August Schellenberg.

sure the list of screen appearances here isn’t exhaustive. There were probably
some silent movies Cochise figured in and doubtless some spaghetti westerns.
Still, it’ll give you an idea.

The Bascom Affair plays a central
part in the graphic novel series, Blueberry. The first three episodes (Fort
, Thunder in the West and Lone Eagle) were published in
French magazine Pilote between 1965 and 1967, and English translations by Egmont/Methuen
in 1977 and 1978. The plot and characters are not of course accurate but you do
get a Cochise story.

Chandler probably provided the best Cochise. But we await the definitive Apache
chief. One day maybe.

6 Responses

    1. Your cover photo on The Peacemaker is not Cochise but the Pueblo leader Juan Rey Abeita. That exact photo appeared on the magazine cover in the 1903 edition "Out West." The artist was Maynard Dixon, a friend of Charles Lummis who visited the Pueblo in 1900.

  1. The photo you have not Cochise. And the one of Taza is not Taza–it is Noche, an Apache who attended the 1886 delegation to Washington DC and you can find it in the National Archives online.

  2. I read long ago that niño cochise had learned to fly and lost his leg in a plane crash, I also read in the same novel that he was a widower, that his young bride had been killed, it was very sad to me.

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