"Nobody wants peace more than I do. Why shut me up on a reservation? We will make peace; we will keep it faithfully. But let us go around free as Americans do. Let us go wherever we please."
Legendary Apache chief (1812-1874). His name meant "Hardwood". He was six feet tall, which was tall for both Apaches and whites back in the 1800s. He was said to be a very imposing man, and unmatched in the use of the lance. He was also said to be a very honorable man, and he hated people who lied to him.
Cochise was a woodcutter at the stagecoach station at Apache Pass, Arizona on the Butterfield Overland line until 1861, when a group of Coyotero Apaches raided a ranch southwest of Fort Buchanan, taking 20 head of cattle and a 12-year-old boy named Mickey Free. The head of the ranch reported the raid to the fort, but he blamed the raid on the Chiracahua and Chokonen Apaches, instead of the Coyoteros.
Cochise's band of Chokonens fell under suspicion after a short investigation by George N. Bascom, an inexperienced second lieutenant. A group of 50 soldiers under Bascom's command were sent from the fort to recover the child and the ranch's property.
The Chokonens, who weren't even aware of the raid on the ranch, had set up a winter camp at the north side of the Chiracahua Mountains, close to Apache Springs. The Chokonens were raiders, but they confined most of their attacks to Mexico, so they rarely had any quarrel with the United States. Once Bascom's troops located Cochise's camp, Bascom told the folks at the Butterfield way station that the soldiers were on the way to the Rio Grande and that they wanted to set up a parley, or social gathering, with Cochise. The next evening, the chief arrived with his wife, two of their children, and only three warriors, all close relatives.
After Cochise and his warriors entered Bascom's tent, the soldiers surrounded the tent and Bascom, through an interpreter, began to interrogate the chief. He was already convinced that Cochise had been behind the raid, and when Cochise said he wasn't, Bascom called him a liar. Ewww. Not a nice thing to call someone who hates liars, especially after you've lied about wanting to parley. Still, Cochise offered to go to the Coyotero Apaches and try to secure the release of Mickey Free. However, Bascom was under the mistaken impression that Cochise was the chief of all the Apaches, not just the Chokonens, so he decided to hold Cochise, his family, and his warriors hostage until the cattle and child were returned.
Even surrounded by soldiers, Cochise was able to escape. He sliced through the tent with a knife and burst out, surprising the soldiers. He was followed by Coyuntura, one of his warriors. The startled troops were able to capture Coyuntura, but Cochise got away with minor gunshot wounds.
From there, of course, things went downhill. Bascom and his forces retreated to the stagecoach station, where the defenses were better. Bascom and Cochise met the next morning in a neutral location, with Bascom demanding the release of the child and Cochise demanding the release of his family. There was more gunfire exchanged between the soldiers and the Apaches, and a stagecoach driver was later taken prisoner. Bascom sent for reinforcements.
The day after the stagecoach driver was captured, Cochise brought him to the crest of a hill and offered to exchange him for Cochise's family, but Bascom refused. The day after that, Cochise captured a wagon train, stole the animals, burned the wagons, killed nine Mexicans, and captured three Americans. He had the stagecoach driver write a note to Bascom, again offering to exchange his captives for his family. After sending his band's women and children out of harm's way and receiving reinforcements from other Chiricahua bands (including Geronimo!), Cochise tried to capture a stagecoach.
The next day (February 8th), Cochise attacked some soldiers who had been sent to Apache Springs to water the horses. Casualties were inflicted on both sides, and the soldiers' animals were driven off. He decided not to attack the stagecoach station, which was too well defended. Giving up on negotiations and on getting his family back, he tortured and killed his four American prisoners and left their bodies out for the soldiers to find. He then disbanded his forces.
The soldiers' reinforcements arrived on Valentine's Day, bringing three Coyoteros that they had captured along the way. Troops were sent out to search for the Apaches on Feb. 16, but found no one. On Feb. 18, the soldiers found the bodies of the dead Americans and buried them at a cluster of oak trees. Realizing that the Apaches had moved deeper into the mountains, Bascom assigned a detachment to guard the way station, then sent his soldiers back to their home forts. He released Cochise's wife and children, but had the other Apache captives hanged from the oak trees where the Americans were buried.
And then, after getting Cochise and the Apaches good and riled up, the military in Arizona was redeployed to fight in the Civil War, leaving civilians almost defenseless. Cochise's warriors stampeded livestock and attacked wagon trains and settlers over a wide area. During one 60-day period, Apaches killed 150 whites in Arizona. One history of the Arizona territory said that the population dropped from 34,000 to less than 10,000 from 1860 to 1870, though it isn't known how much of that was from the Apache wars and how much was from people moving away from the Apache wars.
Peace slowly began to be re-established in Arizona in the early 1870s, and Cochise died on June 8, 1874. He was buried with his horse, dog, and weapons in a secret location somewhere in the Dragoon Mountains. There are no known photographs of Cochise.
Mickey Free, by the way, grew to adulthood among the Coyoteros. As a fluent speaker of English, Spanish, and Apache, he was a scout for the army. He died in 1915 on an Apache reservation in southeastern Arizona. Meanwhile, Bascom, who had been transferred to Fort Craig in New Mexico, died at the Battle of Valverde in 1862.