Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Truth About Cochise And The Kidnapping of Felix Tellez by Sarah J. mcNeal

Way back when there were only 2 or 3 channels on TV my mother found a broken down old TV for about $5 and it lasted a few weeks. I remember in that period of time a cowboy and Indian program titled “Broken Arrow”. The famous American Indian, Cochise, was portrayed as a hero and played by Michael Ansara. I don’t know if any of you remember the program or Michael Ansara, but he married the actress who played “My Favorite Genie.” 

Michael Ansara as Cochise

Anyway, I have this certain fascination with Cochise and it turns out there a bit of mystery surrounding him.

The Real Cochise

Cochise is remembered because of his part in the conflict between Native Americans and the European settlers who invaded the West. Not much is known about him before he became a leader of the Chiricahua Apaches in Northern New Mexico and Southern Arizona. After decades of conflicts and raids between the Apaches and settlers, both the Europeans and Mexicans on their traditional lands eventually led to the involvement of the United States Military and the establishment of the reservation on the southeastern edge of the territory.

But the conflict with the Anglo-Americans actually began from a misunderstanding. The Apaches attacked a ranch belonging to an Irish-American named John Ward in October of 1860 and kidnapped his adopted son, Felix Tellez. Ward was not at the ranch when the attack occurred, but he was certain the leader of the raid was Cochise. Ward got fired up and demanded that the U.S. Military find Cochise and get Felix back and make Cochise pay for taking the boy. The military did as they were asked and dispatched a force under the command of Lieutenant George Bascom. Cochise had no idea he and his men were in danger so he responded to a request by Bascom to join him for a night of entertainment at a nearby stage station. Naturally, when the Apache arrived, Bascom’s soldiers arrested them. It was sneaky—sort of like the way the FBI catches criminals by making the criminal believe he has won the lottery. The criminal goes to collect his winnings only to learn he has won an arrest and some jail time.

Cochise tried to tell Bascom that he had nothing to do with the kidnapping of Felix Tellez, but the lieutenant refused to believe him. Instead, he ordered Cochise be kept as a hostage until the boy was returned. Cochise, not the kind of man who was going to be imprisoned unjustly, used his knife to cut a hole in the tent where he was held in and escaped. I’m thinking how stupid it was to use a tent as a jail and not take weapons from a suspect, but what do I know.
Following his escape, over the next decade, Cochise and his warriors increased their raids on American settlements and occasionally had skirmishes with soldiers. Some of the settlers panicked and abandoned their homes. The Apache raids took hundreds of lives and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damages. You know how this goes, whatever you do, don’t cause damage to property for Pete’s sake. By 1872, the U.S. was getting fed up with all this and grew anxious for peace. The U.S. government offered Cochise and his people a huge reservation in the southeastern corner of Arizona Territory if they would cease hostilities. Cochise agreed, saying, “The white man and the Indian are to drink of the same water, eat of the same bread, and be at peace.” At this point you just want to holler out to Cochise and say something like, “Hey, don’t you know better than to believe the government?” But you know, American Indians hadn’t learned this vital lesson yet.

The great chief did not get to enjoy his hard earned peace very long because in 1874, he became seriously ill, it is thought perhaps from stomach cancer and died. That night his warriors painted his body yellow, black, and vermilion, and took him deep into the Dragoon Mountains. They lowered his body and weapons into a rocky crevice, the exact location of which remains unknown. Today, however, that section of the Dragoon Mountains is known as Cochise’s Stronghold.

Now comes the sad part. About a decade after Cochise died, Felix Tellez–the boy whose kidnapping had started the war–resurfaced as an Apache-speaking scout for the U.S. Army. He reported that a group of Western Apache, not Cochise, had kidnapped him. Well, don’t that beat all?

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:


  1. Omigosh. What an ending to a fascinating story. How unfortunate..and be blamed for something he did not do.
    I don't recall the tv program you mentioned at all. But I do remember Michael Ansara from something. Maybe this program?...or what? I don't know.
    Wow--that's for your mother finding a tv for 5 bucks!
    It's distressing to remember how the US government took advantage of the Native Americans and cheated them when they could. I know it's a long festering hatred, but eventually, all anyone can do is put it aside and move on.
    The Native Americans are up again, protesting in great numbers the pipeline that will cut across their land. How and when will it ever end?
    Excellent post, Sarah. Thanks.

    1. It never ends for the Native Americans. I have signed several petitions about the pipeline crossing their sacred grounds. It's been halted for now.
      Of course the TV was a wreck of a thing and it was back in the 1950's. Pop, who did not want us to have a TV fixed it because Mom needed something while she was going through a bad health time. It only lasted a little while and met its electronic death. Poor Mom, she missed a TV.
      Broken Arrow is the only program I remember seeing Michael Ansara acting in. He became a director I think.
      Thank you so much for coming and commenting. I almost forgot about my blog until I got the reminder this morning. Good thing though that I researched and wrote it some time back. I have never missed a blog. I would be mortified.

  2. I remember the TV show well and loved it. Your article telling the true story of Cochise is very interesting. Thank you for sharing it. I love Western history, but this is one part I haven't heard before.

    1. Marianne, I know what you mean about finding a new article. I struggle sometimes finding research on something interesting in western history that hasn't been done. So, I am particularly happy that you didn't know about the real Cochise and what became of him. That's a very old program (Broken Arrow) like 1950's. I wasn't sure anyone was ever going to remember it. I only saw a few episodes.
      Thank you so much for coming by and commenting, Marianne. Remember the song--"down by the seaside Marianne"?

  3. Sarah, I loved Broken Arrow and Michael Ansara. My dad and I faithfully watched that show as long as it lasted. There was also a movie, I think of the same name, about Cochise and the white man who became his friend. I'm pretty sure Jimmy Stewart played the white man.

    Very sad how Cochise ended his life. At least he was finally at peace.

  4. I think it's so sweet, Lyn, how you and your dad watched the program together. I didn't know about that movie. I might have to look that up and see if it's on Netflix.
    Thank you so much for your comments, Lyn.

  5. I remember Michael Ansara, but not the TV show. Although, my family probably watched it--there weren't that many shows to watch in our town with only one and then two channels. My dad and I loved westerns. Thanks for the good post.

  6. Interesting post, Sarah. I remember Michael Ansara and the TV show. Loved it. He starred in several movies, didn't he?

  7. Hi Sarah
    I’m Andrew McBride and I remember you making nice comments about my novel THE PEACEMAKER on my Sundown Press blog when Sundown published it in June. THE PEACEMAKER – whilst a work of fiction - brings in Cochise, as it’s about an attempt to make peace with the Chiricahua Apaches in 1871. In the novel Cochise refers back to the Bascom incident that you’ve described so graphically here, which the Apaches always remembered as ‘cut-the-tent.’ I think you’ll find the photo you have here isn’t Cochise but his son Naiche or Nachay – although he was said to look like his dad. On the cover of my novel I used a portrait supposedly of Cochise, but it seems there’s even some dispute about that! So we may never find out what he looked like.
    But thanks anyway for the fascinating article about a great and tragic man.

  8. Thank you, Andrew, for bringing it to my attention about the picture of Cochise. There was a picture of him and then a picture of his son. Maybe I got them mixed up.
    Thank you so much for coming by and commenting. I appreciate all your kind words.

  9. Caroline, I can't believe I missed some comments. This posted shortly after my knee surgery. Maybe I was still under the effects of anesthesia. LOL
    I probably remember Broken Arrow because it was during a period when Mom had found a $5.00 broken down TV that only lasted a few weeks. So, what few things I saw really stuck with me. Most of my childhood was spent without a TV because Pop didn't want us to lose our resourcefulness. Ugh! I missed great stuff like The Mickey Mouse Club and The Ponderosa.
    Thank you so much for coming by. I apologize for my late reply.

  10. Linda, first let me apologize for my late reply. This post came out a few days after my knee surgery and I must have been in a fog or something.
    I thought Michael Ansara was very handsome. I only got to see a few episodes of Broken Arrow, but I certainly remember him. I don't know if he was in any movies after that. I think he worked as a producer or something behind the scenes.
    Thank you so much for coming by and leaving a comment and I am so sorry it took this long for me to see it.


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West!