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: