Howard Offers to make a Common Apache Reservation

“‘I came with the hope of making peace between you and the citizens, and of thus saving life and property.'”

Cochise replied: “‘I am as much in favor of peace as anybody. I have not been out to do mischief for the past year. But I am poor; my horses are poor and few in number. I could have taken more on the Tucson road, but have not done it. I have twelve captains out in different directions who have been instructed to go and get their living.'”

Howard then said: “‘I should like to make a common reservation on the Rio Grande for the Mimbres and Chiricahua Apaches.'”

“‘I have been there,’ answered Cochise, ‘and like the country and rather than not have peace will go and take such of our people as I can, but I am sure it will break my band. Why not give me a reservation here or at Apache Pass? Give me that and I will make peace, protect all the roads, and see that no property is taken by the Indians.'”

“‘Perhaps the Government would be willing to give you a reservation in that vicinity, but I think it much better for you and your people to go to Cañada Alamosa.'”

“‘How long will you stay?’ Cochise asked at this point. ‘Will you stay until I can get my captains in and have a talk with them? I cannot make peace without their advice.'”

“‘I came from Washington to meet you for the purpose of making peace, and I will stay as long as necessary.'”

Cochise said he would send out runners to call in his captains, but that this would require about five days. When mention was made of Apache Pass, Cochise’s manner changed entirely. He said with bitterness:

“‘We were once a numerous tribe, living well and at peace. But my best friends were taken by treachery and murdered.

Apache Pass is the worst place. There six Indians were killed by Bascom and their bodies were left hanging until they were skeletons. The Mexicans and Americans kill an Apache whenever they see him. I have fought back with all my might. My people have killed many Mexicans and Americans and have captured much property. Their losses are greater than ours; yet I know we are all the time diminishing in numbers. Why do you shut us up on a reservation? We want to make peace, and we will faithfully keep it; but let us go wherever we please, as the Americans do.'”

Howard answered: “‘All this country does not belong to the Indians. It belongs to the Almighty, and all His children have an interest in it, so metes and bounds must be fixed in order to keep the peace. Such a peace as you propose would not last more than a week. If some rough prospectors for mines, always moving well armed, should fire upon and kill members of your band, or if some of your uncontrollable young men should take the property and lives of citizens–then this peace would be at an end.'”

During the eleven days that Howard was in his stronghold, Cochise did not again refer to the grievances of the Apaches. To his passionate declaration that the Americans had been the aggressors, Howard replied that many Americans thought what he said was true. ” ‘But now,’ he continued, ‘we want such horrid work as war, murder, and robbery to close.’ ”

At this Cochise, with a pleasant smile, said gravely: ” ‘I am glad you came.’ ”

“I then told him that it would be necessary for me in some way to notify the neighboring posts where I was and what I was trying to do, and to get some food, for we were out, and told him that Captain Sladen could go to Fort Bowie and do it for me. He shook his head and said he would like to have me go. The soldiers would listen to me. Captain Jeffords and Captain Sladen could stay with him, and he would take care of them. Chie consented to go with me as a guide. We then all mounted and rode through a canyon to the outside of our handsome prison, Cochise and several of his Indians accompanying us. The view from this point on the western foot-hills is grand; mountains and valleys, rivers and canyons lie beneath you in plain sight. I did not wonder that the Indians delighted in their magnificent home. We stopped by a large flat stone under the shade of a tree. Cochise said:

“‘My home.'”

Riding straight east, by a narrow trail at first, and then through rough canyons and along precipitous mountainsides, at great peril, and often in sore pain inflicted by the savage vegetation along the way, sometime before dawn Howard came out onto the Sulphur Spring Valley by way of the East Stronghold. At Sulphur Spring they were able to get a cart and two fresh mules to take them to the Fort, which they reached an hour after sun-up. They had traveled fifty-four miles during the night. Leaving the necessary orders at the Fort, Howard was back at Cochise’s camp the second day.

Cochise and Sladen were watching for him from a high point in the mountains and came eagerly down to greet him. During Howard’s absence some of Cochise’s men came in and stated that they had killed five Americans. Said Cochise: “I do not think the troops can follow the trail of my Indians, but if they do, they will be in here tonight, and we will have a fight.” Jeffords explained to Sladen that if the soldiers followed the trail, and there was a fight, the troops would be beaten. He told the Captain that if he preferred to leave, the Indians would conduct him in safety to General Howard. Like a sensible man, as well as a brave soldier, Sladen said he would remain.

Cochise moved his camp up among the rocks, and the Indians made a bed for Sladen and Jeffords. It was planned by Cochise that if the soldiers came in upon them the women and children would be taken out of the camp beyond possible danger. The braves, in the meantime, were placed in a position to resist any attack. When General Howard returned, he looked over Cochise’s defensive arrangement, and said that no General in the Army of the United States could have made a better disposition of his men to resist an attack from a superior force.

Cochise now took Howard’s party to a new camping place well up in the foothills, north of the entrance to his stronghold. Six miles away was a globular hill, rising symmetrically about three hundred feet above the plain. Here Cochise set up a white flag. After a few days, the chief captains and warriors having now arrived, a council was held. Cochise insisted upon a reservation in the mountains and valleys adjacent to their present meeting place. Here were his favorite strongholds, and from infancy this region had been his home. To this Howard finally agreed. One more firm demand was made by Cochise, namely: that Jeffords should serve as their agent. To this Jeffords stoutly objected. He had no taste for the office of Indian Agent, for no one better knew its difficulties. Besides, it would mean no small financial loss to him. But Cochise was inflexible; and, eager for the peace, Jeffords consented, with the stipulation that he was to have absolute authority in dealing with the tribe, without political interference of any sort.

A curious and solemn ceremony–what Jeffords called a prayer meeting–took place the evening after the council. On a little plateau near Howard’s bivouac the Indians met to consult the spirits. First, there was “the muffled voices of many women, apparently imitating the low moaning of the winds. Then all –men and women–sang with ever-increasing volume of sound, and the women’s voices rose higher and higher. It was a wild, weird performance. In due time a rough, tall, muscular Apache, his long hair hanging in braids down his back, came running toward Howard, spoke gently, and invited all the white men to join the band on the plateau. . . . When the singing ceased the men kept on talking but without rising. Then an authoritative voice silenced all the others. It was Cochise speaking in a mournful recitative. The whole case was evidently being discussed and a decision reached.” 1 These were anxious and solemn moments for Howard and his friends, for they could not tell which way the tide was flowing. But the spirits were favorable to the peace, and the answer was rendered thus by Cochise:

“‘Hereafter the white man and the Indian are to drink of the same water, eat of the same bread, and be at peace.'”

“Word had been sent to the officers at Fort Bowie to meet Howard and Cochise and their joint party at Dragoon Springs; so the day after the conference everyone set out to conclude the whole affair in cooperation with the local military authorities. Cochise was hideous in fresh vermillion war paint, and as he rode at the head of his mounted, excited, yelling, charging warriors, his aspect was fierce and repellent. As the column of blue-coated soldiers appeared in the plain below, marching steadily toward them, suspicion and uneasiness was apparent among the Indians. It was a critical moment. Any mis-step might have set them in a panic. When he reached the appointed place, Cochise stationed his warriors with consummate military judgment–an evidence that he still suspected treachery.” 1 Howard wrote: ” Cochise located his men with such skill that everyone of them could, in two minutes, have been safely under the cover of a ravine, and in three minutes more have escaped behind a projecting hill, and so have passed to the mountains without the least hindrance.” 1

But all ended happily. Every detail of the peace was completed. The reservation granted to the Chiricahuas was about fifty-five miles square, extending to the Sonora border and including the Chiricahua and the Dragoon Mountains, and the San Simon and Sulphur Spring Valleys. When the conference finally broke up, the Indians were very happy, talking and laughing as they gathered about the ambulance in which the officers had ridden from Fort Bowie. After all was over, and Howard was about to take his departure for Tucson, Cochise looked at him steadily a moment, then approaching, put his arms around him and said plainly in English, “Good-by.”

Governor A. P. K. Safford published in the Arizona Citizen of December 7, 1872, a fine account of a visit he made to Cochise in the East Stronghold of the Dragoon Mountains two months after Howard had taken his departure. “Having been in the field of his bloody work nearly four years,” the Governor writes, “and having at times endeavored to find him after the commission of dire crimes, but generally being compelled to travel in such condition that he was the last man I desired to meet, it will not be a subject of wonder that I had a curiosity to meet him and see who and what he is.” Captain Jeffords conducted him into Cochise’s presence. Indeed, Cochise in war paint, with a number of his warriors, rode out on the plain to meet the Governor’s party. “He dismounted, and throwing his long, bony arms around Captain Jeffords, embraced him with the apparent fondness a mother would her child. His example was followed by each one of the party. Captain Jeffords then called me and said:

“‘This is the old man.’

“‘What old man?’ I asked.

” ‘Cochise,’ he replied.

“When informed who I was Cochise cordially greeted me and we all sat down in a circle to have a talk. His height is about six feet; shoulders slightly rounded by age; features quite regular; head large and well-proportioned; countenance rather sad; hair long and black, with some gray ones intermixed; face smooth, the beard having been pulled out with pincers as is the custom of the Indians. He wore a shirt, with pieces of cotton cloth about his loins and head, and moccasins covered his feet. He is thought to be about sixty years old.

“I found him camped among the rocks at the foot of the mountains–a place evidently selected with care to prevent surprises, and from which with five minutes’ notice he could move his band beyond the successful pursuit of cavalry. His lodge consisted of a few sticks set up in a circle, and skins placed around the base to break off the wind. Here he has about four hundred Indians of all ages. He has three wives. The last or youngest lives with him in his lodge and makes his clothes and does his cooking. Each of the others has a separate lodge and their respective children live with them.

“After breakfast, a cloth was spread upon the ground and the head men were gathered around in a circle. Cochise then said he would like to have a talk. He said he was glad to see me, and the fact that I had come among them unprotected was an evidence that I had confidence in his professions of peace. He then said that prior to the ill-treatment that he had received from Lieutenant Bascom, he had been a good friend of the Americans and that since that time he believed he had been their worst enemy; that the time was within his memory when the plains were covered with herds and the mountains were filled with Apaches, but now the herds are all gone, and the number of Apaches greatly reduced; that when he opened hostilities against the Americans he and his tribe made a promise to fight to hold the country until the last one was exterminated, but now he was determined to live at peace with everyone on this side of the Mexican line. He said that he liked General Howard because he had the heart to come and see him, but for a long time previous the only friends he had were the rocks, that behind them he had concealed himself and they had often protected him from death by warding off the bullets of his enemies.”

Governor Safford states that the Chiricahuas all told at that time numbered almost two thousand; 2 that they had been permitted to retain their property and their arms; and that they were well mounted and carried breech-loading guns. They declared at the outset that they would not place themselves under the military authorities, and, accordingly, were now under no control except that which they voluntarily conceded to the Agent, to whose requests they had always conformed since he had been placed over them. Armed and recuperated as they then were, Safford thought that they were more formidable than they had ever been, for they could live on the natural resources of the country, and in their native mountains, almost impassable for man or beast, could continue to resist such superior forces as could be brought against them, as Cochise had done for more than a decade. However, because of Jeffords’ great influence over them, Governor Safford was hopeful that the peace with the Chiricahuas would be enduring. “Jeffords,” the Governor writes, “is respected as an honorable man by all who know him. He had held interviews with Cochise for three years before peace was made by Howard, and was the only white man who had been in his camp for twelve years and had returned alive. . . . This act [of entering Cochise’s camp alone] inspired Cochise with profound respect for his courage and sincerity. He brought Cochise to Cafiada Alamosa in 1871, and led General Howard to his camp in 1872.”

In 1874, only a short time before the death of Cochise, Al Williamson, a youth of eighteen, was a clerk in the trading post run by Tully, Ochoa, and De Long at Fort Bowie. On several occasions Cochise came into the store and Al saw him, talked with him, and heard him talk. Williamson describes Cochise as tall, straight, with long hair bound about with a folded red flannel band, but without feathers. He had a Roman nose. Nachez, the younger son of the chief, was much like his father in build and appearance. But Taza, the oldest son, did not resemble him. He had a pleasant, smiling face, and was large. One day Al weighed Taza, and with nothing on but his serape of muslin and his loin cloth, he turned the scales at one hundred and ninety-nine pounds. Cochise never smiled. He was severe and grave of aspect. The officers would invite him in to drink with them; and he drank copiously. But he would never stay at the Fort after sundown, however much he might enjoy his drinking. He would mount his horse and be off; and he made it a strict requirement for his people that they should always leave the post before sundown. He rarely bought things at the store, but once he came in with a large, beautifully dressed elk skin to sell; and, when Al offered him ten dollars for it, he accepted the price without a quibble and turned back five dollars of this amount for a woolen shirt.

During these last months of Cochise’s life, according to Williamson’s report, a certain Sefior Juan Luna came up from Frontéras with two ten-mule wagonloads of beans and corn that he wanted to sell to Tully and Ochoa at the Fort Bowie sutler’s store. He was accompanied by a colonel and twenty of the most ragged Mexican soldiers that one could imagine. They were shown a camping place near by. Juan Luna said he would like to make a treaty with Cochise to come across his reservation regularly with goods to sell to the sutlers. Word was sent to Cochise and an appointment was made for a talk with Juan Luna, but he told him to bring no soldiers with him. They met in the presence of some of the Fort Bowie people, Cochise bringing with him his interpreter, Narbona, who had lived in Mexico, and Luna coming also accompanied by one of his men.

Cochise came in a flaming temper and fairly scorched Luna with sarcasm and fiery denunciation. “You come in here,” he said, “and ask to make a treaty with me and to cross my reservation with your wagons and goods. You forget what the Mexicans did to my people long ago when we were at peace with the Americans, and you would get my people down into your country, get them drunk on mescal and furnish them with powder and lead and tell them to come up and get the big mules from the Americans. And when they would commit a depredation and steal mules and bring them back to your country, your people would get them drunk on mescal and cheat them out of the mules.

“Now you are asking for a treaty for safe conduct across my reservation to sell to Tully and Ochoa. Tully and Ochoa are friends of mine, and anyone who wants to bring their produce and trade with them are entirely welcome. But I want to warn you that you shall never cross the American line again with an escort of soldiers. You’ve got twenty soldiers, and what do they amount to! I can take five of my men and wipe them off of the earth and capture you. I’ve signed a treaty of peace with the United States and am living up to that treaty, so that no one need to fear to cross my reservation, for he will be perfectly safe.” He went on further to say that he objected to having soldiers from a foreign country come in and ask his protection when he was carrying on no depredations.

While he was talking in such heat, one of his Indians got so worked up that he raised his gun and wanted to shoot Juan Luna. Cochise peremptorily stopped him with a motion of his hand, and the Indian was so mad and excited that, as reported by the Americans present, he sat down and wept. 3

It will be seen from all that has been said above that, though born and bred a savage, Cochise was a man of distinction. His only home was a wickiup that could be constructed in half an hour and vacated, without leaving any of its furnishings behind, in half a minute; yet he had the same qualities of person, intellect, and decision that mark our leaders among the civilized nations of men. All public men who met him testify to a certain poise and dignity of character that was at once natural and masterful. His ways were not the ways of the white man; he was trained in the age-long school of savagery; yet, in physical prowess, force of character, and mental acumen, he was able to match whatever white foes were sent against him.

Cochise was a man of like passions with other men, of whatever time or race. He loved and he hated; he got drunk and beat his wives; he swore to his own hurt but changed not; he was subject to pride, cruelty, pity, and honor; he reflected deeply upon the probability of a life after death. His nature was not simple or shallow, but complex and passionate. The exhibitions of such a character are all the more interesting because they reveal themselves in both powerful and untutored ways. They are independent of civilized and conventional standards. Whatever movements of the spirit came to the surface in his wild and exposed career arose from the deeps of primitive human nature.

After the peace Jeffords, by authority of President Grant, had sole jurisdiction over the Chiricahua reservation. Neither soldier, civilian, nor Government official could come upon the reservation without his permission. The stolen horses and other ill-gotten property in the hands of the Chiricahuas at the time peace was declared were given back to their owners. During his lifetime, which extended only two years beyond the making of peace, Cochise sat always at Jeffords’ right hand and his authority was always faithfully exerted for the preservation of peace. Emissaries from the White Mountain Apaches sought on more than one occasion to enlist the support of the Chiricahuas, but these efforts were in vain. To the end, Cochise was faithful to the terms he had entered into with Howard; and when he died, he advised his people never to go on the warpath against the whites. Before his death he requested Jeffords to continue to look after his own immediate group. Jeffords replied: “I am only one, and they are over three hundred, and they won’t do what I ask them to do unless they want to.” Cochise then called in the headmen of his own group, and in their presence selected his oldest son to be his successor and won their consent to do as Jeffords advised them.

Jeffords dealt with them as a friend and guardian. Their rights were safeguarded in every way possible and he did his best to see that they got justice. He made his reports directly to the Department of the Interior, and when another agent took his place, his accounts were audited in Washington. Though the usual amount for which an Indian agent was placed under bond was ten thousand dollars, Jeffords was under bond for five times that amount; yet, contrary to the usual slow procedure in releasing the bondsmen from their responsibility, Jeffords’ audit was completed and his guarantors released three months after he turned over his office.

The final parting of Jeffords and Cochise was affecting. Cochise had been ill for a long time, was very weak, and knew that his end was approaching. Jeffords had provided the best medical aid possible and had stayed with him as much as he could. But the time came when he must go to the agency to issue rations to the Indians; and, as he was about to depart, Cochise said:

“Chickasaw, do you think you will ever see me alive again?”

“No, I do not think I will,” Jeffords replied. “I think that by tomorrow night you will be dead.”

Said Cochise: “Yes, I think so, too–about ten o’clock tomorrow morning. Do you think we will ever meet again?”

Somewhat taken aback, Jeffords answered: “I don’t know. What is your opinion about it?”

“I have been thinking a good deal about it while I have been sick here, and I believe we will; good friends will meet again–up there.”

“Where?” his friend asked.

“That I do not know–somewhere; up yonder, I think,” pointing to the sky.

Sure enough, he died about ten o’clock the next morning. He was then in the East Stronghold, his favorite location. As the end drew on, he requested some of his braves to carry him up the slope a little way to the westward so that he might see the sun rise over the eastern ranges once more.

The accepted report as to his burial place, which derived from Jeffords, the only white man who knew the circumstances of his interment and who outlived him forty years without ever pointing out the exact spot, is that his body was buried somewhere on the mesa, near the entrance to the East Stronghold and that the Indians rode their horses back and forth over the grave many times so that the exact spot could not possibly be identified. There is another account of his interment that has impressed me very much, and seems to me more in keeping with Apache ways, and on the whole more probable.

On two occasions Al Williamson told me circumstantially that at Fort Bowie, a short time after the death of Cochise, Jeffords informed him that the sepulture of Cochise was after this manner: He was dressed in his best war garments, decorated with war paint and head feathers, and wrapped in a splendid heavy, red, woolen blanket that Colonel Henry C. Hooker had given him. He was then placed on his favorite horse, with one of his braves riding behind him to hold him in place. Followed by many Indians, the horse was guided to a rough and lonely place among the rocks and chasms in the stronghold, where there was a very deep fissure in the cliff. The horse was killed and dropped into the depths; also, Cochise’s favorite dog. His gun and other arms were then thrown in; and, last, Cochise was lowered with lariats into his rocky sepulcher–deep in the gorge.Citations:

  1. Howard O. O. My Life and Experiences among Our Hostile Indians. A. D. Worthington and Company. Hartford, 1907.[][][]
  2. This statement is in error. They numbered less than one thousand.[]
  3. The above items were carefully taken down by the author from interviews with Mr. Al Williamson, a well-known citizen of Arizona and a man of great intelligence and fine character, a few months before his death, October 19, 1934.[]

Apache, History,


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