Born in Arizona in 1812, the son of a Chiricahua Apache chief, Cochise inherited the leadership of the Chiricahuas about 1850. The same year, by the Treaty of Guadalupe the United States took control over the territory that is present-day New Mexico and Arizona.
During the first years of American control all was quiet, but in 1858 the route of a transcontinental stage line was laid out across the Chiricahua territory. Cochise allowed the Butterfield Overland stage line to build a station at Apache Pass. He even agreed that his people could cut firewood for the station.
Fighting broke out in 1861 when a white rancher’s child was taken from a ranch near Ft. Buchanan. Cochise met with Lieutenant George Bascom at the Apache Pass station. Bascom surrounded the tent where they were meeting and accused the Apache chief of abducting the boy. Told that his family and he would be held prisoner until the child was freed, Cochise slashed through the tent and escaped. However, members of his family were held as prisoners. The Apache Wars began.
Cochise joined with Mangas Coloradas and led a guerilla campaign against U.S. and Mexican forces. After a major defeat where soldiers ripped through the Indians with shrapnel-loaded Howitzers, Cochise never again attempted a mass attack of the soldiers. He preferred to attack travelers, prospectors and settlers. No Apache band was ever conquered and the wars lasted ten long years.
Finally in 1872 Cochise concluded a peace treaty with General Oliver O. Howard. Cochise agreed to abstain from attacks in exchange for reservation land in eastern Arizona. For Cochise the peace did not last long. In 1874 he became ill and died within hours. Put to rest with full honors by his people, his burial spot has remained a secret.