This area of Arizona saw some of the bravest and most tenacious Native American warriors of anywhere in the United States. Their names reverberate in Southwestern history: Cochise, Victorio, Geronimo, Juh, Nana, Naiche, Chalipun, Eskiminzin, and many others. However, there were not only famous "renegade" warriors, there were also many warriors who fought for the United States as scouts.
Of course one of the most famous Apache warriors was the formidable Chiricahua Cochise. He is believed to have been born about 1805, and his father may have been an earlier Apache warrior called by the Mexicans "Pisago Cabezón." However, it is also possible that his father may have been "Reyes." There is no certainty in this regard. Reyes was killed by the American scalp hunter James "Don Santiago" Kirker near Galeana, Chihuahua, in July 1846. At any rate, by the 1830s Cochise was already beginning to make a name for himself as a warrior. It must be remembered that the Chiricahua people roamed throughout southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico to deep into the Sierra Madre of northern Mexico. There were basically three bands: the central Chiricahua, to which Cochise belonged, whose basic territory was the southeastern Arizona; the Mimbreño people, who were in southwestern New Mexico (Victorio later became chief of this band), and the so-called Nednhi (means "enemy people" in Apache), whose later chief was Geronimo's cousin, Juh. All of these Chiricahuas were bitter enemies of Mexico. They frequently raided both Sonora and Chihuahua. Cochise himself is first recorded to have been in a fight with Mexicans in May 1832 somewhere on the Gila River.
The next time we are definitely aware of Cochise is when he participated in a peace treaty at Arizpe, Sonora, in 1836. He may have then settled in the Peloncillo Mountains, just north of Janos, Chihuahua, in 1842 or 1843. The peace did not last long. From 1847 on, Sonora was laid waste by the central band of Chiricahuas, at that time led by "Miguel Narbona." Cochise was in this band. Narbona died in 1856.
In 1859 Indian agent Michael Steck found Cochise to be friendly to Americans. Cochise hoped that the Americans would be helpful in his opposition to the Mexicans. However, there was an unfortunate incident in 1861 that was to end that prospect forever. On 27 January 1861 a young boy (later known as Mickey Free) was taken captive by Apaches from his home in southern Arizona. Cochise claimed the boy was taken by "Coyoteros" (White Mountain Apaches), or Pinal Apaches. But, some historians believe he was actually taken by Cochise's band. At any rate, a U.S. army officer, George Bascom, was dispatched to return the boy. Cochise was taken prisoner, but he escaped. Consequently, Bascom had six Indians hung. As a result, Cochise then killed four whites. Bitter warfare ensued. Within 60 days 150 whites were killed, and 5 stage stations were destroyed (the Butterfield stage line, contracted by the U.S. government in 1857, carried mail across southern Arizona). When the California Volunteers under Carleton reached the Chiricahua area (Apache Pass, Arizona) in July 1862, Cochise also threatened them. It was only after Carleton fired his howitzers at the Apaches that they retreated (Battle of Apache Pass, 15 July 1862).
Cochise's war continued until 1867, when a white man by the name of Thomas Jeffords fearlessly rode into Cochise's camp to converse with him. It was from this incident that the famous story "Broken Arrow" was taken. Jeffords was truly a remarkable individual. It has been hard for historians to understand just what kind of person he really was. Some consider him almost a scoundrel, while others feel he was just "a right person at the right time." Nevertheless, Jeffords became friends with Cochise, and Cochise stopped fighting.
In September 1870 Cochise went to Fort Apache and conversed with Army officers there. In 1872 he also talked with General Oliver Otis Howard in the Dragoon Mountains (Cochise's "stronghold"). It was at this time that Howard agreed that the Chiricahuas should have a reservation, which covered nearly all of southeastern Arizona, south of Fort Bowie. For a short time peace was maintained, while Jeffords was agent at Fort Bowie. In 1874, however, Cochise died, probably from cancer. It is believed that he was buried somewhere in the Dragoons, and the only white man to know where was Thomas Jeffords. Jeffords, however, never divulged the location. He was faithful to Cochise's memory to the last.
In 1876 the Chiricahua's reservation was terminated, and the people were supposed to move to San Carlos. Some did move, but many escaped to the Mimbreños at Warm Springs, New Mexico, or Mexico. Later, the Chiricahuas suffered captivity with their leader, Naiche, and Geronimo. The few remaining Chiricahuas eventually settled in Oklahoma and New Mexico, where their descendants live to this day. (There are also a few Chiricahua descendants who still live on the San Carlos Reservation, and probably also on the White Mountain Reservation.)
The best book, unquestionably, to read about Cochise is: Sweeney, Edwin R. Cochise, Chiricahua Apache Chief. Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma, 1991.
The greatest leader of the Mimbreño Apaches (often called Gila or Warm Springs Apaches) was the indomitable Victorio. It is believed that he was born about 1825 and soon became a respected warrior among his people, and all other Chiricahuas. He was in many skirmishes with Mexicans, and later, Americans, but about 1870 he accepted land set aside for him at Cañada Alamosa, New Mexico. Then, in 1872 he moved to Tularosa (today's Aragon), New Mexico. Next, he moved to a reservation at Warm Springs (Ojo Caliente), New Mexico. The U.S. government, however, was not happy with Apaches settled on various locations in the Southwest. It was believed that they should be settled in only one place, so that they could watched more carefully. That place was San Carlos, Arizona. Therefore, in the spring of 1877 John Clum, agent at San Carlos, went to Warm Springs to bring the Mimbreños back. However, 300 Mimbreños refused to go. They broke out under the leadership of Victorio and Loco. Nevertheless, for a short time they surrendered at Fort Wingate, New Mexico. Still unsatisfied with their lot, they broke out again from Mescalero, New Mexico on 21 August 1877. Victorio went with his people this time to the Black Range, west of the Rio Grande. Traveling with him was the leader of the Nednhi band of Chiricahuas, Juh. They were pursued by Major Albert P. Morrow. Eventually they were driven deep into the Mexican state of Chihuahua. In October 1880 Victorio and his people were cornered at Tres Castillos by Lieutenant Colonel Joaquín Terrazas, cousin of Chihuahua governor Luís Terrazas. Victorio was killed there, along with almost all of the Mimbreños. Descendants of Victorio, however, still live in Oklahoma and on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico.
It is hard to describe just how great a warrior Victorio really was. I have not gone into detail about his method of fighting, but most historians consider him among the greatest guerrilla warriors the North American continent has ever seen. Against incredible odds he was able to successfully remain independent of American and Mexican control to the end of his life.
For more information on the life of Victorio read:
Thrapp, Dan L. Victorio and the Mimbres Apaches. Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1974.
Another great Chiricahua leader was the Nednhi leader Juh. There have been many theories about the meaning of his name, and how it is pronounced. Apparently it was pronounced like "Hoo." Whatever the pronunciation of his name, it is believed that he was born about 1825, probably in the northern Sierra Madre of Mexico. He was a cousin of Geronimo and spoke with a stammer.
Juh was in many battles throughout his life. He and Geronimo escaped from government control when the Chiricahua reservation was terminated in 1876. From that time onward Juh was often with Geronimo. In 1880 Juh surrendered with Geronimo and moved to San Carlos. However, after the "Cibecue affair" of 1881, wherein the medicine man Noch-ay-del-klinne was killed, Juh bolted again with Geronimo. Juh returned to Mexico and in November 1883 fell from his horse into the Casas Grandes River in Chihuahua. The reason for his fall unknown, but he died as a result.
A son of Juh was Ace Daklugie, born in 1872. Daklugie suffered all the ignominies heaped upon the Chiricahuas after they were exiled to Florida. He then became an important leader among his people when they moved to the Mescalero Apache Reservation. Daklugie died a respected leader among his people in White Tail, New Mexico, on 14 April 1955.
Like Victorio, Juh is considered by most historians to have been a great Apache warrior. He had much greater success as a warrior than Geronimo ever did. Juh must be considered one of the great personalities of Southwestern history.
For more information on Juh, read:
Thrapp, Dan L. Juh, An Incredible Indian. El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1973.
Another famous Chiricahua Apache leader was Nana. He was probably born in Mimbres country about 1800. He was a nephew of Delgadito, and married a sister of Geronimo. Nana was often with Victorio in his many battles. It is interesting to realize, however, he was of a prior generation to Victorio. When Nana went through all the trials of Victorio and Geronimo he was already an old man, in his seventies and eighties. Nevertheless in 1881, when he was about 80 he led a legendary raid across southern New Mexico. He had, at most, only 40 warriors with him, often only 15, but he covered 1000 miles and fought a dozen skirmishes, in which 30 to 50 Americans were killed. He also captured 200 horses and mules. He escaped to Mexico with Geronimo, but was sent with Geronimo to Florida, and later Oklahoma. He died completely unrepentant at Fort Sill, Oklahoma 19 May 1896, nearly a hundred years old. His widow died in 1907.
To read more about Nana, consult:
Lekson, Stephen H. Nana's Raid, Apache Warfare in Southern New Mexico, 1881. El Paso: Texas Wester Press, 1987.
All of the above Apache warriors were Chiricahuas, but there were many other brave Apaches. I think one of the most misunderstood and maligned was the great leader of the Aravaipa Apaches, Eskiminzin.
Eskiminzin was born about 1828, probably near the Pinal Mountains. He was actually a Pinal Apache, but married into the Aravaipas (south of the Pinals). His father-in-law was Santos, chief of the Aravaipas. Eskiminzin was nearly always in very difficult positions trying to save his people. When he felt they had to fight to survive, he was unafraid to do so. When it was better for his people to accept peace terms, he did so. He always had the welfare of his people in mind. It was Eskiminzin who finally negotiated the terms by which the great San Carlos Apache Reservation was established. (See my page on the Apache Wars). However, after the reservation was established he experienced real tragedy.
In the summer of 1873 conditions on the reservation reached crisis proportions. Eskiminzin felt it was best that he should flee. Consequently, he was later captured and put in chains. When John Clum arrived, he ordered him released, because Clum felt he had been treated shamefully. Eskiminzin even visited Washington, D.C., with Clum in 1876. Slowly, Eskiminzin began to feel that peace was beginning to pay off.
However, in 1887 his son-in-law, the Apache Kid, was arrested for the murder of a rival on the San Carlos Reservation. When the Kid finally escaped, it was believed that Eskiminzin would aid him from time to time. Therefore, Eskiminzin was arrested in April or May 1891 and sent to Ft. Wingate, New Mexico, with 40 other supposed sympathizers with the Kid. They were forced to join the Chiricahuas who were then at Mt. Vernon, Alabama (before their removal to Oklahoma). Eskiminzin and his San Carlos braves were not exactly on friendly terms with the Chiricahuas, and they found their situation to be very difficult.
Finally, a white friend, Hugh Lennox Scott, convinced authorities that Eskiminzin should be released. He arrived back in San Carlos on 23 November 1894. A year later Eskiminzin died. His life had been truly tragic in the extreme.
There are still many descendants of Eskiminzin on the San Carlos Reservation. His legacy is revered, but the hurt of what happened to this man is still deeply felt.
For more information on Eskiminzin, read:
Browning, Sinclair. Enju. Introduction by Morris K. Udall. Flagstaff: Northland Press, 1982.
Schellie, Don. Vast Domain of Blood. Los Angeles: Westernlore Press, 1968.
An important article is:
Marion, Jeannie. "As Long as the Stone Lasts: General O. O. Howard's 1872 Conference." Journal of Arizona History 35 (Summer 1994): 109-140.
Marion is supposed to have a book forthcoming on Eskiminzin.
Geronimo, of course, is probably the best known of the old Apache warriors. I will not go into detail about his life, but here is a brief sketch:
Geronimo was born about 1823, probably near what is now Clifton, Arizona. There are conflicting opinions regarding his birth place, but that area is probably the best candidate. He was a member of a small group of Chiricahuas--the Bedonkohes--which were most closely related to the Central Chiricahua group. Geronimo's cousin, Juh, was the leader of the northern Mexico band of Chiricahuas--the so-called Nednhi. As a young man Geronimo often participated in raids into old Mexico. He married while quite young and had three children. In 1850, at Janos, Chihuahua, his mother, wife, and three children were all killed by Mexicans. As a result, Geronimo developed an implacable hatred of Mexicans. It was the Mexicans who gave him the name of "Geronimo." In 1858, at Namaquipa, Chihuahua, Geronimo and Juh were among the Apaches who were victorious in a vicious battle with Mexican regulars. The battle was celebrated in Apache legend for years afterward.
Geronimo was with Cochise's group at the Battle of Apache Pass on 14 July 1862. From that time on he and his people were enemies of the U.S. Army. You can read more about some of Geronimo's exploits on my Apache Wars page. Geronimo died on 17 February 1909 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
It ought to remembered, as Dan Thrapp cautions, that Geronimo was never of the military capacity as some of Geronimo's other Apache allies. He never was of the stature of Mangas Coloradas, Delgadito, Cochise, Victorio, or Juh. Nevertheless, Geronimo was a brave warrior and true to his cause. His name is justly remembered by history.
Important books on Geronimo are:
Barrett, S. M. Geronimo's Story of His Life. New York: Ballantine Books, 1970.
Debo, Angie. Geronimo: The Man, His Time, His Place. Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1976.
I have mentioned only a few of the great Apache warriors. I could have also related the story of Cassadore, one of the leaders of the San Carlos band proper. Cassadore still has many descendants at San Carlos. Or I could have told the stories of Antonio and Eskinospas, also San Carlos leaders. Then too, there is Alchesay, the White Mountain leader. Also, Chalipun and Delshay, who led the Tontos and the Yavapais. The names of these great Apache warriors should not be forgotten. In fact, they are NOT forgotten among their own people to this day. But they should be more widely known. I hope my own efforts are helpful to some extent.
NOTE: Much of the material on these Apache warriors was teaken from Dan L. Thrapp's excellent Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography.
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