Skip to main content

1871 One Hundred And Twenty-five Years Ago

March 2023
1min read

Cochise Surrenders

On September 28 Cochise, chief of the Chiricahua Apaches, surrendered to government agents at Cañada Alamosa in southwestern New Mexico Territory. The capitulation ended a decade of bloody fighting between the Chiricahuas and the Southwest’s growing white population. The two groups had been on fairly good terms at first, but in February 1861, as the rest of the country was falling to pieces, the situation in Arizona unraveled as well. Federal troops, mistakenly suspecting the Chiricahuas of kidnapping a young boy, took some of them hostage in what was either “an astoundingly stupid piece of treachery” (by one account) or “a procedure that was common on the frontier” (by another). Cochise escaped, took hostages of his own, and began ambushing white travelers. Both sets of hostages were killed, and from then on things only got worse.

When the soldiers went East that summer to fight the Confederates, Cochise’s band eagerly descended on the defenseless ranches, farms, and mines left behind. Within months Arizona’s white population was down to about five hundred, almost all of them cowering behind the walls of Tucson. After returning the next year, the Army grimly pursued a policy of Indian extermination, while the Chiricahuas and other Apache bands continued raiding settlements and butchering whites in Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico.

In the early 1870s the government began peace overtures. Cochise’s band was wearing down after ten years on the run, and with the help of Tom Jeffords, a trader who had befriended the chief, the Chiricahuas were offered a reservation where they could live unmolested in return for an end to the fighting. The memory of white men’s broken promises remained fresh, so Cochise was reluctant to accept the offer, but by now he had few options. After some negotiation the chief, ill and approaching sixty, reported to the government’s Southern Apache Agency with two hundred bedraggled followers.

The Chiricahuas’ surrender did not end the Southwest’s Indian troubles. Cochise made a Napoleon-like escape early the next year to avoid being sent to barren Tularosa, New Mexico. He returned only after agents had agreed to restore his ancestral lands, where he died in 1874. But the Apaches had never been farmers, and reservation life did not mesh with their nomadic ways, so hostile bands continued to slip into the mountains and resume their plunder. Not until 1886 was the final large group of recalcitrant Chiricahuas, led by Geronimo, finally rounded up.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "September 1996"

Authored by: Frederic D. Schwarz

Washington Says Good-bye

Authored by: Frederic D. Schwarz

Invading California

Authored by: Frederic D. Schwarz

Bathing Belles Lettres

Authored by: Frederic D. Schwarz

The Battle of Blair Mountain

Authored by: Frederic D. Schwarz

Fatty’s Fall

Authored by: Frederic D. Schwarz

When Shirley Temple Didn’t Order One

Featured Articles

Rarely has the full story been told how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

Often thought to have been a weak President, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or political fallout.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.

A hundred years ago, America was rocked by riots, repression, and racial violence.

During Pres. Washington’s first term, an epidemic killed one tenth of all the inhabitants of Philadelphia, then the capital of the young United States.

Now a popular state park, the unassuming geological feature along the Illinois River has served as the site of centuries of human habitation and discovery.  

The recent discovery of the hull of the battleship Nevada recalls her dramatic action at Pearl Harbor and ultimate revenge on D-Day as the first ship to fire on the Nazis.

Our research reveals that 19 artworks in the U.S. Capitol honor men who were Confederate officers or officials. What many of them said, and did, is truly despicable.

Here is probably the most wide-ranging look at Presidential misbehavior ever published in a magazine.

When Germany unleashed its blitzkreig in 1939, the U.S. Army was only the 17th largest in the world. FDR and Marshall had to build a fighting force able to take on the Nazis, against the wishes of many in Congress.