On my way to Tucson recently I stopped at the Cochise Stronghold.
The Cochise Stronghold is located to the West of Sunsites, Arizona in the Dragoon Mountains at an elevation of 5,000 ft. This beautiful woodland area lies in a protective rampart of granite domes and sheer cliffs which were once the refuge of the great Apache Chief, Cochise, and his people.
This rugged natural fortress was, for some 15 years, the home and base of operations for the famed Chiricahua Apache Chief, Cochise. Cochise and about 1,000 of his followers of which 250 were warriors were located here. Sentinels constantly on watch from the towering pinnacles of rock, could spot their enemies in the valley below and sweep down without warning in destructive raids. No man, woman or child within a hundred miles was safe from these attacks.
Born in Arizona, Cochise led the Chiricahua band of the Apache tribe during a period of violent social upheaval. In 1850, the United States took control over the territory that today comprises Arizona and New Mexico. Not hostile to the whites at first, he kept peace with the Anglo-Americans until 1861, when he became their implacable foe because of the blunder of a young U.S. Army officer, Lt. George Bascom.
In that year, Cochise and several of his relatives had gone to an encampment of soldiers in order to deny the accusation that they had abducted a child from a ranch. The boy was later proved to have been kidnapped by another band of Apaches. During the parley, Cochise and his followers were ordered to be held as hostages by Bascom, but Cochise managed to escape almost immediately by cutting a hole in a tent.
Bascom later ordered the other Apache hostages hanged, and the embittered Cochise joined forces with Mangas Coloradas, his father-in-law, in a guerrilla struggle against the American army and settlers. The capture and murder of Mangas Coloradas in 1863 left Cochise as the Apache war chief.
The U.S. Army captured him in 1871 and prepared to transfer the Chiricahua to a reservation hundreds of miles away, but he escaped again and renewed the resistance campaign. The following year after negotiating a new treaty with the help of Thomas Jeffords, his only white friend the band was allowed to stay in their homeland.
Cochise is reputed to have been a master strategist and leader who was never conquered in battle. For ten years Cochise and his warriors harassed the whites by raiding lonely ranches and attacking stagecoaches and miners.
He died peacefully on the newly formed Chiricahua reservation in 1874. His son, Taza succeeded him as chief. Upon his death, he was secretly buried somewhere in or near his impregnable fortress.