Year
1874

Apache Chief Cochise dies

Chief Cochise, one of the great leaders of the Apache Indians in their battles with the Anglo-Americans, dies on the Chiricahua reservation in southeastern Arizona.

Little is known of Cochise’s early life. By the mid-19th century, he had become a prominent leader of the Chiricahua band of Apache Indians living in southern Arizona and northern Mexico. Like many other Chiricahua Apache, Cochise resented the encroachment of Mexican and American settlers on their traditional lands. Cochise led numerous raids on the settlers living on both sides of the border, and Mexicans and Americans alike began to call for military protection and retribution.

War between the U.S. and Cochise, however, resulted from a misunderstanding. In October 1860, a band of Apache attacked the ranch of an Irish-American named John Ward and kidnapped his adopted son, Felix Tellez. Although Ward had been away at the time of the raid, he believed that Cochise had been the leader of the raiding Apache. Ward demanded that the U.S. Army rescue the kidnapped boy and bring Cochise to justice. The military obliged by dispatching a force under the command of Lieutenant George Bascom. Unaware that they were in any danger, Cochise and many of his top men responded to Bascom’s invitation to join him for a night of entertainment at a nearby stage station. When the Apache arrived, Bascom’s soldiers arrested them.

Cochise told Bascom that he had not been responsible for the kidnapping of Felix Tellez, but the lieutenant refused to believe him. He ordered Cochise be kept as a hostage until the boy was returned. Cochise would not tolerate being imprisoned unjustly. He used his knife to cut a hole in the tent he was held in and escaped.

During the next decade, Cochise and his warriors increased their raids on American settlements and fought occasional skirmishes with soldiers. Panicked settlers abandoned their homes, and the Apache raids took hundreds of lives and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damages. By 1872, the U.S. was anxious for peace, and the government offered Cochise and his people a huge reservation in the southeastern corner of Arizona Territory if they would cease hostilities. Cochise agreed, saying, “The white man and the Indian are to drink of the same water, eat of the same bread, and be at peace.”

The great chief did not have the privilege of enjoying his hard-won peace for long. In 1874, he became seriously ill, possibly with stomach cancer. He died on this day in 1874. That night his warriors painted his body yellow, black, and vermilion, and took him deep into the Dragoon Mountains. They lowered his body and weapons into a rocky crevice, the exact location of which remains unknown. Today, however, that section of the Dragoon Mountains is known as Cochise’s Stronghold.

About a decade after Cochise died, Felix Tellez–the boy whose kidnapping had started the war–resurfaced as an Apache-speaking scout for the U.S. Army. He reported that a group of Western Apache, not Cochise, had kidnapped him.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Founder of Islam dies

In Medina, located in present-day Saudi Arabia, Muhammad, one of the most influential religious and political leaders in history, dies in the arms of Aishah, his third and favorite wife. Born in Mecca of humble origins, Muhammad married a wealthy widow at 25 years old and lived ...read more

Waldheim elected Austrian president

At the end of a controversial campaign marked by allegations that he had participated in Nazi atrocities during World War II, former United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim is elected president of Austria, a largely ceremonial post. After the annexation of his country by ...read more

Robert Kennedy buried

Three days after falling prey to an assassin in California, Senator Robert F. Kennedy is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, just 30 yards from the grave of his assassinated older brother, President John F. Kennedy. Robert Kennedy, born in Brookline, ...read more

Israel attacks USS Liberty

During the Six-Day War, Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats attack the USS Liberty in international waters off Egypt’s Gaza Strip. The intelligence ship, well-marked as an American vessel and only lightly armed, was attacked first by Israeli aircraft that fired napalm and rockets ...read more

King assassination suspect arrested

James Earl Ray, an escaped American convict, is arrested in London, England, and charged with the assassination of African American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. On April 4, 1968, in Memphis, King was fatally wounded by a sniper’s bullet while standing on the ...read more

U.S. forces are available for ground support

A State Department press officer notes that, “American forces would be available for combat support together with Vietnamese forces when and if necessary,” alerting the press to an apparently major change in the U.S. commitment to the war. Prior to this time, U.S. forces had been ...read more

Nixon and Thieu meet at Midway

President Nixon and South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu meet at Midway Island in the Pacific. At the meeting, Nixon announced that 25,000 U.S. troops would be withdrawn by the end of August. Nixon and Thieu emphasized that South Vietnamese forces would replace U.S. ...read more

NFL and AFL announce merger

On this day in 1966, the rival National Football League (NFL) and American Football League (AFL) announce that they will merge. The first “Super Bowl” between the two leagues took place at the end of the 1966 season, though it took until the 1970 season for the leagues to unite ...read more

Hannibal by Thomas Harris hits bookstores

Some 1.3 million copies of Hannibal, the final book in the Hannibal Lecter series by Thomas Harris, arrive at bookstores around the country. Hannibal quickly tops the bestseller charts, despite—or perhaps because of—an intensely gruesome plot. Hannibal Lecter, the brilliant ...read more

Brian Jones leaves the Stones

Publicly, the move would be cast as an amicable split, with Brian Jones stating of his fellow Rolling Stones, “I no longer see eye-to-eye with the others over the discs we are cutting.” Behind the scenes, however, Jones’ prodigious appetite for drugs and alcohol had long rendered ...read more

Ghostbusters released

On this day in 1984, the now-classic comedy Ghostbusters is released in theaters across the United States. Produced and directed by Ivan Reitman, Ghostbusters starred Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis as disgraced parapsychology professors in New York City who turn to ...read more

Tropical Storm Allison wreaks havoc

On this day in 2001, Tropical Storm Allison hits Houston, Texas, for the second time in three days. Although Allison never even approached hurricane status, by the time it dissipated in New England a week later, it had killed about 50 people and caused $5 billion in damages. ...read more

Forensic evidence captures a murderous father

Two farmers walking near a quarry outside of Edinburgh, Scotland, find two small, dead bodies floating in the water, tied together. Although the bodies were so waterlogged that authorities could barely confirm that they were human, Sydney Smith, the century’s first “Quincy,” was ...read more