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     This section of The Land of Cochise will recount the overall history, in synopsis, portrayed in the book -- not the movie (the two turned out to be significantly different thanks to the constraints by the movie business imposed on the screenwriter).  The movie will be addressed, and compared with historical fact, in the later section, Cochise In the Movies.

    Part I  ---   Betrayal

     In the cold January of 1861 the tenuous peace that had existed for years between Cochise's Chokonens and the Americans came to an abrupt and violent end.  History lays this sorrowful development at the feet of a young and inexperienced U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant named George N.  Bascom.  His mishandling of the situation was so egregious that it has gone down in history as one of the most tragic episodes in all the Indian Wars, and has come be known simply as the Bascom Affair.

     The Apaches of the area that would someday become the states of Arizona and New Mexico had been embroiled for centuries in an ongoing war with the Mexicans (and before them, the Spaniards).  Raiding into Mexico both for sustenance and for revenge was a way of life to the Apaches, and the taking of Mexican property -- including captives -- was integral to this lifestyle.  Cochise was always eager to visit death and destruction upon the hated Mexicans, as had his ancestors, and he was certainly not above the capturing of Mexican children (Apaches would frequently take young children and raise them as their own, treating them with civility and compassion to the point that most captives learned to love their captors and many chose to spend their lives within the band even if given the opportunity to leave).   Americans knew this about Apaches, and so when Sonoita rancher John Ward returned to his property one day to find his 12-year-old half- Mexican son missing, along with twenty head of cattle, he knew without a doubt that he had been the victim of an Apache raid.  This was confirmed by the eye witness accounts of two Americans who had come upon the disturbance in time to prevent further loss.  (Some accounts cite October 1860 as the date of this raid, but Edwin R. Sweeney's research clearly indicates this occurred on January 27, 1861 - only a fews days before Bascom took up the chase). 

     Incensed, Ward demanded immediate action from the troops at nearby Fort Buchanan.  Lt. Bascom, who was green and had no prior experience dealing with Indians, was sent with a detachment of infantry and dragoons to determine where the trail led.  They returned convinced that it led toward the San Pedro River, and Cochise's domain.  Since Cochise's band had raided nearby Tubac not long before (though no captives were taken), public sentiment at the time was decidedly in favor of Bascom's conclusions (conclusions which may well have been influenced by John Ward's insistance that Cochise was involved -- though this is purely speculation.)

   George N. Bascom



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