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Cochise, Geronimo, and the Apache Wars

by David Roberts

Pub Date: July 7th, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-70221-1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 An absorbing account of a quarter century of conflict: the Apache resistance to the ``White Eye'' settlers encroaching on their Arizona lands. Clashes between US troops and Apaches broke out in 1861, but it was only after the Civil War that the army turned its attention fully to these skirmishes in the Southwest. Roberts (Jean Stafford: A Biography, 1988, etc.) sifts through contradictory memoirs and letters from the two sides to present a balanced version of why peace in the region was continually shattered--and why the outnumbered Apache were continually able to drive white settlers to hysteria. Complaints about Indian atrocities were sometimes valid, Roberts explains, but the Apache chief Cochise was often accused of crimes that he couldn't have committed. Meanwhile, the Apaches felt betrayed when agreements with troops were cavalierly broken by Indian land agents. Roberts's narrative is considerably enhanced by its briskly written portraits--including those of the fierce, and fiercely honest, Cochise; of General George Crook, the army's best Indian fighter, who found the key to ending the Apaches' flight (to catch an Apache, use Apache scouts); of John Clum, an Indian land agent whom the Apaches nicknamed ``Turkey Gobbler'' for his arrogance; Lozen, the woman warrior who could equal any man in riding and shooting; and Juh, the chief afflicted with a terrible stutter but gifted with military genius. And, above all, there is the presence of Geronimo, vengeful, untrustworthy, and vacillating, but also capable of leading a band of 34 men, women, and children that, before it surrendered in 1886, managed to elude five thousand American troops and another three thousand Mexican soldiers. Geronimo rightly feared the fate in store for his people: They were deported on sealed railroad cars to Florida, where they remained POWs for 27 years, never to see their homelands again. A history that never loses its sense of drama even as it separates myth from truth. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen)