COCHISE by Edwin R. Sweeney


Chiricahua Apache Chief
Email this review


 The surprisingly dreary product of 15 years of painstaking research, Sweeney's first book is a flat biography of the legendary Apache chief. Cochise was undoubtedly one of the greatest warrior chiefs in Native American history, fierce in battle and a capable leader, and, as Sweeney notes, no book-length biography of this dynamo exists--making the inadequacies of Sweeney's account all the more unfortunate. The son of a chief, Cochise grew to maturity in the then-Mexican-ruled Southwest during a period of relative tranquillity. Each breach of the peace brought a swift response, however, and rapid spirals of retaliation and revenge hampered any prospects of a lasting cease-fire. The increasing Anglo-American presence over the years, with its own territorial claims, gave the Apaches even more reason to fight to retain their way of life. A particularly misguided effort by the US Army in 1861 to recover a captive white boy by taking Apache hostages, Cochise and his brother among them, ended in bloodshed and executions on both sides, and Cochise's War was on in earnest. For nearly a decade, Cochise terrorized Americans and Mexicans in the region with assaults and ambushes, showing consummate skill as a strategist, until finally hounded into accepting a truce and reservation life in the early 1870's. He died soon after, an old man at peace, even though his struggle was taken up subsequently by Geronimo and others. Extensive notes and full use of sources readily indicate Sweeney's depth of research, but a frequent repetition of basic facts and lack of editorial judgment compromise any sense of scholarly achievement. History becomes a record of troop movements and body counts, creating the dullest of chronologies, while hazy conjecture about Cochise's undocumented activities proves a slippery supplement to more concrete information. Lackluster and grindingly detailed, albeit sympathetic toward its subject.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-8061-2337-0
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1991


NonfictionTHE WRATH OF COCHISE by Terry Mort
by Terry Mort