Conquest of Cochise (1953)

 

 

 

 

Director:     William Castle.

Starring:    John Hodiak (Cochise), Robert Stack (Maj. Burke), Joy Page (Consuelo de Cordova), Rico Alaniz (Felipe), Fortunio Bonanova (Mexican Minister), Edward Colmans (Don Francisco de Cordova), Alex Montoya (Garcia), Steven Ritch (Tukiwah), Carol Thurston (Terua), Rodd Redwing (Red Knife), Robert Griffin (Sam Maddock), Amapola del Vando (Senora de Cordova), John Crawford (Bill Lawson), Joseph Waring (Running Cougar), Edward Hearn (General Gadsden).

Cochise leads Apache and Comanche against the Mexicans with American troops intervening.

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

"On a spring day in 1853 on the outskirts of Tucson then in the territory of Mexico, Don Filipe de Cordova and his wife were taking their usual Sunday morning ride."  An Indian shoots the wife in the back with an arrow and she falls off her horse.  "Although the war between Mexico and the United States had ended and all seemed peaceful, the peace of northern Mexico was again to be threatened by the dreaded Apache and the savage Comanche."

Indians rush down toward the de Cordova estate.  The ranch hands open fire on the oncoming Indians. 

"In Mexico City a treaty was being discussed by representatives of Mexico and the United States.  It was to become known to history as the Gadsden purchase."   The area included present-day southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.  The area included in Arizona: Yuma, Tucson and Sierra Vista.  The U.S. under President Franklin Pierce offers $10 million dollars for the purchase of the land.  Mexican nationals can remain Mexican or become American citizens.  And the US will deal with the problem of Apache and Comanche raids into Mexico from lands in the USA.  In fact, the US will put their best man on the job, Major Burke.  The US representative wants to introduce Major Burke, but he has slipped away and currently is busy kissing a woman.  The representative asks Captain Lawson to find Burke.  Lawson finds Burke making out with the girl and tells him that General Gadsden wants him.  Burke kisses the woman one more time and then goes into see Gadsden. 

The Mexican representative asks Burke how many troops will he be commanding?  Four troops of cavalry.  The representative says the Apaches alone have ten times that amount.  And their leader Cochise is alone worth four troops of cavalry.

Burke and his unit are heading into an Apache trap.  The leader is Tucuba, who serves under Cochise.  Tucuba is anxious to strike at the Americans.  Cochise arrives.  He is used to fighting the Mexicans, but here he has American troops.  He says for now he will not attack the American troops. 

Burke is heading toward Tucson, now an American town.  In Tucson, the townspeople are in the process of hanging a Mexican.  A resident comes up to Mr. Mack and tells him that a troop of cavalry is headed toward the town.  Mr. Sam Maddock wants to create a good impression with the cavalry, so he stops the hanging ceremony and tells the men to disperse.  The men are not happy about this, but they reluctantly do disperse. 

Felipe de Cordova wanted to intervene by himself and free the man to be hanged.  His friend tells him now that it was good that Felipe did not intervene by himself.  Felipe says he doesn't understand what just happened.  It's like Maddock turned saint over night.

At the de Cordova estate, Felipe had dinner with his family.  He is very bitter toward the Americans and says they should kill every American on sight.  The daughter of Francisco says the Americans will bring peace to the area.  Felipe tells Francisco that he is surprised he would let his own daughter speak this way.  The Americans and Indians between them are slaughtering off the Mexicans.  His own wife, Francisco's own sister, was killed by the Indians.  He is so mad that in disgust he throws his napkin down on the table and walks out of the dining room. 

Burke and two others come into town and head right into the local saloon.  Sam Maddock is there and he already knows Burke.  The two men shake hands.  Burke tells his comrades that Maddock is an old camp follower of the army.  He is always there to supply the army with supplies.  Maddock says it's all legal, but Burke is not totally sold on that idea.  He asks if Burke has his hand in the law and order business too?  Maddock tells him not to worry, he will be very cooperative with the army.  Burke says:  "You better be."

In the bar, Felipe's friend Jose Antonio introduces himself to the major.  He says he works for Don Francisco and wanted the major to know that his hacienda is always open to the major.  In fact, he invites the major to tea this afternoon at the hacienda.  Burke says he will be there. 

At the hacienda, Burke explains that his only mission is to make peace with the Indians.  He has no authority to intervene in civilian affairs as of right now.  Francisco tells him this means they will have to leave their homes here.  Burke tells him not to decide to leave right now because Maddock has assured him of the town's cooperation.  Felipe is there and he blows up at the mention of Maddock, saying there's no hope for the Mexicans.  He then walks out of the house.

The two women of the house come into the living room.  Francisco introduces his wife and daughter to the major.  Burke is pleased with the appearance of the daughter. 

Outside of Tucson the cavalry has set up an encampment complete with white tents.  Cochise comes to meet and talk with the American commander, but the bad news is that Major Burke is in Tucson and won't return for two more days.  The officer in charge, Captain Lawson, offers to provide Cochise with a cavalry escort into Tucson. 

The arrival of Cochise in Tucson is a shock to the town residents.  Many hold harsh opinions of the Apache chief. 

The cavalry escort goes to the hacienda while the major is still there.  Burke is amazed that Cochise has come to speak with him.  He asks Francisco if he might use his house living room for a meeting place with the Apache chief Cochise?  Felipe tells Francisco not to allow the Indian to set foot in the house.  Burke says Cochise wants to talk about peace.  So Francisco allows the meeting to take place in his house. 

Cochise tells the major that this is Apache land.  The Mexicans tried to take it from them, so they fought the Mexicans.  And he has fought the Americans, but he does not like to because the Americans just keep coming and always with improved firearms.  He does not want to fight the Americans.  He asks the major if he is here to stay?  The reply is:  "We're here to stay."

Felipe comes downstairs to try and kill Cochise with his pistol, but his niece stops him. 

Cochise says he will be for peace, but his people may be for war.  In that case, they will choose a different chief for the tribe.  He goes on to tell the major to bring his men to Donnelly Pass and they will either give him a pledge of peace or a declaration of war. 

At another time Burke come calling on Francisco's daughter Consuelo.  She is doing some crochet and continues to do so even after the major has sat down in a chair across from her.  He asks her if she would like some champagne?  Yes.  She plays it very aloof toward the major, but he's not easily deterred.

The cavalry heads out to Donnelly Pass where the Chiricahua Apache wait for them.  Cochise presents a promise of peace.  The cavalry leaves peacefully. 

The cavalry escort Francisco and his family (except for Filipe) to the border with Mexico.  Consuelo tells him that she hopes their being in Mexico will not stop the major from visiting them. 

The Comanche do not like the idea of peace with the white man and are upset with Cochise.  Running Cougar wants the Comanche to keep on raiding into Mexico.  The chief does not agree, but Running Cougar says he does not fear Cochise at all and he and his followers will continue to raid into Mexico.

The Comanche are chasing after a lone Mexican as he races to Francisco's hacienda.  The lone rider reaches the hacienda and the man tells Francisco that the Indians are coming at them.  These same Indians have already raided several ranches in the area.  The attack begins and it looks like the Mexicans may be overwhelmed by the Comanche.  But then Cochise and his braves arise and they fight the Comanche off.  Afterwards Cochise says that the Comanche come here against the will of Cochise.  He adds that he can speak for the Apache, but not the Comanche. 

In the skirmish Cochise killed Running Cougar, the brother of Red Knife of the Comanche.  Therefore, if Cochise and the Apache try to stop the Comanche again, it will mean war.  Cochise tells the Comanche messenger that if the Comanche want war, then they will get war.  Tukuwa of the Apache says he does not want to war against the Comanche.  Most of the others agree with Tukuwa.  So Cochise says he will think about it and give them their answer a little later. 

Cochise talks over the situation with his wife.  He says he will go to Tucson to discuss the matter with Major Burke.  He hopes they can work out the problem together. Cochise now tells his wife that she will go with him to Tucson. 

Maddock speaks with Filipe in the bar.  He tells him that Cochise is coming here to Tucson to see his buddy Major Burke.  Filipe is disgusted.  He says that there has been so much raiding in Mexico that his family is coming back to Tucson.  Maddock gives Filipe one of the new army rifles.  He wants Filipe to kill Cochise.

At twilight Filipe shoots the wife of Cochise, like the Indians killed his own wife many years ago. Cochise returns home.  He tells the war-ready Apache that he will ask Major Burke to come to the village and prove that it was not a soldier that killed his wife.  If he cannot, then the Apaches will fight the whites.  To insure that Major Burke will come, he wants Tukuwa to grab a hostage dear enough to the major that he will come to the Indian village.

Maddock is outside of the hacienda.  He sees Filipe walking by and grabs him.  He wants to know how it went with getting Cochise.  But Tukuwa shows up with his band of Apache.  Maddock is shot in the back with an arrow and Filipe is knocked out with the butt of a rifle.  Tukuwa goes into the house.  He walks into the room where Consuelo is crocheting. 

Consuelo is now a hostage of the Apaches.  She is placed in a lodge, but she soon walks outside and yells for Cochise.  Cochise looks at her, but he is deeply immersed in the death ceremony for his wife.  He sets a fire to the lodge containing the body of his wife. 

The next day Cochise speaks with Consuelo to explain why she is being held as a hostage.  She will remain a hostage until the major brings them the murderer or proves that it wasn't a soldier who killed the wife of Cochise. 

Felipe and Francisco urge Burke with their help to attack Cochise and his people.  Burke just can't believe that Cochise would break his word.  So he tells the others that he will go to the camp of Cochise and hear his side of the story.

The Apache watch Burke as he approaches the village.  Cochise is informed and says he will go out to meet the major. He gives the major four days to come up with the proof it was not a soldier or bring the guilty soldier to him.  If the major fails to do this, war will commence. 

Cochise explains to Consuelo that she must stay until Burke acts.  Considering the situation, Cochise and Consuelo talk a lot with each other and Consuelo wants to learn as much as she can about the Apache way of life.  She has grown very attached to him.  She even kisses him. 

Cochise meets with the Apache concerning war with the whites. 

Burke learns that the soldier who had the murder rifle left it at Maddox bar.  This get Burke thinking.  Wasn't Filipe with Maddox the night of the raid?  Yes. So Burke goes to talk with Filipe.  He asks him to think of Consuelo.  He gets Felipe to accompany him to the camp of Cochise.  The Apache grab Burke and Felipe as they approach the village.  They bring the two men to see Cochise.  Felipe admits he tried to kill Cochise, but killed his wife instead.  He says he is sorry about the loss of his wife.  Cochise is skeptical of the man's story, so Burke says that on another occasion Filipe tried to kill Cochise.   Consuelo tells Cochise that the story is true and he believes her.  Cochise says the Apache will not war with the whites.  But he wants to keep Filipe.  Burke insists that the man be tried in an American court of law and Cochise agrees. 

Consuelo is free to go, but she tells Burke no.  "I am going to stay here."  When Felipe hears this, he grabs his knife and tries to kill Cochsise.  Burke struggles with Felipe and an Apache shoots an arrow into the bad man's back.  Consuelo rushes over to Felipe but he is already dead.   

Cochise explains the situation to the Comanche.  The Comanche chief says that now Cochise will suffer three deaths: one for killing Running Cougar, for the deaths of Apace warriors and so that he will no longer interfere between Redman and Redman in facing the whites.  The first death is the death by boiling springs.  He is laid above a boiling hot spring.  Then he faces death by small knife cuts.  And, finally, he will face death by fire at the stake.  Cochise survives the first two deaths.  As the chief tries to light the fire, the cavalry arrive and shoot down the Comanche chief.

A fire fight breaks out, but Cochise is saved.  Consuelo had gotten word to the major.  There are so many Comanche that Cochise says it's no use.  But now coming to the rescue are the Apache of Cochise. 

Consuelo is still with Cochise, but  Cochi8se has to tell her his people will not accept her as an Apache wife.  He tells her to go back to Tucson with Major Burke.  She leaves and goes with Major Burke.  (It turns out there is no law that an Apache chief has to marry within his people.  Cochise comments:  "I know.")

 

 

There is very little truth to the film story.  In Arizona Cochise and his people, the Chiricauhua Apache, did not even live near Tucson.  They were more located around the area where Fort Bowie was built.  Their stronghold was the Dragoon Mountains in southeastern Arizona.  Gen. Crook, thought to be the greatest of the Indian fighters, captured Cochise.  The Apache later escaped, but ended up on a reservation in New Mexico. 

The story as it goes is okay.  But, again, it just isn't true. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


Historical Background:

 

1805  --  Cochise born into the Chokonen band of the Chiricahua Apache.

The traditional home of the Chiricahua was in the northern region of Sonora, Mexico, and what became New Mexico and Arizona. 

Over time, the Chiricahua became increasingly dependent upon food rations from the Mexican government.

1830s --  Cochise married Dos-Teh-Seh, the daughter of Mangas Coloradas. 

1831  --  the food ration program ended and the Chiricahua bands went back to raiding for food. The Mexicans tried to stop the raids, but the resistance from chief Cochise was too great. 

In despair, the Mexicans turned to killing any Chiricahua they found, including Cochise's father.

This just made Cochise madder and more determined. 

1832  --  Tom Jeffords, future peace negotiator with the Apaches, is born in Chautauqua, New York. 

1842  -  Cochise and his wife have a child named Taza.

1848  --  during an Apache raid on Fronteras, Sonora, the Mexicans finally captured Cochise.  They let him go, however, in exchange for nearly a dozen Mexican hostages.

1850  --  the US annexed a great deal of Chiricahua territory.  A period of peace ensued.  During this time, Cochise was a woodcutter at the stagecoach station in Apache Pass. 

1856 --  Cochise and his wife had a child named Naiche. 

1861  --  an Apache raiding party drove away a local rancher's cattle and kidnapped his twelve-year-old son. The whites falsely accused Cochise and five others of the crime.  (The real perpetrators were the Coyotero band of Apaches).

Lt. George Bascom asked the six men to report to the fort.  When they came in, they were arrested. 

During an escape attempt, one of the prisoners was killed.  Cochise was shot three times but got away.  Both sides took hostages to negotiate with the other.  In what became known as "The Bascom Affair", both sides ended up killing their hostages.  In retaliation, Bascom hung the brother and two nephews of Cochise. 

Cochise and  his father-in-law Mangas Coloradas ("Red Sleeves"), chief of the Bedonkohe Chiricahua Apache, killed many whites in retaliatory raids.

The response by  the United States Army, was to send in General James Carleton to put down the Apache bands.

1862  --  Tom Jeffords comes west to what became Arizona and works as a scout.  In the early 1870s he serves as peace negotiator with Cochise. 

1862  --  at the Battle of Apache Pass, Cochise and Mangas Coloradas (500 fighters)  held their ground against California volunteers (3,000 fighters) under Gen. Carleton.  But the Apaches quickly retreated when howitzer artillery was fired at them.  Gen. Carleton became the territorial commander of New Mexico territory.  It was one of the largest battles between the Americans and the Chiricahua during the Apache Wars.

1863 (January)  --  Gen Joseph Rodman West captured Mangas Coloradas by duping him into a conference under a flag of truce. Later they executed him. 

throughout the 1860s  -- the Apaches kept up their raids. 

Cochise was driven into the Dragoon Mountains.

1871  --  General George Crook took over command.  Using Apache scouts, he was able to force Cochise's men to surrender.

1871 (September)  --  Cochise was captured.

1872  --  the Chiricahua went to the Tularosa Reservation in New Mexico.   Cochise escaped and renewed the raids. 

Tom Jeffords and General Oliver O. Howard (for whom Howard University is named) negotiated a new treaty granting some concessions to Cochise.  Cochise retired to an Arizona reservation, where he died of natural causes.

1875  --  the local whites called Jeffords an "Indian lover" and worked so hard to undermine him that Jeffords was relieved as the Indian agent

1914  -- death of Tom Jeffords.  In his years after his firing as Indian agent, Jeffords worked as a stage coach driver, gold prospector and deputy sheriff of Tombstone, AZ.

Source: Indian Wars DVD documentary series (3 discs)

 

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