Making Peace With Cochise: The 1872 Journal of Captain Joseph Alton Sladen, edited by Edwin R. Sweeny, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1997, $24.95.
On July 5, 1872, Special Orders No. 154 directed Brig. Gen. Oliver O. Howard and 1st Lt. Joseph A. Sladen, Howard’s aide-de-camp, to Arizona Territory to convince Chiricahua Apache Chief Cochise to end a bloody conflict that had lasted 12 years. Arriving at Fort Apache in August, Howard and Sladen had little luck locating the legendary Cochise until meeting Tom Jeffords on September 7.
“We were warned that he was a suspicious character,” Sladen wrote, “and that we must be very wary in our dealings with him; that his dealings with Cochise were suspected to be of a very unsavory character, and that he was believed to have furnished the latter with arms and ammunition with which to murder and plunder. How erroneous this idea of the man was, we were soon to learn.” Indeed, Jeffords would lead Oliver to Cochise on October 1, and the Apache would agree to a treaty that brought peace to Arizona for more than three years.
Cochise, Sladen wrote, “was a remarkably fine looking man, fully six feet tall [he was actually 5-foot-10 or 5-11], as straight as an arrow, and well proportioned….He carried himself at all times with great dignity, and was always treated by those about him with the utmost respect and, at times, fear.”
Sladen’s journal of their two-month quest is an absorbing and riveting account told with admiration for the Apache lifestyle. And it doesn’t lack humor. To wit: “‘How do you like your meat?’ asked Jeffords. ‘Well enough,’ I replied, ‘though it seemed rather coarse and tough for antelope, wasn’t it?’ ‘Yes, it was rather coarse for antelope, but it was good enough for old dead horse, and that it just what it was,’ said Jeffords.”
Making Peace With Cochise includes an introduction and epilogue by Edwin R. Sweeny, author of Cochise: Chiricahua Apache Chief. Sweeny corrects Sladen’s mistakes and adds insight to an important part of AmericanApache history.
Johnny D. Boggs