cover image The Wrath of Cochise: The Bascom Affair and the Origins of the Apache Wars

The Wrath of Cochise: The Bascom Affair and the Origins of the Apache Wars

Terry Mort. Pegasus (Norton, dist.), $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-60598-422-3

This enthralling chronicle of cultural misunderstandings far surpasses the title’s parameters. Mort (The Hemingway Patrols) examines the 1861 kidnapping of the 12-year-old son of a white Arizona rancher, the U.S. army’s efforts to find him, and the decades of cross-cultural violence that ensued when the army blamed the wrong guy. The author contends that Lt. George Bascom’s mistaken conviction that local native chief Cochise ordered the kidnapping was a result of Bascom’s ignorance of power dynamics between groups of Chiricahuas, one of many populations whites referred to as “Apache,” a term without organizational meaning for those to whom it was ascribed. Mort is as equally thorough in describing white society’s views of the natives as he is in illuminating the complex Chiricahuas, their precise and imagery-laden language, leadership structures, and ideas about revenge. He daringly pushes past conflicting historical records, but is always cautious to clearly signal narrative flourishes. Beyond the thrilling tale of the kidnapping and the Apache Wars, Mort’s history is also a meditation on the metaphysical underpinnings of each belligerent’s ways of thinking, and how the differences between them contributed to the viciousness of the conflict. 16 pages of b&w photos. Agent: Don Fehr, Trident Media Group. (Apr.)