Cochise was born in the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona in 1805. Cochise's father and grandfather had been chiefs of the Central Chiricahua. Cochise married, Dos-teh-seh, the daughter of Mangas Coloradas. They had two sons, Taza and Natchez.
Cochise became an important Apache warrior and took part in a battle with the Mexicans in May 1832 on Gila River. In 1847 Cochise was involved in raids in Sonora and by the 1850s he had emerged as one of the main leaders of the Apache tribe. On the death of Narbona he became war leader of the Chiricahuas. In September 1858, Cochise joined Mangas Coloradas, his father-in-law, in a attack on Fronteras Presido.
On 27th January, 1861, Apaches stole cattle and kidnapped a boy from a Sonoita Valley ranch. Second Lieutenant George Bascom was sent out with 54 soldiers to recover the boy. Cochise met Bascom and told him that he would try to recover the boy. Bascom rejected the offer and instead tried to take Cochise hostage. When he tried to flee he was shot at by the soldiers. The wounded Cochise now gave orders for the execution of four white men being held in captivity. In retaliation six Apaches were hanged. Open warfare now broke out and during the next 60 days 150 white people were killed and five stage stations destroyed.
Cochise and Mangas Coloradas killed five people during an attack on a stage at Stein's Peak, New Mexico. In July, 1861 a war party murdered six white people travelling on a stage coach at Cooke's Canyon. The following year Cochise ambushed soldiers as they travelled through the Apache Pass. The Apaches also attacked stage coaches and in 1869 killed a Texas cowboy and stole 250 cattle. Cochise and his men were pursued but after a fight near Fort Bowie the soldiers were forced to retreat.
In 1872 General Oliver Howard had a meeting with Cochise in the Dragoon Mountains and eventually it was agreed that a reservation would be established for the Chiricahuas in Arizona.
Cochise died of cancer on 8th June, 1874. He was replaced as leader of the Chiricahuas by his son, Taza.