Monday, December 23, 2013


Even during the holidays, those of us who write historical romance are interested in history. Recently, I found an old copy of WILD WEST MAGAZINE from December 1996. In it was featured an Apache about whom I knew almost nothing, Mangas Coloradas. The name Mangas Coloradas is the translations of his Apache nickname Kan-da-zis Tlishishen (Red Shirt) by Mexicans and is Spanish for Red Coloured Sleeves. His other name was Dasoda-hae, which means He Just Sits There. A Bedonkohe by birth, he married into the Copper Mines local group of the Chihenne and became also leader of the neighboring Mimbreño local group of the Chihenne. He is regarded by many historians to be one of the most important Native American leaders of the 19th century due to his fighting achievements against Mexicans and Americans.

Mangas Coloradas

When I think of Apaches, I picture a shortish person of small frame. Physically impressive, Mangas Coloradas was a giant of a man at six inches over six feet and weighing around 250 pounds. He was extremely intelligent, with a large head, and said to have equaled orator Daniel Webster. Born around 1793. He was a member of the Eastern Chiricahua nation, whose homeland stretched west from the Rio Grande to include most of what is present-day southwestern New Mexico.

During the decades of the 1820s and 1830s, the Apaches' main enemies were the Mexicans, who had won their independence from Spain in 1821. Mangas Coloradas was considered courageous, wise, generous, and always sought peace. Some believe he was a legend in his own time. Mangas Coloradas was a peaceful man until 1837 when the Mexican Government offered a $100 bounty for each Apache Indian scalp. He became chief of the Mimbreño in 1837, after his predecessor, Juan José Compas—together with a number of Mimbreño men, women, and children—had been betrayed and murdered by a group of trappers for the Mexican bounty on their scalps. Mangas Coloradas and his warriors avenged the treachery by slaughtering trapping parties, attacking supply trains to the region, and starving the citizens of Santa Rita, killing the remainder on their attempted escape. For a time the area was cleared of its white and Mexican inhabitants.

In 1846, when the United States went to war with Mexico, the Apache Nation promised U.S. soldiers safe passage through Apache lands. Once the U.S. occupied New Mexico in 1846, Mangas Coloradas signed a peace treaty, respecting them as conquerors of the hated Mexican enemy. An uneasy peace between the Apache and the United States lasted until an influx of gold miners into New Mexico's Pinos Altos Mountains led to open conflict.

In December 1860, thirty miners launched a surprise attack on an encampment of Bedonkohes on the west bank of the Mimbres River. Historian Edwin R. Sweeney reported, the miners "... killed four Indians, wounded others, and captured thirteen women and children." Shortly after that, Mangas began raids against U.S. citizens and their property.

Cochise, by Edward Curtis

Mangas Coloradas' daughter Dos-Teh-Seh married Cochise, principal chief of the Chokonen Apache. Cochise had long resisted fighting whites. In early February 1861, US Army Lieutenant George N. Bascom investigating the "Indian" kidnapping of a rancher's son, apparently without orders, lured an innocent Cochise, his family and several warriors into a trap at Apache Pass, southeastern Arizona. Cochise managed to escape, but his family and warriors remained in custody. Negotiations were unsuccessful and fighting erupted.

This incident, known as the "Bascom Affair," ended with Cochise’s brother and five other warriors being hanged by Bascom. Later that year, Mangas and Cochise struck an alliance, agreeing to drive all whites out of Apache territory. They were joined in their effort by Victorio (supposed to be another of Mangas Coloradas’ sons in law), Juh and Geronimo. Although the goal was never achieved, the White population in Apache territory was greatly reduced for a few years during the Civil War, after federal troops had been withdrawn to the east.


Mangas Coloradas was a skilled strategist in guerrilla warfare. In January 1863, he decided to meet with U.S. military leaders at Fort McLane, in southwestern New Mexico. Mangas arrived under a flag of truce to meet with Brigadier General Joseph Rodman West, an officer of the California militia and a future Reconstruction senator from Louisiana. In spite of the truce, armed soldiers took Mangas into custody. West allegedly gave an execution order to the sentries.

Men, that old murderer has got away from every soldier command and has left a trail of blood for 500 miles on the old stage line. I want him dead tomorrow morning. Do you understand? I want him dead. ”

That night, while tied on the ground, Mangas was provoked with red hot bayonets until he moved to simulate his attempt to escape. Then he was shot "trying to escape." The following day, U.S. soldiers cut off his head, boiled it and sent the skull to Orson Squire Fowler, a phrenologist in New York City. Phrenological analysis of the skull and a sketch of it appear in Fowler's book. The murder and mutilation of Mangas' body only increased the hostility between Apaches and the United States, with more or less constant war continuing for nearly another 25 years.

Mangas Coloradas died January 18, 1863 and is buried in an unmarked plot in Mangas Cemetery,
Grant County, New Mexico.

Souces for post:
Encyclopedia Britania 

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Merry Christmas to all y'all.

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