Military Wiki
Mangas Coloradas
Born c. 1793
Died January 18, 1863 (aged 69–70)
Successor Victorio

Mangas Coloradas, or Dasoda-hae ("He Just Sits There") (c. 1793 – January 18, 1863) was an Apache tribal chief and 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. He was the father-in-law of Chief Cochise and 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. The name Mangas Coloradas is the reception of his Apache nickname Kan-da-zis Tlishishen ("Red Shirt" or "Pink Shirt") by Mexicans and is Spanish for Red Coloured Sleeves. A Bedonkohe (Bi-dan-ku - 'In Front of the End People', Bi-da-a-naka-enda - 'Standing in front of the enemy') 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.

Mangas Coloradas' son and namesake (1884).[1]

Apache war leader

During the decades of the 1820s and 1830s, the Apaches' main enemy were the Mexicans, who had won their independence from Spain in 1821. By 1835 Mexico had placed a bounty on Apache scalps. After Juan José Compas, the leader of the Mimbreno Apaches, was killed for bounty money in 1837, Mangas became a war leader and began a series of retaliatory raids against the Mexicans.

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. According to John C. Cremony's book, Life Among the Apaches, in 1851, near Pinos Altos mining camp, Mangas was attacked by a group of White miners who tied him to a tree and severely flogged him. Yet historian Edwin R. Sweeney finds issue with this claim in his biography of the chief: if it was true, Geronimo, who spent a great deal of time with Mangas during the 1850s and 1860s, would have mentioned that as a reason for the war, yet he did not mention it to his biographer.

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.

Mangas Coloradas' daughter Dos-Teh-Seh married Cochise, principal chief of the Chokonen Apache. 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 Americans out of Apache territory. They were joined in their effort by Victorio, 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.


In the summer of 1862, after recovering from a bullet wound in the chest, Mangas Coloradas met with an intermediary to call for peace. 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. 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 Mangas was tortured, shot and killed "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.[2] Daklugie, one of informants in Eve Ball's book,[3] said the skull went to the Smithsonian Institution. However, the Smithsonian has done a thorough search for the skull, and reports that it never received it. Mangas' descendants and sources based on their testimony may have confused the Smithsonian with Fowler's Phrenological Cabinet in New York, where the skull was on display, leading to the misattribution. Another possible fate of Mangas' skull was that the skull was returned to the Apaches by the Smithsonian in a 1990 transfer but was not individually labeled.[4]

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.

Appearances in literature

  • Life Among the Apaches (1868) by John C. Cremony.
  • The Bandits from Rio Frio (1889) by Manuel Payno.
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970) by Dee Brown.
  • Flashman and the Redskins (1982) by George MacDonald Fraser.
  • Blood Meridian (1985) by Cormac McCarthy.
  • Firestar by Coyote (2011) by A.A. Randazzo.


  1. Legends of America: Mangas Coloradas
  2. Fowler, O.S. 1873. Human Science or Phrenology. p. 1193. (Available digitally via Google Books [1])
  3. Ball, Eve; Henn, Nora; Sanchez, Lynda A. (1988). Indeh: An Apache Odyssey (reprint). University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-2165-3. 
  4. The Apaches: Destined for Change

Further reading

  • Etulain, Richard W. New Mexican Lives: A Biographical History. University of New Mexico Center for the American West, University of New Mexico Press, 2002. ISBN 0-8263-2433-9
  • Haley, James L. Apaches: A History and Culture Portrait. University of Oklahoma Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8061-2978-6.
  • Sweeney, Edwin R. Mangas Coloradas: Chief of the Chiricahua Apaches. University of Oklahoma Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8061-3063-6
  • Yarbrough, Leroy. 1968. The Apache and the Sioux. REAL WEST magazine.

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).