March 17, 2015

The Death of Mangas Colorado: "The Greatest Wrong Ever Done to the Indians"

Mangas Colorado was an important Apache warrior/leader who fiercely fought to protect his people's land from encroaching Mexicans and Anglos.  His capture by the first whites to eventually settle in the Prescott area on January 17th, 1863 would start a series of events that would produce a bitterness that kept murderous hostilities brewing in Arizona for almost an additional quarter of a century.

Spurned on by atrocities of racial cleansing, Mangas retaliated and became a very feared man.  January, 1863 would find Mangas in the same area as a group of gold seekers known as the Walker Party.  (Who would eventually become the first white settlers in the Prescott area.) Mangas was known to kill such bands of whites on sight.  So on January 17, 1863 Walker Party members laid a trap for Mangas saying that they wanted to talk peace.  Many accounts relate that Mangas knew it was a trap, but went in alone anyway.

Daniel E. Conner, "last surviving member" of the Walker Party wrote about the incident later in life: "Captain Walker laid plans to capture the notorious old chief Mangas Colorado...and a squad of us succeeded in his capture without firing a shot and brought (him) up to camp..."

Soon, a General Joseph R. West took charge of the prisoner and things quickly deteriorated.

According to West's report of the incident, Mangas was captured in battle and killed trying to escape from six guards.  However, Daniel Conner, who compiled a 1000 page journal during the Walker expedition was keen to get the truth out. 

Fort Whipple
The story of a group of Mexican volunteers fighting proudly during the Indian Conflicts in Yavapai county, Arizona.

In a letter that was eventually published in the March 26th, 1915 edition of the Prescott Journal Miner, Connor wrote that instead of six, there were only two army guards who had "been burning the Old Chief's feet and legs with red-hot bayonets."  When Mangas protested, the soldiers took it as an excuse for saying that he was trying to escape and shot him dead.  "There is no hearsay in this," Connor continued, "for it was all done in my presence while I was on guard for the Walker Party."

For the Indians, the idea of a leader being murdered under a flag of truce to talk peace was entirely outrageous and unacceptable, but how his body was treated afterward was worse.  First, he was scalped and buried in a waste ditch.  At some point his head was cut-off and the flesh boiled-off so that the skull could be shipped back east for study.  A scientist examining Mangas' brain cavity declared that it was bigger than Daniel Webster's. (*2)

Story of how Skull Valley, Arizona earned its name as a killing field.

These atrocities caused the Apache warriors to start another campaign against the whites; sure that they could not be trusted.

However, it wasn't just the Apaches who were outraged.  Two years prior to his death, Mangas allied (by giving his daughter in marriage) to Cochise of the Chiricahua people. The Chiricahuas were so infuriated, that they kept up the fight against the whites for another 23 years! 

So deep was this scar, that a survey of Chiricahua Apaches over a century later, in the 1970s. showed that while few remembered Pearl Harbor, many still could recall the murder of Mangas Colorado.

The great Geronimo once described the torture, murder and desecration of Mangus Colorado as "perhaps the greatest wrong ever done to the Indians."

Tourist Tip:

Although it's a long way from Prescott, the Chiricahua National Monument (in southeastern Arizona) is worth the visit! 
CLICK HERE for information on the Chiricahua National Monument

Story of the 10th Cavalry’s time at Whipple Barracks, Prescott, AZ from 1885-6. The town was impressed by the troops & entertained by its band.



Drew's book is now available!

Available in paperback and Kindle!


Paperback: $21.99

Kindle ebook $12.99 

CLICK HERE for Amazon (PB or Kindle)


Also available at:

Western Heritage Center, 156.5 Montezuma (Whiskey Row)


And everywhere Prescott history books are sold!


Prescott Journal Miner March 26,1915 page 3, cols. 2 & 3

For a short biography of Mangas (Mangus) Colorado, the author suggests:

Did You Know... that #PrescottAZHistory publishes a new article every other week on Sundays? Follow the blog in one of the following social media to be sure you get the latest article!

Want more Prescott history? Join the "Celebrating Historic Prescott" group.
(Daily pics and featured articles.)
Drew Desmond is on Facebook (For the latest article.)

Follow the Prescott AZ History Blog on Twitter @PrescottAZHist
(Daily pic featured at 6:30 am & 6:30pm and featured articles.)

Prescott AZ History is on Pinterest
(For the latest article.)

Follow PrescottAZHistory on Instagram

No comments:

Post a Comment