Opinion

Marc Simmons: Mangas Coloradas was powerful Apache chief





Marc Simmons looks at the life of Mangas Coloradas, one of the most powerful Apache leaders:
Who was the greatest Apache chief and warrior of them all? Geronimo, Cochise, Victorio, Nana? Men raised in the border country invariably claimed that honor belonged to Mangas Coloradas.

His name, often misspelled Mangus Coloradas, meant Red Sleeves in Spanish. Whites generally referred to him simply as Mangas.

Standing six feet six in his moccasins, he had a long, thick torso, short bow-legs and a huge head with a hooked nose resembling an eagle’s beak. For sheer ferocity he was unmatched in all Apachedom.

Born about 1795 somewhere in the southwest quarter of New Mexico, Mangas eventually became dominant chief of the Eastern Chiricahuas. His people people ranged from the Rio Grande to the Arizona border.

Pvt. Sylvester Matson saw him at Fort Webster on the Mimbres River in 1852. “He possesses supreme power over the Apache people and thinks a great deal of himself,” the soldier wrote in his diary.

On this occasion, the chief exhibited one of his subjects to the army men. Reported Matson: “This warrior had his nose and pieces of both ears cut off, permanently disfiguring him.

“Mangas told our officer that he had done this [mutilation] to perpetually disgrace him because the man had killed a Mexican and taken his horse and rifle, without permission from the chief.” Mangas at the time was himself wearing the gaudy uniform of a Mexican artillery officer he had slain.

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Trail Dust: Mangas Coloradas was a powerful Apache chief (The Santa Fe New Mexican 7/12)