Friday, January 18, 2008

January 18

On this date 145 years ago, Mangas Colorado -- known to his fellow Beonkohes Apache as Red Sleeves -- was shot to death near Pinos Altos, New Mexico, while in the custody of a detachment of California Volunteers. Colorado, a towering warrior who had battled Mexicans and Anglo miners for decades, became an especially important target during a brutal conflict between the Apache and the United States Army that erupted during the early years of the American Civil War. In July 1862, Mangus Colorado and his son-in-law Cochise engaged the California Volunteers under Colonel James H. Carleton at the Battle of Apache Pass; only when a howitzer was unlimbered did the skirmish turn in favor of the Americans. Over the next six months, the California Volunteers conducted a ruthless campaign against the Apache, sacking villages and killing whomever they could manage.

By early 1863, the aging and wounded warrior -- who was indeed nearing 72 years old -- sought to arrange a peace. He was asked to come to Ft. McLane for consultation with US officials, who offered blankets, flour, beef and other supplies to Mangus Colorado and his people if they would resettle near the white settlement of Apache Tejo. The chief agreed to the arrangement, which turned out to be merely a pretext for taking him into custody on January 17, 1863.

In a letter written two years later, Joseph G. Knapp, a judge in New Mexico’s third district, described the events that followed just after midnight, January 18.
[Mangus Colorado was confined in the guardhouse; that night he was aroused from his sleep, some say that a soldier threw something and hit him, and others that he was punched with a pole, and because he raised himself up to see what had disturbed his sleep, he was instantly perforated with bullets and killed. Next morning at day dawn his lodge was attacked, and his wife and daughter shared the fate of husband and father. Not content with having killed a prisoner of war, without cause, your soldiers tore the scalp from his head and severed his head from his body, and after boiling the flesh, they exhibited the skull as a badge of honor, while the scalps of himself, his wife and daughter are worn as ornaments.
Cochise led reprisal attacks against the Union army and white settlers in New Mexico for years to come. The Cochise War, as it came to be known, raged for nearly a decade longer. The broader Apache resistance continued until 1886, when Geronimo surrendered with a mere 16 warriors at his side.

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