Mangus Colorado (sometimes spelled Mangas Colorado) was the leader of the Warm Springs or Ojo Caliente Apache band of the Chiricahua Apaches during the chaotic early 1800s in the American southwest. This was the tribe, also called the Bendonkohe was the tribe of Apaches to which Geronimo belonged. All the Apache people admired him, and many whites regarded him as the greatest Apache leader of the mid nineteenth century. He was very tall for an Apache, standing over six feet tall with a powerful body and an enormous head. Indian agent Edward Wingfield called him "a noble specimen of the genus homo. He comes up nearer the poetic ideal of a chieftain . . .than any person I have ever seen." He was a war chief, diplomat, and consummate strategist—one who, according to legend, married one daughter to Cochise, another to a Navajo chief, and a third to a leader of the Western Apaches. In a kin-based society, Mangas Coloradas wove a web of obligations that extended from central Arizona to Chihuahua. His name, meaning "red sleeves" in Spanish, reportedly referred to his habit of dipping his arms in the blood of his slain enemies, but many believe this to be propoganda.
Mangus Colorado was born around 1790 at a time when Spanish soldiers were terrorizing the Apache lands from Texas to Arizona. He spent his adult years taking advantage of Mexican decline and decay. From his strongholds in the mountains of western New Mexico, he raided as far south as Durango in north central Mexico. During the Mexican-American war Mangus Colorado sided with the Americans, and joined forces with General Stephen Watts Kearny to seize New Mexico. His relations with whites began to denegrate however, and in 1861 he tried to persuade miners in southwestern New Mexico to leave Chiricahua territory. The miners allegedly tied him to a tree and whipped him, so he and his warriors drove them out with fire and blood. The next couple of years, he and his son-in-law Cochise raided and harassed American troops in the area, and attempted to force miners and settlers to leave their homelands. In 1861 Cochise, Mangus Colorado's son-in-law was arrested by the U.S Army for a kidnapping perpetrated by a rival band. He escaped, but sought revenge on the Army by blocking the stage line. Wagon trains were attacked and miners driven out. Cochise and Mangus Colorado joined forces in opposition not only to the US Army, but to the Army of the confederacy that attempted to move into the southwest from Texas during 1862.
In 1863 members of mountain man Joseph Walker's party of gold seekers lured the old chief into the deserted mining camp of Pinos Altos to talk peace. Instead, they seized him and delivered him to General Joseph R. West, who had orders to "punish the Gila Apaches, under that notorious robber, Mangus Colorado." That evening, West placed Mangas Coloradas under the guard of two soldiers. According to Daniel Ellis Conner, a member of the Walker party, "About 9 o'clock I noticed that the soldiers were doing something to Mangas, but quit when I returned to the fire and stopped to get warm. Watchmg them from my beat in the outer darkness, I discovered that they were heating their bayonets and burning Mangas's feet and legs. This they continued to do until Mangas rose upon his left elbow, angrily protesting that he was no child to be played with. Thereupon the two soldiers, without removing their bayonets from their Minie muskets each quickly fired into the chief, following with two shots each from their navy six-shooters. Mangas fell back into the same position . . . and never moved." The savagery did not end with the Apache chief's death. First the soldiers scalped Mangus Colorado with an "Arkansas toothpick," a Bowie knife, then they cut off his head and boiled it in a pot so they could send his skull to a phrenologist, who determined that it was larger than Daniel Webster's. Geronimo as would characterize the murder by the whites of Mangus Colorado,as "perhaps the greatest wrong ever done to the Indians."
The desecration of his corpse outraged the Chiricahuas as much as his betrayal and murder. These events angered a series of Chiricahua war chiefs— Cochise, Victorio, Juh—who carried on his fight for the next twenty-three years.