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The Enigma of Mangas Coloradas

Living, Mangas Coloradas was an enigma; dead more than one hundred years, his demise has been equally mysterious. Chief of the murderous Copper Mine band of Apache Indians, who ranged much of southern New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico, he was, physically, a giant among a nation of people of medium stature, an outstanding warrior leader of a people who made savage warfare a way of life, and, what had been unknown among the Apache before him, a clever and astute statesman.

New Mexico Historical Review, October 1966, vol. Xli, no. 4, p. 287.

Copyright by the  University of New Mexico Board of Regents. Posted  electronically by permission. All rights reserved.

The Enigma of Mangas Coloradas’ Death

By Lee Myers

Living, Mangas Colobadas was an enigma; dead more than one hundred years, his demise has been equally mysterious. Chief of the murderous Copper Mine band of Apache Indians, who ranged much of southern New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico, he was, physically, a giant among a nation of people of medium stature,[1] an outstanding warrior leader of a people who made savage warfare a way of life, and, what had been unknown among the Apache before him, a clever and astute statesman.[2]

He has been described as being “considerably over six feet in height” and of massive proportions;[3] his prowess in battle was legendary. These two things alone would have made him a marked man among his people. The Apache have long been known as a group of related bands, loosely knit politically. The various divisions, roving and making war whenever and wherever they pleased, were never inclined to consolidate for greater strength. Mangas saw in this a weakness, which he attempted to overcome by offering three of his daughters in marriage to leading men of as many neighboring tribes, or bands, thus building an alliance heretofore foreign to his nation.

His own Copper Mine band had become the scourge of southwestern New Mexico. No white settlement or immigrant train was safe from their savage attacks except through numbers and constant vigilance. When the War Department withdrew the troops from Arizona and New Mexico to be dispatched to the eastern theater of the Civil War, Indian atrocities increased by leaps and bounds. Mangas and his followers were blamed for the lion’s share of these outrages.

When the troops were withdraw; steps were taken in California to organize large numbers of volunteers to take their place in policing the southwestern frontier. Before these citizens turned soldiers could reach their assigned stations, however, the red raiders did much damage and shed much blood. Consequently, when their commander in the Department of New Mexico, Brigadier General James Henry Carleton,[4] took over from his predecessor, feeling ran high against the Indians. As Carleton’s men and officers spread out over the state, reoccupying abandoned military installations and establishing new ones, when the need arose, orders were issued and reissued to “fight the Indians where you find them” and to “kill them where you fight them.” On March 5, 1863, Brigadier General Joseph R. West,[5] commanding the District of Arizona, wrote from Mesilla to Captain William McCleave, at Fort West: “—on foot or mounted, your troops are to make war against the Indians. That must be the business of your command .... Indian women and children are to be taken captives when possible and reported to these headquarters, but against the men you are to make war, and war means killing.”[6]

When the California Volunteers reached southern New Mexico in 1862, Mangas and his band were quite active in the neighborhood of what is now Silver City, harassing the miners of the newly discovered gold fields at Pinos Altos, waylaying any wagon train or stray party of travelers passing through rugged and isolated Cook’s Canyon,[7] a few miles north of present day Deming, and otherwise raising particular Hades throughout the area.

So sagacious was Mangas and so bloody the deeds of his followers that it was soon decided that they should receive the primary attentions of the troops. Accordingly, in January 1863, General West launched an expedition into the Pinos Altos country to strike at the root of the trouble—Mangas and his immediate followers.[8]

Sometime during the night of January 18, Mangas was killed while under guard of the soldiers at abandoned Fort McLane.[9] The circumstances of his death have been very sketchily covered, a little here and a little there, often biased according to the views or aspirations of the writers. It has been variously reported as taking place at Fort McLane or Fort West, New Mexico, or in Arizona. It has been said that he was killed while attempting to escape from his guards, and that his guards aggravated him into attempting to escape in order that they might kill him. Although research into the subject has turned up material that throws some light on all of these allegations, much of it is contradictory, and at this late date it is improbable that all of the contradictions will ever be clarified. Perhaps the proper approach to the problem would be to present interested readers with a summary of the conflicting evidence so that he may realize the enormity of the conflict and endeavor to form his own opinion as to what may have happened.

The William McCleave Collection of Papers and Memoirs, in the possession of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, includes a multi‑paged, typed account entitled “Our Scout to Black Cañon.” This describes an expedition from Fort West against the Apache, under the command of Major William McCleave. The version of the apprehension of Mangas Coloradas and his subsequent death is as follows:

It was here, too, that the warrior, so well known and dreaded—Mangas Colorado, or Red‑Sleaves . . . rode his fierce raids of plunder and death; and here, but a short time after the establishment of the post . . . that he of the red‑sleaves met his fate from the bullet of a cavalry sergeant; not as such a warrior might be expected to meet, but while drunk, and a prisoner in the guard‑house.... The white flag had hung amicably from the garrison . . . for several days, before any of the Indians came into camp, from their hiding places in the surrounding mountains. A squaw came in first‑came with great trepidation; she was well treated, and told to bring others in; next day came men, women and children; they were fed and given small presents; but at last came him for whom all the display had been made . . . neither they nor we relaxed proper vigilance, and it needed no twice telling to leave the camp at sunset. Every morning they would return . . . and leave at night as before; neither putting faith in the other . . . . A temporary treaty was . . . desirable ... and as it seemed equally agreeable to Mangas, we managed to keep up amicable appearances for some time. But Mangas had a weakness for whiskey .... This article was not scarce in camp… and our visitors took readily all they could get. One day it occurred that Mangas being unusually social, toddies of unusual strength and frequency were wasted on him . . . until toward evening he, surreptitiously obtaining a bottle full of liquor, swallowed a large portion of it, to the detriment of his locomotive powers . . . . As he now began to get noisy, and might be troublesome, . . . it was deemed advisable to put him in charge of the guard, who were instructed to take care that in his present condition he did not leave until daylight. Mangas was somewhat indignant and disposed to resist when the guard led him off. Like many others, “protesting he would ne’er consent, consented,” he was led off quietly, soon falling into a deep slumber. The night had far advanced to morning before Mangas awoke .... In an instant he was on his feet .... but at that moment the Sergeant of the Guard, loaded carbine at shoulder, stood fronting him. Who shall tell what pictures of woe and desolation ... in which the Apache chief was the principal figure, moved before the soldier’s vision, and nerved his hand and heart to send a bullet surely into the Apache’s brain? ... And thus died the red‑sleaved chief . . . and life at this post was monotonous diversified only by careful scrutiny for Indian signs . . . and by the interest in the skeleton of Mangas, as prepared by the Post Surgeon. It was the wonder of all who saw it, and was described by the Surgeon as a marvel of size, symmetry, and closeness of bone texture. The skull was particularly noticeable from the breadth of forehead and jaw, and from possessing two complete sets of teeth in each jaw ... so wide was the lower jaw that nearly any man at the post could put his face inside it without contact.

This effusion was never finished or signed. At first glance it might appear to have been written by McCleave, but further examination reveals very laudatory references to the Major’s character, ability, and courage, which is definitely unlike McCleave. His memoirs and the records of Society of California Volunteers,[10] who sponsored most of the collection, show him to have been modest and self‑effacing in the extreme. According to John Barr Tompkins, Head of Public Services, Bancroft Library, a Doctor George Gwyther, Post Surgeon at Camp Cady, California, was paid thirty‑nine dollars by the Overland Monthly in 1870 for his rights to the story, making him the probable author.[11]

In evaluating this version of Mangas’ death it should be remembered that it was written several years after the incident, as a reminiscence, and although the writer does so imply, it is very questionable whether he was present at the time he claims it happened.

Perhaps the most widely circulated version is that written by Daniel Ellis Conner, narrating the experiences of a party of prospectors in New Mexico and Arizona in the early 1860’s.[12] Practically besieged by the Apache, the party of thirty‑three camped for several months at abandoned Fort McLane. They were joined in January 1863 by units of the California Volunteers. Their joint camp was among the “ruins of an old fort ... made of pine logs.” Conner gives the date as February, but Army reports establish it as January. Conner’s spelling of the fort’s name is McLean, an erroneous spelling extensively used, even by the military stationed there during its official activity. The location is given as eight miles north of the “old Southern Route to Calif.,”[13] and about twenty miles east of “Burro Mountain.” Another twenty miles to the northwest was the “Pene Alto” gold field. Conner continues the narrative as follows:

Capt. Walker’s intention was now settled on . . . [an] effort to cross the main ridge to the Pacific side by a western course by the foot of Burro Mt.[14] But concluded that if we could capture by strategy one of the chiefs of the Apaches, to hold as a hostage for their good conduct, we would be able to proceed with less difficulty, and began to plan a course by which this end might be carried out. The federal head chief of all the Apaches was a notorious personage and was known to keep his headquarters near Pinos Altos at the time .... The pronunciation of his name by the Mexicans . . . was Mangus Colorado .... This is the big brave that we concluded to entrap . . . . In the meantime while the advance guard of some Calif. troops en route for the war in the states arrived at our encampment under the command of Capt. Sherland [sic] of the U.S. Army. He said that he had espied our fresh trail and tracked us up to see who we were. He had thirty or forty soldiers with him and informed us that several hundred more were behind him under the command of Gen. West, Maj. McClane,[15] and others.

We were glad to see them, being the only white men that we had seen for many months. Our pro tern Capt. J. W. Swilling, was ready now to proceed after Mangus and invited the Capt. and his soldiers to go with us to Pinos Altos, some of whom accepted the invitation. We started, leaving some of each party at the old fort in camp. We arrived at Pinos Altos before night and remained until morning and succeeded by hoisting the white flag of drawing some Indians into our sight. The proposition to make a treaty was entertained by the Indians at a distance. The negotiations were conducted in broken Spanish on both sides, and after a long and tedious indulgence of prudential precautions by both parties they approached to a point within easy talking distance. The professions of friendship were here so extremely indulged by both of these high contracting parties, lent at once a patent impunity to a common treachery that froze their words of love into such hostile motives as might offer the best advantage to be taken in deadly conflict. Mangus and three or four of his followers came up, but the main body of his men remained back on the hillside amongst a profusion of boulders.

Our men now presented their guns and ordered Mangus to stand still and surrender, which he did in surprise.

We asked him to tell his people that his safety depended on their good conduct toward us, and that if they would let us travel in peace for ‘ten moons,’ we would send him back in safety to them.

He talked to his people in gutterals toward the last so that we could not understand him, and his face wore an air of care and perplexity.

We hurried Mangus off to our camp at old Ft. McLean and arrived in time to see Gen. West come up with his command. The Gen. walked out to where Mangus was in custody to see him, and looked like a pygmy beside the old Chief, who also towered above everybody about him in stature .... Our men kept Mangus during that night and the following day the Gen. concluded that he would take charge of Mangus until the old brave accounted for the loss of two wagons and teams, which were lost on the Rio Grande del Norte some months previously .... Two soldier sentinels now took charge of Mangus and kept him all day at a fire built of the old cabin logs of the fort . . . . Our party had been there long enough to form a regularly beaten path a hundred and fifty paces in length on the west side of the camp by walking sentinel night and day. The soldiery formed their adjoining camp and the sentinel beat at right angles to that of ours, so that the two beats came together, forming a right angle at the fire, where old Mangus was lying on his blanket, a prisoner.

One soldier walked their beat and one citizen walked our beat, and two extra sentinels were placed over the person of Mangus. This was the situation when night came on and it was bitter cold on that bleak prairie. I was on guard for the fore part of the night, which was exceedingly dark. Being cold and disagreeable, all but the guard retired to their blankets early and soon left the camp wrapped in profound silence. No fire was kept burning except the one at the junction of the two guard beats, where Mangus lay upon his blankets with his trinket under his head for a pillow.

A while before midnight I noticed Mangus moving now and then, drawing up his feet restlessly and tucking the lower end of his blanket with which he was covered, over one foot with the other. I would walk up to the fire and then walk off in the dark of my beat to which I had become so accustomed that I could follow it without difficulty this dark night. When I arrived at the far and lower end and turned to come back to the fire I noticed that the soldiers were annoying Mangus in some way and they would become quiet and silent when I was about approaching the fire, and keep so until I again walked off in the dark of my beat. But my curiosity as to what they were doing to the old Indian became aroused and as soon as I departed into the dark far enough to get beyond the reflec­tion of the firelight I walked rapidly to the lower end of my beat, then turned and walked leisurely back and observed the sentinels’ pranks.

I could see them plainly by the firelight as they were engaged in heating their fixed bayonets in the fire and putting them to the feet and naked legs of Mangus, who was from time to time trying to shield his naked limbs from the hot steel. When I came up to the fire each time they would become innocent and sleepy and remain so until I departed on my beat again, when they would arouse themselves into the decided spirit of indulging in this barbarous pastime. I didn’t appreciate this conduct one particle, but said nothing to them at the time and really I had some curiosity to see to what extent they would indulge it. I was surprised at their ultimate intentions just before midnight when I was about midway of my beat and approaching the firelight. Just then Mangus raised himself upon his left elbow and began to expostulate in a vigorous way by telling the sentinels in Spanish that he was no child to be played with. But his expostulations were cut short, for he had hardly begun his exclamation when both sentinels promptly brought down their minnie muskets to bear on him and fired, nearly at the same time through his body.

Conner’s narrative continues, describing the scalping of Mangas next day by a member of the California command, and his burial in a nearby gully. Then he writes:

A few nights after this, some soldiers dug Mangus’ body out again and took his head and boiled it during the night, and prepared the skull to send to the museum in New York....

Although Conner misspelled names, was wrong about the month given for the incident, and was mistaken in saying that the California troops were en route to the eastern theater of war,[16] there is little in his story to find fault with except that he seems to imply that his party assumed the initiative in capturing Mangas, with the troops going along in a rather come‑or‑not‑as‑you‑please manner. These soldiers, members of units of the famed California Volunteers under the command of hard‑bitten Brigadier General Carleton and Mexican War veteran Joseph Rodman West, had been in service for two years and had endured one of our history’s most arduous military marches across the deserts of southern California and Arizona.[17] During some six months in New Mexico they had been anything but garrison soldiers, and they certainly did not follow in the footsteps of a party of frontier gold‑seekers, although it is entirely plausible that they may have used them as guides and scouts. It is even possible that the idea of entrapping Mangas was the product of the mind of Joseph Walker, experienced mountaineer leader of Conner’s party. This phase of the story is adequately covered in two official letters, the reports of Captain E. D. Shirland, who brought Mangas into Fort McLane, and of West, who commanded the expedition:[18]

                                    Fort McLane, January 22nd, 1863.


I have the honor to report that in compliance with your orders, I left your command, (then en route to this place) with twenty men of Co. “C,” 1st Cavalry, Cal. Vols., on the evening of the 14th instant for “Los Pinos Altos Mines” in pursuit of a notorious Indian Chief “Mangas Colorado.” Traveling most entirely by night I arrived at Pinos Altos before day, on the evening of the 16th Inst., but Mangas receiving some intimation of my coming fled. I however succeeded in capturing him on the afternoon of the 17th inst., and brought him to this post on the following day ....

                                    I am Captain Your Obt. Servt.

                                    (Signed) E. D. Shirland,

                                    Capt. Co. “C,” 1st Cay. C .V.

To Capt. Wm. McCleave,

1st. Cavalry Cal. Vols. Comdg. Post.

General West’s report was more comprehensive:


                        Headquarters, District of Arizona, Mesilla,

                        January 28, 1863


Capt. Ben. C. Cutler,

Assistant Adjutant‑General, Santa Fe:

I have the honor to report the following progress in compliance with that portion of General Orders, No. 1, 1863, that refers to a campaign against Mangas Colorado’s band of Gila Apaches. The duties assigned the troops operating under the order named was deemed of sufficient importance to induce me to accompany the command in person and to remain with it as long as I thought I could be spared from the permanent headquarters of the district. Capt. Edmund D. Shirland, First Cavalry, California Volunteers, was detached on the 14th instant with twenty men of his company, with orders to proceed in advance of the main body to find Mangas Colorado, known to be in the neighborhood of Pinos Altos. Captain Shirland was to act according to his best judgement in either fighting the chief or getting him into his possession. He rejoined the command on the 18th instant at Fort McLane, bringing Mangas Colorado with him. Although the chief had to Captain Shirland the day previous claimed entire domination over all the country usually ranged by his tribe, and complete authority over all its members, upon being confronted with one and being charged with the atrocities that they had committed, he protested his innocence and endeavored to evade the responsibility. He was made to understand that no such subterfuges would avail him, and that his expressed desire for peace was only instigated by fear of the chastisement which he saw was about to be inflicted upon him and his people. I determined at once that, although the circumstances under which he had voluntarily placed himself in my power would not permit the taking of his life as some retribution for his murders of our people, security for [sic] required that he never should have it again in his power to perpetrate such atrocities. He was told that the remainder of his days would be spent as a prisoner in the hands of the U. S. authorities; that his family would be permitted to join him, and that he and they would be well treated. He was also distinctly told that upon making any attempt to escape his life would be the immediate forfeit. On the following morning at 1 o’clock he was shot dead by the guard, and his death was immediately reported to me. I investigated the matter at once. A sergeant and three privates of Company A, Fifth Infantry, California Volunteers, became his guard at midnight. Within the succeeding hour he made three efforts to escape, and was shot on the third attempt. I have thus dwelt at length upon this matter in order to show that even with a murderous Indian, whose life is clearly forfeited by all laws, either human or divine, wherever found, the good faith of the U. S. Military authorities was in no way compromised. Mangas was to have returned to his tribe at an appointed time. His detention prevented this, and being apprehensive that his people would scatter, alarmed at his absence, I decided to pursue and punish them at once. The steps taken and their result are shown by the accompanying reports of Captains Shirland and McCleave, transmitted herewith.

                                    J. R. West,

                                    Brigadier‑General, Commanding


Shirland’s report has already been quoted; that of McCleave has little bearing on the question of Mangas’ death and will not be given here. However, a verbatim quote of that portion of General Orders No. 1,[19] mentioned in West’s report above, dated Headquarters, Department of New Mexico, Mesilla, January 6, 1863, pertaining to the effort to apprehend Mangas and his followers, is of interest.

[Paragraph] II .... Brigadier‑General West, commanding the District of Arizona, will immediately organize an expedition to chastize what is known as Mangas Colorado’s band of Gila Apaches. The campaign to be made by this expedition must be a vigorous one, and the punishment of that band of murderers and others must be thorough and sharp. The details of the best methods to achieve these results are left entirely with General West.

                                    James H. Carleton,




This order, together with Shirland’s report to McCleave, indicate that Shirland knew just where he was going and why, and that his cooperation with Walker’s party was incidental. The discrepancies between the official reports and Conner’s narrative cause the reader to hesitate about accepting either version in full. It is evident that General Carleton expected West to eliminate the threat of future atrocities by Mangas and was not interested in how this might be accomplished.

Still a fourth version of Mangas’ death, and further description of his apprehension was written by Conner after the publication of his narrative of the adventures of Walker’s party.[20] This complicates the main issue—the exact manner of the chief’s death—even more. Conner’s additional comments, in part, are as follows:

In February, 1863, Capt. E. D. Shirland . . . came trailing into camp, stating that he was the advance guard for a larger force of several companies not far behind under the command of Gen. J. R. West. Captain Walker immediately broached the programme for the next day and Captain Shirland promptly accepted an invitation to take part.

Accordingly the next morning before daylight, to avoid detection and the report of our movements by means of signal smokes, half of each force was on the road toward the Indian camp, arriving quite early in the gap.[21] At Pinos Altos just before the summit was reached, John W. Swilling was put in command by Captain Walker, who remained in camp and who had the soldiers conceal themselves in the chaparral and in the old shacks, hiding every uniform. All was silent; not a human being was seen. Suddenly Swilling issued a war whoop that might have made an Apache ashamed of himself. There was only a short delay when Mangas, a tremendously big man, with over a dozen Indians for bodyguard following, was seen in the distance walking on an old mountain trail toward us, evidently observing us intently. A precipice broke down the mountain between the two parties and the trail bent up to cross it at a shallow place, probably 150 yards from us. Jack left us and walked to meet Mangas, who with his bodyguard slowly but decisively crossed the ravine.

They both could speak broken Spanish. We could not hear what was said, but Swilling looked back at us. We interpreted the look to mean that he wanted to be covered. When our squad suddenly leveled our guns upon the party, for the first time Mangas showed appreciation of his serious position. Swilling went up to him and laid his hand on the chief’s shoulder and finally convinced him that resistance meant destruction of the whole party. They came walking toward us, bodyguard and all. When Swilling told Mangas that his bodyguard wasn’t wanted, he stopped with some gutterals and finally instructed them in Spanish, “Tell my people to look for me when they see me!” When we passed back over the summit the soldiers came out of their concealment, disgusting Mangas beyond measure.

Conner here adds his description of Mangas, as a prisoner at nearby Fort McLane:

He had a head of hair that reached his waist. His nose was aquiline and was his one delicate feature, both in size and form. His receding forehead was in keeping with his receding jaws and chin. His wide mouth resembled a slit cut in a melon, expressionless and brutal.

The editor, to whom Conner wrote this, continues with a fourth version of the killing, allegedly told by Clark B. Stocking,[22] “who was a member of a company of California Volunteers.”

Stocking tells that, the night before, Mangas had been told by Colonel West that he had murdered his last white victim. The old chief replied that for the last five years he had kept his young men from killing the whites. The colonel replied that the Indian had best look down the cañon, where there were white bones of over 100 men, women and children. The officer then, according to Stocking, addressed the guards, James Collyer and George Mead, in this wise. “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 or alive tomorrow morning, do you understand? I want him dead.” About 10 o’clock one of the guards went around in the rear of the adobe [a roofless building at Fort McLane] and threw a large rock against the wall. This caused the old chief to make a sudden start, when he was shot dead by the guard who promptly reported that the Indian had been killed while trying to escape. To assure the death of the chieftain, a sergeant rushed in, pistol in hand and shot him through the head. According to Stocking, his company, in the month of January, 1863, was ordered up to Pinos Altos to subdue Mangas, with whom was supposed to be a force of more than 3,000 Apaches. At Apache Tejo they found Walker, who with a few prospectors was looking up the country, “but they were citizens and were waiting for the soldiers to clear the way.” According to this tale, Mangas was induced to come into camp by Captain Sheldon [sic], who went out to Pinos Altos with a force of twenty men. Stocking believes the killing was justified, though there was no honor in it, “for Mangas had killed many a woman and child besides torturing men by throwing them into a bunch of chollas. He got what he deserved and no one in our command pitied him or cried about it.”

In seeking for the truth surrounding Mangas’ death the interested reader must surely ask how four versions, all of which have been left us by parties who declared, or implied, that they had been present at the time, could be so completely at variance. The reaction of most will be no doubt that someone, perhaps one, involved in these accounts, was guilty of pulling the long bow. Conner’s version appears to bear the light of investigation better than the other unofficial stories; yet it too leaves questions. Archival research lends some credence to Stocking’s version which differs about the circumstances of Mangas’ custody. Official records of the California Volunteers[23] reveal that Stocking was a private in Company A, Fifth Infantry, and that the company was stationed at Mesilla “until January, 1863; then at Pinos Altos until March, 1863,” as Stocking’s account states. Muster rolls of Company A, Fifth Infantry, California Volunteers,[24] turn up a Private James Collyer, and a Private Meade, but the latter’s first name is listed as John V., instead of George. All three of these men were mustered into Company A at Camp Union, California, on October 2, 1861, and were mustered out of service at Mesilla, New Mexico, on November 30, 1864, by reason of expiration of service.

Much has been written in condemnation of the part played in Mangas’ death by the California Volunteers, and of General Carleton’s personal attitude towards the Indians of the Territory of New Mexico. Although the writers are sharp in their condemnation, they are lax in giving a true picture of the precarious and defenseless condition of the frontier when the California men marched in with instructions to make order out of chaos; and of the desperate position of the federal government at that time, buffeted by defeat in the South and bloody ravages by the Indians on the frontier.

Most of the contemporary writers who have related the incident of Mangas’ death condemn the soldiers for decapitating Mangas and placing his head on display. Conner’s account tells of an incident, which occurred shortly before Mangas’ capture and death:[25]

We came in sight of Stein’s Peak ... we saw what we supposed smoke arising from its foot .... Some of the men went to investigate the cause of the smoke and found three white men .... They were hanging by their ankles all in a row to a horizontal piñon limb. Their hands were tied behind them and their heads hung to within a foot of the ground and a little fire had been built under each head. They were dead and the skin and hair had burned off of their skulls, giving them a ghastly appearance as they swung there perfectly naked...

Before we shed too many tears over the brutality of the military, it would be well to remember that they at least waited until the Chief was dead before they cooked his head.

The ascription of the incident to Arizona stemmed from faulty knowledge of the history and geography of the area, and it appears that the California Volunteers were the chief offenders in this respect. Official correspondence from the post of Fort McLane during its period of activity in 1861 designates it as being in New Mexico, but when the Volunteers took over, there and in other sections of southern New Mexico, their correspondence was headed Arizona, or Arizona Territory. The fact that a Military District of Arizona was established, with headquarters at Hart’s Mill, now El Paso, Texas, later transferred to Mesilla, New Mexico, did not help the situation any. Late in 1863 official correspondence again carried the heading New Mexico.26 Later, some writers unfamiliar with these facts apparently assumed that the Chief met his death within the actual borders of Arizona.


1. John C. Cremony, Life Among the Apaches (San Francisco, 1868; reprint, Tucson, 1951), p. 33; William McCleave, Papers and Memoirs as Officer, 1st Cavalry, California Volunteers (hereinafter referred to as McCleave Papers), Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, used by permission of the Director of the Bancroft Library.

2. Cremony, pp. 47‑48.

3. Daniel Ellis Conner, Joseph Reddeford Walker and the Arizona Adventure (Norman, Okla., 1956), pp. 36‑37; McCleave Papers, “Our Scout to Black Cañon.”

4. For a summary of Carleton’s career, see Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1789‑1903, 2 vols. (Washington, D.C., 1903), VOl. i, p. 282.

5. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 1020.

6. West to McCleave, War of the Rebellion, Official Records (hereinafter referred to as Official Records) series 1, vol. 50, part 2, p. 339; L. Myers, “Fort Webster on the Mimbres River,” NMHR, vol. 41 (1966), p. 57, n. 20. Fort West, New Mexico, was on the left, or east, bank of the Gila River. Established February 24, 1863, by Captain William McCleave, with Company A, First Cavalry, and Company D, First Infantry, California Volunteers, the post was designed as a check upon the depredations of the Apache Indians in that area. It was abandoned January 8, 1864, by Captain James H. Whitlock and Company F, Fifth Infantry, California Volunteers.

7. Cook’s Canyon, a rough four‑mile stretch of the Southern Immigrant, and later the Butterfield Mail, road to California, was a favorite Apache spot for ambush. To guard this especially hazardous section, Fort Cummings was established at the eastern entry by Captain Valentine Dresher and his Company B, First Infantry, California Volunteers, on October 2, 1863.

8. Official Records, Series 1, vol. 50, part 2, pp. 296‑97.

9. Fort McLane, established October 9, 186o, by Major Isaac Lynde, with B and G Companies of the Seventh Infantry, was located at Apache Tejo, four miles south of present Hurley, New Mexico. What is believed to be the site of the post is now occupied by the horse corrals of the 2C Cattle Company, just west of U. S. Highway 260, Deming to Silver City. The post was abandoned in June 1861, but was reoccupied temporarily during the Civil War by units of both Confederate and Union troops.

10. McCleave Papers.

11. Tompkins to Lee Myers, November 17, 1965.

12. Conner, p. 12.

13. Conner refers to the Southern Immigrant Trail and that of the Butterfield Overland Mail.

14. Walker’s party was endeavoring to travel west into Arizona but was frustrated by the watchful hostility of the Apache.

15. Major McCleave.

16. All units of the California Volunteers who marched to New Mexico served out their terms of enlistment in the West. Five companies were recruited in California for service with the Second Massachusetts Cavalry but were moved to the East via ship and the Isthmus of Panama. See Orton’s Record of California Men in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1867, Adjutant‑General’s Office, Sacramento, California, P. 848.

17. Aurora Hunt, The Army of the Pacific (Glendale, Calif., 1951), passim.

18. Department of New Mexico, Fort McLane and Fort West, Letters Sent, 1863. National Archives and Records Service, Record Group 98; Official Records, Series 1, vol. 50, part 2, pp. 296‑97.

19. National Archives and Records Service, Record Group 98.

20. James H. McClintock, Arizona‑ Prehistoric ‑ Aboriginal‑ Pioneer (Chicago, 1916), pp. 176‑78.

21. Conner states that “Mangas was in a camp with 500 Indians on the west side of the Cordilleras, just below a gap in which was located Pinos Altos.”

22. McClintock, p. 178.

23. Orton.

24. Orton.

25. Conner, pp. 27‑28.

26. Official Records, chap. 62, Correspondence‑Union and Confederate, Official Correspondence, Department of New Mexico, National Archives and Records Service, Record Group 98; Post Returns, Fort McLane, 1861‑63, ibid. The fort was named for George McLane, who was killed on October 13, 1860, in action against the Navajo at the southern base of Black Rock Navajo country, New Mexico, Heitman, vol. 1, p. 674.