Desire to Punish the Cheyenne Indians

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It is equally certain that the desire of punishing these Indians was increased, with loyal people, by the belief that their hostility was produced by Southern emissaries. How far their hostility was so produced will never be definitely known, but there was reason for the belief, without doubt. Soon after the beginning of the war the insurgents had occupied Indian Territory and enrolled many Indians in Confederate regiments. The loyal Indians tried to resist, but, after two or three engagements, about seven thousand of them were driven into Kansas. From the men among them three regiments were organized, and the women and children were subsisted out of the annuities of the hostiles. In the latter part of 1862, John Ross, head chief of the Cherokees, announced officially that the Cherokee nation had treated with the Confederate States, and, as is well known, there were several regiments of Indians in the regular Confederate service, besides numbers in irregular relations, among whom were Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Osages, Seminoles, Senecas, Shawnees, Quapaws, Comanches, Wachitas, Kiowas, and Pottawattamies, and none of them regained friendly relations with the United States until the treaty of September 21, 1865. On the south of Colorado the Comanches and Kiowas were at war, with Southern sympathies. The Mescaleros had taken the warpath on the advance of the Texans. To the north it was the same. The Sioux troubles all originated in Minnesota, and concerning them our Consul general in Canada, Mr. Giddings, wrote at the time: “There is little doubt that the recent outbreak in the Northwest has resulted from the efforts of secession agents operating through Canadian Indians and fur traders. The war feeling was so strong among the Sioux that the friendly Yanktons, in 1862, refused to receive their annuities unless a force of soldiers was brought, to protect them from the other Sioux, who insisted on their becoming hostile. As the Minnesota Sioux were driven west the feeling spread everywhere, and ill the winter of 1863-64 ripened into the coalition “to clean out all this country,” while the government had its hands full with the South. With the Indians on all sides of them moved to war by Southern emissaries, the natural supposition is that the Cheyennes and Arapahoes were at war from the same reason, and especially as the Sioux, Comanches, Kiowas, and Apaches were their friends and allies, while the Pawnees, Kaws, and Osages, their hereditary enemies, were in the service of the United States. It was certain that the South had hopes of opening hostility in this region, for in 1863, nineteen rebel officers were killed by friendly Osages, and on their persons were found papers authorizing them to organize the sympathetic; in Colorado and Dakota. White Wolf, a friendly Arapahoe, informed Agent Whitely, in the latter part of August, that the Cheyennes had “declared their intention to take all the forts on the Arkansas when joined by the Texan soldiers,” and this indicated that someone had told them a move in that direction was contemplated. Finally, George Bent, half-breed Cheyenne, son of Colonel Bent, had served under Price in Missouri, had been captured, and, after being paroled, had joined the Cheyennes. He had taken part in their depredations, and helped write their letter to Colley, and was reported and believed to be a rebel emissary to them. Chivington spoke of them as “red rebels” in official correspondence, long before the Saud Creek fight, and to men of his feelings there was just this one crime of treason that could add anything to the atrocity of Indian warfare.

There are two reasons given for killing women and children, and for mutilation, which are worthy of consideration.

First, as a matter of policy, it is believed by frontiersmen that Indians should be fought just as they fight. They look contemptuously on the policy of treating them according to the rules of civilized warfare. They believe that the only way to make Indians sign a treaty which they will keep, is, when at war with them, to kill them at every opportunity, destroy their property, and make their homes desolate; in short, to make them suffer. The plains Indians have given more cause for this belief than other tribes. They have repeatedly shown a disposition to go to war in the spring, when their ponies were getting fat, and subsistence was easily had, but as winter came on, and hardship began, they were ready to treat. They have had cause, too, to laugh at the silly whites, who bought their friendship with presents, while the blood of slaughtered innocents was hardly dried. They took advantage of the white man by killing his helpless people, while, for the safety of their own, they relied on the white man’s ideas of warfare. Their women took advantage of him by fighting, as they did at Sand Creek, Ash Hollow, and many other places, along with the men, and, when the battle went against them, proclaiming their sex and claiming immunity. There is not a bit of doubt that killing women and children has a very dampening effect on the ardor of the Indian. In this very case of Sand Creek they said “they had always heard that the whites did not kill women and children, but now they had lost all confidence in them.” Their “loss of confidence” grows a trifle amusing, when it is remembered that they had been killing women and children all summer themselves. Scalping and mutilation also strike terror to the Indian heart. Their religious belief is that the spirit in the next world has the same injuries that are inflicted on the body here. For this reason they almost invariably mutilate corpses, besides taking the scalp, which is almost an essential for entrance to the happy hunting grounds. The greatest acts of daring ever shown by plains Indians have been in carrying off the bodies of their dead to prevent these misfortunes. That the Sand Creek affair inspired them with terror is beyond question. The Cheyennes and Arapahoes got over into Kansas and Indian Territory as quickly as possible, and stayed there. A party of Sioux raided down into Colorado once afterwards, but when they heard that the Colorado troops were after them they scampered off as though the evil spirit were at their heels.

Secondly, is the matter of vengeance. There is a certain amount of justice in the theory of meting to a man in his own measure, and the people of Colorado had old scores to pay in the accounts of murder, robbery, and rape. The treatment of women, by any Indians, is usually bad, but by the plains Indians especially so. When a woman is captured by a war party she is the common property of all of them, each night, till they reach their village, when she becomes the special property of her individual captor, who may sell or gamble her away when he likes. If she resists she is “staked out,” that is to say, four pegs are driven into the ground and a hand or foot tied to each, to prevent struggling. She is also beaten, mutilated, or even killed, for resistance. If a woman gives out under this treatment, she is either tied so as to prevent escape, or maimed so as to insure death in case of rescue, and left to die slowly.

That there may be no question of the guilt of these Sand Creek Cheyennes, I quote the statement of Mrs. Ewbanks, who was captured at the same time as the prisoners surrendered by them, as taken down by Lieutenant Triggs, of the 7th Iowa Cavalry, and Judge advocate Zabriskie, of the 1st Nevada Cavalry.

“Mrs. Lucinda Ewbanks states that she was born in Pennsylvania; is twenty-four years of age; she resided on the Little Blue, at or near the Narrows. She says that on the 8th day of August, 1864, the house was attacked, robbed, burned, and herself and two children, with her nephew and Miss Roper, were captured by Cheyenne Indians. Her eldest child, at the time, was three years old; her youngest was one year old; her nephew was six years old. When taken from her home was, by the Indians, taken south across the Republican, and west to a creek, the name of which she does not remember. Here, for a short time, was their village or camping place. They were travelling all winter. When first taken by the Cheyenne she was taken to the lodge of an old chief, whose name she does not remember. He forced me, by the most terrible threats and menaces, to yield my person to him. He treated me as his wife. He then traded me to Two Face, a Sioux, who did not treat me as a wife, but forced me to do all menial labor done by squaws, and he beat me terribly. Two Face traded me to Black Foot (a Sioux) who treated me as his wife, and because I resisted him his squaws abused and ill used me. Black Foot also beat me unmercifully, and the Indians generally treated me as though I was a dog, on account of my showing so much detestation towards Black Foot. Two Face traded for me again. I then received a little better treatment. I was better treated among the Sioux than the Cheyennes; that is, the Sioux gave me more to eat. When with the Cheyennes I was often hungry. Her purchase from the Cheyennes was made early last fall (1864), and she remained with them (the Sioux) until May, 1865. During the winter the Cheyennes came to buy me and the child, for the purpose of burning us, but Two Face would not let them have me. During the winter we were on the North Platte the Indians were killing the whites all the time and running off their stock. They would bring in the scalps of the whites and show them to me and laugh about it. They ordered me frequently to wean my baby, but I always refused; for I felt convinced if he was weaned they would take him from me, and I should never see him again.”

Mrs. Ewbanks’s daughter died in Denver, from injuries received among the Indians, before her mother was released. Her nephew also died from his injuries, at the same place. Miss Roper, who was surrendered with the children, had experienced the same treatment that no white woman was ever known to escape at the hands of the plains Indians. Mrs. Martin, another prisoner surrendered by them, was taken by the Cheyennes on Plum Creek, “west of Kearney,” as testified by herself and admitted by White Antelope in the council. Mrs. Snyder, another captive, had grown weary of the friendship of these Cheyennes, and hung herself before Major Wynkoop arrived. These things were known to the people of Colorado, and two thirds of the troops who went there were citizen soldiers, raised for the express purpose of fighting Indians. Be it known, also, that these offenses were committed without any provocation from settlers, beyond occupying the lands which the chiefs of the Cheyennes had relinquished in treaty. There is absolutely not on record, from any source, a single charge, let alone an instance, of aggression or injury to any Cheyenne or Arapahoe, by any settler of Colorado, prior to Sand Creek. The sole troubles had been with the soldiers in chastising the Indians for past offences. The people of Colorado did want revenge, and these men, who had been cooped up all summer in towns and blockhouses, whose crops were ruined, whose stock had been run off, whose houses had been burned, who had been eating bread made of forty five dollar flour, who had buried the mutilated bodies of their neighbors, in helpless wrath, who had heard the stories of the women captives these men marched to Sand Creek, with the fire of vengeance in their hearts, and quenched it in blood.

Let us now look for a moment at the report of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. It states, first, that these Indians wished “to deliver up some white captives they had purchased of other Indians.” The Indians did not pretend to have purchased them. They admitted in the council that they had captured them, and the captives themselves testified to the same, as shown above. It states that after the council these Indians went to Fort Lyon, where they “were treated somewhat as prisoners of war, receiving rations and being obliged to remain within certain bounds.” As has been shown, the Cheyennes were never treated as prisoners of war, received no rations, and did not remain within any bounds. The Indians who did so were Little Raven’s Arapahoes, who were hostile, by the declarations of the Arapahoe chiefs in the council, and the testimony of Major Wynkoop. These Indians went away before the Cheyennes came, but eight lodges of them, under Left Hand, who was friendly, went to the Cheyennes and camped with them at Sand Creek. This wrongful and unjust confusion is kept up all through the report. It states that “all the testimony goes to show that the Indians under the immediate control of Black Kettle and White Antelope, of the Cheyennes, and Left Hand, of the Arapahoes, were and had been friendly to the whites, and had not been guilty of any acts of hostility or depredation.” Not only does the testimony show the opposite to be true, but also there is no testimony whatever to that effect. There was testimony to the friendly character of these chiefs, but not to that of their Indians, and, in fact, no Indians could be separated out as theirs, for at the time of their letter, and the council, and afterwards, the Cheyennes were all together, and all under their “immediate control.” Even when the party at Sand Creek came in ahead, it was reported by them that the remainder of the tribe was a short distance back, waiting for good weather.

It states that “a northern band of the Cheyennes, known as the Dog Soldiers, had been guilty of acts of hostility; but all the testimony goes to prove that they had no connection with Black Kettle’s band,” and that “Black Kettle and his band denied all connection with or responsibility for the Dog Soldiers.” As shown in a former chapter, the Dog Soldiers were not a separate band, but were a department in the tribal government. Black Kettle and his band did not deny connection with them or responsibility for them; many of the band at Sand Creek were Dog Soldiers. Bull Bear, the leader of the Dog Soldiers, was at the council in Denver as one of Black Kettle’s sub-chiefs. The only time that any of the Indians had an opportunity to make a statement which could go to the committee, was at the council in Denver, and there the Dog Soldiers were mentioned but once, and in this passage: “Black Kettle. ‘We will return with Major Wynkoop to Fort Lyon; we will then proceed to our village and take back word to my young men, every word you say. I cannot answer for all of them, but think there will be but little difficulty in getting them to assent to help the soldiers.’

Major Wynkoop. ‘Did not the Dog Soldiers agree, when I had my council with you, to do whatever you said, after you had been here?

Black Kettle. ‘ Yes.’

The committee is far more kind to Black Kettle than he is to himself. It had determined that he should not be connected with them. Senator Doolittle pressed this question on John S. Smith, one of the most bitter of the prosecuting witnesses: ”Is the northern band the same that are commonly called the Dog Soldiers?”

Smith, who had been among them twenty-seven years, answered: “No, sir; the Dog Soldiers are mixed up promiscuously; this is a band that has preferred the North Platte and north of the North Platte, and lives over in what is called the bad land, “mauvais terre” The same fact was shown by Major Wynkoop in his cross examination, by Chivington, before the Military Commission, as follows:

Q. Will you explain what the Dog Soldiers are and how they are controlled ?
A. I understand that the Dog Soldiers are a portion of the warriors of the Cheyenne tribe, and presume that they are controlled by the head men.”

It states that “these Indians, at the suggestion of Governor Evans and Colonel Chivington, repaired to Fort Lyon and placed themselves under the protection of Major Wynkoop.” Enough of the council proceeding has been quoted to show the falsity of this. They told the Indiana that they could not treat with them, but that they must go to the military, and when they got ready to lay down their arms and surrender as prisoners of war they might go to Major Wynkoop, but, in fact, the Cheyennes did not even send in their messengers until after Major Wynkoop was suspended. They were never under his protection at all. It states that Jack Smith, the half-breed son of John S. Smith, was in Black Kettle’s camp, at the time of the attack, as a spy, employed by the government. As shown above, he guided the troops to the camp to make the attack. This man was the only prisoner killed after the fight, and it was in evidence before the committee that he had led an attack on a stage a short time previously. That he was present he did not deny, but said he approached the stage for some information, and, on being fired on, fired back in self defense. But it ie not necessary to particularize further. The report abuses everyone who, in telling the truth, happened to differ from the preconceived judgment of the committee; it distorts and colors every matter of fact involved so as to injure Chivington and his men; it omits or glosses over all the injuries to the people of Colorado; and, having arrived at a proper pitch of indignation and misrepresentation, it assails Colonel Chivington in a gush of sanguinary rhetoric, that reads more like the reputed address of Spartacus to the gladiators than the impartial judgment of rational men.

But, outrageous as was the report of the committee, it was dignified, just, and proper by the side of the ornamental misrepresentation that outsiders have added. It has been said that Sand Creek “brought on the general war of 1865, which cost the government $35,000,000 and much loss of life,” and this statement has become a part of the “history” of the affair. Sand Creek brought on that war just about as much as the battle of Gettysburg brought on the late civil war. It was an event in the war, and no amount of misrepresentation can make it anything else. Leaving the Cheyennes out of consideration altogether, the general war had been in progress since the early spring of 1864. But, as a matter of fact, it did not even aggravate the war. It has already been shown that the Cheyennes had been at war all summer, and no other tribe went to war on account of it. On January 12, 1865, on receipt of orders to investigate Chivington’s action. General Curtis despatched to Washington:

”Although the colonel may have transgressed my field orders concerning Indian warfare, and otherwise acted very much against my views of propriety in his assault at Sand Creek, still it is not true, as Indian agents and Indian traders are representing, that such extra severity is increasing Indian war. On the contrary, it tends to reduce their numbers and bring them to terms.  I will be glad to save the few honest and kindly disposed, and protest against the slaughter of women. and children; although, since General Harney’s attack of the Sioux many years ago at Ash Hollow, the popular cry of settlers and soldiers on the frontier favors an indiscriminate slaughter which is very difficult to restrain. I abhor this style, but so it goes, from Minnesota to Texas.  There is no doubt a portion of this tribe assembled were occupied in making assaults on our stages and trains, and the tribes well know that we have to hold the whole community responsible for acts they could restrain, if they would properly exert their efforts in that way.”

Again, on January 30, he wrote to Governor Evans:

“Let me say, too, that I see nothing new in all this Indian movement since the Chivington affair, except that Indians are more frightened and keep farther away. By pushing them hard this next month, before grass recruits their ponies, they will be better satisfied with making war and robbery a business.”

On the same day he wrote Major general Halleck:

“There is no new feature in these Indian troubles except that Indians seem more frightened.”

General Curtis commanded the department; he had all the information as to the state of the hostilities that could be had; he evidently was not inclined to defend Chivington; and therefore his testimony on this point ought to be conclusive.

Said Hon. Mr. Loughridge to the House of Representatives:

“Some of the few captured children, after they had been carried many miles by the troops, were taken from the wagons and their brains dashed out. I gather this from the records and official reports, and blush to say that its truth cannot be questioned.”

Mr. Loughridge might well blush for other reasons. There is not one word in all the testimony, records, and official reports, to substantiate this statement.

The nearest and only approach to it, in the report of the Joint Committee, is this statement by Lieutenant Cannon, who accompanied the expedition:

“I heard of one instance of a child, a few months old, being thrown into the feedbox of a wagon, and, after being carried some distance, left on the ground to perish.”

In the testimony taken by the Military Commission, Lieutenant Cramer and Private Louderback give similar hearsay evidence, in almost the same words.

Only one witness was examined, at any time, who professed to have personal knowledge of this abandonment, and that was Sergeant Lucian Palmer, who was introduced by the prosecution, before the Military Commission, he said:

”They [the two squaws] took care of it [the papoose in question] the first day after we left Sand Creek; they had it in bed with them the night we stopped this side of Sand Creek; they left it themselves, as no one else had anything to do with it, to my knowledge.”

Thus the prosecution disposed of the feedbox story, and left Mr. Loughridge without even that faint support for his slander. It was distinctly testified, by every witness who was questioned on the subject, that no one was killed after the fight except Jack Smith. It was also established, without contradiction, that the two squaws (wives of white men) and five children, who were said, by every witness except those mentioned, to have been the only prisoners taken, were conveyed to Fort Lyon and left there. These are but samples that show the extraordinary extent to which this delusion has been carried. The wealth of epithets and invectives that has been gathered to damn the reputation of this man Chivington, by people who have, at best, but superficially examined his ease, constitutes a veritable treasury of vituperation. If everything that was said against him by the witnesses were true, and much of it, on its face, was not, he is still the colossal martyr to misrepresentation of this century.

The sequel to Sand Creek throws some valuable light on the character of the case. On October 14, 1865, a treaty was made with the Cheyenne chiefs on the Little Arkansas, on which occasion John S. Smith and Major Wynkoop were figuring prominently. The treaty, in its original draft, went out of the way to attack Chivington and the troops, and this feature the Senate omitted by amendment. The treaty was made on behalf of the entire tribe, but the majority of the Dog* Soldiers were not present and never formally accepted its provisions. The most striking feature of it is that, while they were assigned a reservation with the privilege of roaming over their original territory, these friendly Indians were prohibited from camping within ten miles of a main travelled road, night or day, and were pledged not to go to any town or post without permission of the authorities there. Special remuneration was given to everyone who had lost relatives or property at Sand Creek, and annuities of goods and money to the tribe in general, to the amount of $56,000 annually until they moved to the reservation, and $112,000 annually afterwards. Thefts, murders, and other offences were perpetrated by Indians in the following summer, and, so far as could be learned, they were committed by a party of Dog Soldiers, numbering some two hundred lodges, who had joined with about one hundred lodges of Sioux, under the chief Pawnee Killer. In the spring of 1867 General Hancock started with an expedition into the plains with the intent of making a peaceful demonstration of power, which would induce all doubtful and hostile Indians to go on reservations. Agents of the Indian bureau were invited to accompany the expedition, to assist in talks with the Indians, and did so.

They found the band of Dog Soldiers and Sioux on Pawnee Fork, about thirty miles above Fort Larned. After negotiating, and making several appointments for councils, which they did not keep, the Indians slipped away one dark night with all their property that they could carry. Spring was not their season for treating. The next heard of them was that they had burned several stage stations on the Smoky Hill route and killed, after torturing, three station keepers at Lookout Station, near Fort Hays. On receipt of information of this, General Hancock destroyed what was left of their village, and troops were kept in search of the Indians all summer, under command of General Custer. There were a number of engagements between them, and considerable loss of life, with no material advantage to either side. At the same time a severe pen and ink contest was being waged between war people and peace people in the East, and the peace people got the upper hand. The result of it all was that at the end of the season Custer was under arrest on a charge of leaving Fort Wallace without orders, while the Indians, who had had no opportunity to lay in supplies for the winter, made another treaty, in which the whole tribe, Dog Soldiers included, joined. This time they took a reservation wholly within Indian Territory, a triangular tract bounded by the Kansas line and the Cimarron and Arkansas rivers. They were to receive a suit of clothes for each Indian, and S20,000 annually, besides teachers, physicians, farmers, millers, carpenters,  blacksmiths, and other guides to civilization. It was not agreed that they were to be given any arms or ammunition, and this the reader will remember. They agreed not to molest any coach or wagon, carry off any white woman or child, nor kill or scalp any white man; to surrender any wrongdoer for punishment, and not to interfere in any way with the building of the Kansas Pacific Railroad.

In the spring of 1868 it was learned that arms and ammunition were being issued to Indians, and a military order was made prohibiting it. The agents raised a cry that the Indians could not hunt the buffalo without arms and ammunition (they prefer the bow and arrow for this, and seldom used anything else); the peace people joined in the chorus that the Indians were being starved, and the order was revoked. On August 1 the Arapahoes received 100 pistols, 80 Lancaster rifles, 12 kegs of power, a keg and a half of lead, and 15,000 caps. On August 10 Colonel Wynkoop, our old acquaintance, who had been promoted, and appointed Indian Agent after the investigations, wrote:

“I yesterday made the whole issue of annuity goods, arms, and ammunition to the Cheyenne chiefs and people of their nation; they were delighted at receiving the goods, particularly the arms and ammunition, and never before have I known them to be better satisfied, and express themselves as being so well contented previous to the issue. They have now left for their hunting grounds, and I am perfectly satisfied that there will be no trouble with them this season.”

What hunting grounds had they left for? On September 10, just thirty days later. Colonel Wynkoop, in explaining that the Indians had gone to war because “their arms and ammunition ” had not been issued promptly, writes:

But a short time before the issue was made a war party had started north from the Cheyenne village, on the warpath against the Pawnees; and they, not knowing of the issue, and smarting under their supposed wrongs, committed the outrages on the Saline River which have led to the present unfortunate aspect of affairs.” It was rather unfortunate. The inference from his letter is that it was all right for them to use their weapons, furnished for the purpose of hunting, in making war on the Pawnees, who had been, for several years, our most valuable allies and friends on the plains; but that they should attack the whites was unfortunate. Two hundred Cheyenne, four Arapahoe, and twenty Sioux warriors raided down the Saline and the Solomon, killing, ravishing, burning, and torturing. They carried off two young women, who were afterwards recovered from Black Kettle’s band, if he can be said to have had any particular band, by threatening to hang some of their principal chiefs, who were captives. Much of the plundered property was found in Black Kettle’s camp.

Wynkoop then proposed to locate the friendly Indians near Fort Larned, in order to separate the good ones from the bad ones, Larned being about as near to the seat of war as they could be placed; but General Sherman would have nothing of that kind. He said the Indians who were peaceable should stay on their reservation, where they belonged. Never was a better opportunity for friendly Indians to separate themselves from the bad ones and let themselves be known: and they did it. After some hard fighting in the summer and fall, notably the eight days’ fight between General Forsyth’s party and four hundred and fifty Cheyennes, aided by Sioux and Arapahoes, on the Arickaree fork of the Republican, the bad Indians went into winter quarters, and a winter expedition was sent against them under Custer, who was reinstated for the occasion. The reservation was vacant. The good Cheyennes were not visible. The entire southern tribe was camped away south on the Wachita, on lands where they had not even the right to hunt, with the hostile Kiowas, Arapahoes, Comanches, and Apaches, forming an almost continuous camp for twelve miles. Custer followed the trail of a returning war party into Black Kettle’s camp, and, in the early dawn of November 27, surprised the Indians, while they were sleeping off the effects of the previous night’s celebration over fresh scalps and plunder. Here, as at Sand Creek and Ash Hollow, women fought with the men, and a number of them were killed, but their fighting did no good. 103 Indians were killed, and 53 squaws and children were captured, together with 875 ponies, 1123 robes, 535 pounds of powder, 4000 arrows, and arms and goods of all descriptions, constituting all their possessions. What could be advantageously kept was retained, and the remainder, including 700 ponies, was destroyed. The entire Indian force attacked Custer, but he succeeded in getting his troops and captives safely away. And what did the irrepressible Wynkoop after this affair? He affirmed that the Cheyennes were martyrs ever, and that on this occasion they were peaceably on their way to Fort Cobb to receive their annuities when attacked! He also resigned his position as Indian Agent, feeling, probably, that it would be forced on him again. But Hancock and Custer were bigger game than poor Chivington. Their brother officers and officials examined their cases more carefully than they did that of the volunteer colonel, and Custer himself ventilated the matter in a series of articles in the Galaxy that made some people open their eyes.

After the war, Chivington returned to his old home in Ohio and settled on a small farm. A few years later his house was burned, and he afterwards moved to Blanchester, Clinton County, where he purchased the Press and edited it for two or three years. In 1883 he was nominated on the Republican ticket for Representative to the legislature, and in the campaign “Sand Creek” was used for all it was worth. It began in the contest for the nomination and was continued until Chivington withdrew from the race. It was believed, and still is, by good judges of politics, that he would have been elected by a majority of five hundred or more, but there was a large Quaker population in Clinton, and, as is well known, the Society of Friends considers itself the special guardian of the Indian. He had an uphill fight on his hands, and the opposition was very bitter. I can but think another thing influenced his determination. While this fight was being pressed upon him, he received an urgent letter from Colorado, asking him to attend and address a meeting of old settlers, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the settlement of the state. There he would find old friends, who knew the true history of Sand Creek, and felt as he did. He went. There were hearty welcomes given to distinguished pioneers by the people assembled in Jewell Park on that day, but none so demonstrative as Colonel Chivington’s. The chairman introduced him with these words:

“We all remember the Indian ware of 1864: and ’65, and with what joy we received the news that some of them at least had met the reward due to their treachery and cruelty. The man who can tell you all about those wars, who can tell you all you want to know of the Indians, and who can give you the true story of Sand Creek, is here. I have the honor, ladies and gentlemen, to introduce Colonel Chivington, one of Colorado’s ‘Pet Lambs.’

“He began his speech amid enthusiastic cheers, but as he proceeded the attention grew breathless. He told his story in a simple, straightforward way, and nods of assent and approval, from all parts of the pavilion, silently indicated that he need not prove the truth of his statements to the people gathered there. He did not reply to the thousand charges made against him, nor did he assume an argumentative style until he closed in these words: “But were not these Indians peaceable? Oh, yes, peaceable! Well, a few hundred of them have been peaceable for almost nineteen years, and none of them have been so troublesome as they were before Sand Creek. What are the facts? How about that treaty that Governor John Evans did not make with them in the summer of 1863? He, with Major Lorey and Major Whiteley, two of his Indian Agents, and the usual corps of attaches, under escort, went out to the Kiowa to treat. When he got there, they had gone a day’s march farther out on the plains and would not meet him there, and so on, day after day, they moved out as he approached, until, wearied out, and suspicious of treachery, he returned without succeeding in his mission of peace. He told them by message that he had presents for them, but it was not peace and presents they wanted, but war and plunder. What of the peaceableness of their attack on General Blunt’s advance guard, north of Fort Larned, almost annihilating the advance before succor could reach them? What of the dovelike peace of their attack on the government train on Walnut Creek, east of Fort Larned, under the guise of friendship, till the drivers and attaches of the train were in their power, and at a signal struck down at once every man, only a boy of thirteen years barely escaping, and he, with the loss of his scalp, taken to his ears, finally died. What of the trains captured from Walnut Creek to Sand Creek on the Arkansas route, and from the Little Blue to the Kiowa on the Platte route, of supplies and wagons burned and carried off, and of the men killed? What of the Hungate family? Alas! what of the stock of articles of merchandise, fine silk dresses, infants’ and youths’ apparel, the embroidered nightgowns and chemises? By, what of the scalps of white men, women, and children, several of which they had not had time to dry and tan since taken? These, all these, and more, were taken from the belts of dead warriors on the battlefield of Sand Creek, and from their teepees which fell into our hands on the 29th day of November, 1864. What of the Indian blanket that was captured, fringed with white women’s scalps? What says the dust of the two hundred and eight men, women, and children, ranchers, emigrants, herders, and soldiers, who lost their lives at the hands of these Indians? Peaceable? Now we are peaceably disposed, but decline giving such testimonials of our peaceful proclivities, and I say here as I said in my own town, in the Quaker county of Clinton, State of Ohio, one night last week, I stand by Sand Creek.”

Said the Rocky Mountain News, of the following day, “Colonel Chivington’s speech was received with an applause from every pioneer which indicated that they, to a man, heartily approved the course of the colonel twenty years ago, in the famous affair in which many of them took part, and the man who applied the scalpel to the ulcer which bid fair to destroy the life of the new colony, in those critical times, was beyond a doubt the hero of the hour.” This is the simple truth. Colorado stands by Sand Creek, and Colonel Chivington soon afterwards brought his family to the Queen City of the Plains, where his remaining days may be passed in peace.

What an eventful history! And how, through it all, his sturdy manhood has been manifest in every action. Through all the denunciation of that Indian tight, he has never wavered or trembled. Others have dodged and apologized and crawled, but Chivington never. He has not laid the blame upon superior officers, as he might do. He has not complained of misinformation from inferior officers, as he might do. He has not said that the soldiers committed excesses there which were in no manner directed by him, as he might do. He has simply stood up under a rain of abuse, heavier than the shower of missiles that fell on Coeur de Leon before the castle of Front de Boeuf, and answered back:

“I stand by Sand Creek.”

And was it wrong? To the abstract question, whether or not it is right to kill women and children, there can be but one answer. But as a matter of retaliation, and a matter of policy, whether these people were justified in killing women and children at Sand Creek is a question to which the answer does not come so glibly.

Just after the massacre at Fort Fetterman, General Sherman despatched to General Grant:

”We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women, and children. Nothing less will reach the root of the case.”

Was it right for the English to shoot back the Sepoy ambassador from their cannon? Was it right for the North to refuse to exchange prisoners while our boys were dying by inches in Libby and Anderson ville? I do not undertake to answer these questions, but I do say that Sand Creek is far from being “the climax of American outrages on the Indian,” as it has been called. Lay not that flattering unction to your souls, people of the East, while the names of the Pequods and the Conestoga Indians exist in your books; nor you of the Mississippi Valley, while the blood of Logan’s family and the Moravian Indians of the Muskingum stain your records; nor you of the South, while a Cherokee or a Seminole remains to tell the wrongs of his fathers; nor yet you of the Pacific slope, while the murdered family of Spencer or the victims of Bloody Point and Nome Cult have a place in the memory of men your ancestors and predecessors were guilty of worse things than the Sand Creek massacre.

See Previous: Were the Cheyenne Responsible for the Sand Creek Massacre?



MLA Source Citation:

Dunn, Jacob Piatt. Massacres of the mountains: a history of the Indian wars of the far West. Harper & brothers, 1886. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 18 August 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/desire-punish-cheyenne-indians.htm - Last updated on Sep 25th, 2013


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