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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 16, No. 4
December, 1938
THE MILITARY INVESTIGATION OF COLONEL JOHN M. CHIVINGTON FOLLOWING THE SAND CREEK MASSACRE

By
Wm. J. Mellor

Page 444

With the discovery of gold in the Colorado Rockies, the stage was set for the final drama of the western plains Indian. Swiftly and surely the events leading up to the last scene, wherein he was to lose the greater portion of his vast domain, were fast taking place. One of the minor acts that make up the composite Pattern of this tragic drama was the Sand Creek massacre. This incident involved action of Colorado soldiers under command of Colonel J. M. Chivington against the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. Extolled by some as a just and timely measure, others proclaimed it a murderous assault against the red children of the plains.1 To say the least, it shocked the sensibilities of the effete East, precipitated a federal military investigation and brought sharp criticism upon the heads of the officers and those who assisted in the expedition.

In reviewing the events incident to the massacre, it is observed that before 1861, the Indians of the plains were nominally friendly with the United States. The Fort Laramie treaty of September 17, 1851 stipulated "the Territory of the Cheyennes and Arrapahoes, commencing at the Red Bute . . . of the Platte River; [was to extend] thence up . . . the Platte River to its source; thence along . . . the Rocky Mountains to . . . the Arkansas River; then down the Arkansas River to . . . the Santa Fe road; thence . . . to the forks of the Platte River; and . . . to the place of beginning."2 This treaty was kept for the next ten





Page 445

years. However, as further encroachments were made by white pioneers, sporadic plundering and an occasional massacre on the far-flung frontier was but the inevitable result of the clash between two widely divergent and uncompromising forces. "For," as one writer puts it, "the Indian was an irresponsible child, and the frontiersman was reckless and inconsiderate."3

In the summer of 1858, placer gold was discovered near the present site of Denver. This proved scaly and thin, but in June, 1859 gold in paying quantities was discovered in the mountains. Teeming thousands, impoverished by the financial crisis of 1857, now turned their faces to the setting sun. Nearly one hundred thousand gold-seekers crossed the plains to the Pike's Peak country in 1859, and boldly settled on land pledged to the Indians. General W. T. Sherman, stationed at Fort Leavenworth (Kansas), wrote his brother, John, in April, 1859: "At this moment we are in the midst of a rush to Pike's Peak. Steamboats arrive in twos and threes each day, loaded with people for the new gold region . . . . Although probably twenty-five thousand people have actually gone, we are without authentic advices of gold."4 Driven from the mountains by this deluge of pioneers, miners, and home-seekers, the Indians moved to the valley of the Arkansas. Comprehending the impossible task of evicting the white settlers, the Federal Government in the Fort Wise treaty of February 18, 1861 further reduced the holdings of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes to the Sand Creek reservation, boundaries of which were from "the mouth of the Sand Fork of the Arkansas River . . . to the . . . Purgatory River; thence . . . to the northern boundary of the Territory of New Mexico; thence west . . . to a point . . . five miles east . . . of the Huerfano River; thence due north . . . to the place of beginning."5

Here for the next three years these Indians endured the plight of seeing their former homes and hunting grounds devas-







Page 446

tated by an ever increasing throng thirsting for gold. They saw their game driven eastward to the plains and found themselves the objects of scorn and malice. When further provoked by the urgent demands of miners for better transportation, and that across their new reservation, the Indians donned their war-bonnets and performed the scalp-dance. War parties, actuated by hatred and revenge, now began to pillage and plunder the isolated settlements. Livestock was driven off, homes were burned, and many settlers were tortured, murdered, and scalped. Encouraged by their success in these depredations they then made systematic raids along the overland trails of the Platte and Arkansas rivers. Emigrant wagon trains were attacked and destroyed, as were the Pony Express and Overland Mail stations.6 Under date of June 27, 1864 Governor John Evans of Colorado, sent the following circular to the Indians of the plains: "The Great Father is angry, . . . but he does not want to injure those who remain friendly . . . I direct that all friendly Indians keep away from those who are at war, and go to places of safety. Friendly Arapahoes and Cheyennes belonging on the Arkansas River will go to Major Colley, . . . at Fort Lyon, who will give them provisions and show them a place of safety."7

With the exception of two small bands, the Indians ignored the invitation and the holocaust continued. After wiping out the few settlements and stations between Fort Lyon (Colorado) and Larned (Kansas), on the Arkansas River trail, the month of July, 1864 found their relentless fury centered mainly in the thickly settled valley of the Platte River. From Camp Sandborn (Colorado) eastward, this route, for a distance of more than three hundred miles, was the scene of utter ruin and desolation. The city of Denver, now without mail, faced dire want. In desperation, Governor Evans issued a proclamation in August "authorizing all citizens . . . to go in pursuit . . . also to kill and destroy as enemies . . . wherever they may be found, all such





Page 447

hostile Indians."8 To supplement his state troops, he issued a call for volunteers to serve a period of one hundred days, and asked aid of the United States Army. To further complicate matters, the Cheyenne9 and Arapaho tribes were not the only Indians in the field. The Kiowa and Comanche who also inhabited the plains, as well as roving bands of Ute and Sioux Indians, were on the war-path at this time, and committed depredations in this region.10

Urged by William Bent to make peace with the whites, Black Kettle11 and other warring chiefs sent the following letter to Major Colley, United States Indian Agent, at Fort Lyon:

Cheyenne Village, August 29, 1864.

Major Colley:
We received a letter from Bent, wishing us to make peace. We held a council in regard to it. All come to the conclusion to make peace with you, providing you make peace with the Kiowas, Comanches, Arapahoes, and Sioux. We are going to send a message to the Kiowas and to the other Nations about our going to make peace with you. We hear that you have some [Indian prisoners] in Denver. We have seven prisoners of yours which we are willing to give up, providing you give up yours. There are three war parties out yet, and two of Arapahoes. They have been out for some time and are expected in soon. When we held this council there were few Arapahoes and Sioux present. We want news from you in return. That is, a letter.12










Page 448

This supplication resulted in a conference, arranged by Major Wynkoop, between Governor Evans and the Indians.13 But the Governor refused to make peace with them, saying that they did not come in when asked to do so, and that they must now make terms with the military authorities before they could talk of peace. The attitude shared by Evans and Chivington was confirmed by Major-general Curtis, commandant at Fort Leavenworth, who said: "I want no peace till the Indians suffer more .... No peace must be made without my directions."14 Then, too, since the Colorado authorities had appealed to the Federal Government for aid, they felt that to make peace now would signify that the situation was misrepresented.

Major Wynkoop, seeking to placate the Indians, gave them permission to bring their families to Fort Lyon. Here on October 20, Agent S. G. Colley reported that "Nearly all the Arapahoes are now encamped near this place and desire to remain friendly, and make reparation for the damages committed by them."15 Having offended the military authorities, by attempting to make peace with the savages, Major Wynkoop was relieved of his command16  When Major Scott J. Anthony assumed command, November 2, he found six hundred fifty-two Arapahoes within a mile of the post, and a camp of approximately seven hundred Cheyennes forty miles east on Sand Creek.17 After disarm-











Page 449

ing the former, he ordered them away from the fort. Chief Left Hand, with a few lodges, joined the Cheyennes while the remaining Arapahoes under Chief Little Raven moved down the Arkansas River some sixty miles to Camp Wynkoop.

In the meantime Colonel Chivington, having opened the Platte River road with the Third Colorado Cavalry, returned to the Bijou Basin east of Denver. From here he hastened south in a secret maneuver that brought him to Fort Lyon on November 27. After a council of war, he left Fort Lyon the next night with an estimated force of nine hundred soldiers.18 Negotiating the intervening forty miles in utmost secrecy, he arrived at the Cheyenne Indian camp in the big bend of Sand Creek at daybreak, November 29, 1864. Dividing his forces, so as to encompass the camp, he immediately launched a furious attack that soon crushed the resistance offered by the surprised Indians. In the melee that followed, the Arapaho chieftain Left Hand, and at least nine Cheyenne chiefs were killed. Listed among the latter were: White Antelope, One Eye, and War Bonnet.19 At the beginning of the contest, Black Kettle, head chief of the Cheyenne village, vainly attempted to halt the onslaught but failing in this he bowed to the superior force of the whites and was saved from death in being carried from the field by his braves.

Having gained entrance to the village, the soldiers fired the lodges20 and continued their slaughter of men, women, and children. The Indians, seeking to escape, fled in all directions. Many of them seeking refuge in hastily constructed pits along the







Page 450

banks of Sand Creek were given no quarter. The soldiers, firing from both sides of the creek, not only wrecked havoc on the Indians but endangered the lives of their own company. The contest was waged for at least four hours, during which time it is estimated that from one hundred fifty to five hundred Indians were slain.21 Two-thirds of the number killed were women and children. Approximately five hundred ponies, taken in the fight, were later distributed among the soldiers who had participated in the massacre. Two adult males, three adult females and four children were captured. One of the former, Jack Smith, was later killed. The soldiers scalped the dead, mutilated the bodies, and took more than one hundred scalps which were later exhibited between the acts of a theatrical performance in Denver. One authority quotes The Denver News as commenting on the outcome of the massacre: "All acquitted themselves well. Colorado soldiers have again covered themselves with glory."

The Military Commission appointed to investigate the action of Colonel J. M. Chivington against the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians at Sand Creek, convened at Denver, Colorado Territory, February 1, 1865 under Special Order No. 23 issued by Colonel T. Moonlight, Commander of the District of Colorado. Members of the Commission included: Samuel F. Tappan, Lieutenant Colonel, Veteran Battalion, First Colorado Cavalry, President of the Commission; Captain George H. Stilwell, Recorder; and Captain E. A. Jacobs, Member. The investigation began February 9, and continued through May 30, 1865. During the seventy-six days required for the investigation, eighteen days of which were held at Fort Lyon, two hundred twenty-eight pages of evidence were accumulated and submitted to Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War. On February 12, 1867 this report was sent to the United States Senate in answer to a request made eight days previously.



Page 451

The report covers the testimony of thirty-three witnesses22 who appeared before the Commission, numerous letters, telegrams, and eleven depositions made by as many individuals.

Reasons for the investigation were specified in orders sent Lieutenant Colonel Tappan by General Moonlight, February 12, 1865 which stated:

The commission . . . is convened for the purpose of investigating . . . the Sand Creek fight, to ascertain . . . who are the aggressors, whether the campaign was conducted . . . according to the recognized rules of civilized warfare, and whether based upon the law of equity from the commencement of Indian hostilities to the present time . . . whether the Indians were under the protection of the government, and by what authority, or through what influence, they were induced to place themselves under that protection; whether Colonel Chivington was knowing to this fact; and whether, or not, the campaign was forced upon the Indians by the whites knowing their helpless condition; and whether the Indians were in a state of open hostility and prepared to resist any and all of the United States troops.
Whether any prisoners were taken . . . and the disposition made . . . If the proper steps were taken . . . to prevent unnatural outrages . . . and [to] punish the transgressors, if such there were . . . the amount, kind, and quality of property captured . . . the disposition made of that property, and the steps taken . . . [to] insure justice to all parties, . . . the treatment of government property, such as horses and mules in the service, during the campaign.23




Page 452

Further stipulations to govern the proceedings were that the Commission was not intended as a trial, but to investigate and accumulate facts for the government, insure justice and fix the responsibility. Colonel Chivington's requests that the Commission delay its organization until he prepared objections, that news reporters be allowed, and that the sessions be open to the public, were denied. Likewise, his contention that the subject-matter investigated should be submitted to a court of inquiry instead of a military commission, and his objection to Lieutenant Colonel Tappan24 sitting on the Commission, were refuted and denied.25

When actual hearing of testimony began February 15, 1865 with Captain Silas S. Soule26 as the first witness, one of the important questions confronting the Commission was "Who were the aggressors in the Sand Creek tragedy?"27 The answer is conjectural since the origin of the Indian uprising is clouded. Black Kettle said it began when a party of his young men, who were on a hunting expedition in the South Platte valley, were accosted by United States soldiers. The Indians, having found some loose stock on the prairie were taking them to their own-









Page 453

ers,28 whereupon the soldiers attempted to deprive them of their arms and a fight ensued. Later, said the chief, an Indian village in Cedar Canon was attacked by government troops. Also that a column of troops proceeding from the Smoky Hill toward the Arkansas had murdered Lean Bear, second chief of the Cheyennes, as well as his son, who had approached the column with friendly feelings. This account is further corroborated by White Antelope.29

Directly opposing these charges is the statement by Governor Evans that the Indians had stolen about forty horses and when the soldiers went to recover them the Indians fired a volley into their ranks.30 Neva, Bull Bear, and Lean Bear expressed their desire for peace31 at the Camp Weld peace conference, while Black Kettle said, "All we ask is that we may have peace with the whites . . . I want you to give all the . . . soldiers here to understand that we are for peace, and that we have made peace, that we may not be mistaken by them for enemies."32

Major General S. R. Curtis' telegram to Colonel Chivington under date of September 28, 1864 stated:

I shall require the bad Indians delivered up; restoration of equal numbers of stock; also hostages to secure. I want no peace till the Indians suffer more. Left Hand is said to be a good chief of the Arapahoes, but Big Mouth is a rascal. I fear agent of Interior Department will be ready to make presents too soon. It is better to chastise before giving anything but a little tobacco to talk over. No peace must be made without my directions.33












Page 454

Braced by this admonition from the Commanding General of of the District of Colorado, and urged to drastic action by the Colorado citizenry, Colonel Chivington and Governor Evans entered the Camp Weld peace conference, which convened the preceding day. Agent Whiteley records Governor Evans as saying to the Indians:

The time when you can make war best is in the summer time; the time when I can make war best is in the winter. You so far have had the advantage; my time is fast coming . . . . My proposition to the friendly Indians has gone out. I shall be glad to have them all come in under it. I have no new proposition to make. Another reason that I am not in condition to make a treaty is, that war is begun, and the power to make a treaty of peace has passed from me to the great war chief. My advice to you is to turn on the side of the government, and show by your acts that friendly disposition you profess to me.34

He further stated: "The only way you can show this friendship is by making some arrangement with the soldiers to help them." To this the Indians assented. The Governor then explained that the Indians were to keep with the United States soldiers. "You understand," he said, "if you are at peace with us, it is necessary to keep away from our enemies; but I hand you over to the military, one of the chiefs of whom is here today, and can speak for himself." To which Colonel Chivington35 replied, "I am not a big war chief, but all the soldiers in this country are at my command. My rule of fighting white men or Indians is, to fight them until they lay down their arms and submit to military authority. You are nearer Major Wynkoop than any one else, and you can go to him when you get ready to do that."36

Other questions to be answered during the investigation were: "Did the Indians comply with Major Wynkoop's request and manifest a desire for peace?" "Did they believe that Major An-







Page 455

thony, who succeeded Major Wynkoop, would also be peaceful with them?" And, "If the Indians were under the protection of the Government, by whose authority, and did Colonel Chivington know this?" In answer to the query, "What was the understanding with the Indians in and about Fort Lyon"? Captain Silas S. Soule testified, "they were to be protected by the troops there until the messenger returned from General Curtis."37 He further testified that the Indians encamped near Fort Lyon, in obedience to Major Wynkoop's orders, "were about 120 lodges, or about 600 Indians," and that they were furnished provisions. Second Lieutenant W. P. Minton said, "There was an understanding made with the Indians that they were to go to camp at Sand Creek, and were to be considered under the protection of the post.38 Major Wynkoop39 was relieved from command at Fort Lyon, November 5, and left for district headquarters, November 26. His successor was Major Scott J. Anthony.

John W. Prowers, government contractor, informed the Commission that when Major Wynkoop left he told the Indians he could do no more for them but that they could depend upon what Major Anthony told them. He further stated Major Anthony then told the Indians to remain on Sand Creek and he would advise them of General Curtis' decision in the matter.40 This evidence was indorsed in a deposition by the Indian interpreter John Smith.41 According to the testimony of Major Wynkoop the Indians kept their part of the bargain. He said, "from the time I held the consultation with the Indian chiefs on the headwaters of the Smoky Hill, up to the date of the massacre by Colonel Chivington, not one single depredation had been committed by the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians," and "lines of commu-











Page 456

nication to the States were opened, and travel across the plains rendered perfectly safe through the Cheyenne and Arapahoe country."42

A letter of regrets signed by nine fellow officers and given Major Wynkoop when they learned he had been relieved at Fort Lyon and ordered to Fort Leavenworth, carried the following endorsement of his successor, Major Anthony:

HEADQUARTERS FORT LYON, C. T.,    
November 26, 1864.

Respectfully forwarded to headquarters district, with the remarks: That it is the general opinion here by officers, soldiers, and citizens, that had it not been for the course pursued by Major Wynkoop towards the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians, the travel upon the public road must have entirely stopped and the settlers upon the ranches all through the country must have abandoned them or been murdered, as no force of troops sufficient to protect the road and settlements could be got together in this locality.
I think Major Wynkoop acted for the best in the matter.

SCOTT J. ANTHONY,        
Major First Cavalry of Colorado, Commanding post.43

In addition to this another letter was given Major Wynkoop signed by twenty-seven citizens of the Arkansas valley who endorsed his Indian program.

Second Lieutenant Joseph A. Cramer, in a conversation with Major Anthony prior to leaving Fort Lyon on the eve of November 28, relative to a contemplated attack upon the Indians, said "I stated to him that I was perfectly willing to obey orders, but that I did it under protest, for I believed that he directly, and all officers who accompanied Major Wynkoop to the Smoky Hill indirectly, would perjure themselves both as officers and men; that I believed it to be murder to go out and kill those Indians." To which Major Anthony replied that "he had made no pledges that would compromise his honor; that the promise he had given





Page 457

the Indians he did not consider binding, inasmuch as he had not heard from General Curtis or Washington, and that was as far as his argument extended, to let them know when he did hear." And further, "the object of the expedition was to surround the camp and take the stolen stock and kill the Indians that had been committing depredations during the last spring and summer."44 Cramer further testified he told Colonel Chivington, that since Major Wynkoop had pledged his word to the Indians, all the officers under him were indirectly pledged in the same manner. To which Colonel Chivington replied that, "he believed it to be right or honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians that would kill women and children, and 'damn any man that was in sympathy with Indians,' and such men as Major Wynkoop and myself had better get out of the United States service."45 From a deposition made by S. G. Colley, United States Indian Agent, is quoted the following:

From the time that Major Wynkoop left this post to go out to rescue the white prisoners, until the arrival of Colonel Chivington here, which took place on the 28th day of November last, no depredations of any kind had been committed by the Indians within 200 miles of the post. That upon Colonel Chivington's arrival here with a large body of troops he was informed where these Indians were encamped, and was fully advised under what circumstances they had come into this post, and why they were then on Sand Creek. That he was remonstrated with, both by officers and civilians at this post, against making war upon those Indians; that he was informed and fully advised that there was a large number of friendly Indians there, together with several white men, who were there at the request of himself and Colley, and by permission of Major Anthony. That notwithstanding his knowledge of the facts, as above set forth, he . . . did . . . surprise and attack said camp of friendly Indians.46






Page 458

The other side of the picture was presented by Private Alexander F. Safely, Second Lieutenant Harry Richmond and First Lieutenant Clark Dunn. Each of these three men swore that Major Anthony said he was glad Colonel Chivington's command had arrived, that the Indians at Sand Creek were hostile, they had dared him to fight them and that he would have gone out and killed them if he had had a sufficient number of troops. While their testimony incriminates the Indians, and strengthens Colonel Chivington's point that he was needed, it magnifies the duplicity of Major Anthony.47

Next were the questions "Was the campaign forced on the Indians?" and "Were the Indians hostile and prepared to resist?" The deposition of the interpreter John Smith48 states the village was attacked by Colonel Chivington with a command of nearly a thousand men and that not over sixty Indians made any defense. In riding over the field after the battle he counted about seventy dead and mutilated bodies,49 a majority of which were those of women and children. When the troops first approached he endeavored to join them but was repeatedly fired upon. He further said when the troops began approaching in a hostile manner he saw Black Kettle hoist the American flag over his lodge and display a white flag or truce.50

James P. Beckwith, guide and interpreter, in reply to the question, "Did any of the Indians make an attempt to reach Colonel Chivington's command at the time of the attack?" replied, "White Antelope [did]. He came running out to meet the command at the time the battle had commenced, holding up his hands and saying, 'Stop! Stop !' . . . He stopped and folded his arms









Page 459

until shot down."51 Second Lieutenant J. A. Cramer says "several Indians were killed while running towards the troops with both hands raised.52 It was estimated by Private David H. Louderback that there were one hundred twenty lodges and five hundred Indians in the camp. He also stated that the Indians had made no preparations for defense before the attack. First Lieutenant James D. Cannon said the Indians tried to shelter themselves when the firing began by digging holes under the banks in the sand.53

However, Private Stephen Decatur says the Indians were prepared for the combat "as there were holes longer and deeper than they could have dug after we attacked them in the morning." He further stated he saw no white flag of truce put up by the Indians, and "The next day after the battle I went over the battleground, . . . and counted 450 dead Indian warriors."54 A different version in the killing of White Antelope was given by Private Alexander F. Safely who says "He came running directly towards Company H, he had a pistol in his left hand, and a bow with some arrows in his right. He got within about fifty yards of the company; he commenced shooting his pistol, still in his left hand."55 He also testified that George Pierce, a soldier, was the first person killed in the battle, and that at no time was a white flag displayed in the village by the Indians. While in the field, Colonel Chivington sent the following dispatch to Governor Evans then in Washington, D. C.: "Had fight with Cheyennes forty miles north of Lyon. 1 lost 9 killed and 38 wounded. Killed 500 Indians; destroyed 130 lodges; took 500 mules and ponies; marched 300 miles in ten days; snow two feet deep for 100 miles. Am still after them."56













Page 460

Further testimony was needed by the Commission to answer the questions "Was the campaign conducted according to the rules of warfare?" and "Were steps taken to punish unnatural outrages"?57 J. M. Coombs states that on meeting Colonel Chivington's command at Spring Bottom station before it reached Fort Lyon, he overheard Colonel Chivington say, "Scalps are what we are after . . . . I long to be wading in gore."58 Captain A. J. Gill states in a deposition that when the attack began Colonel Chivington said: "Now boys, I shan't say who you shall kill, but remember our murdered women and children."59 First Lieutenant James D. Cannon swore that two-thirds of those killed were women and children and that he saw soldiers scalping and mutilating Indians. "I had some men to tell me," he says, "that they had scalped, some one, some two, and some three and four Indians." Also he "heard one man say that he had cut a squaw's heart out, and he had it stuck up on a stick."60

James P. Beckwith likewise said two-thirds of those slain were women and children, and that he saw several of Colonel Chivington's command in the act of scalping Indians. When asked to name those he saw scalping the dead, James J. Allen testified, "There was one person that they called Major . . . There was another officer . . . they called Richmond . . . There were some privates engaged in scalping . . . I saw some cutting the fingers off of dead Indians to get the rings off."61 Sergeant Lucian Palmer said, "They were scalped; skulls broken in in several instances; I saw several of the third regiment cut off their











Page 461

fingers to get the rings off of them. I saw Major Sayre scalp a dead Indian."62

Three men, C. S. Birdsall, T. P. Bell and Stephen Decatur, were recorded as saying white scalps were found in the lodges of the Indians. The latter said, "I saw some of the men opening bundles or bales. I saw them take therefrom a number of white persons' scalps."63

The questions concerning prisoners now arise: "Were any prisoners taken?" and "If so, what was done with them?" George L. Shoup quoted Colonel Chivington as saying he did not intend to take any prisoners. And Second Lieutenant J. A. Cramer stated that after remarking on the circumstances of the killing of some prisoners Captain Cree said he was acting under orders from Colonel Chivington.64

Regarding the kind, quality, and disposition of Indian property captured in the encounter, as well as the treatment of government property and safety provided for the soldiers engaged, the following evidence was introduced before the Commission. First Lieutenant James D. Cannon affirmed there were about six hundred ponies and mules captured and quite a number of buffalo robes. He also avowed that the soldiers were subjected to cross-fire. Second Lieutenant J. A. Cramer substantiated this testimony by saying the "men were directly opposite each other, on both sides of the creek, and were firing towards each other, and several times during the fight I ordered my men to cease firing, owing to the position in which our troops were placed,







Page 462

and fearful of killing some of our own men."65 He further certified that no field officer endeavored to rally the men from under each other's fire. Private B. N. Forbes asserted "I saw all the wounded; my impression is two or three were wounded by their own companions."66 The testimony of Captain Silas S. Soule,67 who was later assassinated, was to the effect that as many as two hundred soldiers carried away property formerly belonging to the Indians when the village was sacked.68 Assistant quartermaster C. L. Gorton stated he received ninety-three captured ponies and two mules from Lieutenant Elliott which had been rounded up by government detectives. Also, that one hundred ten horses used by the soldiers and returned to him by Captain Mullen were unfit for further service. "The lodges were burned . . . The ponies [captured] numbering 504, were placed in charge of the provost marshal. A few remained in the hands of the troops,"69 was recorded in the deposition of George L. Shoup. Second Lieutenant Henry H. Hewitt reported he rescued more than sixty ponies and mules from the Mexicans at Charles Antobe's ranch. According to acting assistant quartermaster C. M. Cossitt's testimony it was revealed that of about four hundred fifty ponies captured from the Indians, only three hundred twenty-seven were turned over to his department.70 In order to cover the forty wounded soldiers, Dr. Caleb S. Birdsal, first assistant surgeon, stated that he detailed three or four men to assist him in procuring buffalo robes, "and when I arrived there the larger amount of soldiers . . . pitched in and got a large number of robes at the same time. . . I can't tell the number I got . . . but I should think in the neighborhood of forty." He continues by saying that Major Anthony asked him what had become of those robes that John Smith the trader had lost and when asked the













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same question by Dr. Leas who "wanted to know what had become of two hundred robes I took, and that [the] government would have to pay twenty dollars apiece for them if they were not returned. I remarked wherever they could find any . . . robes to go and take them, as I had other business to attend to."71

While the investigation just reviewed was held behind closed doors, and was noticeably pock-marked with malice and hatred as the resultant out-growth of ill-feeling between the officers involved, the testimony accumulated was upheld in a subsequent investigation conducted by the Joint Special Committee in 1865, at the instigation of the United States Senate. In the report made by this Committee is the statement: "But the fact which gives such terrible force to the condemnation of the wholesale massacre of Arrapahoes and Cheyennes, by the Colorado troops under Colonel Chivington . . . was that those Indians were there encamped under the direction of our own officers, and believed themselves to be under the protection of our flag."72 This seems to be the crux of the affair. However, other motives and determining factors must be considered. The Plains Indians had not always lived in this region. They themselves were intruders and usurpers as recent as 1828. But the government recognized them as holders of this section in the Fort Laramie treaty of 1851. On the other hand the white settlers considered the Indians merely tenants-at-will like the buffalo and the antelope. Adopting this viewpoint, it is little wonder that the pioneer became the aggressor. This contention is supported by the inimitable Jim Bridger, who concurs with Kit Carson in the latter's remark that, "as a general thing the difficulties rise from aggressions on the part of the whites."73 In relating to the war with the Cheyennes, Carson further says "I have heard it publically stated that the authorities of Colorado, expecting that their troops would be sent to the Potomac, determined to get up an Indian war, so that the







Page 464

troops would be compelled to remain."74 Credence to the theory that they were victimized at Sand Creek is shown in the subsequent actions of the Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians. Rallying their depleted forces, they allied with the Sioux, Comanche, and Kiowa tribes and then struck at the white man with the relentless fury of berserk demons.75 Major Wynkoop76 says: "Since this last horrible murder by Chivington the country presents a scene of desolation; all communication is cut off with the States, except by sending bodies of troops, and already over one hundred whites have fallen as victims to the fearful vengeance of these betrayed Indians."77

In commenting on the results of this massacre, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs reported:

No one will be astonished that a war ensued which cost the government $30,000,000 and carried conflagration and death to the border settlements. During the summer of 1865 no less than 8,000 troops were withdrawn from the effective force engaged in suppressing the rebellion to meet this Indian war. The result of the year's campaign . . . was useless and expensive. Fifteen or twenty Indians had been killed at an expense of more than a million dollars apiece, while hundreds of our soldiers had lost their lives, many of our border settlers had been butchered and much property destroyed.78

Regardless of ethics, however, the fact remains that with relentless and unyielding certainty the age-old struggle, wherein the weaker must give way to the stronger, has operated just as surely with the Indian as with the buffalo.79













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