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HAZEN, WILLIAM B. (1830-1887)

William Babcock Hazen was a frontier army officer with two decades of service in the American West, including three years in Indian Territory. Born September 27, 1830, in Hartford, Vermont, he was the son of Stillman Hazen and Ferona Fenno. He grew up in Ohio, graduated from West Point, fought American Indians in Oregon and Texas, and served with distinction in the Civil War.

As commander of the military's Southern Indian District at Fort Cobb, Indian Territory, Hazen helped implement the reservation system on the southern plains. During the Washita campaign in 1868 he followed orders and refused to grant sanctuary to Black Kettle's Cheyenne band. Seven days later the peace chief was slaughtered by troops led by Lt. Col. George Custer. This situation led Hazen to give sanctuary to some Kiowas. He then prevented Gen. Philip Sheridan and Custer from attacking these Kiowa charges, creating an animosity that lasted throughout their careers. In 1869 he helped select the site for Fort Sill.

From mid-1869 to late 1871, Hazen commanded Fort Gibson in Indian Territory, and was Indian superintendent for the Southern Superintendency. He worked to get a monetary settlement of $1.8 million for the loyal Creek, based on their 1866 Reconstruction Treaty. Due to a loophole in the treaty and over Hazen's objections, the government determined that it needed to pay only $100,000.

Always controversial, Hazen published articles warning prospective settlers that the arid lands of the High Plains were not worth "one penny an acre" for agricultural purposes. In 1872 he exposed corruption of post traders at Fort Sill, which resulted in the impeachment and resignation of Secretary of War William Belknap. He also opposed Sheridan's plan to exterminate the buffalo herds as a means of subjugating the Indians.

In 1880 Hazen gained appointment as brigadier general and chief signal officer. In 1871, while posted at Fort Gibson, he married Mildred McLean, a member of a prominent newspaper family. They had two children, but one died in infancy. Hazen died at Washington, D.C., on January 16, 1887.

SEE ALSO: MILITARY–NINETEENTH CENTURY, WESTWARD EXPANSION.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. B. Hazen, A Narrative of Military Service (Boston: Ticknor and Sons, 1885). Marvin E. Kroeker, Great Plains Command: William B. Hazen in the Frontier West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976). Marvin E. Kroeker, "William B. Hazen," in Soldiers West: Biographies from the Military Frontier, ed. Paul A. Hutton (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987).

Marvin E. Kroeker

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