The Sand Creek Massacre
Testimony of John M. Chivington
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Testimony of Colonel J. M. Chivington
April 26, 1865
Interrogatories propounded to John M. Chivington by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, and
answers thereto given by said Chivington reduced to writing, and subscribed and sworn to before Alexander
W. Atkins, notary public, at Denver, in the Territory of Colorado.
1st Question. What is your place of residence, your age and profession?
Answer. My place of residence is Denver, Colorado; my age, forty-five years; I have been colonel of 1st
Colorado cavalry, and was mustered out of the service on or about the eighth day of January last, and have
not been engaged in any business since that time.
2d question. Were you in November, 1864, in any employment, civil or military, under the authority of the
United States; and if so, what was that employment, and what position did you hold?
Answer. In November, 1864, I was colonel of 1st Colorado cavalry, and in command of the district of
3d question. Did you, as colonel in command of Colorado troops, about the 29th of November, 1864,
make an attack on an Indian village or camp at a place known as Sand creek? If so, state particularly the
number of men under your command; how armed and equipped; whether mounted or not; and if you had
any artillery, state the number of guns, and the batteries to which they belonged.
Answer. On the 29th day of November, 1864, the troops under my command attacked a camp of
Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians at a place known as Big Bend of Sandy, about forty miles north of Fort
Lyon, Colorado Territory. There were in my command at that time about (500) five hundred men of the 3d
regiment Colorado cavalry, under the immediate command of Colonel George L. Shoup, of said 3d
regiment, and about (250) two hundred and fifty men of the 1st Colorado cavalry; Major Scott J. Anthony
commanded one battalion of said 1st regiment, and Lieutenant Luther Wilson commanded another battalion
of said 1st regiment. The 3d regiment was armed with rifled muskets, and Star's and Sharp's carbines. A
few of the men of that regiment had revolvers. The men of the 1st regiment were armed with Star's and
Sharp's carbines and revolvers. The men of the 3d regiment were poorly equipped; the supply of blankets,
boots, hats, and caps was deficient. The men of the 1st regiment were well equipped; all these troops were
mounted. I had four 12-pound mountain howitzers, manned by detachments from cavalry companies; they
did not belong to any battery company.
4th question. State as nearly as you can the number of Indians that were in the village or camp at the time
of the attack was made; how many of them were warriors; how many of them were old men, how many of
them were women, and how many of them were children?
Answer. From the best and most reliable information I could obtain, there were in the Indian camp, at the
time of the attack, about eleven (11) or twelve (12) hundred Indians: of these about seven hundred were
warriors, and the remainder were women and children. I am not aware that there were any old men among
them. There was an unusual number of males among them, for the reason that the war chiefs of both
nations were assembled there evidently for some special purpose. 1
5th question. At what time of the day or night was the attack made? Was it a surprise to the Indians?
What preparation, if any, had they made for deffence or offence?
Answer. The attack was made about sunrise. In my opinion the Indians were surprised; they began, as
soon as the attack was made, to oppose my troops, however, and were soon fighting desperately. Many of
the Indians were armed with rifles and many with revolvers; I think all had bows and arrows. 2 They had
excavated trenches under the bank of Sand creek, which in the vicinity of the Indian camp is high, and in
many places precipitous. These trenches were two to three feet deep, and, in connexion with the banks,
were evidently designed to protect the occupants from the fire of an enemy. They were found at various
points extending along the banks of the creek for several miles from the camp; there were marks of the pick
and shovel used in excavating them; and the fact that snow was seen in the bottoms of some of the
trenches, while all snow had disappeared from the surface of the country generally, sufficiently proved that
they had been constructed some time previously. The Indians took shelter in these trenches as soon as
the attack was made, and from thence resisted the advance of my troops. 3
6th question. What number did you lose in killed, what number in wounded, and what number in missing?
Answer. There were seven men killed, forty-seven wounded, and one was missing. 4
7th question. What number of Indians were killed; and what number of the killed were women, and what
number were children?
Answer. From the best information I could obtain, I judge there were five hundred or six hundred Indians
killed; I cannot state positively the number killed, nor can I state positively the number of women and
children killed. Officers who passed over the field, by my orders, after the battle, for the purpose of
ascertaining the number of Indians killed, report that they saw but few women or children dead, no more
than would certainly fall in an attack upon a camp in which they were. I myself passed over some portions
of the field after the fight, and I saw but one woman who had been killed, and one who had hanged herself; I
saw no dead children. From all I could learn, I arrived at the conclusion that but few women or children had
been slain. I am of the opinion that when the attack was made on the Indian camp the greater number of
squaws and children made their escape, while the warriors remained to fight my troops. 5
8th question. State, as nearly as you can, the number of Indians that were wounded, giving the number of
women and the number of children among the wounded.
Answer. I do not know that any Indians were wounded that were not killed; if there were any wounded, I do
not think they could have been made prisoners without endangering the lives of soldiers; Indians usually
fight as long as they have strength to resist. Eight Indians fell into the hands of the troops alive, to my
knowledge; these, with one exception, were sent to Fort Lyon and properly cared for. 6
9th question. What property was captured by the forces under your command? State the number of
horses, mules and ponies, buffalo robes, blankets, and also all other property taken, specifying particularly
the kinds, quality, and value thereof.
Answer. There were horses, mules, and ponies captured to the number of about six hundred. There were
about one hundred buffalo robes taken. Some of this stock had been stolen by the Indians from the
government during last spring, summer and fall, and some of the stock was the property of private citizens
from whom they had been stolen during the same period. The horses that belonged to the government
were returned to the officers responsible for them; as nearly as could be learned, the horses and mules
that were owned by private citizens were returned to them on proof of ownership being furnished; such were
my orders at least. The ponies, horses, and mules for which no owner could be found, were put into the
hands of my provost marshal in the field, Captain J.J. Johnson, of company E, 3d Colorado cavalry, with
instructions to drive them to Denver and turn them over to the acting quartermaster as captured stock,
taking his receipt therefor. After I arrived in Denver I again directed Captain Johnson to turn these animals
over to Captain Gorton, assistant quartermaster, as captured stock, which I presume he did. Colonel Thos.
Moonlight relieved me of the command of the district soon after I arrived in Denver, that is to say, on the
______ day of _________, A.D. 186 -, 7 and I was mustered out of the service, the term of service of my
regiment having expired. My troops were not fully supplied with hospital equipage, having been on forced
marches. The weather was exceedingly cold, and additional covering for the wounded became necessary; I
ordered the buffalo robes to be used for that purpose. I know of no other property of value being
captured. It is alleged that groceries were taken from John Smith, United States Indian interpreter for Upper
Arkansas agency, who was in the Indian camp at the time of the attack, trading goods, powder, lead, cap,
&c., to the Indians. Smith told me that these groceries belonged to Samuel G. Colby 8, United States Indian
agent. I am not aware that these things were taken; I am aware that Smith and D.D. Colby, son of the Indian
agent, have each presented claims against the government for these articles. The buffalo robes mentioned
above were also claimed by Samuel G. Colby, D.D. Colby and John Smith. One bale of Buffalo robes was
marked S. S. Soule, lst Colorado cavalry, and I am informed that one bale was marked Anthony, Major
Anthony being in command of Fort Lyon at that time. I cannot say what has been done with the property
since I was relieved of the command and mustered out of service. There was a large quantity of Indian
trinkets taken at the Indian camp which were of no value. The soldiers retained a few of these as trophies;
the remainder with the Indian lodges were destroyed. 9
10th question. What reason had you for making the attack? What reasons, if any, had you to believe that
Black Kettle or any other Indian or Indians in the camp entertained feelings of hostility towards the whites?
Give in detail the names of all Indians so believed to be hostile, with the dates and places of their hostile
acts, so far as you may be able to do so.
Answer. My reason for making the attack on the Indian camp was, that I believed the Indians in the camp
were hostile to the whites. That they were of the same tribes with those who had murdered many persons
and destroyed much valuable property on the Platte and Arkansas rivers during the previous spring,
summer and fall was beyond a doubt. When a tribe of Indians is at war with the whites it is impossible to
determine what party or band of the tribe or the name of the Indian or Indians belonging to the tribe so at
war are guilty of the acts of hostility. The most that can be ascertained is that Indians of the tribe have
performed the acts. During the spring, summer and fall of the year 1864, the Arapaho and Cheyenne
Indians, in some instances assisted or led on by Sioux, Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches, had committed
many acts of hostility in the country lying between the Little Blue and the Rocky mountains and the Platte
and Arkansas rivers. They had murdered many of the whites and taken others prisoners, and had
destroyed valuable property, probably amounting to $200,000 or $300,000. Their rendezvous was on the
headwaters of the Republican, probably one hundred miles from where the Indian camp was located. I had
every reason to believe that these Indians were either directly or indirectly concerned in the outrages which
had been committed upon the whites. I had no means of ascertaining what were the names of the Indians
who had committed these outrages other than the declarations of the Indians themselves; and the
character of Indians in the western country for truth and veracity, like their respect for the chastity of women
who may become prisoners in their hands, is not of that order which is calculated to inspire confidence in
what they may say. In this view I was supported by Major Anthony, 1st Colorado cavalry, commanding at
Fort Lyon, and Samuel G. Colby, United States Indian agent, who, as they had been in communication with
these Indians, were more competent to judge of their disposition towards the whites than myself. Previous
to the battle they expressed to me the opinion that the Indians should be punished. We found in the camp
the scalps of nineteen (19) white persons. 10 One of the surgeons informed me that one of these scalps
had been taken from the victim's head not more than four days previously. I can furnish a child captured at
the camp ornamented with six white women's scalps; these scalps must have been taken by these Indians
or furnished to them for their gratification and amusement by some of their brethren, who, like themselves,
were in amity with the whites.
11th question. Had you any, and if so, what reason, to believe that Black Kettle and the Indians with him,
at the time of your attack, were at peace with the whites, and desired to remain at peace with them?
Answer. I had no reason to believe that Black Kettle and the Indians with him were in good faith at peace
with the whites. 11 The day before the attack Major Scott J. Anthony, 1st Colorado cavalry, then in
command at Fort Lyon, told me that these Indians were hostile; that he had ordered his sentinels to fire on
them if they attempted to come into the post, and that the sentinels had fired on them; that he was
apprehensive of an attack from these Indians, and had taken every precaution to prevent a surprise. Major
Samuel G. Colby, United States Indian agent for these Indians, told me on the same day that he had done
everything in his power to make them behave themselves, and that for the last six months he could do
nothing with them; that nothing but a sound whipping would bring a lasting peace with them. These
statements were made to me in the presence of the officers of my staff whose statements can be obtained
to corroborate the foregoing.
12th question. Had you reason to know or believe that these Indians had sent their chief and leading men
at any time to Denver city in order to take measure in connection with the superintendent of Indian affairs
there, or with any other person having authority, to secure friendly relations with the whites?
Answer. I was present at an interview between Governor Evans on the part of the whites, and Black Kettle
and six other Indians, at Camp Weldmar 12, Denver, about 27th of September, 1864, in which the Indians
desired peace, but did not propose terms. General Curtis, by telegraph to me, declined to make peace with
them, and said that there could be no peace without his consent. 13 Governor Evans declined to treat with
them, and as General Curtis was then in command of the department, and, of course, I could not disobey
his instructions. General Curtis's terms of peace were to require all bad Indians to be given by the Indians
for their good conduct. The Indians never complied with these terms. 14
13th question. Were those Indians, to your knowledge, referred by the superintendent of Indian affairs to
the military authorities, as the only power under the government to afford them protection?
Answer. Governor Evans, in the conference mentioned in my last answer, did not refer the Indians to the
Military authorities for protection, but for terms of peace. He told the Indians "that he was the peace chief,
that they had gone to war, and, therefore, must deal with the war chiefs." It was at this time I gave them the
terms of General Curtis, and they said they had not received power to make peace on such terms, that they
would report to their young men and see what they would say to it; they would like to do it, but if their young
men continued the war they would have to go with them. They said there were three or four small war
parties of their young men out on the war path against the whites at that time. This ended the talk. 15
14th question. Did the officer in command of Fort Lyon, to your knowledge, at any time extend the
protection of our flag to Black Kettle and Indians with him, and direct them to encamp upon the reservation
of the fort?
Answer. Major E.W. Wynkoop, 1st cavalry, Colorado, did, as I have been informed, allow some of these
Indians to camp at or near Fort Lyon, and did promise them the protection of our flag. Subsequently he
was relieved of the command of Fort Lyon, and Major Anthony placed in command at that post, who
required the Indians to comply with General Curtis's terms, which they failed to do, and thereupon Major
Anthony drove them away from the post. 16
15th question. Were rations ever issued to those Indians either as prisoners of war or otherwise?
Answer. I have been informed that Major Wynkoop issued rations to the Indians encamped near Fort Lyon
while he was in command, but whether as prisoners of war I do not know. I think that Major Anthony did not
issue any rations.
16th question. And did those Indians remove, in pursuance of the directions, instructions, or suggestions
of the commandant at Fort Lyon, to the place on Sand creek, where they were attacked by you?
Answer. I have been informed that Major Anthony, commandant at Fort Lyon, did order the Indians to
remove from that post, but I am not aware that they were ordered to go to the place where the battle was
fought, or to any other place. 17
17th question. What measures were taken by you, at any time, to render the attack on those Indians a
Answer. I took every precaution to render the attack upon the Indians a surprise, for the reason that we
had been able to catch them, and it appeared to me that the only way to deal with them was to surprise
them in their place of rendezvous. General Curtis, in his campaign against them, had failed to catch them;
General Mitchel had met with no better success; General Blunt had been surprised by them, and his
command nearly cut to pieces. 18
18th question. State in detail the disposition made of the various articles of property, horses, mules,
ponies, buffalo robes, &c., captured by you at the time of this attack and by what authority was such
Answer. The horses and mules that had been stolen from the government were turned over to the officer
who had been responsible for the same; and the animals belonging to Atzins was returned to them upon
proof being made of such ownership. The animals not disposed of in this way were turned over to Captain
S.J. Johnson, 3d regiment Colorado cavalry, with instructions to proceed with the same to Denver, and turn
them into the quartermaster's department. After the command arrived in Denver, I again directed Captain
Johnson to turn over the stock to Captain C.L. Gorton, assistant quartermaster, at that place. The buffalo
robes were turned into the hospital for use of the wounded as before stated.
19th question. Make such further statement as you may desire, or which may be necessary to a full
understanding of all matters relating to the attack upon the Indians at Sand creek.
Answer. Since August, 1863, I had been in possession of the most conclusive evidence of the alliance, for
the purposes of hostility against the whites, of the Sioux, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Camanche river, and
Apache Indians. Their plan was to interrupt, or, if possible, entirely prevent all travel on the routes along
the Arkansas and Platte rivers from the States to the Rocky mountains, and thereby depopulate this
country. Rebel emissaries were long since sent among the Indians to incite them against the whites, and
afford a medium of communication between the rebels and the Indians; among whom was Gerry Bent 19, a
half-breed Cheyenne Indian, but educated, and to all appearances a white man, who, having served under
Price in Missouri, and afterwards becoming a bushwacker, being taken prisoner, took the oath of
allegiance, and was paroled, after which he immediately joined the Indians, and has ever since been one of
their most prominent leaders in all depredations upon the whites. I have been reliably informed that this
half-breed, Bent, in order to incite the Indians against the whites, told them that the Great Father at
Washington having all he could do to fight his children at the south, they could now regain their country.
When John Evans, governor of Colorado Territory, and ex officio superintendent of Indian affairs, visited by
appointment the Cheyenne Indians on the Republican fork of the Kansas river, to talk with them in regard to
their relations with the government, the Indians would have nothing to say to him, nor would they receive
the presents sent them by the government, but immediately on his arrival at the said point the Indians
moved to a great distance, all their villages appearing determined not to have any intercourse with him
individually or as the agent of the government.
This state of affairs continued for a number of months, during which time white men who had been trading
with the Indians informed me that the Indians had determined to make war upon the whites as soon as the
grass was green, and that they were making preparations for such an event by the large number of arrows
they were making and the quantity of arms and ammunition they were collecting; that the settlers along the
Platte and Arkansas rivers should be warned of the approaching danger; that the Indians had declared
their intention to prosecute the war vigorously when they commenced. With very few troops at my
command I could do but little to protect the settlers except to collect the latest intelligence from the Indians'
country, communicate it to General Curtis, commanding department of Missouri, and warn the settlers of
relations existing between the Indians and the whites, and the probability trouble, all of which I did.
Last April, 1864, the Indians, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, and others, commenced their depredations upon the
whites by entering their isolated habitations in the distant parts of this territory, taking therefrom everything
they desired, and destroying the balance; driving off their stock, horses, mules and cattle. I sent a
detachment of troops after the Indians to recover the stolen property, when the stock &c., being demanded
of them they (the Indians) refused to surrender the property so taken from the whites, and stated that they
wanted to fight the troops. Again, when a few weeks after the country along the Platte river, near Fremont's
orchard, became the theatre of their depredations, one Ripley, a ranchman, living on the Bijon 20 creek,
near camp Sanborn, came into camp and informed Captain Sanborn, commanding, that his stock had all
been stolen by the Indians, requesting assistance to recover it. Captain Sanborn ordered Lieutenant Clark
Dunn, with a detachment of troops, to pursue the Indians and recover the stock; but, if possible, to avoid a
collision with them. Upon approaching the Indians, Lieutenant Dunn dismounted, walked forward alone
about fifty paces from his command, and requested the Indians to return the stock, which Mr. Ripley had
recognized as his; but the Indians treated him with contempt, and commenced firing upon him, which
resulted in four of the troops being wounded and about fifteen Indians being killed and wounded,
Lieutenant Dunn narrowly escaping with his life. Again, about one hundred and seventy-five head of cattle
were stolen from Messrs. Irwin and Jackman, government freighters, when troops were sent in pursuit
toward the headwaters of the Republican. They were fired upon by the Indians miles from where the
Indians were camped. In this encounter the Indians killed one soldier and wounded another. Again, when
the troops were near the Smoky Hill, after stock, while passing through a canon, about eighty miles from
Fort Larned, they were attacked by these same Cheyenne Indians, and others, and almost cut to pieces,
there being about fifteen hundred Indians. Again, when on a Sunday morning the Kiowas and Camanches
were at Fort Larned, to obtain the rations that the commanding officer, on behalf of the government, was
issuing to them, they, at a preconcerted signal, fired upon the sentinels at the fort, making a general attack
upon the unsuspecting garrison, while the balance of the Indians were driving off the stock belonging to the
government, and then as suddenly departed, leaving the garrison afoot excepting about thirty artillery
horses that were saved; thus obtaining in all about two hundred and eighty head of stock, including a small
herd taken from the suttler at that post.
Again, a few days after this, the Cheyennes and Arapahoes Indians, with whom I had the fight at Sand
creek, meeting a government train bound for New Mexico, thirty miles east of Fort Larned, at Walnut creek,
who, after manifesting a great deal of friendship by shaking hands, &c., with every person in the train,
suddenly attacked them, killing fourteen and wounding a number more scalping and mutilating in the most
inhuman manner those they killed, while they scalped two of this party alive, one a boy about fourteen
years of age, who has since become an imbecile. The two persons that were scalped alive I saw a few days
after this occurred within sight of Fort Zarah, the officer commanding considered his command entirely
inadequate to render any assistance. But we think we have related enough to satisfy the most incredulous
of the determined hostility of these Indians; suffice it to say that during the spring, summer, and fall such
atrocious acts were of almost daily occurrence along the Platte and Arkansas routes, till the Indians
becoming so bold that a family, consisting of a man, woman, and two children, by the name of Hungate,
were brutally murdered and scalped within fifteen miles of Denver, the bodies being brought to Denver for
interment. After seeing which, any person who could for a moment believe that these Indians were friendly,
to say the least, must have strange ideas of their habits. We could not see it in that light. 21
This last atrocious act was referred to by Governor Evans in his talk with the Cheyennes and Arapahoes
Indians on about the 27th day of September, 1864, at Denver, Colorado Territory. The Indians then stated
that it had been done by members of their tribe, and that they never denied it. All these things were
promptly reported to Major General S. R. Curtis, commanding department, who repeatedly ordered me,
regardless of district lines, to appropriately chastise the Indians, which I always endeavored to do. Major
General S. R. Curtis himself and Brigadier General R. B. Mitchell made campaigns against the Indians, but
could not find them; the Indians succeeded in keeping entirely from their view. Again, Major General J. P.
Blunt made a campaign against the Indians; was surprised by them, and a portion of his command nearly
cut to pieces.
Commanding only a district with very few troops under my control, with hundreds of miles between my
headquarters and rendezvous of the Indians, with a large portion of the Sante Fe and Platte routes,
besides the sparsely settled and distant settlements of this Territory, to protect, I could not do anything till
the 3d regiment was organized and equipped, when I determined to strike a blow against this savage and
determined foe. When I reached Fort Lyon, after passing over from three to five feet of snow, and greatly
suffering from the intensity of the cold, the thermometer ranging from 28 to 30 degrees below zero 22, I
questioned Major Anthony in regard to the whereabouts of hostile Indians. He said there was a camp of
Cheyennes and Arapahoes about fifty miles distant; that he would have attacked before, but did not
consider his force sufficient; that these Indians had threatened to attack the post, &c., and ought to be
whipped, all of which was concurred in by Major Colley, Indian agent for the district of the Arkansas, which
information, with the positive orders from Major General Curtis, commanding the department, to punish
these Indians, decided my course, and resulted in the battle of Sand creek, which has created such a
sensation in Congress through the lying reports of interested and malicious parties.
On my arrival at Fort Lyon, in all my conversations with Major Anthony, commanding the post, and Major
Colley, Indian agent, I heard nothing of this recent statement that the Indians were under the protection of
the government, &c.; 23 but Major Anthony repeatedly stated to me that he had at different times fired upon
these Indians, and that they were hostile, and, during my stay at Fort Lyon, urged the necessity of any
immediately attacking the Indians before they could learn of the number of troops at Fort Lyon, and so
desirous was Major Colley, Indian agent, that I should find and also attack the Arapahoes, that he sent a
messenger after the fight at Sand creek, nearly forty miles, to inform me where I could find the Arapahoes
and Kiowas; yet, strange to say, I have learned recently that these men, Anthony and Colly, are the most
bitter in their denunciations of the attack upon the Indians at Sand creek. Therefore, I would, in conclusion,
most respectfully demand, as an act of justice to myself and the brave men whom I have had the honor to
command in one of the hardest campaigns ever made in this country, whether against white men or red,
that we be allowed that right guaranteed to every American citizen, of introducing evidence in our behalf to
sustain us in what we believe to have been an act of duty to ourselves and to civilization.
We simply ask to introduce as witnesses men that were present during the campaign and know all the facts.
Lieu't Col. 1st Cavalry of Colorado, Com'd'g Dist. of Colorado.
Sworn and subscribed to before me this 26th day of April, 1865.
ALEXANDER W. ATKINS,
1 – Chivington originally reported 900 to 1,000 Indians present at the camp. The majority of soldiers from both the 1st and
3rd regiments estimated the Indian camp at or around 500. He states that he was not aware of any old men in the camp.
This statement must come into question, for Chivington knew that Black Kettle and White Antelope were at Sand Creek (both
in their 60s). Yellow Wolf, in his late 70s or early 80s was also present. He also implies that the camp included “war chiefs,”
when it was known that Black Kettle, White Antelope, Left Hand, Yellow Wolf and approximately one-quarter of the Cheyenne
Council of 44 present at Sand Creek were considered peace chiefs. No Dog Soldier chiefs (including Black Kettle supporter
Bull Bear) were present.
2 – It is unlikely that the Indians had no rifles, but the number of weapons in their possession must be considered. Major
Scott Anthony had reported earlier that many weapons had been confiscated under the terms of surrender agreed to by Black
Kettle, Left Hand and Little Raven. They were allowed to keep bows and arrows for hunting. A logical conclusion should be
drawn that, if 700 warriors were armed with rifles and pistols, the casualties suffered by Chivington’s militia would be higher
than 12 (the official count).
3 – A great deal of controversy surrounds Chivington’s claim of “rifle pits” excavated at the camp. Chivington clearly implies
that these pits were dug prior to the attack for the purpose of defense. Some Indian historians maintain that the nomadic
Plains tribes never fortified their camps in such a way, for the general war tactics called for running battles. The testimony of
Union soldiers varied on this point, as some claimed to have seen the pits, while others said the Indians burrowed into the
bluffs after the attack began.
4 – The official casualty report was 12 killed, 40 wounded.
5 - Chivington’s shuffling response to this question was highly scrutinized by the commission. Chivington forever
maintained that 500 to 600 Indians were killed, with few women and children casualties. Several soldiers and officers in his
3rd Regiment militia also exaggerated the casualty count (although to a lesser degree), while to a man all 1st Regiment
soldiers and civilians present at the attack estimated the number much lower and testified to the deaths of more women and
children. The official casualty report puts the number at 160 to 170 killed, with two-thirds of the dead women and children.
6 – The “one exception” was Jack Smith, son of John Smith, who, according to eyewitness testimony of James Beckwourth,
was executed by 3rd Regiment soldiers after the attack. Chivington reported at that time that Jack, a young man, died
overnight of a "sudden illness." Other Indian prisoners were reportedly killed later, and some officers alleged that the
executions were by order of Colonel Chivington.
7 – The omitted date here raises the curiosity of many researchers. No reason is given for the omission, and it isn’t entirely
clear who deleted the date. Chivington officially mustered out of the Army on January 8, 1865. The question of Chivington’s
authority to command the volunteer militia at the time of the Sand Creek Massacre has always been called into question,
particularly because Lt. Colonel George Shoup was the 3rd Regiment’s official commander. There is no doubt, however,
that Chivington led the attack at Sand Creek, and Lt. Colonel Shoup was clearly Chivington’s subordinate. Samuel Tappan
maintained that Chivington’s enlistment expired on September 23, 1864, which is verified by records in the Colorado State
Archives. It is reasonable to assume, however, that as the Commander of Colorado’s military district, Chivington would have
remained in command until a replacement was chosen. Because the Civil War was still raging in September, the lapse of
time before Colonel Moonlight relieved Chivington is understandable. Some critics suggest that the date omission in
Chivington’s testimony, and the Army’s never acknowledging Captain Soule’s refusal to obey Chivington at Sand Creek, was
part of a cover-up to gloss over the fact that Chivington had no authorization to take the 3rd Regiment to Sand Creek.
8 – Samuel Colley. The name “Colby” is often used, and in other instances, the name is correctly spelled.
9 – The stock and other valuables captured at Sand Creek was an important issue, despite the more important question of
the actions of Chivington’s troops at the massacre. Many horses and mules issued to the troops, as well as those captured
at Sand Creek, were unaccounted for. Chivington attempted to turn suspicion away from the attack by implying that Smith,
Colley, Soule and others conspired to profit from the missing booty. Captain Soule was murdered three days before
Chivington filed this deposition, and was obviously unable to answer Chivington's accusations.
10 – Chivington originally reported “several scalps” of white men and women were found. By now, the number was inflated
to 19. Chivington’s first report concerning scalps “I will state, for the consideration of gentlemen who are opposed to fighting
these red scoundrels, that I was shown, by my chief surgeon, the scalp of a white man taken from the lodge of one of the
chiefs, which could not have been more than two or three days taken . . .” Major Wynkoop questioned the claim, maintaining
that there were no murders in the vicinity during the time period when this scalp could have been taken.
11 – Chivington faced harsh criticism for this statement, for several witnesses testified that Captain Soule and Lieutenant
Cramer led a large contingency of Fort Lyon soldiers that confronted Chivington and told him that Black Kettle had
12 – Camp Weld.
13 – A true statement. Curtis expressly ordered that no peace should be made until more punishment of the warriors was
meted out. These orders were issued after the Camp Weld Council, however, and were never passed on to Major Wynkoop,
who was authorized by Evans and Chivington to treat with Black Kettle at Fort Lyon.
14 – A false statement. See footnote 13.
15 – See the full transcript of the Camp Weld Council for a complete record of this point.
16 – Major Anthony didn’t order Black Kettle to comply with General Curtis’ terms. He agreed to Major Wynkoop’s
arrangement in which the Cheyennes and Arapahos would camp at Sand Creek, under protection of the military, until
Wynkoop could meet with Curtis and gain permission to secure a peace treaty.
17 – Many Fort Lyon officers testified that Chivington was fully informed of Black Kettle’s position before the attack.
18 – An exaggeration by Chivington. Blunt’s command pursued the Indians, but the battle yielded few casualties.
19 – Chivington is referring to George Bent. The son of William Bent did serve a brief stint in the Confederate Army while
living in Missouri as a teenager. George was captured in a battle at Corinth, MS, and was taken to St. Louis, where his
brother Robert negotiated George's release with officers acquainted with the Bent family. Under the terms of his parole,
George vowed to return to Colorado with Robert and take no further part in the war. In his deposition, Chivington provides no
factual support for his accusation of George's complicity in later Indian depredations. Most historical records report that
George worked as an interpreter in the employ of the Union Army upon his return. Bent's younger brother Charley was
indeed a renegade who fought the whites, but official records support the fact that George participated in numerous peace
councils with the Cheyennes and the Army, of particular note the Weld and Smoky Hill Councils. After the Sand Creek
Massacre, however, George did join the Dog Soldiers in reprisal raids.
20 – Bijou Creek.
21 – Chivington makes a strong case regarding Indian depredations committed, but the Indians camped at Sand Creek
belonged primarily to Black Kettle’s band, non-combatants who tried to stay away from the war up on the Republican.
22 – Chivington may again have been exaggerating in his attempt to glorify the Sand Creek campaign . The weather during
this time indeed was cold, but temperatures on the Colorado plains rarely dip below zero in November. Even in the high
Colorado mountains, 28 to 30 below zero is virtually unheard of. Additionally, while November is a snowy month in Colorado,
Chivington's claim that they encountered three- to five-feet snow depths along the entire 250-mile stretch across the plains
between Denver and Fort Lyon is highly suspect. The Third Regiment most likely encountered the harshest weather of its
journey while crossing the Palmer Divide south of Denver. Although Chivington made much of the weather, there is no
record of any other soldier or officer even mentioning snow or harsh weather conditions, with the exception of Private Morris
Coffin, who wrote in his book, The Battle of Sand Creek, that the regiment left Denver in snow, encountered 20 inches of
snow at the Palmer Divide, "sunshine" and less snow at Monument Creek, and no snow at all by Colorado City. Coffin
reported the weather to be "fine" from that point on, with less than two inches of snow. Major Scott Anthony also remarked
there was "very little snow on the ground" at Sand Creek when they attacked the camp.
23 – All evidence and testimony refuted this statement by Chivington.
|Colonel John Milton Chivington
(Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy Dept.)
|Sand Creek also
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