The Sand Creek Massacre - Lieutenant Joseph A. Cramer
Letter to Major Edward Wynkoop Regarding the Massacre
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We'll never forget
1 – Cramer refers to Major Scott J. Anthony, commanding Fort Lyon at the time of Chivington’s arrival.

2 – Lt. Luther Wilson.

3 – Cramer’s hastily written notes here may be logically interpreted as, "we marched up Sand Creek to the big
bend in the Sandy."  Sand Creek is historically the shortened version of the official name of the Big Sandy.  The ‘big
bend’ is commonly referred to as a large bend in the creek where the Cheyennes and Arapahos were camped at
the time of the massacre.

4 – Smoky Hill River – Cramer refers to the trip that he, with Wynkoop and Soule, took on September 10, 1864.  With
a detachment of 130 Fort Lyon soldiers, Wynkoop conducted a successful peace negotiation with Black Kettle and
other Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs at what became know as the Smoky Hill Council.  Black Kettle and other chiefs
had rounded up four white children kidnapped in Dog Soldier raids on the Little Blue in Nebraska, and gave them
up to Wynkoop.  In return, Wynkoop took the chiefs to Denver to negotiate a peace treaty with Governor Evans
(Camp Weld Council).  Both of these councils played a significant role in the Sand Creek Massacre.  See the
Sand Creek Massacre Timeline.
Weld Council transcript

5 – John S. Smith, U.S. Interpreter, was camped at the Sand Creek village at the time of Chivington’s attack.  He
was employed by the military to obtain information from Black Kettle regarding enemy movement in the area, and
was also conducting trade with the Sand Creek Indians, with the permission of Major Anthony.

6 - Private David Louderback, 1st Regiment, was camped with Smith and wagon driver Watson Clark at the Sand
Creek village at the time of Chivington’s attack.

7 – Watson Clark, a government-employed teamster.

8 – Smith and Louderback would later testify essentially the same information that Cramer reports here.

9 – Cramer refers to no specific Major here.  The Majors that participated at Sand Creek were Major Scott Anthony,
Major Jacob Downing, and Major Hal Sayre.

10 – Again, Cramer does not name the Lt. Colonel.  The two officer of this rank at Sand Creek were George L.
Shoup, and Leavitt L. Bowen.  During the ensuing military investigation, Cramer was never asked to identify the

11 – Both Soule and Cramer believed at this time that Black Kettle was killed at Sand Creek, but the Chief actually
escaped without injury.  Chivington erroneously reported that his men killed Black Kettle.  He may have intentionally
lied in order to stir up anti-Indian sentiment in Denver and boost his reputation as an Indian fighter, or Chivington
may have actually believed Black Kettle was dead (the Indian bodies were all so thoroughly mutilated after the
attack that most were rendered unrecognizable).  White Antelope, War Bonnet, and Left Hand were killed (Left Hand
died a few days later), but reports of ‘Little Robe’ dying was erroneously reported by General Curtis.

12 – It’s unlikely that Cramer ever got near enough to Black Kettle during the massacre to hear the chief speak
these words.  The tone of anger in Cramer’s letter suggests he is reporting hearsay or rumors here.

13 – Again, Cramer is most likely reporting hearsay.  Later stories of the attack relate that White Antelope (not Left
Hand) was killed while defiantly standing with his arms folded as Cramer describes it.  Left Hand was indeed
wounded, but he put up a fight and escaped with the other Indian survivors. Most historians now agree he died of
his wounds a few days later, but he was not among the dead found at Sand Creek.

14 – Cramer apparently refers to Fort Larned, KS.  One Eye (Cheyenne sub-chief killed at Sand Creek) indeed was
in the employ of the government to spy on hostile warrior movements in the area.  He is most notably remembered
as the leader of the party that initially approached Wynkoop with Black Kettle's proposal to meet at the Smoky Hill
Council, which resulted in the rescue of four Dog Soldier captives, and led to the council with Governor Evans at
Camp Weld in Denver. One Eye once saved William Bent's life in a Kiowa raid, and Chivington himself had
designated him as a "good Indian."

15 – Cramer refers to Major Scott Anthony.

16 – Major Jacob Downing, a lawyer in civilian life, and a staunch Chivington supporter who later represented him
in the government hearings.

17 – Lt. Chauncy M. Cossitt, a Fort Lyon officer who joined Soule and Cramer’s protest against attacking Black

18 – Cramer erroneously says John Smith.  He is referring to Smith’s son, Jack, whom James Beckwourth testified
was executed by members of the Colorado Third Regiment.

19 - Lt. Colonel Samuel F. Tappan – not a participant in the Sand Creek Massacre, but present at Fort Lyon when it
occurred. When Chivington had arrived to commandeer the Lyon troops, Tappan was laid up with a broken ankle
suffered in a riding accident.  Soule and Cramer tried to enlist his help to persuade Chivington to spare Black
Kettle's village, but Tappan was apparently too loopy on morphine to be of any assistance. It's unlikely he would
have made a difference even if he had been available, however, for he and Chivington disliked each other
immensely due to numerous past run-ins rooted in professional jealousy. Tappan, a former journalist with many
influential friends in Washington, would later spearhead the investigation into Chivington's attack.

20 – General John P. Slough – Commanded troops at La Glorieta Pass, but thereafter replaced by Chivington as
Commander of Colorado Military District in a dispute over tactics employed at La Glorieta.  Slough re-
commissioned and summoned to Washington by President Lincoln.  Cramer at this time was part of the
contingency of Fort Lyon soldiers looking to expose Chivington’s massacre, and he undoubtedly hoped to bring the
issue to the attention of higher authorities with an axe to grind.
Lieutenant Joseph A. Cramer, commanding Company K, Colorado First
Regiment at the Sand Creek Massacre, joined
Captain Silas Soule and
other Fort Lyon officers in a protest against
Col. John M. Chivington’s
planned attack on Black Kettle’s village.  After Soule firmly stood in
defiance of Chivington, his life was reportedly threatened by Chivington
and other members of the Colorado Third Volunteers militia.  Cramer
urged Soule to back away from the confrontation, and then attempted to
reason with Chivington to no avail.

When Chivington’s militia attacked at Sand Creek, Soule refused to
allow his men to participate, and Cramer soon followed suit.  Cramer
wrote the following letter to
Major Edward Wynkoop soon after the
massacre.  Soule also wrote to Wynkoop (
see Soule’s letter).  Soon
thereafter, Wynkoop (relieved of command of Fort Lyon just prior to the
Sand Creek attack) was ordered to conduct an investigation of
Chivington’s actions at Sand Creek.
Sand Creek also
available at
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Cramer’s letter appears here unedited.

Ft. Lyon, C. T.

December 19, 1864

Dear Major:

This is the first opportunity I have had of writing you since the great Indian Massacre, and for a
start, I will acknowledge I am ashamed to own I was in it with my Co.  Col. Chivington came down
here with the gallant third known as Chivington Brigade, like a thief in the dark throwing his Scouts
around the Post, with instructions to let no one out, without his orders, not even the Commander of
the Post, and for the shame, our Commanding Officer
1 submitted.  Col. Chivington expected to
find the Indians in camp below the Com---- (commissary) but the Major Comd'g told him all about
where the Indians were, and volunteered to take a Battalion from the Post and Join the Expedition.

Well Col. Chiv. got in about 10 a.m., Nov. 28th and at 8 p.m. we started with all of the 3rd parts of
"H" "O" and "E" of the First, in command of Lt. Wilson
2  Co. "K" "D" and "G" in commanding of
Major Anthony.  Marched all night up Sand, to the big bend in Sanday
3, about 15 or 20 miles,
above where we crossed on our trip to Smoky Hill
4 and came on to Black Kettles village of 103
lodges, containing not over 500 all told, 350 of which were women and children.  Three days
previous to our going out, Major Anthony gave John Smith
5, Lowderbuck 6 of Co. "G" and a
government driver
7, permission to go out there and trade with them, and they were in the village
when the fight came off.  John Smith came out holding up his hands and running towards us, when
he was shot at by several, and the word was passed along to shoot him.  He then turned back, and
went to his tent and got behind some Robes, and escaped unhurt.  Lowderbuck came out with a
white flag, and was served the same as John Smith, the driver the same.
8  Well I got so mad I
swore I would not burn powder, and I did not.  Capt. Soule the same.  It is no use for me to try to tell
you how the fight was managed, only that I think the Officer in Command should be hung, and I
know when the truth is known it will cashier him.

We lost 40 men wounded, and 10 killed.  Not over 250 Indians mostly women and children, and I
think not over 200 were killed, and not over 75 bucks.  With proper management they could all
have been killed and not lost over 10 men.  After the fight there was a sight I hope I may never see

Bucks, women, and children were scalped, fingers cut off to get the rings on them, and this as
much with Officers as men, and one of those Officers a Major
9, and a Lt. Col. 10 cut off Ears, of all
he came across, a squaw ripped open and a child taken from her, little children shot, while begging
for their lives and all the indignities shown their bodies that was ever heard of (women shot while on
their knees, with their arms around soldiers a begging for their lives.)  Things that Indians would be
ashamed to do.  To give you some little idea, squaws were known to kill their own children, and
then themselves, rather than to have them taken prisoners.  Most of the Indians yielded 4 or 5
scalps.  But enough! For I know you are disgusted already.  Black Kettle, White Antelope, War
Bonnet, Left Hand, Little Robe and several other chiefs were killed.
11  Black Kettle said when he
saw us coming, that he was glad, for it was Major Wynkoop coming to make peace.
12  Left Hand
stood with his hands folded across his breast, until he was shot saying, "Soldiers no hurt me -
soldiers my friends."
13 One Eye was killed; was in the employ of Gov't as spy; came into the Post a
few days before, and reported about the Sioux, were going to break out at Learned
14, which
proved true.

After all the pledges made my Major A- to these Indians and then take the course he did.  I think as
comments are necessary from me; only I will say he has a face for every man he talks
15.  The
action taken by Capt. Soule and myself were under protest.  Col. C– was going to have Soule hung
for saying there were all cowardly Sons of B----s; if Soule did not take it back, but nary take aback
with Soule.  I told the Col. that I thought it murder to jump them friendly Indians.  He says in reply;
Damn any man or men who are in sympathy with them.  Such men as you and Major Wynkoop
better leave the U. S. Service, so you can judge what a nice time we had on the trip.  I expect Col.
C- and Downing
16 will do all in their power to have Soule, Cossitt 17 and I dismissed.  Well, let
them work for what they damn please, I ask no favors of them.  If you are in Washington, for God’s
sake, Major, keep Chivington from being a Bri'g Genl. which he expects.  I will send you the Denver
Papers with this.  Excuse this for I have been in much of a hurry.

Very Respectfully,
Your Well Wisher
(signed) Joe A. Cramer

John Smith was taken prisoner and then murdered
18.  One little child 3 months old was thrown in
the feed box of a wagon and brought one days march, and there left on the ground to perish.  Col.
19 is after them for all that is out.  I am making out a report of all from beginning to end, to
send to Gen'l Slough
20, in hopes that he will have the thing investigated, and if you should see
him, please speak to him about it, for fear that he has forgotten me.  I shall write him nothing but
what can be proven.

Major I am ashamed of this.  I have it gloriously mixed up, but in hopes I can explain it all to you
before long.  I would have given my right arm had you been here, when they arrived. Your family
are all well.
(signed) Joe A. Cramer