The Sand Creek Massacre | Rebellion Records
Attorney S.E. Browne to General Curtis Regarding the Reynolds Gang
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"Rebellion Records"
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,
Series I, Vol. XLI, Part III  -  excerpts relevant to the Sand Creek Massacre

U. S. Attorney S. E. Browne wires General Samuel Curtis, accusing John M. Chivington of ordering the execution of
five prisoners, known as the notorious Reynolds Gang.  The incident would soon add fuel to the fire of controversy
surrounding Chivington and the Sand Creek Massacre.  (Read
Chivington and the Reynolds Gang for a description
of the incident, and
Rocky Mountain News editorial, responding to criticism.)



Denver, Colo., October 3, 1864.

Major-General CURTIS,

Leavenworth, Kans.:

SIR: About the 1st of August last ten persons calling themselves Confederate soldiers entered what is called the
South Park in this Territory, robbed the U. S. mail, and several of our citizens, and committed various depredations.
As soon as Mr. Hunt, our U. S. marshal, learned the facts, he, with an escort of soldiers and a large number of
citizens, pursued the band and succeeded, after killing 1 and wounding others, in capturing 5 of the parties. These
persons he brought to Denver and lodged in the U. S. prison. Immediately after Colonel Chivington, commanding
the district, called on Mr. Hunt and informed him that he had the power to try these men by military commission and
could hang or shoot them by military authority for their offense against the law. In my absence, Mr. Hunt, believing
the statements of the colonel, handed the parties over to him. Chivington proceeded at once to organize what he
called a military commission for their trial and proceeded to take some testimony, but before any result was reached
learned that he had no power to act and the farce was suspended.

About the 1st of September, the colonel, saying that he was so ordered by you, sent those five persons, under an
escort of 100 men of the Third Colorado Cavalry, to Fort Lyon for trial. I was informed the day they left by Mr. F.
Kershaw, the commissary sergeant, that no rations had been drawn for the prisoners, although they were ordered
to be taken to Lyon, a distance of 240 miles. From this and other circumstances I dare my own inferences. The
second day out the whole five were butchered, and their bodies, with shackles on their legs, were left unburied on
the plains, and yet remain there unless devoured by the beasts of


prey that don't wear shoulder-straps. Our people had no sympathy with these thieves, as they have none with other
thieves, but they feel that our common manhood has been outraged, and demand that this foul murder shall not be
sloughed over in quiet. When the news was first brought to Chivington of the death of these persons, and of the
manner of their death, he sneeringly remarked to the bystanders: "I told the guard when they left that if they did not
kill those fellows, I would play thunder with them." There is no doubt in the minds of our people that a most foul
murder has been committed, and that, too, by the express order of old Chivington.

I can prove all the facts contained in this letter. I propose to prove them in the proper place, but I deem it my duty as
the representative of the Government to also inform you of the facts, and in behalf of our people to demand that
these outrages may be investigated. With such men in power our people feel that they have but little security in
person or property.

Very respectfully,


U. S. Attorney.




Camp near Wyandotte, October 15, 1864.

S. E. BROWNE, Esq.,

Denver City, Colo.:

DEAR SIR: Your letter concerning the disposition of certain brigands calling themselves Confederate soldiers is
received. I have not the least sympathy for such fiends; we are disposing of them very summarily everywhere. When
men in our rear betray the parole implied by their shelter under the roofs of our people left at our homes they
deserve hanging or any other sort of butchery, as you denominate the taking of their lives. War is butchery on a
grand scale, and there is none of its horrors more justifiable than those which destroy the sneaks and cowards that
steadily seek to carry on war in rear of our armed forces, and disguised as citizens. Brigands have no rights, and
Napoleon had them shot dow by regiments, even when they were caught in garbs of some military show. Colonel
Chivington may, or may not, have been privy to the matter you name. It may have been better to


have tried them by a commission, but according to your own showing they deserved their fate, and the laws of war
would even justify that disposition of men who outraged all the laws of war. I hope their terrible reward of such crime
will caution villains against their repetition. I deplore the pretense of trial; that was the worst of the matter, but it is
past, and I suppose the horrors of war in this instance has transpired much as it has to thousand in the brush in
Missouri. Our troops everywhere now consider it right to kill bushwhackers, even after they surrender; their recent
barbarous butcheries in North Missouri, and the tortured bodies of their victims, and the scalps and ears worn on
the bushwhackers' bridles, will evince a disregard of all rules of war, and even savage barbarity. I think, therefore,
the sympathy of your people better be devoted to better objects of human sympathy, and your professional skill,
which is very naturally sensitive when the righteous rule of civil courts are outraged, must yield to the harsh,
summary, cruel dictates of the pending trial of war. Fully appreciating your honorable motives that anxiously and
sincerely prompt you to a notice of acts that seem dangerous to the fair fame of our cause and country, I express to
you my thanks for your communication, but in the sequel, although terrible and swift justice transpires toward our
worst foes, those who meet in honorable warfare will justify every outrage committed against those fiends who
desert the lines to defy the rules that soldiers expect to follow.

I have the honor to be, sir, your very obedient servant,




United States Congress, Senate. "Report of the Secretary of War, Sand Creek Massacre" Sen. Exec.
Doc. No. 26, 39 Cong., 2 sess. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1867

Extract of testimony of Lt. Joseph A. Cramer regarding the Reynolds Gang:

Page 51

Question. What did Captain Cree say to you and Colonel Bent he had done to some prisoners?
Answer. That he had killed them, or they had been killed by his command. That he had started from Denver with
them to take them to Fort Lyon; that they had attempted to get away from his guard, and he had ordered them that
in case they made the attempt to kill them, and they had done so. Most of his guard, and I think himself, were ahead
of the prisoners at the time they were killed. I think he also stated that he was acting under orders from Colonel
Chivington, commanding the district of Colorado. He also stated that they left them on the


plains or prairie, and that Colonel Chivington had issued an order that he would hang any "son of a bitch" who
would bury their bodies or bones. I believe that's about all.

Extract of testimony of Captain Theodore G. Cree regarding the Reynolds Gang:

Page 190

Question. Did you have any conversation with Cramer in regard to the guerillas that were killed?

PAGE 191

(Question objected to by Lieutenant Colonel Tappan, president of the commission on the grounds of its being
Objection sustained by the commission.)
Question. Did you have any conversation with Cramer in regard to guerillas? If so, what was the conversation?
State particularly.
Answer. I had some conversation with him in regard to guerillas: They were known by the name of Reynolds's party.
He wanted to know what my orders were in relation to them. I told him my orders were to take them to Captain
Gray's camp on the Arkansas and to turn them over to him, and he was to take them to Fort Lyon. Then he wanted
to know what was done with them; I told him that they died for the want of breath; he said that was another murder of
Colonel Chivington's. I asked him how he knew; he said he did not know for certain, but he thought it was done to
enable him to get his brigadier's straps. I told him he was badly mistaken; that I took that all on myself. He said that
he did not like to dispute my word, but that he could not think otherwise but what it was orders from Chivington. I told
him I could not help what he thought; that is about all that was said in reference to them. He said he hoped. they
were in heaven; I said I hoped so too, as I thought they would be better off there than in this country.
Question. Did you, at any time during that conversation with Cramer, state that the guerillas were killed by
Chivington's orders?
Answer. I did not.
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