The Sand Creek Massacre | Rebellion records
Governor Evans to General Curtis - May 28, 1864
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The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. XXXIV, Part IV,
pp.97-99. - Excerpts relevant to the Sand Creek Massacre
Colorado Territorial Governor John Evans wires General Samuel Curtis, requesting that military troops be returned to Colorado to
defend settlements against Indian attacks.
EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, COLORADO TERRITORY,
Denver, May 28, 1864.
Commanding Department of Kansas:
DEAR SIR: Your letter of the 9th instant was received a few days ago. I have delayed an answer for a few days to gather more
information in regard to the dangers to which our settlements are subjected from hostile Indians, and to see if we could not spare our
troops for the active war against the rebellion, in which we are all so deeply interested. My disposition to spare all the troops not
positively necessary for our defense may be established by correspondence had with yourself when in command of the Department of
I then proposed to spare you all except six companies, two of which were then in the Department of New Mexico, to be returned to
Colorado. This proposition it was not thought prudent to accept, as you said it would not be prudent to weaken the frontier lines; but as
we were then at peace with all of the tribes in this Territory and on the plains, I thought it possible to spare all the troops excepting the
Now we have but half the troops we then had, and are at war with a powerful combination of Indian tribes, who are pledged to sustain
each other and drive the white people from this country. I was made aware of this combination last fall through reliable sources of
information, which were at once sent to the Colorado District headquarters, and thence to department headquarters at Saint Louis,
and to the Indian Bureau at Washington. They were, through the Secretary of the Interior, laid before the War Department. I also went to
Washington last fall to make preparations for the probable conflict. I inclose copies of the more important papers referred to for your
information, to which I made reference in a former letter. The Secretary of War asked me what I thought to be necessary, to which I
replied that our troops, First Cavalry, ought to have carbines (as they were only armed with pistols and sabers), and that I desired the
posts on the plains in Kansas and Nebraska to be strengthened as much as he could do by springtime. He promptly told me we
should have the carbines, and they were accordingly to be sent out at once. They have arrived since the hostilities commenced this
spring, having been detained on the way all winter by bad weather or other cause of delay.
Having no militia organization that is serviceable for other than neighborhood defenses, and they only in the more densely [populated]
settlements, mostly in the mountains and on settlements that are exposed on the plains, being scattered along the streams, in single
tiers of houses, from 2 to 4 miles apart for hundreds of miles along the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers and their tributaries, it is
perfectly out of the question for them to be collected on the headwaters of the Republican and Smoky Hill Forks of the Kansas River.
The depredations have commenced precisely as foretold in my communications to the Departments last fall. From information I have
just received from old Indian traders and from Indians within a few days I feel assured that the Sioux Indians that reside in this Territory
and the band of Arapahoes referred to have declined to join in the war as they were expected to do; but I have from the same sources
of information, which I regard as reliable, learned that all of the Cheyennes, a most warlike and powerful tribe, with the Kiowas and
Comanches, are allied and now carrying out their hellish purposes according to their agreement.
That they are in strong force on the plains I have no doubt, and if the U. S. troops are withdrawn I feel confident that they will wipe out
our sparse settlements in spite of any home force we could muster against them. The troops have had several skirmishes with them,
and at Cedar Cañon Major Downing gave a party of them a severe chastisement; but what has been done, the traders who know them
well say, has only whetted their appetite for revenge, and has by no means subdued them. Unless a force can be sent out to chastise
this combination severely and at once the delay will cost us a long and bloody war and the loss of a great many lives, with untold
amounts of property. Our lines of communication, our main dependence for subsistence out here, will be plundered and the trains will
be driven off the route in consequence of these dangers. The consequence to a people remote as we are from any supplies you can
imagine for yourself, and I trust understand.
In the name of humanity, I ask that our troops now on the border of Kansas may not be taken away from us, just as they have been
specially prepared to defend us by the Government and at the time of our greatest need of their services since the settlement of the
country. I ask, as the best protection to our settlements and the best economy to the Government, that at least half of the regiment go
up from their present place of rendezvous on the Arkansas River, which is not very far from the Indian's haunts on the Smoky Hill and
Republican, and chastise them severely until they give up hostilities, and I make these requests, feeling as deep an interest in the
suppression of the infernal rebellion against the Government as any other man, and also feeling as ready to send out for that purpose
every available man at this most trying time in the history of our country. I do it, too, entirely independent of any political or personal
considerations. If the permission for the expedition asked for is granted please telegraph me, and I will do my best to co-operate
along the line of the settlements and the stage route by distributing arms to the ranchmen for their own defense under our militia
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Governor of Colorado
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