The Sand Creek Massacre | Rebellion Records
Major Edward Wynkoop Takes Command of Fort Lyon, May 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 III, p. 531-32 and Series I, Vol. XXXIV, Part IV, p. 151 - Excerpts relevant to the Sand Creek Massacre.
By order of Colonel John M. Chivington, Major Edward W. Wynkoop takes command of Fort Lyon, May 9, 1864.
Page 531 Chapter XLVI. CORRESPONDENCE,ETC.-UNION.
FORT LYON, COLO, TER., May 9, 1864.
Colonel J. M. CHIVINGTON,
Commanding Military District of Colorado:
COLONEL: I have the honor to report that I arrived at this post last evening; will assume command to-day. I find the quarters in a
very dilapidated condition; will immediately go about repairing them as well as possible. The surgeon reports the absolute
necessity of vegetables required for the health of the men; would recommend that the commissary be instructed to immediately
procure the same. I would like to receive from headquarters full and thorough instructions in regard to the course I shall adopt
in reference to the Indians.
I understand that there are Cheyennes in the vicinity of this post, but have no information in regard to any depredations recently
committed by them. I would respectfully suggest that I be allowed to
Page 532 LOUISIANA AND THE TRANS-MISSISSIPPI. Chapter XLVI.
turn over to the ordnance officer at Denver all surplus ordnance stores at this post. I inclose a copy of a letter received here,
which, if the author will furnish his name as he promises, may be worthy of attention. Before acting in the matter I would desire
instructions from yourself unless in case of an emergency.
I am, colonel, your most obedient servant,
E. W. WYNKOOP.
Major First Cavalry of Colorado, Commanding Fort Lyon.
Page 151 Chapter XLVI. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.-UNION.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF COLORADO,
Denver, Colo. Ter., May 31, 1864.
Major E. W. WYNKOOP,
First Cavalry of Colorado:
MAJOR: Inclosed please find copy of dispatch from General Curtis, bearing date yesterday, which explains itself. You will
caution all in command to the greatest vigilance. See that herds of public stock are properly guarded. The Cheyennes will have
to be soundly whipped before they will be quiet. If any of them are caught in your vicinity kill them, as that is the only way. Take
their stock and turn it in to the quartermaster, Caution Wilson, down the river, the Kiowas and Comanches may be in with them.
Charge Lieutenant Baldwin's command not to be caught off their guard en route to Larned. Suppose this dispatch accounts for
the rumor about Lieutenant Eayre. Evidently dispatch refers to Lieutenant Eayre's fight.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. M. CHIVINGTON,
Colonel, Commanding District.
(Copy to Captain William H. Backus, First Cavalry of Colorado.)
Located in southeastern Colorado approximately 250 miles from Denver, Fort Lyon was built in 1860 by Union troops under the
command of Major John Sedgwick. Originally called Fort Wise, after Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise, the fort was later
renamed to honor the first Union General killed in the Civil War, Nathaniel Lyon. The post was originally constructed to provide
military protection from hostile Indian attacks on the Upper Arkansas route of the Santa Fe Trail. William Bent's new fort nearby,
which served trade to Indians, trappers and explorers for decades, was purchased by the Army to serve as a commissary for
the new army post.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Fort Lyon became a critical outpost for the protection of the Union Army's right flank, for it sat at a
critical junction between New Mexico, Texas, Kansas and Colorado. When Major Wynkoop took command in the spring of
1864, he was saddled with the responsibility of defending the Upper Arkansas route from both hostile Indians and advancing
Confederate troops. His immediate superior was Colonel John M. Chivington, commanding the District of Colorado
headquartered in Denver. A month after Wynkoop took command at Lyon, Indian warriors murdered a family of four just 30
miles from Denver, prompting Colorado Territorial Governor John Evans to urgently request more military presence in the city
(see the Hungate Massacre). In response, Chivington's commander, General Samuel Curtis, removed Fort Lyon from the
District of Colorado's jurisdiction so that Chivington could concentrate his efforts on the protection of Denver. This created an
ambiguous chain-of-command that would soon place Wynkoop between his Kansas commanders concerned with the raging
Civil War, and Chivington, whose primary responsibility was to defend Colorado against increasingly hostile Indian attacks.
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