The Sand Creek Massacre
Reports and Dispatches - January/February 1865
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HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
Washington, D. C., January 11, 1865.
Major General CURTIS, Fort Leavenworth:
Statements from respectable sources have been received here that the conduct of Colonel Chivington's command towards the
friendly Indians has been a series of outrages calculated to make them all hostile. You will inquire into and report on this matter,
and will take measures to have preserved and accounted for all plunder taken from the Indians at Fort Lyons and other places.
H. W. HALLECK,
Major General, Chief of Staff.
WAR DEPARTMENT, January 11, 1865.
Judge Bennet, delegate from Colorado Territory, presents a letter and telegram from J. B. Chaffee relative to the Indian
depredations on the mail route to Colorado, and the general unsettled condition of the country, owing to the active hostility of the
Indians, incited mainly by the recent attack of Colonel Chivington at Fort Lyons. The attention of the government is called to the
immediate necessity of sending additional troops to that region to protect the route.
Respectfully referred to General Halleck.
By order of the Secretary of War.
JAS. A. HARDIE,
Colonel and Inspector General.
HEADQUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF KANSAS,
Fort Leavenworth, January 12, 1865.
GENERAL: Your despatch of yesterday, directing me to investigate Colonel Chivington's conduct towards the Indians, is received,
and will be obeyed. Colonel Chivington has been relieved by Colonel Moonlight, and is probably out of the service, under provisions
of Circular No. 36, War Department.
Although the colonel may have transgressed my field orders concerning Indian warfare, (a copy of which is here enclosed,) and
otherwise acted very much against my views of propriety in this assault at Sand creek, still it is not true, as Indian agents and Indian
traders are representing, that such extra severity is increasing Indian war. On the contrary, it tends to reduce their numbers, and
bring them to terms. Their bands are more united, perhaps, at this time than during the summer, but this results from their
necessities and surroundings. They are in a destitute condition, and must, at this season of the year, resort to desperate measures
to procure horses and provisions; hence we see a continual effort to overpower our little posts, or our trains and stages. Their
lodges are now between the Arkansas and Platte, and they shift their assaults so as to attack to the best advantage. I am collecting
and arranging troops near Fort Riley, but need more force to make another effort to destroy them. I will be glad to save the few
honest and kindly disposed, and protest against the slaughter of women and children; although, since General Harney's attack of
the Sioux many years ago at Ash Hollow, the popular cry of settlers and soldiers on the frontier favors an indiscriminate slaughter,
which is very difficult to restrain. I abhor this style, but so it goes from Minnesota to Texas. I fear that Colonel Chivington's assault at
Sand creek was upon Indians who had received some encouragement to camp in that vicinity under some erroneous supposition
of the commanding officer at Lyon that he could make a sort of "city of refuge" at such a point. However wrong that may have been, it
should have been respected, and any violation of known arrangements of that sort should be severely rebuked. But there is no
doubt a portion of the tribe assembled were occupied in making assaults on our stages and trains, and the tribes well know that we
have to hold the whole community responsible for acts they could restrain, if they would properly exert their efforts in that way. It is
almost impossible to properly try officers in my command, if they have a high rank, my troops all being widely scattered and much
I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
S. R. CURTIS, Major General.
“Massacre of the Cheyenne Indians” pp. 74-75
FORT LYON, COLO. TER., January 15, 1865.
Personally appeared before me John S. Smith, U. S. Indian interpreter, who, after being duly sworn, says:
That on the 4th day of September, 1864, he was appointed Indian interpreter for the post of Fort Lyon, and has continued to serve in
that capacity up to the present date. That on the 4th day of September, 1864, by order of Major E. W. Wynkoop, commanding post of
Fort Lyon, he was called upon to hold a conversation with three Cheyenne Indians, viz, One Eye and two others, who had been
brought into the post that day; that the result of the interview was as follows: One Eye, Cheyenne, stated that the principal chiefs and
sub-chiefs of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Nations had held a consultation, and agreed to a man of the chiefs and sub-chiefs to
come or send some one who was well acquainted with the parties at the post, and finally agreed to send in himself, One Eye, with a
paper written by George Bent, half-breed, to the effect that they (the Cheyennes and Arapahoes) had and did agree to turn over to
Major E. W. Wynkoop, or any other military authority, all the white prisoners they had in their possession, as they were all anxious to
make peace with the whites and never desired to be at war. Major E. W. Wynkoop then asked One Eye, he having lived among
whites and known to have always been friendly disposed toward them, whether he thought the Indians were sincere, and whether
they would deliver the white prisoners into his (Major Wynkoop's) hands. His reply was, that at the risk of his life he would guarantee
their sincerity. Major Wynkoop then told him that he would detain him as a prisoner for the time, and if he concluded to proceed to
the Indian camp he would take him along and hold him as a hostage for their (the Indians) good faith. One Eye also stated that the
Cheyenne and Arapahoe Nations were congregated to the number of 2,000 on the headwaters of the Smoky Hill, including some
forty lodges of Sioux; that they had rendezvoused there and brought in their war parties for the purpose of hearing what would be the
result of their message by which they had sued for peace, and would remain until they heard something definite. Major Wynkoop
told One Eye that he would proceed to the Indian camp and take him with him. One Eye replied that he was perfectly willing to be
detained a prisoner as well as to remain a hostage for the good faith of the Indians, but desired the major to start as soon as
possible for fear the Indians might separate.
On the 6th day of September I was ordered to proceed with Major Wynkoop and his command in the direction of the Indian
encampment. After a four days' march we came in sight of the Indians, and one of the three Indians before mentioned was sent to
acquaint the chiefs with what was the object of the expedition, with the statement that Major Wynkoop desired to hold a consultation
with the chiefs. On the 10th day of September, 1864, the consultation was held between Major Wynkoop and his officers, and the
principal chiefs of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Nations. Major Wynkoop stated through me to the chiefs that he had received their
message; that acting on that he had come to talk with them; asked them whether they all agreed to and indorsed the contents of the
letter, which he had in his possession, and which had been brought in by One Eye. Receiving an answer in the affirmative, he then
told the chiefs that he had not the authority to conclude terms of peace with them, but that he desired to make a proposition to them
to the effect that if they would give him evidence of their good faith by delivering into his hands the white prisoners they had in their
possession he would endeavor to procure for them peace, which would be subject to conditions; that he would take with him what
principal chiefs they might select, and conduct them in safety to the Governor of Colorado, and whatever might be the result of their
interview with him, return them in safety to their tribe. Black Kettle, the head chief of the Cheyenne Nation, replied as follows:
That the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Nations had always endeavored to observe the terms of their treaty with the United States
Government; that some years previously, when the white emigration first commenced coming to what is now the Territory of
Colorado, the country which was in possession of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Nations, they could have successfully made war
against them (the whites). They did not desire to do so--had invariably treated them with kindness, and had never, to their
knowledge, committed any destruction whatever; that until the last few months they had gotten along in perfect peace and harmony
with their white brethren, but while a hunting party of their young men were proceeding north in the neighborhood of the South Platte
River, having found some loose stock belonging to white men, which they were taking to a ranch to deliver them up, they were
suddenly confronted by a party of U. S. soldiers, and ordered to deliver up their arms. A difficulty immediately ensued, which resulted
in the killing and wounding several on both sides. A short time after this occurrence took place a village of papooses, squaws, and
old men, located on what is known as the Cedar Canon, a short distance north of the South Platte River, who were perfectly
unaware of any difficulty having occurred between any portion of their tribe (Cheyenne) and the whites, were attacked by a large party
of soldiers, and some of them killed, and their ponies driven off. After this, while a body of U. S. troops were proceeding from the
Smoky Hill to the Arkansas River, they reached the neighborhood of Scan Bear's band of the Cheyenne Nation; Scan Bear, second
chief of the Cheyenne, approached the column of troops alone, his warriors remaining off some distance, he not dreaming that
there was any hostility between his nation and the whites. He was immediately shot down. Fire opened upon his band, the result of
which was a fight between the two parties. Presuming from all these circumstances that war was inevitable, the young men of the
Cheyenne Nation commenced to retaliate by committing various depredations, all the time of which he (Black Kettle) and other
principal chiefs of the Cheyenne Nation was opposed to and endeavored by all means in their power to restore pacific relations
between that tribe and their white brethren, but at various times, when endeavoring to approach the military post for the purpose of
accomplishing the same, were fired upon and driven off. In the meantime, while their brethren and allies, the Arapahoes, were on
perfectly friendly terms with the whites, and Left Hand's band of that nation were camped in close vicinity to Fort Larned, Left Hand,
one of the principal chiefs of the Arapahoe Nation, learning that it was the intention of the Kiowas on a certain day to drive off the
stock from Fort Larned, proceeded to the commanding officer of that post and informed him of the fact.
No attention was paid to the information he gave, and on the day indicated the Kiowas ran off the stock. Left Hand again approached
the post with a portion of his warriors for the purpose of offering his services to the commanding officer there, to pursue and
endeavor to regain the stock from the Kiowa Indians, when he was fired upon and obliged hastily to leave. The young men of the
Arapahoe Nation supposing it was the intention of the whites to make war upon them, as well as the Cheyennes, also commenced
retaliating as well as they were able and against the desire of most of their principal chiefs, who, as well as Black Kettle and other
chiefs of the Cheyenne, were bitterly opposed to hostility with the whites. He then said that he had lately heard of a proclamation
issued by the Governor of Colorado, inviting all friendly-disposed Indians to come into the different military posts and that they would
be protected by the Government. Under these circumstances, although he thought the whites had been the aggressors and forced
the trouble upon the Indians, and anxious for the welfare of his people, he had made this last effort to communicate again with the
military authority, and he was glad he succeeded. He then arose, shook hands with Major Wynkoop and his officers, stating that he
was still as he always had been, a friend to the whites, and as far as he was concerned he was willing to deliver up the white
prisoners or anything that was required of him to procure peace, knowing it to be for the good of his people, but that there were other
chiefs who still thought that they were badly treated by the "white brethren" who were willing to make peace, but who felt unwilling to
deliver up the prisoners simply on the promise of Major Wynkoop that he would endeavor to procure them peace. They desired that
the delivering up the white prisoners should be an assurance of peace. He also went on to state that even if Major Wynkoop's
proposition was not accepted there by the chiefs assembled, and although they had sufficient force to entirely overpower Major
Wynkoop's small command, that from the fact that he had come in good faith to hold this consultation, that he should return
unmolested to Fort Lyon. The expressions of other chiefs were to the effect that they insisted upon peace as the condition of their
delivering up the white prisoners.
Major Wynkoop finally replied that he repeated what he had said before, that it was not in his power to insure them peace, and that
all he had to say in closing was, that they might think about his proposition; that he would march to a certain locality, distant twelve
miles, and there await the result of their consultation for two days; advising them at the same time to accede to his proposition as
the best means of procuring that peace for which they were anxious. The white prisoners were brought in and turned over to Major
Wynkoop before the time had expired set by him, and Black Kettle, White Antelope, and Bull Bear, of the Cheyenne Nation, as well
as Nevah Nattanee, Borcee, and Heap Buffalo, of the Arapahoe Nation--all these chiefs delivered themselves over to Major
Wynkoop. We then proceeded to Fort Lyon, and from there to Denver, Colo. Ter., at which place Governor Evans held a consultation
with these chiefs, the result of which was as follows: He told them he had nothing to do with them; that they would return with Major
Wynkoop, who would reconduct them in safety, and they would have to await the actions of military authorities. Colonel Chivington,
then in command of the district, also told them that they would remain at the disposal of Major Wynkoop until higher authority had
acted in their case. The Indians appeared to be perfectly satisfied, presuming that they would eventually be all right as soon as
these authorities could be heard from, and expressed themselves so. Black Kettle embraced the Governor and Major Wynkoop, and
shook hands with all the other officials present, perfectly contented, deeming that the matter was settled. On our return [to] Fort Lyon
I was told by Major Wynkoop to say to the chiefs that they could bring their different bands, including their families, to the vicinity of
the post until he had heard from the Big Chief; that he preferred to have them under his eye and away from other quarters, where
they were likely to get into difficulties with the whites. The chiefs replied that they were willing to do anything Major Wynkoop might
choose to dictate, as they had perfect confidence in him. Accordingly the chiefs went after their families and villages, and brought
them in; they appeared satisfied that they were in perfect security and safety after their villages were located, and Major Wynkoop
had sent an officer to headquarters for instructions. He (Major Wynkoop) was relieved from command of the post by Major Scott J.
Anthony, and I was ordered to interpret for him (Major Anthony) in a consultation he desired to hold with these Indians.
The consultation that then took place between Major Anthony and these Indians was as follows:
Major Anthony told him that he had been sent here to relieve Major Wynkoop, and that he would from that time be in command of this
post; that he had come here under orders from the commander of all the troops in this country, and that he had orders to have
nothing to do with Indians whatever, for they heard at headquarters that the Indians had lately been committing depredations, &c., in
the very neighborhood of this post, but that since his arrival he had learned that these reports were all false; that he would write to
headquarters himself and correct the rumors in regard to them, and that he would have no objection to their remaining in the vicinity
of Sand Creek, where they were then located, until such a time as word might be received from the commander of the department;
that he himself would forward a complete statement of all that he had seen or heard in regard to them, and that he was in hopes
that he would have some good news for the Indians upon receiving an answer, but that he was sorry that his orders were such as to
render it impossible for him to make them any issues whatever. The Indians them replied that it would be impossible for them to
remain any great length of time, as they were short of provisions. Major Anthony then told them that they could let their villages
remain where they were, and could send their young men out to hunt buffaloes, as he understood that the buffaloes had lately come
close in. The Indians appeared to be a little dissatisfied with the change in the commanders of the post, fearing that it boded them
no good, but having received assurances of safety from Major Anthony, they still had no fears of their families being disturbed. On
the 26th of November I received permission from Major Scott J. Anthony, commanding post, to proceed to the Indian village on Sand
Creek for the purpose of trading with the Indians, and started, accompanied by a soldier named David H. Louderback, and a citizen,
R. Watson Clarke. I reached the village and commenced to trade with them. On the morning of the 29th of November the village was
attacked by Colonel J. M. Chivington, with a command of from 900 to 1,000 men. The Indian village numbered about 100 lodges,
counting all together 500 souls, two-thirds of which were women and children. From my observation I do not think there were over
sixty Indians that made any defense. I rode over the field after the slaughter was over, and counted from sixty to seventy dead
bodies, a large majority of which were women and children, all of whose bodies had been mutilated in the most horrible manner.
When the troops first approached, I endeavored to join them, but was repeatedly fired upon, also the soldier and the citizen with me.
When the troops began approaching I saw Black Kettle, the head chief, hoist the American flag over his lodge, as well as a white
flag, fearing there might be some mistake as to who they were. After the fight Colonel Chivington returned with his command in the
direction of Fort Lyon, and then proceeded down the Arkansas River.
JOHN S. SMITH,
U. S. Interpreter.
Sworn and subscribed to at Fort Lyon, Colo. Ter., this 27th day of January, 1865.
W. P. MINTON,
Second Lieutenant, First New Mexico Volunteers, Post Adjutant.
“War of the Rebellion” (Series I, Vol. XLI, Part I, pp. 964-968)
FORT LYON, COLO. TER., January 15, 1865.
SIR: In pursuance of Special Orders, Numbers 43, headquarters District of Upper Arkansas, directing me to assume command of
Fort Lyon, as well as to investigate and immediately report in regard to late Indian proceedings in this vicinity, I have the honor to
state that I arrived at this post on the evening of the 14th of January, 1865, assumed command on the morning of the 15th of
January, 1865, and the result of my investigation is as follows, viz:
As explanatory, I beg respectfully to state that while formerly in command of this post, on the 4th day of September, 1864, and after
certain hostilities on the part of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians, induced, as I have had ample proof, by the overt acts of white
men, three Indians (Cheyennes) were brought as prisoners to me, who had been found coming toward the post, and who had in
their possession a letter written, as I ascertained afterward, by a half-breed in the Cheyenne camp as coming from Black Kettle and
other prominent chiefs of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Nations, the purport of which was that they desired peace, had never desired
to be at war with the whites, &c., as well as stating that they had in their possession some white prisoners, women and children,
whom they were willing to deliver up provided that peace was granted them. Knowing that it was not in my power to insure and offer
them the peace for which they sued, but at the same time anxious, if possible, to accomplish the rescue of the white prisoners in
their possession, I finally concluded to risk an expedition with the command I could raise (numbering 127 men) to their rendezvous,
where, I was informed, they were congregated to the number of 2,000, and endeavor by some means to procure to aforesaid white
prisoners, and to be governed in my course in accomplishing the same entirely by circumstances. Having formerly made lengthy
reports in regard to the details of my expedition, I have but to say that I succeeded--procured four white captives from the hands of
these Indians--simply giving them in return a pledge that I would endeavor to procure for them the peace for which they so anxiously
sued, feeling that under the proclamation issued by John Evans, Governor of Colorado and superintendent of Indian affairs (a copy
of which becomes a portion of this report), even if not by virtue of my position as a U. S. officer, highest in authority in the country,
included within the bounds prescribed as the country of the Arapahoe and Cheyenne Nations, that I could offer them protection until
such time as some measures might be taken by those higher in authority than myself in regard to them, I took with me seven of the
principal chiefs, including Black Kettle, to Denver city, for the purpose of allowing them an interview with the Governor of Colorado, by
that means making a mistake, of which I have since become painfully aware--that of proceeding with chiefs to the Governor of
Colorado Territory, instead of to the headquarters of my district to my commanding officer.
In the consultation with Governor Evans the matter was referred entirely to the military authorities. Colonel J. M. Chivington, at that
time commander of the District of Colorado, was present at the council held with these Indian chiefs, and told them that the whole
matter was referred to myself, who would act toward them according to the best of my judgment until such time as I could receive
instructions from the proper authorities. Returning to Fort Lyon I allowed the Indians to bring their villages to the vicinity of the post,
including their squaws and papooses, and in such a position that I could at any moment with the garrison I had have annihilated
them had they given any evidence of hostility of any kind in any quarter. I then immediately dispatched my adjutant, Lieutenant W. W.
Denison, with a full statement to the commanding general of the department asking for instructions, but in the meanwhile various
false rumors having reached district headquarters in regard to my course I was relieved from the command of Fort Lyon and
ordered to report at headquarters. Major Scott J. Anthony, First Cavalry of Colorado, who had been ordered to assume command of
Fort Lyon previous to my departure, held a consultation with the chiefs in my presence and told them that, though acting under strict
orders, under the circumstances he could not materially differ from the course which I had adopted, and allowed them to remain in
the vicinity of the post with their families, assuring them perfect safety until such time as positive orders should be received from
headquarters in regard to them. I left the post on the 25th day of November for the purpose of reporting at district headquarters. On
the second day after leaving Fort Lyon, while on the plains, I was approached by three Indians, one of whom stated to me that he
had been sent by Black Kettle to warn me that about 200 Sioux warriors had proceeded down the road between where I was and
Fort Larned to make war, and desired that I should be careful--another evidence of these Indians' good faith. All of his statement
proved afterward to be correct. Having an escort of twenty-eight men, I proceeded on my way, but did not happen to fall in with them.
From evidence of officers at this post I understand that on the 27th day of November, 1864, Colonel J. M. Chivington, with the Third
Regiment of Colorado Cavalry (100-days' men) and a battalion of the First Colorado Cavalry, arrived at Fort Lyon, ordered a portion
of the garrison to join him under the command of Major Scott J. Anthony, and against the remonstrance of the officers of the post,
who stated to him the circumstances of which he was well aware, attacked the camp of friendly Indians, the major portion of which
were composed of women and children.
The affidavits which become a portion of this report will show more particularly than I can state the full particulars of that massacre.
Every one of whom I have spoken to, either officers or soldier, agree in the relation that the most fearful atrocities were committed
that ever was heard of. Women and children were killed and scalped, children shot at their mothers' breasts, and all the bodies
mutilated in the most horrible manner. Numerous eye-witnesses have described scenes to me coming under the eye of Colonel
Chivington of the most disgusting and horrible character. The dead bodies of females profaned in such a manner that the recital is
sickening, Colonel J. M. Chivington all the time inciting his troops to these diabolical outrages. Previous to the slaughter
commencing he addressed his command, arousing in them by his language all their worst passions, urging them on to the work of
committing all these atrocities. Knowing himself all the circumstances of these Indians, resting on the assurances of protection
from the Government given them by myself and Major Scott J. Anthony, he kept his command in entire ignorance of the same, and
when it was suggested that such might be the case, he denied it positively, stating that they were still continuing their depredations,
and laid there, threatening the fort. I beg leave to draw the attention of the colonel commanding to the fact established by the
inclosed affidavits that two-thirds or more of that Indian village were women and children, and he is aware whether or not the
Indians go to war taking with them their women and children. I desire also to state that Colonel J. M. Chivington is not my superior
officer, but is a citizen mustered out of the U. S. service, and also that at the time this inhuman monster committed this
unprecedented atrocity he was a citizen by reason of his term of service having expired, he having lost his regulation command
some months previous.
Colonel Chivington reports officially that between 500 and 600 Indians were left dead upon the field. I have been informed by
Captain Booth, district inspector, that he visited the field and counted but sixty-nine bodies, and by others who were present that but
a few, if any, over that number were killed, and that two-thirds of them were women and children. I beg leave to further state for the
information of the colonel commanding that I have talked to every officer in Fort Lyon, and many enlisted men, and that they
unanimously agree that all the statements I have made in this report are correct.
In conclusion allow me to say that from the time I held the consultation with the Indian chiefs on the headwaters of Smoky Hill up to
the date of the massacre by Colonel Chivington, not one single depredation had been committed by the Cheyenne and Arapahoe
Indians. The settlers of the Arkansas Valley had returned to their ranches from which they had fled, had taken in their crops and had
been resting in perfect security under assurances from myself that they would be in no danger for the present, by that means saving
the country from what must inevitably become almost a famine, were they to lose their crops. The lines of communication to the
States were opened and travel across the plains rendered perfectly safe through the Cheyenne and Arapahoe country. Since this
last horrible murder by Colonel Chivington, the country presents a scene of desolation; all communication is cut off with the States
except by sending large bodies of troops, and already over 100 whites have fallen as victims to the fearful vengeance of these
betrayed Indians. All this country is ruined; there can be no such thing as peace in the future, but by the total annihilation of all the
Indians on the plains. I have the most reliable information to the effect that the Cheyennes and Arapahoes have allied themselves
with the Kiowas, Comanches, and Sioux, and are congregated to the number of 5,000 or 6,000 on the Smoky Hill. Let me also draw
the attention of the colonel commanding to the fact stated by affidavit that John S. Smith, U. S. interpreter, a soldier, and citizen, were
present, in the Indian camp by permission of the commanding officer of this post, another evidence to the fact of these same
Indians being regarded as friendly, also that Colonel Chivington states in his official report that he fought from 900 to 1,000 Indians,
and left from 500 to 600 dead upon the field--the sworn evidence being that there was but 500 souls in the village, two-thirds of
them being women and children, and that there were but from 60 to 70 killed, the major portion of which were women and children.
It will take many more troops to give security to travelers and settlers in this country, and to make any kind of successful warfare
against these Indians. I am at work placing Fort Lyon in a state of defense, having all, both citizens and soldiers, located here,
employed upon the works, and expect soon to have them completed, and of such a nature that a comparatively small garrison can
hold the fort against any attack by Indians. Hoping that my report may receive the particular attention of the colonel commanding, I
respectfully submit the same.
Your obedient servant,
E. W. WYNKOOP,
Major, Comdg First Colorado Vet. Cav. and Fort Lyon.
Lieut. J. E. TAPPAN
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., District of Upper Arkansas
“War of the Rebellion” (Series I, Vol. XLI, Part I, pp. 959-962)
HEADQUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF KANSAS,
Fort Leavenworth, January 30, 1865.
GOVERNOR: Yours of the 20th is just received, and I telegraph the latest news. I was provoked at the course taken by the
commanding officer at Julesburg, who took his entire force to escort prisoners through, leaving that post for few days entirely
vacated. I have telegraphed a proper rebuke, and trust this will not again occur. None of my military stations have been disturbed.
They are all intact, and generally too strong to be taken by assault. All we need is three or four regiments, which it seems to me will
be sufficient. Most of these I would keep moving in the country infested by foes. I fear your Interior Department will make me trouble,
by proposing military evolutions which conflict with my own. After traversing most of the plains last summer, up the Arkansas, up the
Platte, and near the head of every stream between these rivers, my personal knowledge, coupled with that obtained from my
officers, is abundant to enable me to understand the matter, and I am only desirous of doing what I consider necessary to make a
finish, as near as may be, of these troubles. But I cannot carry on war on other people's plans. I want no fancy movements, such as
occurred last summer, when one of your militia companies marched down the line, passing my troops, and claiming to have
"opened the overland route," as though others had not been over most of the places on the Blue, and on Plum creek and elsewhere,
where most of the losses had transpired. This move of Chivington against the bands that had been congregated on Sand creek, at
the instance of Major Wynkoop, was also an inspiration of over-zeal which did not emanate from my headquarters. I name these
things, governor, to secure unity of action, not to find fault.
On every occasion last summer I took the field promptly, and, although I did not get to Denver, I was at the slaughter ground near
Larned on the Arkansas, and on the Plum and Blue on the Platte, making overland journeys between, with active, efficient forces
extending over two thousand miles; so that my zeal and energy cannot be doubted. I protest my desire to pursue and punish the
enemy everywhere, in his lodges especially; but I do not believe in killing women and children who can be taken, and, if need be,
camped east of the Mississippi, where they can be kept and cared for. I always did and do consider the Ash Hollow massacre a
monstrous outrage, but the promotion and laudation that followed that transaction should excuse the indiscretion and cruelty of
excited and outraged frontier soldiers, who have always heard Ash Hollow warfare extolled as the very brilliant point of glorious
In my first movement last summer, when in pursuit of the Indians, I tried to restrain this plan of warfare, by issuing an order against
the massacre of women and children, believing that taking such captive and bringing them away would just as effectually mortify
and annoy the Indian robbers and warriors. Let me say, too, that I see nothing new in all this Indian movement since the Chivington
affair, except that Indians are more frightened and keep further away. By pushing them hard this next month, before grass recruits
their ponies, they will be better satisfied with making war and robbery a business. I would send into their lines some friendly,
reliable Arapahoes and Cheyennes, and separate tribes, so as to save such as may be willing to make peace and fight the bad
Such are my views. I am not anxious to have the job of operating matters; but while I have command, I want unity of action, or no
cross or counter currents. I have written this, because I see by telegraph that matters are spoken of as being organized at
Washington, where I fear less is known of details.
I am, governor, yours truly,
S. R. CURTIS, Major General.
His Excellency Governor JNO. EVANS, Washington, D. C.
HEADQUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF KANSAS,
Fort Leavenworth, January 30, 1865.
GENERAL: Governor Evans writes me, that he fears Chivington's conduct at Sand creek may embarrass military matters on the
plains. I have written him fully, and enclose you a copy of my letter.
There is no new feature in these Indian troubles, except that Indians seem more frightened. More forces and more prudence will
keep the lines open and subdue the hostile tribes. Some accounts of great combinations go the rounds; but I put no confidence in
The Indians of the plains are generally robbers and murderers, and act only from motives of hunger and avarice in their assaults,
and by fear in their forbearance.
Settlements have increased, and our lines of communication have become more convenient for their assaults, till they become
more troublesome and venturesome. The carelessness of emigration invited their assaults. It is folly to attribute the Indian troubles
to the wrongs committed by white men. While we may condemn these, it is really more indulgence than cruelty that endured and
continues their warfare. They have no great armies; they are not combined; their action is in separate bands of separate tribes. A
thousand men with light artillery can whip their greatest possible combinations; but it is desirable to have three or four more
regiments, so that a movable force of say two thousand can take a shifting attitude, going to a central point and throwing out
detachments as circumstances seem to require. Such a force must follow the buffalo, as the Indians do, and must not go beyond
reasonable proximity to the lines of travel, but remain near enough to the little posts that guard the travel and trains that follow the
routes up the Platte and up the Arkansas.
I send you a map of the overland route to the mountains with stations marked. I have required our troops to erect defences against
Indian assaults, and a few men can in this way hold position, and a few more accompany the stage or train to adjacent stations.
Such forts cost nothing of consequence, and have already saved men and stores in several instances.
Forces are necessary on these lines and in the edge of settlements; but a movable force generally stationed between the Platte and
Arkansas, as I have suggested, and nearest the eastern settlements where it can be most economically supplied, will, in my
judgment, be the proper organization for the country. I have in a former letter expressed my purpose to do all I can to continue the
campaign during the winter.
I specially urge the extension of the telegraph at least to Riley. The advantage will, in my judgment, greatly exceed the cost. I need
connexion with the Indian and buffalo range, so I can direct matters on the Platte to correspond with intelligence arriving from the
Santa Fé route. Our telegraph company can extend the line with only a cost of about ten thousand dollars; but it is proper to say my
request last season was disapproved by the honorable the Secretary of War, and this is a renewal of the request.
I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,
S. R. CURTIS, Major General.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Chief of Staff, Washington, D. C.
P. S.--February 2.--I delayed this for the map, which does not satisfy me, and will be delayed a few days for revision. I have ordered
all possible force to Julesburg, where Indian difficulties continue. I have information, also, that a council of the chiefs have
determined to try to draw off troops from the Arkansas line, by attacking the Platte line. I have to act in view of their shifting assaults.
S. R. CURTIS, Major General.
“Massacre of the Cheyenne Indians” pp. 77-79
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF COLORADO,
Denver, Colorado Territory, February 12, 1865.
SIR: The commission, of which you are president, convened by Special Orders No. 23, current series, from these headquarters, in
obedience to instructions from department headquarters, is convened for the purpose of investigating all matters connected with
the action between Colonel Chivington and the Indians, known as the Sand Creek fight, to ascertain, as far as possible, who are the
aggressors, whether the campaign was conducted by Colonel Chivington according to the recognized rules of civilized warfare, and
whether based upon the law of equity from the commencement of Indian hostilities to the present time.
It is also important to understand whether the Indians were under the protection of the government, and by what authority, or through
what influence, they were induced to place themselves under that protection; whether Colonel Chivington was knowing to this fact;
and whether, or not, the campaign was forced upon the Indians by the whites, knowing their helpless condition; and whether the
Indians were in a state of open hostility and prepared to resist any and all of the United States troops.
Whether any prisoners were taken by Colonel Chivington's command, and the disposition made by the same. If the proper steps
were taken by the Colonel to prevent unnatural outrages by his command, and punish the transgressors, if such there were.
A special point in your investigation should be as to the amount, kind, and quality of property captured by Colonel Chivington and
command; the disposition made of that property, and the steps taken by the colonel to protect the government and insure justice to
all parties, and whether he gave this matter any special attention. Also, regarding the treatment of government property, such as
horses and mules in the service, during the campaign, and until relieved from duty.
This commission is not intended for the trial of any person, but simply to investigate and accumulate facts called for by the
government, to fix the responsibility, if any, and to insure justice to all parties. Colonel Chivington, under these circumstances, has
not the right of challenge, and I have been careful to appoint a commission composed of officers not engaged in the operations they
are called upon to investigate.
The commission will be sworn in presence of Colonel Chivington, under the 93d article of war, and he will be permitted to have
such legal assistance as the commission may deem proper in the premises.
The sessions may be public or private, as the members deem prudent and right.
The commission has power to call for witnesses, and compel attendance. These instructions will be appended to the proceedings,
and the whole forwarded through these headquarters.
I have been thus explicit, that the commission may have full sweep, and act without embarrassment.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel Eleventh Kansas Cavalry, Commanding.
Lieutenant Colonel S. F. TAPPAN,
President of Military Commission.
“Sand Creek Massacre” pp. 3-4
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“War of the Rebellion” - United States War Dept. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the
Union and Confederate Armies. Four series, 128 volumes. Washington: Government Printing Office. 1880-1901
"Massacre of the Cheyenne Indians" - United States Congress, House of Representatives Joint Committee Report on the
Conduct of the War, 38 Cong., 2 sess., Washington, Government Printing Office, 1865.
Go to Sand Creek Documents for links to sites containing the complete Rebellion Records
Go to Massacre of the Cheyenne Indians for complete Joint Committee report
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