Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sand Hill Massacre

November 29, 1864: Colorado volunteers under Chivington attack Black Kettle and his Cheyenne and Arapaho followers at Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado. This fight will become known as the Sand Creek Massacre and dishonorable episode in the history of the U.S. Army.

( Black Kettle portrait courtesy of Sharper Graphics )

In going over the battle ground the next day, I did not see a body of a man, woman, or child but was scalped; and in many cases their bodies were mutilated in the most horrible manner. I heard one man say that he had cut a woman's private parts out, and had them for exhibition on a stick; I heard another man say that he had cut off the fingers of an Indian to get the rings off the hand.
-- Lt. James Cannon, affidavit of January 16, 1865

...The Sand Creek massacre is one of the few engagements ever formally disavowed by the U.S. military. Ulysses S. Grant himself denounced it as pure murder, while the Army's ranking jurist, Gen. Joseph Holt, termed it "a cowardly and cold-blooded slaughter, sufficient to cover its perpetrators with indelible infamy and the face of every American with shame and indignation."


1864 Colorado militia massacre Cheyenne at Sand Creek

[ following from: http://www.historychannel.com/thisday/ ]

Colonel John Chivington and his Colorado volunteers massacre a peaceful village of Cheyenne camped near Sand Creek in Colorado Territory, setting off a long series of bloody retaliatory attacks by Indians.

Chivington, a former Methodist preacher with ambitions to become a territorial delegate to Congress, saw in the Indian wars an opportunity to gain the esteem he would need to win a government office. Disappointed that the spring of 1864 failed to produce any major battles, Chivington apparently determined to burn villages and kill Cheyenne whenever and wherever he could, making little distinction between peaceful or aggressive bands.

Angered by frequent Indian attacks on settlers and the theft of their horses and cattle, many Colorado settlers supported Chivington's methods, and a number of men volunteered to join his forces on hundred-day enlistments, forming the 3rd Colorado Volunteers.

Fearing that U.S. troops might mistakenly identify his band of peaceful Cheyenne as having participated in the attacks on settlers, Chief Black Kettle traveled to Denver under escort of U.S. Army Major Edward Wynkoop to affirm his non-hostile intentions. Chivington and the territorial governor of Colorado clearly did not want peace, yet they could not openly reject the overtures of Black Kettle.

Believing that he had a promise of safety if he brought his people into Fort Lyon, Black Kettle lead the band of Cheyenne to a spot designated by Major Wynkoop near the fort along a small stream known as Sand Creek. The tribe flew an American flag and a white flag at the camp to indicate their alliance with the U.S. and alert all to their generally peaceful intentions.

Determined to have his glorious battle, Chivington refused to recognize that Black Kettle's settlement was peaceful. At daybreak, Chivington and his 700 volunteers, many of them drunk, attacked the sleeping village at Sand Creek.

Most of the Cheyenne men were away hunting, so the women, children, and elders were largely defenseless. In the frenzied slaughter that followed, Chivington and his men killed more than 100 women and children and 28 men. Black Kettle escaped the attack. The soldiers scalped and mutilated the corpses, hacking off body parts that included male and female genitals, and then returned to Denver where they displayed the scalps to approving crowds during intermission at a downtown theatre.

Because of Chivington's depraved slaughter, the central plains exploded with retaliatory attacks from Cheyenne, Sioux, and Arapaho Indians. Fortunately, not everyone applauded Chivington's behavior--many Americans, particularly in the east, strongly condemned Chivington's attack and the barbaric mutilations. Subsequent congressional and military investigations denounced Chivington, but claimed they could not punish him because he had resigned from the army and was no longer under military jurisdiction. Nonetheless, Chivington spent the rest of his life trying to escape the stigma of his deplorable behavior at Sand Creek.



[ from: http://www.geocities.com/~virtualtruth/chiving.htm ]

The Sand Creek Massacre

On November 29, 1864, Col. John M. Chivington of the Colorado Volunteers, brought his militia to a village of Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians. Their leader, Black Kettle, believed himself under the protection of the regular U. S. Army, and his tepee flew an American and white flags. Chivington, wanting a battle before his men's three month enlistments expired, massacred and mutilated over 100 women and children and the few men who remained in the village after the main band had gone on a hunting party. Chivington was never brought to trail, and while many criticized what he had done, many others praised him to the end.

There were Sympathetic accounts of Sand Creek

Other eyewitness accounts referred to the event as the Sand Creek massacre

Those who heard the account of what had happened to the Indian "savages" on November 29, 1864, asked, "Who is the Savage"?

Chivington ordered him men: "kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice."

Black Kettle, Peace Chief escaped being murdered..


Chivington's Background: The "Fighting Parson"

John M. Chivington was born in Ohio and had spent years as a Methodist Minister before beginning his military career.

In 1844 he was ordained a Methodist minister
In 1853 he assisted in Methodist missionary expediation to Wyandot Indians
In 1860, he was made "presiding elder" of Rocky Mountain District


Reaction to Sand Creek; Congressional Investigation

After Sand Creek, Chivington was a hero in Denver until other accounts began to surface:

-- stories of drunken soldiers and mutiliated women surfaced.
-- Chivington arrested 6 of his men, and charged them with cowardice--until it was determined they were 6 who refused to participate in massacre.

Eventually, a trial was held. Col. Chivington's tombstone may still be seen. At his death, the "Fighting Parson" was honored by Coloradans and Methodists alike.

Almost 150 years later, in April 1996, the United Methodist General Conference in Denver passes a "Sand Creek Apology",. Donald J. Mitchell, "Methodists Apologize", Associated Press, 4/27/96.


Impact on Military Doctrine

"Four years after the Civil War, Sherman became commanding general of the Army and incorporated the Indian pacification strategies -- as well as his own tactics -- into U. S. military doctrine. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, who had led Indian wars in the Missouri territory, succeeded Sherman in 1883 and further entrenched those strategies as policy. (See Ward Churchill, "A Little Matter of Genocide" and Peter Dale Scott, "Two Indonesias, Two Americas")



  1. I hate the way the Native Americans were treated by the whites. I am all Indian at heart. I think your people are compassionate and caring people. You care about each other. How are things now for your people? Please let me know if there is anything I can do. I love to be among your people.


  2. Thank you for writing, Sunset, and your thoughtful understanding... What you can do is question how we celebrate such holidays as Thanksgiving and Columbus Day and, also, how we honor people in the past (such as Lewis & Clark, for instance) in a one-sided way...

    Peace to you and all your relatives.


  3. I am a cheyenne-arapaho native- I have heard about this massacre my whole life. My great-great grandfather was a survivor, though his mother and sister were murdered. I would love to read more accounts of the c-a, not only the sand creek massacre.

  4. One of the greatest men ever to walk this planet was Cheyenne. That was Crazy Horse. The Sandoz book on him is such a thrill and inspiration to read... Her work on the plight of Little Wolf's band of Cheyenne after Sand Creek is also very good, but somewhat depressing. Both will remind you of your pride in being Cheyenne.

  5. That other Sandoz book is "Cheyenne Autumn".

  6. john sipes cheyenne historianApril 07, 2006

    It is odd how sand creek massacre ignores the true descendants. being a cheyenne historian and direct descendant and have written from the old ones stories and yet the public ingnores the true elders who know the truth of this murder of people who only wanted to be free and live as humans but hell no the whites wanted their gold and lands. if this is not genicide then call me a non-beliver of my elder cheyenne teachings for 55 years long.

  7. Unfortunately, after an extensive study of this occurance, it is horribly apparent that this article is dripping with bias.

    Yes, I understand the severity of this tradgedy, but several points seem skewed and very "one-sided" (in Malcom's words).

    Being neither Native nor White, I'd like to look at all information with an open mind, but this seems a little more accusing than most.

    Please excuse me if my comments were offensive in any way.


  8. I have known about the Sand Creek and other such occurances for some time, studying them extensively as part native american, Powhatan and Shawnee. It is interesting that Sand Creek and a few of these incidents are categorized as "massacres." At the time they were reported on as "battles," that is unless the Indians won in which case they became "massacres."
    I think Ari has been reading the old accounts. Were there atrocites
    on both sides? You betcha Ari. But remember who was here first and that they were defending their homelands. Also, let none of us forget that this was all instigated by greed and avarice. And the uneducated whites fell right into the trap of believing the politicians and opportunist speculators who coveted every inch of this continent. Since Ari is neither white nor Indian I assume you are not black or asian either since both of these groups suffered during the same intolerant period of American history. What planet was that you are from Ari?

  9. It would be nice for once if people could perceive each other as human beings. Even in 2007, the US is carrying out its policies of emperialism and slaughter in the name of the people. Yet, we remain blind and stupid and continue to view atrocities that haven't happened to our selves from an egotistical, self-centered point of view. Do you feel that people have learned anything at all from the suffering of the Native American people? Or having 'learned,' are they just unable to remember?