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The Chivington Massacre, A Participant in the Battle Denies That It was a Massacre.
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The Chivington Massacre.
A Participant in the Battle
Denies That It was a Massacre.


A Participant in the Battle Denies that
It was a Massacre.

    DE SOTO, Vernon county, Wisconsin, September, 1876.--Observing in your valuable paper, under date of August 4, a sensational article, entitled "The Chivington Massacre--Description of the Horrible Butchery of Indians by White Men, by a Participant in the Fight--The Greatest Slaughter in Modern Times"--I ask that I, who was also a participant in the so-called massacre, be allowed a hearing. I shall as briefly as possible relate the causes that brought on this fight, and refute the slanderous assertions of the trumpeter whom your reporter interviewed.
    In May, 1864, a company of cavalry pursued some Cheyennes who had been murdering and plundering trains, from the Platte to the Republican Fork of Smoky Hill river, and inflicted a salutary punishment on the identical wretches who had been committing depredations. The chiefs of the Cheyennes denied their responsibility for the outrages perpetrated, asserting that desperate outlaws from the many divisions of Cheyennes and Arapahoes, young warriors who were uncontrollable by their chiefs, known as "Dog Indians," were the ones who perpetrated the outrages on Platte river.
    The fight on Republican Fork of Smoky Hill did not quell the Indians, and many emigrants and freighters were killed in retaliation, creating a general feeling of insecurity throughout all the Platte valley and Colorado territory. This state of affairs culminated the night of August 8th and morning of the 9th, by the murdering of nearly every white man, woman and child, from within nine miles of Denver city, Colorado, to the Little Blue river, Kansas, a distance of over 500 miles. The most notable was the fight on Plum creek, thirty-two miles west of Fort Kearney.
    The particulars of many of the atrocities perpetrated by the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians on that day I could furnish, but suffice it to say that four-fifths of all the emigrants, freighters and inhabitants of the overland stage stations were butchered and mutilated in a horrible manner. Those who escaped did so by being overlooked during the night by the Indians, and only found safety by speedy flight to the insufficiently garrisoned posts of Fort Kearney and Cottonwood Springs.
    It was evident to every inhabitant of Colorado territory that this massacre was a general and premeditated outbreak on the part of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe nations, and called for instant punishment.
    The citizens of the territory were cut off from their base of supplies on the Missouri river; the nearest point on that range being 650 miles distant, was open to the continued assault of Indians. Denver city was panic-stricken, and fearing a general assault from the Indians, the citizens gathered their families at one of the large warehouses in the centre of the city, for protection at night. No aid of troops from the east could be expected, for at that time, "Pap" Price was making his famous raid in Missouri.
    Through a superstitious dread the Indians did not disturb the telegraph, and Governor Evans received authority from Washington to call for a cavalry regiment for one hundred days' service. The call was quickly responded to from all parts of the Territory by representative men from all grades of society--the professional man as well as the hardy miner, the merchant as well as the farmer and drover--and in five days from the time of the call a full regiment was reported ready for equipment.
    One of the two companies was stationed for guard duty on the Platte river, but the rest of the regiment was promised an active compaign. [sic] On November 16th the regiment, under Col. Geo. L. Shoup and Maj. Hal Sayer, left Bijou Basin, crossed the great divide between the Platte and Arkansas rivers, marching by way of Colorado City and Pueblo, to Boone's Ranch, on the Arkansas river, camping here five days. At this place, Col. Chivington, commander of the military district of Colorado, took charge of the campaign.
    The march thus far had been attended with great suffering on account of the cold and snow. Marching down the Arkansas river, the Indians at Bent's Ford [sic] were placed under guard, to keep them from sending out runners to give information to hostile Indians. On the 28th of November, by an easy march of eighteen miles, we came to Fort Lyon, a government post under command of Major Anthony, 1st Colorado regiment. Here we were informed that if we made a forced march of forty miles or more to the north we could surpise a large camp of hostile Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians.
    There was no protest from the officers at this post. If the Indians were on a reservation, and under the protection of Fort Lyon, no intimation reached us from Majors Anthony, Tappan and Wynkoop, and they certainly had the opportunity to inform our regiment that the Indian camp on Sand creek was friendly and under their protection--but they did not.
    Capt. Soulie's [sic] cavalry company and Lieut. Baldwin's section of artillery, consisting of four small brass guns, joined us from the garrison of Fort Lyon. Three days' rations were prepared, and at 8 o'clock, p. m., our force of about 650 men were on the trail going north. At break of day, having marched during the night some thirty-six miles, we could see the Indian camp on the bank of Sand Creek, at a distance of four miles. Their main herd of ponies was grazing a mile off from us, and were quickly turned by a detachment of twenty or thirty men, and driven to Fort Lyon that day.
    The Indians, when first they saw us, knowing the garrison at Fort Lyon to be too weak, and not thinking it possible for troops to march from Denver, a distance of 250 miles, in winter, supposed us to be buffalo, and prepared for a hunt, but, on our coming nearer, mounted their squaws, children and pappooses--as many as they could--on the ponies they had in camp, and safety was obtained for these by a hasty flight.
    The Indians made a bold determined stand in line of battle, and opened the fight by killing and scalping a cavalryman who rashly risked his life in order to protect one Smith, who was with the Indians. Smith had an Indian wife, and his son, Jack Smith, was one of the worst half-breed Indians on the Plains. Smith had lived with the Indians for years, but that did not avail him. He saved himself by lying flat on the sand where he could not be hit. Firing immediately became general; the line of Indians was soon broken, they falling back to lines of rifle pits in the bed of Sand Creek, along the base of the bank, fighting stubbornly. Their chiefs were dressed out in full Indian costume, and would repeatedly lead charges on us only to be shot down by the deadly ounce slugs fired from the muzzle-loading Austrian rifles we were armed with. We had no other arms; the Indians were armed with rifle, bow and arrow, and lance. The fight lasted until 2 o'clock, p. m. That there was any offer to surrender on the part of the Indians, I do not believe, neither did they make exhibition of the United States flag.
    The killing of squaws and children was unavoidable, and not intentional. Several squaws and children were taken the day following.
    'Tis true some Indians were scalped but none mutilated in body, as I carefully viewed one hundred and ten bodies the day following.
    That many of these Indians had taken part in slaying white men, women, and children, is undeniable, and can be readily proven by citizens of Colorado. The scalps of three women were found in the Indian camp, and they were stretched on hoops--the long, flowing, fine threads of silken hair proving them to be from the heads of white women; the soft bloody tissue yet on the scalp proved them to be of recent origin. Large quantities of manufactured tobacco, crushed sugar, dry goods and women's wearing apparel gave evidence of trains plundered.
    The investigations on the part of congress, of the so-called masscres was, I believe, upon the complaints of Majors Ed. Wynkoop and Sam Tappan. Their object was believed by the people of Colorado not so much for the cause of humanity as to cause the humiliation of a superior officer, Colonel Chivington, who had, for gallantry in action while fighting Texans, in New Mexico, been promoted to a colonelcy over them his superior officers at the organization of their regiment.
    Ed. Wynkoop, after having been for years Indian Agent for the United States government, is now east trying to get authority to raise a regiment to fight the Sioux.
    The fight, upon the report of Senator Ashley, of Ohio, was condemned by the government as a massacre. His report, his examination of the details of the fight, and the original complaint, I have never seen in print. But, notwithstanding the Ashley report, all the Methodist clergymen of Colorado, after the government condemnation, heartily approved the course taken by Colonel Chivington, saying that he had done nothing unbecoming a clergyman.
    The citizens of Colorado gave their unqualified approval to this affair, returning thanks for a just punishment inflicted on the hostile Indians.
    The statement of your bugler, that "we killed 800 warriors and 500 squaws and papooses, and took no prisoners," is false as are many other of his statements. The proof of it is that there were but 138 lodges in all, and one conversant with Indians will know that the average number of souls to a lodge ranges from five to seven, consequently there were not more than 800 Indians in the whole camp and probably not over 700. Many of them escaped. The estimate by the official report was 400 to 500 killed. The Indians stated to have losed{?} but 196, and I believe they are right, for with a view of ascertaining their loss, I took a thorough (?) walk over the field, and could find(?) but 168(?).
    Many of the officers and men who participated in this fight yet remain in Colorado, many of them high in position, places of trust and honor, high-minded, honorable and humane(?) men. The men of this regiment would not make an unfavorable comparison, in point of morals and intelligence, with any regiment in the service, all of them having made heavy sacrifices in giving their time to this expedition.
    In conclusion, let me state that I put this statement before the public in order to dispel, if possible, the unjust estimation entertained for the participants of this fight, and in denial of it being a cold-blooded massacre, and that a general Indian war was inaugurated by this fight, as New York papers have lately been asserting. I was a Louisianian by birth, and was a citizen of Colorado territory for six years, and claim to know something of the character and temper of citizens of the territory. Respectfully,
                                                                                CHAS. E. CLARKE,
Late private Company E, 3d Regiment Colorado Volunteer Cavalry.--
Correspondence Globe-Democrat.


Unknown, "The Chivington Massacre, A Participant in the Battle Denies That It was a Massacre," Colorado Miner, Georgetown, Clear Creek County, Colorado, Saturday, 14 October, 1876, Page 1.

Created December 13, 2005; Revised April 20, 2007
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