The Sand Creek Massacre

The sand creek massacre. Find out about the most degrading attack by the U.S. Government on an innocent village.

John M Chivington was a man with a reputation that preceded him. He was a rotund, middle aged minister of religion who was known as the "˜fighting parson'. During the Civil War he had proven himself as the hero of Glorietta Pass when he had turned the tables on the Confederates in Texas and sent the rebels fleeing from the Southwest.

By November of 1864 Chivington was a Denver based political aspirant with a heroic Civil War record and an imposing reputation behind the pulpit. He figured that fighting an Indian war would raise his banner as a future congressman. Soon he had got himself appointed as the military commander of the District of Colorado. Meanwhile Indians were causing havoc up and down the State of Colorado. Clashes between Indians and whites became increasingly serious. Chivington stirred the flames of hatred by making outrageous anti-Indian statements. "Damn any man who is in sympathy with an Indian," he proclaimed.

Soon Chivington's troop had been sent out to punish the Indians. They set out with vicious abandon, attacking whoever they came across. All through the summer of 1864 Chivington's 1st Regiment was kept busy chasing Indians across the plains. With an obvious need for reinforcements and all available manpower engaged in the bitter Civil War to the east, authority was given to raise a regiment of volunteers. This was to become the 3rd Regiment, under Chivngton's overall control.

Chivngton set out to recruit men for a 100 day enlistment. Denver was plastered with posters inviting men to come on an Indian killing party, inflammatory recruitment meetings were held. Chivington increased tension by declaring martial law. All saloons were closed and businesses were allowed to open for just three hours per day. The recruits came, but they were not the best calibre of men that could be hoped for. Drunks, scoundrels, ruffians and plain trouble makers were recruited into the United States army and given a gun.

As the days in the field wore on, pressure came upon Chivington to give the men some Indian fighting before their term of enlistment expired. The regiment who had christened themselves the "˜Bloody Third' was becoming known as the "˜Bloodless Third.' Prides had to be satisfied. It was, however, the time of the winter hunt, and the tribes were acting peaceably.

On July 27, 1864 Governor Evans of Colorado had offered an amnesty to the tribes. A proclamation was sent forth declaring that all Indians who did not wish to be killed could put themselves under army protection. But, unknown to the Indians, he sent out a second proclamation to the settlers of Colorado. This time he virtually invited the citizenry to kill Indians, claiming that "˜most of the Indian tribes are hostile and at war.' Black Kettle, the peace seeking Cheyenne chief, took up Evans on his original offer and proceeded towards Fort Lyons for protection. They reported, as they were instructed, to a camp 40 miles from the Fort. They settled along the bank of Sand Creek.

By now the 3rd Colorado's 100 day enlistment had nearly expired. They still hadn't found any hostiles. A desperate Chivington decided that an Indian was an Indian and set his sights on attacking the nearest ones he could find. His focus soon centered on Black Kettle's village on Sand Creek. At about this time he exclaimed, " I long to be wading in gore!" His orders to his men were "Kill all you come across." On November 28, the 3rd rode into Fort Lyon. When his plans to attack Black Kettle's village were announced, Chivington received resistance from some officers in the fort. At this, the 250 pound preacher screamed, " I have come to kill Indians and I believe it is my right to use any means under God's heaven."

At 8pm on that night the 3rd rode out of Fort Lyon towards Sand Creek. At dawn of the 29th, they were in sight of the village. The village contained about 500 Cheyennes, most of them women and children. Most of the men were away on the winter hunt.

Chivington firstly had his men seize the Indians horses to prevent escape. The Indians, expecting protection, watched in surprise. The people gathered under the American flag fluttering above Black Kettle's tipi, thinking this would afford them protection. Quickly, Black Kettle raised a white surrender flag on the same pole. But the soldiers ignored it and began shooting. They unloaded everything they had into the unfortunate villagers - rifle, pistol and cannon fire. The Indians ran in horror. But there was little place to hide. The soldiers herded the women and children into groups and murdered them in cold blood. They then performed outrageous depravities to their corpses. In one instance a six year old girl clutching a white flag was brought down in a hail of bullets - dead before she hit the ground. Babies brains were dashed out against trees. Bodies were scalped and ripped open with knives. Tobacco pouches were made out of men's private parts.

The final grisly toll was 98 women and children and 25 men killed. The soldiers lost 9 killed and 38 wounded. Much of their casualty rate was caused by "˜friendly fire.' The 3rd Colorado rode back to Denver with over 100 dripping scalps, which were proudly displayed in a local theatre - the bloody emblems of the most disgraceful attack ever undertaken by the United States Government.

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