November 29, This day during the American Colorado Indian War

November 29, 1864 – The Sand Creek Massacre was an atrocity in the Indian Wars of the United States that occurred on November 29, 1864, when a 700-man force of Colorado Territory militia attacked and destroyed a village of friendly Cheyenne and Arapaho encamped in southeastern Colorado Territory, killing and mutilating an estimated 70–163 Indians, about two-thirds of whom were women and children. The location has been designated the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site and is administered by the National Park Service. Black Kettle, a chief of a group of around 800 mostly Northern Cheyenne, reported to Fort Lyon in an effort to establish peace. After having done so, he and his band, along with some Arapaho under Chief Niwot, camped out at nearby Sand Creek, less than 40 miles north. The Dog Soldiers, who had been responsible for many of the raids on whites, were not part of this encampment. Assured by the U.S. Government’s promises of peace, most of the warriors were off hunting buffalo, leaving only around 60 men, and women and children in the village. Most of the men were too old or too young to hunt. Black Kettle flew an American flag over his lodge, since previously the officers had said this would show he was friendly and prevent attack by U.S. soldiers. Setting out from Fort Lyon, Chivington and his 700 troops of the First Colorado Cavalry, Third Colorado Cavalry and a company of First New Mexico Volunteers marched to Black Kettle’s campsite. On the night of November 28, soldiers and militia drank heavily and celebrated their anticipated victory. On the morning of November 29, 1864, Chivington ordered his troops to attack. Two officers, Captain Silas Soule and Lieutenant Joseph Cramer, commanding companies D and K, respectively, of the First Colorado Cavalry, refused to follow Chivington’s order and told their men to hold fire. Other soldiers in Chivington’s force, however, immediately attacked the village. Disregarding the American flag, and a white flag that was run up shortly after the soldiers commenced firing, Chivington’s soldiers massacred many of its inhabitants. Some of the Indians cut horses from the camp’s herd and fled up Sand Creek or to a nearby Cheyenne camp on the headwaters of the Smokey Hill River. Others, including trader George Bent, fled upstream and dug holes in the sand beneath the banks of the stream. They were pursued by the troops and fired on, but many survived. Cheyenne warrior Morning Star said that most of the Indian dead were killed by cannon fire, especially those firing from the south bank of the river at the people retreating up the creek. Although initial reports indicated 10 soldiers killed and 38 wounded, the final tally was 4 killed and 21 wounded in the 1st Colorado Cavalry and 20 killed or mortally wounded and 31 other wounded in the 3rd Colorado Cavalry; adding up to 24 killed and 52 wounded. Dee Brown wrote that some of Chivington’s men were drunk and that many of the soldiers’ casualties were due to friendly fire but neither of these claims is supported by Gregory F. Michno or Stan Hoig in their books devoted to the massacre. In testimony before a Congressional committee investigating the massacre, Chivington claimed that as many as 500–600 Indian warriors were killed. Historian Alan Brinkley wrote that 133 Indians were killed, 105 of whom were women and children.[White eye-witness John S. Smith reported that 70–80 Indians were killed, including 20–30 warriors, which agrees with Brinkley’s figure as to the number of men killed. George Bent, the son of the American William Bent and a Cheyenne mother, who was in the village when the attack came and was wounded by the soldiers, gave two different accounts of the Indian loss. On March 15, 1889, he wrote to Samuel F. Tappan that 137 people were killed: 28 men and 109 women and children. However, on April 30, 1913, when he was very old, he wrote that “about 53 men” and “110 women and children” were killed and many people wounded. Bent’s first figures are in close accord with those of Brinkley and agree with Smith as to the number of men who were killed. Before Chivington and his men left the area, they plundered the tipis and took the horses. After the smoke cleared, Chivington’s men came back and killed many of the wounded. They also scalped many of the dead, regardless of whether they were women, children or infants. Chivington and his men dressed their weapons, hats and gear with scalps and other body parts, including human fetuses and male and female genitalia. They also publicly displayed these battle trophies in Denver’s Apollo Theater and area saloons. Three Indians who remained in the village are known to have survived the massacre – George Bent’s brother, Charlie Bent, and two Cheyenne women who were later turned over to William Bent.



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