Sand Creek Massacre 1864

Leaving Denver, Col. John M. Chivington and 450 men of the 3rd Colorado Cavalry, under Col. George L. Shoup, and about 100 men in 3 companies of the 1st Colorado Cavalry, under Lt. Luther Wilson, rode southeast to Fort Lyon, where on 28 November they picked up another 125 men of the 1st Colorado Cavalry, under Maj. Scott Anthony. The 3rd Colorado was formed after the Hungate massacre, and revenge was no doubt on the minds of many of the men. The column headed northeast about 40 miles to a Cheyenne encampment at Sand Creek. About 115 lodges of Cheyennes under Black Kettle and White Antelope, and 8 lodges of Arapahos under Left Hand were camped on the north side of the creek, where Maj. Anthony had ordered them to go after driving them away from Fort Lyon. Many there thought they were safe, though Anthony had not promised them a place of refuge. A number of them had participated in the summer raids along the Little Blue River and Plum Creek. Chivington planned to attack the Cheyennes, peaceful or hostile, and indeed the Indians seemed to prepared to fight: the first casualty occured when the horse of George Pierce, Company F, 1st Colorado, bolted near the edge of the village, and the Indians shot and killed the rider. The fight broke out in earnest. Wilson and his battalion cut off the Indians' access to their horses, while Shoup and Anthony rode into battle. Some of the men, however, including Capt. Silas S. Soule of Company D, 1st Colorado Cavalry, refused to fire at the Indians, which suggests that there were questions about the integrity of the action. The battle lasted from dawn until 3 P.M. and stretched a few miles along the creek, the Cheyennes taking positions along the cutbanks. With the soldiers surrounding the camp, many women, unable to escape, stayed with their husbands and were hit in the crossfire. Though most of the Indians fled, Chivington's men devastated the village and destroyed the lodges. About 130 Indians were killed at Sand Creek, many of them noncombatants. Among the dead were chiefs White Antelope, Left hand, Yellow Wolf, One-Eye, Notanee and Little Robe. No Indians were left wounded, and the soldiers took no prisoners. The Coloradans were later condemned for the attack and for mutilating the Indian bodies. Historically the fight has been labeled a massacre, but the number of cavalry casualties shows that Sand Creek was tough fight for the soldiers: Chivington lost 15 soldiers killed and more than 50 wounded--among the highest losses of soldiers during the Indian wars.

This text was copied by Frank with permission of the author Gregory F. Michno from his book ENCYCLOPEDIA of Indian Wars 1850-1890, from pages 157-159.