|Fall 1864 - A final chance for peace . . .
September 1, 1864 – Chivington orders 3rd Regiment Captain Theodore Cree and a large troop escort to take the
Reynolds Gang to Fort Lyon for military trial. Although the trip to Lyon takes nine days, Chivington orders that no rations are
to be drawn for the prisoners. Just 30 miles into the trip, Cree’s soldiers kill all five Reynolds Gang members in a reported
escape attempt near the small settlement of Russellville, CO. Rocky Mountain News Editorial - The Reynolds Band.
Questions are soon raised in Denver as to how five shackled prisoners could escape a large armed military force.
Witnesses later report that Chivington boasted of ordering Reynolds’ execution. Colorado 1st Regiment Lieutenant Joseph
Cramer, under Wynkoop’s command at Fort Lyon, later testifies that Cree admitted to killing the Reynolds Gang under
Chivington’s orders. U.S. Attorney S.E. Browne (a political rival of Chivington & Evans) files complaint to General Curtis,
accusing Chivington’s troops of murdering the prisoners. Curtis responds and defends the execution.
September 2, 1864 – General Curtis mounts over 600 troops at Fort Kearney, NE, and marches south into Kansas in
search of Indian war parties.
September 6, 1864 – One Eye and Eagle Head, with One Eye’s wife, are spotted a short distance away from Fort Lyon.
They wave a white flag, and carry Black Kettle’s letter requesting a peace council. Wynkoop’s scouts honor the white flag
and take the Indians prisoner:
We received a letter from Bent wishing us to make peace. We held a council in regard to it. All came to the
conclusion to make peace with you, providing you make peace with the Kiowas, Comanches, Arapahos,
Apaches ans Sioux. We are going to send a messenger to the Kiowas and to the other nations about our going
to make peace with you. We heard that you some (sic) prisoners in Denver. We have seven prisoners of you
which we are willing to give up providing you give up yours. There are three war parties out yet and two of
Arapahos. They have been out some time and expect now soon. When we held this council there were few
Arapahos and Siouxs (sic) present; we want true news from you in return, that is a letter.
Black Kettle and other Chieves. (sic)
(Report of the Secretary of War, Sand Creek Massacre, Sen. Exec. Doc. No. 26, 39 Cong., 2 sess. Washington, Government
Printing Office, 1867 p.169)
Major Wynkoop and Captain Soule meet with One Eye and Eagle Head to consider Black Kettle’s letter, which states
that the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos want to make peace with the soldiers. They further state that they want to
give up seven white prisoners as a show of good faith. At first, Wynkoop infers Black Kettle’s offer as a demand of
ransom for Laura Roper and her fellow captives, but One Eye and Eagle Head persuade Wynkoop to reconsider his
interpretation. They explain that the prisoners were taken by Dog Soldiers and Sioux warriors, and that Black Kettle
and Left Hand traded many personal possessions to secure their safety. Black Kettle now wants to return the
children to prove that his peaceful intentions are sincere. He proposes that Wynkoop come to the Cheyenne/Arapaho
camp on the Smoky Hill River, where the captives will be relinquished and a peace council be held.
Wynkoop and Soule, both hardened Indian fighters, are taken aback by the sincerity and intelligence displayed by
One Eye and Bowstring soldier, Eagle Head. In light of all the recent fights with Union troops on the Arkansas, One
Eye told Wynkoop that despite the danger of being killed when he approached the fort, he was willing to die in the
effort to make peace for the Cheyennes and Arapahos. Of One Eye’s resolve, Wynkoop would later write:
“I was bewildered with an exhibition of such patriotism on the part of the two savages, and felt myself in the
presence of Superior beings. And these were the representatives of a race that I heretofore looked upon
without exception as being cruel, treacherous, and bloodthirsty without feeling of affection for friend or kindred.”
(Wynkoop’s Unfinished Manuscript, p.28)
This becomes a pivotal element in the Sand Creek Massacre timeline, for it is at this moment that both Wynkoop and
Soule have a profound change of heart regarding the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho principal chiefs, Black Kettle
and Little Raven and their clans. Consequently, Chivington considers this turnabout a personal betrayal by two of
his most trusted officers.
Wynkoop will now make a profound decision that, despite all of his subsequent efforts to end the Cheyenne war, will
set off a chain of events that lead to the Sand Creek Massacre. He calls his officers and soldiers to a council, and
asks for volunteers to venture to the Smoky Hill on a mission to rescue Laura Roper and her fellow captives. The
mission will be considered a breach of military protocol, for Wynkoop will not ask permission of Generals Blunt or
Curtis, due to the time delays in dispatching messengers in search of the commanders. One Eye has warned
Wynkoop that Black Kettle’s bands must constantly move to avoid Chivington’s attacks in Kansas. As a result,
Wynkoop determines he must go immediately, for every moment the white captives are with the Indians, they are in
September 7, 1864 – Major Wynkoop and Captain Soule leave Fort Lyon with One Eye, Eagle Head, and 130 volunteers
from the Colorado 1st Cavalry. To date, every instance of army soldiers approaching an Indian camp has resulted in
bloodshed. One Eye has told Wynkoop that his troops will be encountering nearly 2000 Cheyennes, Arapahos and Sioux on
the Smoky Hill River. If Wynkoop’s trust in Black Kettle is betrayed, it will result in death for many if not all of his men.
September 9, 1864 – The moment of truth for Wynkoop’s rescue party as they approach Black Kettle’s camp. According
to a predetermined plan, Eagle Head rides ahead to alert Black Kettle of Wynkoop’s approach. He assures the principal
chief that the soldiers have come in peace, intending to rescue the captives and hold council. Black Kettle immediately
organizes his braves to assume a defensive posture (in the event Wynkoop is lying), and sends messengers to alert the
Arapaho and Sioux camps. Eagle Head returns to Wynkoop’s detachment and reports that Black Kettle’s force will be drawn
in a line of battle but will not attack if Wynkoop controls his men. In turn, Wynkoop’s troops take a defensive posture and
cautiously approaches the Smoky Hill.
Upon arrival, the 1st Cavalry soldiers pensively gaze upon 700 to 800 warriors prepared for battle. A large contingency of
Dog Soldiers may turn this parley into a bloodbath, but Bull Bear - at Black Kettle’s side - gives strict orders for the Dogmen
to obey Black Kettle. Wynkoop sends One Eye to confer with the principal chief, and an agreement is reached. Wynkoop’s
men will backtrack several miles and camp on the river. Black Kettle will order all warriors to fall back, and he will come to
Wynkoop’s camp in the morning for a parley with he and several other chiefs. The first step to a peaceful council has been
September 10, 1864 - Smoky Hill Council – Black Kettle, White Antelope, One Eye and Bull Bear lead group of
Cheyennes chiefs to Wynkoop’s camp. Little Raven and Left Hand represent the Arapahos. Wynkoop, Soule, and
Lieutenants Cramer and Phillips will represent the army. John Smith and George Bent interpret. A lengthy and contentious
council proceeds, as both sides air grievances and argue over the recent violent confrontations between soldiers and
Indians. Wynkoop takes a hard stance regarding the captives, demanding their return before any peace negotiations will be
considered. He further cautions the chiefs that he has no authority to secure a treaty, but if the prisoners are delivered up
immediately, he proposes to personally escort them to Denver for a council with Governor Evans. The council adjourns, and
Wynkoop is instructed to travel back (toward Fort Lyon) to a designated point 12 miles west of the main Indian camp. Black
Kettle promises delivery of the captives within two days. He requests this time to allow him to round up the prisoners, and to
confer with all of the chiefs regarding Wynkoop’s proposal to escort them to Denver. The chiefs and officers conclude with
handshakes and optimism.
Despite a quarrelsome debate between the chiefs, a general consensus is reached to agree to Wynkoop’s terms. Black
Kettle’s influence over the elder leaders is strong, for he is determined to stop the hostilities. Dog Soldier leader Bull Bear,
although skeptical of Wynkoop’s sincerity, supports Black Kettle and agrees to join the excursion to Denver, but the other
Dog Soldier leaders steadfastly refuse to any peace talks with the whites.
September 11-12, 1864 – The Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs deliver Laura Roper (16), Isabel Eubank (3), Ambrose
Asher (7) - all taken prisoner during a murderous Dog Soldier raid on the Little Blue in Nebraska, and Dan Marble (9-year-
old captive taken by Dog Soldiers in the Plum Creek attacks). During the time of the Smoky Hill Council, Black Kettle tried to
locate and trade for Lucinda Eubank and her baby, and two other women hostages. Mrs. Eubank and baby were still in the
hands of Two Face, who had moved north toward the Republican. A Mrs. Morton, who was taken hostage on the Platte, also
could not be located. Most tragically, Mrs. Snyder (taken by Little Raven’s son near Fort Lyon) committed suicide just days
before she would have been rescued. The Arapahos were puzzled by her death, and could offer no reason why she killed
herself. One conclusion may be considered: When Wynkoop’s troops headed west after the peace council on the Smoky
Hill, the Arapahos were unable to find the soldiers’ camp for a time afterwards. This dire (but temporary) setback for the
captives may have been the final despair for Mrs. Snyder, who hanged herself sometime during the night.
September 13, 1864 – Wynkoop decides that he has pushed his luck far enough. Any further effort to find the missing
captives could end in disaster for all, so he returns to Fort Lyon. He is accompanied by Black Kettle, Bull Bear, and White
Antelope. Left Hand, who is fighting a fever, sends his cousin, Neva and three other relatives, Bosse, Knock Knee and Heap
of Buffalo, to represent him at the Denver council.
Major Wynkoop and Captain Soule have pulled off a major coup. In addition to rescuing four white children from their Indian
captors, they have successfully parleyed with key Cheyenne and Arapaho chiefs, and a principal Dog Soldier leader.
Wynkoop has made several errors, however, due more to circumstance than bad judgement:
1. Rather than taking the chiefs to Maj. General Blunt or General Curtis for a peace council, he instead acts on his own
authority and takes them to Denver without seeking advice or permission of his commanders. At the time, Wynkoop believes
that Governor Evans, who is also Superintendent of Indian Affairs, is the ultimate authority to whom the chiefs must propose
a truce. Additionally, Wynkoop believes the Lyon to Denver road is the safest route for the 4 rescued children.
2. He does not seek permission from Curtis and Blunt for two reasons:
a) Communications between Lyon and the Kansas district headquarters takes weeks, due to the great distance
messengers must travel across hostile territory.
b.) Due to the remoteness of Fort Lyon, Wynkoop often had little alternative but to assume responsibility regarding command
Wynkoop's correspondence regarding Smoky Hill Council . . .
September 15, 1864 – Curtis’ expedition to hunt down hostile warriors has been embarrassingly unsuccessful, for
Curtis has no knowledge of Indian warfare. In camp on the Solomon River, he receives word that Confederate troops, led by
General Sterling “Pap” Price, are on the move in Missouri and heading toward Kansas. Curtis gratefully abandons the Indian
hunt and heads back to Fort Leavenworth.
September 18, 1864 – Major Wynkoop, Captain Soule and Lieutenant Cramer lead a 40-soldier escort to Denver with
Black Kettle, Bull Bear and the five other chiefs. Laura Roper and her three fellow captives travel with the escort. Before their
departure, Wynkoop sends a messenger ahead with a letter to Governor Evans, informing him of his intended peace council
September 19, 1864 – Clearly, the major Indian offensive remains primarily in Kansas and Nebraska. Although there
are some Indian troubles in Colorado, Chivington’s rapidly growing 3rd Regiment has yet to find a fight. Chivington and
Evans’ political opponents are calling the new militia “The Bloodless Third,” accusing both of exploiting the Indian problems
in Kansas and Nebraska to garner support for statehood (which, if passed in November, would sweep Evans into the
Senate, and Chivington into Congress).
September 21, 1864 – Lieutenant George L. Shoup promoted to Colonel and given command of the Colorado 3rd
Regiment. A political battle for the command had raged prior to Shoup’s unprecedented jump from Lieutenant to Colonel.
Not coincidentally, Shoup had participated in the July constitutional convention, and was a staunch supporter of both Evans
and Chivington for Congress. Governor Evans appoints Shoup on the recommendation of Chivington. According to Shoup,
approximately 1,000 men have enlisted in the 3rd Regiment by this time.
September 23, 1864 – Chivington’s enlistment in the army expires. Until he is relieved of his command and mustered
out of the service, Chivington will continue to command the Colorado Military District (not an unusual occurrence).
September 22-25, 1864 – Maj. General James G. Blunt and 400 Union troops engage in several skirmishes with
Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors near Walnut Creek, 60 miles northwest of Fort Larned. One soldier and two Delaware
Indian scouts killed, seven soldiers wounded. Over 90 Indians are reportedly killed. Blunt warns command that warrior
horses are much swifter than army stock, and the war parties cannot be successfully pursued. He reports the Cheyenne
and Arapaho presence in the region numbers over 1,500.
Blunt and his troops are called back to support Curtis’ defense against Price’s invasion of Kansas.
September 26, 1864 – Wynkoop’s party camps at Coberly’s Halfway House, and Wynkoop rides ahead to Denver to
privately discuss the proposed peace council with Evans. Incensed by Wynkoop’s breach of military protocol, the Governor
launches into a tirade and refuses to meet with the chiefs. Denver is under martial law, Evans tells Wynkoop, and the army
has declared war on the Indians. He has spent all summer trying to persuade the War Department to fund and equip the 3rd
Regiment for the sole purpose of killing the hostile Indians that plan to sack Denver. Evans fears political backlash if he
makes peace with the Indians now, after they’ve terrorized all of Kansas, Nebraska, and eastern Colorado for the last six
Wynkoop, who is not a ‘player’ in Colorado politics, is dumbfounded by Evans’ intention to escalate the Indian war and
further endanger his constituency, just so he might not appear foolish to his superiors in Washington. Clearly, preserving
his own political career has trumped his responsibilities as both Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Undaunted,
the plucky Wynkoop will not back down. He and his men have risked too much and come too far to allow a bureaucrat to cut
them down now. After a heated argument, Wynkoop prevails, and Evans agrees to talk to the chiefs.
Neither Evans, nor Wynkoop ever gave a full accounting of everything that was said in their private meeting. In later
reminiscences, neither gave a reason why Evans changed his mind about the peace council after so vehemently refusing in
the beginning. Some speculate that Wynkoop, who was known as an aggressive and highly skilled negotiator, may have
given Evans a political reason for proceeding with the council. Denver City citizens at this time were in a state of desperation
and markedly divided in their opinions about how the Governor was handling the crisis with the Indians. Both Wynkoop and
Silas Soule had a loyal following of transplanted Kansas ‘Jayhawkers’ in town, who although determined to stop the hostile
tribes from ruining Denver, also had faith in Wynkoop and Soule’s judgement. Many of these Jayhawkers had built Denver,
and Wynkoop, one of the city’s founders, may have applied pressure on Evans by suggesting that refusal to hold a peace
council with Black Kettle could sway Jayhawker political support away from Evans.
September 28, 1864 – Camp Weld Council
Evans reluctantly meets with the seven peace chiefs. He states that he won’t make a peace treaty now, for the Union is
officially at war with all hostile warrior bands on the Plains, and any truce that individual bands wish to make must be
arranged with the military chiefs. He warns them of an impending surge of Union troops that will attack all hostiles this
winter. He proposes that all peaceably inclined Cheyennes and Arapahos submit to military authority and surrender to Major
Wynkoop at Fort Lyon as prisoners.
Black Kettle and the other chiefs, including Bull Bear, vow to fully cooperate and make every effort to stop the Cheyenne and
Arapaho warrior bands from fighting. They offer to gather their own braves and fight on the side of the military against the
Sioux, Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches. Evans defers final word to Colonel Chivington, who clearly states that he has a
single mission, and that is to kill all Indians who are unwilling to stop fighting and attacking the white settlements. Because
these chiefs are leaders of the southern bands on the Arkansas, Chivington defers them to Wynkoop:
(Camp Weld Council Transcript – Sand Creek Massacre, pp. 213-217, as transcribed by Simeon Whiteley, Indian Agent, present at
council. Report of the Secretary of War, Sand Creek Massacre, Sen. Exec. Doc. No. 26, 39 Cong., 2 sess. Washington,
Government Printing Office, 1867)
Read the full Weld Council transcript, and Evans' response to Weld Council . . .
September 29, 1864 – Dog Soldiers and Sioux warriors attack white emigrant train on Overland Trail near Plum Creek,
NE. One white killed and two wounded. Soldiers from Nebraska 1st Regiment Veteran Volunteers pursue warriors without
October 1, 1864 – Wynkoop and Soule depart Denver for Fort Lyon with the seven chiefs.
October 7, 1864 – Dog Soldiers and Sioux warriors attack Nebraska 1st Regiment Militia Infantry scouting party on
Overland Trail near Pawnee Ranch, NE. Indians kill one soldier, wound another. Commander reports he does not have a
sufficient force to protect the stage route.
October 8, 1864 – Wynkoop’s party returns to Fort Lyon. On the return trip from Denver, he’s had time to confer with the
chiefs and plan for their surrender. Wynkoop instructs the chiefs to go to their people and bring back only those who want
peace and are willing to submit to military authority. In the meantime, Wynkoop sends a message to General Curtis
requesting approval of the course of action agreed to at the Weld Council.
The chiefs will now depart to join their respective tribes and prepare them to surrender. The tentative plan is for the peaceful
bands to gather in the Fort Lyon vicinity, where Wynkoop can protect them while messengers spread the word to white
settlements regarding the current situation. Cooperation from Black Kettle and Little Raven’s Southern Cheyennes and
Arapahos is expected, but Bull Bear will have little success convincing any Dog Soldier to surrender. Wynkoop dispatches a
messenger to General Curtis, at Fort Leavenworth, with a report detailing the arrangements he and Governor Evans have
made with the Indians of the Arkansas region. He tells Curtis that the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos have vowed to
join his troops against the Kiowas and Comanches.
October 10, 1864 – The Colorado 3rd Regiment has served out more than half of its 100-days enlistment without an
Indian fight. As the political battle over the Colorado statehood vote in November reaches a crescendo, criticism of Evans
and Chivington’s militia mounts. The united Indian offensive against Colorado that Evans so vehemently warned about
simply has not happened. Indeed, the Dog Soldiers and Sioux warriors are attacking settlements and stage stops in
Nebraska and Kansas, but there is no evidence that the Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches have joined the war. These
tribes have remained far to the south, their warrior bands independently conducting murderous raids along the Arkansas.
Desperate for his 3rd Regiment militia to draw Indian blood, Chivington orders Captain David Nichols to investigate a report
of Indians spotted south of the Platte near Summit Springs, Colorado. Nichols takes 40 troops out and discovers a small
encampment of Dog Soldiers, led by Big Wolf. Nichols’ militiamen attack the camp, and later report killing six warriors
(including Big Wolf), three women, and a teen-aged boy. Private Morse H. Coffin would later recall in his personal memoirs
that a 3rd Regiment enlistee shot and killed a baby lying in the arms of one of the dead squaws, although this never appears
in the official report. Coffin claimed the Indians were all scalped and mutilated by a few of the militiamen in retaliation for the
method of killing whites by the renegade Indians.
October 12, 1864 - Dog Soldiers and Sioux warriors attack coach on Overland Trail west of Plum Creek Station, NE.
Coach guard and passenger wounded, two Indians killed.
October 12, 1864 – 40 troops from Nebraska 1st Regiment Veteran Volunteers fight 60 Dog Soldiers and Sioux warriors
near Plum Creek, NE. Two soldiers and three Indians killed.
October 1864 – Governor Evans is pressured to withdraw from the senatorial race, as his mismanagement of the Indian
problems is hurting the party. Evans sends a dispatch to Secretary of State Seward, requesting a two-month leave of
absence from Colorado beginning on November 1. Evans states his purpose for the furlough is to go to Washington to
formally protest a grassroots movement by anti-statehood opponents to remove him from office, and to confer with the
Secretary of the Interior on the “disturbed state of affairs of the Colorado Indian Superintendency.”
October 16, 1864 – Although the 3rd Regiment was raised for the sole purpose of protecting Denver and the Platte road,
it’s apparent that most of the Indian war parties are hundreds of miles away. Chivington’s enlistment has expired, and he
will soon muster out to pursue a political career. With the militia’s 100-days commission quickly running down, Chivington
begins to move 3rd Regiment troops south to the Bijou Basin, where he will have a better chance to score at least one Indian
victory to bolster his military record. He wires Wynkoop and requests a shipment of rifles, claiming he needs them for a
campaign against Indians on the Republican River.
October 17, 1864 – Word has filtered back to Curtis, via Maj. General Blunt, that Wynkoop is planning to allow over 600
Arapahos to camp a mile away from Fort Lyon. Curtis, embarrassed not only by Wynkoop’s adept skill at finding the
Cheyennes and Arapahos, but by his unprecedented coup of bringing Principal Chief Black Kettle to the peace table, has
had enough of his brash subordinate. Alarmed that Wynkoop has again disobeyed direct orders and is in direct violation of
the General’s stated policy to chastise and punish the Plains Indians for their summer depredations, Curtis immediately
orders Major Scott Anthony to go to Fort Lyon and relieve Wynkoop of his command.
October 18, 1864 – Little Raven and Left Hand are the first to bring their people to Fort Lyon. Wynkoop allows some 650
Arapahos to camp two miles from the fort, and he issues prisoners allowance and allows them to trade buffalo robes with
agents and settlers for provisions and medicine.
October 20, 1864 – 200 Dog Soldiers and Sioux warriors attack and kill one rancher and steal 50 head of oxen at Alkali
Station, NE. Detachment from 7th Iowa Cavalry pursues warriors but lose trail.
October 22, 1864 - Dog Soldiers and Sioux warriors attack Nebraska troops at Midway Station, NE. Soldiers drive off
Indians without casualties.
October 28, 1864 – Pawnees attack Midway Station, NE. Soldiers kill three Indians.
Late October – Under orders of the War Department to protect the Overland Stage Route from Salt Lake City to Fort
Kearney, Brigadier General Patrick E. Connor, commanding the Department of Utah, requests support from Chivington’s
3rd Regiment. This presents an opportunity for Connor to further weaken Chivington’s political aspirations in Colorado by
pilfering 3rd Regiment troops and reducing Chivington’s authority for the remainder of his limited time in the military.
Chivington urgently wires Curtis, urging the general to define district lines and not allow Connor to infiltrate his territory.
October 30, 1864 – In a letter to his sister, Annie Soule, Captain Soule writes:
are about three thousand here within a mile of the Post who have come in for the purpose of making peace. I do
not know what we shall do, but I think the Government will not make peace with them. If that is the case, we
shall have some fighting to do this winter.”
(The Letters of Silas S. Soule – Recounting His Experiences in the Colorado Territory - 1861-1865. Western History/Genealogy
Dept., Denver Public Library.)
We'll never forget
One Eye and
to dicuss a
to Fort Lyon
Sand Creek &
Take me there!
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