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Edward W. Wynkoop
Edward Wanshaer Wynkoop was born in Philadelphia on June 19, 1836,
the youngest of eight children. The great-grandson of Continental
Congress member, Judge Henry Wynkoop, 'Ned' came from a family of
noble ancestry, many of his predecessors having honorably served in
military or public service. His grandfather was a physician, and his
father John ran a successful iron smelting business in Pennsylvania.
Raised in a family of relative wealth and honor, Ned was educated in the
finer schools of Pennsylvania, an intelligent young man blessed with an
impressive vocabulary, and a quick study in the art of political discourse
and diplomacy. In his childhood, he was a peacemaker in the face of
childish skirmishes, and yet he administered more than a few black eyes
to bullies uninterested in civil negotiation.
At the age of twenty, the ambitious Wynkoop saw little opportunity by trailing three substantially older brothers in the
family business. He opted to venture west with his fourth brother, George, to Lecompton, Kansas Territory, in the
employ of their sister Emily’s husband, General William Brindle, an agent for the United States Land Office.
In 1857, President Buchanan appointed James Denver to the office of Kansas Territorial Governor, Denver’s
primary mission to end the conflict between free-soilers and pro-slavery advocates that violently split Bleeding
Kansas. Like Wynkoop, the elder Denver was a well-liked and highly skilled negotiator who formerly served as
Commissioner of Indian Affairs under President Franklin Pierce.
Wynkoop wasted little time seizing the opportunity to introduce himself to Denver, quickly becoming an advocate for
the new administration. At the time of Denver’s appointment to the Kansas Territory, news of the gold discovery in
the Pike’s Peak Region swept through Lecompton like a raging wildfire. Wynkoop, not immune to the ravages of
gold fever, lobbied Denver for an expedition to the Pike’s Peak region, offering his excellent negotiation skills and
experience in land trade as a valuable tool for securing commercial interest in the Rocky Mountain gold fields. A
partnership between Denver, Wynkoop, Brindle and other prominent Kansas businessmen was struck, and
Wynkoop was selected to journey west to establish a town company on Cherry Creek.
Wynkoop was appointed Sheriff of Arapaho County, at that time a mythical moniker assigned to the western
hinterlands of Kansas, and he set out for Colorado in September 1858 with a party of 16 unofficial ‘Officials’ charged
with securing legal authority over other prospective land owners. The Lecompton party followed the Santa Fe Trail
on the Arkansas, reaching the confluence of the Fontaine qui Bouille and Arkansas rivers at El Pueblo in
November, where they determined to camp, rather than make a treacherous winter march north over Palmer Ridge.
Soon thereafter, a second party of Jayhawk partners from Lawrence, led by William Larimer, the newly appointed
Arapaho County Treasurer, reached El Pueblo. Larimer urged Wynkoop’s party to forge ahead with them to Cherry
Creek due to rumors that independent prospectors might gobble up the region before spring. The combined parties
braved a winter march over the pass, and arrived at Cherry Creek later that same month, where they discovered
Charles Nichols and William McGaa warily guarding a claim they had staked out and named ‘St. Charles.’
McGaa’s partners had just departed for Lecompton, for the purpose of obtaining a town charter from the Kansas
Sate Legislature, and Nichols and McGaa drew a line in the sand when Wynkoop and Larimer’s boys moved in. A
rival band of Georgians, led by William Green Russell, had already staked the claim of Auraria across the creek with
no interest in sharing their booty with the Kansas intruders. Skirmishes broke out, but the ragtag Colorado “Pike’s
Peakers” were no match for the strong-armed Jayhawkers of Bleeding Kansas. Larimer “negotiated” a deal with
Nichols and McGaa, who under threat of hanging agreed to add their new Kansas partners to the original St.
Over the objections of McGaa, the Jayhawkers suggested that the new town be renamed Denver City. A vote was
held, McGaa was overruled at gunpoint, and the race was now on to add the Jayhawkers’ names to the new town
charter. With McGaa’s partners already en route to Kansas, Wynkoop and A. B. Steinberger volunteered to
immediately march for Lecompton, this time taking the South Platte route through wicked winter weather.
Along the perilous 700-mile journey, Wynkoop and Steinberger survived frostbite, accidents and exhaustion,
encountering numerous Indians and bandits along the way. Beaten, hungry and half frozen, Wynkoop and
Steinberger survived their journey to Lecompton only to discover that the original St. Charles partners had already
arrived and introduced their charter proposal to the Legislature. Undaunted, Wynkoop lobbied Governor Denver to
use his influence to get his name, with the partners of the Lecompton/Lawrence parties, added to the St. Charles
charter proposal. Denver successfully intervened, and the bill subsequently passed.
Wynkoop spent the rest of the winter recovering in Lecompton, foolishly spreading exaggerated rumors of the Pike’s
Peak Gold Rush to everyone he encountered. He printed blank stock certificates for the new Denver town charter,
and in the spring the cocky young entrepreneur charged citizens $100 dollars each to join his large wagon train
headed back to the supposed Promised Land.
Wynkoop returned to find that William Larimer had ignited a real estate boom on both sides of Cherry Creek, which
were now lined with cabins and businesses. Although the new city charter bore the name St. Charles, the
Jayhawkers, with no legal precedence, ruled that the name Denver City would now and forever remain. If any former
St. Charles or Auraria settlers disagreed, their objections were never voiced within earshot of a Jayhawker, and
eventually all of the townships up and down both Cherry Creek and the South Platte would merge with Denver City.
Edward W. Wynkoop
Some excerpts here are reprinted from "Sand Creek" by Kevin Cahill
Copyright ©2005 by Kevin I. Cahill. All Rights Reserved
This text may not be duplicated or copied in any fashion without permission.
"Sand Creek" is an adaptation of Sand Creek, a
Screenplay by Kevin Cahill Copyright ©1996 by
Kevin I. Cahill. All Rights Reserved. WGAw 746856
When Wynkoop arrived in Kansas and heard about Chivington's attack, he admittedly flew into a rage and
accused Chivington of setting the Cheyennes up for the attack to bolster his military record, something that would
surely propel Chivington's future political career. Wynkoop was further enraged when he learned that, at the time
Chivington attacked the Indians at Sand Creek, his enlistment in the Army was expired and he led the Army-
sanctioned volunteer militia with no official military authority. Alarmed by Wynkoop's accusations and the rumors
of a wholesale massacre perpetrated by the militia, General Curtis ordered Wynkoop to return to Fort Lyon and
conduct an investigation into the matter. Wynkoop received letters from Soule and Cramer, confirming the events
that transpired at Sand Creek, and he interviewed other Lyon officers and enlisted men who told similar stories.
During the ensuing months, two more government investigations of the incident at Sand Creek were pressed in
addition to the military tribunal presided over by Lt. Colonel Samuel Tappan (Tappan was a publicly avowed
enemy of Chivington). Captain Soule was a star witness against Colonel Chivington at the military hearing in
Denver, in which he gave damning testimony that the Indians at Sand Creek were indeed camped under the
protection of the U.S. Army. Soule and other Fort Lyon officers also testified to witnessing several of Chivington’s
volunteer militiamen engaged in subsequent visceral depredations. Soule, who in the interim had been
transferred to the Denver Provost Guard, became the target of many Chivington supporters, and survived several
murder attempts during the Denver hearings.
On April 23, 1865, Soule was lured into the streets of downtown Denver (approximately 14th and Arapahoe Street
in present-day Denver), and murdered by Private Charles W. Squier, of the Second Colorado Cavalry, and an
accomplice, William Morrow. Squier, who had earlier been accused of attempted murder of another Denverite but
released on a jurisdictional technicality, fled the scene. He was later tracked down in New Mexico and brought
back to face murder charges in Denver. Just days before his trial, however, Squier escaped from jail with the help
of confederates and was never seen again. Although there was no evidence that Chivington had anything to do
with Soule's murder, many Denver residents who once ardently supported the Fighting Parson suspected he was
behind it. Grief-stricken over the death of his dear friend Soule, Wynkoop was Chivington's most vocal accuser.
Interestingly, the government in its investigations never questioned Soule or Cramer about their refusal to obey
Chivington’s orders to attack the Indians at Sand Creek. In fact, neither officer was ever charged with any
violation of military protocol. Some historians theorize that this fact, if it had been put in the official record, would
have exposed the severe military breakdown at Sand Creek because Chivington's enlistment in the Army had
technically expired two months prior to the attack. He had not, however, been replaced as Denver's military
commander due his superior officer's more pressing concerns of the Civil War in the States. The government did,
however, officially condemn Chivington and the misdeeds of his Colorado Third Volunteers, and promised
reparations to the Sand Creek survivors that were only partially paid. By the time the investigations concluded,
Chivington had finally mustered out of service and was immune to any military or civil prosecution, despite the
government's hollow recommendation that he be charged with criminal conduct.
Selected Books, Articles & Manuscripts Related to the Life of Edward W. Wynkoop:
Anthony, Scott J. Papers of Scott J. Anthony 1830-1903. Library, Colorado State Historical Society.
Bennett, William Charles, Jr. Reminiscences of Edward W. Wynkoop 1856-1858. Heritage of Kansas, XI, No. 3, Summer, 1978.
_________ Edward W. Wynkoop, Frontiersman, 1856-69. MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Vol. 14, Iss. 2, Winter, 2002.
Bensing, Tom. Silas Soule: A Short, Eventful Life of Moral Courage. Indianapolis, IN: Dog Ear Publishing, 2012
Cahill, Kevin. Sand Creek, a Novel by Kevin Cahill. Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2005.
Cobb, Frank M. The Lawrence Party of Gold Seekers. Colorado Magazine 10, no. 5, September 1933.
Connelley, William E. The Treaty Held at Medicine Lodge. Kansas Historical Collections 17, Winter 1926-1927.
Dunn, William R. I Stand by Sand Creek: a Defense of Colonel John M. Chivington and the Third Colorado Calvary. Ft. Collins, CO:
Old Army Press, 1985.
Ediger, Theodore A. Some Remembrances of the Battle of the Washita. Chronicles of Oklahoma 33, Summer 1955.
Ellenbecker, John G. Oak Grove Massacre, (Oak, Nebraska), Indian Raids on the Little Blue River in 1864. Includes abduction of
Laura Roper and others. (Special thanks to Christopher Wynkoop).
Godfrey, General Edward S. Medicine Lodge Treaty 60 Years Ago. Winners of the West, no. 6, March 30, 1929.
Goertner, Thomas G. Reflections of a Frontier Soldier – The Sand Creek Affair as revealed in the Diary of Samuel F. Tappan. Thesis
presented to University of Denver, 1959.
Gower, Calvin W. Gold Fever in Kansas Territory: Migration to the Pike's Peak Gold Fields, 1858 -1860. Kansas Historical Quarterly,
________ The Pike's Peak Gold Rush and the Smoky Hill Route, 1859 -1860. Kansas Historical Quarterly, Summer 1959.
Hoig, Stan. The Sand Creek Massacre. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961.
Hornbeck, Lewis N. The Battle of the Washita. Sturm’s Oklahoma Magazine 5, no. 5, January 1908.
Isern, Thomas D. The Controversial Career of Edward W. Wynkoop. Colorado Magazine 56, Winter-Spring 1979. (Special thanks to
Kelsey, Harry. Background to Sand Creek. Colorado Magazine 45, no. 4, Fall 1968.
Kraft Louis. Sand Creek and the Tragic End of a Lifeway. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2020.
_________ Ned Wynkoop and the Lonely Road From Sand Creek. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2011.
_________ When Wynkoop Was Sheriff. 2012 Western Heritage award. Wild West Magazine, March 2012.
_________ Edward Wynkoop: A Forgotten Hero. Research Review: The Journal of the Little Bighorn Associates 1, June 1987.
_________ Ned Wynkoop's Early Years on the Frontier. Research Review: The Journal of the Little Big Horn Associates, Vol.
6, No. 1, January 1992.
_________ Ned Wynkoop & Black Kettle. Research Review: The Journal of the Little Big Horn Associates, Vol. 9, No. 2, June 1995.
_________ Ned Wynkoop and the Explosion on Pawnee Fork. Military Heritage, Volume 2, No. 1, August 2000.
_________ Between the Army and the Cheyennes. MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History, Volume 14, No. 2, Winter 2002.
Lecompte, Janet. Sand Creek. Colorado Magazine, Vol. XLI. No. 4. 1964.
Marlatt, Gene Ronald. Edward W. Wynkoop, An Investigation of His Role in the Sand Creek Controversy and Other Indian Affairs,
1863-1868. M.A. Thesis, University of Denver, (1961) Denver Public Library, Colorado Historical Society. University of Denver
Michno, Gregory F. The Real Villains of Sand Creek. Wild West, December 2003.
__________ Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle. Wild West, December 2005.
Myers, J. Jay. The Sand Creek Massacre. Wild West, December 1998.
Pyle, L. Robert. Cheyenne Chief Tall Bull. Wild West, Vol. 15, No. 1, April, 2002.
Roberts, Gary L. Sand Creek, Tragedy and Symbol. Norman: University of Oklahoma; University Microfilms Intnl.,1984. Available at
the Denver Public Library Western History Department - call: C970.3 C428rob
__________ Massacre at Sand Creek: How Methodists Were Involved in an American Tragedy. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press,
Tappan, Samuel F. Unpublished Autobiography. Topeka, KS: Kansas State Historical Society.
________ Diary. Microfilm, Colorado State Historical Society, Denver, CO.
Taylor, Alfred A. The Medicine Lodge Peace Council. Chronicles of Oklahoma 2, no. 2, June 1924.
Wynkoop, Edward W. Edward Wanshaer Wynkoop. Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society 13, 1913-1914.
________ The Tall Chief, the Autobiography of Edward W. Wynkoop. Christopher Gerboth, ed. Denver: Colorado State Historical
Society, Monograph 9, Essays and Monographs in Colorado History, 1994. (Available at the Colorado History Museum book store -
13th & Broadway, Denver)
_________ The Battle of the Washita: An Indian Agent's View. Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 36, No. 4, Winter, 1958-1959.
Wynkoop, Frank Murray. Data Concerning Col. Edward W. Wynkoop. Colorado College Tutt Library Special Collections and Archives.
_________ Intimate Notes Relative to the Career of Colonel Edward Wynkoop. Museum of New Mexico History.
_________ Reminiscences of Frank Murray Wynkoop. Colorado Historical Society, Edward W. Wynkoop Papers, Mss 695, FF 5,
December 12, 1953.
Zwink, Timothy A. E. W. Wynkoop and the Bluff Creek Council, 1866. Kansas Historical Quarterly, No. 2, Winter, 1977.
Other Points of Interest:
|Sand Creek also
Standing L-R: Unidentified, Jack Smith (son of John Smith), John S. Smith,
Heap of Buffalo, Bosse, trader Dexter Colley, Unidentified soldier.
Seated L-R: White Antelope, Bull Bear, Black Kettle, Neva, Na-ta-Nee
(Knock Knee). Kneeling L-R: Major Edward W. Wynkoop, Captain Silas
Photos courtesy Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy Dept. except where noted
|Photograph taken after Weld Council, Denver, CO.
Wynkoop's controversial actions, from the Smoky Hill to Camp Weld,
rankled General Samuel Curtis at Kansas district headquarters. The
Civil War dominated Curtis' attention, however, and he might not
have taken any steps to dress Wynkoop down if not for a false rumor
given to him by a source that has never been identified. Curtis was
told that Wynkoop was feeding the Cheyennes at Fort Lyon, and
allowing them free reign at the post in direct violation of a standing
order to keep all Indians away from military forts, friendly or not. The
General immediately sent orders for Wynkoop to be relieved of duty
by Major Scott Anthony, and for Wynkoop to come to Kansas and
answer to the charges.
Incensed by the false charges against him, Wynkoop nevertheless
complied and departed Fort Lyon in late November, leaving Black
Kettle with his assurance that he would talk to Curtis and do
everything in his power to persuade the General to honor the peace
agreement they had forged.
Just days later on November 29, 1864, Colonel John M. Chivington,
on a self-appointed campaign to seek out and attack hostile Indian
bands, led a large company of volunteer militiamen from Denver to
Fort Lyon and commandeered 250 soldiers from the post. Under the
protestations of Captain Soule and other Fort Lyon officers,
Chivington took the soldiers and militiamen forty miles southeast to
Black Kettle’s camp on Sand Creek and attacked the Indians, who
had surrendered to Wynkoop under the terms of the Camp Weld
Council. Because the Indians’ safety had been guaranteed by
Wynkoop, Soule and Lt. Joseph Cramer defied Chivington’s orders to
attack the camp, and they pulled their companies back from the
News of the attack quickly reached Denver, falsely reported by
Chivington as a resounding defeat of the notorious Cheyenne Dog
Soldiers, a renegade band of warriors that had been raiding Kansas
and Nebraska ranches and murdering white settlers all summer. But
soon word began to spread that the Indians Chivington attacked
were not the Dogmen at all, and, more disturbing were the rumors
that the Denver militiamen had gone on a bloody frenzy of scalping
and disemboweling the 160 to 170 dead Cheyennes and Arapahos,
the majority of them women, children and elderly.
The incident would be forever known as the Sand Creek Massacre.
(Photo courtesy Denver Public Library
Western History/Genealogy Dept.)
|Colonel John M. Chivington
Photo courtesy Byron Strom
The personal pronoun “I” rarely found a comfortable place in Ned Wynkoop’s vocabulary. Indeed, the tall and
imposing Pennsylvanian was impulsive, emotionally brash, easily agitated, and sometimes downright arrogant in
his youth, but the young boy who always stepped in to stop a schoolyard brawl forever carried that most admirable
quality of temperance throughout his life. He was the first to take responsibility for his mistakes, and although
sometimes the proverbial bull in a china closet when it came to military protocol, Wynkoop impressed his superiors
more often than confounded them. If nothing else, history will forever remember Ned Wynkoop as the
consummate arbitrator with a keen insight to human nature trumped by an inherent naiveté to the brutal greed of
his fellow man; a man, much like his Cheyenne friend Black Kettle, who sought the high road to peace, no matter
the unfavorable odds or petulant opposition.
After being fully exonerated by all three Sand Creek inquiries, Wynkoop was appointed to the service of the War
Department at the rank of Brevet-Lieutenant Colonel, where he served as Agent for the Cheyenne and Arapaho
tribes for the remainder of the decade. Wynkoop’s highly regarded negotiation skills were put to the supreme test
under the most volatile circumstances. On many occasions after the disaster at Sand Creek, Wynkoop boldly
faced Tall Bull, White Horse, Bull Bear and other Dogmen chiefs in councils, earning their respect, and in the case
of Bull Bear (who vowed to kill Wynkoop to avenge Sand Creek), repairing the friendship they forged at Smoky
Hill. Sadly, his efforts to end the Indian Wars were continually undermined by both the brutal Dog Soldiers’ refusal
to relent in their viscous Sand Creek retaliations, and the government’s inherent indifference to the plight of the
only true indigenous inhabitants of the United States.
Wynkoop spent four futile years arranging councils and proposing peace treaties, only to see them either broken,
or rigorously amended by Congress, which served to drive a deeper wedge between Indians and whites. The
Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867 would be Wynkoop’s final failure, for he realized too late that the friendly Indians
of the Plains might again pay the ultimate price for the hostility of their warrior brethren, and the hypocrisy of the
United States government. In the end, Wynkoop chose to step away, rather than die on his own sword. Clearly
sensing the potential for future Chivington massacres, he angrily tendered his resignation to the Commissioner of
Indian Affairs, stating that he refused to once again be a party to the “murder of innocent women and children.”
Perhaps Wynkoop’s resignation was more the product of inside information than intuition, for Colonel George A.
Custer led a dawn attack on Black Kettle’s peaceful village camped at the Washita River on the very day Wynkoop
stepped down. Custer’s swift and brutal strike, followed by a hasty retreat from harder fighting up river, rang eerily
familiar to Chivington’s hit-and-run attack on Sand Creek. The Cheyennes later identified the dead as Black
Kettle, his wife, 20 warriors and 40 Indian women and children, but Custer’s subsequent reports eventually inflated
the number to 300 Indians killed. Fearing another Sand Creek debacle, the United States Army buried the dead
Indians and revealed only sketchy and inconsistent casualty statistics to the public. A bold and vocal pre-emptive
propaganda campaign followed, as the army dispatched its most articulate and loyal officers to strike down the
inevitable comparisons of Washita to Sand Creek by the eastern press. Wynkoop, Tappan and a host of other
Indian sympathizers were summarily smeared and ridiculed for their efforts to bring peace to the Plains.
Angry and disillusioned, Wynkoop left government service in 1868. He moved his wife and children back to
Pennsylvania and struggled in the family’s iron business for several years before the call of adventure once again
beckoned. In 1874, he ventured to the Black Hills to prospect for gold. Wynkoop’s return to the West
reinvigorated his life, as he participated in the gold rush and led a small detachment of volunteers charged with
protecting the vicinity from Indian war parties. Two years later, George Custer, in a bid to run for President after
one final victory over the Indians, was cut to ribbons when he attacked a Sioux camp on the Little Big Horn River.
The Sioux warriors and Cheyenne Dogmen reclaimed the area, and Wynkoop hastily retreated on a perilous
journey back to Pennsylvania with four friends.
Wynkoop then took his family to Colorado, and subsequently to Arizona and New Mexico, back in the employ of
the government. He served as Adjutant General of the New Mexico Territory, and later as warden of the federal
penitentiary. Throughout the remainder of his life, Wynkoop harbored bitter hatred for John Chivington, not only
for Sand Creek, but also for the murder of Silas Soule. Although witnesses clearly placed Private Charles W.
Squier at the murder scene - and Squier himself later openly boasted of killing Soule - Wynkoop adamantly
insisted that Chivington ordered the assassination. In a public rant to supporters in Denver before Soule was
killed, Chivington did offer a $500 bounty to anyone who killed an Indian or those who sympathize with them, but
his offhand comment to a partisan crowd was passed off to the political rhetoric of the times. First Regiment
officers also had testified to hearing Chivington make threats against Soule at Fort Lyon prior to the Sand Creek
attack, but no evidence beyond Chivington's bluster has ever tied him to Soule's assassination. Despite this,
Wynkoop and Samuel Tappan forever maintained that the Fighting Parson was responsible.
A harsh life on the prairie had taken its toll on Wynkoop, and by the age of 55, he endured many maladies
stemming from the numerous injuries and wounds suffered as a young man. The man whom George Bent once
called the Cheyenne and Arapaho’s best friend died of Bright’s Disease at Santa Fe in 1891, survived by his wife,
five sons, and three daughters.
Louisa Wynkoop moved back to Denver after Ned’s death. She lived with her son Frank Murray Wynkoop and his
family – just two doors down from John Chivington’s home on Lawrence Street. Frank, who with his other siblings
never forgave Chivington for the Sand Creek affair, claimed he once had an encounter with the old man, in which
Chivington whispered to him, "Young man, your father was right in condemning that Sand Creek massacre . . ."
Wynkoop’s former honorary title of Sheriff held no significance after
Denver’s incorporation, leaving him free to head for the mountains
to stake a placer mining claim on Clear Creek, where richer veins of
gold were more likely to be found. He courted Louisa Brown
Wakely, the stepdaughter of an English photographer who recently
moved his family to the territory. Wynkoop worked his claim with
modest success, later selling his interest at the outbreak of the Civil
War. During their mining days, Ned and Louisa spent idle time
participating in philanthropic efforts and performing in the theater.
Louisa was an accomplished actress, and Ned took a shine to the
craft himself, once stealing scenes in a play with his hilarious
portrayal of a drunkard. He laughingly credited the accuracy of his
portrayal to working as a bartender during times when mining yields
Although Louisa had refined and rehabilitated Wynkoop to a
degree, he remained a reckless adventurer, joining several militias
charged with keeping the peace among the hoards of cantankerous
prospectors flooding into town. He always seemed to be nearby
whenever a fistfight, duel, or all-out gun battle broke out on the
crude and uncivilized streets of Denver, and he never backed down
from his duties to arrest, try and hang any ‘bummers’ that ran afoul
of the law. On one occasion, Wynkoop himself accepted a
challenge to a duel over a dispute with Denver’s postmaster, but his
adversary, after hearing about Wynkoop’s deadly proficiency with a
pistol, relented and apologized at the moment of truth. Wynkoop’s
flair for dramatics was evident upon his enlistment as a Second
Lieutenant in the Colorado First Cavalry in 1861. Unsatisfied with
the simple uniform of the First, he had Louisa embroider bold red
designs on his uniform to show defiance of his enemy, much in the
same spirit as the Indians who painted themselves for battle. He
married Louisa soon after his promotion to Captain, and he proudly
displayed his embellished attire in a photograph taken by his new
father-in-law, George Wakely, prior to participating in a heroic battle
that would catapult him to fame.
Wynkoop rode with the Colorado First to La Glorieta, under the command of Colonel John
Slough and Major John M. Chivington, where they resoundingly beat back Sibley's Texans'
attempt to capture first New Mexico and then Colorado territories. For his bravery in that
battle, he was promoted to Major, replacing Chivington, who took command of the Denver
Military District. Wynkoop spent a year of duty commanding his company in defense of
Santa Fe, where he and Louisa celebrated the birth of their first son, Edward Estill
Wynkoop. Wynkoop and his command returned to Denver with their families in 1863,
receiving a grand welcome from a grateful citizenry that bestowed gifts and adoration upon
the Major. Wynkoop delivered an emotional speech to the adoring crowd, declaring his
devotion to the Union and, more specifically, the newly established Colorado Territory.
Wynkoop took command of Camp Weld, ordered to protect Denver City from the growing
threat of Indian attacks, which by now had reached a fevered pitch in Kansas. In 1864,
Wynkoop was given command of Fort Lyon in southeastern Colorado (250 miles southeast
of Denver). Wynkoop deemed it no longer safe for Louisa to accompany him, for Lyon was
a desolate hellhole surrounded by hostile Indians and Confederate bandits. She stayed in
Denver with their son and newborn daughter, Emily, and Wynkoop ventured southeast to
the Arkansas. He found Fort Lyon in a dilapidated condition, occupied by troops ravaged
by scurvy and demoralized by the arrogance of its former commander, Major Scott Anthony.
Wynkoop dispatched an urgent message to Colonel Chivington, requesting food,
reinforcements and an experienced officer to serve as his second in command. He made
no idle request on who specifically would fit the bill. He wanted an officer of tested courage
- one he could trust with the lives of his men and the harassed settlers on the Arkansas. He
demanded his friend and fellow warrior, Captain Silas Soule.
Major Wynkoop and Captain Soule were put in the difficult position of safeguarding the Kansas/Colorado branch of
the Santa Fe Trail from both Indian raids and Confederate bushwhackers with a small garrison of soldiers.
Together, Wynkoop and Soule nevertheless maintained a tenuous peace with the Cheyennes and Arapahos living
on government rations in the area.
In September 1864, a messenger brought a proposal from Cheyenne Principal Chief Black Kettle, stating that he
held several white captives taken in Dog Soldier raids during the summer. Black Kettle offered to return the captives
providing Wynkoop would come out to his camp and discuss a peace treaty for his band. Because of the
remoteness of Fort Lyon from the Kansas military headquarters, Wynkoop decided to meet Black Kettle without
initiating the lengthy process of obtaining permission from his superiors. Instead, he dispatched his own messenger
to Kansas, stating his intentions, and then Wynkoop and Soule embarked on the infamous September 1864 journey
into Kansas Indian country. There, they rescued four white children hostages of the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, and
secured an unofficial peace accord with Black Kettle in what later became known as the Smoky Hill Council.
Wynkoop and Soule then took Black Kettle, Dog
Soldier Chief Bull Bear and several other Cheyenne
and Arapaho leaders to Denver to meet with Governor
John Evans. The Camp Weld Council was the second
pivotal meeting between Indian and government
leaders that would figure prominently in events to
come that fall. Denver at the time was cut off by
warrior clans, its citizens living in fear of the murderous
raids being carried out against settlers in the vicinity.
At Camp Weld, after a contentious private meeting with
Governor Evans, who admonished Wynkoop for
bringing the notorious chiefs to Denver without
permission, Wynkoop nonetheless convinced Evans to
meet with them. Governor Evans and Colonel
Chivington ordered Black Kettle to comply with the
military authority at Fort Lyon, and for any Indian that
did not want to go to war with the Army to surrender to
Wynkoop. Black Kettle and the other leaders at the
council agreed, and they returned to Fort Lyon with
Wynkoop and Soule, where an agreement was
reached to allow the peaceably inclined Cheyennes
and Arapahos to camp at a spot on the Big Sandy
River under the American flag and the white flag of
surrender (used to designate military protection to any
passing Union troops).
|Captives of the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers
Daniel Marble, 9, Laura Roper, 16, Isabel Eubank, 3,
Ambrose Asher, 7. The children were rescued by Wynkoop
on his expedition to the Cheyenne camp on the Smoky Hill
River, Kansas Territory. Although Laura and Ambrose were
eventually reunited with their families, little Isabel and Dan
soon died from disease and wounds received from ill
treatment at the hands of their Indian captors.
Read about their tragic story
Governor John Evans
Chief Black Kettle
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|Ned Wynkoop & the Lonely Road
From Sand Creek
|Cheyenne War: Indian
Raids on the Road to
|The Tall Chief - Autobiography of
|The Sand Creek
Massacre: The Official
|Sand Creek and the
Tragic End of a Lifeway