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The Sand Creek Massacre | Rebellion Records
Colonel John M. Chivington Reports From Sand Creek
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9.11.01
We'll never forget
"Rebellion Records"
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. XLI
Part I, pp 948-950 -  Excerpts relevant to the Sand Creek Massacre.

Following the attack on Black Kettle's camp at Sand Creek, Colonel John M. Chivington filed the three reports listed
below.  The first report was immediately dispatched to General Samuel Curtis after the attack, the second sent at the
same time to William Byers of the
Rocky Mountain News in Denver, and the third sent to General Samuel Curtis three
weeks later when Chivington
and his Third Regiment returned to Denver.



HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF COLORADO,
In the Field, Cheyenne County, South Bend of Big Sandy,

November 29, 1864.

In the last ten days my command has marched 300 miles, 100 of which the snow was two feet deep. After a march of forty miles last
night I, at daylight this morning, attacked Cheyenne village of 130 lodges, from 900 to 1,000 warriors strong; killed Chiefs Black
Kettle, White Antelope, Knock Knee, and Little Robe [Little Raven], and between 400 and 500 other Indians, and captured as many
ponies and mules. Our loss, 9 killed, 38 wounded. All did nobly. Think I will catch some more of them eighty miles, on Smoky Hill.
Found white man's scalp, not more than three days' old, in one of lodges.

J. M. CHIVINGTON,

Colonel, Commanding First Dist. of Colo. and First Indian Expedition.

Major General S. R. CURTIS,

Fort Leavenworth, Department of Kansas.

                                                                                        --------------------------------------

HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF COLORADO,
In the field, on Big Bend of Sandy Creek, Col. Ter.,

November 29, 1864.

Messrs. BEYERS and DAILEY,

Editors News, Denver, Colo. Ter.:

SIRS: I have not the time to give you a detailed history of our engagement of to-day, or to mention those officers and men who
distinguished themselves in one of the most bloody Indian battles ever fought on these plains. You will find enclosed the report of
my surgeon in charge, which will bring to many anxious friends the sad fate of loved ones who are and have been risking everything
to avenge the horrid deeds of those savages we have so severely handled. We made a forced march of forty miles, and surprised,
at break of day, one of the most powerful villages of the Cheyenne nation, and captured over five hundred animals; killing the
celebrated chiefs One Eye, White Antelope, Knock Knee, Black Kettle, and Little Robe, with about five hundred of their people,
destroying all their lodges and equipage, making almost an annihilation of the entire tribe.

I shall leave here, as soon as I can see our wounded safely on the way to the hospital at Fort Lyon, for the villages of the Sioux,
which are reported about eighty miles from here, on the Smoky Hill, and three thousand strong; so look out for more fighting. I will
state, for the consideration of gentlemen who are opposed to fighting these red scoundrels, that I was shown, by my chief surgeon,
the scalp of a white man taken from the lodge of one of the chiefs, which could not have been more than two or three days taken;
and I could mention many more things to show how these Indians, who have been drawing government rations at Fort Lyon, are
and have been acting.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. M. CHIVINGTON,
Col. Comd'g Colorado Expedition against Indians on Plains.

                                                                           --------------------------------------------------

HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF COLORADO,
Denver, C. T., December 16, 1864.

GENERAL: I have the honor to transmit the following report of operations of the Indian expedition under my command, of which brief
notice was given you by my telegram of November 29, 1864:
Having ascertained that the hostile Indians had proceeded south from the Platte, and were almost within striking distance of Fort
Lyon, I ordered Colonel Geo. L. Shoup, 3d regiment Colorado volunteer cavalry, (100-day service,) to proceed with the mounted
men of his regiment in that direction.

On the 20th of November I left Denver and Booneville, C. T.; on the 24th of November joined and took command in person of the
expedition which had been increased by a battalion of the 1st cavalry of Colorado, consisting of detachments of companies C, E
and H. I proceeded with the utmost caution down the Arkansas river, and on the morning of the 28th instant arrived at Fort Lyon, to
the surprise of the garrison of that post. On the same morning I resumed my march, being joined by Major Scott J. Anthony, 1st
cavalry of Colorado, with one hundred and twenty-five men of said regiment, consisting of detachments of companies D, G and H,
with two howitzers. The command then proceeded in a northeasterly direction, travelling all night, and at daylight of the 29th
November striking Sand creek about forty (40) miles from Fort Lyon.

Here was discovered an Indian village of one hundred and thirty (130) lodges, composed of Black Kettle's band of Cheyennes and
eight (8) lodges of Arapahoes, with Left Hand. My line of battle was formed with Lieutenant Wilson's battalion of the 1st regiment,
numbering about 125 men, on the right, Colonel Shoup's 3d regiment, numbering about 450 men, in the centre, and Major
Anthony's battalion, numbering 125 men, 1st regiment, on the left.

The attack was immediately made upon the Indian's camp by Lieutenant Wilson, who dashed forward, cutting the enemy off from
their herd, and driving them out of their camp, which was subsequently destroyed.

The Indians, numbering from 900 to 1,000, though taken by surprise, speedily rallied and formed a line of battle across the creek,
about three-fourths of a mile above the village, stubbornly contesting every inch of ground.

The commands of Colonel Shoup and Major Anthony pressed rapidly forward and attacked the enemy sharply, and the
engagement became general, we constantly driving the Indians, who fell back from one position to another for five miles, and finally
abandoned resistance and dispersed in all directions and were pursued by my troops until nightfall.

It may, perhaps; be unnecessary for me to state that I captured no prisoners. Between five and six hundred Indians were left dead
upon the field. About five hundred and fifty ponies, mules and horses were captured, and all their lodges were destroyed, the
contents of which has served to supply the command with an abundance of trophies, comprising the paraphernalia of Indian
warfare and life. My loss was eight (8) killed on the field and forty (40) wounded, of which two have since died. Of the conduct of the
3d regiment (100-day service) I have to say that they well sustained the reputation of our Colorado troops for bravery and
effectiveness; were well commanded by their gallant young Colonel, Geo. L. Shoup, ably assisted by Lieutenant Colonel L. L.
Bowen, Major Hal Sayre and Captain Theodore G. Cree, commanding 1st, 2d and 3d battalions of that regiment.

Of the conduct of the two battalions of the 1st regiment I have but to remark that they sustained their reputation as second to none,
and were ably handled by their commanders, Major Anthony, Lieutenant Wilson and Lieutenant Clark Dunn, upon whom the
command devolved after the disability of Lieutenant Wilson from wounds received.

Night coming on, the pursuit of the flying Indians was of necessity abandoned, and my command encamped within sight of the field.

On the 1st instant, having sent the wounded and dead to Fort Lyon, the first to be cared for, and the latter to be buried upon our
own soil. I resumed the pursuit in the direction of Camp Wynkoop on the Arkansas river, marching all night of the 3d and 4th
instant, in hopes of overtaking a large encampment of Arapahoes and Cheyennes, under Little Raven, but the enemy had been
apprized of my advance, and on the morning of the 5th instant, at 3 o'clock, precipitately broke camp and fled. My stock was
exhausted. For one hundred miles the snow had been two feet deep, and for the previous fifteen days--excepting on November 29
and 30--the marches had been forced and incessant.

Under these circumstances, and the fact of the time of the 3d regiment being nearly out, I determined for the present to relinquish
the pursuit. Of the effect of the punishment sustained by the Indians you will be the judge. Their chiefs Black Kettle, White Antelope,
One Eye, Knock Knee, and Little Robe, were numbered with the killed and their bands almost annihilated. I was shown the scalp of
a white man, found in one of the lodges, which could not have been taken more than two or three days previous. For full particulars
and reports of the several commanders I respectfully refer you to the following copies herewith enclosed, of Colonel George L.
Shoup, 3d regiment, December 6, 1864; Colonel Shoup, 3d regiment, December 7, 1864; Colonel L. L. Bowen, 3d regiment,
November 30, 1864; Major Hal Sayr, 3d regiment, December 6, 1864; Captain Theodore G. Cree, 3d regiment, December 6, 1864;
Major Scott J. Anthony, 1st regiment, December 1, 1864; Lieutenant Clark Dunn, 1st regiment, November 30, 1864; Lieutenant J. J.
Kennedy, November 30, 1864.

If all the companies of the 1st cavalry of Colorado and the 11th Ohio volunteer cavalry, stationed at camps and posts near here,
were ordered to report to me, I could organize a campaign, which, in my judgment, would effectually rid the country between the
Platte and Arkansas rivers of these red rebels.

I would respectfully request to be informed, if another campaign should be authorized from here, whether I could employ one or two
hundred friendly Utes, (Indians,) furnishing them subsistence, arms and ammunition for the campaign.

I cannot conclude this report without saying that the conduct of Captain Silas S. Soule, Company D, 1st Cavalry of Colorado, was at
least ill-advised, he saying that he thanked God that he killed no Indians, and like expressions, proving him more in sympathy with
the Indians than with the whites.

The evidence is most conclusive that these Indians are the worst that have infested the routes of the Platte and Arkansas Rivers
during the last spring and summer.  Amongst the stock captured were the horses and mules taken by them from Lieutenant Chase,
1st Cavalry of Colorado, last September; several scalps of white men and women were found in the lodges; also various articles of
clothing belonging to white persons.  On every hand the evidence was clear that no lick was struck amiss.
*

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. M. CHIVINGTON,
Col. 1st Cavalry of Colorado,
Commanding District of Colorado

Major General S. R. CURTIS,
Commanding Department of Kansas, Fort Leavenworth.

                                                                         --------------------------------------------------

Notes:

* Interestingly, the final two paragraphs of Chivington’s dispatch were omitted from the Report of the Joint Committee on the
Conduct of the War. (See
“Massacre of the Cheyenne Indians”  pp. 48-50).  During the military inquiry, neither the Committee, nor
Chivington ever questioned Captain Soule about his refusal to attack the Indian village at Sand Creek.  Some historians theorize
that this revelation  by either side would have opened the door to questions regarding Chivington’s authority to lead a regiment
sanctioned by the War Department and officially under the command of Lt. Col. George Shoup, when his enlistment in the Army
had expired two months prior to the attack.

It was highly unusual for an army commander to immediately report military operations in the field to newspaper reporters.  After the
Sand Creek attack, Chivington described the incident in greater detail to
Rocky Mountain News editor William Byers than to his
military superior, General Curtis.  Because Captain Silas Soule, Lieutenant Joseph Cramer and other Fort Lyon officers vehemently
opposed the attack, many historians speculate that Chivington was already attempting to muster public support to deflect the
criticism that was sure to follow.

Chivington's initial reports were full of inaccuracies:

1. Number of Indians at the camp.  Chivington reported 900 to 1000, but official estimates later put the number around 500.

2. Number of Indians killed.  Chivington reported 500 to 600, but the accepted estimate of casualties was 160 to 170.  Chivington
would later claim that he knew of very few women or children killed, but officers who later counted the dead estimated that women
and children accounted for approximately two-thirds of the casualties.

3. Nature of the Indians camped at Sand Creek.  Chivington's claims of "one of the most powerful villages of the Cheyenne nation"
and "The evidence is most conclusive that these Indians are the worst that have infested the routes of the Platte and Arkansas
Rivers during the last spring and summer" were incorrect.  Chivington clearly implied the Indians were Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, who
indeed had been murdering settlers on the Platte and Arkansas, but no Dog Soldier bands were present at the Sand Creek attack.  
In fact, Black Kettle's band, by the terms of surrender laid out by both Major Edward Wynkoop and Major Scott Anthony, were
camped as prisoners under military protection.

4. Atrocities committed after the attack.  Chivington makes no mention of the controversial accusations regarding the emasculating
and scalping of the dead Indians, but officers later assigned to count casualties confirmed this had occurred.

5. Black Kettle's death.  Chivington erroneously reported that Black Kettle was killed.  Black Kettle survived the attack and fled to
the Smoky Hill with the other Sand Creek survivors.  This might have been an honest mistake, for the Indian men who were killed in
the attack were so badly mutilated and scalped by Third Regiment soldiers that positive identification was impossible.

Sources:
Hoig, Stan  
The Sand Creek Massacre
Roberts, Gary L.  Sand Creek: Tragedy and Symbol
See Bibliography for citation.
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