Skip to comments.One Man's Battle [Sand Creek Massacre]
Posted on 04/28/2007 9:56:44 AM PDT by loreldan
Most people call what happened that day in 1864 a massacre. But a firsthand account from a soldier simply calls it war.
This morning in a grassy valley in eastern Colorado, members of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes and officials from the National Park Service will formally dedicate the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site.
At the same time, the Old Colorado City Historical Society will rerelease an out-of-print book that argues that the massacre wasnt a massacre at all.
I realize even suggesting that isnt very popular, but things arent as simple as they are made out to be, said Dave Hughes, 78, a longtime member of the society.
In Memories of a Lifetime in the Pikes Peak Region, published in 1925, author and Colorado Springs pioneer Irving Howbert detailed his role as one of the soldiers at Sand Creek.
His book is part of a 143-yearold debate over whether the November morning in 1864 when a group of 700 cavalry volunteers attacked a village of 500 Arapahos and Cheyennes, killing at least 150 people, was a heartless, gruesome slaughter or an unfortunate but legitimate clash in an ongoing war.
The consensus is that it was a slaughter. Following the battle, ghastly reports turned up of women and children shot, raped, mutilated and scalped. The commander, Col. John Chivington, was said to have led the troops into battle with the command, Kill them big and small; nits become lice!
But Howbert, who was a member of Chivingtons command that day, wrote that he shot several men but saw none of the atrocities commonly ascribed to his unit.
Few events in American history have been the subject of so much misrepresentation, he wrote, arguing that the accounts of butchery were nothing but lies told by officers and traders with vendettas against Chivington.
The volunteers attacked the tribes, Howbert wrote, to stop constant raiding. In the months leading up to Sand Creek, a family northeast of Colorado Springs was killed and mutilated by tribe members. War parties stole horses and livestock. The people of Old Colorado City were so frightened that they built a log fort around the towns hotel where the women and children slept.
Modern residents of the Pikes Peak region often have a hard time relating to the fears settlers had in 1864 . . . of Indian raids that deprived them and their family of their lives and property, Howberts grandson, Irving Howbert II, wrote in a new introduction to the book.
Hughes said: The pioneers werent lily white. But they honestly feared for their lives. They were dealing with an insurgency. For them, Sand Creek wasnt a massacre.
In his book, Irving Howbert wrote that he and 16 other men from El Paso County joined the cavalry to punish the Indians and stop the raids.
When the command came to charge, Howbert wrote, his battalion captured the tribes horses so they couldnt escape. Before he reached the village, he wrote, firing had become general.
The soldiers turned rifles and cannons on the village. The tribes returned fire from along the creek. Fighting lasted all day. By all accounts, at least 150 Cheyennes and Arapahos died, the majority women and children; 300 others escaped. Only 10 soldiers were killed.
Howbert acknowledged the killing of women, writing that the volunteers shot at every Indian in range of our guns. He said It was utterly impossible . . . to distinguish between the sexes, on account of similarity in their dress. He did not mention any rapes or cruelty.
After the survivors fled, the soldiers torched the Indian camp. Many whites along the Front Range celebrated it as a victory.
But back East, two congressional investigations looked into Sand Creek. Several dozen people detailed countless atrocities, and one of the inquiries concluded that Chivington surprised and murdered, in cold blood, the unsuspecting men, women, and children on Sand creek, who had every reason to believe they were under the protection of the United States authorities, and then returned to Denver and boasted of the brave deed he and the men under his command had performed.
Thom Hatch, an Ellicottbased historian who wrote Black Kettle, an award-winning biography of the principal Cheyenne chief at Sand Creek, said the facts are undeniable.
Howbert had to be blind to not see the atrocities committed at Sand Creek, he said via e-mail, calling him an embarrassment to this community. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0223 or email@example.com
Since I am white, I know that there is a good bit of humanity within me. I know that there was humanity in whites of past centuries even though the civil rights machine would have us think otherwise. In fact, the same machine or its predecessor may have had a hand in glossing over the facts in this case. Sometimes, I think that much of history, without the aid of recording devices such as cameras has been distorted since records could so easily be forged. They say there is always two sides to a story and sometimes one side is totally wrong but why is it always the case in these instances that whites are always wrong no matter the evidence? Are we ourselves doomed to extinction through civil rights attrition?
Revise that first sentence as “Since I am white, I know that there is a good bit of humanity in whites.” That first sentence comes across as a bit arrogant and ethnocentric. If we are ever going to get along with each other we have to forgive each other for mistakes no matter the race. No one wants to deal with propaganda that has been produced for the sake of Indians because the Indians fared so badly against the U.S. government and because of the civil rights machine. But why is the truth always the biggest casualty?
Indeed there was. There have always been whites who stood with the Indian tribes to try to keep them from being ethnicly cleansed. Emerson was one in the 1800's trying to help the Cherokee. There were also many Indians who aided whites. Major Ridge and 800 cherokee volunteers who saved Andrew Jackson's butt in the Creek war. He thanked them by taking more land. And there were plenty of rotten Indians as well
Evil doesn't favor any race. Bad policy comes out of bad governance.
It was common to kill civilians in wars up until a few decades ago, so I don’t think we can really hold that against them given the times unless they were purposely taking potshots at children. However there are pictures of scalped Indians and a lot of reports of rape, etc - this we can’t condone
I was also thinking who could begrudge the indigenous people from defending their territory?
Politically Incorrect history. Why are Indians never blamed for murdering white women and children? Hmm?
Many agnostic and atheistic and other generally anti-Christian Americans alive today have benefitted from a Judeo-Christian culture which favors grace and love, righteousness and justice over the conflagration of evil.
Those who reject God, having received the benefits of His grace, frequently fail to discern between the thinking patterns of believers and unbelievers.
Believers who fall out of fellowship and become activists or worldly in their thinking are indeed capable of many heinous criminal acts. Unbelievers who have arisen in unbelieving marriages, families and nations have matured in even more degenerate levels of evil than most even comprehend.
Ignoring evil perpetuated by those who worship evil is far more dangerous than identifying the evil amongst those who have a past propensity to turn away from evil.
IMHO, those who elevate a handful of native Americans to claims over land by many orders of magnitude greater than their possible direct interest, while belittling others to thousands of people per acre without controlling interest, manifest their own personal arrogance and lack of respect for justice or righteousness.
While the Battle of Sand Creek was taking place, on the other side of the country, General Sherman was marching his troops from Atlanta to the sea—another military campaign that would generate controversy.
If you think Christians are unable to commit horrible acts than you have a very poor grasp of history, I’m afraid. Or are you one of those “they were not REAL Christians”. That reminds me of all the unrepentent Marxists who claim that Communism just hasn’t been implemented correctly.
In both cases it’s a intellectually dishonest position.
Of course Christianity has been a overwhelming force for good in history, but many individual Christians, even some motivated primarily by their religion, have done many evil things.
Christian beliefs are not a magic prescription that prevents acting badly, or commiting evil acts. Would that it were, but it is not.
Before anyone gets carried away with this nonsense you might want to read a few Iconoclastic books on the subject.
MASSACRES OF THE MOUNTAINS by J. P. DUNN Jr
THE INDIAN WAR OF 1864 by Captain EUGENE F WARE
COMANCHES, THE DEATH OF A PEOPLE.
They wern’t sweet inocent little darlin’s after all.
Chivington was in a bitter fight to save his reputation.
..”While this fight was being pressed upon him, he received an urgent letter from Colorado, asking him to attend and address a meeting of old settlers, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the settlement of the state.
There he would find old friends, who knew the true history of Sand Creek and felt as he did.”
The chairman introduced him with these words; “We all remember the Indian wars of 1864 and ‘65, and with joy we received the news that some of them at least had met the reward due to their treachery and cruelty. The man who can tell you all about those wars, who can give you the true story of Sand Creek is here. I have the honor, Ladies and Gentlemen, to introduce Colonel CHIVINGTON, one of Colorado’s ‘Pet Lambs.’”
There is too much to print here but the gist is ...
The treachery of the Indians in their dealings with Governor John Evans..
Their attack and near annihilation of General Blunt’s advance guard..
Under the guise of friendship destroyed wagon trains from Walnut Creek to Sand Creek.
...”Ay, what of the scalps of white men, women, and children, several of which they had not even had time to dry and tan since taken? These, and more were taken from the belts of dead warriors on the battle-field of Sand Creek...
What of the Indian blanket that was captured, fringed with white-women’s scalps? What say the dust of two hundred and eight men, women, and children, ranchers, immigrants, herders, and soldiers who lost their lives at the hands of these Indians? Peaceable? ...I say here as I said in my own town...one night last week. I stand by Sand Creek.”
How earily familiar to another incident a few years earlier in MO....
The militia rode into town at approximately 4:00pm on October 30th. David Evans, a leader in the community ran towards the militia, waving his hat and calling for peace. Alerted to the militia's approach, most of the Latter Day Saint women and children fled into the woods to the south while most of the men stayed behind to fight, entrenching themselves in the blacksmith shop.
Tragically, the building was a particularly vulnerable entrenchment as the widely-spaced logs made it easy for the militiamen to fire inside. The shop became a deathtrap, as the Missourians gave no quarter, discharging about one hundred rifles. After the initial attack, several of those who had been wounded or had surrendered were shot at point blank range.
Members of the militia entered the shop and found ten-year-old Sardius Smith hiding under the blacksmith's bellows. One man put the muzzle of his gun against the boy's skull and blew off the upper part of his head. The man later explained, "Nits will make lice, and if he had lived he would have become a Mormon."
Several bodies were mutilated or clothing stolen while many women were raped and beaten. Houses were robbed, wagons, tents and clothing were stolen, and horses and livestock were driven off, leaving the surviving women and children destitute.
It wasn't just Indians that suffered at the hands of cut throats masquerading as military. Bad leadership from civil government and lack of leadership or any semblance of control of mobs (I will not grace this bunch as military) means *everyone* suffers.
BINGO! You nailed the truth brother. The tactic of destroying the civilian infrastructure used in the Indian Wars that all good liberals now abhor were in fact the tactics developed by Sherman during the War of Northern Aggression.
So let us all be clear. The first victims of the tactics denounced in the Federal's war memorial were white Southrons! Yet today in our upside down PC world the fact that the victorious yankees then turned these tactics on the remnants of the Indian tribes is now reviled as an act of racist genocide.
We had better all wake up. Otherwise our history and our nation will be lost forever.
You may want to reread my post again.
****It wasn’t just Indians that suffered at the hands of cut throats masquerading as military. Bad leadership from civil government and lack of leadership or any semblance of control of mobs (I will not grace this bunch as military) means *everyone* suffers.****
Lets also remember that CHIVINGTON was the officer who turned the tide of battle against the Confederate forces at Glorieta Pass, NM in 1862.
****I think the Cheyenne and Arapaho had a manifest, very real and direct interest in keeping their lands, lands they had been living on for a long, long time before we whites got here. Saying that their interests because they were ultimately out numbered and out gunned is an interesting point of view.****
Actually this is not the case. The Indians loved war. It is how they established their “position” in the tribe. Bragging rights to trophies such as scalps and scars.
When Captain Eugene Ware was sent to the western posts in 1864 he expected to find the frontier aflame with war. He found peace. No war. Indians at peace that winter living on government beef. Everyone happy.
As he took a more relaxed mode the old soldiers told him that as soon as the grass was tall enough to support an Indian pony the tribes would breakout and he would have all the war he could stand.
The old soldiers were right. He found Indians always made peace in the Fall of the year so they could live on government rations all winter then would go on the war path in late spring.
The soldiers were very joyful when Chivington thrashed the Cheyenne and Arapaho at Sand Creek, then turned against him when they found HE DID NOT KILL AS MANY INDIANS AS HE CLAIMED.
My Mormon relatives in Eastern Utah had a few problems with the Ute’s at about the same time. Small things like being massacred and cut to tripe’s when captured.
There is still a lot of hard feelings about these small matters a hundred and ten years later.
(I’m trying to find the one showing Indians attacking women and children with the skeleton of a US Soldier holding them off with his rifle and bayonet. The Skeleton’s legs are entwined with government red tape holding him back. Much like our war in Iraq and Vietnam). Didn’t find it.
I was stationed at Nellis years ago and studies the history of the state, and ran across references to the “nits make lice” statement.
Hard to believe that at one time folks were so willing to kill on that level.
I guess a professional, full time military is in many ways safer.