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  • Soldiers at Sand Creek (a series): Three Colonels, Three Majors and a General - Part XIII

Soldiers at Sand Creek (a series): Three Colonels, Three Majors and a General - Part XIII

Colonel George Laird Shoup: The Invisible Commander – Part 6

Jeff C. CampbellWith the Sand Creek massacre, it’s hard to quantify responsibility. On the field, Colonel Chivington was the overall commander. That is unequivocal. However, his subordinates as Company and unit commanders share immediate responsibility. In the way we organize the Army, no one shared leadership more than the Commander of the Third Regiment, Colonel George L. Shoup. He and Chivington had the power of their rank to stop the action. Both chose not to.

Individuals, officers and men alike took their moral imperative and either refused to kill and participate or did kill, mutilate and committed other unspeakable acts.

Leading up to November 29, 1864, Colonel Shoup failed to act, to stop killings from happening.

Killing Reynolds – Left on the Prairie.
On August 13, Shoup and troops captured James Reynolds and four of his “gang.” From there, the five prisoners were taken to Denver and jailed. Military District Commander, Chivington had a Military Commission formed to try the guerillas on August 22. The next day, Chivington sought permission to “shoot them,” from department commander, MG Sam. R. Curtis, when found guilty. On August 24, Department of Kansas Headquarters denied the request to execute Reynolds and companions.

On August 25 the Rocky Mountain News [RMN] reported Shoup was back in Denver and referred to him as “Colonel. Shoup.” On August 29, per Special Order, District of Colorado, “transport of Reynolds' gang as prisoners to be transferred to Captain Isaac Gray at Booneville.” On September 4, the RMN noted CPT Cree’s company [Co. A-3] “took Jim Reynolds and four or five of his guerilla partners away from the U. S. Marshal’s charge on Saturday [September 3], to place them in safe custody at Fort Lyon, subject to further orders from the commander of the Department. A crowd convened about the jail to see the culprits start, some expressing the hope that rations of ball and buckshot might be dealt out to them on general principles and before they reached their destination.”

September 4, 1864: Sgt. John Lewis Dailey*, Cree's Co. A-3 wrote: "Sunday 4 ...marched to old Russellville town site where we camped for the night.”

September 5, 1864, Monday:
As told in the main, by Alston Shaw, Private Co. A-3, in Louella Shaw’s True History of some of the pioneers of Colorado.,  1909. The Company “was ordered to Fort Lyons, they were ordered to take the five prisoners along and send them on to headquarters at Fort Leavenworth,” Shaw states Captain Cree was disappointed that Crow and Sloan [guards] had not taken care of the situation with the prisoners, implying they had not executed orders from command to leave the prisoners “on the prairie.” She continues, Alston picked six men, (named), “for the party to execute the Reynolds group on Captain Cree’s orders.” On the orders from “the commander-in-chief of the western department stating you have been tried by court martial and sentenced to be shot.”

September 5, 1864: Near Russellville at headwaters of Cherry Creek, Colorado alleged guerilla James Reynolds & 4 other prisoners killed while in custody of a detachment, Co. A, 3rd Reg.,

Colonel Shoup was reported recruiting at Booneville for Co. G & H.

From September 9, 1864 edition, RMN:
“... at the old Russellville townsite, ... the prisoners and the guard had fallen fifty or sixty rods behind ..., when they halted ..., the prisoners made a concerted attempt to escape, when they were fired upon by the guard and instantly killed. So we learn from various sources, and publish to quiet the thousand and one reports, rumors, and surmises respecting the matter that have been rife in our community since yesterday [September 8] noon.

U. S. Attorney for the Territory, Samuel E. Browne to MG Samuel R. Curtis, C.O. Dept. of KS, re; the killing of the 5 members of the Reynolds gang. [CLH, OR]  
 “These persons he brought to Denver and lodged in the U. S. prison ... About the 1st of September, the colonel [Chivington], saying that he was so ordered by you, sent those five persons, under an escort of 100 men of the Third Colorado Cavalry, to Fort Lyon for trial. I was informed the day they left by Mr. F. Kershaw, the commissary sergeant [Co. M-3], that no rations had been drawn for the prisoners, although they were ordered to be taken to [Fort] Lyon, a distance of 240 miles. From this and other circumstances I drew my own inferences. The second day out the whole five were butchered, and their bodies, with shackles on their legs, were left unburied on the plains, and yet remain there unless devoured by the beasts of prey that don't wear shoulder-straps. ...
“... When the news was first brought to Chivington of the death of these persons, and the manner of their death, he sneeringly remarked to the bystanders:  "I told the guard when they left that if they did not kill those fellows, I would play thunder with them.” There is no doubt in the minds of our people that a most foul murder has been committed, and that, too, by the express order of old Chivington.

Sgt. John Dailey, wrote in his diary: "Monday, 5 – Started after breakfast, leaving the wagon with prisoners and guard a little to the rear. After traveling about 13 miles, word came forward from the prisoner guard of an attempt to escape, and that the prisoners were all shot by the guard. A party, including myself was immediately sent back to ascertain the true state of things, which were found to be in accordance with the above facts. Rejoined the command, which had gone into camp at a ranch up near the summit of the divide. Pleasant camp, but night cold and frosty.”

"Dick Wooten happened by the spot later and said he found three skeletons lashed upright against trees with bullet holes in their skulls.” See Kenneth E. Englert, "Raids by Reynolds," The Denver Westerner's Brand Book, 1956. [FHY]

Next time Three Colonels, Part XIV, The Invisible Commander and the Buffalo Springs Massacre.

Travel well