Skip to main content
Colonel John Chivington
Colonel John Chivington

Soldiers at Sand Creek - A Series: Part II

By Jeff C Campbell

April 19, 2017

Part II

“Damn any man in sympathy with the Indians!”
- Colonel John Milton Chivington, Expedition Commander, 1st Regiment Cavalry, Colorado [U.S.] Volunteers, November 28, 1864

Colonel John Chivington
Caption: Fort Lyon, Post Quartermaster’s Office, Nov. 28, 1864: National Park Service artist’s rendition -  COL Chivington, Expedition Commander lays out his plan for the attack on Sand Creek, pounding his fist on the table. Right of him, Samuel Colley Indian Agent, to left is Major Jacob Downing. Other officers and men around the table are 2LT Chauncey Cossitt, Post QM, Pvt. Evander Light, Co. E-1, 1LT Joseph Maynard, Expedition Adjutant, 2LT Joe Cramer, Co. K-1, 2LT Wm. Minton, Acting Post Adjutant, and CPT Sam Cook, Co. F-1.

In testimonies, letters, diaries officers and men of the 1st and 3rd regiments of cavalry, Colorado [U.S.] Volunteers would recall at least eight men were witnesses to the meeting with the Colonel Chivington in Lieutenant Cossitt’s office. MAJ Jacob Downing, District Inspector and in the lead of the attack. "Major" [Sobriquet, for Indian Agents.] Samuel Colley, CPT Samuel Cook, Co. F, 1st Reg., Acting CPT, Joseph S. Maynard, Expedition Adjutant, 2LT Joseph Cramer, Co. K, 1st Reg., 2LT William Minton, Co. K, 1st Reg., NM [U.S.] Volunteers, Acting Post Adjutant, Pvt. Evander Light, Co. E, 1st Reg. and Cossitt.

1LT Chauncey Cossitt: "Had .. in my room ... Chivington, ... Minton, ... Colley, ... and several others; ...,  I think ... Cook was there,... Chivington was denouncing Major Wynkoop's previous course; ... Minton and myself were upholding him, (Wynkoop.) I stated to the colonel how we were situated here in regard to the Indians, and that the Indian interpreter [John Smith], a soldier [Pvt. David Louderback], and a citizen [R. “Watt” Clark] , were there in the Indian camp by permission of Major Anthony,  and said all I could to prevent the command going out there to the Indians; told him Major Anthony had an Indian employed [One Eye], who was supposed to be there in the Indian camp, employed as a peace messenger. The colonel concluded the conversation by damning anybody in sympathy with Indians." Testimony - Military Commission, Fort Lyon, Colo. Terr. [Carroll, ADH] [Another man went as a teamster with Smith, Clark and Louderback, a half-Cheyenne / half-French-Canadién, Edmund Guerrier who had relatives in the village.]

2LT William Minton: "I heard a conversation between some officers of that command* and officers of this post. ... The officers belonging to this post were ... Cook, ... Cossitt and myself, also ... Colley” " Some of the parties were endeavoring to press upon ... Chivington the injustice of going to attack that camp on Sand creek, and explaining to him ... the ... circumstances in which the officers of this post and the Indians were situated. ... Chivington was walking the room in a very excitable manner, and he wound up ... by saying, D.. n any man who is in sympathy with an Indian.” [Testimony - Military Commission, Ft. Lyon] [Carroll, ADH]
[*“that command” means the men and officers of the 1st and 3rd regiments that came with Colonel Chivington and Colonel George Laird Shoup.]

2LT “Joe” Cramer: "I had some conversation with ... Downing, ... Maynard, and ...Chivington. I stated to them ..; that I believed it to be "murder" and stated the obligations that we of ... Wynkoop's command were under to those Indians. To Colonel Chivington I know I stated that ... Wynkoop had pledged his word as an officer and a man to those Indians, and that all officers under him were ... pledged in the same manner .., and that I felt it was placing us in ... circumstances to fight the same Indians that had saved our lives*, as we all felt they had. ... Chivington's reply was, that he believed it to be right or honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians that would kill women and children, and "damn any man that was in sympathy with Indians," and such men as Major Wynkoop and myself had better get out of the United States service.” [Testimony - Military Commission, Denver Carroll, ADH] [*They felt the chiefs had saved them from ultimate destruction on Sept. 10 up on Bunches of Timbers creek, northeast of Arapaho in Cheyenne Co., CO.]

2LT Cramer: "I told Colonel Chivington of the position in which the officers stood from ...Wynkoop's pledges to the Indians, ... His reply was, bringing his fist down close to my face, "Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians.” I told him what pledges were given ... He replied, "That he had come to kill Indians, and believed it to be honorable to kill Indians under any and all circumstances." all this at Fort Lyon." [Sworn, Ft. Lyon, June 9, 1865: Committee on Indian Affairs,ADH]

Before this meeting in Cossitt’s office Ft. Lyon officers had discussed their duty and the presence of Chivington and Colonel Shoup’s Third Regiment. Captain Silas Soule in no uncertain terms stood against any action against the Cheyennes and Arapahos on Sand Creek. Sources generally agree that Chivington was angered by the near insubordination of Soule. Post officers warned Soule to stay away from Chivington’s meeting at the Commissary offices.

Next week: Part III, in memoriam

Travel well, Jeff C. Campbell

Jeff C. Campbell, a veteran police officer / investigator, published author of articles, books, and a series of novels. He’s an independent historian focusing on the Southwest, the Civil War in the West and Colorado’s Territorial days...