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Jeff C Campbell
Jeff C Campbell

Soldiers at Sand Creek (a series) Three Colonels, Three Majors and a General – Part XIX

By Jeff C. Campbell

May 9, 2018
Lieutenant Colonel Leavitt L Bowen: The “General” – Part 5
Jeff C. CampbellAfter leaving the Sand Creek village on Dec. 1, 1864 Bowen went with the soldiers and their supply train into Kansas until it was determined the horses and men could go no further. The expedition’s horses were dying at a rate of 12 a day. Bowen and Shoup accompanied the remainder of the 3rd Reg. on their march back to Denver between Dec. 10 and 23 when the 3rd marched through Denver displaying their “trophies” of scalps and other body parts as well as booty they’d taken from the village.
On December 28, LTC Bowen was “Mustered Out” of the regiment by CPT John Anderson, Commissary of Musters.

The Friday, Dec. 30, the Black Hawk – Daily Mining Journal reported: “A Good many of the Third Regiment boys are returning to their old haunts. Some of them do not scruple to say that the big battle of Sand Creek was a cold-blooded massacre. If so, it must be remembered that the individual who gave the order for its commission is alone to blame for it... Many stories are told and incidents related by the actors in the bloody scene, which are too sickening to repeat.”

By Monday Jan. 9, 1865, in Washington, Sen. James R. Doolittle, head of Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, rose and informed the Senate he had received news of the massacre and introduced a resolution to conduct an investigation. The next day the New York Times confirmed the story.

On Jan. 11, 1865, about 40 days after Sand Creek. MG Henry Halleck, Army Chief of Staff in Washington ordered MG Curtis to convene a military investigation of Sand Creek based on letter and telegram from Judge Hiram Bennett and Jerome B. Chaffee of Colorado.

Upon receipt of orders from Curtis and Halleck COL Thomas Moonlight, commander of the military District of Colorado ordered the Military Commission which convened on Feb. 9, in Denver with its first witness on Feb. 15, – CPT S. S. Soule, Provost Marshal, Dist. of Colo.

On March 3, 1865 a Joint resolution passed by Congress, that a Joint Committee of both houses “to inquire into the condition of the Indian tribes and their treatment by authorities and to submit a report. Approved this date by the Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. Not the least of the treatments to be investigated was Sand Creek and the imprisonment and starving of thousands of Navajos (Dinéh) at Ft. Sumner / Bosque Redondo.

At about 0400 hours, Wednesday March 22, Leavitt L. Bowen, Attorney at Law, died at his residence on Larimer St. Denver. Colorado Terr.

The March 29 edition of RMN, printed the notice: “DIED. At four o’clock this morning (March 22d) at his residence on Larimer street, of pneumonia. Gen. Leavitt L. Bowen.

In the Friday evening edition March 24, – Daily Mining Journal, took another view of the news of “General Bowen,” “That paper and the country at large, substitutes whisky for pneumonia. We would add that Gen. Bowen’s case is that of a great many in the West. It is fit that somebody sound the note of warning. We commend the article referred to, to the perusal and consideration of our readers as well.”

Of the March 23, 1865 Masonic funeral of Leavitt L. Bowen, Daily Mining Journal, March 28th edition – Funeral of Gen. Bowen. “Never was there a more appropriate occasion for the application of the old Latin maxim, de mortuis nisibonum, to say that any man lives without faults, is to sin against Truth, and against God, who alone is perfect. Like other men, he had his faults and his misfortunes, but let him among us ‘who is without sin cast the first stone.’”

While is true that “General” Bowen more than likely had a predilection toward drinking whiskey it does not follow to condemn all by saying the soldiers at the Sand Creek massacre were drinking or drunk. Unfortunately, classifying the soldiers as all drunk or from the saloons and gutters of Denver is an off-hand way of mitigating “good men” who did evil there. Of course, there were good men there just as there were “bad men” there. There were those who stood up, those who stood down, those who looked the other way and those who did not follow their conscience. We will never know, but likely the worst sin committed on November 29, 1864 would be by those who were indifferent.

Trading the showing of a peace chief’s ears for whiskey is an incalculable corruption.

Travel well.