Skip to main content
Jeff C. Campbell
Jeff C. Campbell

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

By Jeff C. Campbell

March 21, 2018

Colonel George Laird Shoup: The Invisible Commander – Part 7 (last)

The Buffalo Springs Massacre – Third Regiment’s “First Blood.”

Sergeant Morse H. Coffin, (born 1836) CPT David Nichols’ Boulder Co. D, 3rd Regiment Cavalry, Colorado [U.S] Volunteers. Since he was a farmer and a short time soldier this photo must have been taken in the fall of 1864. You can read his 1870s articles to the Greeley Colorado Sun in a compilation “The Battle of Sand Creek” now a rare book. Although not “politically correct” in today’s terms he did call out false reports and self-serving yarns and cruelty when he wrote. In 1908 he led four Co. D veterans to Sand Creek by wagon from RR station at Kit Carson, but it had changed so much they had trouble recognizing where the village and the fights took place. Photo courtesy of SAND NPS Collections and author.October 3, 1864, Monday: Shoup telegraphs he’d located the train of supplies for the 3rd Reg. Rocky Mountain News [October 4, 1864 edition.] “To Col. J. M. CHIVINGTON: Found our train this morning twenty five miles below, and am hurrying it forward. GEO. L. SHOUP, Col. Third Colorado Cavalry.”

October 06, 1864: Thursday: Black Hawk – Daily Mining Journal, ”Capt. H. M. Orahood sends us the following... Col. Shoup started down the Platte, Saturday [Oct. 1] to hurry up the Ordnance train en-route. He met it twenty-five miles below [northeast of] Julesburg.”

October 07, 1864: Friday: 1,149 volunteers on the muster rolls of 3rd Reg.

October 09, 1864: Sunday: News comes into Valley Station from Wisconsin Ranch of Indian activity. Sgt. Morse Coffin, CPT Nichols’ Co. D-3 writes: "When late on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, Oct. 9th, a bit of news of enlivening nature reached Capt. N. [Nichols] from up the stream, and as he communicated with the boys, the camp was all excitement...” Cheyenne camp about 10-12 miles south or southeast. [BSC]

October 10, 1864: Monday: Skirmish near Valley Station or Buffalo Springs Massacre
CPT David H. Nichols, Co. D-3, Cheyennes Big Wolf and 9 others killed. [4 men, 1 teenage boy, 3 women, 2 children].

"Some wise people think that Co. D, of the Third, fell upon a camp of peaceable Indians. Then we suppose the red skins must be in the freighting business, else how did they happen to have bills of lading? Who is shipping by the Indian line? "Ugh! heap good Indian!"“ RMN, Oct. 12, 1864.

Denver --- Rocky Mountain News BY TELEGRAPH. LAST NIGHT'S REPORT.
Hurrah for the Thirdsters. “... from Valley Station this p.m. for Col. Shoup: “...We heard reports of Indians last night, and this morning at two o'clock we left camp, and soon came upon a party of ten Indians. We killed ten and took eleven ponies, and one mule and various other fixings. Had forty-two men, and no one was hurt. We killed one chief, Big Wolf. We took bills of lading for parties in Denver, and will forward them. D. H. NICHOLS, Capt. Co. D”

Sgt. Morse Coffin:
States CPT Nichols command of 45 men including (3) guides of citizens, Mr. Code, Grant Ashcraft  “... After the sun was up a little way they come on the camp,” he describes the encounter in great detail. “... 4 squaws, two papooses, a young warrior maybe 15 YOA. When it came to the killing of the babies, "I said, 'boys don't kill it, it is too bad," etc., but one of the guides came up and coolly shot it, at the same time making a remark not indicative of pity. I strongly denounced this part of the work, using cusswords.” "When the shooting of the squaws began they jumped up and tried to crawl away, at the same time screaming in agony and terror. This was too much for me, and I talked against it, and a few were with me, and would not do it; though the general sentiment was strongly in opposition to my view of it."

Coffin describes scalping of Cheyenne dead. One soldier took red shoes for his wife. Camp burned.

"Tyrell, Cashman and myself substantially agreed in our opposition to this killing of women and children."
On return to camp there was a celebration and cheering for CPT Nichols. "I was in no mood for cheering, and took no part."

Coffin wrote his account of this event on Nov. 29, 1878, 14th anniversary of Sand Creek. [Battle of Sand Creek, BSC]

COL Chivington, telegraphed MG Samuel R. Curtis, C.O. Dept. of KS. [OR] “Captain Nichols, Third Colorado ..., surprised and killed 10 Indians, Cheyennes; captured 11 ponies and 1 mule this morning near Valley Station. We will clean them out of country between Platte and Arkansas directly.

Coffin often railed against the inhumanity of actions against the Cheyennes, see DPL/WHC - Clippings, Indians – Wars – Buffalo Springs: carbon copies of Morse Coffin’s letter to the editor of the Colorado Sun, from Upper St. Vrain, Nov. 29, 1878.

October 12, 1864: Wednesday: Sgt. Morse Coffin: Coffin goes on to describe the tenor of the men and the camp as travelers, businessmen, citizens came by Valley Station. The businessmen and others praised the boys and wanted to buy or trade for souvenirs and trophies of the Big Wolf camp raid. [BSC]

October 14, 1864: Friday: Rocky Mountain News [October 31, 1864 edition.]
“Two of those Indian scalps, and an ornament or "dingis,” which they wore around their necks, are to be seen to-day at the Diana [Saloon], Blake Street. Look out for the scalp cock-tail. there to-night and to-morrow.”

QM Sgt. Henry Blake, Co. D-3 wrote in his diary: "Oct. 14 – Took breakfast at the Junction and dinner at Living Springs. Arrived in Denver at 11 p.m. ... Had with me two scalps. [HBD]

October 15, 1864: Saturday: MG Samuel R. Curtis responds to U. S. Attorney for the Terr. of Colo., S. E. Browne's letter of Oct. 3, 1864 re; execution of Reynolds' group. “I have not the least sympathy for such fiends; we are disposing of them very summarily everywhere.”

Jeff C. Campbell* [John Lewis Dailey was co-owner and in fact the “working partner” with William Newton Byers of the Rocky Mountain News. So, I think it can be fairly assumed Dailey was the correspondent writing articles in the field on the exploits of the Third Regiment. It is often reported that Byers was not a writer but the “front man.” and promoter of the paper.

This last part on COL Shoup, to me exemplifies why I’ve dubbed him “The Invisible Commander.” For all his involvement in actions and proximity to and authority over the Third Regiment, like Captains Cree and Nichols just makes you wonder how he cruised through the history of Sand Creek without being recognised for his role and responsibility. It is for other researchers to divine another aspect of the great question of “Why?”

Travel Well.
Jeff Campbell

Other News