Sand Creek Lesson:Using Sources Using Sources

Dee Brown, historian
Brothers Robert, Charlie and George Bent were all at Sand Creek when the attack took place. Robert was forced to lead the soldiers there, Charlie narrowly escaped being shot by soldiers and George was shot in the hip but managed to escape with his wife, Magpie. “As soon as his wound healed, George made his way back to his father’s ranch. There from his brother Charlie he heard of the horrible scalpings and mutilations, the butchery of children and infants. After a few days the brothers agreed that …….they wanted no part of the white man’s civilization. They renounced the blood of their father (William), and quietly left his ranch. With them went Charlie’s mother, Yellow Woman, who swore she would never again live with a white man”.

George Bent, eyewitness
“This regiment had been hastily recruited from among the worst class of whites- toughs, gamblers and ‘bad-men’ from Denver, ‘bull whackers’, and so on. The men were not disciplined at all, their officers had been selected by a vote of the men and had no real control over the men. The men were not even in uniform, and they were alike in only one thing: they were all eager to kill Indians.” George Bent , in Life of George Bent Written from his Letters, by Edward Hyde, page 148

Jim Beckwourth, eyewitness
John Chivington told the troops “Men, strip for action. I don’t tell you to kill all ages and sex, but look back on the plains of the Platte, where your mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters have been slain, and their blood saturating the sands of the Platte.” quoted in Jim Beckwourth, Elinor Wilson page, 176

Joint Congressional Committee, 1865
‘he ( Chivington)deliberately planned and executed a foul and dastardly massacre which would have disgraced the veriest savage among those who were the victims of his cruelty’. Quoted in The Sand Creek Massacre, Stan Hoig, page 168

George Bird Grinnell, historian
‘Anthony and Chivington have always been blamed for the attack on the Indians, and in a sense they were to blame, but the reports seem to indicate that they were encouraged by their superior officers. Chivington and Anthony naturally arranged the details. On the other hand, it seems clear that Anthony was lying to the Indians and trying to keep them in a situation where it would be possible for him to get at them at once if he wished to make an attack.’
The Fighting Cheyennes, George Bird Grinnell page 167

Major Kit Carson, officer who led the attack on the Kiowa on 26 November 1864
‘No one but a coward or dog would have had a part in it’ Quoted in Dee Brown, The American West, page 100

Black Kettle, Cheyenne Chief
Although wrongs have been done me I live in hopes. I have not got two hearts.... I once thought that I was the only man that persevered to be the friend of the white man, but since they have come and cleaned out our lodges, horses, and everything else, it is hard for me to believe white men any more.

Major Scott Anthony, commander Fort Lyon who led the regular troops
I never saw more bravery displayed by any set of people on the face of the earth than by these Indians. They would charge on the whole company singly, determined to kill someone before being killed themselves... We, of course, took no prisoners.

First Lieutenant James Connor, United States Army
I did not see a body of a man, woman, child but was scalped; and in many instances their bodies were mutilated in the most horrible manner.

Denver's 'Rocky Mountain News'
Colorado soldiers have again covered themselves with glory. All have acquitted themselves well.

1. The soldiers killed women and children
2. Chivington was to blame
3. Chivington was not to blame, it happened because of other reasons.

Using the Evidence
There was an official enquiry into what happened at Sand Creek on November 29 1864.
a. Either Find evidence to defend Chivington, to support what he did.
Or Find evidence to prove Chivington was to blame.
It is more challenging to choose to argue the one with which you disagree.
b. What witnesses would you call, what questions would you ask them and what answers would you expect them to give?
c. Re-enact the court scene, with attorneys calling their witnesses and asking them questions.

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© Chris Smallbone March 2006