How the Sand Creek Massacre Began

Published: 2021-06-17 09:54:43
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Category: History of The United States

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The Sand Creek Massacre didn’t start in that small Cheyenne village. It started out with the murder of a local family. The Hungate family was found some time before the massacre, scalped and dismembered. The murders of the man, his wife, and their two children were blamed on the local Cheyenne and Sioux tribes. Those tribes had been attacking local miners because some of them had not been content with the Treaty of Fort Laramie. They didn’t want to be forced onto a reservation. To set the scene; tensions had been building in the West for a while. The local murders were a breaking point, and many tribes were scared of an attack. Black Kettle was the chief of a small Cheyenne village, and he was seeking help protecting the 800 people who inhabited Sand Creek. Black Kettle rounded up some other local chiefs and started talks with government officials. The land had been promised to the Cheyenne by that 1851 treaty and he was reassured that the Cheyenne would not be bothered. Meanwhile, a hailed and respected colonel named John Chivington was rallying a group dubbed the Colorado Volunteers. Chivington was fighting for the Union at the time and he was considered a strong leader and abolitionist.
In the dawn of November 29th, John Chivington rounded the nearly 700 troops to surround the nearby village of Sand Creek. The group of men had been given orders to “Kill and scalp all, big and little.” The violence that followed has gone down in infamy. The Cheyenne heard their attackers coming way before they saw the 700 armed men. Black Kettle was known as a peacemaker, and in a final hope he raised a U.S. flag. Many of the residents were waving white flags of surrender, but John Chivington ignored the gestures of peace. Later Chivington wrote they ended up murdering many Native Americans, an “almost an annihilation of the entire tribe.” The Colorado men dismembered many Cheyenne horrifically scalping and disemboweling the Native Americans en masse. Ruthlessly, the recruits shot people as some pleaded for mercy and others attempted escape. It was even rumored they used infants for target practice, unloading their guns upon them from far away. Chivington kept many scalps as souvenirs. By the end 200 Native Americans lay dead, most of them women and children. But to put salt in the wound, Chivington and his troops were hailed as heroes. The scalps were used as props in local plays. Outraged by what they had done, tribes gathered for retaliation. Red Cloud, a Sioux chief, led an army of men. They attacked the troops under command of William Fetterman. Of the soldiers working that day not one survived. Both sides were at a loss. The Massacre at Sand Creek has earned the nickname ‘Gettysburg of the West’. With mass casualties, Sand Creek abolished any hope of peaceful settlement in the West. It was a landmark in the American Indian wars, and a bookend of the Civil War. Because of Sand Creek, another treaty was formed and signed. The Second Treaty of Fort Laramie was put into action in 1868. But the treaty was considered unfair by many, and the momentary truce was short lived.

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