Archive for Southern Cheyenne

Kill ’em … kill ’em all

William T. Sherman

William T. Sherman

Most of us from the “baby boom” generation and older recognize and connect the name William T. Sherman to four years of conflict between northern and southern states of this Republic (1861-1865).

Sherman entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point when he was 16 years old and graduated four years later (in 1840). While at West Point, he never rose above the rank of Private; according to Sherman’s memoirs, he received an average of 150 demerits annually.

Thanks to the influence of his foster father, Thomas Ewing (an Ohio lawyer and politician), Sherman ranked as a second lieutenant in his initial years’ service with the Army. While Ewing served as Secretary of the Department of the Interior (1849-1850), Sherman married his daughter and was duly promoted to the rank of Captain. Three years later, he resigned his captaincy and went to work for a St. Louis-based bank. Sherman was hired in 1859 as superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy (later re-named Louisiana State University).

Although he was pro-slavery, Sherman was against fracturing of the Union. When Louisiana joined the Confederacy, he resigned from the Seminary and moved to St. Louis. In May 1861, his brother, John Sherman, a U.S. Senator (Ohio), helped him acquire a commission as Colonel in the Army’s 13th U.S. Infantry. After the Union’s defeat at Bull Run two months later, President Lincoln promoted Sherman to Brigadier General.  After three months, Sherman took over command of the military’s Department of the Cumberland (Louisville, Kentucky). But promptly and at his own request, Sherman was relieved of that duty and transferred to the Department of the Missouri (St. Louis). Less than two months later, Major General Henry Halleck, Commander of the Department of the Missouri, determined Sherman to be unfit for duty and placed him on leave.

By mid-December 1861, Sherman returned to his duties under Halleck for the Department of the Missouri. Sherman was reassigned to Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant’s command (District of West Tennessee) the following March and placed as commander of the 5th Division, Army of West Tennessee. The Shiloh battle took place in April 1862 after which Sherman was promoted to Major General of Volunteers, then military governor of Union-occupied Memphis, Tennessee.

By spring of 1864, Sherman was promoted to command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, and Grant took the overall command of Union armies. Emboldened, Sherman invaded the state of Georgia with close to one hundred thousand troops. Before arriving in Atlanta, he received a commission as major-general in the regular Army. Citizens of union-occupied Atlanta were ordered out of the city while Sherman burned all the military and government buildings and much of the city’s private residences.

Following Lincoln’s election as President, Sherman took sixty-two thousand troops and began another march through Georgia to the port at Savannah. As seen in his field reports, Sherman and his men took everything they saw and wanted causing estimated property damage in excess of $100 million. The 25 December 1864 New-York Times published Sherman’s jubilant message to President Lincoln:

Savannah, Ga., Dec. 22.

To His Excellency, President Lincoln: I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.

(Signed.) W. T. Sherman, Major-General

Sherman then proceeded north, decimating South Carolina and North Carolina along the way. On 9 April 1865, General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Confederate Army, surrendered to General Grant, Commander of the Union Army. Then on 26 April 1865, the commander of Confederate troops in the Carolinas, General Joseph E. Johnston, surrendered to General Sherman who had just trounced those two states.

On 9 May 1865, U.S. President Andrew Johnson declared an end to the war.

Stand Watie

Stand Watie

On 23 June 1865 near Doaksville, Choctaw Nation, Union representatives met with Brigadier General Stand Watie, comander of the Confederate Indian Cavalry, Army of the Trans-Mississippi. Watie signed a cease fire agreement at that time … the last Confederate capitulation.

Throughout his career with the Army, Sherman used the term “hard-war” to describe what he perceived as the appropriate reality and justification for his actions during conflicts in which he was involved. His ideology was in view not only during the conflict between the states, but also during  efforts by the U.S. government and military to eliminate as many red-skinned people as possible, and subjugate and segregate the survivors.

Summer of 1865 found Lieutenant General Sherman in command of the Military Division of the Missouri which included territory between the Rocky Mountains and Mississippi River. His friend, Ulysses S. Grant, had been honored by Congress with the new position as General of the Army.

Shortly after the military’s November 1868 massacre of Black Kettle’s band of Cheyenne camped alongside the Washita River in western Indian Territory, President Grant honored Sherman with appointment as the new General of the Army.

Records of Sherman’s military actions from the civil war through his 1884 retirement are replete at Federal Depository Libraries, other venues of historical collections, digitized primary documents at universities and colleges, digitized newspaper editorials, and more.  During research on the 27 November 1868 Washita River massacre,  I discovered the following portions of a report written by Lt. General Sherman three weeks later :

“… I am well satisfied with Custer’s attack, and would not have wept if he could have served Satanta’s and Bull Bear’s bands in the same style. I want you all to go ahead, kill and punish the hostile, rescue the captive white women and children, capture and destroy the ponies, lances, carbines, &c., of the Cheyennes, Arapahoes and Kiowas. Mark out the spots where they must stay, and then systematize the whole (friendly and hostile) into camps, with a view to economical support, until we can try and get them to be self-supporting, like the Cherokees and Choctaws. They must clearly understand that they must never again hunt outside the limits of the territory … If the game of the Indian Territory do[es] not suffice for their support, the United States must feed them till they can raise tame cattle, sheep, and hogs …

“The House of Representatives promptly passed the bill transferring the Indian Bureau from the Interior to the War Department; but the bill is held in committee of the Senate. I believe still it will pass; but even if it do[es] not, the course I have indicated must be followed before Indian agents can pretend to manage the four bands now construed to be at war, viz: Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas and Comanches. I believe that Generals Sheridan and Hazen will, when they meet at Fort Cobb, fully accomplish this, but I would like that Bull Bear and Satanta should be killed before the tribes are allowed any favors at our hands …”

NOTES:  The U.S. Senate did not concur on transferring the Indian Bureau back to the War Department; it wisely remained part of the Department of the Interior.  The truth of what happened before, during, and after the unprovoked massacre of Black Kettle and his band on the Washita River was later confirmed by Congressional and federal authorities, upholding the claims by men such as Thomas Murphy and Edward Wynkoop. (See article below entitled “From the horses’ mouths: Washita River Massacre.)

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SOURCE: W. T. Sherman, Lieutenant General, Headquarters Military Division of the Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri, 23 December 1868, to Major General P. H. Sheridan, Commanding Officer, Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation, in Executive Documents printed by order of the House of Representatives during the Second Session of the Forty-First Congress 1869-1870, Volume #3, Serial Set 1425, pp. 177-178, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1870.


From the horses’ mouths: Washita River massacre

George Custer (sitting)

George Custer (sitting)

George Custer and his troops carried out an unprovoked attack against the Southern Cheyenne who were enroute to Fort Cobb and camped alongside the Washita River in western Indian Territory in November 1868.Although his report and those of his superior officers referenced the attack as a “battle,” it was anything but. That it was an outright massacre where the majority of those murdered were children and women was confirmed later by federal authorities tasked with investigating the incident.

Custer’s 28 November 1868 report is contained in U.S. Senate Executive Documents-Serial Set 1360. But the truth of this incident (which was later validated by federal authorities) was discussed by two other individuals who attempted to protect peace-loving tribes.

Below are excerpts from reports written by Thomas Murphy and Edward W. Wynkoop – two men whose consciences and principles set them apart from the likes of George Custer, Phil Sheridan, and others.

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Thomas Murphy served as Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Atchison, Kansas. This 4 December 1868 letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington reiterated Murphy’s previous communications to military and government officials.

Sir: I have the honor to report that on my return yesterday from Paola, whither I had been to pay the fall annuities to Indians of the Osage River agency, I found in the public journals General Sheridan’s report of what he calls ‘the opening of the campaign against the hostile Indians,’ the perusal of which made me sick at heart. Had these Indians been hostile, or had they been the warriors who committed the outrages upon the white settlers on the Solomon and Saline Rivers, in August last, or those who subsequently fought Colonel Forsyth and his fifty scouts, no one would rejoice over this victory more than myself. But who were the parties thus attacked and slaughtered by General Custer and his command? It was Black Kettle’s band of Cheyennes. Black kettle, one of the truest friends the whites have ever had among the Indians of the plains; he who, in 1864, purchased with his own ponies the white women and children captured on the Blue and Platte Rivers by the Dog Soldiers of the Cheyennes and by the Sioux, and freely delivered them up at Denver City to Colonel Chivington, who was at the time the military commandant at that place. After this he was induced, under promises of protection for his people, to bring them into the vicinity of Fort Lyon, where they were soon afterward pounced upon by the military, led by Chivington, and cruelly and indiscriminately murdered. Black Kettle escaped, but his people, in consequence of the step he had taken to induce them to come to the vicinity of the fort, refused to recognize him as their chief, and he thus remained in disfavor with them up to the time of the treaty of 1865, at which time, after explanations on the part of the commissioners, he was reinstated.

In 1867, when General Hancock burned the villages of peaceful Cheyennes and Sioux, Black Kettle used all his influence to prevent the Cheyennes from going to war to avenge this wrong, and so persistent were his efforts in this behalf, that his life was threatened and he had to steal away from them in the night with his family and friends and flee for safety to the lodges of the Arapahoes.

“In August, 1867, when I was sent out by the Indian peace commission with instructions to assemble in the vicinity of Fort Larned all the friendly Indians belonging to the Kiowas, Comanches, Apaches, Cheyennes, and Arapahoes, with a view of using them to get into communication with the hostile Indians, Black Kettle was among the first to meet me at Fort Larned, cheerfully proffered me his assistance and protection, and from that day until the conclusion of the treaty of Medicine Lodge Creek no man worked more assiduously than did he to bring to a successful termination the business then in hand, and no man, red or white, felt more happy than did he when his people had finally signed the treaty by which they once more placed themselves upon friendly relations with the government. And when he ascertained that some of the young men of his tribe had committed the atrocities upon the Solomon and Saline in August last, I have been credibly informed that so great was his grief he tore his hair and his clothes, and naturally supposing that the whites would wreak their vengeance upon all Indians that might chance to fall in their way, and remembering the treachery that had once wellnigh cost him his life (I refer to the massacre at Sand Creek), he went south to avoid the impending troubles.

Knowing these chiefs as I do, I feel satisfied that when all the facts pertaining to the late attack shall become known, it will be found that they and the few lodges with them composed that portion of their tribes who desired to remain at peace, and who were endeavoring to make their way to Fort Cobb for the purpose of placing themselves under the care of their agents on their new reservations.

Had Congress at its last session appropriated sufficient funds to continue the feeding of these Indians last June, I believe we could have kept them at peace, and that by this time they would have been quietly located on their new reservations where we could control and manage them and gradually wean them from their wild and wandering life, and in doing which it would not have cost the government as much per year as it is now costing per month to fight them, and this course would have been far more humane and becoming a magnanimous and christian nation.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Thomas Murphy, Superintendent Indian Affairs

SOURCE: Thomas Murphy, Superintendent Indian Affairs, Office Superintendent Indian Affairs, Atchison, Kansas, 4 December 1868, to Nathaniel G. Taylor, Commissioner, Office of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, Difficulties With Indian Tribes in Executive Documents printed by order of the House of Representatives during the Second Session of the Forty-First Congress, 1869-1870, Volume 3, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1870, Serial Set 1425, pp 5-7.

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Edward W. "Ned" Wynkoop

Edward W. “Ned” Wynkoop

Edward W. “Ned” Wynkoop served with the Army and as Agent for the Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne.He finally resigned when he could see that neither the military or federal government could be induced to exercise sensibility in interacting with indigenous people.

Wynkoop’s letters before and after his resignation bespoke his sincerity toward this country’s indigenous people. In addition to service in the Army and as Indian Agent, Wynkoop was a founder of the city of Denver, Commander of Fort Lyon, and Warden of the New Mexico Penitentiary in Santa Fe County.

Five days prior to Thomas Murphy’s above letter, Wynkoop submitted his resignation to Nathaniel G. Taylor, Indian Affairs Commissioner in Washington, as follows:

Sir: During the year 1864, while an officer in the Army of the United States, highest in authority in the Indian country in which I served, I, in the supposed fulfillment of my duty as such, congregated some five hundred friendly Cheyenne Indians together, assuring them the protection of the United States; the consequence of which was, they were attacked by a large body of volunteer troops from Colorado and nearly two hundred of their women and children and old men brutally murdered. The infamous massacre at Sand Creek will not soon be forgotten. The Indians were naturally under the impression that I was responsible for the outrage; but after they fully understood my position, I became, at their request, their agent and they have renewed the confidence they had in me previous to the Sand Creek murder, trusting me implicitly up to the time of General Hancock’s memorable expedition, they then having received assurace from me that General Hancock would not harm them, and seeing me with him whom I had been induced to accompany under assurances from himself that his mission was a peaceful one. Upon the destruction of their lodges and other property, again they naturally inferred the fault was mine and some time since, while in the performance of my duty among the Indians, I came near losing my life in consequence; but I again succeeded in regaining their confidence and am now under orders to proceed to Fort Cobb on the Washita River and congregate what Indians I can of my agency at that point or vicinity.

Since I have started on my journey thither, I have learned of five different columns of troops in the field whose objective point is the Washita River. The regular troops are under control, commanded by officers who will not allow atrocities committed; but there are also in the field under the sanction of the government, volunteer troops and Ute and Osage Indians, the deadliest enemies of all the plains Indians and whom nothing will prevent from murdering all of whatever age or sex wherever found. The point to which that portion are marching who have expressed their determination to kill under all circumstances the Indians of my agency, is the point to which I am directed to congregate them at. They will readily respond to my call, but I most certainly refuse to again be the instrument of the murder of innocent women and children. While I remain an officer of the government I propose to do my duty – a portion of which is to obey my instructions. All left me under the circumstances, with the present state of feelings I have in this matter, is now to respectfully tender my resignation and return the commission which I have so far earnestly endevored to fulfill the requirements of. To the President of the United States, who has intrusted me with the commission I have held; to yourself for the consideration always shown me; to the Superintendent, Colonel Murphy, for his invariable kindness, I shall always feel grateful.

I have the honor to respectfully forward this communication through Colonel Thomas Murphy, Superintendent of Indian affairs, to whom I will turn over what property I am responsible for, and make my appearance at Washington as soon as possible to settle my accounts.

I have the honor to be, with much respect, your obedient servant,

E.W. Wynkoop

SOURCE: Edward W. Wynkoop, enroute to Fort Cobb, 29 November 1868, to Nathaniel G. Taylor, Commissioner, Office of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, Difficulties With Indian Tribes in Executive Documents printed by order of the House of Representatives during the Second Session of the Forty-First Congress, 1869-1870, Volume 3, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1870, Serial Set 1425, pp 4-5.