This fight and also the stand taken by Colonel Chivington, who was commander-in-chief of the western department, has been condemned by a great many people. In the opinions of some it was but a massacre of the Indians. A crimson blot was put on the record of Chivington by those influenced by tales of irresponsible people who wanted to down him for some political reason, as they were all striving to attain recognition by the political parties raising up to control the state, that they could see looming into prominence in the near future. As the other officers saw his steady rise in the army and in the hearts of the people, the jealous hearted rivals who were aspiring to the same heights, strove to disgrace him in the eyes of the people by branding him with the ignominious fight on Sand Creek.
We will admit that the fight was horrible in every way, not alone on the part of the soldiers but the Indians as well. Though the savages lost the fight, it was not their fault. They would have butchered the soldiers even worse than they were slaughtered had not fate been against them.
As before said, it is our object to show how this battle was unavoidable. Allow us to trace some of the crimes of the savages and see if we would not have done the same. The following are only a few of the many depredations committed by the Indians.
In a previous chapter the massacre of the Hungate family has been described. What could have been more atrocious in every sense of the word?
Just across the line into Kansas, Mrs. Ewbanks, daughter, nephew and a Miss Roper were taken prisoners by the Indians, who ordered Mrs. Ewbanks to leave her baby behind. She refused to do so. The Indians killed the baby and tied the mother’s hair to a pony’s tail and let her be dragged away. After being rescued from the Indians, Mrs. Ewbanks and daughter died from the effects of injuries inflicted on them by the Indians.
Children were tortured until death relieved them of their agony, men were burned at the stake and suffered other indescribable cruelties that only a bloodthirsty savage could invent; women were carried into captivity, where a worse fate than death awaited them.
Two little boys living near Colorado City were scalped and left alive; whether they died of their injuries or not is not known.
On the Fountain some Indians met two little boys who were driving the cows home and cut their throats, then went up to the house and murdered the rest of the family. James Mock, a boy yet in the ‘teens and a neighbor of the unfortunate family, met one of the Indians with a fresh scalp as he was leaving the place. Not knowing how many Indians might be near that he would have to fight; James took his chances, killed the Indian and went on his way unmolested.
Every stage coach was in danger, the driver and passengers never expected to reach the end of the route; they were taking their lives in their own hands when starting upon a journey. Sometimes they got through without any great trouble, but more often the coaches were robbed and at times all the passengers killed.
Words fail to express the suffering and anxiety endured by the settlers. No wonder they were filled with rage and revenge.
Even children who had been disturbed in their slumbers and had to run to the soldiers for protection at any hour of the night, were determined to “get even.”
The following story will illustrate the feeling of the children and show how they even feared the Indians and realized the need of protection.
John Shaw, a citizen of Pueblo, had a family of children who had learned to run to the fort when they heard that the Indians were coming and they had also learned to hate the raiding foe that always kept them in such fear. Two of the children, Charley and Ellen, wanted to do their part to revenge themselves on the Indians, so they would climb on a little knoll that had some Mexican graves at the foot of it. The children thinking that they were Indian graves would throw rocks down on them, when their older sister or parents would chide them for it they would say, “We are just getting even with the Injuns.”
Charley declared that when he got big he would kill Injuns, and since Ellen could not go, she did the next best and in later years married an officer in the army that was sent in the southwestern part of Colorado to subdue the Indians in that part of the state.
One day when the men were talking about the call for volunteers and how quick they responded, Charley stood and listened to every word and decided he was big enough to fight Indians and hurried home, took down an old gun, nearly as large as himself, oiled and cleaned it and was just leaving the house when his mother saw him and said, “Why, Charley; where are you going?”
“Jest going to fight the bloody Injuns wiv the vunteers.” He was very serious about it and was determined to go, and his mother had a hard time to keep him from going.
When little children not yet ten years of age realized the condition of the country and the vast needs of defense, what could be expected of the older ones, who saw even more to raise them up and knew the great importance of subduing the raiding foe?
Even when they had continually asked aid from every known direction they thought it might be available, and was refused it every time, what else could they do but just what they did”?
How would the people have judged Evans and Chivington if they stood back and let the country be made more crimson than it was by the blood of the settlers when it was in their power to save them^
It is easy to believe that they would have been judged as cowards, yet those who condemned them for doing as they did would have condemned them just as severely if they had stood back and left the country to the mercy of the savages, and would have been justified in doing so.
It was not the battle alone that caused some of the people to so judge Colonel Chivington. They saw an opportunity to use it as an instrument to aid in furthering their own selfish desires. If Chivington was cashiered, that is, if his office was taken from him, some of these other officers would raise in rank.
Then again, it is said, that some of the officers at Fort Lyons, who had been deceived into believing that the Cheyennes and Arapahoes were friendly, had been making a little money on the side trading with the Indians and of course the Sand Creek fight put an end to this. By cashiering Colonel Chivington, they could shield themselves.
That it was all a put up job could be plainly seen by just a little of Major Anthony’s testimony given at the trial when he said, “Boys, I can help fix up a lie, but when it comes to holding up this fellow (indicating his right hand) and swearing to it, I can’t do it.”
The results of the trial, which dragged along six months or more, then dropping without accomplishing anything in particular, shows it was only a farce, leaving Governor Evans and Colonel Chivington to wear the stain.
A great many of the old volunteers and pioneers who witnessed the condition of the country and the proceedings of affairs that existed between the officers, Indians, volunteers and settlers say that Evans and Chivington were innocent of the charges against them and carried the burden that rightfully belonged to others.
Source: True History of some of the Pioneers of Colorado, by Miss Luella Shaw, Press of Carson Harper Co, Denver, Colorado, 1909