Incidents of the Sand Creek Fight

A short distance from the creek was a little gulley, and as Captain Cree was riding past it, he heard sounds of a struggle somewhere in the gully. Turning in the direction of the sounds he saw the Indian chief, Black Kettle, and McFarland, in a hand to hand fight with knives.

It was a critical time; each had his knife raised ready to strike; it was a question which would fall, just owing to which knife could be plunged the quickest. Captain Cree took in the situation at a glance, and whirling his horse, darted toward the contestants. Drawing his sword, he ran it into Black Kettle’s side, but was just a fraction of a second too late; the Indian’s knife had done its deadly work. McFarland and Black Kettle both fell at the same time mortally wounded.

Hughmel Rose had picked up a little papoose that he intended to keep and raise, but when he saw the fight in the gully, he dropped the baby and ran to McFarland’s assistance; arriving too late, he turned back to the scene of the main fight. When he went to look for the papoose he found it dead; some of the flying bullets had hit it.

Two soldiers, who had been taken prisoners with Major Anthony’s regiment at Fort Lyons, refused to fight the Indians. Once when they were just riding along, they passed an old squaw, one of the soldiers said, “No use to kill her; she is too old to do any more damage.” He had no more than said it until he had cause to change his mind. As soon as the soldiers passed her the squaw drew a bow and arrow from under her buffalo robe and sent an arrow into his thigh. He asked his companion to pull it out, then jumping from his horse and picking up a tent pole, he went after the squaw. At first he was going to shoot her, but decided that shooting was too good.

The squaw did not run from him; on the contrary she took her old rusty knife and started out to meet him. She was trembling with rage, her little beadlike eyes were flashing with anger and she came toward him dancing and flourishing her knife, at the same time chattering off some of her lingo.

The soldier waited until she got quite near, when he drew the pole back and struck her full force on the side of the head, killing her instantly.

A young Indian chief came out in the open and exchanged shot for shot with Joe Connors. After a few shots, one of Joe’s took effect and the Indian fell. Joe still remained in the open, fully exposed to the arrows, without heeding the warnings of his comrades. Some of the soldiers in the grass back of Connors saw a squaw raise up out of the weeds where the young chief had fallen, and making a target out of Joe. They raised their rifles, but before they could shoot, the squaw’s arrow had done its work, and Connors fell, pierced through the lungs. Just as he went down, several reports rang through the air, and the squaw fell in the grass back of where Connors had stood, a victim of one of the rifles.

The killing of the squaws and children may seem inhuman to those not accustomed to the life on the frontier, or not familiar with the dangers and sufferings of the pioneers on account of the savages.

When a squaw comes out and takes her place among the warriors and shoots down the soldiers, should she not take the same consequences’? The squaws urged on the massacres and helped to destroy the homes of the settlers. As for the papooses, the soldiers remembered the white children scalped and their brains dashed out and otherwise brutally massacred throughout the country, and also Colonel Harley’s quotation, “Remember that mites make lice.” If the squaws and papooses were spared it would only be a few years until they would have an uprising and there would be more serious Indian raids and troubles. The squaws of John Smith and Bent were not harmed, as they were wives of white men and naturally joined in with the white people.

Colonels Talbot and Chivington were standing near together when suddenly Talbot fell, and Chivington noticed bullets and arrows falling around him. Upon watching to see where they were coming from, he noticed an Indian head rise up over a soap weed. He shot without success. Finally Jim Beckwith, the noted guide and scout, came along and said, “Let me try that gun, Colonel.” Chivington handed him the gun and just as the Indian cautiously and slowly raised his head above the weed, Beckwith fired and struck him right between the eyes.

An Indian medicine man had dug a hole in a sandbar and placed bags of medicine around it. He would raise up and shoot an arrow at the soldiers; before they could return the shots, he had sunk down in the hole and the bullets would fly over him.

Lieutenant Wyman was sitting on his horse, right in direct range of the medicine man, unconscious of the poisoned arrow being aimed at him. John Patterson saw the lieutenant’s danger and called out, “Look out there, Lieutenant.” Wyman whirled his horse just in time. The arrow went hissing through the air and lodged in the lieutenant’s horse. Wyman was saved, but the horse had to be killed; it was gradually becoming paralyzed from the effect of the poison on the steel point of the arrow that had broken off in the bone of his leg, where it had lodged. The following day, as they were searching among the dead, they found the medicine man huddled up in the hole.

Several shots aimed at him had taken effect, but he plugged the holes up to keep them from bleeding and would go on fighting. The last shot had killed him before he could get the tallow in.

When the fight was raging the hardest, Jim Beckwith started across the flat and suddenly came face to face with Bent. Forgetting the soldiers and Indians around them, or the danger they were in, they only remembered that they were old and dear friends and had never expected to meet again; so in Indian fashion they ran right into each other’s arms and wept, being so overcome with joy at the unexpected meeting.

Just as the last sounds of the battle were dying away, one of the soldiers saw a chief stretched out in the grass, face downward. The soldier was anxious to get a scalp of a chief, so sat down on him and began to take his scalp. He was just making good progress when the Indian turned over and a hard struggle ensued, lasting for several minutes, resulting in the soldier going into camp with the much coveted scalp.

A squad of soldiers had charge of the ambulance and went around gathering up the dead and wounded soldiers. They kept missing Joe Connors and Frank Parks, two wounded soldiers. The)’ were both old friends and comrades of Alston Shaw, so when he saw them fall he had hurried to their assistance and arranged them as comfortably as he could. Long toward evening the soldiers were ordered into camp. Shaw refused to leave Connors and Parks until the ambulance was ready to take his companions. At last he saw an ambulance going up into the gully after McFarland’s body, so calling Cobbs over to guard the two wounded soldiers, he went after the ambulance. Cobbs put his horse between them and where any stray Indians might be hiding and he watched the other way. When Shaw returned. Cobbs said, “I believe those Indians took advantage of me while you were gone, and fired those shots.” Just as much as to say that if Shaw had been there, the Indians would have been afraid to shoot. Shaw and Cobbs took Joe and Frank into the camp. While passing the bend in the creek, they saw four Indians run up the opposite bank, dance the war dance, and then hurry in the direction of Little Raven’s band.

That night, in camp, Joe Connors heard the others talking of a probable attack from Little Raven’s band. He called Shaw over and made him promise not to let him fall into the Indians’ hands; that if the Indians attacked them, for Shaw to shoot him before the Indians had a chance to get him. Hard as it was to do, Shaw made the promise; but that night, between nine and ten, the Angel of Death relieved him of his promise, and the soul of Joe Connors was taken beyond the reach of fear or dread of any more tortures at the hands of the savages.

Jack Smith, the half breed leader of the raiding and murderous Indians, was taken prisoner and placed in a tent made of elk hide. The lieutenant in charge made a candle stick of a pocket knife and fastened a candle on the tent pole, so the soldiers on guard could always see the prisoner. Scarcely a man among the volunteers but wanted a chance to take a shot at the leader of the enemy, for they had always remembered the horrible deeds that had been done by his hands or order.

Some of the soldiers had cut a strip of the hide out of the tent to make a pair of leggings; this left an opening in the side of the tent. Alston Shaw crept up to the tent, decoyed the guards away and was watching Smith through the opening in the tent and was just waiting for a good chance to shoot him, when suddenly he was surprised by, “What are you doing here, Shaw?”

“O, just wandering around because I couldn’t sleep.”
“Now, see here, I know why you are just wandering around; it is for a chance to kill Smith, and I wanted that job myself.”
“Well, if you are sure you will do the job up fight, I will leave it to you.”

Shaw walked away and left the stranger, who was a soldier of another company, to attend to the Indians. Before going very far Shaw heard a shot and knew that the First regiment boy had done his job as he promised. Jack Smith just gave one jump and a war whoop and then fell dead, shot through the heart.

Colonel George Shoop was sitting on some buffalo robes quite a distance from the tent when he heard the shot. Jumping up and hurrying towards the prisoner, he met Shaw on the way and asked him what that shot was. “I guess some of the boys’ guns have gone off accidentally.” Just then the guard came running up and said, “Someone has killed Jack Smith.”

No one ever found out who did the job. Shaw did not recognize the boy who was talking to him by Smith’s tent; he just noticed that he belonged to the First Company.

When old John Smith, his father, was told of it, he just said, “Well, it serves him right. I sent him East and had him educated. Instead of him coming back and trying to help civilize the Indians, he led them into deeper and lower raids of barbarisms. So he could expect nothing else.”

While gathering up the dead, Wise Osborn came upon a wounded Indian, who had his back broke. He raised up the best he could and took a shot at Osborn. Wise said, “I will show you fellows how to kill an Indian.” He sat down on the Indian and took him by the head to hold his head still; then raised the knife to cut his throat, but the Indian knocked his arm and the knife plunged into the ground beside the Indian’s head. Wise drew it out and said, “Now lay still, until I cut your throat.” It looks brutal in a way, but in another sense of the word it was a merciful act. The Indian was suffering excruciating pain and there was no other help for him; his people were all gone and it was only a question of time until he would die of his injury. Osborn thought, “Why not put him out of his misery?”

Some of the Pioneers of Colorado

Source: True History of some of the Pioneers of Colorado, by Miss Luella Shaw, Press of Carson Harper Co, Denver, Colorado, 1909

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