Ben Holladay - Cold Gambling - Summary of Conditions - December 31, 1864 - Colonel Chivington - His Battle with Cheyennes - P. Edward Connor - Territorial Divisions - Troops Employed - Location of Posts - The Escort Lines
DURING December, as stated, Ben Holladay went through going west in a stage-coach, with a man named Leland, who was a great hotel man in New York City. The coach was a sort of Pullman conveyance. They had a mattress on the floor of the coach, and they slept in the coach, and when they rode, they rode with the driver, and on a seat on the top. They had another coach, in which there were servants, a cook, and supplies. Each of these coaches was drawn by six horses, and went as fast as the fastest. Holladay put in his time as long as he was at the post in receiving and sending off dispatches to the Gold Board in New York. They had in New York a speculative board which was gambling on the nation's good and bad luck, and the price of gold went up and down, governed by every little skirmish and battle of the war. It seemed to have had little reference to the actual amount of gold on hand. Holladay had a way of gambling on the gold market, and when he lost he delivered the actual gold, having a location on the Pacific coast in the gold-bearing country. Holladay's son, who went along the road shortly afterwards, said that his father, when going from the Pacific coast to New York, played the gold markets the whole way, and made $40,000 on the trip of about three weeks.
Taking the end of the year 1864, it is perhaps best for me to state what was the actual condition of things at that time. In the first place, the Indians between Cottonwood and Fort Kearney had committed depredations, the value of which was very great. They had harassed the frontiers in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado. As stated, there was a squaw camp at Fort Laramie, where a lot of them were being fed. In the forts in southeastern Colorado, other Indians were being fed. The Arapahoes and Cheyennes, after committing all kinds of depredations, had pretended to surrender, and to come in and want peace. At Fort Lyon, down on the Arkansas river, the persons surrendered consisted of women and children and old men, who brought in a lot of worn-out horses used up in the raids of the frontiers; and they brought in some old guns that had become unserviceable. The young bucks, however, were on the war-path, and from these very Indian refugees at Fort Lyons occasional parties would go out, and rob a train and steal a lot of stock. There was no confidence to be placed in any of these Indians, They were a bad lot. They all needed killing, and the more they were fed and taken care of the worse they became. The condition was such in Colorado that a hundred-days regiment was raised, called the Third Colorado. The First Colorado, a brave and historic regiment, had a Colonel by the name of Chivington, and he had been drawn from the war to protect his own State against the ravages of these combined Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians. The Government had sent in, as has been stated before, the Eleventh Ohio Cavalry, also our complete cavalry regiment of twelve companies, and then had drawn the First Nebraska from the front, down South, to help guard Nebraska, and had also raised a provisional home battalion to assist in the protection of the Nebraska frontier. The Government had deployed other regiments out on the Arkansas river, and along the Santa Fë trail, for the purpose of protecting that route, over a long strip of country.
I have stated that some of these Indians went to Denver, and wanted to make a treaty of some kind. The Indian idea was to have the Government feed the old people, women and children, while the bucks would ravage the country. As I have stated, the embassy to Denver was a failure, because the Denver people understood the Indian quite fully. After the Denver embassy the murdering and plundering along the frontier and line became so great that Colonel Chivington made up his mind to take the field, and hunt up the Indian villages and punish them. While he was getting ready, the refugee Indians who were being fed at Fort Lyons went out and plundered some trains and killed some women and children, and carried their scalps to the Cheyenne villages up on Sand Creek.
There came a great fall of snow in the latter part of November, about two feet deep, and Colonel Chivington, taking advantage of that fact, and knowing that the Indians could not travel in deep snow as the whites could, started out, and after a three-days march, day and night, he came onto one of the Cheyenne villages, and is reported to have killed about five hundred of them, captured a large lot of horses, and scattered the band; although he lost nine killed and forty wounded, because the Indians put up a pretty good fight. That fight occurred on November 29th, 1864. Among the humanitarians of Boston it was called the "Chivington Massacre," but there was never anything more deserved than that massacre. The only difficulty was that there were about fifteen hundred Indian warriors that didn't get killed. But they were scattered over the country, and started supposedly east on the Republican and Solomon rivers. They were in this scattered condition when the end of the year arrived. Nobody exactly knew where they were, but it was said that there were scalp-dances in all of the Cheyenne bands, and that scalps were carried up into the Sioux villages and into the northern Cheyenne villages for the purpose of making medicine, and getting up a war spirit, north of the Platte.
I will try to give a glance now as to the condition of the commands and their situation. At this time the Indian country was in a department which had had several names, but which at that time was called the "Department of Kansas and the Territories." Major-General Samuel R. Curtis was commander at Fort Leavenworth. The District of Nebraska comprised the line that went from Omaha to Laramie, and west of Laramie to Great South Pass. That was one long line of road, and was the great northern route that was to be guarded. This territory was divided into two sub-districts, one running from Omaha up to and including Julesburg. That was called the eastern sub-district, and was in command of Colonel R. R. Livingston of the First Nebraska Cavalry, with headquarters at Fort Kearney. The western district began west of Julesburg, with its first post at Mud Springs, and extended along the route to South Pass. This western sub-district was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel William O. Collins, of the Eleventh Ohio, of whom I have spoken. The road from Julesburg to Denver was the northern district of Colorado, and was commanded by Colonel J. M. Chivington, of the First Colorado. Brigadier-General R. B. Mitchell was in command from Omaha through to South Pass, covering the two sub-districts of which I have spoken. Brigadier-General P. Edward Connor commanded at Salt Lake City. Neither Colonel Chivington nor General Connor was under the command of General Mitchell.
General Connor had the reputation of being the greatest Indian-fighter on the continent, and he had been requested to look over the situation by General Curtis, commanding the department, and pass his opinion as to what ought to be done with the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, and how best to do it. General Connor passed on down the road, it was stated, along in December, past our fort, incognito.
In my memorandum I have the following as being the companies and posts of each of these districts and subdistricts as they existed on the 31st of December, 1864, as shown by the general orders of that period.
On December 31, 1864, the organization of troops was as follows:
Headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
The Department was composed of the following districts:
District of South Kansas, Headquarters at Paola, Kansas.
The foregoing does not represent the total number of each command, but represents the number present, able for duty, and in the saddle on December 31, 1864. Of course there were many not "in the saddle."
The District of Nebraska was divided as follows:
East Sub-District, commanded by Colonel Robert R. Livingston. Headquarters, Fort Kearney, Nebraska.
In this sub-district were the following posts and garrisons:
In this sub-district were the following posts and garrisons:
Fort Laramie: Four companies 11th Ohio Cavalry; one company 7th Iowa Cavalry.
Camp Collins: Two companies 11th Ohio Cavalry.
Fremont's Orchard: One company 11th Ohio Cavalry.
Fort Halleck: One company 11th Ohio Cavalry.
Camp Marshall: One company 11th Ohio Cavalry.
Camp Mitchell: One company 11th Ohio Cavalry.
Platte Bridge: One company 11th Ohio Cavalry.
In the District of Colorado there were the following posts and garrisons:
Denver; One company 1st Colorado Cavalry; one company 3rd Colorado Cavalry.
In the District of the Upper Arkansas were the following posts and garrisons:
Fort Riley: Eight companies 2nd Colorado Cavalry; one section 9th Wisconsin Battery.
The foregoing applies only to our theatre of war. There were nine posts in Dakota Territory, garrisoned by 22 companies of Cavalry and two of Infantry. There were four frontier posts of Iowa, garrisoned by six companies of Cavalry; also six posts in Minnesota, garrisoned by 13 companies of Cavalry and three companies of Infantry. All of this in excess of the Artillery, which was stationed at some of the posts, amounting in the aggregate to 26 guns.
The soldiers engaged were all or parts of the following regiments:
1st Colorado Cavalry.||
1st New Mexico Cavalry.|
2nd Colorado Cavalry.||
3rd Wisconsin Cavalry.|
3rd Colorado Cavalry.||
1st Dakota Cavalry.|
6th Iowa Cavalry.||
2nd Minnesota Cavalry.|
7th Iowa Cavalry.||
Two Battalions Minnesota|
1st Nebraska Cavalry.||
1st Nebraska Militia.||
1st Connecticut Cavalry.|
11th Ohio Cavalry.||
30th Wisconsin Infantry.|
5th Kansas Cavalry.||
1st United States Volunteers.|
11th Kansas Cavalry.||
9th Wisconsin Battery.|
12th Kansas Cavalry.||
McClain's Colorado Battery.|
15th Kansas Cavalry.||3rd Minnesota Battery.|
|16th Kansas Cavalry.|
These desultory facts may not be interesting, but are inserted here as due to history.
The road from Omaha to South Pass was guarded by the First Nebraska Cavalry, the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, and the Eleventh Ohio Cavalry -- being three regiments of cavalry with about twelve pieces of artillery strung along the road. The road from Julesburg to Denver was under the command of Colonel Chivington, and was guarded and patrolled by the First and Third Colorado Cavalry, but principally by the Third Colorado under charge of Major Samuel A Logan, who occasionally visited us at Julesburg. Yet we, on occasions, sent escorts up as far as Pawnee, over 30 miles west, on the Denver road; northwest to Camp Mitchell near Scott's Bluffs, 117 miles; and east to O'Fallon's Bluffs, 50 miles. Our company had the hardest work to do of any company in or on the line, and suffered more in losses than any other company, both in killed and wounded and in accident. Our escort line was about 150 miles long.