Sand Creek Massacre Nov 29 1864
December 19, 1864
Northern Cheyenne Sand Creek Massacre Site Project
This is the first opportunity I have had of writing you since the great
Indian Massacre, and for a start, I will acknowledge I am ashamed to own
I was in it with my Co. Col. Chivington came down here with the gallant
third, known as Chivington Brigade, like a thief in the dark throwing
his Scouts around the Post, with instructions to let no one out, without
his orders, not even the Commander of the Post, and for the shame, our
Commanding Officer submitted. Col. Chivington expected to find the
Indians in camp below the Com-but the Major Comd'g told him all about
where the Indians were, and volunteered to take a Battalion from the
Post and Join the Expedition.
Well Col. Chiv. got in about 10 a.m. Nov. 28th and at 8 p.m. we started
with all of the 3rd parts of "H" "O" and "E" of the First, in command of
Lt. Wilson Co. "K" "D" and "G" in commanding of Major Anthony. Marched
all night up Sand, to the big bend in Sanday, about 15 or 20 miles,
above where we crossed on our trip to Smoky Hill and came on to Black
Kettles village of 103 lodges, containing not over 500 all told, 350 of
which were women and children.
Three days previous to our going out, Major Anthony gave John Smith,
Lowderbuck of Co. "G" and a government driver, permission to go out
there and trade with them, and they were in the village when the fight
came off. John Smith came out holding up his hands and running towards
when he was shot at by several, and the word was passed along to shoot
him. He then turned back, and went to his tent and got behind some Robes,
and escaped unhurt. Lowderbuck came out with a white flag, and was
served the same as John Smith, the driver the same. Well I got so mad I
swore I would not burn powder, and I did not. Capt. Soule the same. It
is no use for me to try to tell you how the fight was managed, only I
think the Officer in command should be hung, and I know when the truth
is known it will cashier him.
We lost 40 men wounded, and 10 killed. Not over 250 Indians mostly women
and children, and I think not over 200 were killed, and not over 75
bucks. With proper management they could all have been killed and not
lost over 10 men. After the fight there was a sight I hope I may never
Bucks, women and children, were scalped, fingers cut off to get the
rings on them, and this as much with Officers as men, and one of those
officers a Major: and a Lt. Col. cut off Ears, of all he came across, a
squaw ripped open and a child taken from her, little children shot,
while begging for their lives (and all the indignities shown their
bodies that ever was heard of) (women shot while on their knees, with
their arms around soldiers a begging for their lives.) things that
Indians would be ashamed to do.
To give you some little idea, squaws were known to kill their own
children, and then themselves, rather than to have them taken prisoners.
Most of the Indians yielded 4 or 5 scalps. But enough! for I know you
are disgusted already. Black Kettle, White Antelope, War Bonnet, Left
Hand, Little Robe and several other chiefs were killed. Black Kettle
said when he saw us coming, that he was glad, for it was Major Wynkoop
coming to make peace.
Left Hand stood with his hands folded across his breast, until he was
shot saying, "Soldiers no hurt me â?" soldiers my friends." One Eye was
killed: was in the employ of Gov't as spy: came into the Post a few days
before, and reported about the Sioux, were going to break out at
Learned, which proved true.
After all the pledges made my Major A - to these Indians and then to
take the course he did. I think as comments are necessary from me; only
I will say he has a face for every man he talks. The action taken by
Capt. Soule and myself were under protest. Col. A was going to have
Soule hung for saying there were all cowardly Sons of B's; if Souls did
not take it back, but nary take back with Soule. I told the Col. that I
thought it murder to jump them friendly Indians.
He says in reply; Damn any man or men who are in sympathy with them.
Such men as you and Major Wynkoop better leave the U.S. Service, so you
can judge what a nice time we had on the trip. I expect Col. Câ?" and
Downing will do all in their power to have Soule, Cossitt and I
dismissed. Well, let them work for what they damn please, I ask no
favors of them.
If you are in Washington, for God's sake, Major, keep Chivington from
being a Bri'g Genl. which he expects. I will send you the Denver Papers
with this. Excuse this for I have been in much of a hurry.
(signed) Joe A. Cramer
John Smith was taken prisoner and then murdered. One little child 3
months old was thrown in the feed box of a wagon and brought one days
march, and there left on the ground to perish. Col. Tappan is after them
for all that is out. I am making out a report of all from the beginning
to end, to send to Gen'l Slough, in hopes that he will have the thing
investigated, and if you should see him, please speak to him about it,
for fear that he has forgotten me. I shall write him nothing but what
can be proven.
Major I am ashamed of this. I have it gloriously mixed up, but am in
hopes I can explain it all to you before long. I would have given my
right arm had you been here, when they arrived. Your family are all
(signed) Joe A. Cramer
Ft. Lyon, C.T.
December 14, 1864
Two days after you left here the 3d Reg't with a Battalion of the 1st
arrived here, having moved so secretly that we were not aware of their
approach of until they had Pickets around the Post, allowing no one to
pass out! They arrested Capt. Bent and John Vogle, and placed guards
around their houses. They then declared their intention to massacre the
friendly Indians camped on Sand Creek.
Major Anthony gave all information, and eagerly Joined in with
Chivington & Co, and ordered Lieut. Cramer, with his whole Co to Join
the command. As soon as I knew of their movement I was indignant as you
would have been were you here, and went to Cannon's room, where a number
of officers of the 1st and 3d were congregated and told them that any
man who would take part in the murders, knowing the circumstances as we
did, was a low lived cowardly son of a bitch.
Capt. Y.J. Johnson and Lieut Harding went to camp and reported to Chiv,
Downing, and the whole outfit what I had said, and you bet hell was to
pay in camp. Chiv and all hands swore they would hang me before they
moved camp, but I stuck it out, and all the officers at the Post, except
Anthony backed me.
I was then ordered with my whole company to Major A with 20 days
rations. I told him that I would not take part in their intended murder,
but if they were going after the Sioux, Kiowa's or any fighting Indians,
I would go as far as any of them. They said that was what they were
going for, and I Joined them. We arrived at Black Kettles and Left
Hand's Camp at day light. Lieut Wilson with Co's "C", "E" & "G" were
ordered in advance to cut off their herd. He made a circle to the rear
and formed line 200 yds from the village, and opened fire. Poor Old John
Smith and Louderbeck ran out with white flags but they paid no attention
to them, and they ran back into the tents. Anthony then (indecipherable
word) with Co's "D" "K" & "G", to within one hundred yards and commenced
I refused to fire and swore that none but a coward would. for by this
time hundreds of women and children were coming towards us and getting
on their knees for mercy. Anthony shouted, "Kill the sons of bitches"
Smith and Louderbeck came to our command, although I am confident there
were 200 shots fired at them, for I heard an officer say that Old Smith
and any one who sympathized with the Indians, ought to be killed and now
was a good time to do it.
The Battery then came up in our rear, and opened on them. I took my
Comp'y across the Creek, and by this time the whole of the 3d and the
Batteries were firing into them and you can form some idea of the
slaughter. When the Indians found that there was no hope for them they
went for the Creek, and buried themselves in the Sand and got under the
banks and some of the bucks got their Bows and a few rifles and defended
themselves as well as they could.
By this time there was no organization among our troops, they were a
perfect mob every man on his own hook. My Co. was the only one that kept
their formation, and we did not fire a shot. The massacre lasted six or
eight hours, and a good many Indians escaped. I tell you Ned it was hard
to see little children on their knees have their brains beat out by men
professing to be civilized. One squaw was wounded and a fellow took a
hatchet to finish her, she held her arms up to defend her, and he cut
one arm off, and held the other with one hand and dashed the hatchet
through her brain.
One Squaw with her two children, were on their knees, begging for their
lives of a dozen soldiers, within ten feet of them all firing - when one
succeeded in hitting the squaw in the thigh, when she took a knife and
cut the throats of both children, and then killed herself. One old Squaw
hung herself in the lodge -- there was not enough room for her to hang
and she held up her knees and choked herself to death. Some tried to
escape on the Prairie, but most of them were run down by horsemen.
I saw two Indians hold one of anothers hands, chased until they were
exhausted, when they kneeled down, and clasped each other around the
neck and were both shot together. They were all scalped, and as high as
half a dozen taken from one head. They were all horribly mutilated. One
woman was cut open and a child taken out of her, and scalped.
White Antelope, War Bonnet and a member of others had Ears and Privates
cut off. Squaws snatches were cut out for trophies. You would think it
impossible for white men to butcher and mutilate human beings as they
did there, but every word I have told you is the truth, which they do
not deny. It was almost impossible to save any of them. Charly Autobee
saved John Smith and Winsers squaw. I saved little Charley Bent. Geo
Bent was killed. Jack Smith was taken prisoner, and murdered the next
day in his tent by one of the Denn's Co. "E". I understand the man
received a horse for doing the job.
They were going to murder Charlie Bent, but I run him into the Fort.
They were going to kill Old Uncle John Smith, but Lt. Cannon and the
boys of Ft. Lyon, interfered, and saved him. They would have murdered
Old Bents family, if Col. Tappan had not taken the matter in hand.
Cramer went up with twenty (20) men, and they did not like to buck
against so many of the 1st.
Chivington has gone to Washington to be made General, I suppose, and get
authority to raise a nine months Reg't to hunt Indians. He said Downing
will have me cashiered if possible. If they do I want you to help me. I
think they will try the same for Cramer for he has shot his mouth off a
good deal, and did not shoot his pistol off in the Massacre. Joe has
behaved first rate during the whole affair. Chivington reports five or
six hundred killed, but there were not more than two hundred, about 140
women and children and 60 Bucks.
A good many were out hunting buffalo. Our best Indians were killed.
Black Kettle, One Eye, Minnemic, and Left Hand. Geo. Pierce of Co. "F"
was killed trying to save John Smith. There was one other of the 1st
killed and nine of the 3d all through their own fault. They would get up
to the edge of the bank and look over, to get a shot at an Indian under
them, and get an arrow put through them. When the women were killed the
Bucks did not seem to try and get away, but fought desperately. Charly
Autobee wished me to write all about it to you. He says he would have
given anything if you could have been there.
I suppose Cramer has written to you, all the particulars, so I will
write half. Your family is well. Billy Walker, Col. Tappen, Wilson (who
was wounded in the arm) start for Denver in the morning. There is no
news I can think of. I expect we will have a hell of a time with Indians
this winter. We have (200) men at the Post -- Anthony in command. I
think he will be dismissed when the facts are known in Washington. Give
my regards to any friends you come across, and write as soon as
(signed) S.S. Soule