Sunday, May 19, 2013
A surprising smoking gun – the Federal verdict on the determined peacefulness of Cheyenne and Arapahoe leaders and the cruelty and deceptiveness of Evans and Chivington, document 7
The Joint Committee of Congress on the Conduct of the War begins its unbelieving report - shock that American soldiers could have ripped babies out of mother's wombs or abandoned a toddler to die - on Sand Creek with an account of John Evans’s actions. It does so because Evans was not second to Chivington in cruelty and murder but equivalent. For ’Massacre of the Cheyenne Indians,’ a Report on the Conduct of the War, 38 Cong., 2 sess., Washington, Government Printing Office, 1865 – see here and here.
This is the Joint Committee’s devastating sentence about Evans’s attitude toward the indigenous people, those who had gone with both determination to make peace and submission to the United States Government, to Sand Creek: “What Indians he would ever term friendly it is impossible to tell.”
This sentence alone, along with his subsequent dismissal for the Massacre by Secretary of State William Seward, should have prevented his lionization in Colorado and Illinois...See here.
The Report also named Evans' rare duplicitousness in seeking to avoid responsibility for the Massacre:
“All the testimony goes to show that the Indians, under the immediate control of Black Kettle and White Antelope of the Cheyennes, and Left Hand of the Arapahoes, were and had been friendly to the whites, and had not been guilty of any acts of hostility or depredation. The Indian agents, the Indian interpreter and others examined by your committee, all testify to the good character of those Indians. Even Governor Evans and Major Anthony, though evidently willing to convey to your committee a false impression of the character of those Indians, were forced, in spite of their prevarication, to admit that they knew of nothing they had done which rendered them deserving of punishment.” (p. II)
As Evans suggests – see the Camp Weld Meeting and his response to his firing here and here – the dog society was not a separate group and some of those who rebelled against American aggression and killed settlers, were linked to them. But this is beside the point...
The leaders who went under US army direction at Sand Creek, especially Moketavato (Black Kettle), had tried extensively and at great risk to themselves to make peace. They had moved again and again at Evans', Chivington's, Wynkoop's and Anthony's requests. They had every reason to believe they were at peace.
The deception and cowardice of all but Major Edward Wynkoop - who meant what he said, was a decent man, and, unusually, an honorable soldier, and thus, transferred in corrupt preparation for the Massacre - is glaring. It is the length and cruelty of the deception - "shooting fish in a barrel" into which one has lured them under false promises - combined with inhuman rapacity which evokes the horror.
In fact, the Committee considers John Evans the worst prevaricator they had run across in any of their four years of hearings, including on the Fort Pillow massacre:
"His testimony before your committee was characterized by such prevarication and shuffling as has been shown by no witness they have examined during the four years they have been engaged in their investigations; and for the evident purpose of avoiding the admission that he was fully aware that the Indians massacred so brutally at Sand creek were then, and had been, actuated by the most friendly feelings towards the whites, and had done all in their power to restrain those less friendly disposed." (p. iv)
About Chivington, the Methodist minister, the Joint Committee speaks with a horror into which one needs to feel one’s way:
“It is difficult to believe that beings in the form of men, and disgracing the uniform of United States soldiers and officers, could commit or countenance the commission of such acts of cruelty and barbarity as are detailed in the testimony, ...”
For Soule’s and Cramer’s letters specifying some of the atrocities as well as the testimony the Committee received, see here, here and here.
“Beings in the form of men” – the Satanic reference, probably unfair to Satan – is in the Christian spirit of the time.
The Committee elaborates:
“As to Colonel Chivington, your committee can hardly find fitting terms to describe his conduct. Wearing the uniform of the United States, which should be the emblem of justice and humanity; holding the important position of commander of a military district, and therefore having the honor of the government to that extent in his keeping, he deliberately planned and executed a foul and dastardly massacre which would have disgraced the veriest savage among those who were the victims of his cruelty.” (p. v)
The Committee is, of course, racist toward indigenous people. It seeks comparison, after Satan, with “the veriest savage among those who were the victims of his cruelty.”
But there were no savages among those Chivington aggressed against.
Nor were there savages among those who fought back against American aggression, conquest, uprooting, ethnic cleansing…
The Committee underlines the “fancied security” that the indigenous people had felt because of the repeated, dishonest representations and actions by Evans and Chivington:
“Having full knowledge of their friendly character, having himself been instrumental to some extent in placing them in their position of fancied security, [Chivington] took advantage of their inapprehension and defenceless condition to gratify the worst passions that ever cursed the heart of man. It is thought by some that desire for political preferment prompted him to this cowardly act; that he supposed that by pandering to the inflamed passions of an excited population he could recommend himself to their regard and consideration. Others think it was to avoid the being sent where there was more of danger and hard service to be performed; that he was willing to get up a show of hostility on the part of the Indians by committing himself acts which savages themselves would never premeditate. Whatever may have been his motive, it is to be hoped that the authority of this government will never again be disgraced by acts such as he and those acting with him have been guilty of committing.” (p. v)
The Report is also repelled by Chivington’s and Major Scott Anthony's cowardice:
“There were hostile Indians not far distant, against which Colonel Chivington could have led the force under his command. Major Anthony testifies that but three or four days' march from his post were several hundreds of Indians, generally believed to be engaged in acts of hostility towards the whites. And [Anthony] deliberately testifies that only the fear of them prevented him from killing those who were friendly and entirely within his reach and control. It is true that to reach them required some days of hard marching.
It was not to be expected that they could be surprised as easily as those on Sand creek; and the warriors among them were almost, if not quite, as numerous as the soldiers under the control of Colonel Chivington. Whatever influence this may have had upon Colonel Chivington, the truth is that he surprised and murdered, in cold blood, the unsuspecting men, women, and children on Sand creek, who had every reason to believe they were under the protection of the United States authorities, and then returned to Denver and boasted of the brave deeds he and the men under his command had performed.”
Prepared to wage aggression and force indigenous people from their homes onto cramped and desolate reservations, this Committee, nonetheless, banished public officials like John Evans and officers like John Chivington:
“The Congress of the United States, at its last session, authorized the appointment of a commission to investigate all matters relating to the administration of Indian affairs within the limits of the United States. Your committee most sincerely trust that the result of their inquiry will be the adoption of measures which will render impossible the employment of officers, civil and military, such as have heretofore made the administration of Indian affairs in this country a byword and reproach.
In conclusion, your committee are of the opinion that for the purpose of vindicating the cause of justice and upholding the honor of the nation, prompt and energetic measures should be at once taken to remove from office those who have thus disgraced the government by whom they are employed, and to punish, as their crimes deserve, those who have been guilty of these brutal and cowardly acts.” (pp. v-vi).
Evans was asked by President Andrew Johnson to resign in disgrace.
Chivington scurried out of the military. While he failed to gain hoped-for accolades and promotions, he did escape prosecution...
Lieutenant Joseph Cramer, a former Chivington man, said in his letter to Major Wynkoop that Chivington (and others) should be “hanged.” See here.
The Committee uses more careful language but does not differ…
We should, once again, step back from the Report to see precisely what was at issue here. All government officials were “Indian-killers.” They were all moving indigenous people out from their lands, blaming "savages" for the Government's ethnic cleansing, killing them, promising those resettled food but providing little, cordoning them off, supposedly to be farmers, on desolate properties.
So the United States Government rightly singling out - though all by itself - this Massacre as a disgrace, obscene and inhuman, is, as I have indicated, also a puzzle. For what the Committee says of the disgrace of Chivington and Evans applies to the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and President Andrew Jackson and to nearly every other government activity toward indigenous people during the epoch of ethnic cleansing and since.
For instance, Abraham Lincoln had appointed his friend and railway associate, John Evans, as Governor of the Colorado territory. Given his goal of unjust conquest of the West, however Lincoln, also opposed unnecessary slaughter and hanging of indigenous people. Thus, he cut the number of Dakota hung in Mankato, Minnesota in 1862 from the proposed 303 to 38 and thought this, the largest military hanging of “enemies” in American history, might cost him the 1864 election because the racism in Mankato was so fierce. See here and today's Minneapolis, St. Paul and Redwood City resolutions against the genocide here.
Still, though an ethnic cleanser, Lincoln was better than Evans. He did not seek, beyond the government's genocide against indigenous people, to kill unnecessarily. These were thus the two faces - less extreme/even more treacherously murderous - of American genocide.
For the Civil War was both a fight for abolition (against a genocide characteristic of the American regime at its founding) and a war for ethnic cleansing in Minnesota and Colorado which ultimately lasted until 1890. See here. Lincoln was against genocide in the first case, and for it - once again, merely less extreme than Evans or Chivington - in the second.
Captain Silas Soule and Lieutenant Joseph Cameron, heroically, ordered their men not to fire at Sand Creek [to do full justice, they should have fired on Chivington]. They had argued against the Massacre with Chivington at the risk of their lives, and wrote to Major Wynkoop and testified at the Congressional hearings about it.
As a policemen in Denver Soule faced repeated attempts on his life and was murdered by 2 Union soldiers in the week following his testimony. Soule had initially been in with Chivington – referred to him as “Chiv” – and was willing, as was Cramer, to fight “hostile Indians.”
Soule is rightly praised in the Cheyenne-Arapahoe Marathon from Sand Creek to the Denver State Capitol every year on the anniversary of the massacre. He was a martyr to being a human being.
He stood up because this cowardly, calculated, sneak, ravenous attack on friendly Indians exceeds the comprehension of any decent person.
The Committee's words of revulsion - that "beings in human form" could have done such crimes - reflect this.
Still, among so many going back to Bacon’s Rebellion in 1680 (though uniting black and white and resulting, after its suppression in the adoption by the elite of the notion of “whiteness” for the first time – see Theodore Allen's insightful The Invention of the White Race - even this "Rebellion" was largely directed toward murdering indigenous people – see here), why is Sand Creek the only Massacre singled out for Federal condemnation? Why did this Massacre alone among all the others give rise to a treaty of reparations, the Treaty of Fort Arkansas (1865)?
But even this Treaty, illustrating the thoroughgoing genocidal character of the American government and, in this respect, empty paper, has to this day, not been honored.
Nonetheless, the public recognition that America, within its not yet acknowledged great wrongs to indigenous people, had done a further, exacerbated wrong, is also important.
For horror overcame the Congressional representatives on listening to John Evans and John Chivington and Scott Anthony testify...
Abstract from “whiteness”: imagine a powerful blue “civilization” – say, the Navi in "Avatar." for instance – doing this to green people, and you will see this point clearly. This is what John Rawls suggests in his idea of the original position, one which models what it is to take a moral stand, as Silas Soule did, in A Theory of Justice.
Evans crystallizes his bad faith and denial in the last sentence of his testimony: the assertion that the Massacre did not provoke and would not extend the coming wars of 25 years...
"Question. I do not ask for an opinion. Do you know of any circumstance which would justify that attack?
Answer. I do not know of any circumstance connected with it subsequent to the time those Indians left me and I started for another part of the country. It is proper for me to say, that these attacks during the summer, and up to the time I came away, were of very frequent occurrence. The destruction of property was very great. Our people suffered wonderfully, especially in their property, and in their loss of life. They murdered a family some twenty-odd miles east of Denver. The attacks by hostile Indians, about the time I came away, were very numerous along the Platte. There was an attack as I came in, about the month of November. It was in the evening, about sundown, and I passed over the ground in the night in the stage with my family, and a few days afterwards a party of emigrants, returning from Colorado, were murdered near the same ground, which was near Plum creek; and for a considerable length of time, immediately after I came in, the attacks were very numerous and very violent, until the stage was interrupted so that it has not been running since, until within a few days.
I started home and could not get there because there was no transportation. I came back here and shall return in a few days again. I mention this in order to do away with the impression that might exist that hostilities had ceased, and that this attack of Colonel Chivington had excited the recent hostilities. These Indians told me, when they were there, that the Sioux were in large force on the head of the Republican, and would make an attack about the time I expected to come in. I delayed my coming in a short time on account of what they told me, and when I did come in I found some Indians commencing their depredations, which they continued about the month following, both before and after the attack made by Colonel Chivington. General Curtis wrote to me that he did not think Chivington's attack was the instigation of the hostilities perpetrated along the Platte."
Evans's words are a masterpiece of self-deception and prevarication.
At My Lai, Lieutenant Calley slaughtered civilians. A two year old was among those whom American “soldiers” shot.
Yet, this Massacre was worse, as the Joint Committee’s reports. For that was a village in Vietnam which could have contained guerillas – though murdering civilians was also the American way of war. The Vietnam War, too, was genocidal, a point which Hugo Bedau tried to deflect barely in a subtle essay here, in a Scottish verdict “not proven, not quite” – but is, in retrospect, inescapable.
But these were Indians who had came to Denver at great risk, moved where Chivington told them, were given rations, treated as prisoners of war and disarmed by Major Wynkoop. And Major Scott Anthony – as Lieutenant Cramer says a man “with a face for every person” – also held them prisoner. Here is the long beginning of the Committee’s report which specifies how much effort these indigenous people had made, how much reason they had been given to think they were safe, i.e. to deceive them into “fancied security”:
"In the summer of 1864 Governor Evans, of Colorado Territory, as acting superintendent of Indian affairs, sent notice to the various bands and tribes of Indians within his jurisdiction that such as desired to be considered friendly to the whites should at once repair to the nearest military post in order to be protected from the soldiers who were to take the field against the hostile Indians.
About the close of the summer, some Cheyenne Indians, in the neighborhood of the Smoke Hills, sent word to Major Wynkoop, the commandant of the post of Fort Lyon, that they had in their possession, and were willing to deliver up, some white captives they had purchased of other Indians. Major Wynkoop, with a force of over 100 men, visited those Indians and received the white captives. On his return he was accompanied by a number of the chiefs and leading men of the Indians, whom he had invited to visit Denver for the purpose of conferring with the authorities there in regard to keeping peace.
Among them were Black Kettle and White Antelope of the Cheyennes, and some chiefs of the Arapahoes. The council was held, and these chiefs stated that they were friendly to the whites, and always had been, and that they desired peace. Governor Evans and Colonel Chivington, the commander of that military district, advised them to repair to Fort Lyon and submit to whatever terms the military commander there should impose. This was done by the Indians, who were treated somewhat as prisoners of war, receiving rations, and being obliged to remain within certain bounds.
All the testimony goes to show that the Indians, under the immediate control of Black Kettle and White Antelope of the Cheyennes, and Left Hand of the Arapahoes, were and had been friendly to the whites, and had not been guilty of any acts of hostility or depredation. The Indian agents, the Indian interpreter and others examined by your committee, all testify to the good character of those Indians. Even Governor Evans and Major Anthony, though evidently willing to convey to your committee a false impression of the character of those Indians, were forced, in spite of their prevarication, to admit that they knew of nothing they had done which rendered them deserving of punishment.
A northern band of the Cheyennes, known as the Dog Soldiers, had been guilty of acts of hostility; but all the testimony goes to prove that they had no connexion with Black Kettle's band, but acted in despite of his authority and influence. Black Kettle and his band denied all connexion with or responsibility for the Dog Soldiers, and Left Hand and his band of Arapahoes were equally friendly.
These Indians, at the suggestion of Governor Evans and Colonel Chivington, repaired to Fort Lyon and placed themselves under the protection of Major Wynkoop. They were led to believe that they were regarded in the light of friendly Indians, and would be treated as such so long as they conducted themselves quietly.
The treatment extended to those Indians by Major Wynkoop does not seem to have satisfied those in authority there, and for some cause, which does not appear, he was removed, and Major Scott J. Anthony was assigned to the command of Fort Lyon; but even Major Anthony seems to have found it difficult at first to pursue any different course towards the Indians he found there. They were entirely within the power of the military. Major Anthony having demanded their arms, which they surrendered to him, they conducted themselves quietly, and in every way manifested a disposition to remain at peace with the whites. For a time even he continued issuing rations to them as Major Wynkoop had done; but it was determined by Major Anthony (whether upon his own motion or at the suggestion of others does not appear) to pursue a different course towards these friendly Indians. They were called together and told that rations could no longer be issued to them, and they had better go where they could obtain subsistence by hunting. At the suggestion of Major Anthony (and from one in his position a suggestion was equivalent to a command) these Indians went to a place on Sand creek, about thirty-five miles from Fort Lyon, and there established their camp, their arms being restored to them. He told them that he then had no authority to make peace with them; but in case he received such authority he would inform them of it.
In his testimony he says:
"I told them they might go back on Sand creek, or between there and the headwaters of the Smoky Hill, and remain there until I received instructions from the department headquarters, from General Curtis: and that in case I did receive any authority to make peace with them I would go right over and let them know it. I did not state to them that I would give them notice in case we intended to attack them. They went away with that understanding, that in case I received instructions from department headquarters I was to let them know it." (pp. ii-iii)
Note that Anthony was plotting to surprise and slaughter them. He seems one thing and is another…
The Report continues:
“And in order, as it were, to render these Indians less apprehensive of any danger, One Eye, a Cheyenne chief; was allowed to remain with them to obtain information for the use of the military authorities. He was employed at $125 a month, and several times brought to Major Anthony, at Fort Lyon, information of proposed movements of other and hostile bands. Jack Smith, a half-breed son of John S. Smith, an Indian interpreter, employed by the government, was also there for the same purpose. A United States soldier was allowed to remain there, and two days before the massacre Mr. Smith, the interpreter, was permitted to go there with goods to trade with the Indians. Everything seems to have been done to remove from the minds of these Indians any fear of approaching danger; and when Colonel Chivington commenced his movement he took all the precautions in his power to prevent these Indians learning of his approach. For some days all travel on that route was forcibly stopped by him, not even the mail being allowed to pass. On the morning of the 28th of November he appeared at Fort Lyon with over 700 mounted men and two pieces of artillery. One of his first acts was to throw a guard around the post to prevent any one leaving it. At this place Major Anthony joined him with 125 men and two pieces of artillery.”
Note that Chivington engaged in a forced march to Fort Lyon and then threw a “guard around the Post" to prevent any word of the coming attack from getting out.
The aim was to ambush friendly Indians and then bill this as “heroic” and “glorious.” It was this odious combination which elicited revulsion in the Committeee.
“On the night of the 28th the entire party started from Fort Lyon, and, by a forced march, arrived at the Indian camp, on Sand creek, shortly after daybreak. This Indian camp consisted of about 100 lodges of Cheyennes, under Black Kettle, and from 8 to 10 lodges of Arapahoes under Left Hand. It is estimated that each lodge contained five or more persons, and that more than one-half were women and children.
Upon observing the approach of the soldiers, Black-Kettle, the head chief, ran up to the top of his lodge an American flag, which had been presented to him some years before by Commissioner Greenwood, with a small white flag under it, as he had been advised to do in case he met with any troops on the prairies. Mr. Smith, the interpreter, supposing they might be strange troops, unaware of the character of the Indians encamped there, advanced from his lodge to meet them, but was fired upon, and returned to his lodge.And then the scene of murder and barbarity began--men, women, and children were indiscriminately slaughtered. In a few minutes all the Indians were flying over the plain in terror and confusion. A few who endeavored to hide themselves under the bank of the creek were surrounded and shot down in cold blood, offering but feeble resistance. From the sucking babe to the old warrior, all who were overtaken were deliberately murdered. Not content with killing women and children, who were incapable of offering any resistance, the soldiers indulged in acts of barbarity of the most revolting character; such, it is to be hoped, as never before disgraced the acts of men claiming to be civilized. No attempt was made by the officers to restrain the savage cruelty of the men under their command, but they stood by and witnessed these acts without one word of reproof if they did not incite their commission. For more than two hours the work of murder and barbarity was continued, until more than one hundred dead bodies, three-fourths of them of women and children, lay on the plain as evidences of the fiendish malignity and cruelty of the officers who had so sedulously and carefully plotted the massacre, and of the soldiers who had so faithfully acted out the spirit of their officers." (pp. iii-iv)
The Committee report is signed by Benjamin F. Wade, a radical Republican who hated slavery and supported women’s suffrage. Yet somehow no entry on him in Wikipedia - see here, for example - mentions this central report, as if the massacre of indigenous people at Sand Creek - and the quarter century subsequent War - is unimportant. Racism, to this day, stands out in high relief…
As I indicated about Evans first proclamation here, killing the women and children of “hostile Indians" was initially no problem for the Lincoln Administration and Congress. But the acts toward Indians who had demonstrated their friendliness with great determination, coupled with Evans', Chivington's and Anthony's prolonged deceptiveness, were.