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Volume 32, No. 2 – February 2019

The President’s Message:

Please check your book shelves to see if there are any books that can be donated to the Round Table for the raffle.  Any Civil War art work or small gift cards would also be appreciated.

If you have not paid your dues, please do so at the February meeting.

David Meisky will speak in February about “The Civil War VFW- Veterans of Florida Wars.”  He will discuss some of the generals who had service in Florida and how that may have influenced their actions during the Civil War.


February 13, 2019 Program:

Numerous generals served on both sides of the Civil War who previously saw service in Florida. The program will examine officers who served in Florida and how that may have influenced their actions and decisions during the War.

January 9, 2018 Program:

ChivingtonJohn Milton Chivington, Hero of Glorieta Pass, Butcher of Sand Creek

John Milton Chivington was born January 27, 1821 in Lebanon, Ohio.  At the age five his father died.  He was raised by his mother and two brothers.  They worked at logging and he became a carpenter.  He married Martha Rollason in 1840. They had three children: Elizabeth, Thomas, and Sara Ann.  He embraced the Methodist Church and become an ordained Methodist minister.  It is here that he embarked on a career of missionary work by travelling to several states preaching the Word of God.  Along the way he embraced the concept of Emancipation and preaches it from his pulpit.  In 1856, while preaching in Missouri, he began to anger his parishioners and they sent him threatening letters.  One Sunday morning he arrived at church armed with two pistols.  He laid them on the pulpit and said: “with these two pistols and the Word of God I will preach here today.” This bold act earns him the sobriquet “The Fighting Preacher”.  This calmed the parishioners but disturbed the Church and so he was transferred.

He was sent to Denver, Colorado where he established the first Masonic Lodge in Denver.  He alsopreaching become friends with Territorial Governor William Gilpin.  When the war began in 1861, he was offered the chaplaincy of the 1st Colorado Cavalry.  He turned it down and said he wanted to fight.  He was appointed Major in the 1st Col.  He headed out to confront Confederate forces in New Mexico.  On March 26, 1862 they saw their first combat.  They engaged Confederate forces in Apache Canyon and push them back.  Col. John P. Slough, the Union commander planed an attack for the morning of March 28th.  He will lead a force to attack head on while Maj. Chivington was to travel over the mesa and attack the Confederate rear.  Chivington left at 5:00 AM and proceeds on his mission.  It takes him about four hours to climb to the mesa and over it.  Meanwhile, Slough attacks and the battle rages.  Chivington advanced across the mesa in an ‘acoustic shadow’, unawares of the fighting below. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the battle raged and the Confederates got the upper hand.  They pushed the Union forces back.  Slough is wondered where was Chivington?  Well, he advanced to the rear of the Confederate lines and discovered the enemy supply train.  He decided that the train is more important than the attack so he set out to destroy the train.  He ordered his men to attack.  Being lightly guarded, they encountered little resistance and captured the train.  He then ordered his men to take, what they can carry, kill all the animals, and burn the wagons.  Upon completion of this he took his men back to the Union camps.

Ironically, by disobeying orders, he prevents the Confederacy from achieving their goal of a pathway to the Pacific.  They are forced to retreat, back into to Texas, and end their threat to the Southwestern area of the nation.

Chivington reached the camps and considered himself a hero.  He demanded to be put in overall command of all the Union forces.  This was denied him and he is angered.  He returned with his troops to Denver and is hailed as “The Hero of Glorieta.”

Back in New Mexico the chaplain of Confederate forces that were captured, filed a complaint of cruelty against Chivington.  He claimed Union forces fired upon them under a flag of truce and threatened to kill them all if they resisted.  It is here that we first learn of a cruel streak in the ‘minister.”

In Colorado, Territorial governor Evans nominated Chivington for Brigadier General.  He was also appointed commander of Sothern Colorado to deal with the Native American crisis that was growing.  His nomination for General was denied by Congress.  Evans appointed him Colonel.

In late 1862 Chivington’s daughter Elizabeth was captured by Utes in a raid.  He took his son-in-law Tom Pollak and they successfully rescued her.  I believe it is here that his opinion of Native -Americans changed.

Back in Denver, Chivington got involved in the politics of statehood.  He ran for the office of territorial delegate to Congress.  He won the election, but the measure of statehood is defeated so his seat is moot.  He went back to protecting the frontier against a growing problem with Native Americans.  He went to Washington and met with Sec. of War Stanton to appeal for more men and supplies to combat the growing problem, to no avail.  He returned to Colorado and struggles with the problem without more resources.  The situation escalated throughout 1863 – 1864.

In the summer of 1864, Arapahoe and Cheyenne Indians attacked a farm near Denver owned by the Hungate family.  They were all massacred and this act turns the population fully against the tribes.  Chivington went back to Washington to ask for more help.  This time Stanton allowed him to recruit state troops for 100 days to deal with the problem.  Chivington returned in September of 1864 and recruited 1,000 men for the 3rd Colorado Cavalry.  At the same time, he lost jurisdiction of SE Colorado and SW Kansas.  He began to stir up the population with cries of massacres.  He planned to remove all of the Indians from this area once and for all.  He coined the phrase “nits make lice” in reference to Indians.

In the meantime, Col. Edward Wynkoop, the commander at Ft. Lyon in southern Colorado was holding a conference with the Cheyenne chief, Black Kettle.  He promised to allow them to stay at the fort and will care for their needs if they remain peaceful.  Chivington had other plans. Wynkoop served under Chivington in New Mexico and there was no love lost between them.  Chivington sent one Maj. Scott Anthony to relieve Wynkoop and have him returned to Gen. Curtis, in Kansas, for re-assignment.  All this occurs in early November 1864.  Chivington’s commission expired in September 1864 and he did not have any authority to do any of this, unbeknown to any of the participants.Sand Creek

Chivington arrived with the 3rd Colorado and met with Black Kettle.  He advised him that he cannot stay at the fort and must settle in a camp, turn in his weapons, and prepare to return to a reservation.  He promises to care for them in the meantime.  The Indians settled on the banks of the Sand Creek and wait for instructions.  Chivington planned his attack and settle the problem once and for all.

He marched his men to the Indian camp, places the 3rd Colorado on both sides of the village, and sent a small detachment to stampede the horses so the Indians have no means of escape.  He sent a company of the 1st Colorado, under Lt. Silas Soule, to the head of the creek to deal with any escaping Indians, and await sunrise.  At this point all was set.  When the sun rose, the troopers attacked and began a wholesale slaughter.  The battle raged for about 30 hours.  Few escaped the slaughter.  Virtually all the dead were desecrated. Chivington claimed total victory.  He said they killed over 1000 braves.  59 of his men died, mostly as a result of friendly fire.  Lt. Soule refused to attack and has his men leave the field.  History shows that there were few braves at the camp, mostly old men, women, and children.  According to most accounts, approximately 125 people were killed that day.  The troopers chased a few escapees and then regrouped and headed back to Denver.

Upon arrival in Denver, they were regaled as heroes.  As they paraded through town, they displayed their “trophies”.  The euphoria was short lived.  Public condemnation began.  The dissent was heard by military officials in Washington.  They condemned the “massacre.”  Public hearings were scheduled, three in fact took place in early 1865.  The first two hearings resulted in a condemnation of the event.  Chivington resigned his commission.  The Committee on the Conduct of the War held a third hearing.  It is at this hearing that Lt. Soule testified to the event and the depredations committed by the 3rd Colorado.  Chivington denied the charges and claimed he saw no such thing.  In fact, there were no reports of Chivington ever firing a shot.  The hearing ended with Chivington no longer in the service.  The results were very unsatisfactory. All they could do was reprimand him.  However, his reputation suffered greatly.  The church did not allow him a pulpit.  His chief protagonist, Silas Soule, was assassinated.  Chivington was accused of orchestrating the event, but history proved that to be wrong.  With prospects dim in Denver he decided to leave.

He borrowed $10,000 from his daughter Elizabeth and went to Nebraska.  He entered a freight business with his son, Tom.  In 1867 his wife died, and several months later his son Tom drowns in an accident.  This left him destitute.  His claims to the government against Indians were denied.  Amazingly, he decided to marry his daughter-in -law to share in the insurance claims for the accident.  When the claim was settled, it was for a paltry $600.  He then decided to try his luck in California.  He packed up, and with his bride, off they go.  Not much is heard from this journey till he shows up in Ohio in 1870, sans the child bride.  She seems to be lost to history.

Chivington married a third time on November 25, 1873, to widow Isabella Arnzen of Cincinnati.  He started a newspaper and again got involved in politics.  In 1872 he decided to run for office.  Things went well until his opponent brought up his past about Sand Creek.  Rather than face that accusation, he left Ohio and returned to Denver!  Still having a modicum of good reputation left, he was appointed deputy marshal of Denver, and the city coroner.  The good feeling did not last too long.  He was accused of robbing the body of his first victim of $800.  He was removed as coroner, but remained deputy marshal!!  Absolutely amazing.  He remained in Denver until his death in October of 1892, of cancer.  He is buried in Fairmont Cemetery in Denver.

The story does not end here.  A mining boom town was named after him in SW Colorado.  It still exists today as a ‘ghost town’, and it can be visited.  It is still called Chivington.  Ironically, it is very near the site of Sand Creek.  A main boulevard in Denver was also named after him as well.

Well, times change.  In 2002 the city council removed his name and change the street to Sunset Boulevard.  Also, in 2004, the Methodist Church formally apologized to the Indian Nations for the crimes committed against them.

John Chivington was a complicated man.  His actions may never be fully understood.  It is fascinating to learn how a man of God turned into a son of the devil!  Historians have compared Sand Creek Massacre to My Lai, Vietnam.  Perhaps the comparison fits.

Last changed: 1/18/19