At dawn on November 29, 1864, a volunteer Denver militia swept down on a sleeping Cheyenne and Arapaho village camped on the Big Sandy River in southeastern Colorado, exacting brutal revenge for a year-long campaign of terror waged by tribal warrior societies on the Kansas and Colorado plains. When the smoke cleared, Colonel John M. Chivington's troops returned to Denver, waving Indian scalps and body parts to an adoring crowd that hailed them as conquering heroes. Chivington claimed his militia decimated the Cheyenne and Arapaho nations – some five to six hundred warriors among them, including the fearsome Cheyenne Dog Soldiers. His actions prompted the Rocky Mountain News to hoist Chivington among the greatest American military leaders of the time.
But the Dog Soldiers were still alive. In fact, few if any of the warriors guilty of the violent depredations on the Plains were anywhere near Sand Creek when the civilian militia attacked. Union soldiers accused Chivington of conducting a wholesale massacre of Indian prisoners camped under the protection of the army, claiming the majority of the 160 killed were women, children and elderly. Within months, Chivington's renowned "Battle of Sand Creek" descended into a broiling kettle of accusation and recrimination, turning soldier against soldier, and Indian against Indian.
This report prepared by Robert Henley