History & Culture
History Colorado #46619
Since the November 29, the Sand Creek Massacre maintained its station as one of the most emotionally charged and controversial events in American history, a tragedy reflective of its time and place. The background of the Sand Creek Massacre lay in a whirlwind of events and issues registered by the ongoing Civil War in the East and West; the overreactions by whites on the frontier to the 1862-63 Dakota uprising in Minnesota and its aftermath; the status of the various bands of Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians relative to each other as well as other plains tribes; the constant undercurrent of threatened Confederate incursions; and the existing state of politics in Colorado including the intrigues of individual politicians in that territory. Perhaps most important, the seeds of the Sand Creek Massacre lay in the presence of two historically discordant cultures within a geographical area that both coveted for disparate reasons, an avoidable situation that resulted in tragedy.
In 2000, manuscript copies of letters from Captain Silas Soule and Lieutenant Joseph Cramer were found in Denver. These letters, as firsthand accounts of the massacre, reveal the moral resistance of some of the soldiers to the barbarism that surrounded them. As primary sources, these letters show much about the atrocities at Sand Creek while also demonstrating how a hundred men stood in resistance to orders. These letters, and the text of the sign introducing them at the site, can be found here. Please read with empathy and care, as these letters are graphic and disturbing.
Did You Know?
There are a number of eyewitness descriptions of the Sand Creek Massacre. Among them the journal of John Dailey. Dailey fought at Sand Creek with the 3rd Colorado Regiment. On November 29 he wrote, "They [Indians] were peppered with gun ball and grape most effectually, slaying them by the hundred."