History & Culture
National Park Service
Colonel John Chivington, the commander of the Colorado troops at the Sand Creek Massacre. Chivington was born in Lebanon, Ohio in 1821. Later, following his ordination in the Methodist Church, he ventured into Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, and eventually Colorado. He was a major with the Colorado Infantry during the 1862 New Mexico Campaign. He played a key role in helping capture Conferderate supplies near Johnson's Ranch - a move that in part enabled him to become Colonel of Colorado Cavalry later that year.
With stories of Indian threats sweeping the Territory in 1864, Colonel Chivington left Denver in November to join his troops near Booneville. On the 28th his command arrived at Fort Lyon, which they departed from later that night heading north toward the Cheyenne and Arapaho camps at Sand Creek.
In defense of the attack, Chivington wrote, "The morning of the 29th day of November, 1864, finds us before the village of the Indian foe. The first shot is fired by them. The first man who falls is white. No white flag is raised. None of the Indians show signs of peace, but flying to rifle pits already prepared they fight with a desperation unequalled, showing their perfect understanding of the relations that existed as regards peace or war as forty-nine killed and wounded soldiers too plainly testified."
Across the country many saw the massacre as a revolting butchery of mostly women and children. Regarding the massacre, Congress' Joint Committe on the Conduct of wear penned, "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
With his term of service having expired, Chivington left Colorado for the midwest, but later returned to Denver where he lived and worked until his death in 1894.
For a synopsis of Chivington's 1887 visit to Chivington, the town named in his honor, please click here.
Edmond Guerrier or Geary, son of a French father and Cheyenne mother. Guerrier was in the Cheyenne village at the Sand Creek Massacre. His official testimony about the event is of special interest - formally educated at St. Marys Diocesan Academy in St. Louis, he was able to provide his account of the massacre in English.
Guerrier stated that, "I was at the time of the attack, sleeping in a lodge. I heard, at first, some of the squaws outside say there were a lot of buffalo coming into camp; others said there were a lot of soldiers."
"...before we got outside the edge of the tent I could see the soldiers begin to dismount. I thought they were artillerymen and were about to shell the camp. I had hardly spoken when they began firing with their rifles and pistols."
"I saw as soon as the firing began, from the number of troops, that there could be no resistance, and I escaped as quick as I could."
"I went to the northeast; I ran about five miles, when I came across an Indian woman driving a herd of ponies, some ten or fifteen. I got a pony. She was a cousin of mine - one of White Antelope's daughters (Pipe Woman?). I went on with her to Smoky Hill."
In the years after Sand Creek, Guerrier lived the life of scout, interpreter and rancher. After the passage of the Dawes Act, along with other Cheyenne he was allotted land within the former Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation. Guerrier's land lay in Canadian County, Oklahoma, near the town of Geary, which is named for him.
Ed Guerrier married Julia Bent, the daughter of William Bent and Owl Woman. Much like his brother in law George Bent, Guerrier was approached by historians and authors wanting to learn "old time" Indian stories and history, or have them interpreted into English.
Ed and Julia Guerrier had several childlren - Rosa, William, and Annie. One of Guerrier's grandsons, Charles Guerrier, was wounded in the Pacific during WWII. A granddaughter of the Guerrier's, Ann Pratt Shadlow, was a highly respected tribal member and storyteller. Ann, or Pretty Wings, passed away November 15, 2002 at 91 years.
Did You Know?
The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site is visited by people from throughout the region, nation, and world. The site's challenging and unique story provides for many special commemorative and educational opportunities.