In response to growing Cheyenne and Arapaho raids in July of 1868, General William Tecumseh Sherman (commander of the Military Division of the Missouri), in writing to his subordinate - General Phillip Sheridan, issued an edict that if the Cheyennes and Arapahos “resort to acts of war, you have no alternative but to punish them as a whole tribe.” This doctrine ran counter to some, including Indian Agent Edward Wynkoop, who consistently defended them from his own first hand experiences.
Clearly some Cheyennes and Arapahos were involved in the raiding and killing of settlers that summer, but many were not. Sherman’s edict underscored the urgency of tackling the conflict head on, without the time to carefully understand the nuance and complexity of the situation. It was under these rigid conditions that Edward Wynkoop would resign as an Indian Agent in October of 1868.
July 14th, 1868
On July 14th, 1868, a group referring to itself as the United States Indian Commission created a heartfelt plea to Congress “to call the attention of your Honorable bodies to the condition and treatment of our Indian tribes.”
They acknowledged that “It has long been the conviction of the humane amongst us, that our Aboriginal inhabitants have been the victims of great wrongs, cruelties and outrage; but it is only recently that the particular nature, the atrocious character, and the frightful results of these crimes have been brought distinctly before us. The recent reports of the Indian Peace Commissioners, and of the Joint Special Committee of the two Houses of Congress, have in some degree disclosed the nature and sources of them; and the disclosure is at once so painful and humiliating, as to call for the most prompt and vigorous measures of redress and remedy, for the reason that it concerns alike the honor and the interests of the nation”.
The entreaty continued, "We stand charged before the civilized world, by the testimony of our own witnesses, with having been ‘uniformly unjust to the Indians;’ and it is stated by Gen. Sherman and his associate commissioners, that this injustice has been the cause of all the wars which they have waged against us.”