May 1867

George Armstrong Custer, 19th century photograph
George Armstrong Custer (Courtesy Library of Congress)

May 3rd, 1867

May 3rd, 1867, was a time of entertainment for the 7th cavalry as General Hancock’s expedition came into Fort Hays. Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s regiment, having spent several days at Fort Hays dealing with a shortage of rations and high desertion rates, was now hosting a contest for the fastest men in the 7th cavalry.

Partly as a diversion for his men, and partly as entertainment for General Hancock, Custer used the opportunity as a way to possibly boost soldier morale. But after the festivities were over the two met to discuss plans for the future.

After having meetings with various Kiowa and Arapaho chiefs while at Fort Dodge in late April of 1867, Hancock decided upon reuniting his expedition with Custer at Fort Hays to the north. Hancock was bringing much needed relief to Custer’s regiment, but Hancock was also meeting with Custer to plan future attacks on the dog soldiers.

Although the merriment of the occasion began with a footrace by men of the 7th, Hancock was more focused on why Custer had done so little in pursuit of the Dog Soldiers while at Fort Hays. Custer wrote to his wife Libbie on May 2nd about the Dog Soldiers – “Woe to them if I overtake them. The chances of this, however, are slight, once they are forewarned.” Contrary to Hancock’s determination, Custer’s analysis would prove prophetic.

General Winfield Scott Hancock in full uniform, 19th century photo
General Winfield Scott Hancock (Courtesy Library of Congress)

May 13th, 1867

With General Hancock’s expedition temporarily on hold in May of 1867 (and Custer confined to Fort Hays), Thomas Murphy (Central Superintendency of Indian Affairs) wrote a letter to Commissioner of Indian Affairs N.G. Taylor. Thomas Murphy wrote about how some felt regarding Hancock’s expedition into Kansas:

“General Hancock’s expedition, I regret to say, has resulted in no good, but on the contrary has been productive of much evil. It would have been far better for the interest of all concerned had he never entered the Indian Country with his soldiers. Indians who at the time he got into their Country were peaceable and well disposed toward the whites, are now fleeing with their women and children. No one knows where to and what the final result will be is doubtful.”


Last updated: June 18, 2018

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