Military History Monday: Sand Creek Massacre

One hundred and forty-nine years ago, on November 29, 1864, perhaps the most atrocious and disturbing attacks in United States military history occurred at Sand Creek, an encampment in Colorado Territory of 700-800 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians.  The attack was led by John Milton Chivington, a particularly fierce and staunch abolitionist who also happened to be an ordained Methodist minister. John Milton Chivington John Milton Chivington was born in Ohio in 1821.  John was five years old when his father died, leaving John and his brothers to run the farm.  Even though he had only been able to attend school sporadically, by the time he married in 1844 he had been running a timber business for several years.  Although not a religious person, he became interested in Methodism and in 1844 he was ordained as a Methodist minister. In 1853 he worked with a missionary to Wyandot Indians in Kansas.  At this time, Kansas and Missouri were embroiled in a de facto civil war over the issue of slavery.   John Chivington was a strict abolitionist in pro-slavery Missouri and he ruffled more than a few feathers.  Members of his congregation even wrote a letter instructing him to stop preaching. The next Sunday congregants came to church intending to tar and feather him – Chivington, however, walked up to the pulpit with his Bible and two pistols.  He declared, “By the grace of God and these two revolvers, I am going to preach here today”.  He soon became known as the “Fighting Parson”. The Methodist Church sent Chivington to Nebraska where he stayed until 1860, when he was named the...

Civil War Before THE Civil War: Bloody Kansas (Part 2)

Soon after the Kansas-Nebraska Act was signed, the Massachusetts (New England) Emigrant Aid Society sent 200 “Free-Staters” (anti-slavery) to counteract the influences of southern states and neighboring Missouri who were strongly pro-slavery.  The Massachusetts group was joined by similar organizations and responsible for the creation of the towns of Lawrence and Manhattan, Kansas.  Lawrence would eventually become the center of the anti-slavery movement. Missouri counties bordering Kansas were strongly in favor of slavery – so strong was the pro-slavery sentiment that Senator David Atchison sent 1,700 men from Missouri to Kansas to vote in the Kansas 1854 election.  These were the so-called “Border Ruffians” who helped (illegally) elect a pro-slavery Kansas territorial delegate to Congress.  Their votes were later ruled invalid, but that didn’t stop them from sending up 5,000 for the next election in 1855 which would elect the Kansas Territorial Legislature. By this time Kansas had an anti-slavery majority, but because of voter fraud and intimidation a pro-slavery legislature was elected.  Not surprising, one of the first pieces of legislation to pass was one that levied a fine or imprisonment for anyone who spoke against slavery.  The so-called “Border Ruffian” vote that had earlier been invalidated was reinstated – now it was okay for people outside the territory to vote in Kansas elections because they made it retroactive to the last election! More abolitionists came to Kansas, far outnumbering the pro-slavery faction, and they were in no mood to abide by the laws coming out of the “Bogus Legislature”.  In order to counteract, anti-slavery proponents gave themselves the name “Free Soilers” and drew up a new free...

Civil War Before THE Civil War – Manifest Destiny and Compromise (Part I)

President James K. Polk was on a mission to expand the country westward.  The term “divine destiny” had been used by journalist John O’Sullivan in 1839, later evolving into what came to be known as “Manifest Destiny”.  Part of Polk’s plans for westward expansion involved taking possession of a vast amount of land under Mexican control and it would require a two-prong attack. Mexican-American War John Fremont, accompanied by Kit Carson, was sent to the far west to stake a claim to California and Stephen Kearny was dispatched to New Mexico.  In New Mexico, the governor fled Santa Fe (with lots of gold and silver) and Kearny’s troops easily secured Santa Fe without a single death.  From there, Kearny continued westward to California to join up with Fremont. While Kearny was on his way to California, Kit Carson rode into his camp headed east back to Washington, dispatched by Captain Fremont to carry out his mission in sixty days.  Of course, Carson’s skills as a guide were legendary and Kearny thought what good fortune to have Carson come along at just the right time.  Kearny (a General) ordered Carson (who had been temporarily commissioned as a lieutenant under Captain Fremont) to hand over the papers and let someone else continue the mission.  Kearny wanted Carson’s expertise to guide him across the long stretch from New Mexico to California.  Carson was a man of honor and wanted to continue the mission he had sworn to complete — he even thought about escaping Kearny’s camp.  Kit was persuaded to relinquish his mission only because it was being handed over to his...

Military History Monday – The Utah War a.k.a. Buchanan’s Blunder

Early Mormon History During the early 19th century, a revival movement called The Second Great Awakening was sweeping the nation.  One particular area in western New York became known as the “Burned Over District”.  The area had been so heavily evangelized and saturated with revival that no fuel (unconverted souls) was left to burn (in other words, convert).  Many religious and socialist experiments (utopian) sprung from that area – the Shakers, Oneida Society, Millerites (later Seventh Day Adventist) and Latter Day Saints (Mormons).  Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, lived in the Burned Over District and was influenced as were many others by the revival. In 1831, Mormons began to move west into Ohio and Missouri, and in 1840 a new colony was established in Nauvoo, Illinois.  For many years the Mormons had faced opposition to their religion, even engaging in armed conflicts.  When Joseph Smith moved to Nauvoo he again experienced anti-Mormon sentiment.  In 1844 he was arrested, and while in jail a vigilante mob killed him on June 27, 1844. Mormon Westward Migration Eventually, leadership of the church passed to Brigham Young, and he led a group west to territory that was at the time still part of Mexico.  On July 24, 1847 Young and his group arrived in the Salt Lake Valley with the desire to live out their faith in isolation.  Meanwhile, ownership of territory in the West was shifting following the Mexican-American War.  The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo brought an end to the war in 1848.  Now the territory where the Mormons had settled changed hands to the United States. In 1849, the Mormons...

Military History Monday – Obscure U.S. Civil Wars – The Walton War

In this border war which occurred in the first decade of the 1800s, ambiguities in border delineation were again the center of controversy.  The strip of land, approximately twelve miles wide, was called the “Orphan Strip”.  That strip of land bordered the three states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Originally, after the Revolutionary War, there was a dispute between North and South Carolina.  States who previously had claims to land west of the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River were asked to cede those lands back to the federal government.  North Carolina ceded their western land (eventually becoming Tennessee) and South Carolina only needed to cede a small strip of land in order to comply with the federal government’s wishes.  Georgia agreed to cede the land that would later become Alabama and Mississippi, and in return the federal government agreed that Georgia would receive the small strip of land that South Carolina had ceded.  That occurred in 1802, so now Georgia and North Carolina shared a border. The problem likely arose because the land was never properly surveyed (duh!).  At the eastern edge of the land strip was an area that North Carolina believed to be its Buncombe County.  In 1785 settlers had begun to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains and settled that area.  By 1802 there were about 800 residents and many of those settlers had received their land grants from South Carolina (remember that officially South Carolina had ceded that strip back to the government who in turn had ceded it to Georgia), while others had received grants from North Carolina. Of course, agitation and...

Obscure U.S. Civil Wars – The Toledo War (1835-1836)

Here is another United States “civil war” or boundary dispute that portended a fierce and future college football rivalry.  This one was between Ohio and Michigan. Ohio became a sovereign state of the United States in 1803.  Michigan, still a territory in 1835, would soon petition for statehood.  As with last week’s “Honey War” between Iowa and Missouri, this conflict had its basis in another misunderstanding of geographic features – this time the Great Lakes. In 1787 the Northwest Ordinance had been enacted which established the Northwest Territory.  The Ordinance specified that at least three and no more than five states were to eventually be carved out of that territory.  This part of the Ordinance was apparently misunderstood: …if Congress shall hereafter find it expedient, they shall have authority to form one or two States in that part of the said territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan. Without going into a lot of detail, it appears that the basis of the two states’ conflict over the border stemmed from either unreliable or outdated maps.  The U.S. Congress had relied on the so-called “Mitchell Map” to map out the boundaries of Ohio.  In 1802 at the Ohio Constitutional Convention, the delegates may have received reports from trappers that claimed that Lake Michigan extended further south than first thought.  Thus, this would be significant to know precisely as the Northwest Ordinance had specifically mentioned the southernmost end of Lake Michigan. In the minds of the Ohio delegates, that meant that Ohio would have more land accorded it. ...