On the morning of April 14, 1867, chiefs and warriors of the Cheyenne and Sioux village on Pawnee Fork, located 32 miles upstream from Fort Larned, Kansas left the village to challenge the approaching military expedition of General Winfield S. Hancock. The expedition included Lieutenant Colonel George A Custer and eleven troops of the 7th Cavalry, seven companies of the 37th Infantry, and a battery of artillery; a total of 1,400 men.
The Hancock Expedition had departed Fort Riley and marched to Forts Harker, Zarah, and Larned, to meet with Indian leaders to obtain promises of peace or make war. With the help of Indian Agent Edward W. Wynkoop, Hancock invited Indian leaders to meet him near Fort Larned. The plans were changed by a spring blizzard on April 9.
On April 12, Hancock decided to march his command to the village on Pawnee Fork. Despite objections from Cheyenne and Sioux leaders, who requested that the soldiers not approach their encampment, Hancock led his force in the direction of the village. The Indians prepared for war and charged out to challenge or delay the troops advance. Following an encounter with the soldiers, when the desision to fight or talk was considered by both sides, Hancock agreed to talk. Despite their pleas to keep troops away from the women and children, Hancock brought his troops closer to the village.
Fearing an attack, as had happened at Sand Creek in Colorado Territory on November 29, 1864, the Cheyenne and Sioux fled the village. Hancock ordered Custer to surround the village, prevent the escape of the Indians, and hold them for further negotiations. Custer found the village abandoned, except for an elderly Sioux man, an Indian woman, and a young girl.
Hancock sent Custer and the 7th Cavalry to overtake the Indians, which he failed to do. Hancock and the remainder of his force held the captured village. On April 18, Hancock received word from Custer that Indians had raided stage stations on the Smoky Hill Trail to the north. Assuming they must be Indians from the captured camp, Hancock determined to destroy the village, except for some 40 lodges that were retained. Everything else was inventoried, piled together, and burned. Property destroyed included 251 lodges, 942 buffalo robes, 436 saddles, 191 axes, 190 kettles, 350 tin cups, 98 water kegs, 28 coffee mills, 444 lariat ropes, 67 coffeepots, and thousands of other items. This was an irreparable blow to the Cheyenne and Sioux Indians.
Hancocks destruction of the village increased warfare on the plains, fulfilling his expections. Raiding continued until October, when the Medicine Lodge treaties were signed and the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche, and Plains Apache agreed to remove to reservation in return for additional annuities.
Those treaties failed and warfare renewed on the plains in 1868. Black Kettle's village on the Washita River in present Oklahoma was defeated by Custer's 7th Cavalry on November 27, 1868. Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, led by Tall Bull, were defeated at Summit Springs, Territory, on July 11, 1869. The destruction of the village on Pawnee Fork was an important truning-point in the history of Indian-white on the Great Plains.
The 160-acre tract in Ness County, Kansas holds the remains of the large Cheyenne and Sioux Indian Village. Its destruction by the U.S. Army in April 1867 triggered what is often called "Hancock's War."
The Fort Larned Old Guard, a support group for Fort Larned National Historic Site, is conducting a two-year fundraising program to purchase, protect, interpret, and maintain this important Indian Wars Site. The Old Guard is soliciting your donations, and offer the following premiums:
$100 donation One year membership in Fort Larned Old Guard (renewal if already a member), and a reproduction 3rd Infantry cup.
$200 donation One year membership in Fort Larned Old Guard (renewal if already a member), a reproduction 3rd Infantry cup, and a Michael Jilg etching of Fort Larned.
$250 donation One year membership in Fort Larned Old Guard (renewal if already a member), a reproduction 3rd Infantry cup, and a numbered print of Jerry Thomas' painting of the Indian Village site (numbers will be assigned in the order donations are received).
$500 donation One year membership in Fort Larned Old Guard (renewal if already a member), a reproduction 3rd Infantry cup, and a numbered print of Jerry Thomas' painting of the Indian Village site (numbers will be assigned in the order donations are received), and a certificate suitable for framing stating that the donor contributed sufficient funds for the Old Guard to purchase one acre of the Indian village site. For each additional $500 contributed, the certificate will add one more acre to the acknowledgment.
The address for this project and more information is:
Fort Larned Old Guard
PO Box 354
Larned KS 67550-0354
Santa Fe Trail Research Site
"E-Mail & Home Page"
Larry & Carolyn
St. John, Ks.