Best Preserved Frontier Fort in the West - Fort Larned Old Guard Newsletter

Old Guard Preserves Cheyenne-Sioux Village Site
     In the spring of 1867 it was the home of hundreds of Cheyennes and Sioux---over 250 tipis scattered along a branch of the Pawnee Fork northwest of Fort Larned. Then, in a tragic miscalculation, it became the focal point of "Hancock's War."

     Today, the site of the Indian village destroyed by order of General Winfield S. Hancock on April 19, 1867, is on a quarter-section of land in Ness County, Kansas. The Old Guard is pleased to announce that, thanks to the cooperation of landowners Frank and Leota Klingberg, Fort Larned Old Guard has signed a purchase agreement to acquire this historic location.

     This issue of OUTPOST includes several articles about the village and its historical significance. We encourage you to support this important Fort Larned Old Guard project. It is a wonderful opportunity to join other history-minded individuals in preserving a piece of Plains history.

Historical perspective: Isaac Coates
     As General Hancock and his 1,400-man "show of force" approached the Cheyenne-Sioux village on April 14, 1867, its inhabitants---remembering the vicious 1864 Sand Creek massacre---quickly fled.

     That night Hancock ordered Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and the 7th U.S. Cavalry to surround the village. Custer's surgeon, Isaac Coates, described the scene:

     "No sound could be heard in the village; the city of wigwams was plainly visible in the bright moonlight, but no dog barked and no human voice or footsteps could be heard. . . . Dismounting, we went from lodge to lodge looking for Indians, examining the numerous curio us articles which each contained; it was evident that the majority of the furniture had been carried away; though the quantity and variety that remained will astonish the reader. . . .

     "The Sioux and Cheyenne lodges, numbering about 300, stood close together, and by the moonlight were not distinguishable one from another. Some of the lodges had large pieces cut out of them, evidently to provide shelter for those who had left them behind, and were now houseless.

     "This midnight wandering by moonlight through the grass paved streets and tenantless houses of the nomadic city, was less romantic and classical than wending one's way at the same hour o'er the crumbling walls of the Coliseum, or stumbling among the broken columns of Palmyra, but there was a wild and strange novelty in it that to me was intensely fascinating.

     "We left the Indian village, after securing many curious articles, and returned to camp about midnight; and thus ended Sunday, the 14th of April, 1867-to me the most checkered and eventful Sabbath within the history of my recollection."

Henry M. Stanley
     That same day, newspaper correspondent Henry M. Stanley recorded his impressions of the deserted Cheyenne-Sioux camp:

     "The Indian village consists of about three hundred hide lodges. They show unmistakable traces of the haste of their owners to get away,-dogs half eaten up, untanned buffalo robes, axes, pots, kettles, and pans, beads and gaudy finery, lately killed buffalo, stews already cooked in the kettles, are scattered about promiscuously, strewing the ground. . . .

     "We saw plenty of dog hash and dog heads cooked. The chiefs' wigwams were painted in a gaudy manner. A young white girl has been found who, according to the surgeon, has been outraged by no less than six Indians. She is now in our camp, and is a most pitiable object to look at."

     On April 19, Hancock's order to destroy the "nest of conspirators" was carried out. Three companies of the 37th Infantry gathered the lodges, buffalo robes, and the camp equipment into great piles and set everything ablaze. Dispatch from Stanley:

     "The loss of these articles will be severely felt by the Indian tribes-Cheyennes and Sioux. It will require 3,000 buffaloes to be killed to procure enough hides to make their 'wigwams.' The whole outfit of an entire wigwam costs, on an average, one hundred dollars. Six different stacks were made of the effects taken from the village; everything was promiscuously thrown in, and fire set to them all at the same moment. The dry poles of the wigwams caught fire like tinder, and so many burning hides made the sky black with smoke. Flakes of fire were borne on the breeze to different parts of the prairie, setting the prairie grass on fire. With lightning speed the fire rolled on, and consumed an immense area of grass, while the black smoke slowly sailed skyward. Every green thing, and every dead thing that reared its head above the earth, was consumed, while the buffalo, the antelope, and the wolf fled in dismay from the destructive agent."

Edward W. Wynkoop
     On April 21, Cheyenne agent Edward W. Wynkoop reported Hancock's action to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington:

     "I write hastily as a mail is about leaving to inform you that on the 19th inst. Gen. Hancock burnt the Indian village, three hundred lodges, Sioux and Cheyennes. I know of no overt act that the Cheyennes had committed to cause them to be that punished not even since their flight. I have just arrived with Gen. Hancock's column at this Post [Fort Dodge]. . . .

     "This whole matter is horrible in the extreme and these same Indians of my Agency have actually been forced into war."

In Search of a Village
by George Elmore, FLNHS Ranger
     I have always had an interest in the Indian Wars, and finding the site of the Cheyenne and Sioux village destroyed by General Hancock in 1867 turned from a dream to a reality for me in 1976.

     When the late Earl Monger and I decided to find the village, we researched what information we could put together. We felt it would be best to start our ground search at the closest and farthest possible locations, and then walk the Pawnee River, talking to landowners along the way. The east edge of our search began just north of Burdett; the west edge was north of Jetmore.

     Whenever we had a free day, Earl and I drove out and resumed searching where we had previously left off. In doing this, we discovered many interesting things. One day, a farmer along the route said he had "lots of that old Indian stuff." He took us to a shed where he pulled out a five-gallon bucket full of artifacts-including a human skull. On examination, the artifacts and the site where he found them proved to be much earlier than the 1867 village site. They dated to a Woodland Indian village, probably over 1,000 years old.

     Our search continued through the summer of 1975. Then, while visiting with Leo Oliva, he mentioned a group of records in the National Archives with a map of the Hancock campaign. After getting a copy of the map, Earl and I were able to pinpoint the village-along with every stop and feature along the route taken by the Army. In our search, we had worked east along the river to within a mile of the site from the west. From the east end going west, we had just gotten to the Duncan's Crossing area.

     With the map in hand, we began exploring the village site and discovered it was rich in artifact material. Most of what we collected was through the use of metal detectors. We found iron trade items with the Indians: kettle parts, gun parts, tin cups, and cartridge cases. There were also iron objects altered by Indians for uses such as awls, scrapers, points, and knives. We also excavated non-iron items: stone points, pot shards, rubbing stones, clay pipes, glass, and beads. We noted that material was often in groupings or piles of similar items. There were many burned areas.

     In order to confirm the site, Earl contacted the archeology department of the Kansas State Historical Society. In April 1976 Tom Witty, Tom Barr, and Martin Stein made test excavations at the site to determine if it would justify a full state-sponsored excavation. In July 1977 the state historical society conducted a dig with archeologist Bruce Jones in charge.

     After the dig was concluded, Earl and I decided it was best only to study the site and not remove any more artifacts. This will leave them in place for future archeological investigations. We did, however, excavate an 1880s-era dugout on the village site. Earl then reconstructed it at the Santa Fe Trail Center.

     Up until the time of Earl's death, he and his wife Iris enjoyed going to the village site to spend a weekend or longer. They set up their camper and relaxed and watched wildlife while dreaming of how the village must have looked in 1867. They enjoyed the same peaceful and wonderful camping spot that the Cheyennes and Sioux had discovered long before.

     Today, the site still retains the same beauty and serenity. Through the Old Guard's efforts, we have the opportunity to preserve it for all time.

We Can Make a Difference!
     We all have an excellent opportunity to make a difference by participating in the Fort Larned Old Guard's efforts to preserve and protect the Cheyenne and Sioux village site destroyed by General Hancock's troops in 1867.

     This is a significant historic site that is closely tied to the history of Fort Larned. It is an especially important site for Indians. Events that took place here remain unknown to most Americans. This will change as the Old Guard acquires and interprets this wonderful property. It will make a very interesting historic side trip from Fort Larned.

     When I visit the site I am always impressed by its relatively undisturbed setting and peaceful solitude. Standing on the small mesa, it is very easy to imagine tipis spread along the wooded creek, with the men, women and children of the camp going about their daily activities. One can also almost feel the chaos that must have fallen on the camp as it was hastily abandoned in the face of Hancock's formidable force.

     Places like this, where you can go alone, or take your family, to contemplate historic events without modern intrusions or huge crowds around you, are rare.

     The Old Guard will have my personal support in their efforts. I hope all of you will also join in. This is an opportunity to be involved in an important historic preservation effort at the local level. We can take pride in knowing that we were instrumental in making this dream a reality!
Steve Linderer, Fort Larned Old Guard Member

Our Mission Expands
     The Fort Larned Old Guard has accomplished much in ten years and now assumes an expanded and more complex mission, with added responsibilities and opportunities.

     Thanks to Frank and Leota Klingberg of Carbondale, Illinois, the Old Guard has signed a purchase agreement with them for the quarter-section in Ness County containing the site of the Cheyenne and Sioux village burned by General Winfield S. Hancock in April 1867. This provides Fort Larned Old Guard with objectives to preserve, protect, interpret, and present to the public this important historic location from the period of the Indian Wars and Fort Larned's active participation in Indian-white relations.

     We expect our members to support this expanded mission, including contributions essential to fulfilling the terms of the purchase agreement (final payment due in two years) and proper maintenance of the site. In time, when conditions are right, this site may be attached to Fort Larned National Historic Site.

     The highest priority, in addition to obtaining the site, is to nominate it for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places (already underway) and, if possible, to seek National Historic Landmark status for this significant spot.

     The Hancock Expedition affected the course of Indian-white relations on the Plains, more detrimental than helpful because of the destruction of the Indian village on Pawnee Fork. The expedition touched all Kansas forts at the time: Hancock's headquarters were at Fort Leavenworth, the expedition was organized and outfitted at Fort Riley and traveled to Forts Harker, Zarah, and Larned on the way to meet Indians. After taking possession of the village on Pawnee Fork, George A. Custer led troops to Forts Hays and Wallace and, after burning the village, Hancock visited Forts Dodge, Larned, Hays, and Wallace before returning to Leavenworth via Harker and Riley.

     The key to understanding the expedition, the so-called "Hancock's War" of 1867 that followed, and Custer's later strategy in all encounters with Indians is what happened at the Cheyenne and Sioux village on Pawnee Fork. That story will be told in detail as part of the interpretation of this historic place.

     Special thanks are due to several people who have worked to make this possible. Karl Grover, treasurer of Fort Larned Old Guard, conceived the plan to obtain this site, led the committee that arranged for the purchase, and continues to chair the committee responsible for this project. Wayne Hagerman, recently-retired chairman of Fort Larned Old Guard, supported this plan and serves on the committee. Linda Peters is also an active participant on this committee.

     Others have earned our gratitude. The board of directors unanimously voted to name Frank and Leota Klingberg honorary life members of the Old Guard in appreciation of their willingness to sell the site and interest in seeing that it be preserved for posterity. Jack Hester, professional appraiser, donated the appraisal of the site which became the purchase price. Bill Chalfant, attorney, donated legal services for this project. Artist Jerry Thomas will paint a scene of the village site and prepare limited-edition prints to sell to assist with donations.

     The Old Guard is launching a major fundraising program to purchase, protect, interpret, and maintain the Indian village site. Our goal is to raise $100,000 within two years. Everyone is invited to invest in this endeavor.
Leo E. Oliva, Fort Larned Old Guard Chairman

Military Destruction of a Cheyenne--Sioux Village in 1867: An Historical Perspective
by William E. Unrau, Fort Larned Old Guard Board Member and Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Wichita State University
     On April 19, 1867, under a special military order he had issued just six days earlier, General Winfield S. Hancock burned approximately 110 Cheyenne and 140 Sioux lodges located on the north fork of Pawnee Creek some 32 miles west of Fort Larned. The lodges, according to a contemporary estimate, were worth $ 100 each; destroyed also were 436 saddles, 942 buffalo robes, 270 travois, and lesser items that for the Cheyennes alone amounted to an aggregate loss of $100,000.

     The Indians themselves had fled in advance of the incineration and, excluding a young Indian girl (neither Cheyenne nor Sioux) who had been raped by parties unknown and who died while being taken to Fort Dodge for medical assistance, there were no casualties.

     For the future of traditional Indian occupation, livelihood, and culture on the South Central Plains-excluding, of course, the moral gulf between the killing of women and children and the destruction of lodges and personal property-General Hancock's impulsive and destructive action west of Fort Larned was of the same historical genre as that of colonel John M. Chivington's at Sand Creek in Colorado Territory less than three years earlier.

     Despite verbal assurances that Hancock's only objectives were to showcase the military might of the Indians' "Great Father" in support of transcontinental railroad construction and the Little Arkansas treaties of 1865-treaties that had been arbitrarily amended in the Senate to prohibit permanent Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, or Comanche residence in the Jayhawk state---the Sand Creek massacre was fresh in the minds of the Indians (including a number of Cheyennes who had been at Sand Creek in November 1864), and so they fled-the Cheyennes to the upper Arkansas and the Sioux to the Smoky Hill and beyond. Hancock responded to what he considered blatant duplicity, Indian depredations on the High Plains as reported Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer after Hancock's order to burn the villages, and the rape of the young Indian girl. "After all this," wrote Hancock to General U.S. Grant on May 23, 1867, "1 concluded that this must be war. . . ."

     Hancock's superior, General William T. Sherman, while unsupportive of the "Chivington Process," nevertheless agreed: "He [Hancock] was on the spot and was better qualified to judge than others from a distance. . . ."

     Most correspondents assigned to cover the expedition were sympathetic to the military. Writing for several papers including the Missouri Democrat, Henry M. Stanley insisted that Hancock had "obeyed his orders to the very letter" and that the "fertile bosom" of Kansas was now "open to the emigrant." Harper's New Monthly Magazine applauded Hancock's action, while the New York Times and New York Tribune did not.

     But firing back at such coverage, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver possibly best articulated white settler sentiment on the Kansas frontier: "A few month's experience on the plains might render the eastern writer considerable service, if it resulted in the removing from the crown of his head a small quantity of superfluous hair, thereby rendering his brain more susceptible of ideas."

     Such reporting aside, it should be remembered that for nearly two decades the War Department had chaffed under the Interior Department's administration, through its Office of Indian Affairs, of federal Indian policy as established by Congress. Prior to the creation of the Interior Department in 1849 the War Department had enjoyed such authority and in the post-Civil War era sought mightily to regain that power. Little wonder, then, that commanders such as General Hancock had anything but contempt for anyone who might challenge his authority to deal with the situation west of Fort Larned.

     But this proved to be the case. On April 13, 1867, the same day General Hancock issued the special order to destroy the Cheyenne-Sioux villages, Cheyenne-Arapaho Agent Edward Wynkoop warned Hancock that any movement of troops near the Indian villages was commensurate to offensive action from the Indians' point of view. Said Agent Wynkoop, ". . . the Indians were not aware of General Hancock's antecedents, and had no means of discriminating between him and Colonel Chivington, or distinguishing the man from the monster." Other civilian officials joined in the objections to Hancock's order, including Kiowa-Comanche Agent Jesse H. Leavenworth who earlier had challenged reports of Indian depredations to Hancock by military officials at Fort Dodge.

     Such objections, however, fell on deaf ears. General Hancock did what he arbitrarily determined was in the best interests of white capitalists and homesteaders who would divest the Indians of their homeland on the High Plains of western Kansas, regardless of rational objections of the Indian Office or anyone else who might view the destruction of an entire Indian village as symptomatic of imperial invasion.

     It was Hancock's action that led to Indian resistance and violence around Fort Wallace in 1867 and renewed Indian defiance following the abortive Medicine Lodge treaties with the Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, and Comanches later that same year. Indeed, the wholesale obliteration of a major native settlement on land to which tribal title had not yet been legally relinquished was vivid and frightening evidence that Indian residence in Kansas was a thing of the past and that reservation confinement in a different setting was the only alternative to survival.

     Viewed from both the white invaders' and the Indians' perspectives then, General Hancock's destruction of a Cheyenne. Sioux village west of Fort Larned in the spring of 1867 was an historical watershed of major significance.

Village Inventory
     At right is an inventory of the Cheyenne and Sioux property destroyed by order of Major General W.S. Hancock in April 1867. It appears in microfilm copies of Letters Received, Adjutant General's Office. An almost identical list marked, "A true copy of Original inventory," was signed by E.W. Wynkoop, U.S. Indian Agent, and appears in microfilm copies of his official correspondence.

     Two other inventories are found in other copies of Letters Received, Adjutant General's Office. The item categories are similar to this inventory, but some of the totals differ from those listed here. One inventory includes the comment: "About twenty five (25) lodges were moved by the Indians when they evacuated the village. Four ponies were found loose in the Camp." The other notes, "Six ponies were also found running loose near the village."

     Henry M. Stanley's description of the scene mentions items that were not included in the inventories. On April 14, 1867, he wrote:

     "But in spite of the strict guard kept, the 'boys in blue' are continually carrying away mementoes of their bloodless victory, such as stiff buffalo robes, dog skins, calumets, tomahawks, war clubs, beadwork, moccasins, and we saw one officer of the artillery carrying off a picininny Indian pup which looked very forlorn. Arrows and knives are picked up the by dozen, and also little dolls, which had been the gratification of the papooses. The soldiers rummage and pick up things in the most senseless manner, and after carrying them a few yards throw them away, when they are soon picked up by somebody else, and thrown away again."

     The inventory is important for what it does---and does not---include. On one hand it is a remarkable cross-section of a 19th-century Plains Indian village, listing the tools, cooking utensils, and other objects used by its occupants. At the same time, it demonstrates what desperate people chose to leave behind as they fled with their children, weapons, animals, and personal belongings.

Articles in the Cheyenne Camp - Burned Indian Village Inventory - Articles in the Sioux Camp
132 lodges70 coffee-pots 140 lodges82 hoes
396 buffalo robes50 hoes 420 buffalo robes25 fleshing irons
57 saddles120 fleshing irons 226 saddles40 horn spoons
120 travolses200 par-flesh sacks 150 travolses14 crow bars
78 headmats200 horn spoons 140 headmats54 brass kettles
90 axes42 crowbars 142 axes11 hammers
58 kettles400 sacks feathers 138 kettles5 setts lodge poles
125 fry pans200 tin plates 40 frying pans1 lance
200 tin cups160 brass kettles 190 tin cups4 stewpots
130 wooden bowls40 hammers 146 tin pans9 drawing knives
116 tin pans15 setts lodge-poles
140 whetstones2 spades
44 sacks paint17 stewpans 70 sacks paint8 bridles
57 sacks medicines4 drawing knives 63 water kegs3 pitchforks
63 water kegs10 spades 6 ovens3 teakettles
14 ovens2 bridles 160 rubbing horns280 spoons
117 rubbing horns93 hatchets 7 coffee mills4 pickaxes
42 coffee mills25 teakettles 280 rope larlats1 sword
150 rope larlets250 spoons 140 chains1 extra scabbard
100 chains157 knives 146 parfleshes1 bayonet
264 parfleshes4 pickaxes 50 curry combs1 mail bag
   58 coffee pots(blank) stone mallets

Santa Fe Trail Research Site

Santa Fe Trail Research Site
"E-Mail & Home Page"
Larry & Carolyn
St. John, Ks.
© "Forever"