Sand Creek Massacre – November 29, 1864
At the same time Evans was declaring war against Native Americans and organizing local militias to carry it out, Colonel John Chivington, commander of the Colorado Military District declared martial law, which usurped Evans’ vigilante forces into an organized militia. Chivington then turned that militia against the Native Americans of the plains. The results were disastrous.
The militia found hundreds of peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho camped at Big Sandy Creek. The Native Americans had moved to the Big Sandy after reporting to Ft. Lyons—as ordered by Governor Evans’ first proclamation—and being ordered by the military commander there to do so. Upon seeing the army amassing above their camp, Cheyenne leader Mo’ohtavetoo’o (Black Kettle) raised an American flag and a white flag to signal their peaceful intentions. Despite this, Chivington directed the force to attack.
Hundreds of Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women, and children were mutilated and killed. One soldier later recounted the scene before Congress: “I saw the bodies of those lying there cut all to pieces, worse mutilated than any I ever saw before; the women cut all to pieces…[cut] with knives; scalped; their brains knocked out; children two or three months old; all ages lying there, from sucking infants up to warriors…[mutilated] by the United States troops.” Many similar accounts exist, each portraying the most vicious and inhumane treatment imaginable
The event was soon recognized as a brutal massacre. Two Congressional committees and one military committee investigated the event, recognizing guilt on the part of the United States. The Joint Committee on the Conduct of War wrote of Colonel Chivington that they could “hardly find fitting terms to describe his conduct.” “Chivington,” the committee wrote, “deliberately planned and executed a foul and dastardly massacre…to gratify the worst passions that ever cursed the heart of man.”
Evans testified before the committees and proclaimed his innocence. Nonetheless, he was accused of creating the conditions upon which the Sand Creek Massacre took place and of covering up his involvement in the attack. The Joint Committee on the Conduct of War said, in its final report, that “no effort seems to have been made by the authorities there to prevent these hostilities, other than by the commission of even worse acts. The hatred of the whites to the Indians would seem to have been inflamed and excited to the utmost.” It was John Evans who created these conditions.
The Chairman of the Joint Commission demanded that Governor Evans be removed from office. In 1865, Governor Evans was forced to resign in disgrace.