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Chapter 8 Victory and Defeat
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Red Rebels as Red Devils: Allies to Enemies

As the Civil War increasingly demanded the attention and resources of the Colorado Territory, unruly Native American groups came to be identified more closely with the enemy, the Confederacy. Unlike the fur traders who had come before, the newest inhabitants of the territory engaged in no constructive exchange with the Native Americans. On the contrary, given the well-publicized skirmishes between whites and Native Americans, most newcomers regarded any contact at all as something to be avoided. For their part, the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and other Plains tribes understood what the mounting traffic on trails, the telegraph lines, and the construction of railroads meant to them. It meant that the buffalo would be killed or would move away, and that they would no longer be able to use the lands through which these "improvements" were placed.

By 1862, a new Indian agent for the Cheyenne and Arapaho, S. G. Colley, had discovered that, no matter what the older, less aggressive and warlike chiefs had agreed to in last year's treaty, these groups were finding it difficult to adopt a radically different way of life. As Berthrong paraphrased Colley: "A few mixed-blood Cheyennes could farm, but full bloods could or would not engage in a way of life whose duties, by tradition, devolved upon women. Hoe corn, cultivate gardens—no self-respecting warrior could stand the derision of his comrades even for presents of the agent's approbation."[31]

The newcomers to Colorado Territory, the Anglos, felt themselves to be in a perilous situation. Threatened by restless and increasingly hostile Indians, they could expect little protection as all available military forces were occupied in staving off the threat to the territory from the Confederacy. It seemed a good idea to be conciliatory to the Indians under these circumstances, as the new agent Colley recommended. Colley organized delegations from the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa, and


Caddoe to be sent to Washington in the spring of 1863. There they met with President Abraham Lincoln. This trip was probably intended not only to strengthen friendship between the Native Americans and the Americans but also to demonstrate to the Indian leadership just how many of these white men there were, and how vast and powerful their civilization was.

Such gestures were no more effective in arresting the increasing level of violence than were the peace medals that were occasionally presented to tribal leaders. This was not the meaningful day-to-day interaction of the fur trade. Only some more elderly individuals were influenced by tokens of friendship and could see the inevitability, of the new ways of life brought to their land by the whites.

Such elders, though they were leaders, could no longer prevent aggressive acts by young warriors. Native American leadership was based, for the most part, on consensus, and consensus beyond the band and clan level was difficult even in relatively tranquil times, and these times were turbulent. Furthermore, a way of life had developed that valued an extreme form of individualism. Each man acted as his own agent and had as his goal the accumulation of glory, largely through counting coup. Bands in disagreement with the leadership of larger groups often followed a course of action set by themselves.

On the American side, there were also obstacles to peace. There was little control over the daily actions of the rough miners who now flooded the territory. The greatest of all obstacles, though, was the political leadership of the new territories, which was ambitious for statehood and personal influence. This leadership saw the Native Americans as an impediment to the establishment of a more settled way of life and as an ally to the Confederate invaders. However sincere the desire for peace on the part of federal leaders like Lincoln, in the climate of the Civil War local leadership held sway. Washington had to tread carefully; it could not be seen as interfering with local affairs. The Indian issue could not threaten the cohesion of the Union. And at the local level, by 1863, the political leadership and their agents in the militia spoke occasionally about the inevitability of extermination.

Friction between Native Americans and Anglos in the new territory, of Colorado took many forms. A special Indian agent, H. T. Ketcham, was appalled at much of what he observed in the spring of 1864. He saw, for example, an Anglo man hit an Indian in the face with an empty whiskey bottle because the Indian had been watching "wistfully and longingly" as he drank. In a letter to Governor Evans, Ketcham said:


While citizens and soldiers are permitted to enter their villages with whiskey in day time & at night; to make the men drunk & cohabit with the squaws, disseminating venerial [sic ] diseases among them; while the Commanding Officer at the Post [Fort Larned] continues to get drunk every, day & insult and abuse the leading men of the Tribes, & make prostitutes of their women; you cannot expect to have any permanent peace with these Indians.[32]

Such treatment of the Native Americans was common, increasingly so as tension mounted. Some Native Americans responded to this treatment with violence. At times this violence was strategic, as when telegraph poles were chopped down and burned or when railroad track was torn up. These strikes at the modern infrastructure reinforced the idea that the Indians were acting as Confederate agents. (Further proof for this was seen in that the "Six Civilized Tribes" of the Southeast had actually signed a treaty, with the Confederates.)

The beginning of the final and most intense phase of conflict between the Anglos and the Indians on the southwestern Plains could probably be set in 1864. Attempts to drive Anglos from the territory now amounted to terrorism; responses to this by the Anglos took the form of atrocities. The struggle became a ritualistic denial of human status to the enemy.

The incident that most greatly damaged the Native American cause was called the Hungate Affair. According to a story that became legend in the Colorado Territory, Nathan Ward Hungate was working several miles from his home with a hired hand named Miller on June 11, 1864, when he observed smoke and flames rising from his house. Fearing Indians, Miller rode to Denver for help, but Hungate could not be restrained from rushing to the immediate aid of his family. When help finally arrived, they found the Hungate place devastated, all the buildings burnt to the ground and the stock gone. The bodies of Hungate's wife and two young daughters were found first. Hungate's wife had been stabbed and scalped, and "the body bore evidence of having been violated." The daughters, one four years old, the other an infant, had their throats cut, "their heads being nearly severed from their bodies." Hungate himself was found the next day. His corpse was "horribly mutilated and the scalp was torn off."[33]

The bodies were taken to Denver, to the center of town where the City Hall would eventually be built. Put on display in the back of a wagon, with the children arranged between the two parents, "everybody" saw the remains. In this way, the nightmare of even, settler in this troubled place and time was given palpable form. Fear and anger heightened to panic. In a politically popular move, Governor John Evans went directly to the secretary of war, saying in a letter, that "Indian hostilities in our settle-


ments commenced, as per information given you last fall" and demanding the provision of troops or the authority to enlist them.[34]

A few days later, the rumor of an impending Indian attack swept through Denver. Women and children were rushed to secure locations, where they stayed through the night and into the next day. As a witness remarked, "Few houses in the city had been locked that night and many were left with doors and windows open and lamps burned within. But so general was the belief in a fast approaching death, or a still worse fate, that no thieving was done."[35]

In this time of uncertainty and real danger, when concerted effort among a group of new arrivals from diverse backgrounds was essential, the Anglo citizens of the new territory were able to achieve solidarity against what was now regarded as a demonic force from outside the universe of humans. The earlier Anglo arrivals, most notably William Bent and Kit Carson, did what they could to stem the rising tide of hysteria and counsel their friends, the Cheyenne and Arapaho, to avoid what could only be a losing war against the Anglo invaders.

William Bent had probably seen the hysteria coming as early as 1853 when he sent his children by his Cheyenne wife, Owl Woman, to Westport, Missouri, to live with his old compatriot, Albert Boone, and be educated there. Certainly he could see the racism emerging from the friction between the newly arriving miners and settlers on one side and the Native Americans on the other. In contrast to this, the attitude of Bent's contemporaries, the trappers and traders, resembled pluralistic egalitarianism.

The tide of history, however, did not allow Bent to isolate his children from the emerging civil struggle. Western Missouri was full of Confederate sympathizers. William's son George, being of the appropriate age, soon enlisted in the Confederate State Guard, in the cavalry, and fought to keep the Union out of the western part of the state. His brother Charles, though too young to do so legally, also enlisted in the Confederate forces but was released when his age was discovered. When the Union succeeded in taking western Missouri, federal soldiers searched out those with Confederate leanings. Among those suspect were Bent's other children, including his daughter, Mary, who had married an Anglo businessman and was by now quite entrenched in Anglo society. Nonetheless, the home of Mary and her husband was twice attacked, federal looters destroying or taking all property that could be moved. Having no other refuge, Mary, her husband, and children went to live with her mother's people, the Cheyenne.[36] George, Julia, and Charles, too, eventually found that they had no other place to go than back to the Cheyenne. George was cap-


tured during the Confederate retreat from Corinth, Mississippi. His father's influence kept him out of a prisoner of war camp, but George was forced to promise that he would take no further part in the war.

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