History: Colorado Territory Civil War Volunteers

The Historical Background Of The Colorado Volunteers During The Civil War Period 1861-1865

 Written By Lily Wright Budd

Edited By Charles O. Counts

To the wealth in its mountains, Colorado attracted white men from the Spanish explorers who came in the 1500s, to the French who in 1682 claimed what is now a part of eastern Colorado, to the Spanish who claimed the region for Spain in 1706. In 1803 the United States bought the present-day eastern and central Colorado as part of the Louisiana Purchase. During the next 20 years trappers came to this beautiful land. Bent’s Fort was established on the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado in 1833. Mexico won from Spain control over western Colorado in 1821 and the United States took control during the Mexican War (1846-1848), the US keeping the land under the terms of the treaty.

Colorado had few settlers (around 7,500) until the late 1850s when gold was discovered in Russellville Gulch in present-day Douglas County and along Cherry Creek near where it joins with the Platte River. The gold rush reached its height in 1859 when it was reported that about 100,000 men had entered the gold fields. The majority of these gold seekers came from the southern states (mainly Georgia) and quickly established both fortunes and governmental authority in the mining towns of the Rocky Mountains.

In the year 1860, the United States was a divided nation. There were 18 free states and 15 slave states. The battle line between the North and the South was 2,000 miles long reaching from the coast of Virginia to the Territory of New Mexico. Present-day Colorado was not only divided between southern sympathizers and those loyal to preserving the union, it was also divided geographically among four territories: Kansas Territory (organized in 1854), New Mexico Territory and Utah Territory (both organized at the same time in 1850) as well as Nebraska Territory (organized in 1854). 


For about a month from the admission of Kansas as a state on 29 January 1861 until the organization of the Colorado Territory on 28 February 1861 and until the appointment of a territorial governor almost a month later, the eastern part of Colorado to the Continental Divide, which included many of the mountain gold camps, was somewhat of a “No Man’s Land.” President James Buchanan signed the law making Colorado a Territory and five days later on 4 March 1861 Abraham Lincoln became President. President Lincoln was immediately besieged with monumental problems and with many recommendations as to who should be appointed to govern the new Territory. Lincoln wanted a pro-Union governor for Colorado Territory and slightly over two weeks after his inauguration on 22 March 1861 sent to the Senate the name of William Gilpin along with the names for appointments to the other territorial offices. Lincoln did not have time to consider the problems of this new Territory as the Confederate forces fired on Ft. Sumter on April 12 and he was very busy issuing a call for troops three days later. Gilpin remained in Washington until late in April and departed for Colorado arriving in St. Louis by May 6 and finally in the new city of Denver at the end of May. He, however, did not take the oath for his office until July 8.

Immediately after confirming Gilpin’s appointment, Congress recessed without making any appropriations for the new Territory. Gilpin received the meager sum of $1,500 for his contingency fund; however Gilpin was an enterprising, resourceful and resolute individual. Gilpin, who in earlier years had traveled extensively in the West and especially knew his new Territory well, immediately set to work learning the “political climate” by traveling to the mining camps. He not only made himself acquainted with the citizenry and impressed upon them his politics, a census was taken which showed about 25,000 people including 4,000 white females and 89 Negroes, a considerable drop from the thousands of gold-seekers a year or two before. The major portion of this population was concentrated in the vicinity of the Clear Creek, Boulder, and South Park mining districts and in the small but growing town of Denver.

Gilpin, recognizing the necessity for a lawful society, quickly established courts of law in the Territory. These courts in turn recognized the importance of the court system which had been set up by the miners to administer the laws in the scores of districts which had been created by the gold seekers. Miners’ and ranchers’ claims protected the older settlers and the citizens quickly accepted their new Governor. By the time the first Territorial Legislature was called by Governor Gilpin on 9 September 1861, the Territorial government was in place.

Gilpin had, as part of his duties, the position of Superintendent of Indian Affairs dealing with the US Indian Bureau which included three agents whose districts were on the Western Slope. When Gilpin arrived, the new Territory had only the two disbanded companies of volunteers to keep peace between the whites and the Indians. Not only was it necessary to keep the peace between whites and Indians but between the many different tribes who inhabited Colorado: the Utahs, the Shoshone, the Snake, the Utes, the Navajos, the Arapahoes, the Cheyennes, the Comanches and the Kiowas.

All of these issues and pressures of office were secondary to Gilpin’s commitment to preventing Colorado’s secession from the Union. He knew the importance of the gold in the Colorado mountains and that the miners were strong supporters of the Southern cause. He was also aware that the Confederacy would try to conquer the territory for its vast mineral deposits as well as its strategic location. The mines would build and equip the Confederate army and a minimum contingency of troops could cut off the wealth of Utah,Nevada, Oregon and California from the Union. Gilpin’s strong belief, as well as his background as a military officer serving in the Seminole and Mexican Wars, would certainly explain his quick decisions in meeting the emergencies which were about to face him.

In the summer of 1861, Gilpin began organizing the military department of the new Territorial government by appointing a military staff with R. E. Whitsitt as Adjutant General, Samuel Moer as Quartermaster, John S. Fillmore as Paymaster and Morton C. Fisher as Purchasing Agent. Fisher was sent out immediately to buy and collect all the arms he could get. This would serve a dual purpose. It would supply arms needed for the troops and it would keep these arms out of the hands of Southern sympathizers. This move was counterbalanced when the Southerners tried to do the same thing. Gilpin’s purpose in raising these companies was the hope that Washington would honor his request to supply the Union with men. When the offer was not forthcoming, Gilpin simply continued the organization of an infantry regiment. In order to meet the expense of this organization and equip the men with necessary items, Governor Gilpin issued drafts directly upon the United States Secretary of the Treasury. This illegal action would later cost him his position as Territorial Governor when he was forced to resign the next year. However, at the moment of necessity the drafts served their purpose and procured some of the equipment. Later these drafts amounting to the amazing sum of $375,000 were often used as money, passing from hand to hand until finally the government in Washington honored payment for some of the script which by that time had become worth considerably less than their face value.


Long before the Confederates fired upon Ft. Sumter on 12 April 1861, citizens of the United States began taking sides. The town of Denver had been founded in 1858 under the leadership of Southerners. In the new Colorado Territory, the Southern sympathizers began congregating at several locations to plan their support of the Confederate troops who they hoped would be coming. One such secluded place was Mace’s Hole near Beulah (west of the present town of Pueblo) where about 600 men had gathered under the leadership of Colonel John Heffiner. Their plans were to take Ft. Garland, capture the artillery there and go to Texas to fight for the Rebel cause. After the authorities became aware of the presence of a Rebel stronghold, newly organized troops began searching the area for their hiding place. When troops from Ft. Lyon began their patrols along the foot of the mountains, the Rebels began to become apprehensive and soon scattered.

In the nation’s capitol some suspected that Southern sympathizers had been very busy preparing for the fight they knew was to come. Not only had former Secretary of War John B. Floyd appointed Southern commanders to military posts in New Mexico Territory, he had at great labor and expense been transferring from the Northern arsenals to the forts in the Southwest all the military supplies they would hold. Not only were the forts filled with supplies and officers sympathetic to the Southern cause. Secretary of War Floyd had transferred to these forts many soldiers of the United States Army who were known to also be in sympathy with the South. It would seem that Floyd was anticipating adding New Mexico to the Confederacy.

On 1 February 1861, Texas had seceded from the Union and began organizing troops for the Southern cause. In March of 1861, the Union troops in New Mexico with headquarters in Santa Fe were under the direction of Col. William W. Loring from North Carolina. In July 1861, Loring resigned his commission and left to join the Confederate forces being formed in Texas. That same month several Confederate companies of artillery and mounted rifles under the command of Lt. Col. John R. Baylor entered New Mexico. In July 1861, Colonel Baylor’s troops left Ft. Bliss, marched along the Rio Grande and took over Ft. Fillmore which had been evacuated by the Federal forces. By August 1, he had taken possession of the lower half of New Mexico “in the name of the Confederate States of America” and was bold enough to include in this proclamation the upper half also. Jefferson Davis, President of the Southern Confederacy, on 14 February 1862 declared New Mexico the Territory of Arizona with Baylor named Military Governor and Commander of the Confederate Army. The way was paved for the advance of the Confederates under their new commander.

Stationed also in New Mexico in the spring of 1861 was an officer in the United States Forces by the name of Major Henry Hopkins Sibley from Louisiana. Major Sibley and some of his officers resigned their commissions on 13 May 1861 and entered into the service of the Confederacy. Most non-commissioned officers and enlisted men who could not resign and follow him remained, but many simply deserted their posts. Sibley was summoned to Montgomery, Alabama, the Capitol of the Confederacy, commissioned a Brigadier General and sent to Texas to raise a Brigade of Cavalry and drive the Federal troops from New Mexico. By December he was in Ft. Bliss with 3,500 men.

Upon the resignation of Col. William W. Loring, Col. Edward R. S. Canby from Kentucky with his 19th United States Infantry assumed Loring’s command. Canby was instructed by Washington to begin to prepare to resist the Texas volunteers. Canby strengthened the garrison at Ft. Craig on the Rio Grande, positioned his troops to protect the government depot at Albuquerque and sent soldiers to the barracks at Santa Fe. Canby selected Ft. Union for the defense of the northern part of New Mexico. In expectation of an attack by Sibley who he thought would enter Northern New Mexico by Pecos or the Canadian River, Canby then began strengthening the defenses of Fort Union which had been constructed while Sibley was Commander before he resigned his commission.

In 1861 Canby also began recruitment of five regiments of volunteers loyal to the Union from men of New Mexico which until that time had only 1,000 militiamen. Among the men recruited by Canby in New Mexico was a well-known American frontiersman by the name of Christopher Carson. Lt. Colonel “Kit” Carson was commander of the First Regiment of New Mexico Volunteer Infantry which would later fight with Canby and his force at the Battle of Valverde on 21 Feb of 1862. By the end of 1861 when no reinforcements were sent from Washington, Canby requested the Governor of the new Colorado Territory for reinforcements and in December of 1861, two companies of Colorado Volunteers set out for New Mexico.

[The story of the Colorado Volunteers in the New Mexico Campaign follows The History and Organization of the Regiments.]

The military history in Colorado Territory began in January of 1860, over a year before the Territorial Act was passed. Anticipating the recognition of the state of Kansas which was taking place in Washington, those anxious to have a vital part in the organization of a new territory “created” without the official sanction of the Federal government, the “Territory of Jefferson.” The “Legislature” of the “First General Assembly of the Territory” met in Denver and passed an “act” to “authorize the formation of military companies.”

Two companies known as the “Jefferson Rangers” and the “Denver Guards” were organized in Auraria (west Denver). The “Rangers” were under the command of Captain H. H. C. Harrison and two weeks after they were organized they met the lawless gang known as the “Bummers” in the “Turkey War” of 1860. The “Bummers” had robbed a rancher of a wagon load of turkeys which led to a war between the citizens and the “Bummers.” The “Bummers” were promptly run out of town.

The “Denver Guards” were a mounted company under the command of Captain W. P. McClure, a Southern sympathizer. McClure was quite a local character as he and  R. E. Whitsitt (later Colorado’s first Adjutant General) had participated in a duel the previous October. It seemed quite evident to the citizens that the “Rangers” should have had the horses and the “Guards” should have been on foot. The two companies disbanded late in the winter of 1860 and 1861 with a large portion of their members later enlisting in the regiments which were about to be organized by Governor Gilpin.

The History and Organization of the First Regiment, Colorado Volunteers

In July of 1861 Samuel H. Cook and George Nelson enlisted 80 men in the gold fields of the South Clear Creek mining district to go to Kansas and serve under General James Lane. When they arrived in Denver in the middle of August, Governor Gilpin persuaded them to remain in Colorado and join what was becoming the First Regiment of the Colorado Volunteers. They were to stay together as a mounted troop designated as Company F and be used as scouts, be well armed and equipped, and see plenty of action. Cook was chosen Captain. Nelson and B. F. Marshall were chosen Lieutenants.

On August 29 Gilpin announced plans for the formation of the First Regiment of volunteers and recruiting offices were opened in the mining camps and in Denver until ten companies had been formed. John P. Slough was appointed Colonel, Samuel F. Tappan was appointed Lt. Colonel and John M. Chivington was appointed Major. Slough was a lawyer in Denver and Chivington was an elder of the Methodist Episcopal Church who had turned down the appointment of Chaplain requesting instead a fighting commission. [The complete list of officers of this Regiment can be found in Appendix B.]

These troops were ordered to Camp Weld located about two miles from the small town of Denver. The buildings at Camp Weld as well as uniforms, arms, supplies and equipment for the troops were all purchased with Gilpin’s Script.

Their first assignment was to intercept a group of Southern sympathizers led by a former Texas Ranger with the name of Captain McKee who along with 40 of his followers were captured. A detachment of the First also took into custody some of the Southerners near Russellville. The prisoners were all placed in the Denver city jail where they became troublesome for both the townspeople and the authorities.

Although the majority of the troops at Camp Weld were of high caliber men, inactivity gave rise to numerous accounts of misbehavior among the ranks. To remedy this, two companies were sent to Ft. Wise 200 miles southeast of Denver in late autumn and Company F, the scouts who had been housed in Denver, filled its place at Camp Weld where Major Chivington was in charge. Company F had been moved to improve the relationships with the townspeople, however, Chivington was to remark that “they only came to camp to get their meals.” From late August to mid-December, members of the First Regiment were mustered into Federal Service for a term of three years. After a rousing Christmas, the news came from New Mexico of the invasion by Sibley’s Texas troops and the call for assistance from Colonel Canby. Since the First were in Federal Service they could not be moved out of Colorado except by direct orders from Acting Governor Weld.

Chivington, a born leader of men who knew that their restless spirit needed a challenge, had twice urged Major General Hunter, the Commander of the Department of War at Ft. Leavenworth, to issue orders to send his regiment to the front. Finally in response to a request made by acting Governor Weld, word was received on 14 February 1862 from Major General Hunter to send all the available forces Colorado could spare to aid Colonel Canby, the commander of the Department of War in New Mexico.

Since late fall 1861, Lt. Colonel Tappan and three companies of the First which included Captain Cook’s Co. F (the scouts) had been stationed at Ft. Wise. On February 22, the main body of the First Colorado Regiment left Camp Weld in intense cold and deep snow for New Mexico.

[The story of this march and the New Mexico Campaign follow The History and Organization of the Regiments.]

After the return of the First Regiment six months later to Ft. Union in August 1862, Colonel Chivington left for Washington where he proposed that this unit be converted to a cavalry regiment and be transferred East. He succeeded in converting it to cavalry but the unit was destined for post duty in northern New Mexico Territory and southern Colorado Territory.

On 1 January 1863 the First Regiment returned to Colorado City (now Colorado Springs) and on the 13th, the entire regiment received a warm welcome from the citizens of Denver. On 1 November 1863, the regiment was redesignated as the First Colorado Cavalry Volunteers. It was then sent to posts and camps throughout the Territory to hold in check the hostile Indians of the plains.

In December 1862 and April 1863, two companies were transferred to the First Colorado Cavalry Volunteers from the Second Colorado (Companies C and D raised as independent companies in the fall of 1861) who had been placed under Colonel Leavenworth in Kansas. Originally organized as cavalry units, they were needed back in Colorado.

The First Colorados now began the difficult and arduous period of protecting the citizens of the Territory from the hostile Indians. The first expedition was along the Overland mail route to Ft. Bridger in Utah Territory (now Wyoming). Companies B, I, L and M under the command of Major Edward Wynkoop left Camp Collins during the early part of July 1863, patrolling southwest of Fort Halleck near the headwaters of the Bear, White and Snake Rivers in the eastern part of Utah Territory (now western Wyoming), and returning late that fall.

Clashes with the Indians occurred at Cedar Canyon, Fremont’s Orchard, and the Atkins’ Ranch in Colorado, with McClain’s Battery at the Smoky Hill Station in Kansas and at Little Larimer in the Dakota Territory. Detachments from Companies A, C, D, E, H, G and K of the First Colorados under Colonel Chivington, then Commander of the District of Colorado, met the Cheyennes at Sand Creek, the “last” of the major Indian battles for the First Colorados. The terms of service for most of the original members of this regiment expired late in 1864 and the muster out of the First Colorado took place by companies during October, November and December 1864 at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and Denver, Colorado Territory.

[The account of the engagement at Sand Creek follows The History and Organization of the Regiments.]

The Denver City Home Guards Colorado Infantry

In the fall and winter of 1861 and while enlistment for the First Regiment was being done by Colonel Slough, Governor Gilpin also enlisted men into two independent companies under Captains Joseph Zeiglmuller and James W. Iddings. These 200 men saw no action and were mustered out by Captain W. H. Bachus in March and April of 1862 after six months of service.

The History and Organization of the Second Regiment, Colorado Volunteers

In anticipation of the approaching need for additional troops, two companies were formed in and around Canon City late in the fall of 1861. These companies were Captain Theodore H. Dodd’s Independent Company, Colorado Volunteers and Captain James H. Ford’s Independent Company, Colorado Volunteers. They were mustered into Federal service at Fort Garland on the 14th and 21st of December 1861. These were the beginning companies of the Second Regiment, Colorado Volunteers.

Dodd’s Company was immediately ordered to go from Ft. Garland to Santa Fe, Territory of New Mexico, and from there to Ft.Craig. Two officers and 82 enlisted men reached there in time to participate in the battle of Valverde near Ft. Craig on 21 February 1862. During this battle, Dodd’s Company was used to reinforce Selden’s battalion assisting Colonel Roberts who was fighting the Confederates north of Ft. Craig on the east bank of the Rio Grande. They also assisted McRae’s battery which was moving to the east bank. Mistaking the Colorado troops for the New Mexico Militia, the Confederates unwisely made their charge into the straight-shooting and accurate fire of Dodd’s men. For unexplained reasons, Canby ordered McRae’s guns forward and withdrew Selden’s support which resulted in the loss of all the Federal guns. When Confederate Colonel Scurry and Major Ochiltree demanded the surrender of Ft. Craig, Canby refused. Deciding not to attempt the capture of Ft. Craig, Sibley bypassed the fort continuing his march northward to Ft.Union. Dodd’s Company remained at Ft. Craig with Canby’s troops.


Ford’s Company was the second group to leave Colorado Territory for the New Mexico Campaign. They left Ft. Garland on 4 February 1862 making a road through deep snow, going by Taos and reaching Santa Fe on March 4 after the Battle of Valverde. They were ordered back to Ft. Union the next day and on the 11th of March they were joined by the first Colorados who had just arrived at the post the day before.

[The story of the New Mexico Campaign follows The History and Organization of the Regiments.]

Following this campaign, both Dodd’s and Ford’s Independent Companies were ordered to Santa Fe and later to Ft. Union and Ft. Garland. They arrived at Ft. Lyon, Colorado Territory, in April 1862 where the new Second Regiment of Colorado Infantry Volunteers was being organized. The order of these companies was then reversed with Ford’s Company (formed second) becoming Company A and Dodd’s Company (formed first) becoming Company B of the Second Colorado Infantry Volunteers. Later Ford became Colonel and Dodd became Lt. Colonel of the Second Colorados.

Six additional companies of volunteer infantry had been raised the previous February by Jesse H. Leavenworth, son of Colonel Henry Leavenworth for whom Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, was named. These eight companies plus two companies of independent “dismounted” cavalry of Captains Backus and Sexton formed the Second Colorado Infantry Volunteers and Jesse H. Leavenworth was named Colonel when the Regiment was mustered in. Colonel Leavenworth began the organization on 12 May 1862 in Denver and the rolls were completed by 13 January 1863. During this time, operating out of Camp Weld, the partly-organized companies were called upon to patrol the settlements on the plains who were being threatened by roaming bands of Indians.

Companies E, F, G and H were assigned to Ft. Lyon arriving on 10 December 1862. Companies A and B arrived late in April 1863 and Companies D and E were transferred (as stated before) to the First Regiment Colorado Cavalry. The recruits which had been enlisted to form the Fourth Regiment were assigned to the Second.

By May of 1863, Dodd had been promoted to Lt. Colonel and with Companies A, B, E, G, H and I was sent to Ft. Scott, Kansas. Their assignment was to escort 400 wagons of a government train to Ft. Gibson in the northeastern part of the Choctaw Nation (now Muskogee,OK). During this expedition, they met a Confederate force holding the ford over rain-swollen Cabin Creek. The Union force attacked the Confederates, killing and wounding several as well as taking prisoners. They reached Ft. Gibson on the 5th of July.

Dodd and his men were immediately placed under the command of Major General James G. Blunt whose 2,500 troops were to meet a Confederate force of 6,000 under General Douglas H. Cooper coming up the north side of the Arkansas River. The two forces met at Honey Springs on Elk Creek on 17 Jul 1863. The Confederates were defeated and during the battle Captain Green’s company of the Second Colorados captured the flag of 29th Texas Volunteers of the Confederate Troops. Major Blunt’s troops returned to Ft. Gibson until they were ordered to meet the Confederate forces of General Steele south of the Canadian River about 60 miles from Ft. Gibson. Steel’s forces fled to Perryville, Choctaw Nation, and on to the Red River with the Federal force in pursuit. The Federals captured Perryville on August 25 and chased the Confederates to within thirty miles of the Red River. In September Blunt’s forces were at Ft. Smith, Arkansas, and in November they were ordered to Benton Barracks, Missouri.

After Dodd’s six companies left Ft. Lyon, Colonel Leavenworth and his officers were ordered to Ft. Leavenworth and then to Ft. Larned, Kansas. Colonel Leavenworth was made commander of the District of the Santa Fe Trail and the Arkansas River Route.

Fort Larned, Kansas

Company F was sent to Council Grove in May and to Kansas City in August where they pursued the guerrilla bands led by Quantrill and Shelby. Lt. Colonel Hayes stationed at Hickman’s Mills, Missouri, commented that with another troop like Captain Rouell’s Colorados, he could drive the guerrillas out of Kansas. Company K remained at Ft. Lyon until they, too, were ordered to Benton Barracks,Missouri, in November of 1863. â€“Image: Fort LarnedKansas-

The History and Organization of the Third Regiment, Colorado Volunteers

Even though the Second Regiment was not completely full, the new Governor of the Colorado Territory, John Evans, was authorized to recruit the Third Regiment Infantry Volunteers. “General” William Larimer of Denver was appointed Colonel. Recruiting was slow because so many men had already joined the Volunteers and the men who were left were not inclined to leave jobs with high wages and join the army. By December 1863, a camp was opened at Old Camp Weld, now renamed Camp Elbert. Larimer disappointed with the recruiting resigned and S. S. Curtis was appointed Colonel of the Third. By February 1863, five companies had been recruited and were mustered in between January 14 and March 3: Company A from Summit County, Company B from Arapahoe and Boulder Counties, Company C from Park and Lake Counties, Company D from Gilpin County, and Company E from Clear Creek County. [The captains and a list of some of the men of these companies are found in Appendix E.]

Due to the lack of equipment and transportation, they did not leave as a unit for Ft. Leavenworth until March 5 after all were mustered in. They arrived there on April 23 after a march of about 700 miles. The left Ft. Leavenworth by steamboat to St. Louis, Missouri, then went by rail to Sulphur Springs, Missouri, arriving on May 2. On May 22 they marched to Pilot Knob, Missouri, where during that summer they built Ft. Davidson. They arrived in Rolla, Missouri, on October 28 where they were garrisoned until early December when they also were ordered to Benton Barracks, Missouri. They arrived there on 10 December 1863 and were consolidated with the Second Colorado Infantry Volunteers to form a regiment of cavalry.

The Consolidation of the Second and Third Regiments, Colorado Volunteers

 A regiment was considered to be either twelve companies of cavalry or ten companies of infantry or a combination of the two. As the Third Regiment of Colorado Volunteers was made up of only five companies (A through E), it was necessary to transfer the men of the Third into the Second.

When the Second and Third Regiments of Colorado Infantry Volunteers were combined into one regiment they were designated as the Second Regiment of Colorado Cavalry Volunteers. The combination was as follows:

Company B of the 2nd CO Infantry became Company A 2nd CO Cavalry

Company A of the 2nd CO Infantry became Company B 2nd CO Cavalry

Company E of the 2nd CO Infantry became Company C 2nd CO Cavalry

Company F of the 2nd CO Infantry became Company D 2nd CO Cavalry

Company G of the 2nd CO Infantry became Company E 2nd CO Cavalry

Company H of the 2nd CO Infantry became Company F 2nd CO Cavalry

Company I of the 2nd CO Infantry became Company G 2nd CO Cavalry

Company A of the 3rd CO Infantry became Company H 2nd CO Cavalry

Company B of the 3rd CO Infantry became Company I 2nd CO Cavalry

Company C of the 3rd CO Infantry became Company K 2nd CO Cavalry

Company D of the 3rd CO Infantry became Company L 2nd CO Cavalry

Company E of the 3rd CO Infantry became Company M 2nd CO Cavalry

When the new Colorado Cavalry Unit arrived in Kansas City in January of 1864, the officers and men of Company K Second Colorado Infantry and Companies F, G and H of Third Colorado Infantry were split up and assigned to the various new companies.

The new Second Regiment of Colorado Cavalry Volunteers under the leadership of Colonel James H. Ford and Lt. Colonel Theodore H. Dodd (the men who began the regiment in Canon City in December of 1861) numbered over 1,100 and were now equal in manpower and quality to the First Colorado Cavalry Volunteers. Their first assignment was in the counties of Jackson, Cass and Bates in Central Missouri where they were to control the guerrilla bands of Todd, Quantrill, Anderson and Vaughan as well as to keep peace among the citizens, a difficult task in as much as it was very often difficult to tell one from another as neither wore uniforms.

Captain Wagoner and some of Company C were attacked on 6 July 1864 by Todd and his band on the Independence-Pleasant Hill road about two miles south of the Little Blue. The Captain and seven of his men were killed. Some troops under Colonel Ford’s command while patrolling Platte, Ray and Clay Counties scattered a rebel force under Colonel Thornton at Campden Point on 13 July 1864. Captain Moses and Company M met Colonel Thornton and 300 of his men near Fredericksburg in Ray County on 17 July 1864. When Moses lost 6 (4 killed, 2 missing) of his men and four were wounded he had to retreat.

It was about this time that Governor Evans was making his request to have the men of the Second Regiment returned to Colorado; however, the border war in Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas was so critical, his request was denied and the regiment remained on duty there.

In September of 1864, Lt. General Sterling Price began an invasion of Missouri with a Confederate force of 18,000 veteran troops. He fought battles at Pilot Knob and Jefferson City against the troops of Brigadier General Thomas Ewing. After the Confederates captured Booneville, Glasgow and Sedalia in October, the Second Regiment Colorado Cavalry who were at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas City, Independence and Pleasant Hill, Missouri, were assigned to the Fourth (Ford’s) Brigade of Blunt’s First Division, Army of the Border, Major General S. R. Curtis, Commander. Ford’s Brigade was assigned to reconnaissance. When Blunt was attacked by the Confederates and forced to withdraw to Independence, Ford’s Brigade consisting of the Second Colorado Cavalry  plus the Sixteenth Kansas Cavalry and McLain’s Colorado Battery (about 900 men and six guns) was sent to reinforce the Union troops on the Little Blue. Outnumbered, the Union troops withdrew to Independence. Among those who died during this battle was Major J. Nelson Smith of the Second Colorado Cavalry. When Blunt withdrew to Hickman’s Mill, the Second Colorado Cavalry was left as an outpost on the roads leading to Independence.


The Confederates attacked the Federal troops at the Big Blue forcing them to the north bank of Brush Creek south of Westport. During this encounter Captain Green’s Company E of the Second Colorado Cavalry were commended for their aid along the main Kansas City road. In the battle of Westport, the forces eventually were able to drive the Confederates southward to the Missouri-Kansas line.

Green’s Company and the company of Captain Kingsbury opened the fight at Trading Post and were involved in the famous charge at Mine Creek in which Generals Marmaduke and Cabell, seven guns and many prisoners were captured. Afterwards the Second Colorado Cavalry joined in the chase of General Price and his Confederates across the Arkansas River and into Texas before returning to Ft. Leavenworth.

The three-year terms of Companies A and B of the Second Regiment Colorado Cavalry expired at Ft. Leavenworth and the men were mustered out on 19 Dec 1864 and 2 January 1865. The remaining companies went to Ft. Riley, Kansas, where during January of 1865 they were used to control the Indian uprisings on the Upper Arkansas. Colonel Ford (the same Captain who formed his company in Colorado in 1861) was promoted to Brevet Brigadier General and sent his troops out to forts in Kansas: Field and Staff to Ft. Riley; Companies C, E, G and K to Ft. Zarah; Companies F, I and L to Ft. Larned; Company H to Ft. Ellsworth.

All the companies spent their time escorting wagon trains and scouting for the ever elusive Indians. Among the events in the muster rolls are accounts of fights at Point of Rocks near Ft. Larned and at Cow Creek.

On 8 September 1865 the units were summoned back to Ft. Leavenworth where they were mustered out on 23 September 1865 after a long and enviable period of service to the Union forces and to the settlers upon the plains of Kansas.

The History and Organization of McLain’s Independent Battery

After the New Mexico Campaign and during the organization of the Second Regiment of the Colorado Volunteers in December 1861, Colonel Jessie H. Leavenworth decided (either without direct approval of his superiors or misconstruing their instructions) to organize an artillery battery eventually known as McLain’s Battery. The unit was led by Captain W. D. McLain, 1st Lt. George S. Eayre and 2nd Lt. H. Baldwin. Because of Leavenworth’s unauthorized actions, he and these officers were dishonorably discharged for violation of the 18th Article of War, dated 26 Sep 1863. These orders were set aside 16 December 1863 due to “special circumstances of the case” (interpreted to mean they needed them) and the battery was officially reorganized. All men were reinstated: however Leavenworth immediately resigned and McLain, Eayre and Baldwin were recommissioned on 12 January 1864.

McLain’s Battery was assigned garrison duty in Colorado until the spring of 1864 when it was ordered to Kansas. On 16 May 1864 at Big Bushes on a fork of the Smoky Hill River, the Battery and its escort of First Colorado Cavalry were attacked by a force of between 400 and 500 Cheyenne Indians. After a seven-hour siege, the Battery and the men of the First Colorados were able to drive them off losing four of the Battery men. This Battery achieved a record of exemplary service in assisting the brave Second Colorados assigned to Blunt’s forces from Lexington in Missouri to Fayetteville in Arkansas during (among others) the Battles of Westport and the Little Blue.

The Battery was armed with five 3-inch rifled guns and one mountain howitzer. There were 116 men assigned to the Battery. Even though McClain’s Battery was in almost every major fight in Missouri and Arkansas, only six of the Battery’s men were killed (some reports say five), four of these at the siege on Smoky Hill. The men of McLain’s Independent Battery were mustered out at Ft.Leavenworth on 31 Aug 1865 under the command of Eayre, who had been made Captain of the unit.

The New Mexico Campaign

The strength, courage and endurance of the Colorado Volunteers would begin with Dodd’s Independent Company of 84 men (mustered in 14 December 1861) which was the first unit to leave for the New Mexico campaign after the Colorado Territory learned of Sibley’s invasion. [See account of Dodd’s Company’s participation in The New Mexico Campaign under “The History and Organization of the Second Regiment, Colorado Volunteers.”]

The next unit to leave was Ford’s Independent Company (later also a company of the Second Colorados) which left Colorado on 4 February 1862 going west to the Sangre de Cristo mountains by Taos and arriving in Santa Fe four weeks later. Leaving there on March 5, Ford’s Company marched to Ft. Union where they then joined the First Regiment Colorado Volunteers which by that time had arrived at the fort.

The First Regiment, less the detachment of three companies under Lt. Colonel Tappan stationed at Ft. Wise (later Ft. Lyon), left Denver on 22 February 1862, the day after the battle of Valverde. Colonel Tappan’s three companies left Ft. Wise nine days later on March 3.

After leaving Camp Weld, the main body spend the first night at Camp Chivington only six miles from Denver. By the evening of the 27th, they had reached Colorado City (now Colorado Springs). Moving down the Fontaine-qui-bouille (Fountain Creek) to the Arkansas, they crossed the River and camped in a grove of cottonwood trees at a site which later became South Pueblo.


When troops from Camp Weld arrived on the Arkansas and those from Ft. Wise arrived at old Ft. Bent, they learned of Canby’s loss of men and artillery at Valverde and that Sibley was moving northward toward Ft. Union. After reaching old Ft. Bent, Tappan ordered his men to lighten their loads. Taking only two shirts and two blankets they set out for the Purgatoire, seventy-five miles away. The units which had spent several nights in rain and snow on the Arkansas immediately lightened their loads also leaving behind any unnecessary equipment and marched southward through deep snow making about 40 miles a day. The two columns joined together at Gray’s Ranch on the headwaters of the Purgatoire River near the present city of Trinidad. The Regiment was now 10 full companies. After a night of R&R (Rest and Recuperation or Riots and Revelry) in Trinidad, they followed the Santa Fe Trail between Simpson’s Rest and Fisher’s Peak over the Raton Mountains.

On the night of March 8 as the men were making camp on the south side of the Raton Mountains, a messenger arrived from Colonel Gabriel R. Paul of the Fourth Regiment of New Mexico Volunteers and Commander at Ft. Union, with the news that Sibley had captured Albuquerque and Santa Fe and was enlisting volunteers to attack Ft. Union held by only about 800 troops. Colonel Slough went immediately by coach to Ft. Union leaving Major Chivington in command and ordering the men to hurry to Ft. Union. The Volunteers again lightened their load and carrying only their arms and blankets marched 30 miles to Maxwell’s Ranch on the Cimarron River where they were forced by exhaustion to stop. They had marched 92 miles in 36 hours and many of the animals had died from overwork. Most of the men were not in cavalry units and had made the march on foot.

The next day (the 9th) as the march resumed, they struggled forward in a blinding snow and wind storm. The next evening (the 10th) they arrived at Ft. Union where 800 troops as well as the governor of New Mexico Territory, whose capitol had been taken over by the Confederates forcing the government to move to Las Vegas, gave them a warm welcome.

On the 14th an express arrived from Canby telling them that Sibley and his forces were in Santa Fe with 1,500 to 3,500 men. That same day, the wagons brought from Colorado were sent back with Captain Pollock, Quartermaster of the Volunteers, to Camp Weld. During the next twelve days, the Colorado Volunteers were drilled and received clothing, equipment, arms and ammunition from the government stores at the post. [This would explain the absence of clothing issues to men of Co. H in Volume 12 of the following Extracted Records during this period of time.]

Because of his seniority (his commission dated 26 August 1861 and Paul’s dated 9 December 1861) Colonel Slough upon his arrival took command of Ft. Union. Canby had sent orders to Colonel Paul, the Commander at Ft. Union, that he was not to move from Ft.Union until he was advised to do so by Canby. Colonel Slough interpreted differently the orders given to Colonel Paul and, believing that his troops would be sufficient for an encounter, decided to take a force of 1,342 men (made up of the First Regiment Colorado Volunteers; Ford’s Independent Company; the 5th US Infantry; detachments from Companies D and G 1st US Cavalry; Companies C, E and K 3rd US Cavalry; 2 batteries of four guns each; and one company of the 4th New Mexico Volunteers) to meet the Confederates rather than waiting to be attacked at the fort. Captain George H. Howland’s detachment of the 1st and 3rd US Cavalry with 160 men were serving as scouts in front of this main body. Colonel Paul and a small detachment were left to guard Ft. Union. [Colonel Paul was destined to fight later at Gettysburg.]

This small army arrived in Bernal Springs on March 25. Major Chivington with 418 officers and men of Companies A, D, E and F of the First Colorado Infantry Volunteers and a detachment of regular cavalry were ordered to make a reconnaissance. [Perhaps looking to the future when he would have to explain leaving Colonel Paul behind with only a small force, Slough named this camp, “Camp Paul”.] The troops made camp on March 25-26 at Kozlowski’s ranch on the Pecos River at the eastern end of Glorieta Pass. That night Lt. Nelson and some of Company F (the scouts) surprised a detachment of Confederates including two officers while they were playing a game of poker. The Texans were captured without firing a shot and from them Captain Nelson learned that Scurry’s force was coming the next day through the western end of the Pass on their way to Ft. Union. While passing over the summit of the Glorieta Pass on the morning of the 26th, Chivington with a reconnaissance detachment met with a main body of Scurry’s Confederates.

[This began the battles of Apache Canyon and Pigeon’s Ranch fought in this small place in the New Mexico Territory which gave to this area the name “The Gettysburg of the West” not because of the great number of troops of both Union and Confederate forces involved, but because of the outcome of these battles. At this place, Scurry’s advance of Sibley’s Confederate force was halted and their hoped-for conquest of the mineral-rich mountains of New Mexico and Colorado was stopped. The names of the places in this area have long histories which began with the Apaches who gave their name to this route through the mountains while on their raiding parties and skirmishes with the expeditions of Texans coming from the Republic in 1841. Here a part of the 4,000 native troops under General Manuel Armijo had planned to intercept and annihilate General Stephen W. Kearney and his United States force who were on their way to take possession of the Territory in 1846. Colonel A. W. Doniphan led his command through this pass on his expedition to capture Chihuahua in 1847. The name Glorieta was given by the Spanish settlers because of the beautiful cottonwood and pine trees. Pigeon’s Ranch was so called because the homesteader who lived there had received the nickname for the “unusual” way in which he danced! Near here were the ruins of the Pueblo Indians called Pecos Pueblo which gave their name to the River. The tree covered mesas around this area are often over 2,000 feet above their base.]

Upon meeting Chivington’s force, the Confederates reacted by firing with their artillery upon the close formation of the Union troops. Chivington immediately took command of the situation and sent to the rear Captain Howland’s 3rd US Cavalry and Cook’s mounted company of the First Colorados. Wynkoop’s Co. A and Anthony’s Co. E were sent up on a hill above the Rebel artillery fire. Downing’s Co. D went up the mountain on the right. The balance of the troops took cover on a ridge. The fire from these three positions forced the Confederates into the narrow part of Apache Canyon three-quarters of a mile away. Downing’s Co. D climbed above the Rebels forcing them to fall back even farther after charges were made by Cook’s Co. F. The Confederates retreated to the western end of Apache Canyon. As night fell, Chivington called a halt to the battle at Apache Canyon where 32 Confederates had been killed, 43 wounded and 71 taken prisoner. Chivington had lost five and 14 were wounded.

Leaving a guard in Apache Canyon, Chivington returned to Pigeon’s Ranch where he was joined by 300 of the infantry and cavalry troops. That night the command took care of the wounded and buried the dead. Chivington then sent word to Colonel Slough to send reinforcements as soon as possible. On the 27th when the water supply at Pigeon’s Ranch ran low, Chivington took his troops to Kozlowski’s Ranch where Colonel Slough and the main body of troops joined him.

The Confederate force which had been driven from Apache Canyon had sent word to Lt. Colonel Scurry at Galisteo who with the main body marched to the Confederate camp at Johnson’s Ranch at the western end of the canyon. On the morning of the 28th, Scurry left the supply train at Johnson’s Ranch and with portions of three Texas regiments, one independent company and a battery of three guns (a force of about 1,000 men) moved eastward over the 7,587 foot Glorieta Pass. The Confederates, who were the main portion of Sibley’s brigade, were seasoned veterans ready to make quick work of taking Ft. Union and all its supplies. 


That same morning Colonel Chivington and a detachment of 430 officers (Companies A, B, E and H First Colorado Infantry, Ford’s Independent Company and Companies A and G 5th US Infantry) left the main body of troops about two miles west of Kozlowski’s Ranch. With Lt. Colonel Manuel Chavez of the New Mexico Volunteers as their guide and following the Galisteo trail through San Cristobal Canyon for about 8 miles west into the mountains, they reached the southern rim of Apache Canyon overlooking Johnson’s Ranch and the Confederate supply train of 80 loaded wagons, 500 horses and mules, and a guard of about 75 men. Chivington and his men lowered themselves down the side of the canyon on ropes, charged into the camp and destroyed the entire wagon train with its load of ammunition, equipment, clothing and food. The horses and mules were slaughtered and the guards that had not escaped or been killed were captured.

Slough’s force had been reduced by men he had sent on scouting expeditions, men left guarding the prisoners, men who had died or were wounded, and Chivington’s detachment which he had sent to attack the Confederates from the rear. Slough’s remaining small force of about 850 troops, meanwhile, had reached Pigeon’s Ranch. Captain Chapin of the 7th US Infantry with a group of cavalry was to scout towards the summit of Glorieta Pass. Chapin had only gone about 300 yards when he met the full force of the Confederates entrenched across the line of engagement: one on a ridge to the south, one in the valley supported by artillery, the third on the north side of the Santa Fe trail. The Confederates opened fire scattering the Union troops. Regrouping, Slough sent Downing’s Co. D to the north; Company I to the northwest; the artillery, the cavalry and Company K back towards Pigeon’s Ranch.

The Unions troops were outnumbered (although the Confederates didn’t know this) and the battle from the first shot was a defensive fight for Slough’s men. Captain Downing’s men were almost defeated until reinforced by Wilder’s Co. G. Kerber lost many men of Company I when they were surprised by Confederates hidden in an arroyo. The Confederates were within forty yards of Slough’s batteries in their determination to capture the Union artillery as they had taken Canby’s at Valverde when Claflin, the Union battery Captain, shouted, “Cease fire!” Captain Robbin’s Co. K First Colorado then “rose from the ground like ghosts” charging with rifles and pistols blazing to put the Rebels on the run.

For seven hours, the sounds of battle echoed through the mountains. Captain Cook’s scouts (Co. F) had dismounted and fought as infantry. Captain Howland and his Cavalry were held in reserve at the rear of the fight. The Unions forces refused to give ground and fought fiercely without rest. About 5 o’clock, Colonel Slough decided to stop the battle and return to Kozlowski’s Ranch. Scurry and his battle-worn Confederates were too tired to pursue. He had also just learned that the supply train which he had left at Johnson’s Ranch had been destroyed by Chivington’s men. Realizing that victory was out of his reach, Scurry sent a flag of truce to Colonel Slough so that he could bury his dead and take care of his wounded.

Lt. Cobb, an aide on Colonel Slough’s staff, had been sent to tell Chivington about Slough and his troops returning to Kozlowski’s Ranch. He met Chivington and his men who had climbed back up the wall of Apache Canyon in the dark. Guided by a French priest who knew a shorter but more difficult route over a mountain trail, Chivington’s troops made the return march to rejoin the main body about midnight.

Using the period of truce, Scurry retreated to Santa Fe. The Union forces took care of the wounded and dead on both sides. Lt. John Baker of the Colorado Volunteers had been killed and two officers had been wounded. In all, the best estimate was thirty-eight men killed and sixty-four wounded plus twenty captured by the Confederates. Thirty-six of the Confederates had been killed and sixty were wounded. Twenty-five prisoners were taken by the Union forces. [Those who died during this campaign are listed on the Civil War Statue at the Colorado State Capitol Building I Denver and are given on page ix.]

The two engagements at Apache Canyon and at Pigeon’s Ranch known as The Battle of La Glorieta were the beginning of the battle-field training of the First Regiment of the Colorado Volunteers which would take them to the defense of Colorado Territory.

Although he wanted to pursue Scurry’s Confederates, Colonel Slough had been ordered back to Ft. Union and would not disobey the order which he had received directly from Canby. [Slough had sent a preliminary report to Canby of the success at La Glorieta.] Slough was certain that if he could have pursued the Confederates without delay, he would have been able to either capture the entire unit or at least scatter them across New Mexico.

After Slough and his forces moved back to Bernal Springs on March 31 and perhaps expecting from Canby, who was to arrive fromFt. Craig, a severe reprimand (if not a court martial) for not staying to protect Ft. Union, Slough resigned his commission. Although he was victorious at the Battle of Pigeon’s Ranch, Slough was not a popular commander with all his troops and had received previous threats against his life on the march to New Mexico from Camp Weld. One such threat had led him to part from the main column while they were camped near the Raton Mountains and to make the last part of the journey by coach to Ft. Union. Hollister in writing about the First Regiment indicates Slough’s resignation as being a “cowardly” act; but letters between Slough and a former staff officer state the fact that Slough had received threats from some of his own men. President Lincoln was later to recognize his military leadership and appointed Slough a Brigadier General in August of 1862 when he became commander of the Military District of Alexandria, Virginia.

Major Chivington was promoted to Colonel and Commander of the First Regiment on 3 April 1862. Chivington who stood well over 6-feet tall and weighed about 260 pounds was described by the Rebels who faced him as “The Red-Haired Devil” who was not touched by all the ammunition they could throw at him. On his big grey mount, he was a formidable sight. It was no wonder that he was the choice of all the men of the Regiment including Lt. Col. Tappan. The First Regiment and its new commander left on the 5th to join Colonel Canby’s force who were now chasing the Confederates down the Rio Grande. They met at Carnuel Pass on the 13th and the entire force continued following the Rebels who had evacuated Santa Fe and were on their way back to Texas.

On the 15thCanby’s force overtook the Confederates at Peralta where they were engaged in a skirmish which resulted in the capture of an entire Rebel detachment  with its baggage and one field gun. That night, Sibley and his command crossed the Rio Grande and fled down the west side of the river. For several days the two forces moved southward along the Rio Grande, the Confederate troops on the west bank and Union troops on the east bank where they were attempting to get ahead of the Confederates and cross the river to cut them off. After several nights of exchanging fire across the river, the Confederates on the night of the 17th under the cover of a sand storm burned their wagons except for two ambulances, packed their meager supplies and using their mules for pack animals took to the mountains and escaped.

Canby and his troops crossed the river the next day and continued their march to Ft. Craig arriving there on April 22. Chivington then took leave and went to Washington to have his force converted to cavalry to be transferred East. The First Colorado Infantry Volunteers remained at Ft. Craig until July when they were ordered back to Ft. Union and eventually to return to Colorado Territory for the defense of the settlers from the Indians.

Trouble with the Indians, The Defense of the Frontier

 The Indians of the Colorado plains spoke three languages: Algonquian, Siouan and Shoshonean. The Arapahoes who were the most numerous and the Cheyenne their nearest relatives spoke Algonquian. The plains tribes were bitter enemies of the Shoshonean Utes who resided west of the continental divide. South and east of the Arapahoes were the Kiowas and beyond the Kiowas were the fierce Comanches. The tribes lived alone with their specialty and main interest concentrated on making war. They were extremely mobile being able to cover great distances quickly even with women and children. They were a problem for the settlers on the plains.

In 1858 the site of the present-day Denver was the domain of the Arapahoes. Left Hand, head chief of the Arapahoe and dominant chief of the entire region, lived on Boulder Creek in the area near present-day Niwot and an area which today is known as Left Hand Canyon. The Arapahoe and their cousins the Cheyenne were traders on the site where Cherry Creek flows into the Platte River near what is now downtown Denver. They bartered with the Sioux and Gros Ventre Blackfeet, a cousin of the Arapahoe. The Cheyenne were splendid horsemen and brave warriors, the Arapahoe lacking their stature and prowess.

The troubles with the Indians began in earnest in the summer of 1862 after the massacre at New Ulm in Minnesota which caused the Minnesota Governor to offer a bounty for scalps. This chased the Indians to the Dakota plains. Little Crow, Chief of the Sioux, began enlisting the plains tribes to war against the whites believing that if the Indians were united, they could drive the settlers from their lands while the white were fighting each other. The Sioux, Arapahoes and Cheyennes became more daring and confident warning the white settlers to leave.


Although a treaty had been made at Ft. Wise, Colorado Territory, in February of 1861 with the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Chiefs, the warriors of the two tribes wanted no railroads built through their lands and threatened to kill their chiefs if the treaty was enforced. With the building of the Kansas Pacific Railroad, the hostilities escalated when the Cheyennes began committing minor offenses in the summer and fall of 1861. No punishment was forthcoming and they grew bolder in their raids upon the white settlers during the following year.

The brewing troubles with the Indians convinced Governor John Evans to try to make peace. He arranged to have the Cheyenne and the Arapahoe come to a treaty council at Big Timbers on the Arikaree Branch of the Republican River in September of 1863. With winter approaching, the Indians sent word that they would be there. Governor Evans set out with gifts (including one dozen silver mounted rifles) under the escort of a unit of the First Colorado Cavalry. No Indians appeared at the council site and Governor Evans returned to Denver.

He was more successful at a council on the Conejos River in the San Luis Valley where he met with Ouray, the son of a Ute father and Jicarilla Apache mother and the dominant Chief of the Utes. The Ute treaty signed 7 October 1863 brought the Utes onto reservations. Although there were instances of Utes straying outside their boundaries and much later the Meeker Massacre by Northern Utes brought about by the incompetency of the Indian Agent by that name, the treaty brought peace between the whites and the Utes. A word from Ouray was usually sufficient to restore order among the different Ute tribes.

After Evans’ return from the Conejos, thefts of stock and attacks upon wagon trains and freighters became more frequent. In November of 1863, Evans secretly learned of a Big Medicine Dance being held 50 miles below Ft. Lyon with the Arapahoes, the Cheyennesand the Kiowas joining together. About the same time Evans completed a council with Roman Nose, Chief of the North Band of Cheyennes, who claimed friendship with the whites while demanding a reservation on the Cache la Poudre. This “friend” later led the attack against Brevet Colonel George A. Forsyth and his party of US scouts at Beecher’s Island on the Arikaree, one of the bloodiest Indian battles of the plains.

Evans sent word to Secretary of War Stanton that no more troops be withdrawn from Colorado to fight in the Union army. Evans then traveled to Washington where Lincoln told him to “handle things as to your best judgment during this terrible war and I will handle things here.”

In the spring of 1864 there were renewed outbreaks of Indian attacks. The summer brought interruption of freight service from Missouri where Denver was dependent upon food supplies from the east. Supply trains were pillaged at Beaver Creek and Cedar Canon. Two immigrants were killed near Fort Lyon. In June the murder of the Hungate family occurred on Running Creek. Their bodies were brought to Denver where they were viewed with horror by the citizens. That same month Evans called for the peaceable Indians to come into camps so that they would not be mistaken for hostile bands and attacked by soldiers. Such a camp was established by the Indians at Sand Creek and was believed to be used as a point of operation for raids by Cheyenne and Arapahoe warriors.

Winter was coming and war upon the white settlers would be made more difficult by the snow and cold. Too, the tribes had gathered a lot of plunder from the whites and now it was time to make peace. This prompted Black Kettle and his warriors to meet with Governor Evans and Colonel Chivington at Camp Weld on September 28 with White Antelope (Chief of the Central Cheyenne), Bull Bear (Chief of the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers) plus Neva, Heap of Buffalo and Na-ta-nee (all relatives of Left Hand and sub-chiefs of the Arapahoe) who admitted the attacks upon the whites by warriors whom they insisted they could not control. Chivington told them he was not a big war chief but that all the troops in this country (Colorado) were under his command. His rule of fighting white men or Indians was to fight until they lay down their arms and submitted to military authority. When they decided to do this, they could go to Major Wynkoop who would arrange for their surrender. No treaty was made and this council was the last attempt at peace during the summer and fall of 1864.

War parties continued to raid, mail was reported to come from the east via Panama and San Francisco, warehouses were depleted and ranching virtually came to a halt. The raiders were hard to catch. This was the Indians’ ideal war. It was a great victory to murder a lone white family and drive off their herds.

The Organization of The Third Regiment – 100-Day Service 1864

With Evans and Chivington at Camp Weld in September of 1864 was a company of the recently organized Third Regiment, a regiment created after all remedies at peace with the Indians had failed. Governor Evans had pleaded with Major General S. E. Curtis, Commander of the Department of Kansas and Chivington’s immediate superior, to return the members of the Second Regiment of Colorado Volunteers who were fighting the guerrillas in Kansas and Missouri. Evans had also requested that the remaining troops be mustered into Federal service. Curtis was not helpful; the War Department wasn’t interested.

In June Evans made a desperate appeal to the Secretary of War for authority to raise a regiment of volunteers. Lacking a response from Washington, Evans called upon the citizens of the Territory to organize a defense of their homes and to go in pursuit of the Indians. This appeal had just been made when Washington responded giving Evans the authority to enlist a regiment of infantry for one-hundred days of service. On August 13, Evans issued An Executive Proclamation announcing authorization of a mounted regiment. The War Department in Washington had not grasped the idea that it took a man on a horse to patrol the vast area of the plains. Evans had his opponents who reluctantly conceded that the prospect of losing their business made the regiment necessary “until troops from the states’ could arrive.”

Cree’s Denver Company, Sayr’s Central City Company, and Nichol’s Boulder Company were rapidly filled. Denver, the major center of population, was expected to contribute the major portion of the 1,200 men needed. In spite of the opening of recruiting offices and campaigns from veterans of Glorieta plus advertisements in the Rocky Mountain News, recruits were not inspired to enlist as no federal money was available for bounty payments which were usually paid for enlistment of at least one year of service. [Bounties for service in 1863 had been paid by public spirited individuals and businesses.] Whereupon Colonel Chivington declared Arapahoe County under martial law, severely restricted business, and ordered the Provost Marshal to conduct an enrollment of all able-bodied males into some type of military service. A week later, Chivington announced that since the enrollment had been completed all business could resume and ordered the militia companies to drill three times each week and wait for orders. The companies filled with recruits from the enrollment marched to Camp Evans on the Platte south of Denver. Upon arrival of the companies from Pueblo, Colorado City (Springs), Gilpin, Clear Creek, Lake and Summit Counties, the Governor informed Secretary Stanton that the Third Regiment was complete with 1,149 men mustered in.

Evans’ and Chivington’s difficulty lay in procuring officers to lead and train these raw recruits whose frontier existence had taught independence, self-reliance, brutality and rowdiness. They were able to secure 23, only one-half the number necessary. Four had fought in New Mexico, three were veterans of the Civil War discharged because of bad-health, twelve had been non-commissioned officers in the First and Second Colorado Infantry or Cavalry, seven had been officers in the militia, and a few had reputations as fighters. Other officers were recruited from community leaders, landholders, political figures, effective recruiters, trappers, traders and ranchers. Doubtful was the selection of an alderman for the First Ward on Denver’s City Council and an actor. The medical staff came from the scarcity of trained physicians and included a brother of a graduate of Rush Medical College, a hospital steward, and a wholesale druggist. The hardiness of the troops probably accounted for the loss of only seven rather that the skills of the medics.

These troops expected that the campaign against the Indians would be short and fast. They were not expecting the “hurry-up and wait” military life at Camp Evans which stretched into weeks. The rowdiness among the undisciplined troops led to the removal of six companies to Camp Cass at Fountain and a detachment to Pueblo plus other assignments. Major Wilder was left in Camp Evans with six restless companies when Major Wynkoop brought Black Kettle and his group of Cheyenne and Arapahoe Chiefs from Ft. Lyon to Camp Weld for the council with Evans and Chivington. When a false rumor began that a treaty had been made, the citizens began calling the Third Colorado the Bloodless Third”.

The Third Regiment was inactive because it was not equipped to fight. There were no records found of issues for these 100-day soldiers among the Twelve Volumes indexed herewith. It is known from the enrollment records they were reimbursed for clothing when they were paid (about $175 for a sergeant plus $24 for clothes) with the actual dollar amount for their clothing deducted from their pay. [Shown on the discharge paper dated 29 December 1864 for Sgt. Duncan McRuth, 100 days service, born in New York, age 27 years, 5 ft. 11, a farmer.] The stocks of clothing and equipment had been exhausted by a Territory with very little source of revenue. A building at Camp Weld housing the quartermaster and commissary stores was destroyed by fire on September 10. Arms included a few Sharps and Starrs carbines with most men bringing their own weapons with them. Target practice was limited to preserve ammunition. The regiment of about 1,040 men had between 350 and 400 horses receiving about 400 more later. Since some were used for hauling supplies, only between 550 and 600 men had horses, many in bad condition or unaccustomed to carrying riders. After the arrival of 250 saddles and bridles on October 15, Chivington ordered Colonel Shoup to begin the move of all mounted companies towards the Bijou Basin southeast of Denver (in what is now Elbert County). He sent scouts to look for Indians on the headwaters of the Republican River, troops to replace a detachment of Co. H of the First Colorado Cavalry at Living Springs and a mounted troop to Junction Station as well as placing an escort for an ordinance train from Denver.

Morale was low at Camp Elbert and many left for Denver. Then the snows came on the 29th of October continuing for three days. When Chivington learned that Left Hand and Little Raven with their band of Arapahoe numbering about 600 had moved from Ft. Lyon to join Black Kettle at his camp on Sand Creek, orders were issued to begin the campaign. On November 14 Companies A, B, E, I and M were to move south through Colorado City (Springs) by Pueblo to Camp Fillmore. Colonel Shoup arrived by the 21st with Companies C, D and F plus a detachment of Company H of the First Colorado Cavalry. Company G came down from Camp Baxter. On the 23rd when Colonel Chivington arrived, he held an inspection of frontier farmers and miners, clerk and blacksmiths garbed in filthy and shoddy uniforms, aching from a hard ride on any kind of a horse, weak from insufficient rations and miserable from nights spent in the bitter cold of the plains. The men had spend their days surviving instead of training. As rough and unseasoned troops as the men of the Third Regiment were, they had been toughened by their life on this last of America’s frontiers. Chivington took command of these determined fighters who had met about 125 troops of Companies C, E and H of the First Colorado Cavalry under the command of Lt. Luther Wilson who had been ordered to the rendezvous at Boone’s ranch on the Arkansas. Together the companies of the Third Regiment and those of the First made a combined force of about 625 men.

On the 24th, the column began the march down the Arkansas to Ft. Lyon. In order to preserve secrecy Chivington ordered all traffic along the Arkansas to be stopped and left detachments of guards at all ranches and settlements. Upon reaching Ft. Lyon at noon on the 28th, he immediately threw a picket around the fort to keep anyone from leaving.

Upon learning that Black Kettle’s band of Cheyenne with a few Arapahoes were camped about forty miles north and about 2,000 more were on the Smoky Hill sixty or seventy miles farther north, Chivington decided to march to Sand Creek that night. Major Anthony in charge at Ft. Lyon advised Chivington that in the Sand Creek camp there were friendly Indians who should have an opportunity to escape.

Stationed at Ft. Lyon were companies D, G and K of the First Colorado under the command of Captain S. S. Soule and Lts. Joseph Cramer and James D. Cannon. These companies joined the column bringing its strength to about 750 troops. The expedition formed in column of fours and silently moved out at 8 o’clock on the night of November 28 across the grass-covered plains until they reached a ridge with a view of the Cheyenne camp located up a valley to the northwest.

The Battle of Sand Creek

Chivington had accomplished what few Cavalry Officers had ever done. He was able to surprise the camp of Black Kettle and his Cheyenne Warriors probably because the Indians assumed they would not be attacked. About 130 lodges were scattered for about a mile along the northern bank of a dry creek bed at a loop known as the South Bend of the Big Sandy and referred to as Sand Creek. On the opposite side of the creek bed was a herd of five to six hundred ponies. North of the village was another small herd. Chivington ordered Colonel Shoup to send his best mounted battalion to capture the herd on the south. Lt. Wilson was ordered to seize the herd north of the camp. Chivington had decided that without their mounts, the Cheyenne would be much more inclined to talk. They weren’t!


When the Indian camp became aware of the attack, they too hurried to recapture their mounts. The larger herd was cut off but Lt. Wilson found himself and his men under attack by the Cheyenne warriors when he had to run in close to Black Kettle’s lodge. When the fight started, the troops upon the hill were not willing to wait for their brothers-in-arms to be annihilated. Whereupon Chivington ordered a general advance in support of Wilson’s troops.

With a restrained fury long-held in check, the troops of the Third Colorado Regiment and the troops of the First Colorado Cavalry burst upon the camp of the Cheyenne. Some of the Indians’ ponies which had escaped toward the north were mounted by women and children who, under the cover of about a hundred warriors forming a line northwest of the village, fled the charge of the Colorado mounted cavalry.

Anthony’s battalion advanced along the south bank of the creek to cover the left flank and Lt. Wilson went to the right flank. The main body of troops formed by the Third Regiment went toward the center of the village. Leaving men assigned to guard the ponies, the troops who had captured the larger pony herd met the Third Regiment and together about 700 men met a fighting force of about 400 to 600 Cheyenne including some of the fierce Dog Soldiers. Having no mounts, the Indians were at a distinct disadvantage. Although better armed than the troops, the Indians were not accustomed to fighting on foot.

Never firing a shot, Colonel Chivington rode among his men giving orders to his troops. The charge of Shoup’s force and artillery fire from a place on a ridge within range of the Indians made a break in the Indians’ defense line forcing them to retreat slowly up the creek. Other Indians dug pits or trenches in the creek were they took up their defense. Others took cover in the tall grass. Several squaws and children who had stayed to fight beside the warriors were killed. They fought with perseverance until forced to flee in all directions. The fight extended up and down the creek bed for about three miles until late in the day.

Chivington, anxious that his troops not be caught possibly by other Cheyennes who had been warned of the fight, ordered his scattered troops to reassemble in the Indian camp. Chivington then ordered the camp destroyed so as to prevent its use as a base for further operations. The troops had found food, clothes, and equipment which had been taken in attacks on wagon trains and ranches along with an assortment of scalps.

The skirmish went on all during the night with shots fired by both sides. When the wagon train arrived at noon the next day, they were formed in a square for added protection. As his troops and their mounts were not up to it, Chivington decided not to march against the strong forces of the Cheyenne to the north on Smoky Hill where Black Kettle and about 200 of the fleeing Cheyennes were sure to have given a warning. Instead he decided to follow the remaining band of Arapahoe encamped on the Arkansas below the mouth of Sand Creek.

The Indians’ losses, both warriors as well as women and children, could not be determined due to the Indians’ practice of removing their dead from the field of battle under the cover of darkness. Estimates have ranged from 200 to 600. The Cheyenne chiefs who died in the fight were White Antelope, Standing Water, One Eye, War Bonnet, Spotted Cow, Two Thighs, Bear Man, Yellow Shield and Yellow Wolf. The Indians also carried off with the other wounded the Arapahoe Chief Left Hand. Troop losses amounted to seven killed and forty-seven wounded of whom seven died later with one missing.

On December 1, the command began their journey down Sand Creek and on the 2nd the dead and wounded were sent to Ft. Lyon. Upon reaching the Arkansas, the trail of the large body of Arapahoe was found moving down the valley. The Arapahoe under Little Raven were in a hurry discarding many of their camp articles along the way. Chivington sent 300 of his best armed and best mounted men after them. After two days of marching, the trail disappeared and the chase was halted near the Kansas line. Since the term of enlistment of the Third Regiment had expired and the horses were exhausted, Chivington left the men under the command of Colonel Shoup and returned to Denver. The men traveled more slowly reaching Camp Weld on December 22. The citizens of Denver and the Territorial Legislature passed a resolution expressing gratitude to the Colonel and his men. The members of the 100-day warriors of the Third Colorado Cavalry were mustered out of federal service between December 28 and 30, 1864.

Following release of the Third Regiment, General Curtis reduced the strength of the First Colorado Cavalry and several other units. Colonel Chivington was released on 6 January 1865. Although the three-year term of service had expired for the First Colorado Cavalry, authority was given to keep on active service a portion of the regiment which was designated as the “Veteran Battalion First Cavalry of Colorado” and placed under the command of Lt. Colonel Samuel F. Tappan, a former captain who had recruited volunteers in Central City in 1861 and then as Lt. Colonel had served against the Indians in eastern Colorado Service of this Battalion included the encounter where Lt. J. J. Kennedy and 18 men of the Veteran Battalion engaged the Cheyennes at Valley Station in January of 1865 in order to recover 650 head of stolen cattle. These Veterans were eventually mustered out at Denver and Ft. Leavenworth during October and November 1865.

[The data base of the Twelve Volumes extracted herewith gives a list of some of the men who remained as cavalry in the Veteran Battalion (see Appendix F). The officers of the Third Regiment of 100-day service are listed in Appendix I. Those men of the Third Regiment who died at Sand Creek are found on the statue at the State Capitol Building and are listed on page xi and xii.]

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The battle at Sand Creek was not the first battle with the Indians, nor was it the biggest, nor was it the last; it was however one of the most controversial in all of Colorado’s turbulent history with the Indians. The Republican Party of Colorado had since the organization of the Territory wanted Colorado to become a state and counted among the supporters of this cause Governor John Evans who was considered to be a serious candidate for US Senator and Colonel John M. Chivington whom may believed would make an excellent Representative. All political parties have their opponents and in the Territory this was no exception. The Anti-Statehood advocates chose to use the Battle at Sand Creek to champion their cause and discredit both Evans and Chivington.

The Battle of Sand Creek managed to be reported in a bad light to Congress and an investigation was held by two congressional committees and a military commission. The political climate in Washington had changed with the assassination on 14 Apr 1865 of President Lincoln who had been Evans’ friend. Secretary of State Seward thought that he would have trouble with Congress and the Committee on the Conduct of War. When Seward asked Evans to resign, Evans complied with his resignation to President Andrew Johnson on 1 August 1865.

Witnesses were summoned and Colonel Chivington gave his testimony. Witnesses who were Indian sympathizers included traders (with Indian wives), half-bloods and military personnel unhappy with the decisions of their commander including Robert Bent, Major Wynkoop (of the First Colorado Cavalry and who had not ridden in the raid), and Lt. Cramer (First Colorado Cavalry), among others. Colonel Tappan, who presided over the hearings and eventually replaced Chivington, admitted a dislike for his commanding officer but continued on the military commission in spite of Chivington’s objections.

Among the records of the Senate Executive Document 26, p. 78 is found the name of Pvt. Louderback on page 216 of the following extracted records. Some of the witnesses testified to “some” mutilation of bodies of the Indians, such was the testimony of Pvt. Louderback and one of his company’s officers, Lt. Cramer, who were among those soldiers at Sand Creek.

Chivington’s most ardent supporter was one of the members of the Third Regiment, Pvt. Howard, a prominent citizen of Colorado City (Springs). Even Robert Bent (son of William Bent and his Indian wife) although allying himself on the side of the Indians testified that the women and children had an opportunity to escape. Lt. William E. Grinnell as well as Dr. Caleb S. Burdsal testified that they saw no mutilation of Indian bodies.

A definite conclusion could not be reached at the hearings (and the debate has continued into the 20th Century) as to whether Sand Creek was a battle or a massacre. As in all history, the conclusion will be reached by whether one is on the winning or losing side. The Battle of Sand Creek was won by Chivington and his Colorado Troops. The Massacre at Sand Creek was committed upon the Cheyenne. Later the Battle at Little Big Horn (27 Jun 1876) would be won by the Sioux. The Massacre at Little Big Horn would be committed upon General George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh US Cavalry. Here too controversy has clouded the issues.

The point should be made that at the Battle at Sand Creek, Chivington chose to take the fight to the Cheyennes and to fight as he had previously told Black Kettle and his chiefs, “until the enemy lay down their arms and surrendered,” and in this instance fled for their lives. Events leading to any decisive battle or confrontation should also be considered before reaching the conclusion. It is very easy to look back and condemn an act of retaliation when one is not subjected to the atrocities which had been committed upon the citizens of Colorado Territory by the Indians of the plains who themselves did not always keep the terms of a treaty. The lessening of the raids upon the farmers and ranchers after this decisive battle at Sand Creek would make it appear that the Cheyennes held the troopers in much more respect.

Perhaps no other men of this time period made more of an imprint upon the history of the Colorado Territory than did these three men: Governor William Gilpin, Governor John Evans and Major John M. Chivington. The turbulent times of the period, the necessity for drastic measures, and the requirement for strong decisions pushed these men into forceful and effective leadership. Although Gilpin’s rather unorthodox procurement methods for financing the military and Evans’decision made to protect the settlers cost them their positions and jeopardized future careers, these first two Governors of the Colorado Territory were able to raise an army of 4,903 men with no draft or bounty dollars and to persuade these men to risk their lives with very little compensation. Chivington’s extraordinary military tactics at Glorieta saved for the Union the riches of the Colorado and New Mexico Territories. His resounding victory at Sand Creek secured the safety of the settlers of the Territory and unfortunately terminated the career of a brilliant officer while giving his political enemies the ammunition they needed to keep Colorado a Territory for twelve more years.

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The Battle at Sand Creek was not the last battle for the Colorado Volunteers; it was, however, the last battle fought on Colorado soil by troops serving under Colorado Territorial jurisdiction during the time period of the Civil War 1861-1865 which is the period covered by the Twelve Volumes extracted for the purpose of this publication.

For the next dozen years until Colorado Territory became a state on 1 August 1876, the settlers and residents of the Territory would need protection. The local law officers could not patrol the vast area of the plains. Even during the time the Third Cavalry was in pursuit of the Cheyennes, a local militia called the Tyler Rangers was mustered in at Blackhawk for a term of three months. While it had no battles with the Indians, it was a unit ready to provide protection to the citizens of northern Colorado.

A proclamation of martial law by Acting Governor S. H. Elbert brought new volunteer militia into existence. Six companies designated as the First Regiment Colorado Volunteer Mounted Militia were raised from Denver, Central City, Blackhawk, Boulder and Greeley. They served during the February, March and April of 1865. Their jurisdiction gave protection to those from Denver to Julesberg. In Denver, home guards called “The Denver Light Guards”, “Co. B, Third District”, and “The Moonlight Guards” came into existence.

During the remaining part of 1865 and during 1866, the Indians were quiet upon the plains of Colorado. Then in 1867, three companies were raised to assist federal troops when Indians were again on the raiding trail. These were Companies A, B and C, Colorado Volunteer Militia who were mustered out after only 10 days of service.

Eastern Colorado territory was patrolled after 1865 in most part by the 5th US Cavalry from Ft. Hays, Kansas, and the 10th US Cavalry from Ft. Dodge, Kansas. The 5th US Cavalry under General Eugene Carr wiped out Tall Bull and his Cheyenne warriors on 11 July 1868 at Summit Springs south of present-day Sterling. Later the Battle of Beecher’s Island (previously mentioned) was fought by Colonel Forsyth and his troop of 49 scouts, a special unit of seasoned hunters and trappers including veterans of both the Union and Confederacy who were organized at Fts. Harker and Hays in Kansas during 1868. This small band of men, who had tracked a marauding band of Cheyenne westward from Ft. Wallace, Kansas, into Colorado, held off for nine days (September 17-25, 1868) an attack by Chief Roman Nose and over 600 Cheyenne Dog Soldiers until they could be rescued by the troopers of the 10th US Cavalry. Later a skirmish with the Indians occurred at Summit Springs in 1869.

These US cavalry troops from the forts in Kansas finally ended the freedom of the Cheyennes, the fierce warriors of the plains who had lost more of their warriors in battle than did any other tribe of Indians in American history. Beaten by wars and disease, the northern Cheyenne eventually settled on their present reservation in Montana and the southern Cheyenne in Oklahoma.

Until the reorganization of the Governor’s Guard of Denver (a semi-private organization) in 1872, the volunteers of Colorado were called upon in emergency situations and then returned to their homes.

When the Territory became a state, there were five companies of these guards remaining all in the First Infantry: Co. A Emmett’s Guards from Central City; Co. B Governor’s Guard from Denver; Co. A Denver Scouts from Denver; Co. B Pikes Peak Rangers from Colorado Springs; and Co. C Sterling Scouts from Sterling.

Although hardened by the mountains and the period of time in which they lived, the men of the Volunteers of Colorado Territory served their Regiments almost to a man with bravery and distinction, leaving behind footprints in time upon the sand and soil of not only the Colorado Territory, but the Territory of New Mexico and the states of Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri plus the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. The Columbine Genealogical and Historical Society of Littleton, Colorado, has uncovered some of the footprints of these Colorado Volunteers found in the Colorado State Archives. To genealogists and historians everywhere, the publication of this Comprehensive Index to the Twelve Volumes of the Military Clothing Issue Books containing some of the names of these men is herewith presented.