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Second Letter from Mr. Byers

 Native American Nations | A Century of Dishonor                    

 

New York, Feb. 22d, 1880.
This letter was followed by a card from Mr. Byers, reiterating some of his assertions; and by a second short letter, which closed the discussion.

To the Editor of the Tribune:
SIR, I ask only a little space for reference to the communication of " H. H." in to-day's Tribune. It is asked, "If the investigation of the Sand Creek affair was so unfair, why did not the people of Colorado correct the false impression by presenting their own version of the case? " The answer is that the case was prejudged, and we were denied a hearing in our defense.

The inference is conveyed in today's article that Indian hostilities on the plains were provoked by and followed after the Sand Creek massacre. We, who were so unfortunate as to be citizens of Colorado at the time, know that a very great majority of the savage atrocities of that period occurred before the battle of Sand Creek. We know that the Sand Creek Indian camp was the common rendezvous of the hostile bands who were committing those atrocities. We know that comparatively few occurred afterward. No amount of special pleading, no reiteration of partial statements, and withholding of more important truths, will change the facts so well known to the earlier settlers of Colorado.

I deny that the Utes have either bought or paid for any land. They have relinquished for a consideration a certain portion of the land they formerly claimed, and still retain the other portion. I deny, also, that only twelve of the White River Utes are guilty and the great mass of them innocent. The contrary is the fact.
WM. N. BYERS

New York, Feb. 24th, 1880.
To the Editor of the Tribune:
SIR, In reply to the assertion that the perpetrators of the Sand Creek massacre were "denied a hearing in their defense," I wish to state to the readers of The Tribune that, in addition to the Congressional committees from whose reports I have already quoted, there was appointed a Military Commission to investigate that massacre. This commission sat seventy-three days in Denver and at Fort Lyon. Colonel J. M. Chivington called before it, in his "defense," all the witnesses he chose, and gave notice on the seventy-third day of the commission's sitting that he did not "wish to introduce any more witnesses for the defense." He also had (and used) the privilege of cross-examining every witness called by the commission. The evidence given before this commission occupies over two hundred pages of Volume II., Senate Documents for 1866-'67.

In reply to the assertion that "a great majority of the savage atrocities of that period occurred before" the massacre at Sand Creek, and that "comparatively few occurred after," I will give to the readers of The Tribune one extract from the report of the Indian Peace Commission of 1868. Alluding to the Sand Creek massacre, the report says:

"It scarcely has its parallel in the records of Indian barbarity. Fleeing women, holding up their hands and praying for mercy, were shot down; infants were killed and scalped in derision; men were tortured and mutilated in a manner that would put to shame the savages of interior Africa. No one will be astonished that a war ensued which cost the Government $30,000,000, and carried conflagration and death into the border settlements. During the spring and summer of 1865 no less than 8000 troops were withdrawn from the effective forces engaged in the Rebellion to meet this Indian war."

The Commissioners who made this report were N. J. Taylor, President; J. B. Henderson, John B. Sanborn, William T. Sherman, Lieutenant-general; William S. Harvey, Brevet Major-general; Alfred H. Terry, Brevet Major-general; C. C. Augur, Brevet Major-general; S. F. Tappan.

In reply to the assertion that the Ute have not "either bought or paid for any land," I will ask such of The Tribune readers as are interested in the subject to read the "Brunot Treaty," made September 13th, 1873, "between Felix R. Brunot, Commissioner for the United States, and the chiefs, headmen, and men "of the seven confederated bands of Utes. It is to be found in the report of the Department of the Interior for 1873, p. 451.


In conclusion of the discussion as to the Sand Creek massacre, I will relate one more incident of that terrible day. It has not been recorded in any of the reports. It was told in Colorado, to one of the members of the Senate Committee at the time of their investigation: One of the squaws had escaped from the village, and was crouching behind some low sagebrush. A frightened horse came running toward her hiding-place, its owner in hot pursuit. Seeing that the horse was making directly for her shelter, and that she would inevitably be seen, and thinking that possibly if she caught the horse, and gave him back to the owner, she might thus save her life, she ran after the horse, caught it, and stood holding it till the soldier came up. Remembering that with her blanket rolled tight around her she might possibly be taken for a man, as she put into the soldier's hand the horse's bridle, with the other hand she threw open her blanket enough to show her bosom, that he might see that she was a woman. He put the muzzle of his pistol between her breasts and shot her dead; and afterward was "not ashamed" to boast of the act. It was by such deeds as this that "the Colorado soldiers acquitted themselves well, and covered themselves with glory."
H. H.


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A Century of Dishonor, By Helen Hunt Jackson, New York, Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, 1885

A Century of Dishonor

 

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