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THE UTE CAMPAIGN O F 1879: A STUDY I N THE USE O F THE MILITARY INSTRUMENT

A t h e s i s presented t o t h e Faculty o f t h e U.S. Army Command and General S t a f f College i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l l m e n t o f t h e requirements f o r t h e degree MASTER O F MILITARY A R T AND SCIENCE

B.A.,

RUSSEL D. SANTALA, MAJOR, USA U n i v e r s i t y o f Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 1980

F o r t Leavenworth, Kansas 1993

Approved f o r p u b l i c release; d i s t r i b u t i o n i s unlimited.

MASTER O F MILITARY ART AND SCIENCE THESIS APPROVAL PAGE Name o f candidate: Major Russel D. Santala A Study i n t h e Use o f t h e

Thesis T i t l e : The Ute Campaign o f 1879: M i l i t a r y Instrument

Approved by:

, Thesis
~ o l o n k lRichard M. Swain, Ph.D.

Committee Chairman

Member

Accepted t h i s 4 t h day o f June 1993 by:

,
~h?lip J.' Brookes, Ph.D.

D i r e c t o r , Graduate Degree Programs

The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those o f the student author and do not necessarily represent the views o f the U.S. Army Command and General S t a f f College o r any other governmental agency. (References t o t h i s study should include t h e foregoing statement)

ABSTRACT THE UTE CAMPAIGN OF 1879: A STUDY I N THE USE OF THE MILITARY I?ISTRlli4ENT by Major Russel D. Santala, USA, 111 pages. This study examines t h e r o l e o f t h e U.S. Army as an instrument o f n a t i o n a l power i n t h e execution o f U.S. government p o l i c y . The focus o f t h e t h e s i s i s an i n v e s t i g a t i o n o f t h e implementation o f p o l i c y , i n terms o f t h e Ute I n d i a n t r i b e o f Colorado, and t h e events preceding and f o l l o w i n g t h e Ute u p r i s i n g o f 1879. The U.S. Army found i t s e l f i n a dilerma w i t h regard t o i t s support o f a n a t i o n a l " I n d i a n strategy." I t was not t h e primary executive agent f o r t h e implementation o f p o l i c y , but was c a l l e d upon t o both enforce national p o l i c y and p o l i c e v i o l a t o r s . This study traces the development o f t h e U.S. I n d i a n P o l i c y and t h e e v o l u t i o n o f army s t r a t e g y i n t h e west. The study culminates w i t h an analysis o f t h e events surrounding the outbreak o f h o s t i l i t i e s i n 1879. This study addresses issues t h a t faced t h e U.S. Army i n an environment o f unclear n a t i o n a l p o l i c y and competing n a t i o n a l and l o c a l i n t e r e s t s . The i m p l i c a t i o n s o f t h i s episode warrant examination, as t h e U.S. Army f i n d s i t s e l f i n another period w i t h s i m i l a r problems.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First,

I must thank Colonel Richard M. Swain, Combat Studies

I n s t i t u t e , USACGSC, f o r b r i n g i n g order out o f chaos, and f o r h i s guidance and encouragement. Thanks are due Major Frederick J.

Chiaventone, Department o f J o i n t and Combined Operations, USACGSC, f o r a thorough j o b o f e d i t i n g and h i s shared i n t e r e s t o f t h e I n d i a n campaigns. The s t a f f o f t h e Combined Arms Research L i b r a r y are due thanks f o r t h e i r invaluable assistance i n gathering m a t e r i a l and keeping tabs on t h e progress o f t h e p r o j e c t . Special thanks are reserved f o r m y family. s a c r i f i c e was an indispensible p a r t o f t h i s e f f o r t . Their shared

TABLE OF CONTENTS

........................... . i i .i i ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .i v


APPROVALPAGE L I S T OF ILLUSTRATIONS CHAPTER

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi
1

1. 2.

I N T R O D U C T I O N . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . STRATEGIC SETTING

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 3. THEOPPONENTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40 4. MASSACRE AND BATTLE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 5. AFTERMATH AND CONCLUSIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 BIBLIOGRAPHY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I05 I N I T I A L DISTRIBUTION L I S T . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . , 1 1 1

LIST O F ILLUSTRATIONS Figure 1 The Strategy Process The Area o f Operations D i v i s i o n o f t h e Missouri Ute T e r r i t o r y i n 1806 Ute T e r r i t o r y i n 1868 Ute T e r r i t o r y i n 1873 Theater Rai 1roads Sample News Headlines I n i t i a l Advance F i r s t Contact Delay

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION "The lance o f t h e m i g h t i e s t Plains I n d i a n nation was shattered, and t h e r e a f t e r no Indians retained enough m i l i t a r y power t o r e s i s t the

w r i t o f Washington f o r long."'

With t h i s remark, Russell F. Weigley a series

concludes the American Army's campaigns against t h e Indian; o f campaigns t h a t have been viewed as devoid o f s t r a t e g i c o r

operational focus, save f o r a continuation o f a "war o f a n n i h i l a t i o n " strategy held since t h e C i v i l War by the senior army leaders. With

t h i s i n mind, t h i s t h e s i s begins an examination o f the Army's s t r a t e g i c and operational framework as it r e l a t e s t o t h e u p r i s i n g o f t h e Ute Indians o f Colorado i n 1879. The central question o f t h i s t h e s i s i s :

Did the army have an operational strategy consistent w i t h national goals, as evident i n the Ute campaign? Before t h i s question i s answered, i t i s essential t o address three secondary questions:
1.

Did a national m i l i t a r y strategy e x i s t and how d i d it

r e l a t e t o t h e conduct o f t h e Indian campaigns?


2.

How was the execution o f the national m i l i t a r y campaign

constrained?
3.

How d i d operational and t a c t i c a l questions conform t o

national m i l i t a r y strategy? These questions w i l l shape t h i s study by f i r s t examining the Indian

p o l i c y as an expression o f the national s e c u r i t y strategy o f the United States i n support o f t h e national o b j e c t i v e o f western expansion. The second subject t o be examined i s the national m i l i t a r y strategy t h a t evolved t o support the s e c u r i t y strategy a t the national o r War Department level. A f t e r addressing t h e national o r s t r a t e g i c level, t h e t h e s i s

w i l l t u r n t o the operational o r m i l i t a r y department l e v e l and the


t a c t i c a l o r b a t t l e f i e l d l e v e l s and evaluate t h e execution o f m i l i t a r y policy. This examination w i l l demonstrate t h e linkages from the

s t r a t e g i c o r national l e v e l , through the operational o r departmental l e v e l , t o the t a c t i c a l o r b a t t l e f i e l d l e v e l . The Army's means w i l l be

examined i n r e l a t i o n s h i p t o constraining f a c t o r s both i n t e r n a l and external t o i t s organization. The paper w i l l examine t h e a p p l i c a t i o n

o f m i l i t a r y power i n support o f government p o l i c y i n terms o f the Ute camppign. The framework f o r t h i s study corresponds w i t h the strategy process model (Figure 1 ) and w i l l , as previously stated, examine the linkages between three l e v e l s o f action: Tactical. Strategic, Operational, and

This study i s based on an analysis o f h i s t o r i c a l events a t

each o f the three l e v e l s i n accordance w i t h the s t r a t e g i c process model. Chapter 2 addresses the "national s e c u r i t y strategy" o f the Hayes administration and t h e corresponding "national m i l i t a r y strategy" o f the War Department. C o n f l i c t i n g views e x i s t i n the current body o f

l i t e r a t u r e i n terms o f the impact o f the government on the u t i l i z a t i o n o f m i l i t a r y power i n r e l a t i o n t o the Indian p o l i c y . I n order t o

discuss t h i s f u l l y , Indian and m i l i t a r y p o l i c y i n the west from 1865 t o


2

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IMREALII'Y (CONSTRAINTS) ................................................. .............

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IN THEORY ..........................

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TECHNOLOGY

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1880 w i l l be addressed, t o provide the necessary context.

The goal o f

t h i s chapter i s t o a r t i c u l a t e the national I n d i a n p o l i c y and the r e l a t e d national m i l i t a r y strategy, o r doctrine, required t o implement the policy. Chapter 3 i s an analysis o f "operational strategy" selected t o achieve t h e goals o f policy. This chapter focuses on t h e operational

l e v e l m i l i t a r y organizations responsible f o r t h e a p p l i c a t i o n o f m i l i t a r y force t o achieve p o l i t i c a l goals, and t h e non-military government agencies w i t h i n the theater o f operations. The m i l i t a r y

organizations examined are the D i v i s i o n o f t h e Missouri, the Department o f t h e Missouri and t h e Department o f the Platte. The government

agencies w i t h i n the theater o f operations include the s t a t e o f Colorado, and representatives o f the federal government operating w l t h i n the s t a t e (i.e., agents o f the Indian Bureau). Based on an

i n i t i a l survey o f t h e material, t h e absense o f a c l e a r m i l i t a r y strategy would appear t o have occurred a t t h i s l e v e l , l a r g e l y due t o the p e r s o n a l i t i e s o f t h e senior army o f f i c e r s i n command. The

Commanders o f t h e Departments o f t h e P l a t t e and Missouri, Brigadier Generals Crook and Pope, respectively, had s i g n i f i c a n t l y d i f f e r e n t views o f the r o l e o f the army and t h e conduct o f campaigns, than d i d t h e i r superiors, Generals Sherman and Sheridan. The conclusion o f thi::

chapter w i l l be a discussion o f t h e operational strategy t h a t guided t a c t i c a l l e v e l commanders w i t h i n the departments, and s p e c i f i c guidance for t h e conduct o f the Ute campaign. Chapter 4 focuses on t h e t a c t i c a l events involved i n the conduct o f t h e Ute campaign. These events w i l l include the " B a t t l e a t

Ml'lk River" and t h e show o f force executed by Colonel Wesley M e r r i t t t o


4

i n t i m i d a t e the Utes t o the bargaining table.

The "constraints"

examined are be the l o c a l f a c t o r s t h a t influenced the t a c t i c a l l e v e l commanders during t h e conduct o t the campaign. I n a d d i t i o n t o the

explanation o f b a t t l e f i e l d events, the goal o f t h i s chapter i s t o r e l a t e the operational considerations surrounding these t a c t i c a l events. Chapter 5 concludes t h i s study by e s t a b l i s h i n g t h a t the army d i d o r have an Indian p o l i c y t h a t was i n t e r n a l i z e d throughout the command structure. The p o l i c y should have provided f o r the a p p l i c a t i o n

o f m i l i t a r y power w i t h i n budgetary and manpower constraints, and was a r e f l e c t i o n o f the national s e c u r i t y objectives o f the Hayes administration.
I f the m i l i t a r y strategy was not mutually supportive

throughout the strategy process model, t h e l i k e l y cause was t h e d i f f e r i n g views o f senior army leaders between the national and departmental levels. Before beginning the analysis o f t h e national s t r a t e g i c p o l i c y and the impact on m i l i t a r y strategy i n chapter 2, i t i s necessary t o provide some background material p e r t a i n i n g t o events t h a t were unfolding i n Colorado and examine some o f the elements o f the Ute crisis. This w i l l a s s i s t i n focusing the study as i t looks a t l a r g e r

s t r a t e g i c and operational matters, and w i l l a s s i s t i n explaining why some questions loom l a r g e r than others i n terms o f t h e events surrounding t h i s one, r e l a t i v e l y small, t r i b e . I n September o f 1879, three troops o f the 5 t h US Cavalry, under the command o f Major T.T. Thornburgh, l e f t F o r t Steele, Wyoming, f o r Major Thornburgh was

the White River Agency i n northwest Colorado.

operating under orders from the Commander o f t h e Department o f the

P l a t t e , Brigadier General George Crook, t o move t o the agency and a s s i s t the reservation agent, Nathan C. Meeker. Meeker had been

appointed agent t o t h e White River Agency on 18 March 1878 a f t e r a c t i v e l y pursuing the p o s i t i o n through poi i t i c a l acquaintances, both i n Colorado and i n Washington D.C. Meeker's goal was t o e s t a b l i s h a kind

o f utopian s t a t e t h a t combined h i s r e l i g i o u s views and the lessons frcm the Union Colony, a cooperative agrarian experiment, i n Greeley, Colorado. The appointment o f Indian Bureau Agents had long been a p a r t u f the p o l i t i c a l s p o i l s system. With a change i n administration, a whole

s e r i e s o f covert and o v e r t appointments were made t o reward p o l i t i c a l service, and t h e impact o f t h i s i n e p t system was f e l t a t t h e . agencies producing t h e problems t h a t had long been a sore p o i n t w i t h the War Department. Since 1849, t h e Department o f t h e I n t e r i o r c o n t r o l l e d

Indian a f f a i r s , and, p a r t i c u l a r l y under t h e Grant Administration, t h i s arrangement had come under c r i t i c i s m from both the reform movement ancl senior o f f i c e r s w i t h i n t h e army, who believed they were b e t t e r q u a l i f i e d a t managing I n d i a n p o l i c y f o r the nation than were mere p o l i t i c a l appointees. General Sheridan c m e n t e d , " t h a t i t i s not the

Government t h a t i s managing t h e Indians, i t i s t h e contractars, traders, and supply i n t e r e s t s .

"'

Shortly before h i s appointment, Meeker received an encouraging l e t t e r from Colorado Senator, Henry M. T e l l e r , describing h i s .discussion w i t h the Commissioner o f Indian A f f a i r s , Edward A. Hayt, an 3 January 1878.
It read:

Iwent t o t h e Commissioner o f Indian A f f a i r s and posted your claims f o r an agency and designated White River Agency as the cne Iwanted f o r you. Now It h i n k I have a good show. The

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Commissioner said he was not a t a l l s a t i s f i e d w i t h the agent a t White River who knows nothing o f i r r i g a t i o n o r farming i n the west. Ia m anxious you should have i t because I f e e l you should do something t h a t would be o f b e n e f i t t o our people and t o the indians. There Ibelieve t h e indians can be taught t o r a i s e c a t t l e and Ihave an idea you are the man t o do i t . Now i f you had the place i t would pay you $1,500 a year and you would have a house t o l i v e i n free, a garden and so f o r t h . So It h i n k you can save something. It i s only 100 miles from t h e r a i l r o a d and q u i t e easy. I f you accept I w i l l commence work. Let m e hear soon.3 The Utes took an e n t i r e l y d i f f e r e n t ' view o f t h e i r new agent. Largely i n d i f f e r e n t t o t h e v i o l a t i o n s o f t h e t r e a t y o f 1873 which secured f o r them 4,000,000 acres o f Colorado, they viewed themselves as a l l i e s t o t h e United States government. o f Ute c h i e f s expressed: The army conquered the Sioux. You can order them around. But So you must w a i t u n t i l we Utes have never disturbed you whites. we come t o your ways o f doing things.4 Both t h e representative o f t h e Commissioner o f Indian A f f a i r s and the government o f the s t a t e o f Colorado had an expressly d i f f e r e n t agenda f o r t h e a s s i m i l a t i o n o f the Ute t r i b e i n t o mainstream American culture--or b e t t e r yet, i s o l a t i o n from i t altogether. Because o f t h i s , As Ouray, t h e most prominent

the r e l a t i o n s h i p between Meeker and h i s "charges," the White River Utes, had deteriorated t o the p o i n t t h a t Meeker f e l t h i s l i f e was i n jeopardy. Meeker was confronted by the Utes, who suspected him o f

d i r e c t involvement w i t h t h e anti-Ute movement i n the state.


A t t h i s time, a r t i c l e s headlined "The Utes Must Go" were being

prepared by members o f the s t a f f o f Governor Frederick W . P i t k i n . P i t k i n was a former miner who used h i s wealth and influence, acquired from a gold mine i n the San Juan Mountains o f Colorado, t o both t o revise the Ute Treaty i n 1873 and t o become the f i r s t Governor o f Colorado, upcn statehood i n 1876. 8 His view o f the Utes was an

expression o f t h e statewide view t h a t they were an impediment t o t h e development o f t h e r i c h e s t p a r t o f t h e s t a t e and should be removed t o t h e I n d i a n T e r r i t o r i e s o r elsewhere. William Vickers, an advisor t o

the governor wrote i n t h e Denver Tribune: The Utes are actual, p r a c t i c a l Communists and t h e Government should be ashamed t o f o s t e r and encourage them i n t h e i r idleness and wanton waste o f property. L i v i n g o f f t h e bounty o f a paternal but i d i o t i c I n d i a n Bureau, they a c t u a l l y become t o o l a z y t o draw t h e i r r a t i o n s i n t h e regular way but i n s i s t on t a k i n g what they want wherever they f i n d it. Removed t o I n d i a n T e r r i t o r y , t h e Utes could be f e d and clothed f o r about one h a l f what i t now costs t h e government. Honorable N.C. Meeker, t h e well-known Superintendent o f t h e White River Agency, was formerly a f a s t f r i e n d and ardent admirer o f t h e Indians. He went t o t h e Agency i n t h e firm b e l i e f t h a t he could manage t h e Indians successfully by kind treatment, p a t i e n t precept and good example. But u t t e r failurelmarked h i s e f f o r t s and a t l a s t he r e l u c t a n t l y accepted t h e t r u t h o f t h e border t r u i s m t h a t t h e o n l y t r u l y good Indians are dead ones.5 I n t o t h i s s i t u a t i o n , Major Thornburgh and h i s t h r e e troops o f cavalry a r r i v e d t o mediate a dispute t h a t had i t s r o o t s i n t h e I n d i a n p o l i c y o f t h e previous 25 years. broadest i n s t r u c t i o n s . Thornburgh's orders gave him only the

Meeker had requested-assistance on 10 September The

1879, by sending a messenger t o telegram Commissioner Hayt.

message reached Hayt on 13 September 1879. The request f o r troops was seen by Secretary o f t h e I n t e r i o r Carl Schurz, Secretary o f War George W. McCrary, and u l t i m a t e l y by General o f t h e Army William T. Sherman. Sherman approved t h e request

f o r troops and i n s t r u c t e d t h e Commander o f t h e D i v i s i o n o f the Missouri, Major General P h i l l i p H. Sheridan, t o order " t h e nearest m i l i t a r y commander" t o send troops t o White River.% Following some confusion a t Sheridan's headquarters, t h e order was sent t o F o r t Steele near Rawlins, Wyoming, and then t o Major Thornburgh. While t h e troops

a t F o r t Steele were the closest t o the White River Agency, they had not operated i n Colorado before, as the Colorado-Wyoming border delineate:! the boundary between the Department o f the Missouri and t h e Department o f the Platte.' By t h e conclusion o f the campaign, troops from both

departments were committed against t h e Utes. The Commander o f the Department o f t h e P l a t t e , Brigadier General George Crook, gave t h e f o l l o w i n g order t o the forces a t Ft. Steele: You w i l l move w i t h a s u f f i c i e n t number o f troops t o White River Agency under speci a1 instruction^.^ The special i n s t r u c t i o n s t h a t Crook spoke o f were t o contact the agent on t h e scene and "develop" t h e s i t u a t i o n . Thornburgh began

h i s march t o the White River Agency on 22 September 1879, w i t h a t o t a l o f 153 s o l d i e r s and 25 c i v i l i a n s . By 25 September 1879, they a r r i v e d w i t h i n 53 miles o f the agency and camped on t h e banks o f F o r t i f i c a t i o n Creek. l e t t e r t o t h e Agency, reporting: I n obedience t o i n s t r u c t i o n s from t h e General o f t h e Army, Ia m enroute t o your agency, and expect t o a r r i v e there on t h e 29th instant, f o r t h e purpose o f a f f o r d i n g you any assistance i n my power i n regulating your a f f a i r s , and t o make a r r e s t s a t your suggestion, and t o hold as prisoners such o f your Indians as you desire, u n t i l i n v e s t i g a t i o n s are made by your department. Ihave heard nothing d e f i n i t e from your agency f o r t e n days and do not know what s t a t e o f a f f a i r s e x i s t s , whether the Indians w i l l leave a t my approach o r show h o s t i l i t i e s . Isend t h i s l e t t e r by Mr. Lowry, one o f my guides, and desire you t o communicate w i t h m e as soon as possible, g i v i n g m e a l l the information i n your power, i n order t h a t I may know e on the m t o pursue. I f p r a c t i c a l , meet m what course Ia road a t the e a r l i e s t moment.9 A f t e r dispatching the l e t t e r , Major Thornburgh cdntinued the march toward t h e agency and met a delegation o f eleven Utes from the He dispatched a

agency, who voiced t h e i r concern over t h e a r r i v a l o f troops and denounced t h e agent, Meeker. The consternation o f t h e Utes was understandable, both i n l i g h t o f t h e i r perception o f t h e Army's r o l e i n t h e suppression o f t h e othetmajor Colorado tribe--the Cheyenne--and i n t h e i r previous support o f U t e s h a d joined " t h e rope

t h e Army i n t h e campaign against t h e Navajo.

thrower," K i t Carson, d u r i n g h i s e a r l i e r campaigns against t h e Navajo and had taken a r o l e i n support o f t h e army against t h e i r t r a d i t i o n a l enemy, t h e Cheyenne." They had n o t faced an a c t i v e campaign

against them i n t h e past, having r e l i e d on t h e i r remoteness t o p r o t e c t them from t h e expansion o f t h e western movement. The Utes had a l s o b e n e f i t t e d by having a r e l a t i v e l y sophisticated leader i n t h e i r c h i e f Ouray. A f t e r being i n v i t e d t o

Washington by t h e Indian Bureau t o negotiate t h e Ute Treaty o f 1868, Ouray took h i s cause t o t h e eastern press. Ouray remarked:

The agreement an I n d i a n makes t o a United States t r e a t y i s l i k e t h e agreement a b u f f a l o makes w i t h h i s hunters when pierced w i t h arrows. A l l he can do i s l i e down and give-in.12 Although only a Chief o f t h e Umcompaghre branch o f t h e Utes, Ouray was viewed by both s t a t e and federal o f f i c i a l s as t h e de f a c t o leader o f the e n t i r e t r i b e . The response from Meeker t o Major Thornburgh's e a r l i e r l e t t e r gave an accurate appraisal o f t h e I n d i a n mood a t t h e agency. September 1579 l e t t e r stated: Understanding t h a t you are on t h e way h i t h e r w i t h United States troops, Isend a messenger, M r . Eskridge, and two Indians, Henry ( i n t e r p r e t e r ) and John Ayersly, t o inform you t h a t t h e Indians are g r e a t l y excited, and wish you t o stop a t some convenient camping place, and then t h a t you and f i v e s o l d i e r s o f your command come i n t o t h e Agency, when a t a l k and a b e t t e r understanding can be had. The 27

This Iagree t o , but Ido not propose t o order your movements, but i t seems f o r t h e best. The Indians seem t o consider t h e advance o f t h e troops as a d e c l a r a t i o n o f r e a l war. I n t h i s Ia m l a b o r i n g t o undeceive them, and a t t h e same time t o convince them they cannot do whatever they please. The f i r s t o b j e c t i s t o a l l a y apprehension.13 Upon r e c e i p t o f t h i s l e t t e r , Major Thornburgh decided t o continue toward t h e agency and a t some undetermined p o i n t , stop t h e main body and proceed alone' w i t h a small escort.14 never reached t h e agency. River. But Thornburgh

The Utes attacked h i s command a t M i l k

For seven days Thornburgh's command was besieged by t h e Utes,

u n t i l a r e l i e v i n g f o r c e under Colonel Wesley M e r r i t t , a r r i v e d on t h e scene. For t h e next month t h e army played a c a t and mouse game w i t h

t h e Utes, attempting t o l o c a t e t h e i r camps, w h i l e t h e Utes r e t r e a t e d deeper i n t o t h e mountains. The army was walking a t i g h t r o p e , attempting t o cow t h e Utes by a show o f f o r c e w i t h troops from both t h e Departments o f t h e P l a t t e and t h e Missouri, w h i l e a t t h e same time avoiding a c o n f r o n t a t i o n t o safeguard t h e l i v e s o f t h e hostages taken from t h e agency. While t h e

army continued t o look f o r t h e Utes, General Charles Adams, a c t i n g as a special envoy o f Secretary o f t h e I n t e r i o r Carl Schurz, was n e g o t i a t i n g w i t h c h i e f Ouray and t h e Uncompahgre Utes, t o intercede w i t h t h e White River band o f t h e t r i b e t o release t h e hostages. Adams

was w e l l respected by t h e Utes and t r u s t e d by t h e s t a t e ' s two most powerful p o l i t i c a l figures--Tel l e r and P i t k i n . He had warned Secretary

Schurz o f t h e inherent danger o f sending troops t o resolve the Ute question. Schurz responded t h a t a "calamity" on t h e White River would

d e l i g h t T e l l e r and other Grant Republicans and provide an excuse t o

dump President Hayes from the 1880 t i c k e t ; and also the army would be pleased t o have a f r e s h disaster t o use as a basis f o r new demands t o t r a n s f e r the Indian Bureau t o the War Department.l5 The view o f what "constraining" f a c t o r s were a t work dcring t h i s period, and how they affected the Indian p o l i c y and m i l i t a r y strategy, are varied. Most w r i t e r s on t h e subject agree t h a t

p o l i t i c a l , economic, and s o c i a l f a c t o r s played a large r o l e i n determining the national I n d i a n policy. They disagree whether t h i s was

an a r t i c u l a t e d p o l i c y o r merely an ad hoc expression o f the s p i r i t o f manifest destiny. Additionally, there e x i s t s no consensus on the

impact o f e i t h e r the stated o r unstated p o l i c y , on the a p p l i c a t i o n o f m i l i t a r y power i n support o f national goals and objectives. Robert Wooster argues i n h i s book, The United States and Indian Policy: 1865-1903, t h a t post-I865 p o l i t i c s played a c l e a r r o l e i n d e f i n i n g t h e m i l i t a r y strategy t h a t the army followed. He concludes

t h a t while a wide v a r i e t y o f influences impacted on t h e r o l e o f the army, lack o f concern by national p o l i t i c a l and m i l i t a r y f i g u r e s precluded the development o f a l a s t i n g p o l i c y o r doctrine. Russell F. Weigley i n The American Wav o f War a t t r i b u t e s our m i l i t a r y strategy i n combatting t h e Indians t o the experiences o f the army senior leadership during the C i v i l War. As Weigley states:

I f t h e conduct o f the C i v i l War had prepared the United States Army t o employ a strategy o f a n n i h i l a t i o n , sometimes w i t h f r i g h t f u l l i t e r a l n e s s , i n i t s wars against the Indians, the strategy was much i n harmony w i t h post-Civil War national policy.16

Weigley epitomizes Sherman as t h e creator o f a kind o f war t h a t f a r eclipsed e a r l i e r h i s t o r y , i n terms o f t e r r o r and destructiveness, and which reached a pinnacle during the winter campaigns against the Indians.
A balance between t h e two views seems a more prudent position.

Certainly, General o f the A n y William T. Sherman c a r r i e d t h e "baggage" o f the war o f a n n i h i l a t i o n w i t h him i n t o h i s leadership o f the army i n the west, but whether t h i s was t h e doctrine o f t h e a n y can be held i n question. Sherman, as a member o f the Peace Commission o f 1867,

made c l e a r h i s view t o Red Cloud and t h e Sioux " t h a t he had l i t t l e tolerance f o r t h e i r demands. Whatever they said, they were doomed.

The United States, w i t h i t s expanding population, i t s railroads, and i t s army, was the face o f the future."" One o f those opposed t o Sherman's view o f army strategy as a form' o f "Social Darwinism" was Brigadier General John Pope who, t o paraphase a modern p o l i t i c i a n , favored a "kinder and gentler" reservation policy. I n an address i n May 1878, Pope d i d not question

the displacement o f t h e I n d i a n from h i s lands, only t h a t i t should be accomplished w i t h the l e a s t suffering. army o f f i c e r : To t h e Army o f f i c e r a s t a t e o f peace w i t h t h e Indians i s , o f a l l things, the most desirable, and no man i n a17 the country east o r west would do more t o avert an Indian war. To him war w i t h Indians means f a r more than t o anyone else except the actual victim. He sees i t s beginning i n i n j u s t i c e and wrong t o the Indian, which he has not the power t o prevent; he sees the Indian gradually reach a condition o f s t a r v a t i o n impossible o f longer endurance and thus forced t o take what he can get t o save himself from dying o f hunger, and cannot help sympathizing w i t h him f o r doing so; but because he does so the o f f i c e r i s ordered t o use force against him. With what s p i r i t a humane, o r even a decently c i v i l i z e d man, enters i n t o such a war, may be e a s i l y He remarked on the view o f the

understood, and yet i n nearly every case t h i s i s precisely the f e e l i n g w i t h which Army o f f i c e r s begin h o s t i l i t i e s w i t h Indians.18
It i s w i t h t h i s paradoxical view t h a t t h i s study w i l l begin an

analysis o f the s t r a t e g i c and operational framework o f the army i n the context o f the Ute campaign o f 1879. I s there an a l t e r n a t i v e t o the

Weigley model o f the "war o f a n n i h i l a t i o n " strategy, o r the view o f Wooster

- that

a p o l i c y was not necessary, as "no emergency existed" i n

the campaign against the Indian. The conduct o f the Ute campaign and subsequent Indian campaigns may denote t h e s h i f t i n United States m i l i t a r y p o l i c y t h a t returned the army t o i t s f r o n t i e r roots and away from the conventional army t h a t was created as a r e s u l t o f the C i v i l War. The period also marked a

t r a n s i t i o n i n army leadership t h a t would prepare t h e army f o r the next century. The strategy i n t h e west was something more than "a series o f
"I

f o r l o r n hopes.

ENDNOTES 1. Russell F. Weigley, The American W a v o f War: A H i s t o r v o f United States Strategv and P o l i c y (Bloomington: Indiana U n i v e r s i t y Press, 19731, 163. 2. Paul A. Hutton, P h i l Sheridan and H i s Army (Lincoln: U n i v e r s i t y o f Nebraska Press, 1985), 337. 3. Marshall Sprague, Massacre: The Traaedr a t White River (Boston: L i t t l e , Brown and Co., 19571, 57. 4. Dee Brown, Bury Mv Heart a t Wounded Knee (New York: Henry H o l t and Co., 19701, 367. 5. 6. I b i d . , 376. Sprague, Massacre: The Traaedv a t White River, 179.

7. Arthur P. Wade, "The M i l i t a r y Command S t r u c t u r e : The Great Plains, 1853-1891," ~ o u r n a io f t h e West i 5 ( ~ u l y 1976): 16-19.

8.

Sprague, Massacre: The Traaedv a t White River, 180

9. Elmer R. Burkey, "The Thornburgh B a t t l e With t h e Utes on M i l k River," The Colorado Mamzine 13 (May 1936): 92. 10. 11. 12. 13. Ibid., 92.

Brown, Burv Mv Heart a t Wounded Knee, 367. Ibid., 368.

Burkey, "The Thornburgh B a t t l e With t h e Utes on M i l k River," 93.

14. u n i t e d States Congress. House. The Committee on I n d i a n A f f a i r s . Testimony i n Relation t o t h e Ute I n d i a n Outbreak. Hearings 46th Cong., 2d Session. House Misc. Doc. 33., 22 March 1880, 203. 15. 16. Sprague, Massacre: The Tragedy a t White River, 241. Weigley, The American Wav o f War, 153.

17. John F. Marszalek, Sherman: A S o l d i e r ' s Passion f o r Order (New York: The Free Press, 1993), 390.

la. John Pope, "The I n d i a n Question." Address Before t h e Social Science Association, C i n c i n n a t i , Ohio, 24 May 1878.

19. Thcmss C. Leonard, Abcve t h e B a t t l e : War-Making i n America From A ~ ~ o m a t t Ctx o V e r s a i l k s (New Ycrk: Oxford L'niversity Press, 1978), 46.

CHAPTER 2 STRATEGIC SETTING The r e l a t i o n s h i p between government p o l i c y and I;he strategy o f i t s m i l i t a r y i s n o t o f t e n clear. The p o l i t i c a l o r i g i n s o f strategy

o f t e n serve t o confound t h e h i s t o r i a n , as w e l l as the s o l d i e r i n i t s execution? H i s t o r i a n T. Harry Williams states: Once a government has decided on a policy, it turns t o strategy t o achieve i t s objective. The government, t o c i t e t h e American experience, informs the m i l i t a r y o f t h e o b j e c t i v e and indicates the human and material resources i t can make available. The m i l i t a r y then takes over the planning and execution o f a strategy t o accomplish t h e p o l i c y ; i n e f f e c t , i t takes over t h e running o f t h e war. This i s the concept o f strategy t h a t appeared i n e a r l y modern w r i t i n g s on m i l i t a r y theory and t h a t prevailed i n America's f i r s t wars. There was always, however, a gap between theory and practice.' From t h e conclusion o f the C i v i l War through t h e end o f t h e Hayes administration, t h e national objectives o f the United States were t o promote economic development and settlement i n t h e western regions. Accomplishment o f these objectives required t h e federal government t o formulate an Indian p o l i c y t h a t would deal w i t h t h e i n e v i t a b l e c o n f l i c t . o f two cultures. There were three p a r t s t o t h e I n d i a n p o l i c y adopted F i r s t , was removal o f Indians from the

t o accomplish these objectives:

major east-west immigrant t r a i l s and as an obstacle t o development o f transcontinental r a i l r o a d routes; second, increasing the reservation system t o reduce contact between the races and thereby reduce c o n f l i c t ;

and t h i r d , using the reservation system t o assimilate the Indian i n t o mainstream American culture. The Indian p o l i c y was the cornerstone

national s e c u r i t y i s s u e d u r i n g the period and t h e focus o f army operations. I n retrospect t h i s strategy i s r e a d i l y apparent, but a t the time the s e c u r i t y strategy was n o t found expressed i n a document produced annually as i s t h e current practice. As General W. T. Sherman

prepared t o attend t h e August 1867 Peace Commission, t o open t h e p l a i n s f o r settlement and t h e r a i l r o a d , h i s concern was on d e f i n i n g t h e army's r o l e i n r e l a t i o n t o the p o l i c y o f the government. He stated:

Idont [ s i c ] care about i n t e r e s t i n g myself too f a r i n the f a t e o f t h e poor d e v i l s o f Indians who are doomed from the causes inherent i n t h e i r nature o r from'the natural & p e r s i s t e n t h o s t i l i t y o f t h e white race. A l l Iaim t o accomplish i s t o so c l e a r l y define the d u t i e s o f t h e C i v i l & M i l i t a r y agents o f Govt so t h a t we wont [ s i c ] be q u a r r e l l i n g a l l t h e time as t o whose business it i s t o look a f t e r them.2

The conclusion o f the C i v i l War brought the focus o f America back onto national expansion beyond the western f r o n t i e r o r i n t o the American western i n t e r i o r . Indeed, the "national objective" o f the

United States f o r the l a s t t h i r t y years o f t h e 19th century can be characterized as a " f i n a l rush o f American energy upon the remaining wilderness."3 The federal government was faced w i t h the need t o

develop a s e c u r i t y strategy t h a t would support the movement o f industry and immigrants east from C a l i f o r n i a and west from t h e second t i e r o f
. . states trans-Mississippi

Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota.

Challenging the inexorable march o f America's "manifest destiny" was the Indian. The Indian p o l i c y was the federal government's strategy t o answer t h i s challenge.

By 1865, the f i r s t pre-war attempt a t a solution t o the the "Indian question" had been overcome by the continued western expansion o f the nation. This attempt a t physical separation using the western

trans Mississippi River states f o r Indian t e r r i t o r y , had become untenable. As a security strategy, the westward transfer o f the

eastern Indian t r i b e s , thus clearing the area east o f the Mississippi r i v e r f o r " c i v i l i z a t i o n " , no longer f u l f i l l e d the national objective o f settlement from "sea t o shining sea." The pre-war national p o l i c y o f separation had been created by the r a t i f i c a t i o n o f the Indian Removal B i l l , 28 May 1830. Two trends

which emerged during t h i s period would a f f e c t f u r t h e r relations between the United States and the Indian. the U.S. F i r s t , the Indians who had supported

during the War o f 1812 were stripped o f the lands t h a t had

been previously guaranteed them by t r e a t i e s shall grow and the water flow." nation, commented:

"as long as the grass

As Chief John Ross, o f the Cherokee

What a pernicious e f f o r t must such a document...have on the interests and improvements o f the Indians? W h o shall expect from the Cherokees a rapid progress i n education, r e l i g i o n , agriculture, and the various a r t s o f c i v i l i z e d l i f e when resolutions are passed i n a c i v i l i z e d and Christian l e g i s l a t u r e (whose d a i l y sessions, w e are t o l d , commence w i t h a prayer t o Almighty God) t o wrest t h e i r country from them, and strange t o t e l l , w i t h the point o f the bayonet, i f nothing else w i l l do? I s it the nature o f things, t h a t the Cherokees w i l l b u i l d good and comfortable houses and make them great farms, when they know not but t h e i r possessions w i l l f a l l i n t o the hands o f strangers and invaders? H o w i s i t possible t h a t they w i l l establish f o r themselves good laws, when an attempt i s made t o crush t h e i r f i r s t feeble e f f o r t toward i t ? '

The second outcome o f the i n i t i a l government Indian separation p o l i c y was the r e s u l t o f a Supreme Court decision i n favor o f the Cherokee nation. I n 1831, Chief Justice John Marshall and the court

ruled i n favor o f the Cherokees, while deciding the case o f Cherokee v. the State o f Georgia. This decision stated t h e Indians were not

subject t o s t a t e law, but also ruled t h a t they were not an independent nation. The Court defined the Indian r e l a t i o n t o the federal

government by c a l l i n g him a "domestic dependent nation i n a s t a t e o f pupilage."= Ultimately, these decisions t o dispossess the Indians o f t h e federal government would

and consider them dependent "nations"

require t h e involvement o f the regular army as t h e primary m i l i t a r y instrument necessary f o r enforcing Indian p o l i c y i n t h e west. This

r o l e would break w i t h the established American t r a d i t i o n east o f the Mississippi r i v e r which had r e l i e d on the presence o f l o c a l m i l i t i a s t o control t h e Indian t r i b e s . The next attempt t o c o n t r o l t h e Indians and allow unimpeded western settlement was t h e reservation o r concentration policy. As

e a r l y as the 1840's, e f f o r t s were begun t o use reservations as a t o o l o f Indian policy. As the u t i l i t y o f securing t h e area west o f the

Mississippi r i v e r was becoming evident, the government s h i f t e d from the p o l i c y o f separation t o one o f concentration. I n 1848, t h e idea o f

creating Indian colonies on the western p l a i n s was discussed. I n February o f 1851, Congress passed the Indian Appropriation Act, mandating the new p o l i c y and providing monies t o negotiate treaties. By 1865, the p r i n c i p l e features o f the I n d i a n p o l i c y t h a t These features would The p o l i c y

the United States would pursue were i n place.

remain i n various forms u n t i l the end o f t h e 19th century.


21

c a l l e d f o r the forced r e l o c a t i o n o f the Indian and t h e d r a s t i c reduction o f areas i n which the I n d i a n was f r e e t o p r a c t i c e h i s culture. Implementation o f the reservation system was a t hand and

would p r e c i p i t a t e the longest and most v i o l e n t Indian wars the nation had known. Following the C i v i l War, t h e reservation system was the paramount means o f implementing national p o l i c y as the United States turned again t o resolving the continuing challenge o f the Indian t o national s e c u r i t y and western expansion. Secretary o f t h e I n t e r i o r

James Harlan dispatched two groups o f commissioners i n August 1865, t o negotiate t h e new parameters o f U.S. Indian p o l i c y w i t h the Indians of

Kansas, the I n d i a n T e r r i t o r y , and t h e Plains Tribes. This p o l i c y was a hybrid o f t h e separation policy.
I t sought

t o "concentrate," t h e Indians a t several large reservations and remove them from the immigration and r a i l r o a d routes. The Indian T e r r i t o r y

would serve as one o f the large reservations w i t h a second one locatec' on t h e northern Plains. From 1865 u n t i l 1876, t h i s s i n g l e p o l i c y

constituted t h e national s e c u r i t y strategy o f t h e United States i n response t o t h e Indians. This strategy became known as the Peace P o l i c y during t h e Grar~t administration, as i t attempted ( a t l e a s t on the surface) t o r e l y on diplomatic, rather than m i l i t a r y means, t o accomplish i t s objectives. The view o f t h e Indians as wards o f the federal government was c e n t r a l t o t h i s strategy and u l t i m a t e l y would unhinge it, as both f u t u r e

p o l i t i c a l and economic f a c t o r s became evident.

Even i n 1865, the

commissioners dispatched by Secretary Harlan were instructed t h a t "these t r e a t i e s might be amended by the Senate and such admendments would not require the concurrence o f the Indians."7 The Peace P o l i c y d i d not adopt the pure form o f the o r i g i n a l p o l i c y o f concentration. While s t i l l focused on the o v e r a l l national

objectives, t r e a t i e s were not geared toward displacing the t r i b e s t o the large colonies o r i g i n a l l y envisioned. Instead, a desire t o avert

p o t e n t i a l h o s t i l i t i e s l e f t negotiators a wide band o f operation. P o l i t i c a l expediency would determine which t r i b e s were t o be l e f t i n t r a d i t i o n a l areas o r were t o be removed t o the Indian T e r r i t o r y . The

net r e s u l t was a quilt-work o f reservations throughout the area created on an ad hoc basis. The view o f the national strategy toward t h e Indian was contentious throughout t h i s period. The notion o f dealing w i t h the

Indian by diplomatic rather than m i l i t a r y means was debated i n both p o l i t i c a l and m i l i t a r y c i r c l e s . Senior members o f the m i l i t a r y

establishment a c t i v e l y campaigned f o r the c o n t r o l o f Indian a f f a i r s t o be transferred t o t h e War Department. Army leaders believed t h a t

management o f Indian a f f a i r s would be more e f f i c i e n t l y served by the War Department. The Army saw i t s e l f removed from the corruption and

inconsistant administration t h a t plagued t h e Bureau o f Indian A f f a i r s , as administered by the Department o f the I n t e r i o r . I n 1867, a h i l l t o

r e t u r n the I n t e r i o r Department's Indian O f f i c e t o the War Department passed the House, but f a i l e d i n the Senate.8

President Grant l e d t h e element opposed t o m i l i t a r y c o n t r o l o f I n d i a n strategy and favored the employment o f other means. Grant's

view was a great disappointment t o senior army leaders, who believed he would be a strong advocate o f army c o n t r o l o f Indian policy. March 1873, a t h i s second inaugural address he stated: M y e f f o r t s i n t h e f u t u r e w i l l be d i r e c t e d t o t h e r e s t o r a t i o n o f good f e e l i n g between t h e d i f f e r e n t sections o f our common by a human course, t o b r i n g the aborigines o f t h e country country under the benign influences o f education and c i v i l i z a t i o n . I t i s e i t h e r t h i s o r war o f extermination. Wars o f extermination, engaged i n by people pursuing commerce and a l l i n d u s t r i a l pursuits, are expensive even against t h e weakest people, and are demoralizing and wicked. Our s u p e r i o r i t y o f strength and advantages o f c i v i l i z a t i o n should make us l e n i e n t toward the Indian. The wrong i n f l i c t e d upon him should be taken i n t o account and t h e balance placed t o h i s c r e d i t . The moral view o f t h e question should be considered and the question asked, Can n o t t h e Indian be made a useful and productive member o f society by proper teaching and treatment? I f the e f f o r t i s made i n good f a i t h , we w i l l stand b e t t e r before t h e c i v i l i z e d nations o f t h e e a r t h and i n our own consciences f o r having made i t . 9 On 4

...

While sounding a h i g h moral tone, Grant a l s o addressed the economics o f a national strategy o f extermination t h a t he saw as the a l t e r n a t i v e t o the diplomatic s o l u t i o n executed under the auspices o f the I n t e r i o r Department. This economic concern r e f l e c t e d t h e growing

h o s t i l i t y w i t h i n the Congress f o r appropriations toward a standing regular army. The struggle t o maintain an army force s t r u c t u r e t o meet s e c u r i t y objectives was not a new phenemonon i n American h i s t o r y . Proponents o f f i s c a l conservatism w i t h i n the Congress found a l l i e s among congressmen and other Americans, who questioned both the u t i l i t y o f a standing army and feared i t might be used f o r some dark p o l i t i c a l Purpose. The reduction i n f o r c e conducted a t the end o f t h e C i v i l War As h i s t o r i a n Edward M. CoPfman describes:

was both rapid and deep.

The C i v i l War was over. Some Americans assumed t h a t t h i s meant e l i m i n a t i o n o f the m i l i t a r y . I n 1885, when a colonel was introduced t o a c u l t i v a t e d , urban Eastern woman, she was astonished: "What, a colonel o f the Army? Why, Isupposed the Army was a l l disbanded a t the close o f t h e war!" Most o f i t was. Within s i x months, 800,000 o f the m i l l i o n men i n blue were c i v i l i a n s again. By 1875 the permanent strength had leveled o f f a t I n comparison w i t h foreign armies, t h i s placed the s i z e o f ?5,OOO t h e American army i n the 1880's a t s l i g h t l y less than h a l f t h a t o f Belgium's, a seventh t h a t o f B r i t a i n ' s , and a twentieth o f the French army's size.10

...

It was a period o f t e n c a l l e d t h e "dark days" o f the army, and i t would

shape army planning o f national m i l i t a r y strategy and operational strategy i n the west. Beginning i n 1869 and 1870, President Grant i n i t i a t e d the most w e l l known aspect o f t h e Peace Policy, when he abdicated, t o a large degree, federal control over the Indians t o r e l i g i o u s and reform groups. This movement was begun i n the 1850's, p r i m a r i l y by Bishop Whipple and other reformers

Henry Whipple o f the Episcopal church.

and the c u l t u r e o f the believed t h a t the r a p i d adoption o f ~ h r i s t i a n i t y white man was the only means t o preclude e x t i n c t i o n o f the Indian. This view was s i m i l a r t o t h a t held by the proponents o f the reservation system w i t h i n Grant's administration. The d i f f e r e n c e i n opinion was

expressed over the management o f the Indian on the reservation. Whipple and the reformers believed t h a t corruption had reached such proportions t h a t no progress could be made i n c i v i l i z i n g the Indian. He proposed e s t a b l i s h i n g an honest administration o f Indian

reservations by employing the "Friends o f t h e Indian", as the reformers l a t e r became known. Whipple predicted t h a t i f the corruption o f the

Indian O f f i c e was not swept away, "a nation which sowed robbery would reap a harvest o f blood. ""

With Grant's approval; churches began t o nominate people t o serve as Indian agents. Congress created a Board o f Indian

Commissioners t o manage t h e Indian O f f i c e and a c t as a watch dog on corruption w i t h i n the reservation system. I n i t i a l l y , the board was

c o n t r o l l e d by wealthy Protestant philanthropists, but as d i f f i c u l t i e s rose over s t a f f i n g t h e reservations, many churches l o s t i n t e r e s t and l e f t f o r ' o t h e r missionary adventures..j2 The Peace p o l i c y brought

l i t t l e improvement according t o army o f f i c e r s and, i n f a c t , i n v i t e d disaster. Indians, being enamored w i t h t h e w a r r i o r mystique, would Statements such as Colonel Richard I r v i n 5 1

only respect other warriors. Dodge's were common:

Christian-appointed agents were a f i t t i n g climax t o the preposterous acts which f o r a century have s t u l t i f i e d the .governmental c o n t r o l and management o f Indians. To appoint Nathan Meeker, however f a i t h f u l , honest, and c h r i s t i a n i n bearing he might be, t o an agency i n charge o f a s e t o f w i l d brigands l i k e the Utes, i s simply t o i n v i t e massacre.13 While not w e l l received by t h e m i l i t a r y , the reformers themselves were perhaps a greater t h r e a t t o t h e Indian than the t h r e a t o f d i r e c t m i l i t a r y action. Professing a strong b e l i e f i n Indian

e q u a l i t y w i t h the white man, reformers f e l t any shortcoming o f the Indian was due t o t h e i r arrested c u l t u r a l development. I n order t o

assimilate the Indian, they f e l t h i s c u l t u r a l heritage must be completely destroyed and t h a t t h e I n d i a n must be forced t o t h i s a l t e r n a t i v e f o r h i s own good. With t h i s r e l i g i o u s bent, the reformers

were po#erful adversaries i n t h e world o f 19th century Indian p o l i c y politics.

The management o f Indian t-eservations by reformers, as a means t o i n s t i t u t e a program o f social-Darwinism, was an abject f a i l u r e .

P o l i t i c a l i n f i g h t i n g between r e l i g i o u s denominations, the remaining p o l i t i c a l appointees, and elected o f f i c i a l s f a i l e d t o produce an improvement t o reservation conditions o r a cessation o f h o s t i l i t i e s between t h e I n d i a n t r i b e s and the growing white population. The

f a i l u r e o f t h i s program s h i f t e d blame t o t h e reform movement, away from t h e Grant administration, while f u e l i n g continued demands f o r d i r e c t control o f Indian p o l i c y by the army, a view t h a t was held almost u n i v e r s a l l y by senior army o f f i c e r s . The 1876 inauguration o f Rutherford 0 . Hayes brought a s u b t l e change t o national s e c u r i t y strategy. I n h i s inaugural address, Hayes

l a i d a philosophy o f " p a c i f i c a t i o n " on the nation's p o l i t i c a l p l a t e , t h a t sought t o b r i n g the reconstruction period t o a close.14 The

national objective, i n terms o f the Indians, was t o be a continuation o f the Grant administration's emphasis on a p o l i c y t h a t r e l i e d on diplomatic means. His administration s h i f t e d i t s focus away from the

r e l o c a t i o n o f Indian t r i b e s t o the reservations, instead emphasizing a s s i m i l a t i o n o f the Indian i n t o t h e "white" culture. The s h i f t away from t h e reservation p o l i c y d i d not occur immediately. The Hayes administration continued the Peace Policy,

using reservations and c i t i n g the perceived b e n e f i t o f p r o t e c t i n g and c i v i l i z i n g the Indian. The reservation system continued t o be

modified, as i t had been during the Grant years, away from the concentration o f the Indian i n large centralized locations. Instead,

the reservations were smaller e n t i t i e s incorporating the Indian along loose t r i b a l lines, and t h i s "small reservation approach" was the

27

cornerstone o f the Hayes strategy.

As a r e s u l t , when President Hayes

took o f f i c e i n 1877, "over s i x t y t r i b e s had been r e s e t t l e d i n the I n d i a n T e r r i t o r y , while many more were s h i f t e d from t h e i r homeland t o new locales.
"'5

The reservation system t h a t President Hayes i n h e r i t e d was l a r g e l y created on an ad hoc basis t o preclude c o n f l i c t a t a l o c a l level. As discussi?d e a r l i e r , t h e two c e n t r a l themes guiding the

i n s t i t u t i o n o f t h e reservation system were separation o f t h e Indians from the major immigration routes and t h e i r removal as an impediment ti: the progress o f the transcontinental r a i l r o a d system. These ambitions

were f u r t h e r amended t o include removal o f Indians from areas t h a t had gained importance due t o the discovery o f various natural resources (e.g., gold i n the Black H i l l s ) . As a r e s u l t o f t h e discovery o f gold

and s i l v e r , the t r e a t y between t h e federal government and the Utes o f Colorado would be revised three times, accounting f o r each new mineral discovery. The task t h a t f e l l t o Hayes and h i s army was t o develop a s e c u r i t y strategy and a m i l i t a r y strategy t h a t would address the f a i l u r e by e a r l i e r p o l i c y makers t o c o n t r o l the I n d i a n t r i b e s i n the long term. The pure separation p o l i c y had been invalidated since the The Peace Policy

C i v i l War by the continued expansion o f t h e country.

had n o t met expectations i n terms o f a s s i m i l a t i n g the Indians i n t o the white culture. I n f a c t , t h e i n s t i t u t i o n o f t h e Peace Policy

corresponded w i t h the beginning o f a ten year period during which some o f the most dramatic c o n f l i c t s between the races had occured. time t h e army viewed t h i s as a cause and e f f e c t relationship.
A t the

The

watchword became i m p r o v i s ~ t i o ni n t h e formulation o f a new national


28

strategy.

As h i s t o r i a n Richard White describes:

American o f f i c i a l s , i n attempting t o h a l t c o n f l i c t between Indians and whites, prevent expensive wars, and open up lands t o white settlement, created reservations t h e way survivors o f a shipwreck might fashion a r a f t from t h e debris o f the sunken vessel. Reservations evolved on an ad hoc basis as a way t o prevent c o n f l i c t and enforce a separation o f the races.16 When President Hayes i n h e r i t e d the "Indian question" from the Grant administration, a long s e r i e s o f m i l i t a r y campaigns had j u s t been completed, culminating i n the destruction o f Custer and h i s command. Many throughout t h e country, including t h e Commanding General o f the Army William T. Sherman, saw t h e need f o r a complete r e v i s i o n o f the s e c u r i t y strategy o r the I n d i a n policy. The r e l i g i o u s and

philanthropic groups t h a t President Grant had formally promoted t o the f o r e f r o n t , i n the e f f o r t t o c i v i l i z e t h e Indian on t h e reservation, were challenged by both "westerners" and by t h e Army. The management

o f t h e Indian, by these s o c i e t i e s and t h e Indian O f f i c e o f t h e I n t e r i o r Department, was deemed a t o t a l f a i l u r e and c a l l s f o r the War Department t o manage t h e Indian again reached Congress i n 1877. Secretary o f the I n t e r i o r Carl Schurz stated much t h e same view as General Sherman when he assumed o f f i c e . His exposure t o Indians

p r i o r t o assuming o f f i c e was l i m i t e d and he held a view i n keeping w i t h the popular ethnocentrism o f the times. He stated:

The underlying support o f t h i s proposition [War Department c o n t r o l ] was the conviction t h a t the I n d i a n could never be c i v i l i z e d and t h a t the only pos%ible s o l u t i o n o f t h e problem which he embodied was t o confine him, under s t r i c t m i l i t a r y supervision, on reservations from which a l l u p l i f t i n g c o n t a c t w i t h white men was barred, till he should become e x t i n c t by v i r t u e o f h i s own incurable barbarism.17

Schurz's views changed as he gained an appreciation o f the issues a t hand. While a j o i n t committee o f Congress reviewed the

strategy o f t h e "Peace Policy", Secretary Schurz issued a statement on


6 December, 1877, which reaffirmed t h a t strategy, and o u t l i n e d

a d d i t i o n a l measures t o be undertaken t o speed t h e a s s i m i l a t i o n o f t h e

Schurz's strategy c a l l e d f o r continued use o f the reservation system along w i t h a program o f guiding t h e I n d i a n toward self-support. By t r a i n i n g t h e I n d i a n i n "modern" a g r i c u l t u r a l means, Schurz f e l t the Indian wouldgradually replace h i s t r a d i t i o n a l l i f e s t y l e w i t h the l i f e s t y l e o f t h e dominant culture. I n t h e long term he saw the

"Americanization" o f the Indian, as a means t o eliminate t h e need f o r t h e maintenance o f federal reservation lands.i9 Eventually the

reservations would wither away, being replaced by p r i v a t e land held by Indians p r a c t i c i n g a g r i c u l t u r a l pursuits. S t i l l , i n h i s f i r s t annual

report i n November 1877, he expressed the view t h a t , even w i t h the a p p l i c a t i o n o f t h e modified reservation system, t h e recurring c o n f l i c t between t h e advancing f r o n t i e r and t h e Indians could not be eliminated e n t i r e l y because o f the proximity o f the races.20 t h i s strategy was t o be l i m i t e d . Schurz stated: The Army r o l e i n

Such a p o l i c y would be t h e most conducive t o peace and t h e most economical. I t ought t o be retained and developed; but t h e army would be no proper agency f o r i t s execution. M i l i t a r y men and methods were indispensable f o r emergencies; the long, slow process o f r a i s i n g the red men o u t o f barbarism, however, required q c a l i t i e s i n those who guided i t t h a t the army could n o t supply.21 The r i v a l r y over the management o f Indian a f f a i r s had been i n question since the t r a n s f e r o f the O f f i c e o f Indian A f f a i r s from the War Department t o I n t e r i o r Department i n 1849.22 The debate was

c e n t r a l t o providing a linkage between the s e c u r i t y and m i l i t a r y s t r a t e g i e s toward the Indian, but was o f t e n diverted by charges o f corruption and lack o f expertise by both sides. Schurz took d i r e c t a c t i o n on one o f the army's long standing complaints o f the I n t e r i o r Department, by reorganizing the Indian Office.
A long time advocate o f c i v i l service reform, he entered

o f f i c e w i t h a mandate from President Hayes t o clean up the I n t e r i o r Department, and i n p a r t i c u l a r , t h e I n d i a n Bureau. An i n v e s t i g a t i o n

i n i t i a t e d by Schurz i n t o t h e business practices o f t h e Indian o f f i c e was completed i n August 1877. The report gained national prominence

when reported by the New York Times, and l e d t o the replacement o f the Commissioner o f Indian A f f a i r s w i t h i n a month. The report focused on Schurz

the corruption and abuses t h a t plagued the Indian Bureau.

described h i s dealings w i t h t h e Bureau as, "a constant f i g h t w i t h sharks."z3 The house cleaning proved t o be enough t o defeat army attempts t o gain control o f Indian a f f a i r s through a j o i n t congressional committee i n 1878-79. I n a d d i t i o n t o maintaining c o n t r o l o f Indian

a f f a i r s , the reforms a l l e v i a t e d some o f t h e grievances held by the Indians and served t o reduce the l e v e l o f open h o s t i l i t y a t some o f the reservations. Schurz's e f f o r t s i n cleaning up corruption i n the Indian The D i v i s i o n o f the

Bureau even won admiration i n A n y c i r c l e s .

Missouri Commander, General P h i l i p Sheridan commented,"

...the

service

o f Indian a f f a i r s was f i n a l l y l i f t e d out o f the mire o f corrcption t h a t

While a had long made i t a d i s c r e d i t t o our c i ~ i l i z a t i o n . " ~ ~ symbolic step i n the r i g h t d i r e c t i o n , the e f f e c t o f the Schurz reforms s t i l l had not addressed corruption a t the grassroots l e v e l o r t h e problems o f the management o f reservations by competing r e l i g i o u s groups. Given the p o l i t i c a l environment addressed above, t h e army found i t s e l f i n t h e p o s i t i o n o f determining the best means t o u t i l i z e the instrument o f m i l i t a r y power t o support t h e accomplishment o f the Indian p o l i c y goals and t h e o v e r a l l national objectives. I n the s p r i n g

: o f 1865, t h e a n y returned i t s a t t e n t i o n t o the s e c u r i t y o f the west, :

r o l e i t had abdicated t o s t a t e and t e r r i t o r i a l m i l i t i a s during t h e C i v i l War. That year, t h e Commissioner o f I n d i a n A f f a i r s reported the

number o f Indians as: " c i v i l i z e d , 97,000; s e m i c i v i l i z e d 125,000; wholly barbarous, 78,000.


O f these, 180,000 had t r e a t i e s w i t h the United

States and were consequently involved i n r e l a t i v e l y s t a b l e and mutually understood r e l a t i o n s w i t h t h e government; another 40,000 l i v e d on reservations and were more o r l e s s under t h e c o n t r o l o f the Indian agents; about 55,000 were t o t a l l y uncontrolled."25 The army faced a d d i t i o n a l problems t h a t had developed during the h i a t u s o f t h e regulars i n t h e east during t h e C i v i l War. The

r e l a t i o n s h i p between white and I n d i a n ( i n p a r t i c u l a r the Plains t r i b e s ) had deteriorated, f i r s t because o f t h e conduct o f operations by t e r r i t o r i a l m i l i t i a s , and second because t h e pace o f e m i g r a t i o n had increased. The most g l a r i n g example o f m i l i t i a excesses was t h e massacre o f Black K e t t l e ' s band o f Cheyenne a t Sand Creek by the Colorado t e r r i t o r i a l m i l i t i a i n 1864. I n t h i s case, t h e Cheyennes had gathered 32

a t a p o i n t designated by t h e t e r r i t o r i a l governor and were using a prearranged s i g n a l denoting them as "not h o s t i l e . " I n spite o f

complying f u l l y w i t h t h e d i r e c t i v e o f t h e governor, i n c l u d i n g f l y i n g an American flag, they here s e t upon b r u t a l l y by t h e Colorado t e r r i t o r i a l m i l i t i a under t h e command o f Colonel John M. Chivington. The episode

r e s u l t e d i n f u r t h e r r e p r i s a l s and a l i e n a t i o n on both sides. Sand Creek became t h e r a l l y i n g c r y f o r humanitarian groups throughout t h e country. An i n v e s t i g a t i o n o f i t s events d i s c r e d i t e d t h e

effectiveness o f t h e Colorado m i l i t i a s p e c i f i c a l l y and t h e use of m i l i t i a troops i n general. one by t h e U.S. Two separate i n v e s t i g a t i o n s were condccted Neither adjudged any

Senate and one by t h e Army.

r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r the i n c i d e n t o r p r e f e r r e d charges, but c l e a r l y Chivington was a t f a u l t . U l t i m a t e l y , Chivington f l e d t h e s t a t e and As a r e s u l t o f t h e chronic mishandling o f

returned t o h i s n a t i v e Ohio.

I n d i a n a f f a i r s by l o c a l m i l i t i a s and t h e established precedent f o r t r e a t i n g Indians as "wards" o f t h e federal government, t h e regular army eventually became t h e m i l i t a r y instrument responsible f o r t h e enfarcement o f U.S. p o l i c y i n t h e west.

The movement o f peoples t o t h e western f r o n t i e r s had increased during t h e C i v i l War years. Migration increased, as many sought t o

f i n d a new s t a r t i n new mining ventures i n t h e west, o r i n t h e promise o f f r e e land created by t h e Homestead Act o f 1862. The population west

o f t h e M i s s i s s i p p i River grew by one m i l l i o n between 1860 and 1870 and an a d d i t i o n a l two and a h a l f m i l l i o n by t h e end o f t h e Hayes administration.26 This increase i n population compounded t h e army's

dilemma as i t placed greater demands on i t f o r s e c u r i t y o f t h e

immigrants, but also increased the need f o r measures t o p r o t e c t the t r e a t y arrangements guaranteed t o the Indians by the federal government. As the army examined t h e s i t u a t i o n west o f t h e Mississippi River i n t h e spring o f 1865, i t was confident i n i t s a b i l i t i e s t o subdue the I n d i a n as an obstacle t o national objecti-ves. As General

Sherman announced i n November 1865, "as soon as t h e Indians see t h a t we have Regular Cavalry among them they w i l l r e a l i z e t h a t we are i n condition t o punish them f o r any murders o r robberies."r7 The

confidence was perhaps more due t o u n f a m i l i a r i t y w i t h the problem a t hand than an accurate assessment o f the s t r a t e g i c s i t u a t i o n . Nevertheless, as t h e forces t h a t had reunited t h e country took two days t o parade before t h e reviewing stand i n Washington, army leadership prepared f o r operations on t h e f r o n t i e r .
A few m i l i t a r y "giants" dominated the d i r e c t i o n o f national

m i l i t a r y strategy.

The o f f i c e o f t h e Commanding General o f the Army

f i l l e d i n order by Generals Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan from t h e end o f t h e C i v i l War t o 1886, dominated t h e s t r a t e g i c a p p l i c a t i o n o f m i l i t a r y power i n the west. This i s n o t t o imply t h a t t h e Commanding

General was i n an a l l powerful p o s i t i o n t o exercise complete executive power from h i s o f f i c e . The army had y e t t o i n s t i t u t e the reforms o f

the general s t a f f system, instead r e l y i n g on t h e t e n administrative and technical bureaus established by the Army Act o f 1866.28 This system

created two chains o f c o n t r o l w i t h i n the army - the s t a f f and the l i n e . The d i v i s i o n o f r e s p o n s i b i l i t y s p l i t t h e army. The bureau

c h i e f s reported t o the Secretary o f War and d e a l t w i t h administrative and technical matters. Operational command was exercised from the

34

President through the commanding general.

The outcome o f t h i s

arrangement was l a r g e l y a measure o f the p e r s o n a l i t i e s o f the President, Secretary o f War, and t h e Commanding General a t any given time. army. I t s impact o n operational considerations was f e l t across the As Robert M. Utley comments:

Although Sherman held t h e post o f commanding general o f the army and profoundly influenced i t s character, he d i d n o t a c t u a l l y command it. The army staff-more exactly, the War Department staff-remained r e s o l u t e l y outside Sherman's army. And t h e complications t h a t the s t a f f ' s independence created f o r the commanding general i n t u r n made h i s a u t h o r i t y over the l i n e more nominal than rea1.29 The key uniformed decision makers o f t h e l i n e a t the' s t r a t e g i c and operational l e v e l s were i n t i m a t e l y aware o f each others' strengths and weaknesses. Past associations during the conduct o f the C i v i l War

assisted t h e formulation o f a centralized plan o f s t r a t e g i c and operational l e v e l commanders f o r t h e conduct army operations and campaigns i n the west. I n the spring o f 1865, General Grant was determined t o u t i l i z e the a v a i l a b l e manpower t o conduct offensive operations on the western p l a i n s t o gain the s t r a t e g i c i n i t i a t i v e . operations q u i c k l y was twofold. His desire t o execute these

F i r s t , t h e l a r g e s t p l a i n s t r i b e s , the

Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho, were r a i d i n g immigrant t r a i n s and homesteads i n reaction t o the previously discussed m i l i t i a excesses. Second, although Grant was hopeful o f maintaining a standing force l a r g e r than a t pre-Civil War levels, he was a n t i c i p a t i n g congressional troop reductions o v e r a l l , and a requirement f o r increased army presence t o support the reconstruction e f f o r t i n the South. Secretary o f War

Stanton estimated t h a t the standing regular army would be about t r i p l e 1860 strength o r 50,000 men.do General Pope advised Grant, "I think

the government w i l l f i n d i t t r u e economy t o f i n i s h t h i s Indian war t h i s season, so i t w i l l stay finished. W e have the troops enough now on the

p l a i n s t o do i t now b e t t e r than hereafter."a' An offensive planned t o include 12,000 troops beginning i n Apri 1 1865 was delayed u n t i 1 t h e summer. When t h e offensive began

t r o o p strength and q u a l i t y had been so dissipated t h a t the o r i g i n a l objectives were outside t h e l i m i t o f attainment. Troops employed

numbered l e s s than 5,000 and instead o f regular formations, t e r r i t o r i a l and s t a t e m i l i t i a s comprised the m a j o r i t y o f forces.3i Grant's p l a n

t o b r i n g the I n d i a n wars t o a decisive conclusion through a s t r a t e g i c offensive f a i l e d . The combined e f f e c t s o f t h e reduction i n the army

strength and t h e demand f o r troops i n t h e South and l a t e r on the Mexican f r o n t i e r would prevent f u r t h e r consideration o f a general offensive. The s t r a t e g i c design f o r the conduct o f t h e Indian wars t h a t would characterize the regular army i n the west was the product o f one man, General W i l l i a m T. Sherman. The demands o f supporting national

objectives w i t h severely l i m i t e d resources forced t h e army onto t h e s t r a t e g i c defensive i n the west. Early on, Sherman saw the p o t e n t i a l

f o r the employment o f the r a i l r o a d as a means t o allow the operational offensive. Based on h i s C i v i l War experience, Sherman r e a l i z e d t h a t

the army could concentrate troops r a p i d l y by using the inherent m o b i l i t y provided by the r a i l r o a d , while remaining on the s t r a t e g i c defensive. Sherman wrote t o the War Department and General Grant, i n

the f a l l o f 1865, a f t e r viewing progress on two sections o f the r a i l r o a d , on the importance o f the r a i l r o a d i n t h e west, "I gave both a close and c r i t i c a l examinaticn...because
36

I see t h a t each w i l l enter

l a r g e l y i n t o our m i l i t a r y calculations."3J

Sherman would work

c l o s e l y w i t h the major r a i l r o a d companies t o synchronize the progress on routes i n t o the operational area w i t h the employment o f army t a c t i c a l formations and the p o s i t i o n i n g o f the f o r t system i n the west. The army strategy i n the west b e n e f i t t e d from the d e f i n i t i o n o f the national objective. The o b j e c t i v e (securing t h e freedom o f

movement f o r expansion along the major t r a i l s and r a i l l i n e s ) l e d the army t o the d e f i n i t i o n o f i t s primary area o f operations. The f a c t

t h a t t h e national s e c u r i t y strategy c a l l e d f o r the removal o f the Indian t r i b e s from t h i s area allowed the army t o deal w i t h t h e Indians piecemeal: F i r s t focusing on one t r i b e and then u t i l i z i n g the r a i l The strategy t h a t

network t o mass against subsequent challenges.

developed from the stated p o l i t i c a l objectives was t h e only course l e f t t o the army, based on i t s l i m i t e d resources. The strategy c a l l e d f o r

the army t o remain on the s t r a t e g i c defensive, while using superior organization and technology t o gain the operational and t a c t i c a l i n i t i a t i v e when required. The m i l i t a r y plan t h a t defined the U.S. army's s t r a t e g i c r o l e

i n t h e west was l i n k e d t o both the national objectives and the national s e c u r i t y strategy as defined by the federal governments p o l i c y toward the Indian. This t o a large p a r t was due t o t h e army's absence from The other branches o f t h e federal

the west during the C i v i l War.

government had established t h e i r agendas i n regards t o the Indians by the time the army returned i t s focus t o the west. the army, t o salute and carry out i t s mission.
It f e l l largely t o

ENDNOTES 1. T. Harry Williams, The H i s t o r y o f American Wars: From 1745 t o 1918 (New York: A l f r e d A. Knopf, Inc., 19811, x i v .

2. John F. Marszalek, Sherman: A S o l d i e r ' s Passion f o r Order (New York: The Free Press, 19931, 390.
3. Frederick Jackson Turner, The F r o n t i e r i n American H i s t o r y (Tucson: The U n i v e r s i t y Press o f Arizona, 19921, 312. y Nation: The American I n d i a n and t h e 5 . P h i l i p Weeks, Farewell. M United States, 1820-1890 ( A r l i n g t o n Heights: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 19901, 27. 6. Ibid., 29.

7. William T. Hagan, "United States I n d i a n P o l i c i e s , 1860-1900,"in Handbook o f North American Indians, Val. 4 (Washington D.C.,: Government P r i n t i n g O f f i c e , 19881, 52.
8.

Ibid.,

53.

9. Ulysses S. Grant, Inaugural Addresses o f t h e United States: From George Washinqton, 1789, t o John F. Kennedy, 1961 (Washington D.C.,: Government P r i n t i n g O f f i c e , 19611, 133-134. 10. Edward M. Coffman, The Old Army: A P o r t r a i t o f t h e American Army i n Peacetime. 1784-1898 (New York: Oxford U n i v e r s i t y Press, 19861, 215. 11. Richard White, I t ' s Your Misfortune and None o f MY Own: A H i s t o r y o f t h e American West (Norman: U n i v e r s i t y o f Oklahoma Press, 19911, 102. 12. Ibid., 103.

13. Sherry L. Smith, The View from O f f i c e r s ' Row: Army P e r c e ~ t i o n so f Western Indians (Tucson: U n i v e r s i t y o f Arizona Press, 1990), 95.

From
15. 16.

14.

Rutherford B. Hayes, Inaunural Addresses o f t h e United States:

George Washington, 1789. t o John F. Kennedy. 1961 (Washington D.C.,: Government P r i n t i n g O f f i c e , 19611, 136. Weeks, Farewell, MY Nation, 205. White, I t s Your Misfortune and None o f M y Own, 91.

17. Carl Schurz, The Reminiscences o f Carl Schurz, Vol 3 (New ~ o r k : The McClure Co., 19081, 385.

18. 19.

Ibid.,

385.

Weeks, Farewell, MY Nation, 204.

20. Hans L. Trefousse, "Carl Schurz and t h e Indians," The Great P l a i n s Quarterly 4 (Spring 1984): 114. 21. 22. Carl Schurz, The Reminiscences o f Carl Schurz, Vol 3, 385-386 Weeks, Farewell, MY Nation, 200.

23. Leonard D. White, The R e ~ u b l i c a n Era. 1869-1901 (New York: MacMillan Company, i958), 180. 24. Robert M. Utley, F r o n t i e r Regulars: The Armv and t h e Indian, 1866-1891 (Lincoln: U n i v e r s i t y o f Nebraska Press, 19731, 7-8. Era, 1869-1901, 182. The f i g u r e s leave 25. White, The R e ~ u b l i c a n 25,000 Indians unaccounted f o r i n t h e Bureau s t a t i s t i c s . Perhaps they represent Indians who were not accounted f o r by formal t r e a t y , b u t were not h o s t i l e t o U.S. i n t e r e s t s . 26. Utley, F r o n t i e r Regulars, 2.

27. Robert Wooster, The M i l i t a r y and United States I n d i a n P o l i c y , 1865-1903 (New Haven: Yale U n i v e r s i t y Press, 19881, 114. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. Utley, F r o n t i e r Regulars, 11. Ibid., 28.

Coffman, The Old Army, 216. Wooster, The M i l i t a r y and United States I n d i a n Policy, 112. Ibid., 112-113.

33. Robert G. Athearn, "General Sherman and t h e Western Railroads", P a c i f i c H i s t o r i c a l Review 24 (February 1955):40.

CHAPTER 3 THE OPPONENTS n o t t o compare For t h e time and t h e place they weren't bad w i t h Johnny Reb cavalry o r Cardigan's L i g h t s o r S c a r l e t t ' s Heavies o r the Union horse i n the C i v i l War, o r Sikhs o r Punjabis e i t h e r , b u t then these were a l l s o l d i e r s a t war, most o f t h e time, and t h e 7 t h weren't.' So stated t h e f i c t i o n a l Captain Harry Flashman i n assessing the a b i l i t y o f t h e 7 t h Cavalry i n 1876. Army o f t h e west and i t s opponents? What were the c a p a b i l i t i e s o f the
It i s the purpose o f t h i s Chapter,

as Professor Michael Howard would state, t o provide t h e context t o t h e " c o n f l i c t o f societies" between t h e American and Ute cultures.? The predominant mission o f t h e army a f t e r t h e end o f the C i v i l War was t o subjugate the Indian. Throughout the period t h i s mission I n 1S79, the

tested t h e very l i m i t s o f the c a p a b i l i t i e s o f the army.

year o f t h e Ute campaign, 20,300 troops garrisoned the west, representing 66 percent o f the t o t a l army strength.3 The demands o f

the geographic area and the nature o f t h e mission would l a r g e l y d i c t a t e the means required by t h e army. While the organization o f t h e I n d i a n "forces" t h a t the army fought was very t r a n s i t o r y , i f they were organized a t a l l , the system created by the U.S. Army r e f l e c t e d the need f o r well deflned geographic The system o f

boundaries and the delineation o f r e s p o n s i b i l i t y .

geographically defined " d i v i s i o n s " and "departments" was a continuation o f a method d a t i n g back t o the reorganization o f 1853.4

O n 11 August, 1866, the Army reorganized the command s t r u c t u r e i n t o three d i v i s i o n s west o f the Mississippi r i v e r . This s t r u c t u r e

would remain i n e f f e c t and carry the army through the I n d i a n wars. This basic organization would delineate command a u t h o r i t y , w i t h minor modifications, f o r the next twenty f i v e years. The M i l i t a r y D i v i s i o n
It

o f t h e Missouri was the l a r g e s t d i v i s i o n o f the three created.

encompassed the Great Plains area, which would be t h e focus o f m i l i t a r y a c t i o n against the Indian. From 1869 t o 1883 the D i v i s i o n o f the Missouri was f u r t h e r divided i n t o f i v e M i l i t a r y Departments: Texas, and Gulf. Dakota, P l a t t e , Missouri,

The Department o f the Gulf remained i n the d i v i s i o n With headquarters i n i t i a l l y a t F t Leavenworth,

from 1875 t o 1877.5

Kansas, and then a t Chicago, I l l i n o i s , i t was commanded by the second highest ranking o f f i c e r i n t h e army throughout t h e period. r e s p o s i b i l i t y was vast. ( f i g u r e 3) I t s area o f

As General Sherman stated i n h i s

1866 annual report, before incorporation o f areas east o f the

Mississippi River: I n order t o an understanding o f the great m i l i t a r y problems t o be solved, Imust s t a t e i n general terms t h a t t h i s m i l i t a r y d i v i s i o n embraces the vast region from the Mississippi River t o the Rocky Mountains, o f an average breadth (east t o west) o f one thousand three hundred and f i f t y miles and length (north t o south) o f over one thousand miles, v i z : from t h e south border o f New Mexico t o the B r i t i s h l i n e . O n the east are the f e r t i l e and r a p i d l y improving States o f Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas. Immediately on the west are the T e r r i t o r i e s and States Next i n o f Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and the Indian T e r r i t o r y order are the mountainous T e r r i t o r i e s o f Montana, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Eetween these mountainous T e r r i t o r i e s and those o f [which] can the r i v e r border l i e the'great p l a i n s o f America never be c u l t i v a t e d l i k e I l l i n o i s , never be f i l l e d w i t h inhabitants capable o f self-government and self-defense as against the Indians and marauders, but a t best can become a vast pasture-field, open and f r e e t o a l l f o r the rearing o f herds o f horses, mules, c a t t l e , and sheep.B

...

...

DEPARTMENT
OF

TEXAS

D i v i s i o n o f the Missouri (Adapted from Wade, The M i l i t a r y Conunand Structure) Figure 3

The delineation o f the departments w i t h i n the M i l i t a r y D i v i s i o n o f the Missouri was based on several factors. Department boundaries

were drawn t o roughly equate w i t h the boundaries o f t e r r i t o r i e s and s t a t e s i n order t o f a c i l i t a t e c i v i l - m i l i t a r y cooperation. I n addition,

the east-west o r i e n t a t i o n o f the departments corresponded w i t h the routes o f the major l i n e s o f communication (LOC) t o the west. Throughout t h e period o f t h e I n d i a n wars, the boundaries o f the departments and t h e placement o f t h e f o r t s , i n t e r n a l t o the departments, s h i f t e d w i t h t h e changes i n t h e use o f immigrant t r a i l s and the r a i l r o a d . The War Department also believed t h a t t h e boundaries o f the departments corresponded w i t h the areas c o n t r o l l e d by t h e major t r i b e s o f h o s t i l e Indians.' By d e f i n i n g an area o f r e s p o n s i b i l i t y t h a t

alledgedly incorporated the range o f a p a r t i c u l a r t r i b e , i t was believed t h a t the problems o f command and c o n t r o l between departments would not arise. The actual j u s t i f i c a t i o n o f the number and s i z e o f

the departments seems t o be the army's force s t r u c t u r e a f t e r the C i v i l War. I n examining t h e period frm 1866, t h e geographic command

s t r u c t u r e was reorganized t o meet the changes i n Congressional appropriations more than i n response t o changes i n the Indian situation.8 The two departments involved i n t h e 1879 Ute campaign were the Departments o f the P l a t t e and o f the Missouri. Both r e f l e c t e d an

organization t h a t was focused on protecting the LOC's through t h e i r respective area, and the u t i l i z a t i o n o f these l i n e s as a means t o conduct operations t o control the Indian. Headquartered i n Omaha,

Nebraska, the Department o f the P l a t t e by 1875 c o n t r o l l e d an area


43

including the s t a t e o f Iowa, t h e T e r r i t o r i e s of.Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah, and a p o r t i o n o f t h e T e r r i t o r y o f Idaho. I n i t i a l l y , the

department was concerned w i t h p r o t e c t i n g immigrant t r a i l s , such as the Bozeman, but by the completion o f the transcontinental r a i l r o a d i n May,
1869, the m a j o r i t y o f i t s troops were d e t a i l e d t o p r o t e c t t h i s singular

national link.9 The Department o f t h e Missouri had a s i m i l a r mission. With i t s

headquarters a t Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, the Department saw duty i n the p r o t e c t i o n o f immigrants along portions o f t h e Santa Fe and Oregon trails. By 1870, t h e Department had seen t h e destruction o f t h e major

Indian opposition i n i t s area, l a r g e l y due t o t h e work o f professional hunters, who i n t h e course o f two years, removed t h e great southern b u f f a l o herd upon which the Indians based t h e i r subsistence."J The

Department was responsible f o r an area t h a t covered t h e states o f I l l i n o i s , Missouri, Kansas, and p a r t o f Arkansas, as w e l l as the T e r r i t o r i e s o f Colorado, New Mexico, and t h e Indian T e r r i t o r i e s . The

department was w e l l supplied w i t h railroads, including a l i n e o f the Kansas P a c i f i c t h a t connected Denver from t h e east and ran north t o t h e Union P a c i f i c l i n e a t Cheyenne, Wyoming.11 The manpower afforded Lieutenant General Sheridan and the D i v i s i o n o f t h e Missouri was hardly s u f f i c i e n t f o r t h e area. I n 1879,

the aggregate strength o f the d i v i s i o n was 15,517 o f f i c e r s and men, responsible t o garrison seventy-one permanent posts and Wenty-two temporary encampments. This s t r u c t u r e provided f o r a force r a t i o o f

one s o l d i e r f o r every seventy-five square miles i n the Departments o f the P l a t t e and the Missouri.12

The demands o f safeguarding r a i l and other l i n e s o f communication, i n a d d i t i o n t o t h e mission o f c o n t r o l l i n g Indians and p r o t e c t i n g them ( a t l e a s t marginally) from white depradations on reservations and t r e a t y land, led the army t o e s t a b l i s h the f o r t system. This system positioned small army contingents, usually company As

o r troop sized, along t h e paths o f advancing " c i v i l i z a t i o n . " ~ e n e r ' a lSheridan described:

To throughly and e f f e c t i v e l y perform t h e d u t i e s devolving upon us compels us many times t o overwork our troops, and not unfrequently obliges us t o take the f i e l d w i t h small detachments, which have heretofore occasionally been overmatched and g r e a t l y outnumbered by our foes. This i s not as i t should be; but so long as our companies are l i m i t e d t o t h e i r average strength ( f i f t y men t o a b a t t e r y o f a r t i l l e r y , s i x t y men t o a company o f cavalry, and f o r t y men t o a company o f i n f a n t r y ) , i t cannot be Compelled as i t i s t o keep i n advance o f the wave o f avoided c i v i l i z a t i o n constantly flowing westward, and t o watch the Northern and Southern borders and guard them from incursions o f savage foes, and also t o be i n readiness t o repress any outbreaks upon the I n d i a n reservations, t o say nothing o f having t o make new roads, erect f o r t s , and f u r n i s h escorts f o r surveying and exploring parties, i t i s , as Ihave said, overworked, on account o f i t s inadequate strength f o r the service required. 1 3

...

Because o f both t h e demands placed on the army o f the west and i t s small size, the feature which has come t o characterize the I n d i a n f i g h t i n g army arose--the fort. F o r t Fred Steele, Wyoming not only

played a key r o l e i n the Ute campaign, b u t was c h a r a c t e r i s t i c o f a l l western f o r t s . Established i n June, 1868, i n t h e Wyoming t e r r i t o r y , a t

an i n t e r s e c t i o n o f the North P l a t t e River and the Union P a c i f i c l i n e ,


i t served as p a r t o f a system o f f o r t s f o r the protection o f the

r a i l r o a d and the Overland T r a i l and as a replacement t o the abandoned Bozeman T r a i 1 posts.

'

The f o r t system r e l i e d on the advantage i n operational m o b i l i t y t h a t the r a i l r o a d provided, t o overcome any s u p e r i o r i t y i n numbers the

Indians could achieve l o c a l l y .

By u t i l i z i n g the complementary

development o f the r a i l r o a d and t h e telegraph, t h e army could move troops and equipment t o pursue and punish h o s t i l e bands. General

Sherman was among the e a r l i e s t t o r e a l i z e the p o t e n t i a l o f the r a i l r o a d i n the western campaigns, b u t he was n o t alone. The annual reports

from both d i v i s i o n a l and departmental commanders included an update on the s t a t u s o f the most recent r a i l l i n e s established i n t h e i r area o f responsibility. General Sheridan commented on t h e close r e l a t i o n s h i p

between t h e army and t h e r a i l r o a d s i n h i s 1880 Annual Report: "Amongst our strongest a l l i e s i n the march o f c i v i l i z a t i o n upon t h e f r o n t i e r , are t h e various railway companies who are now constructing t h e i r new l i n e s w i t h great rapidity."'S The advantage gained by technological s u p e r i o r i t y was not e a s i l y brought t o bear i n the I n d i a n campaigns. The r a i l r o a d and i t s

complementary system, the telegraph, f a c i l i t a t e d m i l i t a r y campaigning, but "those miles away from t h e r a i l r o a d were s t i l l horseback miles.
"'6

The area t h a t was t h e predominant region o f operations was

on t h e f r i n g e s o f " c i v i l i z a t i o n " , not e a s i l y influenced by t h e explosion o f technology during t h e 19th century. M o b i l i t y o f men and

supplies i n the t a c t i c a l sense s t i l l r e l i e d upon f o o t and horse. Army firepower d i d not enjoy an advantage over t h e Indian on the t a c t i c a l b a t t l e f i e l d . While t h e cavalry had abandoned the

repeating carbine i n the e a r l y 1870's i n favor o f a s i n g l e shot breach loader, the Indian favored t h e repeaters when they could be acqcired. The t a c t i c a l e f f e c t o f t h i s improved weaponry was the same i n the Indian campaigns as i t had been i n the C i v i l War--the advantage o f the t a c t i c a l defense. relative

I n f a c t the Indian, because o f h i s

long standing unconventional s t y l e o f warfare, adapted t o t h e impact of t h e "modern" r i f l e much f a s t e r than did t h e army. With s u f f i c i e n t

q u a n t i t i e s o f breachloaders, t h e Indian had rendered t h e charge i n e f f e c t i v e unless t h e element o f suprise was achieved t o a s u f f i c i e n t degree. As h i s t o r i a n , Thomas W . Dunlay describes:

I n t h e 1870s t h e army increasingly fought against enemies who could not be seen; only t h e smoke and f l a s h o f t h e concealed I n d i a n ' s gun indicated h i s presence. T h i s was a major'reason f o r t h e s u r p r i s e attacks on Indian camps; i t was t h e only way t h e s o l d i e r s could make a d e c i s i v e a t t a c k a t a11.17 The f o r t system was not t h e preferred means o f operation by t h e army. The predominant view was t h a t t h e piecemeal a l l o c a t i o n o f troops

resulted from both t h e l i m i t e d s i z e o f t h e army and t h e p o l i t i c a l demands placed on i t . The system was seen as a detriment t o d e c i s i v e

action against t h e Indian, and because o f i t s p o l i t i c a l and economic motivation, i t precluded t h e army from t a k i n g a more o f f e n s i v e r o l e against t h e Indian. General Sheridan remarked:

The f a c t t h a t our army i s so small adds g r e a t l y t o i t s expense, f o r whenever i t becomes neccessary t o use a f o r c e o f any magnitude whatever against t h e Indians, we are compelled t o send troops by r a i l o r steamboat from a large number o f small posts, t o enable us t o take t h e f i e l d w i t h any prospect o f success, and t h e cost o f t r a n s p o r t a t i o n incurred by these concentrations becomes a serious item i n our annual expenditures. Our f r o n t i e r i s so extensive t h a t f o r t h e present we are compelled t o adhere t o a system o f small posts, though i t i s both inconvenient and c o s t l y . ' @ The a l t e r n a t i v e being proposed by some w i t h i n t h e army was t h e abandonment o f a large number o f t h e smaller f o r t s and t h e consolidation of t h e bulk of t h e army's combat troops a t a few !arge posts. T h i s a l t e r n a t i v e was not given serious weight u n t i l 1879-1380,

because t h e r a i l r o a d network i n t h e west had not been developed s u f f i c i e n t l y t o support t h e rapid movements o f these " f l y i n g columns."

Major General John Pope, commander o f the Department o f the Missouri from 1870 t o 1883, was a supporter o f t h i s proposal. He remarked:

The abandonment o f many o f t h e small posts, and t h e i r consolidation w i t h l a r g e r posts, I have recommended so o f t e n t h a t Icontent myself now w i t h saying t h a t every year which passes more and more makes apparent the good p o l i c y , i n every view, o f dispensing w i t h the small posts, and concentrating troops i n large garrisons. Economy and e f f i c i e n c y o f t h e m i l i t a r y forces i n t h i s department would be g r e a t l y promoted by such a system, and Iagain r e s p e c t f u l l y i n v i t e a t t e n t i o n t o my previous' recommendations on t h i s subject.17 By the outbreak o f t h e Ute u p r i s i n g i n 1879, the army had a w e l l defined approach t o t h e d o c t r i n e o f Indian campaigning. adoption o f General Pope's proposal was s t i l l forthc$ing, The

and the

central issues became when t o s t r i k e the h o s t i l e s and how t o concentrate s u f f i c i e n t combat power t o defeat them. The employment o f

the bulk o f the army i n t h e western theater a s t r i d e r a i l r o a d l i n e s became t h e answer t o t h e l a t t e r question. The question o f the optimum

t i m i n g o f a campaign was answered through a process C f t r i a l and e r r o r .


A winter campaign was seen as the best means t o subdue the

Indians.

This denoted a change i n the conduct o f campaigning from the

pre-Civil War era i n t h e west, and was brought about by the expansion o f the r a i l r o a d i n support operations, and the common experiences o f the o f f i c e r s who became the senior leaders i n i t s aftermath.
O f the

d i v i s i o n a l and departmental commanders i n t h e west i n 1866, only one had previous command experience i n the theater--General Philip St.

George Ccoke--and he was r e l i e v e d following the Fetterman massacre i n December o f t h a t year.18 The c a p a b i l i t i e s o f a modern f i e l d army developed during the C i v i l War were i n s t a r k contrast t o previous army operations on the

frontier.

H i s t o r i a n Paul A. Hutton describes t h e experiences o f

General Sheridan: Sheridan's f i r s t campaign against t h e Indians was a p a t h e t i c a f f a i r . A detachment o f 350 regular troops and a regiment o f Oregon mounted volunteers was dispatched under t h e command o f Major Gabriel Rains i n October 1855 against t h e Yakimas. Although t h e campaign gave Sheridan h i s f i r s t look a t w a r r i o r s massed f o r battle--"a scene o f picturesque barbarism, f a s c i n a t i n g but r e p l u s i v e U - - i t yielded no results...Winter snows ended t h e campaign, and t h e o f f i c e r ' s conversations q u i c k l y degenerated i n t o recriminations about who was t o blame f o r t h e failure.19 The lessons o f t h e C i v i l War were n o t l o s t on t h e army leaders i n i t s aftermath. Before t h e C i v i l War, t h e focus had been e x c l u s i v e l y Later, a s h i f t

on t h e d e s t r u c t i o n o f t h e opposing m i l i t a r y forces.

occurred which incorporated a l l war-making p o t e n t i a l by an enemy i n t o t h e process. The expansion o f t h e scope o f warfare would be evident on

t h e p l a i n s o f t h e west, and t h e C i v i l War would be used as precedent f o r a t o t a l war. forces War became more than a contest between opposing armed

i t encompassed t h e s o c i e t i e s t h a t found themselves a t

opposition.

The nature o f t h e opposition l e f t t h e Army l i t t l e

a l t e r n a t i v e i n a s t r u g g l e between two divergent c u l t u r e s . Army leadership was determined t o f i n d an answer t o t h e I n d i a n problem. I t ' s very r a i s o n d ' e t r e hung i n t h e balance, and t h e answer Instead, t h e army

must n o t r e l y on t h e adoption o f I n d i a n methods.

must adopt methods t h a t were i n keeping w i t h t h e u t i l i z a t i o n o f d e c i s i v e m i l i t a r y f o r c e as t h e primary instrument o f national power. The army had t o f i n d t h e answer t o t h e I n d i a n problem as a means t o j u s t i f y i t ' s own existence. As Thomas W. Dunlay describes:

I n a period when t h e army believed t h a t i t was being starved by t h e Congress and ignored o r scorned by t h e nation, the suggestion t h a t it could not cope w i t h t h e Indians without I n d i a n a i d was e s p e c i a l l y repugnant. O f f i c e r s wanted t o b e l i e v e t h a t they and t h e i r men d i d t h e i r best and were t h e best

s o l d i e r s possible under t h e circumstances. T h e y might dress l i k e cowboys o r mule skinners i n the f i e l d b u t they took p r i d e i n the uniform and i n t h e i r regiments. It was p a i n f u l , therefore, t o hear suggestions t h a t they could not ccpe w i t h savages.?O

...,

I t i s an oft-heard remark i n t h e modern army t h a t the characte:?

o f a u n i t i s a r e f l e c t i o n o f t h e personality o f i t s commander.

The

Indian f i g h t i n g army may not have r e f l e c t e d the p e r s o n a l i t i e s o f the senior commanders, but t h e p o l i c i e s and t a c t i c s w i t h i n the respective d i v i s i o n s and departments c e r t a i n l y did. By 1879, the major players,

Sheridan, Pope, and Crook were w e l l tested by t h e r i g o r s o f Indian campaigns. Their views on t h e m i l i t a r y s o l u t i o n t o the Indian r i d d l e

rested on t h e spread o f s e t t l e r s and the use o f "modern" technology. As one commander commented, "as experience o f l a t e years, has most conclusively shown t h a t o u r cavalry cannot cope w i t h t h e Indian man t o man."?? The f a i l u r e o f t h e army t o achieve a decisive v i c t o r y i n the campaigns against the major Plains t r i b e s had driven the senior leadership i n t o seeking solace i n t h e f a m i l i a r glow o f technology and organization. The army found new coifidence i n the modern appliances

o f war and saw i n them a means t o counteract t h e t a c t i c a l accumen o f t h e Indian. A f t e r l i s t e n i n g t o a l i t a n y o f t h e inherent advantages o f

the I n d i a n warrior, General Nelson A. Miles remarked, "though a l l t h a t said about t h e i r ski11 and enterprise and energy was true, yet w i t h our superior i n t e l l i g e n c e and modern appliances we ought and would be able t o counteract, equal, o r surpass a l l the advantages pcssessed by the savages.
"23

Grand Strategy had evolved i n t h e minds o f the senior cnmmanders by the i n i t i a t i o n o f the 1879 campaigns.
50

The combination o f

the winter campaign and large converging columns as a means t o achieve the decisive b a t t l e w i t h the Indian had been invalidated by the army's f a i l u r e i n t h e Great Sioux War. Ultimately, success was due t o a
-I-

the change t h a t brought about r e l e n t l e s s pressure on the Sioux, t h r LUSU 7 a p p l i c a t i o n o f harassing t a c t i c s . While, the army had been outmaneuvered i n i t s only attempt a t a conventional campaign, i t retained both t h e winter campaign and t h e converging columns as means t o i n i t i a t e the a p p l i c a t i o n o f ruthless unceasing pressure on any offending Indian bands. As Sheridan reported

t o Sherman, " I have never looked on any decisive b a t t l e w i t h these Indians as a settlement o f the trouble...Indians do not f i g h t such

b a t t l e s ; they only f i g h t b o l d l y when they have t h e advantage, as i n the Custer case, o r t o cover t h e movement o f t h e i r women and c h i l d r e n as i n the case o f Crook, but Indians have scarcely ever been punished unless by t h e i r own mode o f warfare o r t a c t i c s and s t e a l i n g on t h e m w z 4 Success depended on a new operational paradigm consisting o f the ccmbination o f the r a i l r o a d , organization, and t h e a p p l i c a t i o n o f steady, d i s c i p l i n e d pursuit. The nature o f campaigning changed i n the aftermath o f the Sioux War. The Indian was on the operational defensive, never able t o f i e l d The advance o f

a force i n s u f f i c i e n t numbers t o challenge the atmy.

the western f r o n t i e r meant the army found i t s e l f occupying f o r t s which ringed the d i f f e r e n t reservations, prepared t o respond t o any outbreaks. As Sheridan stated i n 1879, "Indian troubles t h a t w i l l

hereafter occur w i l l be those which a r i s e upon t h e d i f f e r e n t Indian reservations o r from attempts made t o reduce the number and size o f these reservations, by the concentration o f the Indian tribes."Z5
51

Thus, the execution of army strategy in support of national objectives was often colored by the central army figures on the scene. The three central commanders involved in the Ute War are interesting studies, both in their similarities as well as their differences. The conduct of campaigning and army execution of policy in the west was perhaps more representative of its leaders' personalities than any doctrine or official policy. In March 1869, Phillip H. Sheridan was appointed Lieutenant General, commanding the Military Division of the Missouri. His views on the Indian problem were similar to those of General Sherman. At times, he appeared sympathetic to the plight of the Indian in the face of expanding civilization, but he, like Sherman, held the view that the Indian was doomed as an inferior culture. He was a supporter of the reservation system and a strong advocate for the return of the management of Indian affairs to the army. As he stated, "I have the interest of the Indian at heart as much as anyone, and sympathize with his fading race, but many years of experiences have taught me that to

s not only necessary to civilize and Christianize the wild Indian it i s also necessary to exercise some put him on Reservations but it i
strong authority over him."z8 Sheridan's conduct of campaigning was shaped from experiences in the Civil War and lessons learned in the field against the Indian. During his tenure as Divisional Commander, he had conducted 'uccessful campaigns against the Cheyennes (1868-1869) and the Comanches in the Red River War (1874-1875). He believed earlier failures to subdue the

Indian were due to a preoccupation with humanitarian concerns. Sheridan made no moral judgements of the policy that, in his opinion,
52

had predetermined cpen war w i t h the t r i b e s . Sherman:

He reported t o General

I n t a k i n g the offensive, Ihave t o s e l e c t t h a t season when I can catch the fiends; and i f a v i l l a g e i s attacked and women and c h i l d r e n k i l l e d , the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y i s not w i t h the s o l d i e r s but w i t h the people whose crimes necessitated the attack. During the war d i d any one h e s i t a t e t o attack a v i l l a g e o r town occupied by the enemy because women and c h i l d r e n were w i t h i n i t s l i m i t s ? Did w e cease t o throw s h e l l s i n t o Vicksburg o r Atlanta because women and c h i l d r e n were there?" As previously stated, Sheridan believed t h a t t h e nature o f the Indian wars had changed by 1879. The requirement f o r t a k i n g the f i e l d

i n offensive operations had ended w i t h t h e destruction o f the "great" Plains t r i b e s . Maintenance o f army forces along the r a i l r o a d ,

positioned t o counter Indian incursions o f f reservations would be the required remedy. Sheridan's two p r i n c i p l e subordinates, Generals Crook and Pope, were marked i n t h e i r contrasting s t y l e s o f command. Both were

experienced "Indian f i g h t e r s " and veteran army p o l i t i c a l animals dho c u l t i v a t e d p o l i t i c a l favors and supporters. They possessed d i f f e r e n t

views on t h e r e s p o n s i b i l i t y o f a Departmental commander during the conduct o f a campaign, but t o a large degree Pope and Crook shared s i m i l a r perceptions and sought the same goals. Unlike Sherman and

Sheridan, both are remembered as "humanitarian soldiers", moved by the p l i g h t o f the Indian, but compelled t o deal w i t h t h e problems they presented. Whether they were t r u l y compassionate, o r were using t h i s

image t o ~ a i n support among eastern p o l i t i c i a n s , i s cpen t o discussion. Certainly, they never offered a l t e r n a t i v e p o l i c i e s and i n

the conduct o f operations n e i t h e r i n s t i t u t e d t a c t i c a l changes t h a t would r e f l e c t a higher l e v e l o f s e n s i t i v i t y t o the Indian. Their

opinions captured the imagination o f the eastern press and won both me!: admirers among philanthrophic groups and humanitarians. Crook i s o f t e n denoted as one o f t h e most e f f e c t i v e f i e l d commanders the army had during t h e period, and as a " r e l u c t a n t " warrior, who was w e l l respected by t h e Indian.28 H i s s o l d i e r s tended

t o view Crook as a p u b l i c i t y hungry leader, more concerned w i t h h i s image than f i g h t i n g Indians. Crooks command went: I ' d l i k e t o be a packer, And pack w i t h George F. Crook And dressed up i n m y canvas s u i t To be f o r him mistook. I ' d braid m y beard i n two long t a i l s , And i d l e a l l t h e day I n w h i t t l i n g s t i c k s and wondering What t h e New York papers say.29 General Pope was equally concerned o f h i s p u b l i c image, but d i d not c u l t i v a t e t h e image o f an a c t i v e f i e l d commander. Pope preferred
A s o l d i e r s d i t t y t h a t was popular i n

t o remain a t h i s departmental heaquarters o r a t a l o c a t i o n t h a t afforded him the use o f both the r a i l r o a d and telegraph. His command

method put him i n the p o s i t i o n t o monitor operations from a f a r while maintaining contact w i t h superiors and eastern p o l i t i c a l acquaintances. The three commanders were not working a t cross purposes, but each conducted operations w i t h i n the context o f t h e i r own personal motivations. This s i t u a t i o n was c h a r a c t e r i s t i c o f o f f i c e r s throughout

t h i s period, and the remnants o f i t s t i l l can be seen i n the current American a r m ~ . ~ " l l three generals practiced the mechanical

aspects o f Indian warfare i n the manner which characterized army operations and t a c t i c s ; reliance on technology, use o f converging

columns, w i n t e r campaigns, a " t o t a l war" devoid o f r u l e s o f engagement o r r e s t r i c t i o n s on e i t h e r s i d e . The o r i g i n s and conduct o f warfare o f t h e Ute t r i b e , as viewed by i t s members, are summarized i n t h e legend 3 f t h e i r c r e a t i o n : Once t h e r e were no people i n any p a r t o f t h e world. Sinawaf, t h e c r e a t o r , began t o c u t s t i c k s and place them i n a l a r g e bag. T h i s went on f o r some t i m e u n t i l , f i n a l l y , Coyote's [ a f i g u r e representing e v i l o r troublemaker] c u r i o s i t y could stand t h e suspense no longer. One day w h i l e Sinawaf was away Coyote opened t h e bag. Many people came o u t , a l l o f them speaking d i f e r e n t languages, and s c a t t e r i n g i n every d i r e c t i o n . When Sinawaf returned t h e r e were but a few people l e f t . He was angry w i t h Coyote, f o r he had planned t o d i s t r i b u t e t h e people equally i n t h e land. The r e s u l t o f unequal d i s t r i b u t i o n caused by Coyote would be war between t h e d i f f e r e n t peoples, each t r y i n g t o gain land from h i s neighbor. O f a l l t h e people remaining i n t h e bag, Sinawaf s a i d , u t h i s small t r i b e s h a l l be Ute but they w i l l be very brave and a b l e t o defeat t h e r e s t . " J ' For c e n t u r i e s t h e Utes were successful i n defending t h e i r mountain b a s t i o n , w h i l e ranging t o t h e east and south on forays f o r horses and game. The a r r i v a l o f t h e American army on t h e Ute range was
Ey t h e 19th

not a t f i r s t a cause f o r great concern among t h e t r i b e .

century, t h e Utes had been very successful i n f i g h t i n g European s t y l e armies. Since t h e expansion o f t h e Spainish empire i n t o t h e southwest,

t h e Utes had proven adept a t mobile warfare i n d i f f i c u l t t e r r a i n . The occupation o f N e w Mexico by Spain i n 1598, began t h e "golden era" i n t h e Utes' h i s t o r y because o f t h e horse. As w i t h other

P l a i n s t r i b e s , The Utes' c u l t u r e experienced a s i g n i f i c a n t change through t h e a c q u i s i t i o n o f t h e horse from t h e Spaniards. The rapid

adaptation o f t h e horse yreat1.y increased m o b i l t y and expanded t h e hunting range o f t h e Utes. Hunters could now leave t h e mountains and

r e t u r n w i t h s u f f i c i e n t b u f f a l o meat and s k i n s t o maintain themselves throughout t h e w i n t e r . The c r e a t i o n o f an economic surplus through

more e f f i c i e n t hunting made i t possible f o r scattered family groups t o form l a r g e r bands under more centralized leadership.3' From 1838, w i t h the establishment o f Bents F o r t along the banks o f the South P l a t t e River, the Utes had regular contact w i t h "American" culture. The general lack o f problems between the Ute t r i b e and the The

expanding f r o n t i e r derived from t h e i r unique geographic position. Utes b e n e f i t t e d from the f a c t t h a t the large immigrant t r a i l s and

e f f o r t s o f the transcontinental r a i l r o a d s k i r t e d t h e i r mountain home. The one p o i n t o f f r i c t i o n between white and Ute c u l t u r e s o r i g i n a t e d w i t h the movement o f s e t t l e r s from New Mexico i n t o the San Luis Yalley i n south central Colorado. The army was quick t o respond by

e s t a b l i s h i n g F o r t Massachusetts i n 1852 ( l a t e r relocated and renamed F o r t Garland i n 1858). The s i x f a m i l i e s t h a t founded the pioneer

Colorado town o f San Luis i n 1851 were immigrants from New Mexico, who had only become American c i t i z e n s three years e a r l i e r through the Treaty o f Guadalupe Hidalgo. F o r t Garland remained a c r i t i c a l l o c a t i o n i n the r e l a t i o n s h i p between t h e Utes and the army u n t i l the u l t i m a t e removal o f the t r i b e from t h e area i n 1883.
It was garrisoned throughout t h e period by a

combination o f regular army and Colorado m i l i t i a .

The post acted as a

"leadership laboratory" f o r f u t u r e Ute warriors as they observed and served w i t h t h e army i n campaigns against the Navajo, Sioux, and Cheyenne. As i t wasdescribed i n 1870:

Eight thousand f e e t above sea-level, a t the f o o t o f snow-covered mountains, towering s i x thousand f e e t higher, on the western slope o f t h e Rocky Mountain Range, i n about 106 longitude and 37 l a t i t u d e , a f a v o r i t e range f o r the indomitable Utes, and a f a v o r i t e haunt f o r elk, deer, bear, panther, and beaver, d i f f i c u l t t o access from nearly a l l d i r e c t i o n s - F o r t Garland, Colorado, though the p o i n t o f strength and the p r o t e c t i n g

0 Denver

: :

HUNTING RANGE

UTE:AREA AT TIME OF 1806 PIKE MP~DIWON


(AdabptedfmmSmilh, Ethnography of ihcr Utes)
Flgutls 4

hope o f many a small settlement and i s o l a t e d rancho f l o u r i s h i n g on those sweet t r o u t streams, t h e Trinchero and Sangre de Cristo, has eminent r i g h t s t i l l t o be c a l l e d a f r o n t i e r post.33 Early i n t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p between the United States and the Utes, t h e Ute t r i b e seemed t o r e a l i z e the f u t i l i t y o f a c t i v e resistance, and instead sought t o adopt a p o l i c y o f negotiation.
TWO

campaigns were conducted against the Utes i n Colorado--the Ute war o f


1854-1855 and the Ute war o f 1879.

The f i r s t began on 25 December,

1854, when a small band o f Mouache Utes, under t h e leadership o f Tierra

Blanca, k i l l e d f o u r trappers.

The army gathered a force o f 12

companies o f regulars and m i l i t i a a t F o r t Garland t o pursue t h e Utes, but q u i c k l y came t o the conclusion t h a t winter i s not t h e optimum season f o r active'campaigning i n the Rockies. The s i z e o f the force

'impressed t h e Utes, who had avoided contact w i t h the troops by melting away i n t o t h e mountains.
A peace was negotiated i n the f a l l o f 1855, w i t h two

consequences t h a t would shape the Ute perception o f t h e army i n the future. F i r s t , while t h e army could not penetrate the Ute mountain

range i n t h e winter, the continual pressure t h e a n y exerted on t h e Utes f o r nine months made a l a s t i n g impression. Second, a young

observer o f t h e c o n f l i c t was Ouray, who would become c h i e f o f the Utes and would shape Ute p o l i c y u n t i l h i s death i n 1880. Ouray, who was as

p o l i t i c a l l y adept as many o f Colorado's elected leaders, seems e a r l y on t o have recognized t h e i n e v i t a b l e , and sought t o delay the loss o f Ute lands through a l l i m c e w i t h t h e "whites" and s k i l l f u l negotiation. Ouray i s quoted as saying:

I r e a l i z e the u l t j m a t e destiny o f my people. They w i l l be e x t i r p a t e d by the race t h a t overruns, occupies and holds our hunting grounds, whose numbers and force, w i t h the
58

government and m i l l i o n s behind i t w i l l i n a f e u years remove the l a s t t r a c e o f our blood t h a t now remains. W e s h a l l f a l l as the leaves frcm t h e trees when f r o s t o r winter comes and the lands which w e have roamed over f o r countless generations w i l l be given over t o the miner and the plowshare. I n place o f our humble tepees, the "white man's" towns and c i t i e s w i l l appear and we s h a l l be buried out o f s i g h t beneath the avalanche o f the new c i v i l i z a t i o n . This i s the destiny o f m y people. M y p a r t i s t o protect them and yours as f a r as Ican, frcm t h e violence and bloodshed while Il i v e , and t o b r i n g both i n t o f r i e n d l y r e l a t i o n s , so t h a t they may be a t peace w i t h one an0ther.3~ Relations between t h e Utes and "whites" p r i o r t o t h e War o f 1879 were remarkable i n t h e r e s t r a i n t shown on both sides. In

reviewing records o f army actions from 1860-1879 i n Colorado, no incidents i n v o l v i n g the Utes were recorded.35 Indeed, the focus o f

army a c t i o n i n Colorado was against t r a d i t i o n a l enemies o f t h e Utes. The Utes proved a steady a l l y f o r t h e army during t h i s period, providing men t o serve as scouts and a u x i l i a r i e s against other t r i b e s on the p l a i n s and t o the south against t h e A p a c h e ~ . ~ ~ The Ute w a r r i o r was a valued a d d i t i o n t o any army expedition. He prided himself on two things: marksmanship and horsemanship. Ute

culture, perhaps because o f the h i g h l y defensible nature o f t h e i r home t e r r a i n , emphasized t h e a b i l i t y o f the sniper and never developed the concept tribes.
Of

"counting coup" o r hand-to-hand combat l i k e the Plains

The wealth o f a man was measured by the number and q u a l i t y o f

h i s horses, but h i s worth as a w a r r i o r was i n h i s marksmanship.37 The primary armament o f the Ute by 1879, were t h e Henry o r Winchester repeater, vhich were e f f e c t i v e f o r hcnting i n the mountains, vhere volume o f f i r e i s more useful than range i n the broken t e r r a i n . Utes were very pragmatic about the conduct o f warfare. other t r i b e s o f i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z i n g war honors (i.e., The

The p r a c t i c e by

t a k i n g scalps) was

not followed.

The t a k i n g o f horses o r prisoners was a matter o f Among Indian

expediency, but standing f i g h t s were a b j e c t l y avoided.

enemies t h e Ute had a reputation as a p a r t i c u l a r l y d i f f i c u l t adversary to kill. The army would have t o learn the same lesson on i t s own. As i t served w i t h t h e army, the Ute t r i b e gained an appreciation o f t h e strengths and weaknesses o f the army and o f government policy. The massacre a t Sand Creek i n 1864 and the winter

campaign o f 1868 against t h e Cheyenne, would t o a l a r g e degree serve as the framework i n which t h e Utes would understand the t h r e a t t o t h e i r tribe. The Utes sought t o avoid s i m i l a r r e s u l t s through negotiation

and t r e a t y . The success o f t h e Utes' p o l i c y o f negotiation was determined by the "boom o r bust" economic cycle t h a t characterized Colorado as a t e r r i t o r y and i n the e a r l y years o f statehood. The r e v i s i o n o f

e x i s t i n g agreements corresponded w i t h each newly discovered mineral bonanza on Ute c o n t r o l l e d t e r r i t o r y . The Ute view o f t h i s a c t i v i t y was

an acceptance o f prospectors and miners, w i t h v a i n attempts t o l i m i t the development o f permanent communities and farms. They were

unprepared f o r the onslaught t h a t would f o l l o w t h e discovery o f precious minerals. The discovery o f gold a t Cripple Creek and a t Cherry Creek i n
1859, would b r i n g about t h e f i r s t d e f i n i t i o n o f Ute lands by t h e

federal government.

The end o f t h e C i v i l War brought gold seekers and The federal government,

s e t t l e r s t o Colorado a t an unprecedented rate.

u t i l ' i z i n g t h e special r e l a t i o n s h i p t h a t K i t Carson held w i t h the t r i b e , negotiated a t r e a t y i n 1868 t h a t guaranteed the Utes an area o f approximately 16,000,000 acres and "was binding and f i n a l forever."
60

0 Cheyenne

..............................
UTE

TERMTORY

(Aclaptd imm Marsh. Paople of the Shining Mountain) Fiiuve 5

0 Santa Fe TREATY OF 1868

The federal government designated Ouray as the primary Ute Chief, which served t o consolidate h i s p o s i t i o n w i t h i n t h e t r i b e . "Forever" a r r i v e d e a r l i e r than anticipated by the Utes. By

1872, the discovery o f s i l v e r i n the San Juan mountains o f southwest.ern Colorado added new impetus t o revise the 1868 agreement. The Coloradc

delegation t o congress complained t h a t t h i s vast amount o f land was under u t i l i z e d by the' lazy Ute people. Ourdy, a t a meeting o f the Did you ever t r y

McCook ~ o i n i s s i o n stated, "We work as hard as you do. skinning a buffalo?"39

I n 1873 t h e Brunot Treaty was signed, which c u t the San Juan region from t h e Ute lands. impressive The area t h a t the Utes c o n t r o l l e d was s t i l l

over 11,000,000 acres f o r a t o t a l population estimated a t Ouray was disappointed by the continue!!

between f o u r and s i x thousand.

reduction o f Ute t e r r i t o r y , b u t h i s t r i b e was f a r i n g b e t t e r than most i n t h e i r attempts t o stave o f f complete destruction. The federa!

government had intervened twice on behalf o f the Utes, sending trccps t o remove miners who weke i n v i o l a t i o n o f the t r e a t y . The strategy o f negotiation and a l l i a n c e w i t h the army was working f o r the time being. But by 1879 t h e destruction o f the major

Indian opponents t o the federal government and the continued pressures o f Coloradc settlement and industry would unhinge the Ute strategy. The power o f the combined federal and s t a t e governments would be soon brought t o bear on the Utes w i t h t e l l i n g e f f e c t .

0 Cheyenne

w e - - - - - - - - - -

I I
I

U7T TERRITORY

I I
1
8 I

0Denver
0 Colo 8pgs

I I
I I

I I
I

, 0 Fort Garland

0 saniol Fe BRUNOT TREATY OF 1873


(Adapted from Sprague, Me8iiarcre) Piure 6

ENDNOTES
1. George MacDonald Fraser, Flashman and t h e Redskins (New York: Plume Books, 19831, 350. 2. Michael Howard, The Causes o f War (Cambridge: Harvard U n i v e r s i t y Press,1983), 196.

3. Edward M. Coffman, The Old Armv: A P o r t r a i t o f t h e American Armv i n Peacetime, 1784-1898 (New York: Oxford U n i v e r s i t y Press, 19861, 254.
4. Arthur P. Wade, "The M i l i t a r y Command Structure: The Great Plains, 1853-1891," Journal o f t h e West 15 ( J u l y 1976): 7. 5. 6.

Ibid., Ibid.,

9. 14-15.

7. Paul Andrew Hutton, P h i l Sheridan and h i s Army (Lincoln: U n i v e r s i t y o f Nebraska Press, 19851, 29.
8.

Wade, The M i l i t a r y Command Structure, 20. Hutton, P h i l Sheridan and h i s Army, 121. Ibid., Ibid.,
120. 120-121.

9.
10. 11.

12. War Department, "Report o f Lieutenant-General Sheridan," i n Annual Reoort o f t h e Secretarv o f War (Washington, D.C.: Government P r i n t i n g O f f i c e , 18791, 42. 13. War Department, "Report o f Lieutenant-General Sheridan," i n Annual Reoort o f t h e Secretary o f War (Washington, D.C.: Government P r i n t i n g O f f i c e , 18801, 53. 14. Robert W. Frazer, F o r t s o f t h e West: M i l i t a r y F o r t s and Presidios and Posts Commonly Called F o r t s West o f t h e M i s s i s s i o o i River t o 1898 (Norman: U n i v e r s i t y o f Oklahoma Press, 19651, 186. 15.

Sheridan, Annual Re~ot-to f t h e Secretarv o f War (18801, 53.

15. Thomas W. Dunlay, Wolves f o r t h e Blue Soldier?.: I n d i a n Scouts and A u x i l i a r i e s w i t h t h e United States Armv, 1860-90 (Lincoln: University o f Nebraska Press, 19821, 71. 17.

Ibid.,

73.

18. War Department, "Report o f General John Pope," Anncal Report o f t h e Secretary o f War (Washington, D.C.: Government P r i n t i n g O f f i c e , 18801, 92. 19. 20. 21. Wade, The M i l i t a r v Command Structure, 20. Hutton, P h i l Sheridan and h i s Armv, 8. Dunlay, Wolves f o r t h e Blue Soldiers, 66.

22. Thomas C. Leonard, "The Relutant Conquerors," American Heritaae 27 (August 1976): 36. 23. Nelson A. Miles, Personal Recollections and Observations o f General Nelson A. Miles, Val. 2 (Lincoln: U n i v e r s i t y o f Nebraska Press, 19921, 481. 24. Paul Andrew Hutton, " P h i l i p H. Sheridan," S o l d i e r s West: B i o g r a ~ h i e sfrom t h e M i l i t a r v F r o n t i e r (Lincoln: U n i v e r s i t y o f Nebraska Press, 1987), 92. 25. 26. 27. Ibid., Ibid., 93. 85.

I b i d . , 87.

28. R e v i s i o n i s t h i s t o r i a n s a t t r i b u t e t h e favorable view o f Crook t o t h e adoption o f h i s biography by h i s long-standing adjutant as t h e d e f i n i t i v e work on t h e subject. John G. Bourke, O n t h e Border w i t h Crook (Lincoln: U n i v e r s i t y o f Nebraska Press, 1971). 29. James T. King, "Needed: A Re-evaluation o f General George Crook," Nebraska H i s t o r y Magazine 65 (September 1964): 229. 30. The c u r r y i n g o f p o l i t i c a l favor was a continuation o f a t r a d i t i o n t h a t reached i t s peak during t h e C i v i l War. I n 1879, Crook held t h e u l t i m a t e p o l i t i c a l trump card as President Hayes had served under him i n t h e C i v i l War. Hayes reputedly had a p o r t r a i t o f Crook hanging i n h i s o f f i c e i n t h e White House. Coffman i n The Old Army provides an e x c e l l e n t survey o f t h i s phenomenon. 31. Jan P e t t i t , Utes: The Mountain People (Boulder: Johnson Bcoks, 1990), 5. 32. Carl Abbott, Stephen 2. Leonard, David McComb, color ad:^: A H i s t o r y o f t h e Centennial State (Boulder: U n i v e r s i t y Press o f Colorado, 19821, 26.

34. P. David Smith, Ouray: Chief o f t h e Utes ( S a l t Lake C i t y : Wayfinder Press, 1966), 12-13. Although, Ouray was an a r t i c u l a t e spokesman f o r h i s t r i b e these words are probably t h e work o f an easterii news reporter. T!ie quote captures Ouray's philosophy, but t!?e languags i s t o o flowery t o be d i r e c t l y a t t r i b u t e d t o Ouray. Ouray r a s a masterful p o l i t i c i a n and r e a l i z e d t h a t t h e I n d i a n had a large sympathetic audience i n t h e east. During h i s t h r e e t r i p s t o he a c t i v e l y sought t o b r i n g t h e issues a t hand i n t o Washington, D.C., t h e p u b l i c eye. 35. George W. Webb, Chronoloaical L i s t o f Engagements between t h e Regular A n v o f t h e United States and Various T r i b e s o f H o s t i l e Indian:$ which Occurred d u r i n g t h e Years, 1790-1898, I n c l u s i v e (St Joseph: Wing P r i n t i n g and Publishing Company, 1939). 21-90. 36. Dunlay, Wolves f o r t h e Blue Soldiers, 89-90,162.

37. Anne M. Smith, Ethnograehv o f t h e Northern Utes (Albuqcerque: Museum o f New Mexico Press, 19741, 237. o f t h e Shining Mountains (Boulder: P r u e t t 38. Charles S. Marsh, P e o ~ l e Publishing, 1926), 68. 39. V i r g i n i a I r v i n g Armstrong, ed., IHave S~oken: American H i s t o r y Through t h e Voices o f t h e Indians (Chicago: Swallow Press, 19711, 96.

CHAPTER 4

MASSACRE AND BATTLE E i t h e r they [ t h e Utes] o r w e go, and w e are not going. Humanitarianism i s an idea. Western empire i s an inexorable f a c t . He who gets i n t h e way o f i t w i l l be crushed.' Early i n 1879, an e d i t o r i a l i n t h e Denver Times s t a t e d what had become obvious t o most "white" Colorado residents. Since t h e 1873

Brunot Treaty, pressure had continued t o mount f o r t h e removal o f the Utes from Colorado. Within t h e state, t h e p u b l i c a t i o n o f Hayden's

a t l a s o f 1877 demonstrated t h a t a l a r g e p o r t i o n o f land was s t i l l c o n t r o l l e d by a "non-producing, semi-barbarous people."? Outside

Colorado, Eastern humanitarians held o f f l e g i s l a t i o n introduced by t h e Colorado delegation t o Congress i n 1878, which was designed t o f o r c i b l y remove t h e Utes from t h e s t a t e t o t h e I n d i a n T e r r i t o r y . The Utes had

not y e t provided t h e grounds f o r m i l i t a r y a c t i o n against them. The spark t h a t would provoke t h e war was provided by t h e Ute agent, Nathan C. Meeker. I n March 1878, Meeker was appointed as t h e Meeker saw

agent t o t h e White River Agency i n northwestern Colorado.

t h e appointment t o t h e agency as an opportunity t o continue h i s version o f s o c i a l engineering.


A deeply r e l i g i o u s man, Meeker was determined

t o pursue h i s v i s i o n f o r a s s i m i l a t i o n o f the Utes, i n t o White society through f o r c e i f neccessary. As Colorado Governor P i t k i n would l a t e r

state, " A purer and b e t t e r man than Meeker was never appointed t o an I n d i a n agency." As an afterthought he added, "He d i d not understand
"3

Indians s u f f i c i e n t l y .

Meeker sought t o transform h i s agency overnight. a g r i c u l t u r e as the means t o Ute self-sufficiency.

He saw

He proposed plowing

grassland t o convert t o farmland, although t h i s made no sense t o a c u l t u r e t h a t measured wealth i n horses. Despite strong resistance t o

h i s methods, Meeker remained ever hopeful. He reported i n J u l y o f 1878: These Ute Indians are peacable, respecters o f the r i g h t o f property, and w i t h few exceptions amiable and prepossessing i n appearance. There are no quarrelsome outbreaks, no robberies, and perhaps not a h a l f dozen who p i l f e r , and these are w e l l known...On t h e whole, t h i s agent i s impressed w i t h the idea t h a t i f the proper methods can be h i t upon they can be made t o develop many useful and manly q u a l i t i e s and be elevated t o a s t a t e o f absolute independence.4 Despite Meeker's i n i t i a l favorable view, other elements i n the s t a t e were opposed t o mediation w i t h t h e Utes. Beginning i n 1877, the

Department o f t h e Missouri had been caught up i n t h i s increasing pressure between the cultures. I n August 1877, c i t i z e n s p e t i t i o n e d

General Pope t o s t a t i o n a company o f cavalry permanently i n the' area o f Middle Park t o c o n t r o l the Utes, "believing t r o u b l e w i l l surely be averted thereby."= Pope d i d send troops i n the summer o f 1879-0

Company, 9 t h Cavalry-with mixed results.


A t length General John Pope sent a s i n g l e company o f colored cavalry t o scout i n t h e Middle Park. Now i f there i s anything on t h e face o f the e a r t h t h a t an Indian hates above another i t i s a negro, and e s p e c i a l l y a nigger soldier. Therefore, t h i s movement, instead o f q u i e t i n g t h e i r h o s t i l i t y , merely inflamed i t . 6

Pope's e f f o r t s t o defuse the growing c r i s i s went l a r g e l y unappreciated i n the r a c i s t environment o f the times. I n the meantime

he found an u n l i k e l y a l l y f o r h i s idea o f consolidating the Utes under the c o n t r o l o f the army. P r i o r t o the outbreak o f open h o s t i l i t i e s ,

the army had received support from the Indian Bureau i n t h e i r e f f o r t t o consolidate t h e t r i b e s t o f a c i l i t a t e c o n t r o l by the m i l i t a r y . i n the

case o f the Utes, the Indian Bureau supported moving them t o the Indian T e r r i t o r y , i n i t s annual report o f 1878. This proposal r e f l e c t e d the

need t o c e n t r a l i z e the management o f the d i f f e r e n t t r i b e s , i n order t o b e t t e r provide a t l e a s t the minimum amount o f subsistence t o the tribes. The Utes presented a p a r t i c u l a r l y thorny problem because the The White River

mountainous nature o f the t e r r a i n they occupied.

Agency was only accessable two months out o f t h e year by teamster wagon. The Indian Bureau presented i t s desire t o relocate the t r i b e as Commissioner Ezra A. Hayt stated:

a matter o f m i l i t a r y expediency.

The reason Ifavored it [ t r a n s f e r o f Utes t o Indian T e r r i t o r y ] i s t h i s : The Indian T e r r i t o r y has enough f e r t i l e land t o enable those Indians t o s e t t l e down comfortably. It has a superabundance o f f e r t i l e land. Again, t h e country i s not broken, ridged, and l a b y r i n t h i n e l i k e t h i s region i n Colorado; i t i s a country where the Army could use a r t i l l e r y ; and wherever our troops can use a r t i l l e r y the Indians know very w e l l t h a t i t i s useless f o r them t o go upon t h e warpath, so t h a t , as a defensive measure, It h i n k i t would be wise t o take them out o f t h e i r fortresses and put them where they w i l l be less formidable...I t h i n k , then, i f we wish t o avoid expensive wars and t o save the l i v e s o f our soldiers, i t i s very desirable t o put these Indians out o f t h e i r fortresses i n Colorado."7 On February 4 , 1878, the Colorado delegation introduced the f i r s t o f three b i l l s designed t o remove the Utes t o the Indian Territory. The b i l l s c a l l e d f o r the t r a n s f e r o f the Utes and f o r the House Resolution 351,
It

revocation o f any t i t l e t o the Ute lands. introduced by Representative A.M.

Scales was t y p i c a l o f the three.

empowered the Secretary o f the I n t e r i o r t o negotiate w i t h the Utes and " e s t a b l i s h by law the extinguishment o f t i t l e t o t h e i r lands, removal from t h e i r present locations and consolidation on c e r t a i n reservations. " 8

The l o c a t i o n o f the White River Agency was a t the end o f the army's operational reach. While t h e Denver and Rio Grande Railroad had

pushed a l i n e past F o r t Garland t o b r i n g i n mining supplies t o the San Juan mountains, the northwestern p o r t i o n o f the s t a t e remained untouched. Troops from F o r t Steele, Wyoming T e r r i t o r y , w i t h i n the

Department o f the P l a t t e , were approximately 150 miles from the agency. The closest troops t o t h e agency, w i t h i n t h e s t a t e and under

the c o n t r o l o f t h e Department o f the Missouri, were a t F o r t Garland a t about 176 miles distance. The army found i t s e l f i n the p o s i t i o n t h a t

it could both contain the Utes away from the population centers and

l i n e s o f communication w i t h i n the s t a t e and along the Wyoming border, but was not w e l l s u i t e d t o c o n t r o l events i n the hinterland o f Colorado. Superior operational m o b i l i t y was not an advantage i f

containment was not the objective. The army conmand and c o n t r o l structure, as delineated by the departments, may have contributed t o t h e outbreak o f h o s t i l i t i e s . As

tensions rose and reports o f Ute v i o l a t i o n s o f the peace were reported, c i t i z e n s o f northwestern and n o r t h c e n t r a l Colorado crossed t h e s t a t e l i n e and demanded a c t i o n from t h e commander a t F o r t Steele--Major Thomas T. Thornburgh. Thornburgh d i d not act f o r two reasons. First,

he viewed the Ute problem as an issue w i t h i n the j u r i s d i c t i o n o f the neighboring department. Second, while the Ute range was p r i m a r i l y i n

Colorado, the Utes d i d t r a v e l i n Wyoming T e r r i t o r y , and he had received no reports o f problems from Wyoming ranchers. The commander o f F o r t

Steele s o l i c i t e d reports on Ute conduct from s e t t l e r s w i t h i n 100 miles o f the post.


A l l indicated the Utes were w e l l behaved.

Thornburgh

0 White Rivor
Agency

I I
I

I I

O~anta Fa

"MEAlEF?RAILROADS: 1878

(Adapted from Spmgkua, Rllass&~~rta) Figure 7

questioned the s t o r i e s , since the Utes were blamed f o r a myriad o f problems on one side o f the border and none on the other.9 Coordination between army departments was occuring as tensions were increasing. Meeker had s e n t - a message t o Major Thornburgh on ? 7

J u l y 1879, concerned t h a t a band o f White River Utes was heading north on a r a i d t o acquire weapons, and t o possibly meet w i t h the Sioux h o s t i l e s . . By 26 J u l y 1879, the report had been relayed t o General Pope a t F o r t Leavenworth, Kansas, from t h e Department o f t h e P l a t t e Headquarters a t F o r t Omaha, Mebraska.10 General Crook, Department o f

the P l a t t e commander, reported t o General Sheridan on t h e incident: Major Thornburgh's report w i t h these statements are forwarded herewith. From these statements i t w i l l be seen: 1. That besides k i l l i n g game t h e Indians committed no depradati ons. 2. That the post commander o f F o r t Steele, Wyo., d i d not receive t i m e l y information o f the presence of t h e Indians referred to. Iask a t t e n t i o n t o t h e f a c t t h a t i t i s impossible f o r the m i l i t a r y , placed as they are a t such great distances from the agencies, t o prevent Indians from leaving without a u t h o r i t y , unless warning i n due time by the I n d i a n a u t h o r i t i e s i s given. Nor can a post commander force them t o r e t u r n without running the r i s k o f b r i n g i n g on a war, f o r which he would be held accountable. For t h i s reason the post commander i s required t o r e f e r the matter t o higher m i l i t a r y authority, which also involves delay. Unless troops are stationed a t the agencies they cannot know i n time when Indians are absent by a u t h o r i t y ; nor can they prevent the occurrence o f troubles, for which they are frequently and most u n j u s t l y held responsible.1' I n a d d i t i o n t o problems along t h e Colorado-Wyoming border, the Colorado-Utah border added another f a c t o r i n t o the equation. The long

...

standing animosity between the federal government and portions o f the Mormon community i n Utah, had t h e p o t e n t i a l t o escalate any Ute outbreak i n t o a more protracted insurgency. As tensions between the

Utes and the government were r i s i n g , u n i d e n t i f i e d "whites" from Utah were a r r i v i n g a t Indian camps i n c i t i n g the t r i b e t o take action. Throughout the summer o f 1879, events and rumors on both sides were beginning t o take on a l i f e o f t h e i r own. The unsubstantiated

s t o r i e s o f depradations o f whites and Indians were splashed across the f r o n t pages o f the Colorado's d a i l y newspapers. ( f i g u r e 8 ) The Utes

were operating under an agreement, the Brunot Treaty, t h a t had been signed by President Grant only four years e a r l i e r . The trustees o f

t h i s agreement, t h e Indian Bureau, 'both a t t h e l o c a l and national levels, were openly suggesting the anullment o f the document. The

s t a t e government, l e d by Governor P i t k i n , was c a l l i n g f o r the removal o f the Utes. On 5 July, 1879, Governor P i t k i n sent the f o l l o w i n g telegram t o Commissioner o f Indian A f f a i r s Ezra A. Hayt: Reports reach m e d a i l y t h a t a band o f White River Utes are o f f the reservation, destroying f o r e s t s and game near North and Middle Parks. They have already burned m i l l i o n s o f d o l l a r s o f timber, and are i n t i m i d a t i n g s e t t l e r s and miners. Have w r i t t e n Agent Meeker, but fear l e t t e r s have not reached him. Ir e s p e c t f u l l y request you t o have telegraphic order sent troops a t nearest post t o remove Indians t o t h e i r reservation. I f general government does n o t act promptly the State must. Immense f o r e s t s are burning throughout Western Colorado, supposed t o have been f i r e d by t h e Utes. Ia m s a t i s f i e d there i s an organized e f f o r t on the p a r t o f Indians t o destroy t h e timber o f Colorado. The loss w i l l be irreplaceable. These savages should be removed t o the Indian T e r r i t o r y , where they can no longer destroy the f i n e s t f o r e s t s i n t h i s state." P i t k i n ' s action, o r more s p e c i f i c a l l y h i s lack o f action, t o defuse the c r i s i s , was adding t o the tension between the Utes and the c i t i z e n r y o f the state. The request f o r troops t o c o n t r o l t h e Utes was

based on v i o l a t i o n s a t t r i b u t e d t o the Utes, based on rumors and the concerns o f the agent Meeker.j3 On 20 August, i 8 7 9 , a delegation of

SAMPLE HEADLINES F R O M THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN N E W S (1878-1874)

2 January

Indian H o s t i l i t i e s Utes on Rampage, Whites Fear Uprising Utes K i l l C a t t l e on Snake River Ute Massacre i n Pagosa Sprins Rumors o f Ute War Utes' Gold Locations Secret from Whites Utes Rebellious Through Neglect o f I n d i a n Bureau Movements o f Ute Indians Utes K i l l Joe McLane, Stockmen Seek Revenge Ute U p r i s i n g Feared i n Grand County Utes i n Trouble over Murder o f S e t t l e r s

3 March

5 March

18 A p r i l
23 A p r i l 28 A p r i l 24 May 21 J u l y

3 August

1 September
12 September

1 January 27 June

Utes Make Trouble i n Middle Park Utes Threaten Miners i n North Park Ute H o s t i l e A t t i t u d e Excites S t a t e O f f i c i a l s Shall W e K i l l o r Starve t h e Indians? [ e d i t o r i a l ]
!

9 July
16 J u l y 6 August 14 August 10 September

The Indians Must G o Utes Arrested and Charged w i t h Arson L e t t e r from Meeker t o e d i t o r complaining o f h i s treatment by the Utes. Figure 8

Utes frm t h e White River Agency, led by the c h i e f o f t h a t band, Douglas, a r r i v e d i n Denver f o r a meeting w i t h the governor. The Utes

assumed t h a t the governor would take action against Agent Meeker, once t h e i r grievances were known. The Utes explained t h a t they no longer

had confidence i n Meeker, and t o avert trouble, a replacement was needed.


A t t h e time o f t h e meeting, P i t k i n had been informed t h a t h i s

e a r l i e r request f o r t r o o p s had been approved by the Indian Bureau and had been turned over t o t h e War Department.14 action. Through the summer o f 1879, Meeker was becoming aware o f the personal animosity the White River Utes held toward him. He found The governor took no

solace i n the b e l i e f t h a t h i s program would u l t i m a t e l y be successful.' His notions o f winning the support o f the Indians, would re-emerge i n more recent civic-act,ion programs i n another theater--"we had t c

destroy the v i l l a g e i n o r d e r t o save it." Meeker had reported t o h i s Senate sponsor, Senator Tel,ler, " I propose t o c u t every Indian down t o the bare s t a r v a t i o n p o i n t i f he w i l l not work." Later, he stated,

"the most hopeful t h i n g i s t h a t there are several f a m i l i e s complaining b i t t e r l y o f cold, and they want houses."l5 The only agency t h a t appeared t o be operating w i t h i n the framework o f national p o l i c y was the army. While the army was. not a

f r i e n d t o the Ute, i t was attempting t o maintain i t s e l f above the realm o f partisan p o l i t i c s and experiments i n s o c i a l engineering. General

Pope had one company c f cavalry p a t r o l l i n g the Colorado mountains t r y i n g t o maintain the peace, and had previously demonstrated t h a t the army would intervene i n the Utes' behalf i n support o f e x i s t i n g t r e a t y arrangements. Pope t r a v e l l e d t o the s t a t e on 6 August 1879, t o meet
75

w i t h Governor P i t k i n and assess the requests f o r a d d i t i o n a l troops. The steady stream of requests from the state, and the reports from both the Departments o f t h e P l a t t e and the Missouri, l e d him t o the conclusion t h a t a c r i s i s was unfolding. F o r t Lewis, Colorado, was

established by the summer o f 1879, near Pagosa Springs, t o contain f u r t h e r v i o l a t i o n s o f Ute lands i n t h e San Juan Mountain area by whites.16 I n 1879, Major Thornburgh had become aware o f problems a t the White River Agency. Meeker had w r i t t e n him twice, on 7 a 11 June, I n a d d i t i o n t o o f f i c i a l message

regarding problems a t t h e agency.17

t r a f f i c , small groups o f Utes had t r a v e l l e d t o Rawlins, Wyoming, i n an attempt t o locate long delayed supplies f o r the agency.
A t Rawlins,

the railhead f o r t h e White River Agency, supplies had been awaiting t r a n s p o r t a t i o n f o r as long as one year. Thornburgh had sent a message

t o Meeker informing him o f t h i s problem, and requested the agent resolve t h e matter through I n d i a n Bureau channels. l i v e t o l e a r n o f the answer. The event t h a t f i n a l l y l e d t o t h e c o l l i s i o n o f a l l the competing i n t e r e s t s has been the subject o f popular legend i n the s t a t e o f Colorado. The most widely held b e l i e f i s t h a t Agent Meeker plowed Regardless o f the Thornburgh d i d not

up the ground t h a t the Utes used as a racetrack.

reason, on 10 September, 1879, Meeker telegraphed the Indian Bureau t h a t he had been p h y s i c a l l y assaulted by a Ute and was i n feat- o f h i s l i f e and t h e safety o f other Agency en~ployees.'~ Meeker's message was received on 14 September 1879, a t the I n d i a n Bureau. t o the scene. By t h e next day the War Department had ordered troops

On the same day, Commissioner Hayt sent a message t o


76

Meeker t h a t troops had been requested f o r h i s p r o t e c t i o n .

Hayt aiso

i n s t r u c t e d Meeker t o have "leaders" arrested upon t h e a r r i v a l o f t h e army. Meeker responded on t h e 22d o f September: Dispatch o f

Governor P i t k i n w r i t e s , cavalry on t h e way. 15th w i l l be obeyed.19

By t h e 15th, Pope had troops moving t o resolve t h e reported problems a t t h e agency. He had sent orders t o Captain Dodge w i t h

Company D, 9 t h Cavalry, a t Sulphur Springs, Colorado t o " s e t t l e matters" a t White River.20 The movement o f these troops was h a l t e d

as Generals Sheridan, Crook, and Pope discussed t h e best options t o deal w i t h t h e problem. Sheridan d i r e c t e d Crook t o send trocps from t h e

Department o f t h e P l a t t e because o f t h e r e l a t i v e p r o x i m i t y o f F o r t Steele and t h e Union P a c i f i c railhead. H i s order t o Pope was t h a t t h e

Department o f Missouri "need not take any a c t i o n i n reference thereto."21 With orders issued t o Thornburgh's command on 16

September, 1879, Sheridan recommended t o General Pope: no a c t i o n i n so f a r as t h e m i l i t a r y are concerned, except simply t o q u e l l t h e e x i s t i n g disturbances and then t o await such f i n a l decision as may seem best by t h e I n d i a n Bureau.'' On 21 September 1879, Major Thornburgh departed F o r t Steele w i t h E Company 3d Cavalry, D and F Companies 5 t h Cavalry, and B Company from h i s own 4 t h I n f a n t r y . Included w i t h t h e column as i t l e f t

...

Rawlins, Wyoming were 33 supply wagons and 220 pack mules, a l i n e which was strung out over several miles. The f o r c e c a r r i e d w i t h i t r a t i o n s

f o r t h i r t y days and forage f o r f i f t e e n days, which i n t h e words o f a l a t e r r e p o r t by General Sherman "was considered by everybody as s u f f i c i e n t f o r t h e purpose."23 For t h e next seven days w i t h about

200 men, Thornburgh marched toward t h e agency w h i l e r e p o r t i n g h i s progress t o General Crock.

77

Progress t o t h e agency was slow.

Despite being the nearest

m i l i t a r y i n s t a l l a t i o n , t h e t r a i l t o the agency was a d i f f i c u l t one. Numerous r i v e r s and streams plus the continental d i v i d e had t o be negotiated enroute. A f t e r crossing the divide, Thornburgh l e f t the

I n f a n t r y company and 25 wagons a t F o r t i f i c a t i o n Creek t o serve as a supply base f o r h i s command.


I t had taken u n t i l t h e 24th t o a r r i v e a t

~ortification Creek where Thornburgh rested the column and sent a messenger t o t h e agency w i t h d e t a i l s o f h i s mission. On the 26th w i t h no news from the agency t h e column resumed i t s march. As Thornburgh continued h i s march toward the agency, the Utes Chief Douglas confronted Meeker about h i s r o l e Meeker denied any knowledge o f the troops, but

became very agitated. i n c a l l i n g f o r troops.

assured Douglas t h a t he would intercede and h a l t t h e advance short o f the agency boundary--Milk River.Z4 The message dispatched t o Meeker On 26

from Thornburgh had already arranged t h i s course o f action.

September 1879, Thornburgh reported from t h e Bear River (now known as the Yampa River) t o the Department o f t h e P l a t t e : Have met some Ute c h i e f s here. They seem f r i e n d l y and promise t o go w i t h m e t o agency. Say Utes don't understand why we have come. Have t r i e d t o explain s a t i s f a c t o r i l y . Do n o t a n t i c i p a t e trouble.Z5 The Utes perceived t h a t t h e march o f the troops meant t h a t war had been declared on them. Emmissaries met w i t h Major Thornburgh twice

during h i s movement, but i n s p i t e o f h i s best e f f o r t s , t h e fears and concerns o f the Utes were not allayed. 3n September 28th, Thoinburmh , 5"

changed t h e plan t h a t he had previously communicated t o Meeker. Concerned about the prospect o f being separated from h i s command i f t r o u b l e ensued, he decided t o push beyond t h e M i l k River boundary.

He

wrote Meeker:

I have, a f t e r due deliberation, decided t o modify m y plans as communicated i n m y l e t t e r o f the 27th i n s t a n t i n the following particulars: I s h a l l move w i t h m y e n t i r e command t o some convenient camp near, and w i t h i n s t r i k i n g distance o f your agency, reaching such p o i n t during the 29th. Is h a l l then h a l t and encamp the troops and proceed t o the agency w i t h m y guide and f i v e soldiers... Then and there Iw i l l be ready t o have a conference w i t h you and the Indians, so t h a t an understanding may be a r r i v e d a t and my course o f a c t i o n determined. Ihave c a r e f u l l y y considered whether o r not it would be advisable t o have m command a t a p o i n t as d i s t a n t as t h a t desired by the Indians who were i n camp l a s t night, and have reached the conclusion e t o march t h i s command t h a t under my orders, which require m m not a t l i b e r t y t o leave i t a t a p o i n t where t o t h e agency, Ia i t would not be a v a i l a b l e i n case o f trouble. You are authorized t o say f o r m e t o the Indians t h a t m y course o f conduct i s e n t i r e l y dependent on them. Our desire i s t o avoid trouble, and we have not come f o r war.26
As the column resumed i t s march on September 29th, i t soon descended i n t o a small v a l l e y t h a t contained t h e M i l k River. As the

troops moved i n t o the valley, s o l d i e r s noticed t h a t t h e grass was burning along the bottom land. They also noted the presence o f a large number o f Indian horse tracks." Thornburgh halted the column along As he was now preparing t o

the r i v e r long enough t o water the stock.

v i o l a t e t h e agency boundary, Thornburgh sent a lieutenant and t e n troopers t o scout ahead as the command resumed i t s movement i n t o Ute territory. The advance guard o f the formation, under the command o f Lieutenant S.A. Cherry, crossed t h e M i l k River and took up p o s i t i o n between h a l f t o three quarters o f a m i l e i n f r o n t o f the main body. Instead o f f o l l o w i n g the d i r t t r a c k t h a t followed the course o f the r i v e r t o the agency proper, Cherry began climbing a low ridge t o the south o f the track.
A t the top o f the ridge, Cherry saw three Indians

disappear over the next ridge l i n e . and began t o climb the second ridge.

He dropped down i n t o a small g u l l y His concern o f ambush heightened,

Thornburgh and the main body followed the route o f the advance guard and bypassed the r i v e r track. observed:
Idiscovered t h e Indians on top o f the second ridge, Isaw them l y i n g down w i t h t h e i r guns i n t h e i r hands behind the ridge. Iwas w i t h i n a hundred yards o f the Indians, and I could see them l y i n g down, occupying not more than a yard o f space each; was near enough t o see t h a t they were packed as close as they could be, t h e i r l i n e extending a t l e a s t 400 yards.28

As Cherry topped the second ridge he

Upon observing the dismounted force o f between 300 t o 400 Utes, Cherry turned and rode h e l l b e n t f o r Thornburgh a t the lead o f the main body. Thornburgh had deployed t h e two lead companies, D and F o f the

5 t h Cavalry, along t h e f i r s t ridge l i n e as he saw the f r a n t i c r i d e o f h i s advance guard. w i t h the wagons. The remaining company was s t i l l near t h e M i l k River The Utes saw the two lead elements deploy, and based

on t h e i r previous service w i t h the army, immediately assumed t h a t t h i s meant a charge was imminent. The advance guard a r r i v e d a t Thornburgh's p o s i t i o n and Cherry made h i s report. Thornburgh sent Cherry w i t h orders t o the two lead

companies t o "dismount and h o l d f i r e u n t i l he gave the order."Zg Thornburgh gave Cherry f u r t h e r instructions--once the orders were

delivered t o the companies, Cherry and h i s advance p a r t y #ere t o advance and attempt t o parley w i t h t h e Utes. Cherry delivered h i s Shortly

orders and proceeded w i t h the second h a l f o f h i s mission.

a f t e r Cherry began h i s r i d e toward the second ridge, he encountered a small group o f Utes. He waved h i s hat and was met by a h a i l o f b u l l e t s

t h a t c u t down a trooper ten f e e t from him.30 80

29 SEPTEMBER 1879: INITIAL ADVANCE


IAdarhd from Dmwson. Tho Ute Warl

Cherry's p a r t y came tumbling back t o the skirmish l i n e s formed by the two companies, as r i f l e f i r e erupted from both sides. Thornburgh had successfully avoided the Ute ambush s e t f o r h i s command along the r i v e r track, but was now t a k i n g a heavy volume,of r i f l e f l r e i n h i s current position. He was i n danger o f being c u t o f f from h i s

supplies and h i s t h i r d company along the M i l k River as mounted Utes were attemptirig t o envelop h i s position. Thornburgh executed a slow

dismounted withdrawal back t o t h e northside o f t h e r i v e r , t o the r e l a t i v e s a f e t y o f t h e wagons.


A t one p o i n t during t h e withdrawal,

Thornburgh observed the Utes concentrating f o r a mounted attack and q u i c k l y executed a s p o i l i n g attack w i t h one o f h i s companies.31 As

the command was f a l l i n g back t o t h e r i v e r i n a s w i r l i n g b a t t l e o f r i f l e f i r e , Thornburgh was k i l l e d and command succeeded t o Captain Payne o f t h e 5 t h Cavalry. Payne assumed command as t h e three cavalry companies a r r i v e d a t the wagons on the n o r t h side o f the r i v e r . The command began using t ! ~

wagons, g r a i n sacks, dead horses, and d i r t t o e s t a b l i s h temporary breastworks and a c o r r a l f o r t h e s u r v i v i n g animals. Meanwhile, the

Utes occupied the high ground both t o the n o r t h and south o f the river. Using t h i s advantage and the superior range of t h e i r r i f l e s , As

they kept up steady pressure on the troops w i t h constant sniping.

the r o l l was c a l l e d on t h e n i g h t o f September 29, twelve o f the command were dead. cfficers.32 A f f a i r s a t the agency took a marked t u r n f o r the worse w i t h the outbreak o f f i g h t i n g . Ute messengers rode back w i t h news o f the Forty three were wounded, including a l l but One o f the

engagement and the tension t h a t had been b u i l d i n g f o r months burst

29 SEPTEMBER 1879: CHERFIY MAKES CONTACT


(Adapted from Dawson, Tho Ute War) Figure 10

f o r t h i n a w i l d orgy o f violence t h a t resulted i n the murders o f e i g h t white male employees o f the agency. Included i n t h i s number was

Meeker, who was l a t e r found by troops w i t h h i s s k u l l smashed, a logging ckain around h i s neck, and a b a r r e l stave driven through h i s mouth and sku11.33 captive. The four white female residents o f t h e agency were taken These included Meeker's w i f e and daughter. The besieged troops fought o f f one attempt t o overwhelm t h e i r defenses t h e n i g h t o f September 29, but t h e i r s i t u a t i o n remained desperate. The Utes, continuing t h e harassing f i r e , had succeeded i n Any movement w i t h i n the The

k i l l i n g a l l o f t h e horses and mules.

breastworks drew w e l l placed f i r e from the i n v i s i b l e snipers.

problem o f sustaining t h e defense was compounded by t h e s o l d i e r s ' lack o f water. The distance from the defensive p o s i t i o n t o the r i v e r was Attempts by t h e troops t o reach the M i l k The Utes moved up t o the r i v e r

approximately 200 yards.

River during d a y l i g h t were impossible. a t n i g h t t o i n t e r d i c t resupply.

Compounding the water problems, the

Utes s e t f i r e t o t h e surrounding vegetation, as t h e troops sought t o conserve ammunition t o f i g h t o f f more attacks.34


A t approximately midnight on September 29th and 30th, Payne sent

out f o u r volunteers t o go f o r assistance.35

O n 1 October, one

c o u r i e r met D Company, 9 t h Cavalry, which was enroute t o t h e agency. Captain Francis Dodge rode w i t h h i s company toward the besieged command and sent out messages reporting t h e s i t u a t i o n . The troops a t M i l k

River continued t o s u f f e r from the e f f e c t s o f the siege, i n c l u d i n ~ attempts by the Indians t o draw out foolhardy soldiers. The Utes had

29 SEPTEMBER 1879: DE M Y BACK TO WAGONS


(Adapted from Dawson, The Ute War) Figure 11

taken up p o s i t i o n s along t h e r i v e r bottom and began t a u n t i n g t h e soldiers: Come o u t , you sons-of-bitches, ' o o r ' o r s e and moo1 and k i l l 0 0 . 3 6 and f i g h t l i k e men---Utes kil!

The morning o f t h e 2d o f October, t h e s p i r i t s o f Payne's troop:; were raised b y t h e a r r i v a l o f t h e company o f t h e 9 t h Cavalry. Unfortunately f o r them, t h e a d d i t i o n a l company d i d not change t h e s i t u a t i o n , except bringing proof t h a t a messenger had suceeded i n g e t t i n g word t o t h e outside world. The company o f t h e 9 t h a r r i v e d

undetected by t h e Utes and ran t h e gauntlet o f t h e l a s t 600 yards under heavy f i r e . Reaching t h e breastworks t h e a d d i t i o n a l company s e t t l e d

i n t o t h e defense and awaited f u r t h e r reinforcement. At noon on October 2d, t h e r e l i e v i n g f o r c e t h a t Payne's coninian~:! was w a i t i n g f o r swung i n t o a c t i o n . From Fort D.A. Russell, Colonel

Wesley M e r r i t t , commanding t h e 5 t h Cavalry Regiment, departed f o r t h e M i l k River b a t t l e w i t h e i g h t a d d i t i o n a l companies, o r a f o r c e c f about

500 men.37

The r a t e o f march o f M e r r i t t ' s command stands i n sharp

contrast t o t h e march o f t h e o r i g i n a l expedition t o t h e White River agency. Over a distance o f 170 m i l e s , M e r r i t t ' s f o r c e t r a v e l l e d 30

miles on October 2d, 50 miles on t h e 3d, and w i t h a nonstop march, completed t h e l a s t 70 miles on t h e morning o f 5 October 1879.38
A t 0500 on t h e 5 t h , t h e weary troops on M i l k River heard t h e

s t r a i n s o f a bugle sounding " O f f i c e r ' s C a l l , " announcing t h e end o f t h e i r ordeal. breastworks. The advance elements o f H e r r i t t ' s f o r c e soon reached tile The Utes had detected M e r r i t t ' s column and had retreated M e r r i t t ' s troops were not

south i n t o t h e confines o f Ute t e r r i t o r y .

t h e only f o r c e r i d i n g t o t h e sounds o f t h e guns.

General Sheridan had dispatched troops from the Department o f Texas, as well as troops from the Oepartment o f the Missouri i n the scene. Colonel M e r r i t t soon found himself i n control o f three
. . ; a ? Six companies o f the 4 t h Cavalry, under Ct,?? ,.,I,I

converging columns.

Ranald S. Mackenzie from F o r t Clark, Texas, and f i v e additional companies o f the 9 t h Cavalry, under Colonel Hatch from Forts Garland and Union, were r a p i d l y moving t o White River. force would number over 1500 men. The s i z e and speed o f t h e army's response had an e f f e c t on the Utes akin t o being doused by a bucket o f cold vater. The emotions t h a t M e r r i t t ' s combined

had driven them t o attack t h e i r agent were now replaced by fear and apprehension. The White River Utes retreated deep i n t o the mountains

t o await the expected onslaught o f the army.

ENDNOTES 1. Carl Ubbelohde, Maxine Benson, Duane A. Smith, A Colorado H i s t o r y (Boulder: P r u e t t Pub1ishing, 1988), 190. 2. Ibid., 187

3. Forbes P a r k h i l l , "The Meeker Massacre," A Colorado Reader (Boulder: P r u e t t Publishing, 19621, 234. Department o f t h e I n t e r i o r , Annual Reoort o f t h e Commissioner o f 4. In'dlan A f f a i r s t o the Secretary o f the I n t e r i o r (Washington, D.C.: Government P r i n t i n g Office, 18781, 19.
5. Congress, House, Committee on I n d i a n A f f a i r s , Testimonv i n Relation t o the Ute I n d i a n Outbreak, 46th Cong., 2d sess., 15 January 1880, 102.

6. Frank H a l l , H i s t o r v o f t h e State o f Colorado, v o l . 2 (Chicago: The Blakelv P r i n t i n g Co.. 1890). 498. While t h i s was w r i t t e n 21 year!; a f t & t h e event, i t - i s worth cbnsidering as a prevalent view among Colorado o f f i c i a l s . A t t h e time o f t h e Meeker Massacre, M r . H a l l was t h e Adjutant-General o f Colorado.

7.

U.S.

Congress, House 1880, 60.

8. Congress, House, Extinguishment o f I n d i a n T i t l e , 46th Cong., 1 s t sess., Congressional Record, vol. I X , p a r t 1, 21 A p r i l 1870, 615.
9. Department o f t h e I n t e r i o r , Annual Report o f t h e Commissioner o f I n d i a n A f f a i r s t o the Secretary o f the I n t e r i o r (Washington, D.C. : Government P r i n t i n g Office, 18791, xx.

10. War Department, "Report o f t h e General o f t h e Army," i n Annual Reoort o f the Secretary o f War (Washington D.C.: Government P r i n t i n g Office, 18801, 8.

1 (Washington D.C.:
Government P r i n t i n g O f f i c e , 18791, x x i i - x x i i i . 12. 13. Ibid., xxi. P a r k h i l l , The Meeker Massacre, 239.

11.

Department o f t h e I n t e r i o r , Annual Reoort o f t h e Commissioner o f

14. I n t e r i o r , Annual Reoort o f t h e Commissioner o f Indian A f f a i r s (18791, x x i . 15. P a r k h i l l , The Meeker Massacre, 235

16. Robert W. Frazer, F o r t s o f t h e West: M i l i t a r y F o r t s and Presidios and Posts Commonly Called F o r t s West o f t h e M i s s i s s i ~ o iRiver t o 1898 (Norman: U n i v e r s i t y o f Oklahoma Press, 19651, 38. 17. I n t e r i o r , Annual ReDOrt o f t h e Commissioner o f I n d i a n A f f a i r s (18791, x x i - x x i i . 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. Ibid., xxx.

I b i d . , xxx. Sherman, Annual ReDOrt o f Secretary o f War (18801, 8. Ibid., Ibid., 8. 8-9.

I b i d . , 9.

24. I n t e r i o r , Annual Report o f t h e Commissioner o f I n d i a n A f f a i r s (18791, xxxi. 25. 26. Ibid., xxxi.

Sherman, Annual Report o f Secretary o f War (18801, 10.

27. Fred H . Werner, Meeker: The Storv o f t h e Meeker Massacre and Thornburgh B a t t l e . Se~tember29. 1879 (Greeley: Werner Publications, 19851, 50. 28. Congress, House, Testimonv i n Reiation t o t h e Ute I n d i a n Outbreak (18801, 64. 29. Ibid., 65.

30. Ibid., 65. The s i g n a l o f "waving t h e hat" i s contentious. The Utes l a t e r t e s t i f i e d t h a t Cherry's a c t i o n was t o s i g n a l h i s troops t o begin f i r i n g , w h i l e Cherry i n s i s t s i t was an attempt t o arrange a parley w i t h t h e Indians. 31. Thomas Fulton Dawson, The Ute War: A H i s t o r y o f t h e White River Massacre and t h e P r i v a t i o n s and Hardshim o f t h e Caotive White Women among t h e H o s t i l e s on Grand River (Denver: Tribune Publishing House, 18791, 23-24.
-

32.

Ibid.,

27-28.

33. George K. Lisk, " L e t t e r s t o t h e Editor," Winners o f t h e West 3 (February 1925): 2. 34. Congress, House, Testimony i n Relation t o t h e Ute I n d i a n Outbreak (18801, 66.

35. 36. 37. 38.

I b i d . , 66. Werner, Meeker, 47. "The M i l k River Campaign," Winners o f t h e West 2 (May 1933): 1. I b i d . , 4.

CHAPTER 5 AFTERMATH A N D CONCLUSIONS The 5 t h Cavalry never got t h e o p p o r t u n i t y t o d i r e c t l y avenge t h e i r f a l l e n comrades. The campaign was instead concluded through a

negotiated settlement t h a t would lead t o t h e removal o f t h e m a j o r i t y o f t h e Ute t r i b e from t h e s t a t e . The culmination o f t h e Ute campaign

i l l u s t r a t e s t h a t i n s p i t e o f t h e misgivings about t h e national I n d i a n P o l i c y , t h e army had linked t h e design andconduct o f i t s operational strategy t o t h i s policy. P o l i t i c a l r e a l i t y , patterns o f economic

development, l i m i t e d budget and manpower resources a l l served t o shape t h e conduct o f t h e Ute campaign. A f t e r r e s t i n g h i s f o r c e and dealing w i t h t h e dead and wounded, Colonel M e r r i t t pushed on t o t h e White River Agency. Arriving at the

Agency on I 1 October 1879, M e r r i t t buried t h e bodies o f t h e v i c t i m s o f t h e "massacre" and made preparations f o r a p u r s u i t t o t h e south. While

s t i l l a t White R i v e r , reinforcements sent from t h e Departments o f t h e P l a t t e and Missouri a r r i v e d , b r i n g i n g h i s s t r e n g t h t o about a thousand effectives.' On 14 October, M e r r i t t began h i s p u r s u i t t o overtake t h e Utes and t a rescue t h e feniale hostages.

I n addition t o M e r r i t t , the 4th

Cavalry under Mackenzie had been reinforced t o about 1500 men and was preparing t o depart Fort Garland, Colorado.2 Hatch's 9 t h Cavalry,

w i t h a complement o f 450 men, had been ordered t o Fort Lewis, Colorado,

near the southern Ute Agency.3

The plan was r e l a t i v e l y simple--the

4th

and 9th Cavalry Regiments would s t r i k e t o the west and north, s p l i t t i n g the White River Utes from the southern Ute bands. M e r r i t t ' s 5th Cavalry

would push south, trapping the Utes against the other columns. The campaign would be conducted i n winter, due t o demands f o r immediate action from the state, and the advantages winter offered army forces. The demand f o r l o g i s t i c a l support o f the troops i n the theater

would change l i t t l e whether they remained as currently deployed, o r took the f i e l d against the Utes. The rugged area o f operations would

c e r t a i n l y challenge the Army's a b i l i t y t o sustain operations because o f the l i m i t e d r a i l r o a d structure, but the Ute's sustainment problem was d r a s t i c a l l y more d i f f i c u l t i n the winter. The prospect o f the

alternative--namely waiting f o r the snow t o melt the following June--and then having t o chase a highly mobile force through the mountains was f a r less appealing. Before M e r r i t t crossed the f i r s t range o f mountains, climbing out o f the valley created by the White River, the columns were called t o a halt. Upon a r r i v i n g i n Denver, Secretary o f the I n t e r i o r Carl

Schurz intervened, i n an attempt t o save the hostages and defuse the crisis. He designated Charles Adams as a special envoy because he was Adams was authorized t o negotiate

known and trusted by Ute Chief Ouray. f o r the release o f the hostages.

As early as 2 October, Ouray had sent

messengers north, urging the White River Band t o release the women and t o cease fighting.4 O n 9 October, Ouray and Agent William M. Stanley o f

the southern Ute Agency a t Los Pinos, Colorado, reported t o Schurz t h a t the White River Band " . . . w i l l f i g h t no more unless forced t o do so."=

Schur:,

sensing an opportunity t o avert a c o s t l y f i g h t , warned

Ouray t h a t "the troops are now i n great force, and resistance would r e s u l t i n great disaster t o t h e Indians."= Schurz telegraphed

General Sherman w i t h news o f the ongoing e f f o r t s t o mediate the conflict. On 14 October, M e r r i t t received the the f o l l o w i n g dispatch

sent through General Sheridan from General Sherman: The honorable Secretary o f the I n t e r i o r has, t h i s 10.30 a.m., c a l l e d w i t h a dispatch, given length below, which i s communicated f o r your information, and which should go f o r what i s worth t o Generals Crook and M e r r i t t . The l a t t e r , on t h e spot, can t e l l i f the h o s t i l e s have ceased f i g h t i n g . I f so, General M e r r i t t should go i n every event t o the agency t o ascertain the actual condition o f facts. A l l Indians who oppose must be cleared out o f the way i f they r e s i s t . I f they surrender t h e i r arms and ponies, they should be held as prisoners, t o be disposed o f by superior orders. The Secretary o f the I n t e r i o r w i l l send a special agent a t once t o Ouray, who i s believed t o be honest and our friend. He may prevent t h e southern Utes from being involved, and the I n t e r i o r Department can befriend him afterward by showing favor t o some o f h i s special friends. But the murderers o f the agent and servants must be punished, as also those who fought and k i l l e d Major Thornburgh and men.' M e r r i t t returned t o the encampment a t White River and along w i t h the other troops i n the state, set about preparing f o r the onset o f winter, while awaiting news o f t h e Adams mission. the s t a t e were explosive. Emotions w i t h i n

Apprehensive a t the prospect o f a f u l l scale

I n d i a n War, c i t i z e n s from areas throughout the s t a t e overwhelmed the Governor's o f f i c e w i t h requests f o r arms and troops. Two companies o f

the Colorado m i l i t i a were c a l l e d up t o p a t r o l the Uncompahgre Valley, e near the Southern ~ t Band. John C. B e l l , a member o f the P i t k i n

Guards from Lake C i t y , Colorado, l a t e r recalled: The Governor c a l l e d them i n t o service, and war-order No. 1 was b r i n g in, dead o r a l i v e , a l l h o s t i l e Indians found o f f the reservation...consider a l l Indians o f f the reservation h o s t i l e , and b r i n g them in., dead o r a l i v e , and we w i l l determine t h e i r d o c i l i t y afterward.8

The ultimatum t h a t Adams brought t o the White River Utes consisted o f two demands: F i r s t , release the hostages unharmed, and

second, surrender the individuals responsible f o r the murders a t the White River Agency. I f the Utes agreed t o these conditions, m i l i t a r y

action would be forestalled and hearings on Indian grievances would be held a t a l a t e r date. O n 21 October, Adams returned t o Ouray's camp Adams reported t h a t the second

w i t h the unharmed hostages.9

condition had not been agreed t o by the Utes, and t h a t hewas returning f o r f u r t h e r discussions. O n 24 October Sherman, growing anxious a t the

delay, sent the following message t o h i s f i e l d commander: Let a l l preparations proceed, and be ready the moment Igive the word t o p i t c h in. Should Agent Adams f a i l i n h i s mission I understand t h a t the c i v i l a u t h o r i t i e s w i l l stand aside and m i l i t a r y , w i l l take absolute control o f t h i s whole Ute question and s e t t l e i t f o r good and a l l . Meantime, humanity t o the captive women and the f r i e n d l y Utes, even o f White River, j u s t i f i e s t h i s seeming waste o f time.10 Sherman was t i r i n g o f the lack o f progress i n the negotiations. He saw the s i t u a t i o n as the d i r e c t r e s u l t o f the lack o f army control i n establishing policy. His view t h a t the management o f Indian a f f a i r s

...

should reside i n the War Department was the source o f h i s f r u s t r a t i o n i n handling the Ute problem. As Sherman wrote t o Sheridan:

as the Govt [ s i c ] o f the U.S. and i f the Christian p o l i c y has f a i l e d i t had not been f o r want o f e f f o r t but because the problem i s insoluble--unless the Indian w i l l change h i s nature and habits, select h i s spot on earth, and become as a white man he i s domed. I t i s not because the white man i s cruel, inhuman and grasping but because i t i s the Law o f Natural Change and Development--the wrong began a t Plymouth Rock and w i l l end i n the Rocky Mountains.11 Four days l a t e r , on the 29 October, Adams reported t h a t the Indians appeared wilTing t o surrender the g u i l t y parties, i f the accused would be afforded the same treatment as "whites" under

...

s i m i l a r circumstances.

O n 10 November 1879, twenty c h i e f s o f the White

River Utes, including Chiefs Douglas and Jack, accepted the government terms."
A commission was immediately created and began a t once t o

s o r t out the d e t a i l s o f the events leading up t o the uprising. The commission hearings lasted f o r another year and u l t i m a t e l y f a i l e d t o address the problems surrounding t h e events o f 1879 t o the s a t i s f a c t i o n o f Colorado c i t i z e n s o r t h e Utes. force i n Ute country f o r t h e next two years. The A n y remained i n By J u l y 1880, M e r r i t t ' s

cavalry a t white River was replaced by s i x companies o f t h e 6 t h I n f a n t r y Regiment, and the 4 t h and 9 t h Cavalry Regiments were likewise r e i i e v e d by companies from the 4th, 7th, 9th, and 14th I n f a n t r y Regiments.13 The I n f a n t r y Regiments established a new series o f

f o r t s which t i e d i n w i t h t h e expanding r a i l network through the Ute territory.14 The development o f t h i s l i n e o f posts, beginning a t

White River and extending south t o Bayard, New Mexico, w i t h the corresponding development o f the new railroads, was the culmination o f the "small f o r t " system i n t h e west.. Commander, General Pope remarked: This l i n e o f m i l i t a r y posts begins t o reach the settlements o f Utah and Arizona and the extreme p o i n t s occupied by the m i l i t a r y forces advancing from the west, so t h a t w i t h the l i n e through Colorado and New Mexico t h e m i l i t a r y system o f defense south o f the 40th p a r a l l e l would appear t o be c o m ~ l e t e d . ' ~ The r e s u l t s o f the 1879 campaign were mixed. The Indian p o l i c y This change As Department o f t h e Missouri

changed emphasis i n the years f o l l o w i n g t h e Ute uprising.

r e f l e c t e d t h e r e a l i z a t i o n t h a t the reservation system and t h e r e s u l t i n g segregation o f the Indian was a bankrupt p o l i c y . While a d i r e c t

c o r r e l a t i o n o f t h i s s h i f t i n p o l i c y t o t h e events o f the Ute u p r i s i n g i s not a reasonable deduction, the personal involvement o f Carl Schurz 95

i n the events o f 1879 and h i s subsequent r o l e i n shaping a new p o l i c y cannot be discounted. The events surrounding the Ute c r i s i s , coupled

with the e a r l i e r Nez Perce uprising, added weight t o the arguments o f Eastern humanitarians who favored a new d i r e c t i o n i n policy. The

remaining years o f the Hayes administration saw a new emphasis on the assimilation o f Indians i n t o mainstream "white" culture. message t o Corigress, President Hayes stated t h a t "...the
. .

I n h i s 1881 time has come

when the p o l i c y should be t o place the Indians as rapidly as p r a c t i c a l on the same footing w i t h the other permanent inhabitants o f our country.
"is

The a t t i t u d e w i t h i n the state o f Colorado took a decidedly d i f f e r e n t turn. The events o f 1879 provided, i n the view o f Colorado

citizens, t h a t the Utes were both dangerous and an impediment t o progress. With the r e s u l t s o f Schurz's c m i s s i o n s t i l l unresolved,

Governor P i t k i n established three m i l i t a r y d i s t r i c t s associated w i t h each o f the three Ute agencies. P i t k i n commented t o the press: It w i l l be impossible f o r the Indians and whites t o l i v e i n peace hereafter...This attack had no provocation and the whites now understand t h a t they are l i a b l e t o be attacked i n any p a r t o f the s t a t e My idea i s that, unless removed by the government they must necessari 1y be exterminated. Even with the release o f the hostages,

...

The Utes, largely through the e f f o r t s o f Chief Ouray, t r i e d t o stop the momentum towards removal as best they could. Ouray managed t o

h a l t the proceedings o f the commission by successfully appealing t o Secretary Schurz t h a t the Utes could not receive a f a i r hearing w i t h i n the state.
A second problem t h a t confronted the i n i t i a l commission was

t h a t Ouray refused t o accept the testimony o f the only survivors o f the White River massacre because they were women. The hearings received a

change i n venue t o Washington D.C.,

and concluded w i t h the J u l y 1880 The

Treaty t h a t forced the removal o f t h e Utes t o new areas i n Utah.

demands f o r j u s t i c e were soon mitigated, as i t became apparent the Utes would indeed leave the state. Sioux campaign--Chief Only one Ute, the veteran o f Crook's

Jack, was punished by imprisonment a t F o r t On 7 September 1881, escorted by

Leavenworth f o r a period o f one year.

t h e Army, t h e l a s t band o f Utes crossed t h e Grand River i n t o Utah Territory. General Pope wrote o f t h e occasion:

the whites who had collected, i n view o f [ t h e Utes] removal were so eager and unrestrained by common decency t h a t i t was absolutely necessary t o use m i l i t a r y force t o keep them o f f the reservation u n t i l the Indians were f a i r l y gone.. . ' a With the Ute issue concluded, d i d t h e campaign serve t o i l l u s t r a t e an o v e r a l l operational strategy, and was m i l i t a r y a c t i o n against t h e Utes the only a v a i l a b l e a l t e r n a t i v e ? the Ute campaign, t h e Army changed l i t t l e . Indian wars had ended, even before 1879. I n t h e aftermath o f

...

The period o f large scale The conduct o f the campaign

followed what had become t h e standard operational p a t t e r n o f the Army. This p a t t e r n was not developed as p a r t o f a large centralized plan, but came about instead as t h e r e s u l t o f changing conditions and p o l i c i e s . While i t may be judged an ad hoc strategy t h a t evolved over time, i t probably represents the only p r a c t i c a l a l t e r n a t i v e t o the times. The

lack o f c l a r i t y and consistency i n the national I n d i a n p o l i c y l e f t the Army w i t h the d i f f i c u l t task o f formulating s t r a t e g i e s i n a r a p i d l y changing environment. The network o f f o r t s t h a t were u t i l i z e d t o support Army operations had been established t o support the expansion o f the national objective--the economic development o f the west--and t o

control white and Indian transgressions. Territory,

F o r t Steele, Wyoming

represents an example o f the former, while F o r t Lewis, The employment o f troops by Generals

Colorado, represents t h e l a t t e r .

Pope and Crook from these two i n s t a l l a t i o n s suggests t h a t the m i l i t a r y was serious i n i t s e f f o r t s t o act as an d i s i n t e r e s t e d mediator i n disputes between white and Indian, i n support o f t h e national I n d i a n Policy. Army leadership p u b l i c l y expressed f r u s t r a t i o n w i t h t h e handling o f I n d i a n a f f a i r s by the Department o f t h e I n t e r i o r , b u t t h e army, nevertheless, continued t o conduct operations i n support o f national policy. This i s n o t t o suggest t h a t t h e national p o l i c y was a

singular coherent document; rather i t was vague and d i s j o i n t e d i n i t s construct and execution. From t h i s amorphous s t r a t e g i c s e t t i n g , t h e

Army attempted t o b r i n g u n i f o r m i t y and purpose. I n t h i s e f f o r t , the army b e n e f i t t e d from t h e lengthy terms o f i t s senior leaders. The lack o f physical documentation o f s t r a t e g i c

and operational plans and goals was o f f s e t by t h e long tenures o f senior leaders, which maintained a c e n t r a l purpose t o t h e conduct o f operations. The views o f Sherman and Sheridan would determine t h e

national m i l i t a r y strategy during the period, and t h e construct o f t h i s strategy would s e t t h e framework t h a t produced t h e o ~ e r a t i o n a ldesign. The primary goal o f t h e national strategy was t h e support o f economic settlement o f the west, w i t h the supplementary goal o f supporting the national I n d i a n policy. With these being t h e c e n t r a l

themes o f the national strategy, the operational strategy which came

about revolved around the establishment o f a s e r i e s o f f o r t s t h a t would q u i t e n a t u r a l l y correspond w i t h the construction o f t h e c h i e f economic vehicle o f t h e period--the r a i 1road.

Given the p o l i t i c a l demands f o r troops throughout the west and faced w i t h an austere manpower and budget p i c t u r e , t h e operational design q u i c k l y evolved toward a l a r g e s e r i e s o f small garrisons t h a t would be massed f o r f i e l d operations and proximity t o the r a i l system. The drawback i n t h i s system was t h e l o c a t i o n o f t h e Indian. As the

reservation system was developed, i t became a natural r e s u l t t o place them i n areas t h a t were not desirable t o whites--namely would not l i k e l y a t t r a c t the development o f a r a i l r o a d . places t h a t Because o f

t h i s , the army was not i n p o s i t i o n t o deter outbreaks as they arose, but instead was forced t o react t o events a f t e r the f a c t . The a l t e r n a t i v e o f p o s i t i o n i n g t h e army alongside the Indians, while seemingly a t t r a c t i v e , f a i l s on two counts. F i r s t , i t was not

p r a c t i c a l i n terms o f t h e s i z e o f t h e army a t t h e time; second, i t remains u n l i k e l y t h a t t h e army could have successfully constrained a l l the bands as the reservation system was arrayed. I n addition, i f the

troops had been located w i t h t h e reservation, they would n o t have been i n p o s i t i o n t o defend the centers o f white population and economic development. The other feature o f operational design t h a t was central t o the conduct o f Indian campaigns i n general, and the Ute campaign s p e c i f i c a l l y , was t h e use o f converging columns. The use o f t h i s

method owes i t s e l f t o the r e l a t i v e p o s i t i o n i n g o f troops and t o the nature o f t h e threat. Given the large number o f small garrisons

scattered over a large area, the quickest means t o get them i n t o the

99

f i e l d was t o mass them a t several d i f f e r e n t points.

Also, by doing

t h i s the l i m i t e d r a i l network was not over-taxed i n supporting operations from a central point. The advantage held by the Indian, i n

terms o f t a c t i c a l mobility, was also central t o the use o f converging columns. Having succeeded i n using t h i s method on some occasions, i t

remained the army's answer t o counter Indian mobility.19 These methods served as the army's primary operational t o o l s f o r combatting the Utes and the other Indian t r i b e s . The Army d i d

receive c r i t i c i s m f o r not formalizing the lessons o f the Indian campaigns through the m i l i t a r y education system o r other means.20 h i s t o r i a n Robert Wooster laments: Those s t r a t e g i c debates t h a t d i d occur almost always concerned conventional warfare more applicable t o the b a t t l e f i e l d s o f Europe than t o those o f the American West. The absence o f routine meetings, regular correspondence, o r open discussion o f m i l i t a r y strategy toward Indians also discouraged individual initiative.20 The arguments expressed by Wooster demonstrate more h i s own lack o f knowledge i n the understanding o f a m i l i t a r y organization, than i n proving a f a i l u r e on the p a r t o f the American Army.
It i s precisely

As

because o f t h i s lack o f formal discussion o f Indian t a c t i c s t h a t i n i t i a t i v e became a survival s k i l l f o r t a c t i c a l leaders. Any attempts

by the army t o draw any centralized doctrinal lessons from the Indian campaigns might have been more damaging, as t h i s assumes t h a t one was f i g h t i n g a common enemy.
I t i s l i k e l y t h a t such e f f o r t s might have

produced an outcome s i m i l a r t o General Crook's f a t e i n h i s f u t i l e attempt t o transfer lessons from the Red River Campaign t o h i s Rosebud Campaign. The use o f a few central operational methods provides enough

commonality when f i g h t i n g a divergent enemy over a wide area.

The focus on f i g h t i n g a European-style war i s l a r g e l y explained as a means t o examine t h e most dangerous p o t e n t i a l t h r e a t t o the nation. The m i l i t a r y view i s always t o prepare f o r t h e most dangerous

enemy, and a t no time was t h e n a t i o n s e r i o u s l y challenged by any group, o r groups, o f Indians. The o b j e c t o f t h e I n d i a n wars remained l i m i t e d Certainly i n the

i n s o f a r as t h e n a t i o n a l government was concerned.

view o f many Indians, t h e pol i c y o f t h e government and' i t s execution by t h e army resembled t o t a l war. The i n i t i a l operations o f t h e

Spanish-American War v i n d i c a t e s t h e a t t e n t i o n t o "conventional war." The focus o f t h e army remained on t h e defense o f t h e n a t i o n and d i d not become consumed by what can be categorized as an "economy o f force" mission. This argument has probably t h e most enduring value f o r t h e c u r r e n t l y serving o f f i c e r . As i n t h e I n d i a n - f i g h t i n g army, t h e

challenge today i s t o s o r t out p r i o r i t i e s d u r i n g a period o f constrained resources. It would be very easy t o become foccsed on

smaller, more pressing, issues and t o lose s i g h t o f t h e o v e r a l l purpose o f t h e army--namely t h e defense o f t h e nation. The period between wars

has always been characterized by debate about how best t o prepare f o r t h e next c o n f l i c t . While i t i s always tempting t o be caught up i n t h e

t r a n s i t o r y " p o l i c y du j o u r " ,

i t i s essential t h a t t h e army s t r i v e t o

maintain c e n t r a l themes which d e f i n e i t s purpose and missions.


I t i s doubtful t h a t any change i n t h e I n d i a n p o l i c y , o f c f t h e

army's r o l e i n sbpporting i t s execution, wocld have made any d i f f e r e n c e i n t h e u l t i m a t e outcome, when taken i n t h e context o f t h e times. The

primary lesson, i n terms o f t h e army, i s t h e value o f e a r l y involvement i n t h e s t r u c t u r i n g o f n a t i o n a l s t r a t e g y and a continual assessment o f


101

the government's ccmmittment t o t h a t policy.

Again, i f t h i s f a i l s t o

mediate the views o f our p o l i t i c a l leaders, it appears t h a t the words o f Sherman, as he awaited the r e s u l t o f Agent Adams' mission t o the Utes w i l l echo again: we are l e f t i n the heart o f t h e mountains w i t h our hands t i e d and the danger of being snowed i n s t a r i n g us i n the face. Ia m n o t e a s i l y discouraged, but i t looks as though we had been p r e t t y badly sold out i n t h i s business.21

...

ENDNOTES 1. War Department, "Report o f t h e General o f t h e Army," i n Annual Government P r i n t i n g Rewort o f t h e Secretarv o f War (Washington D.C.: O f f i c e , 18801, 11. 2. 3. Ibid., Ibid., 12. 12.

Department o f t h e I n t e r i o r , Annual Reoort o f t h e Commissioner o f 4. I n d i a n A f f a i r s t o t h e Secretarv o f t h e I n t e r i o r (Washington D.C.: Government P r i n t i n g O f f i c e , 18791, xxxiv. 5. 6.
7.

Ibid., Ibid.,

xxxiv. xxxiv.

Sherman, Annual Reoort o f Secretary o f War (18801, 11.

8. John H . Nankivell, H i s t o r v o f t h e M i l i t a r y Orqanizations o f t h e State o f Colorado: 1860-1935 (Denver: W . H . K i s t l e r Co., 19351, 61.

9. I n t e r i o r , Annual Reoort o f t h e Commissioner o f I n d i a n A f f a i r s (1879) xxxv. The c o n d i t i o n o f t h e women r e t u r n i n g from c a p t i v i t y was not dwelled on by t h e a u t h o r i t i e s . It was believed t h a t r e p o r t s o f t h e v i o l a t i o n o f these womenwould inflame t h e issue. Concern about t h e womens r e p u t a t i o n l e d i n q u i r i e s t o avoid t h e subject. 10. Sherman, Annual Report o f t h e Secretary o f War (18801, 12.

11. John F. Marszalek, Sherman: A S o l d i e r ' s Passion f o r Order (New York: The Free Press, 19931, 399-400. 12. I n t e r i o r , Annual Reoort o f t h e Commissioner o f I n d i a n A f f a i r s (1879) xxxv. 13. War Department, "Report o f General Pope," Annual ReDort o f t h e Secretary o f War (Washington D.C.: Government P r i n t i n g O f f i c e , 18801, 84. 14. War Department, "Report o f General Sheridan," Annual Rewort o f t h e Secretarv o f War (Washington D.C.: Government P r i n t i n g O f f i c e , 1880), 55. 15. Pope, Annual R e ~ o r t o f t h e Secretarv o f War (1880), 84.

16. P h i l i p Weeks, Farewell, MY Nation: The American I n d i a n and t h e United States. 1820-1890 ( A r l i n g t o n Heights: Harlan Davidson, 1990), 218.

17. Jan Pettit, Utes: The Mountain People (Boulder: Johnson Books, 19901, 124.

P. David Smith, Ourav: Chief of the Utes (Ridgeway: Wayfinder 18. Books, l986), 192.

The alternative means to combat the advantages of Indian mobility 19. was the use of Indian scouts or auxillaries. Used with varying degrees of success it was not largely accepted because it implied the Army proper was incapable of dealing with the problem. Robert Wooster, The Militarv and United States Indian Policv: 20. 1865-1903 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 19881, 207. 21. Ibid., 180.

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1982.
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