Black Kettle, not a peaceful leader

Publié le par custerwest

source: Chief Black Kettle, by historian Gregory F. Michno, member and author of several important Custer books, Wild West magazine, December 2005, History Net

"After all the efforts of both sides, the treaty lasted only until the spring of 1868. Both chiefs and young warriors ignored the agreement that stated they would stop killing and taking hostages. A Cheyenne foray that began as an attack against the Kaws near Council Grove, Kan., degenerated into attacks against settlers, culminating in robbery, rape, destroyed property and stolen stock. When the government withheld annuities because of the broken treaty, about 200 Cheyennes, with Lakota allies, went on a destructive raid in north-central Kansas. When it was over, 40 settlers had been killed or wounded, at least four women were raped, and one woman and two children were captured.

Some of the raiders came from Black Kettle's camp. As was the case on numerous previous occasions, his village was open to terrorists. When the raiders returned, Black Kettle made a run south of the Arkansas River. General Sheridan promised Kansas Governor Samuel Crawford that he would remove the hostile Indians from his state. The raiding continued for three more months and resulted in a winter campaign that led to the Battle of the Washita. Even George Bent, a mixed-blood white-Cheyenne, admitted that the raids were a bad mistake, and believed the Indians were at fault.

Some of the raiders came from Black Kettle's camp. As was the case on numerous previous occasions, his village was open to terrorists. 

In October 1868, Cheyennes attacked a wagon train along the Arkansas River in eastern Colorado Territory and captured Clara Blinn and her little boy Willie. The raiders took their captives to Black Kettle's camp on the Washita River. The Indians believed they had good bargaining chips with which to deal for peace, much as they had attempted to do with their captives in the late summer of 1864. Blinn wrote a letter pleading for someone to rescue them, and it reached Colonel William B. Hazen, in charge at Fort Cobb. On November 20, Black Kettle, Big Mouth and a number of chiefs representing the Cheyennes and Arapahos, came to see Hazen to discuss peace and talk about ransoming the white captives. Since these tribes were currently at war with the United States, Hazen, unlike Major Wynkoop in 1864, knew he could not make a separate peace with them. Although Black Kettle was ostensibly at Fort Cobb to discuss peace, he did say, as Hazen recorded it, "that many of his men were then on the war path, and that their people did not want peace with the people above the Arkansas." Hazen directed them to go back to their villages and deal directly with General Sheridan.

It was too late. Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and the 7th Cavalry were already in Indian Territory hunting the Cheyennes. Once again, marauding warriors headed for sanctuary in Black Kettle's village. Custer followed their tracks right into it. He did not know about the white captives in the village, nor did he know whose village it was that his cavalry struck at the icy cold dawn of November 27, 1868. As the troopers splashed across the Washita, chaos erupted and gunfire reverberated in the frigid air. Some Indians fought, but most of them scattered. Custer captured the camp, burned the tepees and reported killing 103 Indians and capturing 53, with a loss of 21 soldiers killed and 16 wounded. The Cheyennes killed Clara and Willie Blinn. Clara was shot above the left eyebrow, and scalped. Black Kettle and his wife mounted a pony and fled. Bullets from the cavalrymen struck them as they crossed the river. Black Kettle was hit in the stomach, but he kept riding. Another bullet hit him in the back, and he fell into the icy water, the first Indian killed that day. His wife was killed moments later. The soldiers rode over them as they charged into the village.

Thus ended the life of Black Kettle. His traditional portrayal as an honest, strong-willed man, an effective leader and a visionary do not all stand up to the evidence."


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