Plum Creek Massacre: A Catalyst For Sand Creek

Plum Creek Massacre

On Aug. 8, 1864, more than 100 Indians attacked a wagon train carrying freight from Sidney, Iowa, to Denver. Eleven people were killed in the attack, including Thomas Morton, the owner of the freight wagons, and his brother-in-law, William Fletcher and his wife’s cousin, John Fletcher.

The men were all scalped, killed and partially burned, their bodies thrown into a ditch as a sort of mass grave.

From our book: 

The Minnesota Massacre of 1862, the Hungate family murders in June of 1864, and the Plum Creek Massacre in August of 1864, were key events that led to Sand Creek…

The Plum Creek Massacre—also a pivotal event to the Sand Creek battle. This massacre took place near present-day Lexington, Nebraska on August 8, 1864. A party of 100 Cheyenne Dog Soldiers is said to have attacked a train of twelve wagons leaving eleven dead and a woman and child captured. Lieutenant Charles Porter “identified the three principal Indians who did the deadly August 7-8 Nebraska raids as Spotted Tail of the Sioux, White Antelope ‘and a half-breed named Bent.’” It may have been George Bent. George wrote in his letters that he went on wagon train raids with warriors. “Northern Cheyennes also made raid on Plum Creek,” (Bent to Hyde 6-12-1906).

We Found the Lost Sand Creek Site

From The Rocky Mountain News (Daily), Volume 4, Number 300, August 10, 1864 — INDIAN OUTBREAK

The telegraph brought word last evening of an attack by about one hundred Indians upon a train near Plum Creek, thirty-five miles this side of Fort Kearny. A good deal of excitement was occasioned also, by the announcement that Mrs. Thos. Smith, and the wife of J. G. Smith (colored,) both of this city, were captured by the savages. The husbands of both left by this morning’s coach for the East, and an hour or two after, word came of the safety of both the wives. They were at Plum Creek and had escaped the attack altogether. 

The particulars as far as can be learned are as follows:—Three trains were destroyed, robbed and burned. Fourteen persons were killed and it is supposed that two or three women and some children were taken prisoners. Of the captures nothing certain is yet known. Another Mrs. Smith was traveling along the road about that time, of whom nothing has been heard, hence the report. 

About the debris of the burned trains were found this morning packages or boxes marked “Evans & Baker,” and a fine cane, upon the head of which was engraved “W. C. James.” It is supposed that James was killed. Denverites will remember him as at one time the lessee of the old Denver hall. Last year he was at Reese river, and we incline to think he was trading at Bannack this year. The impression prevails that none of the trains belonged to, or were bound for Colorado. 

Detachments of soldiers moved at once from Kearney and Cottonwood for the scene of the murders. Those from the former post, with the settlers and teamsters in the neighborhood, repulsed a second attack of the Indians made in the afternoon. The savages numbered in the second attack about one hundred and fifty.

The troops in that neighborhood are not very numerous, but they can doubtless keep the road open, and will certainly be reinforced very soon. 

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