Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Western Wednesday Murder...!

Over the years, many cases of wrongful action were performed by the government and some of the military leaders of the time.

It is a sad and shameful part of our history we seldom hear much about, and you can bet it isn't taught in the schools! From the folks at, this is one such story!

Jan 23, 1870:
Soldiers massacre the wrong camp of Indians

Declaring he did not care whether or not it was the rebellious band of Indians he had been searching for, Colonel Eugene Baker orders his men to attack a sleeping camp of peaceful Blackfeet along the Marias River in northern Montana.

The previous fall, Malcolm Clarke, an influential Montana rancher, had accused a Blackfeet warrior named Owl Child of stealing some of his horses; he punished the proud brave with a brutal whipping. In retribution, Owl Child and several allies murdered Clarke and his son at their home near Helena, and then fled north to join a band of rebellious Blackfeet under the leadership of Mountain Chief. Outraged and frightened, Montanans demanded that Owl Child and his followers be punished, and the government responded by ordering the forces garrisoned under Major Eugene Baker at Fort Ellis (near modern-day Bozeman, Montana) to strike back.

Strengthening his cavalry units with two infantry groups from Fort Shaw near Great Falls, Baker led his troops out into sub-zero winter weather and headed north in search of Mountain Chief's band. Soldiers later reported that Baker drank a great deal throughout the march. On January 22, Baker discovered an Indian village along the Marias River, and, postponing his attack until the following morning, spent the evening drinking heavily.

At daybreak on the morning of January 23, 1870, Baker ordered his men to surround the camp in preparation for attack. As the darkness faded, Baker's scout, Joe Kipp, recognized that the painted designs on the buffalo-skin lodges were those of a peaceful band of Blackfeet led by Heavy Runner. Mountain Chief and Owl Child, Kipp quickly realized, must have gotten wind of the approaching soldiers and moved their winter camp elsewhere. Kipp rushed to tell Baker that they had the wrong Indians, but Baker reportedly replied, "That makes no difference, one band or another of them; they are all Piegans [Blackfeet] and we will attack them." Baker then ordered a sergeant to shoot Kipp if he tried to warn the sleeping camp of Blackfeet and gave the command to attack.

Baker's soldiers began blindly firing into the village, catching the peaceful Indians utterly unaware and defenseless. By the time the brutal attack was over, Baker and his men had, by the best estimate, murdered 37 men, 90 women, and 50 children. Knocking down lodges with frightened survivors inside, the soldiers set them on fire, burnt some of the Blackfeet alive, and then burned the band's meager supplies of food for the winter. Baker initially captured about 140 women and children as prisoners to take back to Fort Ellis, but when he discovered many were ill with smallpox, he abandoned them to face the deadly winter without food or shelter.

When word of the Baker Massacre (now known as the Marias Massacre) reached the east, many Americans were outraged. One angry congressman denounced Baker, saying "civilization shudders at horrors like this." Baker's superiors, however, supported his actions, as did the people of Montana, with one journalist calling Baker's critics "namby-pamby, sniffling old maid sentimentalists." Neither Baker nor his men faced a court martial or any other disciplinary actions. However, the public outrage over the massacre did derail the growing movement to transfer control of Indian affairs from the Department of Interior to the War Department--President Ulysses S. Grant decreed that henceforth all Indian agents would be civilians rather than soldiers.

Almost makes me wish I hadn't found this example of criminal action by the Army, especially since the act went unpunished! Man's cruelty to his fellow man never ceases to amaze me!

Coffee in the kitchen this morning. How about some fresh apple pie?


Mitchell Hegman said...

A very sad tale! I am planning a spring float on the Marias River. I live in Helena. Much of that river remains wild today.


Momlady said...

Truly sad.

Phyllis (N/W Jersey) said...

This should be taught in schools. Our country's history is marked with good and bad people. We can learn a lot from both kinds. It does no good to hide the bad. That is the only way we can be sure it never happens again. The guilty should have been punished. Good history lesson today, Mr. Hermit! Bitter cold here -2.
Apple pie sounds wonderful!

Sixbears said...

Another sad chapter in our history.

Baby Sis said...

Bubba -

Sounds rather like some gov'ment programs of today - don't care if it's wrong, or who it hurts, just gonna do it anyway............

Big hugs -

Anonymous said...

I agree, if ANY group on the American continent got the short end of the stick, it was the American Indian. Sad tale - needs to be told though, Manifest Destiny caused some major troubles.

linda m said...

A sad tale for today and a black mark against our Country's military. How men can be so cruel to each other is beyond comprehension. Coffee inside sounds good. Still very bitterly cold here.

JO said...

Far to many of these acts against our Native Americans took place. And yes unpunished is really sickening.
Please pass the coffee pot. And of course a pies of apple pie

JMD said...

We have such a murderous past in this country. Gosh, HJ, I must work on getting you to find happier stories since I am already down and out.

PS I have banana cake with cream cheese frosting...wanna trade slices?

HermitJim said...

Hey Mitchell...
It is sad, and unfortunately, there are many more stories like this one we don't hear about!

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Momlady...
Yes it is, without a doubt!

Thanks for coming by this morning!

Hey Phyllis...
Trouble is, there isn't as much transparency in today's government as there used to be!

Sign of the times, I reckon!

Thanks for coming over this morning!

Hey Sixbears...
Just one of many, I'm afraid!

Thanks for dropping by today!

Hey Sis...
That about sums it up, I'd say!

I don't guess that part is ever going to change!

Thanks for coming by!

Hey Anon 7:25...
Boy, you certainly got that right!

Many thanks for coming over this morning!

Hey Linda...
Guess there will always be men like this around. Too bad these guys weren't punished!

Anyway, I really appreciate you dropping by today!

Hey Jo...
Far too many stories like this. I reckon the American Indian has nearly always been on the receiving end of the majority of them!

I'll save you some pie, sweetie! Thanks for the visit!

Hey JMD...
Sorry about the depressing story. I'll see if I can find you a happier one tomorrow, OK?

I do thank you for coming over today!

chinasyndrome said...

Why Jim,this must be a mistake we are the Good guys!Them wicked Blackfeet probably deserved it anyway. Sadly joking. We have done many wrongs over the years. American Indians got a bunch of it. Much like Afghani's now and soon us Patriots in our own Country by our own people! God help us all!


Hermit Ladee said...

Stopped by for some happy news. Came on the wrong day, darn it! Oh well, there's always tomorrow. See ya then!