Today in History, November 27, 1868:
His story could make him the 19th-Century version of Joe Kennedy, Jr or John F. Kennedy. He was born in 1844 into a family filled with Secretaries of the Treasury and Secretaries of State, wealthy bankers, and his grandfather, Alexander Hamilton, was a Founding Father and the first Secretary of the Treasury in President Washington’s cabinet. And of course, Alexander Hamilton lost his bright future in a duel, killed by Vice-President Aaron Burr in 1804. Both the Hamiltons and the McLanes were well placed.
Louis McLane Hamilton had wealth, influence, a bright future, and according to his contemporaries, a high degree of character. Joe and Jack Kennedy had used their influence to get INTO combat during WWII. It cost Joe his life, and very nearly cost JFK his. Likewise, young Louis Hamilton used his influence to get into combat during the Civil War when he was 17 and 18. JFK had to use his father the former Ambassador’s influence to get an assignment in the Pacific. Louis had a letter from President Lincoln himself to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton recommending his commission as an officer. Louis didn’t waste what was given to him. He fought with distinction during the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Battle of Gettysburg, the Siege of Petersburg and Appomattox Courthouse.
After the war Hamilton continued his service, serving as a Lieutenant and a Captain in the 7th Calvary under Colonel George Armstrong Custer. Hamilton commanded Fort Lyon in Colorado for a time, and fended off an attack led by Chief Pawnee Killer.
On November 26th, 1868 he found himself assigned as “Officer of the Day”, an assignment which gave him responsibility for the 7th Cavalry’s supply train as Custer searched in Indian Territory for Southern Cheyenne warriors. As Custer planned a pursuit, some of Hamilton’s command was taken to bolster the assault’s numbers. True to his nature, Hamilton went to Custer and made his case…earnestly, insistently asking not to be left behind as his troops went into battle. Custer was sympathetic to the request…he would make the same request before the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Custer agreed to let Hamilton leave the wagon train and join his troops.
As a result, Captain Louis McLane Hamilton, Alexander’s grandson, was at the lead of his troops who, as it happened, were the first to attack Chief Black Kettle’s village along the Washita River.
“Keep cool, fire low, and not too rapidly” was the last thing Hamilton was heard to say before being shot in the chest, killed instantly, by one of the defenders firing from within a wigwam. Hamilton the first person killed in the battle.
Elsewhere on the battlefield was Chief Black Kettle and his wife. Not much is known about Chief Black Kettle prior to the mid 1850’s, but what is known that this leader in the Southern Cheyenne tribe often worked hard to keep the peace. In 1864 he and his band were in Colorado when some settlers had been attacked. The Governor declared any Indians who did not report to a military post would be considered hostile. Chief Black Kettle led his band to Fort Lyon and came to an agreement with the commander there for his Southern Cheyenne to camp along Sand Creek in eastern Colorado. This agreement didn’t prevent Colorado Militia Colonel Chivington, ambitious and about to lose his troops to the end of their enlistment, from attacking the peaceful encampment, which was complete with an American flag flying. Many were killed, but Black Kettle and his wife managed to survive.
He was encamped with his people along the Washita River in present day Oklahoma for much the same reason, with the same results. But this time his luck ran out. As he and his wife fled, they were shot down and killed.
Today in History, November 16, 1907:
President Theodore Roosevelt signs the statehood proclamation creating the nation’s 46th state from the Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory.
Today in History: September 16: 1893:
With a shot, over 100,000 settlers take off on the largest of several land runs in the “Cherokee Strip” of Indian Territory, all rushing to obtain lots in the 6.5 million acres of land. It was the largest land run in history. Land offices were set up in Enid, Woodward, Alva and Perry.
Today in History, August 14, 1842:
After seven years of war on the Florida peninsula, the second Seminole War is declared to be at an end.
The war had begun when the US government attempted to enforce the Indian Removal Act and the Treaty of Ft. Gibson in which the Seminole Tribe was to move to the Creek Reservation west of the Mississippi River, in Indian Territory.
The tribe resisted with the leadership of Osceola beginning in 1835. Numerous battles ensued, but the government began to succeed with smaller raids and false truces with which they captured as many as 3-4,000 Seminoles, forcing their removal.
Osceola was captured in 1837 and imprisoned in Charleston, SC where he died.
Today in History, April 28: 1897 – The Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes, two of the five civilized tribes, agree to relinquish communal control of their lands after being convinced to do so by the Dawes Commission. The Dawes Act had previously ruled that other tribes must give up their lands and adapt to white customs, but the five civilized tribes were exempt; an 1830 treaty gave them control of their lands as long as the grass grows and the rivers run. Soon after convincing the Chickasaws and the Choctaws to give up the rights to their lands, the other civilized tribes followed suit, resulting in most of their land being given to settlers, including in the Sooner’s land run. In FDR’s administration the five civilized tribes would be given back the control over some of their lands, but the damage had been done.
Today in History, March 4: 1868 – Jesse Chisholm dies. The famous Chisholm Trail is named for Jesse. Most of us assume that Chisholm was a cattle baron that established the trail to take his cattle north. Not so. Jesse was a “halfbreed” in the vernacular of the time…part Scot and part Cherokee. He lived amongst the Native Americans in Arkansas and Indian Territory, and established himself as a merchant. He often negotiated the release of hostages taken by Native American tribes. He knew the landscape well, and established a route from Wichita, Kansas to the Red River, then further south into Texas for his commerce. When Texans needed to move their cattle north to rail heads in Kansas, they used Chisholm’s trail, widening it to as much as 400 yards which can still be seen. Over a million cattle would be moved along the trail established by Jesse Chisholm.