Apr 15, 2021 - Sale 2564

Sale 2564 - Lot 323

Price Realized: $ 406
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 400 - $ 600
(WEST--COLORADO.) William Whipple. Letter confirming the transfer of the doomed Major Thornburgh of the Milk River Massacre. Autograph Letter Signed as Brigadier General and aide-de-camp to General Sherman to "My dear General" [Henry Goddard Thomas]. 3 pages, 7 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches, on one folding sheet; fold, uneven toning, later pencil notes. Chicago, IL, 18 May 1878

Additional Details

The September 1879 Meeker Massacre in northwestern Colorado was one of the more dramatic incidents of the Indian Wars. A Ute uprising on the White River Reservation killed Indian agent Nathan Meeker and 10 others. A cavalry detachment led by Major Thomas T. Thornburgh rushed out from nearby Fort Fred Steele to protect Meeker. They were simultaneously ambushed at Milk Creek, with Thornburgh and 13 of his men quickly killed, and the survivors holding out for 6 days by crouching behind their dead horses for defense.

Offered here is the letter that got Major Thornburgh into this terrible mess. He had been serving uneventfully as a paymaster in Texas until swapping positions with Henry Goddard Thomas of the 4th U.S. Cavalry, a Union general then serving as major in command of Fort Fred Steele. This letter to General Thomas confirms the fateful switch a year before the massacre: "Your letter of April 22d on the subject of transfer with Maj. Thornberg was received by me. . . . The application had passed through, receiving the action of the Lieut. General [Sherman]."

With--another document from General Thomas's papers, a receipt issued at Fort Fred Steele on 12 December 1877.