Kidder Massacre, Kansas

 

General George and the 7th Cavalry

General George and the 7th Cavalry

On June 1, 1867, Lieutenant Colonel George A.  Custer left Fort Hays, Kansas with about 1,100 men of the Seventh Cavalry to quell Indian uprisings which were threatening the area. After patrolling north to Fort McPherson on the Platte River near present-day North Platte, Nebraska, he and his men headed south to the forks of the Republican River near Benkleman, Nebraska. During their patrol, the troops saw smoke signals during the day and flaming arrows at night, but did not engage in hostilities.

In the meantime, General William T. Sherman, who was then commanding the forces at Fort Sedgwick near Julesburg, Colorado, wished to send messages to George Armstrong Custer and soon dispatched 25-year-old Lieutenant Lyman S. Kidder of Company M, 2nd Cavalry, to find Custer and give him the messages.

Headed to where Custer and his men were believed to be encamped on the forks of the Republican River, some 90 miles southeast of Fort Sedgwick, Kidder, along with a ten man patrol and a Sioux Indian Guide named Red Bead, left the fort on June 29th.

Kidder reached Custer’s campsite on the evening of July 1st, but found it abandoned. Unbeknownst to Fort Sedgwick, Custer had left the area, scouting further south, then northwest. In the moonlight, Kidder mistook a trail of a wagon train that Custer had sent to Fort Wallace for Custer’s own trail. He and his men then followed the wrong path.

Kidder Massacre, Kansas

Kidder Massacre, Kansas

About noon the next day, a group of Lakota Indians discovered Kidder’s party north of Beaver Creek, a tributary of the Republican River. The Lakota then alerted several nearby Cheyenne Indians and the warriors approached the soldiers. Seeing the Indians, Kidder and his troops veered off to the southeast, making for the valley of Beaver Creek, about 12 miles north of present-day Edson, Kansas. As they fled, some of the soldiers were shot down on a ridge above the creek, but the rest of them made it to a defensive position in a small gully about 50 yards north of the creek. However, the Lakota dismounted and crept up on foot while the Cheyenne circled around the gully. Though the soldiers fought valiantly, killing two Indian horses, they were hopelessly outnumbered.  Kidder, all his men, and the Lakota scout were all killed, some having been tortured prior to their deaths, and their bodies mutilated and burned. Two of the Lakota were also killed in the foray, including Chief Yellow Horse.

In the meantime, Custer having received no word from General William T. Sherman, as expected, began to move his troops toward Fort Sedgwick, and upon his arrival at Riverside Station some 40 miles to the west, he telegraphed the fort for new orders. It was then he learned that he had missed the Kidder patrol and concerned for their safety, he left immediately and headed back south. On July 12th, they came upon the decomposed bodies of Kidder and his party in the ravine. The bodies had been badly mutilated and all had been scalped except the Indian guide.

They were first buried in a common grave on a hill above the ravine but were later re-interred at Fort Wallace, and after the 1880s at Fort Leavenworth, with the exception of Lieutenant Kidder. Kidder’s father, Judge Kidder, came to Sherman County in February 1868, identified the body by a shirt his mother had made him and returned with the body to their home in Minnesota, where his son was buried in the family plot at St. Paul.

On August 3, 1969, the Friends of the Library of Goodland, Kansas held a dedication ceremony for a historical marker and monument situated.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated May 2018.

About the Article: The majority of this historic text was published in Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Volume I; edited by Frank W. Blackmar,  A.M. Ph. D.; Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL 1912. However, the text that appears on this page is not verbatim, as additions, updates, and editing has occurred.

Also See:

Indian Battles in Kansas

Indian Wars, Battles & Massacres

Indian Wars of the Frontier West

The Plains Indians

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