John Milton Chivington (January 27, 1821 – October 4, 1894) was a former Methodist pastor who served as colonel in the United States Volunteers during the Colorado War and the New Mexico Campaigns of the American Civil War. In 1862, he was in the Battle of Glorieta Pass against a Confederate supply train.
Chivington gained infamy for leading a 700-man force of Colorado Territory militia during the massacre at Sand Creek in November 1864. An estimated 70–163 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho – about two-thirds of whom were women, children, and infants – were killed and mutilated by his troops. Chivington and his men took scalps and other body parts as battle trophies, including human fetuses and male and female genitalia.〔United States Congress Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, 1865 (testimonies and report)〕
The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War conducted an investigation of the massacre, but while they condemned Chivington's and his soldiers' conduct in the strongest possible terms, no criminal charges were brought against him or them. The closest thing to a punishment Chivington suffered was the effective end of his political aspirations.
Later he became the first Grand Master of Masons of Colorado.〔( Colorado Freemasons Website. )〕
Chivington was born in Lebanon, Ohio, the son of Isaac Chivington, who had fought under General William Henry Harrison against members of Tecumseh's Confederacy at the Battle of the Thames. John was born with color blindness that made it hard for him to interpret certain shades of grey.〔Holter, Don H. (1968), ''Fire on the Prairie: Methodism in the History of Kansas''〕
Drawn to Methodism, Chivington became a minister. Following ordination in 1844, his first appointment was to Payson Circuit in the Illinois Conference. On the journey from Ohio to Illinois Chivington contracted smallpox.〔Beardsley,Isaac Haight (1898). ''Echoes from peak and Plain or Tales of Life, War, Travel, and Colorado Methodism''. New York: Eaton and Maine.〕 He served the Illinois conference for ten years. In 1853, he worked in a Methodist missionary expedition to the Wyandot people in Kansas, a part of the Kansas–Nebraska Annual Conference. His outspoken views in favor of abolitionism put him in danger, and upon the advice of "Congressman Craig and other friends" Chivington was persuaded to leave the Kansas Territory for the Nebraska Territory.〔Morton, Julius Sterling (1906). ''Illustrated history of Nebraska: a history of Nebraska from the earliest explorations of the trans-Mississippi region, with steel engravings, photogravures, copper plates, maps, and tables'', Volume 2 (Lincoln, NE: Jacob North and Company), p. 196.〕
As a result, the Methodist Church transferred Chivington to a parish in Omaha, Nebraska. Chivington left this position after a year. Historian James Haynes said of Chivington's pastoral abilities: "Mr. Chivington was not as steady in his demeanor as becomes a man called of God to the work of the ministry, giving his ministerial friends regret and even trouble in their efforts to sustain his reputation."〔Haynes, James (1895). ''History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Omaha and suburbs''. (Omaha, Nebraska: Omaha Printing Company). p. 44〕
In May 1860, Chivington moved with his family to the Colorado Territory and settled in Denver. From there, he sought to establish missions in the South Park mining camps in Park County.〔Laura King Van Dusen, ''Historic Tales from Park County: Parked in the Past'' (Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2013), ISBN 978-1-62619-161-7, p. 33.〕 He was elected Presiding Elder of the new Rocky Mountain District and served in that capacity until 1862. Controversy would begin to mar Chivington's appointment, who stopped performing his function as presiding elder. Chivington was not reappointed at the 1862 conference; rather, his name was recorded as "located". According to early Methodist polity, describing a minister as located means that the minister has effectively been retired. Historian of Methodism Isaac Beardsley, a personal friend of Chivington, suggested that Chivington was "thrown out" because of his involvement with the armed forces, an association that would lead to Chivington's name to infamy.〔 Chivington's status as being "located" did not remove him completely from Methodist politics. His name appears as a member of the executive board of Colorado Seminary, the historic precursor of University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology. His name also appears in the incorporation document issued by the Council and House of Representatives of the Colorado Territory, which was approved by then governor John Evans.〔
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