The Three Battles of Sand Creek: In Blood, In Court, and as the End of History

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Gregory F. Michno
Pub Date:
May 2017
Hardcover, 6 x 9
Images, maps, 248 pp.
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About the Book

The Sand Creek battle (or massacre) occurred on November 29-30, 1864, a confrontation between Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians and Colorado volunteer soldiers. The affair was a tragic event in American history, and what occurred there continues to be hotly contested. Indeed, labeling it a “battle” or a “massacre” will likely start an argument before any discussion on the merits begin. Even questions about who owns the story, or how it should be told, are up for debate.

Three hearings were conducted about the Sand Creek affair, and there seems to be an overabundance of evidence from which to answer just about anything relating to the subject. Unfortunately, the available documentation only muddies the issues. Were the Indians peaceful? Did they hold white prisoners? Were they under army protection when the fighting took place? Were excessive numbers of women and children killed, and were bodies mutilated? Did the Indians fly an American flag? Did the chiefs die stoically in front of their tipis? Were white scalps found in the village? Gregory Michno candidly addresses these and other issues in The Three Battles of Sand Creek.

The award-winning Indian Wars author divides his unique study into three sections. The first, “In Blood,” details the events of November 29-30, 1864, in what is surely the most comprehensive account published to date. The second section, “In Court,” focuses on the three investigations into the affair, illustrates some of the biases involved, and presents some of the contradictory testimony. The third and final section, “The End of History,” demonstrates the utter impossibility of sorting fact from fiction. Using Sand Creek as well as contemporary examples, Michno examines the evidence of eyewitnesses—all of whom were subject to false memories, implanted memories, leading questions, prejudice, self-interest, motivated reasoning, social, cultural, and political mores, an overactive amygdala, and a brain that had a “mind” of its own—obstacles that make factual accuracy an illusion. Living in a postmodern world of relativism suggests that all history is subject to the fancies and foibles of individual bias. The example of Sand Creek illustrates why we may be witnessing what Michno calls “the end of history.”

Michno’s extensive research includes primary and select secondary studies, including recollections, archival accounts, newspapers, diaries, and other original records. The Three Battles of Sand Creek will take its place as the definitive account of this previously misunderstood, and tragic, event.




“A comprehensive and definitive work of seminal research and scholarship, The Three Battles of Sand Creek is an extraordinary study that is impressively well written, organized and presented from beginning to end.” – Midwest Book Review


“Greg Michno’s provocative inquiries into the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre offer new fodder for those perpetually enamored of the event’s complexities and conclusions. His well-crafted treatise is thought-provoking and even occasionally humorous, yet is always meaningful.” (Jerome A. Greene, author of American Carnage: Wounded Knee, 1890)

“Gregory F. Michno’s new book The Three Battles of Sand Creek is a fascinating new study. I greatly admire the inclusion of the psychological motives that move people into areas of thinking that virtually amount to superstition rather than realism. He candidly moves into the difficult problems involving unbiased history, particularly when he delves into the viewpoint of the Indians, which are radically different from those held by Chivington’s Colorado volunteers who had wantonly killed a number of Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne women and children. His chapter on the Sand Creek battle itself is one of the most insightful ever written about it, and all of its various interpretations and analyses.” (Dr. Robert W. Larson, retired history professor at the University of Northern Colorado and author of Red Cloud, Gall, and New Mexico’s Quest for Statehood)

“In The Three Battles of Sand Creek: The Cheyenne Massacre in Blood, in Court, and as the End of History, Gregory Michno challenges us to look inwardly and examine our biases regarding this pivotal event of nineteenth century westward expansion. At the same time he argues for the ultimate impossibility of sorting fact from fiction about controversial topics in American history.” (John H. Monnett, Emeritus professor of history, Metropolitan State University of Denver)

“The approach of the book is innovative on a subject which, while not well known, clearly still generates heat and light in Colorado.” (Miniature Wargames)



Award-winning author Gregory F. Michno is a Michigan native and the author of three dozen articles and ten books dealing with World War II and the American West, including Lakota Noon; Battle at Sand Creek; The Encyclopedia of Indian Wars; The Deadliest Indian War in the West; and Circle the Wagons. Greg helped edit and appeared in the DVD history The Great Indian Wars: 1540-1890. He lives in Colorado, with his wife Susan.