Monday, August 31, 2015


                                                   Thomas Carlyle

     My family and I have a personal connection to the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty that took place in 1867.  My uncle five generations back on my grandmothers side (Elliott), was Major Joel Elliott second in command of the 7th Cavalry under Custer and Commander in his absence due to Custer's court marshal.
     Elliott was a Quaker from Indiana who had enlisted into the Indiana 2nd Infantry in the Civil War.  He rejoined as a commissioned officer in the 7th Indiana Cavalry when his first enlistment was over.  By receiving an officers commission he was shunned by the Quaker congregation.
      Elliott was wounded twice in actions in Arkansas and received accommodation's for his actions.  After the Civil war he was one of the few to transfer from the state regiments to the Regular Army and retain rank.  He was assigned to the newly formed 7th Cavalry based at Fort Riley Kansas and served at various forts in Kansas protecting the Santa Fe Trail and settlers that were being attacked by the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers.
     When the Government decided to make peace with the five principle tribes south of the Platte River Custer was back home in Michigan after the judicial proceedings against him for leaving his troops and ordering executions of deserters.  Elliott was one of three officers to testify at Custer's tribunal.  The other two being Capt. Benteen and Capt. Hamilton, (grandson of alexander Hamilton).
      When the Peace Commission set the dates and location of the Gathering of the tribes Elliott lead five units of the 7th Cavalry for security.  During the two months it took to bring in all five tribes, (Southern Cheyenne, Kiowa, Arapaho, Plains Apache, and Comanche), Elliott spent a lot of time in the lodges of the various chiefs and struck up a friendship with Peace Chief Black Kettle of the Cheyenne.  A year later he would be ordered to attack Black Kettles camp on the Washita River in Indian Territory during the winter campaign.
     Custer would be called back to lead the 7th against the hostiles the next year and made his fame as an Indian fighter by attacking a camp full of old men, women, and children.  First to be killed in the surprise charge was Capt. Hamilton.  Elliott was ordered to pursue fleeing Indians running east where his troop of 17 ran head long into Arapaho who were coming to the sound of the shooting.
      Captain Benteen would report the truth of the battle to the St. Louis newspaper about Custer abandoning Elliott and his troops and not going back for two weeks to recover the bodies.  Also that the camp attacked was not the camp of those Indians that had raided in Northern Kansas and was just the first camp in a line of winter camps of the various tribes.  Black Kettle was flying the US Flag and a White flag of truce and had a freshly signed letter from the Cavalry Commander in charge of the Indians in the territory.
      Major Joel Elliott's brother William Quincy (WQ) had settled in Peace Kansas and had kept in touch with his brother through a sister in spite of the Quaker shunning.  Peace became Sterling Kansas and the Elliott name is still found in the area today.  William owned the bank, donated land for the cemetery, and owned  several farms in the Stafford County area.  He also sat on the Board of Directors of Friends University in Wichita Kansas.
     The connections to my family of the history of Kansas and Barber County gives us a personal interest in the proceedings.  History is a foundation and history sometimes is not entirely well reported or recorded.  A biography of Major Joel Elliott called A HOOSIER QUAKER GOES TO WAR - THE LIFE AND DEATH OF MAJOR JOEL ELLIOTT.
     The author is a respected biographer and university professor who has written a lot on Custer and kept running across the name Major Elliott.  Historians do not all agree on Elliott's life as well as I don't agree with the biographer on everything.  But it is a source of pride and connection to this country we call home.

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