Sunday, April 5, 2015


No, not THAT guy!

THIS guy:

                                                        General Edward R. S. Canby

General Edward Canby was certainly not the most well known Civil War or Indian Wars General, but his quiet accomplishments were more interesting than many of his more notorious colleagues.
He cut his teeth fighting Navajoes and Apaches in the 1850's and 1860's with his brother-in-law, Colonel Henry Sibley and Kit Carson.
When the Civil War broke out, he found himself, again with Kit Carson, in charge of the Union Army and the New Mexico Volunteers in the Arizona and New Mexico Territories.
Now-General Sibley had convinced President Jefferson Davis to let him take the West for the Confederacy.

Sibley and his Texas Volunteers marched across Texas and up the Rio Grande, defeating Canby at Valverde on February 20-21, 1862. Canby, for his part, guessed correctly that Sibley would outrun his supplies and let him march on up the Rio Grande to the Battle of Glorieta on March 28. There, Sibley defeated a combination of Colorado Volunteers and the Union Army, thereby winning every battle that was to be fought out West for the Confederacy.
But at Glorieta, Colorado Methodist Minister and Major, and later heinous villain, John Chivington happened upon Sibley's supplies and destroyed his food and ammunition and slaughtered his mules and horses.
Canby then watched as Sibley and his Texans, having won every battle, marched back to Texas, barley able to avoid starvation, having lost the war.
Canby and Kit Carson, then turned back to the problem of the Navajoes and the Apaches.
But President Lincoln decided that General James Henry Carleton, in charge of the Californians who were arriving in New Mexico too late for the Civil War, were better suited to bring in the Apaches and the Navajo.
So Canby was called back to Washington to eventually become Commanding General of the city and harbor of New York after the New York Draft Riots.
In a not un-interesting aside, Canby brought his aide de camp, Augustyn P. Damours, back with him to Washington. Unbeknownst to Canby, Damours had led a group of con artists to steal millions (of today's) dollars from the Army, the Territory, and the Catholic Church, and soon disappeared with the money (for a riveting historical fiction account of this amazing con mystery, see my novel, Where They Bury You---I would like all my colleagues to please accept my apology for this blatant self-promotion!).
Canby went on to command Civil War combat units in Louisiana. Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama.
After the War, Canby commanded Reconstruction military departments in Louisiana, North and South Carolina, and the department of Washington itself.
In August 1872, he went back West to fight Indians. On this tour as Commander of the Pacific Northwest, charged with bringing in the Modocs.

On April 11, 1873, the unarmed Canby met with the Modocs. Their chief, Kintpuash, or as he was better known to California and Oregon whites, Captain Jack, leapt up in mid-negotiations and shot Canby in the head, killing him with a second shot as Canby tried to run away, then slitting his throat.
Thus, Canby became the only General in U.S. history to be killed in the Indian Wars. Captain Jack was hung on October 3, 1873 for the murder.
(Sorry, me again: for a riveting account of this murder, please be patient, and then read my June 15 forthcoming novel from Sunstone Press, Chief of Thieves, the sequel to Where They Bury You.)
Twitter: @StevenKohlhagen

“Where They Bury You” can be purchased at


  1. Terrific account, Steve. Thanks.

    1. You're welcome. Thanks for reading and for your support. swk

  2. Steve,

    "...Colorado Methodist Minister and Major, and later heinous villain, John Chivington..." <<< I live in southeastern Colorado about 80 miles from the Sand Creek Massacre site, and it's a curiosity to me that there is a 'town' (more like a spot along the 2-lane blacktop now) named Chivington. It is a mere nine miles from the site of the Sand Creek Massacre. 0_o Makes a person wonder what in the h*ll they were thinking. There's some conjecture that Colorado was slower (in denial, perhaps) than the rest of the nation in recognizing the travesty Chivington had wrought upon the Native Americans, so it must have seemed an appropriate name at the time.

    1. Well, of course, sadly, the victors write the history. Initially, Chivington was the hero. His account was that he protected the settlers from the savages. Parades, etc., were held in his honor. At least one nay-sayer was killed in cold blood. Then rationalizations and denial set in when some claimed it was a cowardly act and witnesses were intimidated into silence. Chivington went to his grave denying it was a cowardly act. Probably most (white) Coloradans were oblivious to the facts until very recently. A very sad chapter in U.S. and Colorado history, Kaye. Thanks for your thoughts. swk

  3. The Modoc standoff is an interesting story. It meant an unfortunate end to a fine officer. Three towns and a fort would be named in General Canby's honor.

    1. He was, indeed, a fine officer. Probably only a tiny number of people could even say who he was. In truth, he was a minor character in a large number of important historical events. Sort of a real-life "Zelig." Thanks, Vonn, for your comments.

  4. Very interesting article, Steve. I did not know about this and was shocked by Canby's murder at the end of the post. Thanks for posting.

  5. It was a shocking event in the sordid Army,Native American confrontations. Thanks for all your work and your support. swk