The Campaigns of Hancock and Sheridan
General William Tecumseh Sherman, in charge of western operations, found the peace with Red Cloud humiliating. Sherman advised army General-in-Chief Grant that “we must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women, and children.” But the mood in Washington drifted toward conciliation, and Sherman continued to prosecute “punitive campaigns” in the West with little support and, ultimately, to little purpose.
From April through July 1867, one of Sherman’s best commanders, Winfield Scott Hancock, fruitlessly pursued the Cheyenne and Sioux through Kansas. The following year, Sherman’s most able lieutenant, General Philip Sheridan, conducted a brutal winter campaign against the Sioux and Cheyenne. This campaign proved almost as punishing to the pursuers as to the pursued, all of whom suffered in snows and bitter cold.
The colorful colonel of the 7th Cavalry, George Armstrong Custer, laid claim to the biggest victory of “Sheridan’s Campaign,” when he attacked a peaceful Cheyenne camp on the Washita River. Among the 103 Indians he and his men killed were 93 women, old men, and children. Chief Black Kettle, actually a leading advocate of peace, was slain along with his wife.