Kidder Massacre
Kidder Massacre

July 1867

"M" Company
2nd Cavalry

 

2nd Lieut. - Lyman S. Kidder
Sergeant - Oscar Close
Corporal - Charles Haines
Private - Roger Curry
Private - Michael Cornell
Private - William Floyd
Private - Michael Gorman
Private - Michael Haley
Private - N.J. Humphries
Private - Michael Lawler
Private - Charles Taltin
Sioux Scout - Red Bead

Died in the Performance of their duty on or about July 2, 1867, in combat with Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. 

On June 1, 1867, Lt. Col. G.A. Custer left Fort Hays, Kansas with 1100 men of the Seventh Cavalry to quell an Indian uprising which had threatened white settlers for three years. 

Custer patrolled north to Fort MacPherson on the Platte River near present day North Platte, Nebraska, then south to the forks of the Republican River where Benkleman, Nebraska is located today. 

Although Custer could see smoke signals during the day and flaming arrows at night, he failed to engage the hostiles because of his large force. 

At this time, General William T. Sherman commanded the forces at Fort Sedgewick near Jelesburg, Colorado, ninety miles northwest of Custer’s camp on the Republican. On June 29, 1867, dispatches for Custer were entrusted to Lt. Lyman S. Kidder, who left the Fort with a ten man patrol and a Sioux Indian Guide named Red Bead. 

Lt. Kidder was 25 years of age and was temporarily posted at Fort Sedgewick. He had served in the Civil War, been discharged and re-enlisted twice. He loved the military life. 

Custer, restless at the river camp, decided to move his troops and scout further south, then northwest. 

Seven days later upon his arrival at Riverside Station forty miles west of Ft. Sedgewick, Custer telegraphed the Fort new orders. It was then he learned of the Kidder patrol. 

Custer was concerned for the small party and immediately set out to backtrack his trail.  

Custer’s advance party on the backtrail found a dead horse and the spot where the Kidder party had left the main trail at the gallop. Signs and evidence of a running battle a miles east along Beaver Creek lead to a dry ravine north of the creek. There the remains of the patrol were found. 

The bodies were mutilated, partially burned and all but the scout had been scalped. Custer ordered burial in a common grave on a hill above the ravine. 

The patrol was found on July 12, 1867. It was believed the massacre had been carried out about ten days earlier. 

Authorities concluded that Lt. Kidder, on reaching Custer’s abandoned camp on the Republican, assumed Custer had moved the large force to Fort Wallace, some eighty miles south. The small patrol was overtaken on the trail south by a large war party known to have been raiding in the area around Ft. Wallace in late June, 1867. 

Lt. Kidder’s father, a judge living in Dakota Territory, arrived at Ft. Wallace in February of 1868 to recover and claim his son’s body. 

Lt. Fred Beecher led the detail from Ft. Wallace to the massacre site to remove all the bodies. Despite the bitter cold and snow, and the fact that the grave had been desecrated, Judge Kidder was able to identify his son’s body by a scrap of shirt Kidder’s mother had made. Judge Kidder returned to Minnesota and buried his son in the family plot at St. Paul. 

The other remains were taken to Ft. Wallace and interred where they remained until the 1880’s when Ft. Wallace was abandoned. They were moved with military honors to Ft. Leavenworth, where they remain today.  

Ironically, the dispatch to Custer from General Sherman Chastised Custer for disobeying orders.

Lt. Frederick Beecher was 26 years of age in 1868. He was a Civil War veteran and the nephew of the Abolitionist, Henry Ward Beecher. 

In 1866 he had been assigned to duty at Ft. Hays and then to Ft. Wallace, where he built many of the buildings for protection against the constant raids of Sioux and Cheyenne. 

In August of 1868, five months after his involvement with the Kidder party, Beecher was chosen second in command of the Forsyth Scouts. This company was to patrol 900 square miles besieged by hostile tribes. 

The Scouts, led by Col. George Forsyth, were ambushed by 1000 warriors on the Arickaree fork of the Republican River in northeastern Colorado on September 17, 1868. Lt. Beecher lost his life on that day.  

The Kidder Massacre monument is located on land owned by Kuhrt Farms. The residence is faced in native stone quarried on the grounds. The "turret" in the style of castles in Germany was added in 1930. The senior Kuhrt Family had immigrated from Germany in the 1880’s.

On August 3, 1969, The Friends of the Library of Goodland, KS, held a dedication ceremony for the historical marker and monument indicated on the map. 

This information was compiled by a Sherman County Historical Society Member, Marilyn Cooper from the book, "Find Custer!, The Kidder Tragedy" by Randy Johnson and Nancy P. Allen.