General John Pope and the Southern Plains
RICHARD N. ELLIS*
THE AGING, HEAVY-SET GENERAL CAREFULLY SCANNED THE REPORTS
from the Southern Plains and pondered over the difficult problem
which the Army faced during the autumn of 1874. He himself had
sent three strong commands into action upon the outbreak of hostil-
ities with the Kiowas, Comanches, and Southern Cheyennes in the
summer while General C. C. Augur, his colleague in the Depart-
ment of Texas, had also put three columns into the field. As winter
approached, however, Major General John Pope, commander of the
Department of the Missouri, sensed the development of new dangers.
Now while his troops were occupied in a serious Indian campaign,
it was becoming evident that many of the peaceful tribes were on the
margin of starvation. Once again the course of events would bring
the Civil War veteran into a protracted struggle with the officials of
the Indian Bureau. For almost ten years General Pope would attempt
to maintain peace and ensure just and humane treatment for the
Such conflicts were not new to the outspoken officer. Pope had been
sent to the West in September, 1862, following his defeat at the second
battle of Bull Run, and during his years with the frontier Army he
had not only rebuilt his military reputation but had proposed major
changes in Federal Indian policy.2 Pope's suggestions regarding mili-
tary control of Indian affairs and the use of missionaries as teachers
*Mr. Ellis is an assistant professor of history at the University of New Mexico.
'Pope became engaged in controversy with the Indian Bureau soon after his arrival
in the West in 1862 when he criticized graft and corruption and described the current
policies as failures. Among other things, Pope argued for military control of Indian
affairs, new and effective regulations for the Indian trade, and the use of ministers
and missionaries to civilize and Christianize the Indians. Robert H. Jones, The Civil
IW4ar in the Northwest (Norman, 1960), 116-117, 120-122.
2Pope's defeat at the hands of Robert E. Lee came simultaneously with the Minne-
sota Massacre of 1862 and the beginning of the major conflict with the Sioux. Pope
was placed in command of the newly-created Department of the Northwest and directed
operations against the Sioux between 1862 and 1864. In 1865 he was given command
of the entire plains region from Texas to Canada; with the end of the Civil War, Gen-
eral William T. Sherman was given this region, and Pope was assigned to command the
smaller Department of Missouri as Sherman's subordinate. Ibid., 5-6, 190-191.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117146/. Accessed July 7, 2015.