Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Memories of the Prairie Lecture Series: Lt. Frank Baldwin and the Indian Territory Expedition of 1874

Dan Holt, former director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, will be the speaker for the next Memories of the Prairie program sponsored by the Dickinson County Historical Society on Saturday July 7 at 7:00pm at the Dickinson County Heritage Center located at 412 S. Campbell Street in Abilene.

Between the years of 1867 and 1875, some of the worst Native American conflicts took place in Kansas.  Most of the raids and attacks were along the new railroad being built along the Smoky Hill Trail.  Dan Holt's program, entitled Lt. Frank Baldwin and the Indian Territory Expedition of 1874, tells the story of an expedition directed by General Nelson Miles, a result of American Indian raids by the Comanche, Kiowa, and Southern Cheyenne in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Northern Texas.  This purpose of this expedition was to put down these raids and return these people to the reservation.  Forts Larned, Wallace, and Dodge in Kansas were all involved.  Baldwin, of the Fifth US Infantry, won his second Medal of Honor during the expedition for rescuing two girls captured by the Cheyenne along the Smoky Hill Trail.

Dan Holt began working on this story at the Kansas Historical Society, where he served as assistant manuscript curator 1963-1964.  The original version of his work was published by the Kansas City Westerners in 1965.  He had access to Frank Baldwin's diary and a wealth of primary sources and became interested in the different aspects of what was known as General Phil Sheridan's Southern Plains campaign.  He will focus on one part of the campaign, the Indian Territory Expedition of 1874, and specifically on the exploits of Lt. Frank D. Baldwin.  Baldwin was awarded two Medals of Honor, one in the Civil War, and one for his rescue of the girls captured by the Cheyenne on the Smoky Hill Trail near Fort Wallace, Kansas.

Contrary to popular stories about Indian campaigns, over half of the troops on this expedition were infantry, not cavalry.  On the other side, these Native American tribes' living conditions were destitute.  Some of the names included in this campaign are well known, including Bat Masterson.

The commentary in Baldwin's diary, Kansas newspapers, and officers on the expedition regarding the Inidan Bureau and Indian Agents, particularly the Quaker Indian agents' policy of "friendly persuasion," clearly reveal the differences of opinions on the causes and possible solutions related to the reasons for the tribes leaving the reservations and how best to convince them to return.

This Memories of the Prairie program is free of charge, however donations are always welcome.  For more information on the program or about how you can become a supporting member of the Dickinson County Historical Society, please call (785) 263-2681, or visit www.heritagecenterdk.com.

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