George Bent, the son of William Bent, one of the founders of Bent's Fort on the Arkansas near present La Junta, Colorado, and Owl Woman, a Cheyenne, began exchanging letters in 1905 with George E. Hyde of Omaha concerning life at the fort, his experiences with his Cheyenne kinsmen, and the events which finally led to the military suppression of the Indians on the southern Great Plains. This correspondence, which continued to the eve of Bent's death in 19 18, is the source of the narrative here published, the narrator being Bent himself.
Nearly thirty-eight years have elapsed since the day in 1930 when Mr. Hyde found it impossible to market the finished manuscript of the Bent life down to 1866. (The Depression had set in some months before.) He accordingly sold that portion of the manuscript to the Denver Public Library, retaining his working copy, which carries down to 1875. The account therefore embraces the most stirring period, not only of Bent's own life, but of life on the Plains and into the Rockies. It has never before been published.
It is not often that an eyewitness of great events in the West tells his own story. But Bent's narrative, aside from the extent of its chronology (1826 to 1875), has very special significance as an inside view of Cheyenne life and action after the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, which cost so many of the lives of Bent's friends and relatives. It is hardly probable that we shall achieve a more authentic view of what happened, as the Cheyennes, Arapahos, and Sioux saw it.