HAZEN, WILLIAM (1830-1887)
William B. Hazen was a frontier army officer with eighteen years of service in the Great Plains. Born September 27, 1830, in Hartfort, Vermont, he grew up in Ohio, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, fought Indians in Oregon, and was seriously wounded in a skirmish with Comanches in Texas in 1859. He served with distinction in the Civil War.
As commander of the Southern Military District at Fort Cobb, Indian Territory, in 1868–69, Hazen helped implement the reservation system in the Southern Plains. During the Washita campaign in 1868, he prevented Gen. Philip Sheridan and Lt. Col. George Custer from attacking his Kiowa charges, which created an animosity that lasted throughout their careers. In 1869 he helped select the site for Fort Sill in Indian Territory. That same year, he was named commander of the Sixth Infantry, a commission he held until 1880.
Hazen's assignments took him into every Great Plains state and territory. Always controversial, he opposed the railroads and land speculators by publishing articles warning prospective settlers that the arid lands of the High Plains were not worth "one penny an acre" for agricultural purposes. He also opposed Sheridan's plan to wipe out the buffalo herds as a means of subjugating the Indians, and in 1872 he exposed corruption of post traders at Fort Sill, which resulted in the impeachment and resignation of Secretary of War William Belknap. In retaliation, Belknap and Sheridan collaborated to exile Hazen to Fort Buford, Dakota Territory, the army's Siberia.
After his friend James Garfield was elected president in 1880, Hazen gained appointment as brigadier general and chief signal officer. In 1871 he married Mildred McLean, a member of a prominent newspaper family. He died in Washington DC on January 16, 1887.
Marvin E. Kroeker Ada, Oklahoma
Kroeker, Marvin E. Great Plains Command: William B. Hazen in the Frontier West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976.