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Jacob Downing was a Major in the Union Army and a subordinate of Colonel John Chivington.

In April 1864, Downing came upon a band of Cheyennes camped near Cedar Bluffs, 60 miles above the South Platte. Although he only suspected them of stealing cattle and horses, Downing launched an attack that killed an estimated 25 Cheyennes and destroyed their lodges and belongings. Jacob Downing was also an officer present during the Sand Creek Massacre (also called the "Chivington massacre").

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