By Miriam Raftery
June 15, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) — Major media outlets have characterized the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, which killed 50 people, as the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. But some historians have now stepped forward to criticize that statement.
While Orlando may have had the most deaths caused by a single shooter in a single incident, there have been other massacres with higher death tolls when mob violence, riots, or military massacres on U.S. soil are included. Here are some of the other incidents in which hundreds of people died of shootings as a result of mobs, militias, riots, U.S. soldiers, racial tensions, and suppression of Native Americans.
In 1919, an estimated 200 to 800 African-American people were killed in a race riot in Elaine, Arkansas. Black sharecroppers seeking better pay attended a meeting at a church of the Progressive Farmers and Households Union of America. Accounts vary on who fired the first shots that night, which killed several people including a white security officer for the railroad and three black guards around the church. The next day, the Sheriff sent out a posses and a mob of up to 1,000 armed white people to quell what was termed an “insurrection.” The Army later sent in troops. Over three days, hundreds of black people were killed by a mob of armed white supremacists and at least two were killed by the military and by some accounts, many more in what some witnesses said was cold-blooded murder. Yet only blacks were arrested and charged with murder; many of those convictions were later overturned, including a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Read more: http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/race-riot-elaine-arkansas and http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=1102 and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaine_race_riot
In 1890, 200 Sioux Indians were killed at Wounded Knee, South Dakota by U.S. l. Originally described as a “battle” in official accounts, it later came to be described as murder or genocide. The hostilities also resulted in deaths of 25 Cavalry members. Some historians have suggested that soldiers of the 7th Cavalry were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876. Whatever the motives, the massacre ended the spiritual Ghost Dance movement and was the last major confrontation in America’s deadly war against the Plains Indians. Read more: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/01/01/truth-about-wounded-knee-massacre-162923 and http://www.history.com/topics/native-american-history/wounded-knee
In 1868, a massacre in Oppalousa, Louisiana killed as many as 150 people, by modern estimates. Also known as the Oppalousa Riot, the hostilities occurred after some black people tried to join a racist political group. After an inflammatory article was published in a newspaper and the author left town, black were falsely accused of his death. Thousands of armed white supremacists marched on the group and opened fire, killing many black people and chasing others into the swamps. Read more: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/opelousas-massacre-1868
In 1864, the Colorado Territorial Militia opened fire on an Indian encampment of about 500 people at Sand Creek, Colorado, killing 165 Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. Over half of the dead were women and children. Two chiefs had set up camp outside Fort Lyon, the Army’s military base, flying an American flag and seeking to broker a truce in U.S.-Indian hostilities. The massacre was ordered by Army Colonel John Chivington, a Methodist minister, after a night of heavy drinking. Despite the tribal leaders raising a white flag, the killings continued. The attacked was widely condemned as an atrocity and the site at Sand Creek is now protected by the National Park Service. Read more: https://www.nps.gov/sand/learn/historyculture/massacre.htm and https://www.nps.gov/sand/learn/historyculture/massacre.htm
In 1857, 150 pioneers in a westward-bound wagon train were slaughtered in Mountain Meadow, Utah. Some versions of the story claim one settler threatened to kill the Mormon church leader after being denied supplies at a store; others have claimed the settlers were falsely blamed for poisoning water and killing cattle. The attack was organized by Utah militiamen who originally planned to blame the carnage on Native Americans and coerced the Indians into participating. But a surviving witness told the truth. Read more: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2007/09/the-mountain-meadows-massacre?lang=eng