Considerable disagreement about the location of the battle of Hungry Hill is found in the historic sources. Early historians (Walling 1884, Bancroft 1888, Victor 1891) relied on newspaper accounts that lacked accuracy in many respects. Richard Helm, who purchased part of the Grave Creek Ranch, believed he had located the battle site in Section 17 (T33S,R7W), and this discovery was published in the golden anniversary edition of the Grants Pass Courier in April 1934. This became widely accepted as the battle site. Careful analysis of original diaries and interviews with descendants of the militia men by Larry McLane (1995:13-16) suggest that the published location is in error. According to McLane (1995:15-16) the site that most closely corresponds to the accounts of the battle site is in Section 26 (T33S,R8W); it has a meadow, grub-oak thicket, spring and a canyon to the west with rock bluffs that oldtimers called the Falls, which match Jimmy Twogood's 1909 account (Rogue River Courier, March 12, 1909; cited in McLane 1995:11-13). When the oak trees near the spring now known as Bloody Spring were cut for firewood, a water bucket was nearly filled with musket balls collected while splitting the wood (McLane 1995:16).
Elizabeth E. Budy, Lands North of the Wild Rogue, page 14
References referred to:
Hubert H. Bancroft, History of Oregon, Volume II, 1848-1888.
Larry L. McLane, First There Was Twogood, 1995
James H. Twogood, "Battle of Hungry Hill," Rogue River Courier, March 12, 1909. Reprinted in McLane, page 11; also transcribed below.
Frances Fuller Victor, The Early Indian Wars of Oregon, 1891
Albert G. Walling, History of Southern Oregon, 1884
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Canyonville Oct. 29th 1855Orderly Sergeant Patton
An express arrived here from Major Fitzgerald to the effect that he has the Indians corralled six miles from the ranch of Harkness & Twogood and has also sent to the comd. officer at Fort Lane for reinforcement & still holding his own with them & wants all the help he can get. Twogood is here & says that there is no provisions for men & wants his train escorted through the Canyon to the ranch. Now all I have to say is send all the boys along on that are armed & equipped and make a requisition upon the commissary for about 10 good horses & for them to lose no time. We are in anticipation of some fun. The boys are all in fine spirits and swear that they will follow me and are ready at any time.
Yours in hasteIf there is another company at Deer Creek send them on. News has just arrived here that there are three hundred Indians and any amount of stock, horses, cattle & mules and that a train of mules with 12 men have all been captured and their fate supposed. You can say to the Adjt. General who is supposed is at Deer Creek by this time that so soon as we get back we wish to be received & until we are mustered in that he will make arrangements for our comfort.
Capt. Douglas County volunteers
Yours GordonOur company is fast filling up.
Oregon State Archives, Yakima and Rogue River War, Document File B, Reel 2, attachment to Document 526.
OCTOBER 1, THURSDAY. Last night an express arrived here who brought the news that Captain Bailey's company and the Umpqua volunteers together with the southern battalion, and Capt. Smith with his regulars had attacked the Indians. By daylight we were on the march through the canyon. We traveled 20 miles and arrived at the Six-Bit House, which is a house in the Grave Creek Hills. It is now called Fort Bailey. When we arrived here we were informed that they were fighting the Indians about 15 miles from this place: They are in the mountains between Grave Creek and Cow Creek. Captain Keeney wanted to push a head to their assistance, but Major Martin would not permit him to go. At 4 o'clock p.m. some of the volunteers arrived from the field bringing the news that the whites were all retreating with 40 killed and wounded. They had fought two days without any provision, consequently they were obliged to leave the field to the Indians. It is not known how many Indians killed, neither is it known how many were engaged in the fight. There seems to be a diversity of opinion as to the number of Indians, some say from 200 to 300, others as high as 500. I guess them that was not there has about as good an idea of the number of Indians engaged as those that were there. They had taken a position on the top of a high mountain, which was covered with timber and a thick growth of chaparral and manzanita brush. The thickness of the brush would not admit of a charge and whenever attempted by the whites they were repulsed with a heavy loss. They kept themselves close concealed until an opportunity presented itself for them to make a sure shot, then the keen crack of the rifle would warn the white man that Mr. Indian was close at hand. And so was fought the battle of Hungry Hill, as it has since been named. 40 of us went to assist in the wounded to this place, it being one of the nearest rendezvous to the battle field. They were carried in on litters by hand.
Diary of Harvey Robbins, private, Company C, Second Regiment Oregon Mounted Volunteers under Captain Jonathan Keeney. Diary published in Ralph R. Keeney, Wagon Ruts West, 1984.
Mr. [B. B. Jackson] also states that about 300 Indians with their families, stock and plunder have taken a position on a mountain six miles below the Grave Creek house, fortified it, and are awaiting an attack. They are determined to fight, and have selected this as a favorable position. Capt. Smith was at the Grave Creek House, with about 150 regulars, laying his plans and awaiting reinforcements. Two companies of volunteers from this valley arrived at headquarters just as Mr. J. was leaving. They expected to attack the Indians on Thursday. Capt. Smith had sent to the fort for a howitzer, intending to first drive them from their position with shells, and then attack them with small arms.
Volunteers were coming in from both north and south, and before the attack was to be made it was thought there would be over 500 men on the ground.
"Latest from the South," Oregon Statesman, Corvallis, November 3, 1855, page 2
Still Later--The Indians Victorious--Several Whites Killed.
Gen. McCarver arrived here this (Saturday) morning, in 5 hours from Eugene City. He brings the following letters, which, it will be seen, contain important and highly exciting information:
Rendezvous, Roseburg, Nov. 1, 1855.
Dear Gen'l.--The mail from the south has just arrived, with startling news from the seat of war.
The mail carrier reports 3 or 4 killed, and 12 wounded. The Indians as yet have the advantage; among the killed is a son of Mr. Gillespie, of Eugene City. The whole command is destitute of arms and ammunition. I send you a requisition from Maj. Martin for the same.
Yours, in haste, SAM. E. MAY.
Oregon Statesman, Corvallis, November 3, 1855, page 2
Rendezvous, Roseburg, Nov. 1st, 1855.Mr. Bush--Sir: The Indians were met yesterday by a company of regulars, and Capt. Bailey's company of volunteers. As yet the redskins are ahead. In the conflict 1 volunteer killed and 3 regulars; 20 wounded, 4 mortally. The volunteer was the son of Mr. Gillespie, of Eugene City. The command is destitute of arms and ammunition.
Yours, in haste, SAM. MAY.
Oregon Statesman, Corvallis, November 3, 1855, page 2
List of Killed, Wounded and Missing
of Col. Ross' Militia in the Battle of Grave Creek Hills
of the 31st Oct. & 1st Nov.
Capt. Rinearson's company (composed of men from Willamette, Umpqua and Rogue River valleys)
Capt. Smith lost 3 men killed--5 wounded
Lieut. Kautz of Port Orford 1 man killed
Lieut. Gibson wounded severely
Mem.: Albert E. Williams of Capt. Buoy's company died at north Canyonville Nov. 3rd of malignant erysipelas--was sick only 12 hours.
John Ogden of Capt. Buoy's company was wounded by accident today at this place. It is a severe wound. He belongs to a detachment of the company left at the rendezvous. There is but little sickness among the volunteers.
J. W. DrewOregon State Archives, Yakima and Rogue River War, Document File B, Reel 3, Document 689.
Deer Creek O.T.
Nov. 4th 1855 11 p.m.
Rendezvous Roseburg Nov. 5th 1855Dear Genl.
I send you the official returns of the killed, wounded and missing in the battle with the Indians on Grave Creek Hills on the 31st of October and the 1st of November--
Maj. Ross' BattalionOregon State Archives, Records of Military Departments 1849-1968, Accession 89A-12, Container 15
Maj. Martin's Battalion
United States Troops Under Command of Capt. Smith
Lieut. Gibson wounded severely
4 privates killed, 5 wounded
Capt. Gordon came in last night. From his representations I have no doubt that the force must be increased. The present force is inadequate to the task. Maj. Martin has made a requisition for another company. The command is destitute of clothing & blankets. Many of the latter were given by the boys to bury their comrades in, which makes it still worse. Help must come from some source or we are whipped.
I have on my table a white man's scalp, which was taken by the volunteers at an Indian ranch, where it was hung to dry. Still there are those in your valley who cry no danger--would to God that such men were compelled to follow our noble volunteers in one of their efforts to rid the country of this curse. This would change their tune. Jennings has told you our wants, and I will close.
There has been one general fight back in mountains northwest of the Grave Creek House. Capt. Smith with his regulars was there, and I think the Indians got the best of the fight, for the troops and the volunteers left the field to the Indians. There were several of the regulars killed and a number wounded, and several of the volunteers killed and some twenty or more wounded.
Jack Kennedy it is thought will not live till morning. The battle was fought on last Wednesday (31st of Oct.). On the night following both parties camped on their own ground. The next morning while the troops were preparing their breakfast, the Indians made a charge on them but were repulsed with a loss of six or seven but continued to menace and challenge the whites, by inviting them to charco (come out), calling them damned Boston (white) sons of bitches etc. Thus threatened, tantalized and menaced, our troops thought it best policy to withdraw and recruit, and try them some other day. . . . I think the place the Indians chose to fight would require at least 2,000 men to whip them.
W. W. Fowler letter to John A. Miller, November 6, 1855, Joseph Lane Papers, Indiana University
Movement of the Troops in Rogue River Valley.
From Rogue River Valley we learn that a detachment of dragoons have traced the Indians to the neighborhood of Cow Creek, in the Cañon, between Umpqua and Rogue River Valley, where they found them encamped with a large number of cattle and horses. The Indians, far from being disconcerted at their approach, told them that they were ready any time to fight them. Messengers were immediately sent back to Fort Lane, 50 miles distant, for reinforcements, and 200 regulars, 200 volunteers and two mountain howitzers were immediately dispatched by forced marches; it was expected that they would arrive at the Cañon about Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning (31st Oct). Expectation is on tiptoe as to the result of this movement.
The regulars, small as their force is, are said to be well appointed and eager for a brush with the Indians. The dragoons are provided with the best of American horses, and all that is now wanted is to get a fair chance at the redskins.
Crescent City Herald, November 7, 1855, page 2
THE LATEST FROM ROGUE RIVER VALLEY.
TWO DAYS FIGHT WITH THE INDIANS IN THE CANON,
OCTOBER 31ST AND 1ST NOVEMBER--
LOSS TEN MEN KILLED AND THIRTY WOUNDED.
From Mr. J. Doniphan, who left Jacksonville on Friday noon, we learn that on Wednesday and Thursday messengers from the camp had arrived at Jacksonville, stating that a force of 300 regulars and volunteers attacked the Indians in their fortified position in the cañon about the headwaters of Cow Creek. It appears to have been impossible for the whites to bring up either their horses or the howitzers to the isolated region, to which nevertheless the Indians had managed to drive a large number of horses and cattle. In their efforts to dislodge the Indians during Wednesday and Thursday, the whites were not successful, and with the loss of ten men killed and thirty wounded, getting also short of provisions, they withdrew on Thursday evening to headquarters at Vannoy's. This report was confirmed to Mr. Doniphan by four men he met the same afternoon at Reeves', in Illinois Valley, directly from the camp.
It is expected that before resuming the attack, efforts will be made to discover the paths by which the Indians reached their secure position, and to bring the howitzers to the aid of the attacking forces.
Crescent City Herald, November 7, 1855, page 2
We have just received news of an attack where with about 400 whites, regulars & volunteers where 7 whites was killed & twenty wounded without killing an Indian that they knowed of & was compelled to retreat. But they was taken rather by surprise & was not very well prepared to fight. But they are making preparation for a regular winter campaign. There will soon be 6 or 7 hundred men in the field.
Levi Kent, Scottsburg, Oregon, letter of November 7, 1855
The War in Rogue River.
A severe fight took place among the Grave Creek hills, in southern Oregon, between about 400 regulars and volunteers and 250 or 300 Indians, on the 31st of October. It seems that the Indians got the best end of the fight--the whites were compelled to fall back. The following, from the Oregon Statesman, contains all the information yet received. We also learn that the Indians are still engaged in committing depredations upon the lives and property of defenseless settlers in that quarter:
"The Indians were attacked with rifles by the regulars and one of the Lane and the Douglas companies of volunteers; and we think some Jackson volunteers. The Indians fell back to a small canyon, and as the whites rose upon the brow of the hill the Indians picked them off from their hiding places. Capt. Smith ordered a charge, but the destructive fire of the Indians produced a good deal of confusion, and many of the men scattered and sought shelter behind trees and brush, from which a firing was kept up without much system or effect. It lasted all day, the Indians killing seven and wounding about twenty--four mortally. It is said that much of the execution was done by one Indian, who lay concealed behind a root; the crack of his rifle could be heard over all the others, and whenever the smoke was seen to rise from behind that root, a white man was almost sure to be killed or wounded.
"The whites we are told were at no time nearer than 150 yards of the Indians. They were poorly prepared for the engagement and retreated, intending to reinforce, procure a ten days' supply of provisions, and renew the attack. It is said that Maj. Martin has made a requisition for two more companies of volunteers, but we cannot learn positively that it is so.
"The bravery and coolness of Capt. Smith, of the regulars, is spoken of in the highest terms, and he is represented as now having the fullest confidence of both regulars and volunteers. It is said that he held the open field, exposed to the fire of the enemy, and it is thought to be surprising that he escaped unharmed. His men also behaved well."
Pioneer and Democrat, Olympia, Washington, November 23, 1855, page 2
For the Oregonian.
The Battle of the Grave Creek Hills.
Attack on Cow Creek Valley, &c.
ROSEBURG, Nov. 8th, 1855.
FRIEND DRYER:--We have at last had a battle with the red devils who have lately so desolated our fair land with all the horrors of Indian war. The whites had thought that the Indians were encamped in the vicinity of the "meadows," and had been making arrangements to attack them there. While the citizens along the road, having been lulled into a false security, were thinking that they were perfectly safe, [they] were all of a sudden attacked in Cow Creek Valley, south of the Canyon, on Tuesday evening, Oct. 23d, by a large band of Indians--some say from sixty to one hundred in number--their houses burned, their stock killed and driven off, and those who happened to be alone upon the road brutally murdered. Holland Bailey, of Lane County, was killed near the foot of the big hill south of Cow Creek; Chas. Johnson, orderly sergeant of Rinearson's company, was shot through the head while endeavoring to get a wounded man out of reach of the Indians; his body was mangled in a horrible manner. Mr. Minot was severely wounded in the abdomen; Daniel Boone was wounded in the hip. All the houses in the valley but three were burned down. The houses that are standing are Elliff's, Levens' and Smith's. All the grain in the valley was burned except that belonging to Levins and Smith. Large numbers of cattle were driven off to the mountains. A part of Capt. Rinearson's command were stationed in Cow Creek Valley, but there were not enough of them to prevent the Indians from destroying their property. Those that were there behaved like men.
On Tuesday evening, Oct. 25th, Lieut. Kautz, with twelve men, while viewing a route for a military road, came on to a camp of Indians in the Cow Creek hills, and not knowing that they were hostile was surprised and driven from the ground. Two of his men were killed. The hiding place of the Indians was found, and preparations were made for an attack. Maj. Fitzgerald started immediately with his command, but after seeing the position that the Indians occupied, he did not deem it prudent for him to attack them with so small a force. Measures were then taken to concentrate all the regular and volunteer forces that could be raised. On Tuesday night, Oct. 26th, at 11 o'clock, Capt. Smith, in command of the regulars (Fitzgerald unfortunately was sick) and Col. Ross, in command of the volunteers, started on foot for the encampment of the Indians. We arrived at their old camp about daylight, and some of the regulars very injudiciously built a fire. In a short time we heard the Indians on the main dividing ridge between Cow Creek and Grave Creek, firing signal guns, and the whole body of men started for them. To get where the Indians were, we had to cross over a deep ravine and follow along the ridge of the hill about two miles. Capt. Smiley Harris had early in the morning crept up with his command to within half a mile of the Indians without their seeing him, but as soon as he saw the smoke he let the Indians know where he was, and they started out to attack him, but on seeing the men under Smith and Ross coming along the ridge of the mountain, they retreated to a high point of the ridge and there awaited the coming of the whites. Just at that time it would have been hard to tell a commander from a private, for they were all rushing along as fast as their legs could carry them to the point where the Indians were. As soon as they got within gunshot, the Indians retreated into a deep, timbered ravine, the waters of which run into Cow Creek, and the volunteers and regulars pursued on after them. In the ravine the most of the fighting was done. On the night of the 31st, we encamped in a hollow near a spring close to the battleground. That night will long be remembered by those who were there. The night was very cold, and what few blankets we had with us were used by the wounded, the rest having to keep themselves warm the best way they could. There was not an ax or a spade upon the ground. The volunteers had nothing to eat since Tuesday night, and were weary for want of sleep. On the morning of the 1st of November, the Indians came around on the points and commenced firing at us, but by the prompt action of Col. Ross they were driven off. Shortly after, a party of whites came in with horses to take away the wounded.
Those who are acquainted with the Indians say there must be about three hundred Indians in this band. It is impossible now for a person to tell how many Indians were killed in the battle, but it is supposed that as many as twenty of them were made to bite the dust.
Dr. [Anson G.] Henry was on the ground, and in the thickest of the fight, and after the battle was over he acted the part of the good Samaritan among the wounded and dying. Dr. Stone was there, and doing his utmost to relieve the wounded.
I obtained the following list of the killed and wounded from Dr. Henry, and I think it is correct.
MAJOR ROSS'S BATTALION.Capt. Harris' Company--Jonathan Pettegrew, killed; Ira Mayfield, L. F. Allen, Wm. Purnell, and ------ Harris, severely wounded; Thos. Goldsby, Thos. Gill, slightly wounded.
Capt. Bruce's Company--Charles Goodwin, severely wounded.
Capt. Welton's Company--John Kennedy, severely wounded.
Capt. Williams' Company--John Winters, killed; John Stanus, severely wounded; Thos. Ryan, slightly wounded.
Capt. Rinearson's Company--Henry Pearl and Jacob W. Miller, killed; James Pearcy, missing; Washington H. Crouch, severely wounded; Enoch Miller and E. Yager, slightly wounded.
MAJOR MARTIN'S BATTALION.Capt. Gordon's Company--James M. Fordice, Wm. Wilson, Hawkins Shelton, severely wounded.
Capt. Bailey's Company--John Gilespie, killed; John Walton, John C. Richardson, James Lapher, Thomas J. Aubrey, severely wounded; John Pankey, slightly wounded.
RECAPITULATION.Killed 9, missing 1, severely wounded 13, slightly wounded 12. Total 35.
Capt. Smith of the regulars had 4 killed and 7 wounded, including Lieutenant Gibson (none mortally). One of Smith's men shot himself accidentally, on the night of the 1st of Nov., by drawing a gun towards him over a log. Three of the men wounded were wounded by the accidental discharge of a gun in camp, on the night of the 31st of October.
There are but few Indian sympathizers in this part of the country, and he who would sympathize with hostile Indians now is worse than an Indian--an enemy to his country, a disgrace to himself and a dishonor to his race. It is to be regretted that there are men among us who will so much endanger the country as to attack and kill friendly Indians. Such things have been done. We have enough to do to fight Indians that are hostile.
Truly yours,Weekly Oregonian, Portland, November 24, 1855, page 2
Jackson County, Nov. 16, 1855.* * * You will excuse me for taking notice of the following, but it is too good to lose. T. McF. Patton was with the detachment moving to Cow Creek. T. says he ran a narrow risk. I was with him or near him all the way from Grave Creek to Smith's, and I am sure he never saw four Indians, and they shot at some hogs in an opposite direction to that of T. McF., but not at him or any man. Nothing of less caliber than a six-pounder could have reached him from the point where the Indians were and the point which Tom occupied momentarily. No more concerning small fry.
The detachment stopped in Cow Creek Valley for three days, and were ordered to Grave Creek; there they joined Capt. Smith and Ross. A force of three hundred and seventy-eight men moved against the Indians in Grave Creek Hills, and on the 31st Oct. the Indians were discovered and attacked. Capt. Smith ordered a charge, which was faintly complied with. The fight became general, and every man was his own captain and fought on his own hook. We hauled off near dark and took quarters in the head of a ravine. On the morning of 1st Nov. the Indians attacked us. We fought them about two hours, and I think they found us as good in the brush as they were. While we were fighting in the morning. Dr. Henry assumed command and ordered a man to leave his position and take another, when the cub drew his rifle upon Henry and ordered him to leave there d----d quick, which order H. complied with in double-quick time.
The whole force left the field and repaired to the Six Bit House, where features of various kinds presented themselves, such as Henry's retreat from the Six Bit House, &c.
Capts. Buoy's and Bailey's companies were stationed here in the meantime; there were some aspiring lieutenants, who no doubt earnestly desired promotion, and true to Know-Nothing instincts were willing to sacrifice their best best friends to promote their own selfish purposes; they solicited Major Martin to order a new election, urging as a reason that the organization at the time Martin was elected was incomplete &c. The Major not desiring to command men who were unwilling to be commanded by him, and to use his own phrase, hoping a better man would be found, ordered a new election. A deputation was sent from Bailey's company to Buoy's, a caucus was held (nothing political, of course), and the result was that Capt. Bailey was selected to oppose Maj. Martin; not that the least objection could be found to Martin, but, as was said by "Sam," because "Bailey was a good Whig." In justice to Capt. Bailey, it might be said that he had nothing to do with this arrangement, yet at the same time, being present when the vote of his company was taken, he took good care not to decline, neither did he vote for Martin as it was understood he would.
Now I for one can discern but little difference between honest morality and moral honesty, and I like to see the fair thing in politics as in everything else, and I must confess that as an unsuspecting Democrat I must say that I was inclined in the incipient stage of affairs to discard anything like political distinctions, and went in heartily voting for Know-Nothing and everything else, supposing all right. It did not occur to me that these Know-Nothings had adopted this stop-thief cry for the purpose of avoiding suspicion, but imagine my chagrin and disappointment in finding all the places of importance filled with the most obnoxious Know-Nothings in the land, with nothing to recommend them in the service save their liberality--bigotry, and well-known unpopularity with the people. It would seem that these very generous, liberal and anti-party gentlemen have well played their games, and have succeeded by a kind of hocus pocus management in getting all the offices.
I learn that petitions are out for the removal of all Know-Nothings from office, holding any appointments from and under the Executive. I heartily concur in the principle.
I have written before, but owing to some shenanigan in the commissary's department you have not received my communications. I will write again whenever I can interest you.
Yours, &c. EDGAR.Oregon Statesman, Corvallis, December 1, 1855, page 1
Latest from the Oregon War.Shasta Courier, Shasta, California, December 1, 1855, page 3
We copy the following from the Yreka Union Extra, of the 21st ult., furnished by the Pacific Express:
"Since the 'Cow Creek defeat,' several companies have been in search of the Indians engaged in the battle; all have been unsuccessful, however, with the exception of Bob Williams, who with seventy-five men on Friday last came upon their trail between Grave Creek and Jumpoff Joe. Here they found the cargoes of the mule train taken by the Indians at the commencement of the outbreak. They followed on and passed the smoking remains of the two houses of widows Niday and Harris, which the Indians had just burned. Upon arriving at Jumpoff Joe, on Saturday last about noon, the whole tribe was discovered and a fire was opened upon them immediately. After fighting some time, Williams sent a dispatch to Fort Lane for a recruit [reinforcement].
"The dispatch arrived on Sunday morning, whereupon Capt. Judah left forthwith for the scene of action with a howitzer; he would arrive at Jumpoff Joe on Sunday evening.
The Indians are represented as being all well armed and mounted, and fight with the utmost desperation and bravery, and seem perfectly reckless of life. Their numbers could not be ascertained, nor of course could their killed and wounded. When the messenger left the ground there were four white men wounded, but none had been killed.
Williams' company consists of volunteers from Siskiyou, Rogue River, Illinois Valley and other places, and are said to be picked men.
At the battle on Cow Creek the Indians were in a position stronger than which could not be found in the whole of Oregon, to which alone may be attributed the unfortunate result of the engagement. Now, however, their advantages in this respect are comparatively few. In view, therefore, of this circumstance, and of the fact that two such men as Capt. Judah and Bob Williams being in the field, we may confidently anticipate good news from that quarter in a day or two.
Lieut. Hazen passed through town on Wednesday, on his way from Fort Reading to Fort Lane. He had with him a portion of a company belonging to the 4th regiment U.S. infantry.
In pursuance of a proclamation by the Governor of Oregon, all companies of volunteers are disbanded, with the exception of Capt. Brewster's, Major Bruce's, Capt. Hardin's and another, making in all 284 officers and privates, volunteers now in actual service within the limits of Jacksonville division.
P.S. Since writing the above, the Rev. Mr. Stratton, in company with another man, have arrived in town, and report that they saw about 100 mounted Indians passing through Shasta Valley, some ten miles from this city. They pursued the Indians about two miles at full speed, to endeavor to learn their intentions, but were unable to overtake them.
Fort Orford, O.T.Dear Genl.:
Dec. 1st, 1855
Agreeable to promise, I write you, and I think it will take about a sheet of this size to hold all I have got to tell you. I returned a few days ago from my expedition to Fort Lane after a trip varied with adventure and hardships more than I bargained for when I set out. I left here on the 1st of October, and succeeded in satisfying myself that a road can be made from here to Fort Lane with some expense. I had set out with ten men armed with axes only, and we had a guide making twelve of us. On the 14th we reached Big Bend and learned from peaceable Indians that the bands in the valley had broken out into a war. So I abandoned the axes and went back for guns to arm my men with. I relied but little on the rumor but I thought best to prepare. I had given up all hopes of seeing any Indians and had reached within six miles of the Oregon Road on the divide between Grave Creek and Cow Creek on the 25th ult. when I suddenly ran right into a large encampment of them on a high knoll on the top of a spur of the divide. I was not certain that they were hostile until they fired into us. We were ready for them and fought them for half an hour, my men were raw recruits and knew nothing about Indian fighting and were considerably “flustered,” and the guide he wanted to back out so I had difficulty to keep them to the mark, but suddenly the Indians got upon our flank, and three shots in quick succession from our right killed two of my men dead, and the third knocked me over, when the rest broke and all h_ll would not have stopped them. Fortunately a small memorandum book in my right flannel shirt pocket prevented the ball from penetrating, and I jumped up immediately and tried to rally my men but it was of no avail, I could not even get them to drive off our animals and I was compelled to make a “glorious retreat” with the loss of two men all my animals, and provisions and “traps.” Night favored our escape; we doubled on the Indian camp and got down upon Wolf Creek and going up it we reached the “Six Bit House” which we found abandoned but were fortunate enough to find a few potatoes and a little butter which served to help us on to Grave Creek where we found a stockade around Harkness and Twogood’s stand. There were about ten men there who were thrown into a great excitement by our approach, and if we had not called out to them they would have fired into us for Indians, from which you may infer the state of affairs. I then learned the particulars of the war, and how the troops and volunteers had been scouring the country (up and down the high roads) for two weeks and had not been able to find an Indian. I immediately dispatched an express to Maj. Fitzgerald at Evans Ferry; it was two o’clock at night when we got in and the next evening he arrived. On the 27th I went up with him to the ground where I had lost the two men and found their bodies and buried them. The Indians had moved their encampment about three miles, back from the spur to the main divide. We had seventy men and intended to fight them but when the Maj. saw the camp which they had abandoned, he came to the conclusion that they were too strong for us and we marched back to Grave Creek as though we had not discovered them, though they saw us. Here we found Capt. Smith who had arrived with some additional men. Expresses were sent out to all the volunteer forces and the Capt. sent to Fort Lane for more ammunition, arms and provisions enough for a fifteen days campaign. As they intended to organize a regular expedition, I concluded that I would join them and when they had driven the Indians off my trail I would return to Port Orford by the way I came, so I proceed to Fort Lane and fitted out my party anew and was back again in three days. Maj. F. had returned to the fort sick. I wanted them to take the howitzer but no one at the fort would take the responsibility of taking it along, and I was also astonished that Dr. Crane did not accompany us, but he said he would not go without Capt. Smith’s orders. When I returned to Grave Creek I begged of the Capt. to send for the Dr. and for the howitzer; he said it was too late, that we would have to do without them. I replied that late or early he would send for the doctor anyhow, and that he would wish he had the howitzer before he was done. My experience had taught me that it would be no child’s play and I also felt that the Indians would make a stand, yet they prepared for the fight as though they expected the Indians to run and that the great difficulty would be to get the red devils to stand. When I reached Grave Creek all the troops had arrived. There were about two hundred and fifty volunteers under Col. Ross and about 130 regulars under Capt. Smith. A beautiful plan of battle was agreed upon. One detachment of volunteers was to occupy the divide on the west; another was to start out from the Six Bit House and take position on the north, and Col. Ross with the volunteers was to come in on the south and all were to wait for Capt. Smith to make the attack on the east. We set out about 12 o’clock on the night of the 30th and moved along with as much precision and silence as could have been desired at first, but the nearer we got to the enemy the more careless and noisy they were. When we got upon the ground where I had met the Indians, Col. Ross was to separate from Capt. Smith. The party that had to occupy the west had already left us. I pointed out to Capt. Smith the position of the Indians, the course he was to take and the way Col. Ross must go, and as it was already daylight I urged the necessity of going on rapidly. Col. Ross thought he had better wait until the other party had taken position on the west, and the Capt was anxious that the only two officers he had with him, who had indiscreetly filled their canteens with brandy instead of water, should get sober, and they delayed an hour and a half or two hours. In the meantime the detachment that was to occupy the north came in behind us on our trail; they had mistaken their trail, and adopted ours. It was a cold foggy morning, and the men started up fires to keep warm. I pointed out the position of the Indians to the Col. and the Capt. but they said they could see no Indians and they did not believe there was any Indians there. No sooner however did the smoke curl up between the trees than the hillsides were covered with Indians driving in their stock and preparing for battle. It was now too late for a surprise, but I again urged the Capt. to move and not delay any longer. He said he should move immediately. But before he got started a party of "harum scarum" volunteers got the start of him and led the way down into a deep gulch some fifteen hundred feet which intervened between us and the enemy. Instead of complying with the plan of attack agreed upon and going around on the ridge the Capt. followed them, leaving his train and Lt. Alston, who was not yet sober. Gibson made out to follow. By the time we got up with the Indians, we were very much used up and the plan of attack was effectually knocked in the head by the fourth party joining, so instead of having surrounded the Indians we were all together. In the first meet the Indians gave up their position. One of ours was killed and several wounded, and this one dead man won the battle; two thirds of the men never got past this one dead body. The Indians took up a position just beyond a sink in the ridge that protected their squaws and children who were moving to their rear, along the main ridge. The north side of the ridge was covered with heavy growth of fir timber and thick undergrowth, the south without trees but a dense brush of hawthorn, hazel and oak. Totally unfavorable for a charge, but the most desirable for flanking. Some thirty or forty men succeeded in advancing to the brow of the knoll the Indians had abandoned and which they commanded now, where we kept up a fire quite sharp for three hours or more when we gradually hauled off and before night it had ceased. The rest of the troops were behind and occasionally fired at those of our men in front who had the courage to advance towards the Indians. Everything was “helter skelter.” Capt. Smith and Col. Ross were behind taking care of the wounded. At night we hauled off down on the hillside about four hundred yards into a little gulch where the Indians had got their water from some dirty little springs. I begged the Col. and the Capt. not to camp there, they thought it was a bad place, but still they camped there. I had represented during the afternoon to the Capt. the necessity of either moving back to our train, or else to send for it to come up as we had nothing to eat since the night before and no blankets. Neither was done, and we hovered around little brush fires, cold and hungry, the sides of the little gulch so steep that we could scarcely find room for the wounded. Things were very gloomy. I never was so depressed in my life. I felt certain that the Indians would attack us and if made in the night with a proper skill would complete our overthrow. Everybody felt this so much so that when a tremulous volunteer on post accidentally pressed too hard upon the trigger of his revolver and off it went, so did everybody else for the brush, stumbling over the wounded, whose shrieks could be heard above the tumult. One sleepy volunteer, when the stampede [began], started out of his sleep, snatched up a musketoon and cracked away at what he conceived to be the enemy and wounded two of his brother volunteers, one mortally, and a third slightly. Old Doctor Henry called them to order and explained the difficulty and thus settled their nerves. At daylight the Indians came down upon us. The attack however was not well sustained, and after several hours firing they hauled off in consequence of the arrival of a company of Willamette volunteers who were very anxious to fight, and I supposed that the attack on the Indians would be renewed now that the force was considerably increased, but instead they packed up the wounded and moved off and we did not reach Grave Creek until between two and three o’clock that night, having fasted for fifty hours, and had no sleep for three nights. Thus [illegible] fifteen days expedition for Capt. Smith returned with all haste back to Fort Lane, and the volunteers were billeted out to various [illegible] in the valley. We lost ten killed and twenty-seven wounded, several of these were killed and quite a number of the wounded were shot by our own men. The Indian loss of course not known; I do not think that they could have more than four or five killed and wounded, but if we are to believe the statements of all those in the fight there is scarcely a man that cannot give the particulars of how he killed one Indian “certain, sure.” I believe I had as good an opportunity as any in the fight and I can’t say that I killed one. I don’t believe that the Indians numbered over seventy warriors in all; the volunteers say however that there was three or four hundred; when I ask them where they came from, they cannot make over a hundred and fifty supposing that all the hostile Indians were there that are in the valley, and at the same time they assert that there are other bands in various other portions of the valley that could not have been in the fight. It is asserted however that they have reinforced their ranks very much from the coast, but I happen to be posted up on the subject and know that there could not have been any coast Indians present. The unpleasant truth is that the whites were cowards, that they were whipped out by one-fourth of their number of Diggers, and had it not been for thirty or forty good men the rest would have broke and run, and they would have caught h__l. As it was some did break and never stopped until they got through the Canyon 25 miles distant the same day the attack commenced, and some thirty or more men came in to Jacksonville express from Col. Ross, and never returned. The great secret of the failure is that the volunteers expected the regulars to do all the fighting, whilst the regulars were expecting the same thing from the volunteers. I do not think much of the conduct of the officers, nobody attempted to lead the men, and I don’t think that Col. Ross or Capt. Smith attempted to fire a gun. There was a want of confidence all around. On the morning of the 1st of Nov., when the Indians attacked us (which attack was made by about twenty Indians according to my estimate), Capt. Smith was as usual attending to the wounded and Col. Ross did for once show that he was in command by standing down in the gulch and quoting all the gallant speeches that had been made from the Revolution [illegible] such as “Stand your ground men and don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes and know he is an Injun.” Altogether it was an affair that I would never boast of and no one shall even now that I was there or had anything to do with it, unless he gets it from somebody else. I had no one under me except five, my men who would have abandoned me five days before had I been so badly hurt as not to pack myself off. I determined to leave them to fight their own battles and took advantage of my orders “to return to this post as soon as possible,” to leave them. It is a war they have brought on themselves; the Indians are fighting in self defense and they fight well. I have every reason to believe that it has been gotten up expressly to procure another appropriation. I fear you paid them too well for their meritorious services of ’53. War is a money making business. When I left they had nearly a thousand troops in the field and I venture to say they will get whipped again notwithstanding the comparatively small number of Indians, unless they fight. Capt. Smith wished me to stay and promised the affair should be differently conducted. He felt that it was all wrong and acknowledged it. As I prophesied, he sent for Dr. Crane before we had come up with the Indians 20 minutes and he would have given anything for the howitzer. I told him that there must be more courage displayed all around or he would get whipped again. I returned in time to relieve the people here who were in the greatest consternation at my prolonged absence. The whole country is one grand stampede; even in Portland they kept a night watch. There have no doubt been several fights before this, and the steamer that takes this away will no doubt bring us the intelligence from the north as well as the south, of some big fights. With regard to the road from here to Fort Lane, it is quite practicable and will cost no more than the other roads in the territory that have been appropriated for. I shall complete my drawings and report as soon as possible and it will no doubt reach Washington by the middle or last of January. I must close or you will never read this. I hope I shall hear from you.
Very Respectfully Yours &cHon Joseph Lane,
August V. Kautz, U.S.A.
P.S. Dec 15th I enclose a hasty map that may be of service to you. I shall get my maps and and report of the road ready by the 1st of January. They will reach Washington about the middle of February. We have had no steamer for more than a month is the reason this letter has not gone off; she is expected in the morning. Please send me one of Preston’s maps as soon as they are out. We have no news of the war since my return. Very severe weather for six weeks back. K.
Lieutenant August V. Kautz, Joseph Lane mss 1835-1906, Lilly Library, Indiana University
That the Statesman editor was anxious to make the impression on the public mind that the 9th Regiment of Oregon militia, called into the field by Col. Ross, by authority of law, were lawless parties of men acting without authority, is the fact that he represented Capt. Smith of the Regulars as having command, and that the battle was fought by the regulars and two companies of volunteers from the Northern Battalion under command of Capts. Bailey and Gordon, when he must have known that Col. Ross had the command, and consequently must have had with him a portion at least of his regiment. Hear what he says editorially in his paper of Nov. 10th:
"THE FIGHT SOUTH.--In the most of our edition last week, we gave a brief account of an attack upon the Indian camp in Rogue River, by a party of regulars and volunteers, in which the whites were repulsed, with a loss of three regulars and one volunteer killed, and twenty wounded--four mortally. The volunteer killed was a son of Rev. Jacob Gillespie, a member of the last Assembly from Lane County. He was in Capt. Bailey's company, of that Co., which was in the engagement. It is said no Indian was killed. * * * By dispatches received by us a few hours before news of the attack and repulse came, we learned that the Indians were encamped upon a high mountain, with their women and children, stock and plunder, which was heavy (much having been lately captured from wagons and pack trains); that they were too much encumbered to move readily, and had evidently planted themselves there for a fight. They had fortified so strongly that Capt. Smith, of the regulars, deemed it inadvisable to attack them with rifles, fearing he would be repulsed. His plan was to plant his howitzers upon an eminence three-fourths of a mile distant, commanding their camp, and from which he could throw shell and grape among them--first waiting until a sufficient number of men had arrived to afford three columns, each sufficient to whip the Indians; and stationing them so that the enemy could not make its escape without encountering one of them, he proposed to drive them from their camp and fortifications with the howitzers, and then attack them with rifles.--The attack was made earlier than the above plan could have been perfected, and we are inclined to the opinion that the men became impatient, and made a premature attack, which resulted as Capt. Smith feared. * * * * * The bravery and coolness of Capt. Smith, of the regulars, is spoken of in the highest terms, and he is represented as now having the fullest confidence of both regulars and volunteers. It is said that he held the open field, exposed to the fire of the enemy, and it is thought to be surprising that he escaped unharmed. His men also behaved well."
In the anxiety of the editor to keep Col. Ross in the background, and to laud Capt. Smith of the regular army, he has allowed himself to be betrayed into the political indiscretion of doing more than justice to the regular troops at the expense of the volunteer force, by bestowing unqualified praise upon them while he attributes the defeat of Captain Smith's well-laid plans to improper conduct on the part of the volunteers. If the editor of the Statesman was misled by false representations to do an unintentional injustice to the brave volunteers engaged in that hard-fought and bloody battle, more destructive and bloody than the battle of Okee Chobee, in Florida, in proportion to the number in the field, why has he not done them justice in his paper of Saturday last, after having been forced to admit that he has been imposed upon by his southern correspondents.--Why has he not mentioned in terms of commendation the gallantry of Captains Bailey, Breese, Rinearson, Gordon, Williams, Harris and Wilson, all of whom are justly entitled to as much credit as the editor has awarded so willingly to Captain Smith. Everybody on the ground knows that the commander, Col. Ross, was more exposed than Capt. Smith, and if it was "surprising," as alleged by the Statesman, that Capt. Smith escaped unhurt, it is still more "surprising" that Col. Ross was not shot down, and yet there is no mention by the Statesman of his having been on the ground. It is well known to everybody in Rogue River Valley that Maj. Fitzgerald had no opportunity afforded him while in the valley for a display of his acknowledged gallantry. He was not in the battle of "Grave Creek Hills," being prevented by sickness, but his company was, under command of their orderly, the Lieutenant being left in the rear with the baggage. The company did not distinguish themselves above any one company of volunteers on the ground, and yet hear what is said in the Statesman last Saturday, editorially, of them, while no one of the volunteer companies under command of Col. Ross has ever been complimented with a notice of the fact that they were in the fight:
"Maj. Fitzgerald's command left here Tuesday morning, en route for the Dalles. The Major and his men have won a high fame south for gallantry and bravery, and the people in that section part with them reluctantly. We noticed that a large share of the men were 'domned furriners'."
* * *"Speech of Dr. A. G. Henry," December 3, 1855, photocopy in the Rogue River Indian War vertical file, Southern Oregon Historical Society
[Dr. Edgar B. Stone] swears that there were not on the ground, during the battle of Grave Creek Hills, to exceed forty Indians, including squaws and children; he knows there could not have been more than this number, all told, FOR HE SAW AND COUNTED THEM. He also expresses the confident opinion that Col. Ross and Capt. Smith "went into the battle with the fixed and settled purpose of being whipped."
* * *
At the hazard of wearying your patience, I must notice the implied, if not distinct, charge of cowardice displayed by Col. Ross and Capt. Smith in the battle of Grave Creek Hills, made by Capt. Tichenor on the authority of Lieut. Kautz and his party, of Port Orford, who took part in the engagement; and which has been endorsed and so severely commented on by Mr. Smith. The statement of Mr. Tichenor is that Lieut. Kautz and his party of ten men had fought the same band of Indians a few days previous to the battle of Grave Creek Hills, for several hours; while securing a safe and orderly retreat; removing from their pack animals their ammunition, lest it fall into the hands of the Indians during the fight, the moment they were attacked; and he confirms the statement of Stone as to the probable number of Indians that whipped Col. Ross and Capt. Smith with their 324 men; and Capt. Smith is represented as having committed the capital error of attempting a charge with the dragoons under his command, through thick tall brush, where he met with his principal loss. All I have to say about this is that nothing of all this was talked of on the ground, or before or after the fight, to my knowledge; and while I do not claim any great credit for the result of that long, protracted and hard-fought battle, I must be permitted to say that so far as I had an opportunity of judging, the officers and men behaved on that occasion with quite as much gallantry as was to have been expected under the circumstances. The failure to rout and destroy them was attributable to the number and strong position of the enemy, and not, as has been so confidently charged, want of courage and generalship on the part of officers and men.
FIGHT AT COW [CREEK] CANYON, ROGUE RIVER--
EIGHTEEN WHITE MEN KILLED AND WOUNDED--
400 SOLDIERS FORCED TO RETREAT!
(From the Yreka Union (extra), Nov. 5.)
Captain Pierce [Bruce?] communicated the startling intelligence this morning of a pitched battle having been fought at Cow Creek Canyon, Rogue River Valley, on Wednesday last, between about 300 Indians and 400 regulars and volunteers, under Captain Smith, U.S. army, of Fort Lane. The fight commenced at 1 o'clock p.m., and continued till ten--the Indians retreating all the time and firing back upon the whites. At length it was deemed necessary that steps be taken to provide for the wounded, and a halt was ordered, when the Indians rallied and commenced firing upon the men, to whom prudence dictated the course of retiring to an open space, where a more effectual stand could be made, which they accordingly did. It was then ascertained that eighteen of the Captain's men had been killed and twenty-five wounded--some mortally, others dangerously, and a few slightly. A message was then dispatched to Captain [Abel] George, at Althouse, who started immediately with eighty volunteer recruits. He would join Captain Smith on Thursday, at an early hour, when it is expected that a renewal of the encounter will take place.
On Thursday last a scouting party of six returned with intelligence that about two hundred and fifty Indians were in the vicinity of the heads of Antelope and Butte creeks. Captain Thomas Smith, with about one hundred men, immediately started out, and it is feared that a serious encounter would take place. The attack, it is expected, would be made on Saturday or Sunday last. News of the result is hourly expected.
Louisville Courier, Louisville, Kentucky, December 15, 1855, page 2
Roseburg Feb. 15 / 56Lt. Col. Martin
Comd. Northern Bat. S. Division O.M.V.
Sir--As your request for the benefit of the Adjt. Gen. came so late after the loss of the journal of my proceedings from the 25th of Oct. to the 7th Dec., I must say that I am unable to make out a full report or anything else that would be in any way satisfactory to the Adjt. General, but at the same time will give you a few of the details entirely from memory & it may be sufficient to answer the purposes of the department.
Co. D organized at Deer Creek Douglas Co. on the 24th of Oct. of last year & elected officers on the next evening. At 2 o'clock we took up the line of march toward the frontier & camped at the house of I. B. Nichols on Cow Creek, after having traveled 28 miles. The next day we were placed in possession of news that Capt. Smith of the regular army with Col. Ross of the Jackson Co. forces had through their spies discovered the locality of the enemy. We made a forced march during the night through the Canyon & camped at Camp Elliff (rained hard, without tents). The 27th we joined Capt. Smith & Ross at the Grave Creek House & recd. rations from Capt. Smith, which by the by were very acceptable, as we had no commissary or quartermaster to administer to our wants & for which we were under many obligations to him, as the men & horses were both well worn out. Then at 11 o'clock we took up the line of march to Camp Bailey, with an express order for the Capt. to leave with a guide sent to take us to a certain position in the neighborhood of the camp of the Indians, where arriving found to our extreme regret that the Indians had removed their quarters, which rather had the effect of dampening the ardor of a good many who had trudged up the mountain a distance of 12 miles from the camp (Bailey) on foot. But in a few moments after the fog had been cleared up by the winds (weather very cool) cattle were discovered on the mountains, and the men again becoming anxious started at a pace that was altogether unnecessary & placed a great many of them in a situation to be entirely useless during the day. After finding the Indians we were told by them to come on. The result of our search was the battle of the Grave Creek Hills, which lasted two days or a part of two, during which time the men suffered a great deal for the want of water & provisions, a great many being without water 30 hours and provisions for 50.
After our return from that battle, having three wounded men in charge, we left according to your order of Nov. 2nd for this valley & proceeded to dispose of my men to render the settlements upon the frontier more secure. I placed a detachment of twenty-five men near W. H. Riddle's & twenty in 10 Mile Prairie and 15 near the house of Watson on the North Umpqua, having an eye to grazing for our animals as a matter of economy, during which time orders were received by you for the establishing of winter qtrs. at or near the house of Riddle on Cow Creek, where we commenced the building of such houses as could make us comfortable, but from the scarcity of timber & the extreme poverty of the cattle to assist us in our operations, that the expenses were greater then by far than 'twas my intention to have made them.
Remaining in our quarters until about the first of Dec., taking an occasional scout, I recd. an order from Adjt. Stratton to proceed immediately to the Little Meadows on Rogue River & having gotten so far as the Canion an expressman came to me with the news that the Indians were killing stock & doing other mischief on the mountains above the valley. I immediately returned & followed on their trail & dividing my company, a part of them came upon the Indians at the ranch of Mr. Brockway & were shooting his stock down in his lot. The three men in the house were relieved, but being so near night that nothing could be done, in the morning we followed them within a few hundred yards of our camp & found that they had left the settlements & crossed the mountains. I sent a detachment of twenty men upon this trail, but the inclemency of the weather & the deep snow that fell during the scout entirely obliterated every mark.
You will find this very imperfect as regards dates, but so far as facts are related true. You will present my warmest regards to the Adjt. Gen. & also that of the company under my command & are sorry that we have not been the means of more usefulness to our country. You will also receive the same from yourself upon our going out of the service, and with this you will please accept my resignation as Capt. of Co. D, Douglas Co., O.M.V., hoping you will be more successful in your future operations than we have been in ours.
Most respectfullyOregon State Archives, Yakima and Rogue River War, Document File B, Reel 2, Document 508.
Deer Creek, Feb. 1856.Editor Statesman--About two weeks ago Dr. Ambrose Ambrose sent two Indians of Sam's band to the Meadows, to learn the fate of the prisoners. Their report is that Mrs. Wagoner was killed in the house, Mrs. Haines and child were made prisoners; the former died within two weeks subsequent to their capture; they kept the latter for some two months but upon hearing of the capture and murder of two squaws by the whites, they subjected the child to massacre, also a half breed. The force at the Meadows has been reinforced by 300 Klamaths, making the present force at the Meadows 650. They are well fortified and are ready to fight. They have lost 18 warriors, 6 at Hungry Hill, 9 at Wagoner's ranch, and 3 at Jumpoff Joe.
They are willing to make a treaty, but it must be upon their own terms.
"Douglas," in "Umpqua Correspondence of the Statesman," Oregon Statesman, Salem, February 26, 1856, page 2
On the evening of the 30th of October, the editor, accompanied by Lieut. A. V. Kautz, 4th Infantry, and their united commands,(4) marched from Fort Lane to join Captain Smith, who had preceded them to the Grave Creek House on the California and Oregon trail, with his dragoons.(5) The editor there also found a force of volunteers, which had been hastily organized from the settlers, under Colonel Ross. At midnight the troops moved, in two divisions by different routes, towards the Indian camp, the location of which had been ascertained by our scouts. The ascent of the mountains was steep and fatiguing, and delays and detentions occurred, to both the regulars and volunteers; and owing to the latter, in the dark and thick forest, taking the wrong trail, both the divisions of the forces came upon the same side, instead of, as intended, opposite sides of the enemy's camp. Detained as the regulars had been, they were further delayed by the execution of the attack by the failure of their allies to come to time and place, and thus it was that the anticipated surprise came to naught, and that daylight broke upon the hills before we struck the Indians--only to find them on the alert and ready for the combat. The first onset of the troops drove the Indians from the crest of the ridge into the cover and shelter of the trees and chaparral of the descending slope. Concealed in this excellent covert and stripped for the fight, they quickly checked our progress by their telling fire, which laid hors de combat a large number of the troops. Shelter and cover was speedily sought in the chaparral, and the fight was continued with ill success to the troops throughout the day. The fire of the Indians told with great effect; wherever a man exposed himself he was dropped with unerring accuracy by an Indian rifle--hitting wherever was seen a head. The regulars and a portion of the volunteers held to their ground and fought as well as was possible against an almost "sight unseen" enemy, and hampered by an enforced resort to Indian methods or tactics, but the far greater portion of our redoubtable allies abandoned the field and left us alone in our glory of action. Just before nightfall the command withdrew to the base of the hill, where there was a fine spring of water, and after a scanty repast sought rest and slumber on the cold, hard ground. We had scarcely partaken of our meager breakfast early the next morning (November 1) when the Indians, whilst their women and children were seeking safety by moving to another rancheria, made a descent upon us, and were received by our pickets with a desultory fire. The camp thus aroused, the editor moved from the campfire and deployed his detachment for the fight; and whilst under the partial cover of a low bush, he saw the smoke of a rifle emerge from the crotch of a tree a little higher up the ascent, and felt something with a dull thud penetrate his right leg. Springing to his feet from the ground on which he sat, the editor limped to the campfire where our amateur surgeon was kindly caring for the wounded, and presented himself for examination. The surgeon quickly ripped the clothing apart, examined and dressed the wound, which was found to be through the right thigh, barely escaping the femoral artery. The conflict lasted several hours, and the Indians, towards noon, withdrew to join their women and children. In the two days of conflict the Indian loss was small, but the whites suffered heavily; the writer does not remember the total loss, but that in his own detachment was five (or more) killed and wounded--out of thirty-five. Late in the afternoon, the troops moved towards the settlements, the wounded being carried on horses and mules, and made as comfortable as possible. The steep, rough descent of the trail of fifteen miles--ofttimes a narrow path along an abrupt hillside, or lined with a tangled chaparral, with which the wounded came constantly in contact--made the march a very painful one to all, as some of the wounded could not restrain the outcries provoked by their sufferings from this cause and from their wounds. After midnight we reached the Grave Creek House, where we found the surgeon from Fort Lane, Dr. Charles H. Crane(6), who took charge of the wounded, and to his kind and skillful care (then and later on) the editor is indebted for his speedy recovery from the effects of his wound. The wounded were carried in wagons to Fort Lane or to their homes in the vicinity.
(4) Detachment of Company H, 3rd Artillery, under this officer, which had just arrived from Fort Orford; en route it had been attacked by these Indians just after they started on the warpath, and Kautz, in the engagement was struck in the breast by a Minie ball [sic] and escaped injury or death by its hitting his memorandum book, in which he kept his daily journal or diary--a habit of many years, if not of his life. Kautz was afterward a Brigadier-General in the late war, and is now Colonel 8th Infantry, and Brevet Major-General.
(5) Troops C and E, 1st Dragoons--the garrison of Fort Lane; the latter commanded by Lieut. Benj. Allston, its captain, Brevet Major E. H. Fitzgerald, being left sick at Fort Lane.
(6) Afterwards Surgeon-General in the Army, and now deceased [1825-1883].
Horatio Gates Gibson, originally printed in the Army and Navy Journal sometime after 1884, transcribed from a reprint in the collections of the U.S. Military Academy Library, West Point. Serialized in the Medford Mail Tribune April 13 (page B1), April 27 (page B1) and May 4, 1930 (page B5). The beginning of the article can be found transcribed here.
Lieutenant Kautz, 4th Infantry, had left Fort Orford with a detachment of ten men to reconnoiter a road from Fort Orford to Fort Lane. Ignorant of the existing war, he came suddenly upon an encampment of Indians on the dividing ridge between Cow Creek and Grave Creek. The movements of the Indians were hostile, and he prepared for an attack. The Indians fired first, and the fire was returned. The skirmish lasted for half an hour, when the Indians succeeded in flanking his party and bringing down the Lieutenant and two of his men. A panic seized the rest and they fled. The two men were killed instantly; the Lieutenant escaped with a slight wound, the ball having been prevented from taking effect by a memorandum book in a pocket on his right side. Unable to rally his men, they retreated and made their escape with the loss of all their mules and everything except their arms and the notes of the reconnaissance. They reached Harkness' station, on the Oregon road, twelve miles distant, at two o'clock at night. He sent an express to Major Fitzgerald, who was then stationed at Evans' Ferry, twenty miles distant. He arrived that evening. On the 27th they went upon the ground where Lieutenant Kautz had fallen in with them. The Indians had removed their camp along the ridge about three miles. The bodies of the two men were found scalped and mangled, and were buried by the troops. The camp which the Indians had given up indicated that they had been collected in considerable numbers and in a very favorable position for defense, and the Major decided that he would not attack them, as his command of seventy men was not considered large enough for a complete success, the desire being to overthrow the Indians at a blow. Captain Smith arrived at Harkness' station on the evening of the 27th, and took command. Major Fitzgerald returned to Fort Lane sick, as his constitution is very feeble. Information was sent to all the volunteers in the valley, and Captain Smith concentrated all his regular force, amounting in all to about one hundred and thirty regular troops. Colonel Ross arrived on the evening of the 30th, increasing the united forces of regulars and volunteers to near four hundred. A plan of battle was decided upon to attack the Indians on four sides, and on the night of the 30th, about 12 o'clock, they all moved. They came upon the old camp where Lieutenant Kautz had met the Indians, and three of the parties found themselves together. It was now daylight, but not too late, however, to separate the commands. But the guide having pointed out the position of the Indians, the officers in command decided that there were no Indians. The guide insisted that they were there and that it was necessary to move immediately. Still they delayed, although one party had gone to the westward, and it was necessary that the other three should cooperate. It was a cold, foggy morning, and the men built fires. No sooner had the smoke begun to ascend than the opposite hill was alive with Indians, collecting their stock and preparing for an attack. The volunteers, with their usual disregard of order, set out down into the gulch that intervened and up the opposite side, instead of continuing along the ridge, which made quite a bend. It was fifteen hundred feet down and as many up again. The guide proposed to Capt. Smith to keep on the ridge, but he followed the volunteers, and they were completely worn out when they came upon the Indians. The attack was made on the east side along the ridge, and the other party having come in on the south side, the Indians gave up their camp upon a knoll and having sent their women and children with their stock along the ridge to the westward, they defended their retreat by taking up a position just over the next kink in the ridge, where they could command the knoll they had abandoned. The south side of the ridge was covered with heavy timber and dense undergrowth. The ardor of the volunteers was checked by seeing two or three of their companions fall. There was no order or system in the attack; the troops were mixed up without regard to corps or companies; the officers did not pretend to exercise any control, and a system of skirmishing was kept up by about thirty volunteers and as many regulars for several hours without making any advance upon the Indians; the others were behind, and it was in vain that those in advance called upon those in the rear to come on. Some of the volunteers actually left the field in the first onset, and never returned. Capt. Smith tried to get up several charges, but as he did not lead them himself, and that alley were in reality impracticable from the thickness of the brush, as an Indian could fire twice before the party making a charge could advance fifty yards; and even if the Indian was routed out of his position, he had only to retreat a few yards and his position was as good as the one he abandoned, and so for almost any distance. The regulars lost two men and six wounded in these charges. Having marched all night and fought all morning, without breakfast and without water, by noon even the few who did fight in this disorderly engagement were worn out, and gradually hauled off, and only random shots were exchanged during the afternoon. The train had been left some three miles back with three days' provisions on the old camp ground of the Indians, but no arrangement being made to bring up the train, they had to camp that night without provisions, and for the sake of water they moved off into a little gulch, and left the battlefield to the Indians. The night was cold and wet, and with nothing to refresh them but the water from the dirty little spring, and little brush fires, it seemed interminably long, for it was impossible to sleep, the sides of the gulch being so steep that the men with difficulty could get a foothold. The camp had nothing to recommend it but the water, and almost everyone felt that an attack during night would prove very fatal. So strong did this feeling prevail that about eight or nine o'clock in the night a sentinel with his revolver cocked, either in the tremor of the cold or his own fears, pulled the trigger too hard--it went off, the report created a general stampede and sound that [men] scrambled over the wounded regardless of their shrieks; a dreamy volunteer thus suddenly disturbed snatched a gun; it proved to be a musketoon with a ball and three buckshot; and he fired at what his imagination conceived to be the foe, and succeeded in inflicting a very respectable wound each on three of his volunteer companions. Order was restored and nothing more transpired that night. But at daylight the next morning the Indians made an attack on the whites, and for two hours a fire was kept up, wherein the loss of the whites was but light--Lieut. Gibson, 3rd Artillery, was wounded; the loss of the Indians was greater, but probably not over two killed or wounded. The arrival of a large company of volunteers, mounted, from the Willamette Valley, compelled the Indians to retire. The wounded were then put on litters or on horseback and between twelve and one they left that ill-fought field to the Indians and reached Harkness' station on the morning of the 2d of November, between two and three o'clock, not having eaten or slept since they left it on the night of the 30th. The whites lost in all ten killed and twenty-seven wounded. Two of those killed were shot by our own men, and a third killed himself. Two others, besides the three wounded in the night stampede, were also wounded by our own men, and the surgeons who have attended the wounded gave it as their opinion that many more of the wounded were sufferers in the same way. The regulars and volunteers were to organize again about the 9th for another fight. They may find the Indians and they may not; at any rate, they will be more difficult to conquer now than then, and it is not difficult to predict a second defeat. It is not thought that there is any combination between the Rogue River Indians and those on the east side of the Cascade Range. The Indian force in the above engagement is variously estimated from seventy to one hundred and fifty. U.S.
"Our California Correspondence," New York Herald, January 31, 1856, page 3
Edward Sheffield, "Late from the South," Weekly Oregonian, Portland, February 2, 1856, page 2
Since the opening of the war some six months ago, the public have learned some lessons on the merits of Indian fighting in a mountainous, broken country. It is here, as at common law, the thief has to be caught before he can be hung, and the catching proves to be the most difficult part of the business. Hitherto the Indians have got the better in almost every engagement between them and the whites, and to account for these humiliating results we cannot do better than describe the general character of these engagements in the words of our occasional correspondent, Dr. E. B. Stone:
"Small detachments have sallied out into the mountains to engage the Indians. But what is the consequence when we find them:
"A few men, wearied and worn down from fatigue in ascending and descending mountains, find the foe. The Indians choose an almost impenetrable jungle or mountain fastness, skulking under cover. The fight commences. In order to get a shot at an Indian, it is necessary to approach very near them, rendering a large white man a conspicuous target for the unerring aim of the Indian. The report of an Indian's gun is heard, the smoke ascends, and the bullet pierces, either killing or wounding. We shoot at the smoke. It is not prudent to charge a jungle, and it is thought prudent to retreat in order to take care for the wounded and the dead. We look around and find that we have sustained a loss, dead or wounded, of about one-tenth of our number, our supplies are scant, and we are from 30 to 50 miles, as the case has been, distant for reinforcements. Policy dictates our return to the fort. Litters are prepared and the wounded and dead are packed in upon the shoulders of their brothers. We arrive at the fort--the dead find a resting place, the wounded cared for, and the soldier damns the luck."
"Fighting Indians," Crescent City Herald, March 19, 1856, page 2
INDIAN WAR IN OREGON.--The last news from California, it will be recollected, brought us accounts of a serious war in Oregon, and of a battle between four hundred regulars and volunteers and some three hundred Indians, in which the former, after nine hours hard fighting, were compelled to retreat. The fact of an American force being forced to retreat before a lesser number of Indians ought to have made the California people a little wary about believing such foolish gossip; but they were not, and the story has had a run all over the country. The account, as first published, was contained in an extra from the Yreka paper of 5th November, and went on to state that on the 31st ult. Capt. Smith, U.S.A., had this engagement with the Indians. Now the truth is, letters have been received in this city by his family from Capt. Smith himself, and dated as late as the 6th of November, in which he does not even allude to any battle with the Indians. He was at Fort Lane, and his letters were mailed at Jacksonville. If an engagement lasting nine hours, and costing the lives of so many men, had taken place, certainly he would have mentioned so novel a circumstance in his familiar letters. But he did not do it, and we look upon the account of the battle as an unadulterated hoax, gotten up to force the government to send additional troops to that region.--St. Louis Republican.
We cut the above from the St. Louis Republican in order that our readers may know something of the tricks practiced upon the government for the purpose of getting the government troops sent to the Territories. Nearly all the reports put in circulation of Indian depredations, Indians murdering white men &c., are either totally false, or gross exaggerations. The story of this Indian war has had the desired effect, for we see by the papers that Col. Wright, U.S.A., with 900 men, has been dispatched to Oregon to protect the inhabitants from the Indians. Our Territorial brethren feel much more deeply interested in the money expended by the U.S. troops than they do in receiving their protection.--Ohio State Journal.
We don't know why Capt. Smith didn't mention the fight at Hungry Hill (called so because the troops were in the engagement for forty-eight hours with nothing to eat) on the 31st of October and 1st of November, but we know that he was in it, and a disastrous contest it proved to be. The false representations contained in the above extracts were gathered from the California papers.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, April 8, 1856, page 2
A few days afterwards the Indians were discovered in force, and Maj. Martin's battalion (300), with a company of regulars under Col. Ross, marched to the attack. The Indians had chosen a position on a high mountain and were in two ravines, separated by a narrow ridge. The volunteers rushed recklessly into the angle of their position, when a crossfire was opened on them, telling with deadly effect. At night the troops withdrew from the field with a loss of 15 killed and 20 wounded. It was a perfect failure. The next morning the Indians attacked them in their camp, but were repulsed by a short contest. A general retreat was ordered and the Indians remained in undisputed possession of the mountains.
In consequence of this shameful mismanagement on the part of the officers, the citizens were subjected to the necessity of fortifying their houses and depending on themselves for protection.
Isaac A. Flint, "From Oregon," Hornellsville Weekly Tribune, New York, April 24, 1856, page 2
Lieut. Allen, who has been in Capt. Williams' company in the Klamath Lake campaign against the Modoc Indians, visited us the other day. He looks as well as could be expected, having suffered considerable from the effects of a wound he received at Hungry Hill, on the 31st of October last, while a private in Capt. Harris' company of volunteers.
Table Rock Sentinel, Jacksonville, October 25, 1856, page 2
On the 31st of October and 1st of November, 1855, just one year ago, was fought one of the severest battles between the whites and Indians that has ever taken place on this coast. The regulars and volunteers, numbering some four hundred and fifty men, were commanded by Capt. A. J. Smith, of the U.S.A., and Col. John E. Ross of the Oregon volunteers. The Indians, some six or eight hundred in number, commanded by the chiefs Limpy, George and John, occupied a strong position in the Grave Creek Hills, near the head of Whisky Creek. The battle commenced about 10 o'clock on the morning of the 31st by the whites attacking the Indians. The Indians were driven from their position and retreated into a heavily timbered canyon where, concealed behind trees and logs, their shots told with terrible effect upon their pursuers. The fight lasted all day, without either party being the victors. Forty men were killed and wounded. During the night the Indians burned the dead and removed their wounded, squaws and stock, and on the morning of the 1st they attacked the camp of the whites, and continued fighting till 12 o'clock when, a heavy fog coming on, the Indians, under its cover, drew off and retreated down Whisky Creek to the Meadows on Rogue River. On the second day but one man was wounded. Not having any provision, and being encumbered with so many wounded, it was impossible to follow the Indians, and the whites returned to the settlements, having got rather the worst of the fight. For forty-eight hours they had had nothing to eat, and had been without sleep for two nights, hence the name of the battleground--"Hungry Hill."
The dead that were buried on the ground were dug up by the Indians and their bodies mutilated in a horrible manner. Mrs. Haines and her little girl, a child of six years of age, were prisoners with the Indians, and were taken by them to the Meadows, where, sometime during the winter, the little girl died, and Mrs. Haines was hung!
The battle took place before any instructions from Gen. Wool could have been received by the officers in command of the regular forces in Southern Oregon, after the commencement of hostilities, and the regulars and volunteers fought shoulder to shoulder against the common enemy. It was the only engagement of any importance, during the war south, where there was any cooperation between the volunteers and regulars. Gen. Wool now calls those who fought with his brother officer, Capt. Smith, murderers and assassins. He would fain have the world believe that Oregon is peopled by the most graceless set of vagabonds that ever disgraced the name of man.
"But this eternal blazon may not be."Weekly Oregonian, Portland, November 1, 1856, page 2
in Battle with the Indians in Grave Creek Hills
on the 31st of October & the 1st of November 1855
Capt. Bailey's Company
Capt. Harris' Company
Capt. Bruce's Company
Capt. Welton's Company
Capt. Williams' Company
The wounded were all brought in from the battlefield last evening, and made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances--and are now all doing well, especially those taken to the "Six Bit" Hospital where quarters were prepared for them in accordance with your order. It is much to be regretted that owing to a misapprehension of your order or some other cause the wounded of Captains Harris, Welton & Bruce were taken to Grave Creek House where no provision had been made for their recuperation.
We have here three rooms with fires, and when the supplies furnished on your order, and which are expected tomorrow, are received, we shall be able to afford the sick & wounded every comfort that can be reasonably desired.
9th Reg. Oregon Militia
This is the battle that was published in numerous papers in different portions of the United States as being nothing but a farce, gotten up by us for the purpose of creating a sympathetic feeling in our behalf that we might be sure of being paid for our services, and that no such battle was ever fought. How shameful that there are men in this Territory, holding high and responsible stations, who are so lost to a sense of truth and veracity, and so ungenerous, as to represent matters in a light which has led men to such erroneous conclusions.
"The War in Oregon," Evening Star, Washington, D.C., February 4, 1857, page 1
August 23rd  O.T.
You must think strange that I do not write to you. But you know that I am a poor hand to write. You will have to excuse me. I will now endeavor to comply with your request and give you a statement in answer to your letter of March 29th, 1857 relative to the Hungry Hill or Bloody Spring fight. You know in what condition the troops of the 9th Regiment was placed at the time we received the information of the Indians being in the Grave Creek Mountains and of Lieut. Kautz' defeat, Major Fitzgerald's discovery of Indians, his message to Fort Lane & the volunteers. I received the message verbally, when on march to Galice Creek near Fort Lane, that the Indians were discovered in large force on the Grave Creek Mountains, and that Capt. Smith was a making a forced march and desired me to join him with as many men as possible. The troops that was with me I ordered to Grave Creek to join Capt. Smith's command of regulars. I sent expresses to such of the companies of the 9th Regiment as I thought could be able to get to that place in time for the engagement. Capt. Bruce and several of his men volunteered to go as spies and reconnoiter the mountains and discover the locality of the Indians. They joined Capt. Smith's spies, went together in the mountains, discovered the Indians, drew a map of the location of [the] Indians' camp and surrounding country, returned the same day to the Grave Creek House, the place of encampment. I proceeded by the way of Vannoy's to Galice Creek with J. H. Hillman, Isaac Miller & Wagoner, my express carrier, to see that Capt. Lewis and his wounded men was cared for. I met Capt. Lewis and his wounded several miles below Vannoy's fort, returned to Vannoy's, provided for the wounded men by placing them in the charge of Dr. Miller. Then with what men I could gather I hastened to join the command at Grave Creek. I arrived at Grave Creek about (8) eight o'clock in the evening. I had hardly got into the house when I was met by Capt. Smith who seized me by the arm and said I am glad to see you here; we have no time to spare, we must proceed to business and led me to a back room in which Capt. Smith and his officers and the volunteer officers was all in council together, all acting in concert and harmony together. The matter under consideration was the process of making a forced march that night. The spies was called in. They gave a description of the country, and produced a map they had taken of the Indians' locality and surrounding country, which was examined and approved by all the spies that were out; it was then concluded and agreed upon to make a forced march that night. The order was written by Captain A. J. Smith and carried by my aide to the different companies. It was then about half past ten o’clock at night and the order was to march at 11 o’clock the same night. The order was sent to the two companies of Major Martin's battalion and Captain Bailey & Gordon there in camp at the Six Bit House, also with guides and instruction what part of the country to occupy, and the plan of attack was given and explained. The hour came and the forced march commenced at near 12 o’clock at night, over rough mountains and deep dark canyons, through thickets, across streams, wandering our way through the darkness of night. All in silence to try if possible to surprise the enemy. Regulars and volunteers marched together. After some eight or ten miles of our march was made a halt was called. Capts. Bruce and Harris with their respective companies here turned to the left, supposing them to be in the neighborhood of the Indians' camp and occupy a position on the southwest of the Indians. Supposing that that would be rather in the rear, I proceeded with Capt. Smith & his command with a portion of Capts. Williams' & Welton's companies to a certain point, the place of Lieut. Kautz' defeat. We arrived there about one hour before day and was obliged to make a halt. Capt. Smith could not proceed for some time, owing to some of his officers being very much fatigued and not able to march. We was detained here some two hours. In that time, someone contrary to orders set fire to a tree, the smoke of which was discovered by the Indians and the alarm given. They at once prepared to give battle. In the meantime, our scouts discovered the Indians in large force about three miles distant across a deep canyon on a high mountain, waiting our arrival. About this time, Capts. Gordon & Bailey of Major Martin's battalion, also Capt. Rinearson with a part of his company, came up. They should have followed a trail farther to the north, but on they come charging through the woods hooping & hollering inquiring for the Indians. There was much confusion owing to the fire being started, and the troops never being brought together before.
It was "Hurrah, boys yonder is the Indians." The men broke in disorder down the mountain through the thick brush, everyone striving who should be able to get to the top of the mountain first to engage the Indians, volunteer and regular all striving to get the first shot. The attack was commenced by Capt. Rinearson and Welton with a portion of them from various companies, some regulars. It was on the summit of a high mountain, the south side being bald with some underbrush, the north side of the mountain being large timber and thick underbrush in which the Indians fell back as our men approached. They concealed themselves and poured their deadly fire as our men approached.
I had advised Capts. Bailey & Gordon to flank on the north side, which had to be done on a steep mountainside through heavy timber and thick underbrush. After some time trying, they failed, got several men wounded and returned to the place of attack. The firing continued fierce at that place.
Capts. Bruce and Harris, that should have flanked on the south and west, lay concealed on a point some four hundred yards south of the place of attack, supposing the Indians would retreat in that way and they would stand a chance to cut them off, but failing, they came up and fell in at the place of attack. The firing had become general without cessation for some four hours. I was in company with Capt. Smith often through the day. About three o'clock, he asked me what I thought of making a charge. I told him that as soon as we could hear from Bailey & Gordon that was to flank on the north it would do, but until they opened their fire, it was no use. They failed & returned. Smith then made his charge, which was done with but few men. They fired some four or five rounds and was obliged to fall back with a loss of several men killed & wounded. Regular & volunteer shared the same fate. The Indians maintained their ground all day. We held ours all day.
About sundown I selected our camp some three hundred yards from the place of fighting at a spring which we called Bloody Spring. Here we drew off to in good order, bringing our dead & wounded. All camped together, regular & volunteer, in harmony. I was with Capt. Smith often through the night. We counciled together and the Capt. proposed to strengthening our morning guard which [was] done by adding forty men more, which was done. At daylight the Indians made an attack on our camp, wounding Lieut. Gibson of the regulars. At first there was much confusion, but after a short time, I got the men placed and they soon made the red devils travail.
You will please glean from this what you can for publication, if there is anything of consequence, and oblige
YoursB. F. Dowell Papers, Bancroft Library Mss. P-A 137
J. E. Ross
Per C. S. Drew
Here is another instance I will relate. At a hill known as Hungry Hill, the Indians took possession of the hill, and a regular officer led his command against the hill; he fought them from morning until night, and with a larger force than the Indians had, until he lost a considerable portion of his command, and had to retire at nightfall, leaving the Indians in possession of the hill.
Senator Joe Lane, May 30, 1860, The Congressional Globe, First Session of the Thirty-Sixth Congress, May 31, 1860, page 2471
GENERAL A. J. SMITH.--This officer is rapidly acquiring distinction in the service of his country, and to him is awarded the credit of retrieving the disaster brought upon Banks' army by the indiscretion of General Stone, and handsomely whipping the Rebel forces under Kirby Smith. General Smith was for many years in California and Oregon, a Captain of Dragoons in the regular army, and was esteemed by all who knew him for his manly and soldierly qualities. He commanded a detachment of regulars during the Indian war of 1855 and 1856, in Southern Oregon, and participated in the fight at Hungry Hill, which would doubtless have proved disastrous to the volunteers engaged in it but for his persevering courage. A detachment of volunteers afterward saved his scalp when he with a handful of regulars was surrounded and sore beset by the redskins, in a canyon at the Big Meadows, on Rogue River. Before that time he had rather a contemptuous opinion of the volunteers, but afterwards he always spoke of them with respect. He was under Grant until after the fall of Vicksburg, when he was transferred to Banks' conmand.
Shasta Courier, May 7, 1864, page 2
Indians had been arrested by the United States troops at Fort Lane, and turned over to the civil authorities of California, who, it is presumed, gave them a fair trial. Of course everybody in this section is excited--all sorts of reports are circulating about small parties being cut off, but I have lived in an Indian country too long to put confidence in more than one twentieth part of the Indian atrocities that are reported.
* * *November 6th, 1855.--A week ago news was brought here that Lieutenant Kautz and party, who were surveying a road between this place and Fort Lane, and a company from the mouth of Rogue River, who were looking out a road between that point and Yreka, were cut off by the Indians, and that the hostile bands from above were within a day's march of the village at the mouth of Rogue River, which they intended to attack--thence proceed to take Port Orford. This rumor created a universal stampede among the whites who reside at Port Orford, and the mouth of Rogue River. Their scare alarmed the friendly Indians around here, and the few acts of precaution that they were induced to take from fear were construed by the frightened whites as indications of hostilities. . . . November 19th, 1855.--For the last fortnight the weather has been exceedingly unpleasant -- raining almost incessantly, with strong winds from the southwest. We have been looking out for the mail steamer during the whole of this time, but on account of the storm she has probably been afraid to venture in. We have thus been entirely cut off from news; at least till last night; which is a great privation during these exciting times. However, the firing of cannon in the little village near here yesterday afternoon indicated something new; and on looking out of our window we found it to be a salute to the return of Lieutenant Kautz and party, who had been reported lost. This was cheering news--for we had grown very anxious about his safety--particularly as he had gone through the heart of a hostile Indian country with only ten men and a guide, and had overstayed his time three weeks. On his way to Fort Lane, and when within forty-five miles of that place, he accidentally came upon a hostile band of Indians, who attacked him, and killed two of his men, and wounded another and himself. He made good his retreat to Bates' Station, where he arrived on the night of the twenty-fifth of October. Leaving his men there, he immediately proceeded to Fort Lane for reinforcements. Brevet-Major E. H. Fitzgerald, with sixty men of that post, was ordered to proceed against the Indians; but on arriving at the ground he found them so safely posted that it would have been useless to make an attack upon them with his command. After reporting these circumstances to the commanding officer at Fort Lane, Captain Andrew J. Smith, the whole of the force at that post, about one hundred and twenty men, and some two hundred and twenty-five volunteers, were got in readiness and marched against the Indians. They arrived on the ground on the thirtieth of October, and after fighting the Indians for nearly two days, and finding it impossible to dislodge them, gave up the attack. They intended making another effort on the ninth of this month.
Rodney Glisan, Journal of Army Life, 1874, pages 258-263
ANOTHER SCRAP OF HISTORY.
The following poem was written by a soldier belonging to one of the volunteer companies which participated in the battle of "Hungry Hill," fought in the Rogue River War of 1855-6. It was the severest engagement of that sanguinary conflict. The regulars were commanded by Capt. Smith, and he lost about 30 men, killed outright on the field of battle. The Indians were under their war chief, "Limpy," well known to all the early settlers of Southern Oregon. The poem, or song, rather, was recently found by Dr. Meredith of this city, who was a comrade of the poet, among his old papers, and we give it publication now principally on account of the fact that it was written by a soldier by the light of the campfire, directly after the battle of "Hungry Hill" was fought--a battle of the early times, and though so bloody, now, like the battle of Abiqua, almost forgotten:
A Parody on Jordan.
Come all ye soldier boys and listen to my song,
I will sing about a battle in the mountains;
We fought all day till near sundown,
But we never reached the other side of Jordan.
CHORUS--So off with your boots and roll up your sleeves,
For Limpy am some in a battle;
So off with your boots and roll up your sleeves,
For Limpy am some in a battle I believe.
We left Grave Creek in the middle of the night,
And traveled over a road I call a hard one;
On the brow of the hill we struck a camp light,
To prepare for the other side of Jordan.
Chor.--So off with your boots, etc.
O, while the boys were eating of their beef,
Some more up the hill came a-running;
Says they, Capt. Smith, we seen two Indians, says he where,
Way over on the other side of the canyon,
Chor.--So off with your boots, etc.
Some of the boys straight across they did go,
We went a road I call a round one,
But before we got there we heard several guns,
Says I, boys, we're nigh hand to Jordan.
Chor.--So off with your boots, etc.
We pulled off our coats, and we lashed them on the packs,
And we left John Chaney to mind them;
But before he got there they all went to wrack,
And I don't believe the devil he could find them.
Chor.--So off with your boots, etc.
O, five men then were detailed
For to go back and help him;
The rest went on unto the battleground,
And there they heard the Indians a-yelping.
Chor.--So off with your boots, etc.
We sat down on the grass for to take a little rest,
For the boys were all tired a-running;
Then we got up and went down the hill,
Oh, Moses, how the bullets came a-whizzing.
Chor.--So off with your boots, etc.
I looked to the east, and I looked to the west,
I seen the dragoons a-coming;
With six men Capt. Smith made a charge,
But they never reached the other side of Jordan.
Chor.--So off with your boots, etc.
There was an old Indian, I don't know his name,
But Limpy they used for to call him,
He hallowed chic e ho, chic e ho, chic e ho ["Come on"--tauntingly],
Till they heard him on the other side of Jordan.
Chor.--So off with your boots, etc.
There were two men, I knew them very well,
Late from the battleground they started,
With an express it's from Col. Ross,
To carry to the other side of Jordan.
Chor.--So off with your boots, etc.
One got a horse at the soldiers' camp,
The other got a mule according;
They lost their road in the middle of the night,
And they never reached the other side of Jordan.
Chor.--So off with your boots, etc.
It's four dollars a day for a mule or a horse,
Four bits for a man according,
You will get your pay by the next express,
When Gen. Lane comes from Congress.
Chor.--So off with your boots, etc.
John Carroll WardOregon Statesman, Salem, March 30, 1877, page 6 Compare with the song reported sung at the battle on Evans Creek in 1853.
Athens, Menard Co., Ill.
Few have passed the stage station on Grave Creek, on the O.&C. stage road, who have not noticed a row of mounds in an open pasture on the west of the road, just north of the stage buildings. Beneath those mounds lay all that is left for earth of J. W. Miller, James Pearcy, Henry Pearl, John Winters and Jonathan A. Pedigo, a part of those who fell during the two fearful days of the battle of Hungry Hill, sixteen miles distant from that point.
Jonathan Pedigo was a young man who had but just passed his majority. During an acquaintance of six months in the mines, I did not learn anything of his former history in reference to his place of birth, parentage or relatives. My only intimacy with him was during our service in the war of 1855, from the 7th day of October to the time of his death, less than one month. Yet, during this short period, all his comrades had learned to love the name of Jonathan A. Pedigo for the great benevolent heart that beat within his bosom. Brave to a fault, ever ready to do his duty, and more. The old men of our company, of whom we had several, were relieved by his ever-ready hand from much of the rigor of Indian warfare. He would attend to their horses, and occasionally take their place on guard on a cold or rainy night. Being large and robust, his greatest pleasure seemed to be in relieving the hardships of those possessing in a smaller degree the power of endurance. . . .
Some two summers since, while passing the little cemetery referred to in the earlier part of this essay, I halted for the purpose of visiting the grave of my old comrade. I stood beside the little row of graves that I found blended in one, although the mounds are yet plainly visible, and will remain so yet a little longer; no board or stone at head or foot is found; not one can tell these graves apart. In unity they met a common foe; in unity they fell; in unity they lay beneath these sods, and ere long in unity they'll be forgotten.
In vain I sought to determine the grave in which reposed the mortality of my old friend; it was lost, lost among its comrades. After a short search among the weeds and grass that grew over these graves, I found a small fragment of half-decayed wood on which I could plainly trace the following inscription, which my own hands had carved full twenty years before,
JONATHAN A. PEDIGOPoor boy, poor boy, were the only thoughts iterated and reiterated through my mind for some moments, as I gazed on the sacred relic. A retrospective train of thoughts took possession of my mind, which occupied the entire term at my disposal by the side of the unknown grave of my friend. Vivid memories crowded past in panoramic regularity, and memories of the distant past, such as we love to contemplate in the solitude where we can indulge the silent tear. Ah, yes, and weep as in the days of our childhood to relieve the pangs of grief and make sorrow a pleasure for a season.
Killed by Indians at the Battle of Hungry Hill
Oct. 31st, 1855.
J. M. Sutton, "Jonathan A. Pedigo," Ashland Tidings, October 19, 1877, page 1
There never was, to my knowledge, a fatal duel within the borders of this state; but as I only arrived here in 1869, there may be others who are better posted and able to enlighten me upon this subject. My impression is that sometime during 1858, John K. Lamerick, of Jacksonville, had a controversy with some person in that locality, growing out of his (Lamerick's) conduct as commanding officer at the battle of Hungry Hill in the Rogue River war with the Indians; and that a duel came out of it. But whether blood was shed or not, deponent saith not. But one thing is certain, a pair of eight-inch pistols was selected in San Francisco for Lamerick to fight somebody. Perhaps it ended with the coffee.
"Some Notable Duels," Sunday Oregonian, Portland, August 13, 1882, page 1
Near this place [Six Bit House] was fought the famous battle of "Hungry Hill." The whites were represented by Co.s A, B, C, D, Bailey's and Gordon's co's of volunteers and 105 regulars under command of Capt. Smith of the First Dragoons. The Indians had the selection of the ground. They sent out a small force who kept up a running fire with the advancing troops. Capts. Rinearson and Welton with their companies were assigned to lead, but their forces being soon augmented by stragglers from all other companies, they became uncontrollable, all rushing to the front with the eagerness to fire the first shot. There was a long, open hillside sloping to the west and terminating abruptly at a heavily timbered uphill slope, also covered with dense undergrowth. The Indians were well covered by this timber and brush, and they allowed the wild rush to reach almost the foot of the hill before they opened their fire. Their first fire was so fatal and so many men fell that it stopped the mad flight. Safety was sought behind the nearest trees to the rear, and the panic for retreat among many was as contagious as had been the enthusiasm for the charge. Soon an inglorious retreat was made by a large majority of the troops. The rear was held and the wounded cared for and brought [omission] many by the heroic few, augmented by the ignorance of the enemy as to their numbers. The loss was twelve killed and twenty-seven wounded. That of the enemy must have been much less.
William H. Byars, The Goldendale Sentinel, Goldendale, Washington, February 6, 1948. A second-hand account written sometime after 1882. Transcription by Dale Greenley.\
OREGON'S GREATEST BATTLE.
Immediately after the terrible massacre of the 9th of October, 1855, the marauding Indians, sated with bloodshed and plunder, and justly apprehensive of the white man's vengeance, withdrew into the rugged and precipitous mountain region on the confines of Douglas and Josephine counties, west of the Oregon Trail, and there awaited the attack of the pursuing whites. Their position was well chosen. The country about their encampment was covered with trees and the densest and most impenetrable underbrush, and was intersected by numerous canyons, whose depth and steepness made travel nearly impossible to most human beings, but not so to the wily red man, whose exceptional knowledge of hidden paths and whose consummate knowledge of woodcraft enabled him to traverse these solitudes where even yet the foot of the Caucasian has scarcely ever trod. But a few miles west of the line of the present Oregon and California Railway the savages were located, and on the very range of mountains through which the enterprise of the railroad company has of late driven the well-known Grave Creek tunnel. Here the redoubtable bands of Applegate John, Limpy and George had gathered, comprising a powerful force of hardy and skilled warriors, equal in fighting ability and endurance to any other nations of the continent, as the incidents of the long and closely contested war of 1855-6 sufficiently prove. Their principal leader was John, chief of the small but hardy and daring band of Applegate Indians. Probably no Indian of this country--or, for that matter, of any time--has ever evinced in greater degree the possession of commanding talents. Old John was the central figure of the war, and stands forth as an individual of unintermitting courage and resolution, of ample strategic skill and extensive resources. He has been epigrammatically termed the Tecumseh of the war--a title that his characteristics rendered appropriate, and his final misfortunes still more closely befitted. Nor were the other chiefs despicable in comparison; Old Limpy, the lame chieftain of the Illinois band, had achieved a foremost name as a cutthroat of renown, and from his habits of cruelty and malignity was perhaps the most dreaded of all the savages. The lesser tyees were active in emulating their bold leaders, and the unknown and undistinguished braves--Indians of the various branches of the great Rogue River tribe and neighboring allies--were worthy of such leaders. They had severally and jointly acquired an uncommon amount of warlike experience in their conflicts with the neighboring tribes, and for five years had at various times engaged in hostilities against the whites. In 1851 they had to flee before the tempestuous charge of Phil Kearney's dragoons, but in the struggle Captain Stewart fell, pierced by an arrow, and breathed out his life on the spot where Phoenix now stands. The gallant and showy dragoons passed into California, and the lesson they had given was as transitory. Two years later, having now supplemented their bows and arrows with guns and revolvers, the allied tribes provoked war, and in the short but severe campaign of Evans Creek they were compelled by General Lane and the men of southern Oregon and northern California to sue for peace. Now, in 1855, having by an unexampled series of horrible murders placed themselves beyond the reach of murder [sic] and forgiveness, the more violent and aggressive portion of the tribe--who were also the most numerous--were gathered in the Grave Creek hills, setting the civil authorities and military power at defiance, and resolved upon wresting their own land from the whites or perishing upon its bosom. When the news of the butchery of the Harrises, Wagners and the other unfortunates reached the mines and farms, the entire male population of the Rogue River Valley sprang to arms with a unanimity and promptness in consonance with the extreme gravity of the situation. The inhabitants of every mining camp enrolled themselves for duty against the despoilers, and [between the] 10th of October and the 17th of the same month, fifteen companies of armed and mounted men, aggregating nearly 800, had been formed and their services accepted. The command of the military had devolved, by right of his commission as colonel of the Ninth Regiment of Oregon militia, upon John E. Ross, an Indian fighter of great experience, judgment and resolution. The company commanders numbered several men who had already achieved celebrity by their conflicts with the red men, for here were individuals who had fought the Comanches, Pawnees, Sioux and had tasted the hardships of war in Mexico and Texas. Conspicuous among them was Bob Williams, the renowned plainsman, well known throughout the mines. James Bruce was there, characteristically impatient to fall upon the foe. Jacob Rinearson had left his claim on Cow Creek at the first news of the massacre, and assembling, perhaps, two score of his neighbors, had arrived upon the bloody ground almost before the corpses of the slain men, women and children had stiffened in death; and having performed guard duty until the beginning of the active campaign, he was now ready with his men to take part therein. Bailey, at the head of the Lane County contingent, had made forced marches from Eugene City, burning to avenge the murder of his brother, killed not far from the celebrated Canyon. Welton, Griffin, T. Smiley Harris, Wilkinson and other men of might and courage were there, whose names yet linger in the recollections of the people of southern Oregon and are not likely to be forgotten as long as bravery and hardihood possess a charm. At Fort Lane lay the garrison under the command of Captain (now General) A. J. Smith, an officer celebrated for his splendid courage, excellent sense and stainless character, and characterized, withal, by extreme views as to the dignity and preeminent importance of the regular army. The command was but small; scarcely eighty men could be spared for offensive operations, yet with these Captain Smith and his subordinates, Lieutenants H. G. Gibbons and A. V. Kautz (since a Union general) and B. Alston, joined Colonel Ross at the Six-Bit House, just south of the Canyon. The command of the volunteers was vested partly in "Major Bill Martin of Umpqua," who commanded a battalion separate from Ross' detachment. This battalion was composed of the companies of Gordon, Bailey, Buey and Kenney, while with the colonel were the companies of Bruce, Harris, Rinearson, Williams and Welton. The total force of volunteers was about 300 men, who were all young, vigorous, enthusiastic and daring, and formed the very best material for a war of the sort proposed. Their average age could not have been above 25, and their character is well expressed by a present survivor, who says, "A coward had no show among us."
Through a serious and in one respect unfortunate coincidence the position of the Indians became known. Lieutenant Kautz had left Port Orford a month before, and with ten men explored carefully the country lying between that post and Fort Lane, with the object of locating a trail or road to connect the two points. Leaving the bed of the river at the mouth of Grave Creek and ascending the elevations which border that stream he had come upon the Indians in their lair, and had only been able to escape from their hospitality with the greatest difficulty. Losing one man, whose fate was never fully ascertained, he made his way in hot haste to Fort Lane, fortunate in escaping at all. Being now fully advised of the savages' whereabouts, and having resolved upon offensive measures, the three contingents of the army, uniting at the Six-Bit House, set out on the 30th of October to the Indians' camp, and by daybreak of the next morning halted not far away from it. Smith, preferring the traditions and customs of regular and civilized warfare to the rough and ready methods of frontier Indian fighters, had proposed a plan of action wherein the enemy was to be attacked by artillery fire from a howitzer in his command, and the various detachments were to complete the work by small-arms practice whenever the Indians approached sufficiently close. This plan, agreed to by Ross and Martin, was rendered negatory by the precipitancy of the Jackson County volunteers, who moved directly toward the enemy before the regulars were able to take up their position, whereby Chief John was warned in time to remove his braves to a location wherein they were secure from Smith's shells. The red warriors were now concealed within the thick underbrush which covers the flanks of Hungry Hill, and were protected on the right and left flanks by precipitous gorges filled with brush and quite impassable. The only practicable mode of access to them was over the bare and unprotected top of the hill, swept as it was by their bullets, and offering no shelter to the attacking party. Here a dozen men quickly fell, and the advance was checked. Smith, leaving his first position, marched to the brow of the hill and ordered a charge. Simultaneously John, with his warriors, stepped forth into the open space and went through a variety of mock military evolutions in derision of the dragoons. Retiring then to the protection of the trees and brush, they kept up a steady and accurate fire whose effect was so severe as to compel the whites to withdraw to shelter. From that moment the fight degenerated into target practice, and when Smith ordered a charge and advanced almost to the enemy's line he found no followers. His men were very inefficiently armed, two-thirds of them having only the musketoon--an ill-featured weapon, alike aggressive at both ends--which was at that date the principal weapon of cavalry. Repeated orders to charge produced no response. The Indian fire was too accurate and deadly to admit of exposure for an instant. Several were shot at long range, in attempting to pass from tree to tree. From the hour of 10 in the forenoon until dark the contest waged without a pause and without material advantage to either side. The strategy of John and Limpy, with the skill and bravery of their followers, foiled all attempts to dispossess them, and the troops, tired with their steady exertions, withdrew at nightfall and went into camp a short distance down the mountain slope, leaving scouts to watch the enemy's movements. A rill of water gushes forth from the ground at the spot chosen for the bivouac, and this they named Bloody Springs, in allusion to the events of the day, which had deprived them of so many of their companions in arms. Thirty men had fallen and seven corpses lay upon the ground, stiffening in the chill air. Another was added to the list of deaths, for a tired soldier, coming into camp with four musketoons upon his shoulder, cast them upon the ground and was killed by the accidental explosion of one of them. When daylight appeared, Captain Smith sent Lieutenant Gibson, with a small detachment, to secure a soldier's body, which had been abandoned during the fight. Arriving near the top of the hill the detachment was surprised by the whole force of the Indians and driven at full speed to the camp, the lieutenant receiving a severe wound. All was confusion among the whites, and for a time discipline and order were unthought-of. The enemy approached closely and entered upon a brisk fire, which was returned by the coolest whites, and the savages' attack was eventually repulsed without much loss on either side. About the middle of the forenoon the mob of howling savages ceased firing, and turning plunged into the trackless woods and were not seen again until, some weeks later, they were found by scouts in force at the Big Meadows. The expedition had failed, and now, with no enemy to fight and no supplies for the troops, the leaders counseled together and decided to return to their respective stations. This they did, and having buried the dead and provided litters for the wounded, the commands set out for home. Captain Smith returned to Fort Lane, Colonel Ross established his men at Fort Vannoy (near the present site of Grants Pass), and Martin went into camp at Harkness and Twogood's tavern, to which he gave the name of Camp Leland. The volunteers were distributed along the Oregon Trail in order to prevent the Indians from falling upon the settlements of Jackson County and again enacting a massacre like that of Wyoming [i.e., the Little Big Horn]. The action, of which the foregoing is presented as the most complete and accurate account which can at this day be compiled, is known usually by the name of Battle of Hungry Hill, in allusion to the sufferings of the soldiers from lack of food. It is also called the battle of Bloody Spring, and sometimes the battle of the Grave Creek hills. It ranks among the hardest-fought engagements known in Indian warfare, and was certainly the severest fight that ever took place between Indians and white men on this side of the Rocky Mountains. The total casualties on the part of the troops numbered thirty-six, of whom nine were killed and twenty-seven wounded. The volunteers lost five killed, whose names were: Henry Pearl, Jacob W. Miller, Henry Pearcy, John Winters and Jonathan A. Pedigo. Their wounded were: W. I. Mayfield, William Purnell, W. White, C. C. Goodwin, W. H. Crouch, Enoch Miller, Ephraim Yager, Thomas Ryan, William Stans, L. F. Allen, John Goldsby, Thomas Gill, C. B. Hinton, Hawkins Shelton, James M. Fordyce, William Wilson, J. C. Richardson, John Gillespie (son of Rev. Jacob Gillespie, assemblyman from Lane County), J. Laphar, T. C. Aubrey and J. Panky. The regular troops lost four killed and five wounded. John Kennedy was mortally wounded, and being taken home died on the 7th of November. He had been one of the first settlers in Jackson County, coming at a very early date and settling at the Willow Springs ranch as partner with N. C. Dean. He was regarded as a citizen of the most valuable sort, and his death was severely felt. C. B. Hinton, wounded in the fight, attempted to make his way alone to the Grave Creek house, but perished from cold and exposure. So closes the account of an action memorable in itself, but which is rapidly slipping from the recollection of its few present survivors. The writer of this article takes pleasure in the thought that his words may be the means of preserving the records of an event which must always remain of historical importance, and he also felicitates himself that there exists a reading public who habitually discriminate between accurate and unvarnished statement and the turgid and romantic exaggeration regarded by some as befitting the account of warlike incidents and heroic deeds. The field whereon the battle of Hungry Hill was fought is now unknown except to the few survivors of the campaign, and others who visit the place through motives of curiosity. But these are few, and through the changes which time has wrought the spot has become almost indistinguishable. Underbrush covers the ground where so much blood was spilt, and the graves of the five volunteers who were buried near Bloody Spring have long since lost their identity and been merged into a single mound. No memorial stone marks the spot of death and burial, and the wooden headboards, inscribed with the names of the fallen, have mouldered into rottenness. It has been proposed to erect a suitable monument to commemorate the action; but the proposition has not thus far proceeded beyond the initial stages of doubt, inquiry and favorable wishes. Surely it would be difficult indeed to hit upon a worthier object, or one more in consonance with the enlightened spirit of this age, which owes so much to the brave pioneers whose task it was to clear the beautiful valley of the Rogue from the infesting savages.
Sunday Oregonian, April 20, 1884, page 1
A few days subsequent to the fight at Galice Creek, and while the whereabouts of the Indians was unknown, an opportune circumstance revealed their place of abode. Lieutenant (since General) A. V. Kautz, of the regular army, set out from Port Orford with a guard of ten soldiers to explore the country lying between that place and Fort Lane, thinking to find a route for a practicable trail or wagon road by which the inland station could be supplied from Port Orford instead of the longer and very difficult Crescent City route. The country proved even more rough, steep and precipitous than it had been reported to be, and the Lieutenant was many days upon his journey. Leaving the river near the mouth of Grave Creek, he ascended the neighboring hills, and, much to his surprise, came upon a very large band of Indians. As they proved hostile, there was no recourse but to run for it, and losing one man by the savages' fire, the men escaped to Fort Lane, fortunate in getting away so easily. Having now, by this unlucky experience of Lieutenant Kautz, been made aware of the Indians' exact whereabouts, Colonel Ross and Captain Smith, combining forces as well as the mutual jealousies of regulars and volunteers would permit, began to plan an active campaign. All the disposable troops at Fort Lane consisted of eighty-five men and four officers: Captain A. J. Smith, first dragoons; First Lieutenant H. G. Gibson, third artillery; Second Lieutenant A. V. Kautz, fourth infantry; and Second Lieutenant B. Alston, first dragoons. These set out on the twenty-seventh of October, and on arriving at the Grave Creek House were joined by Colonel Ross' command of about two hundred and ninety men, besides a portion of Major Martin's force from Deer Creek. From this point the combined forces moved, on October thirtieth to the Indian camp, arriving at daybreak at a point where Captains Harris and Bruce were deployed to the left, while Captain Smith, with the regulars, took the ridge to the right, with the expectation of arriving in the rear of the Indians' position, whereby they might be surrounded and captured. Captains Williams and Rinearson followed in Captain Smith's tracks. The country not being perfectly known by the whites, several mistakes followed in consequence, and Harris and Bruce came directly upon the Indian encampment, and were in full view of the savages before any strategic movement could be made, and no opportunity for surprising the enemy offered itself. The time was sunrise, and Captain Smith had gained his rear position and had built fires for his men's refreshment, at the place where Lieutenant Kautz had been attacked. By these fires the Indians were warned of the party in their rear, and prepared themselves accordingly. The regulars descended into a deep gorge, climbed up the other side and directly were engaged with the Indians, who advanced to meet them. The savages "paraded in true military style," but directly fell back to a ledge of rocks or to the brushy crest of a hill. From the crest of the hill for a mile or more in the rear of the Indians was a dense thicket; on the right and left were precipitous descents into a gorge filled with pines and undergrowth, in which the natives concealed themselves almost perfectly from the view of the whites, who possessed no resources sufficient to dislodge them. The ridge being bare on top, the men were necessarily exposed, and some casualties resulted. Movements were made to get in the Indians' rear of this new position, but such attempts were futile. Several charges were made by the regulars, but ineffectually, although the men were for considerable periods within ten or twenty yards of the hostiles. The latter fought bravely and steadily, picking off the whites by a regular fire from their rifles, which were pitted against the inferior weapons of the troops, or at least of the regulars, two-thirds of whom had only the "musketoon," a short, smooth-bore weapon, discharging inaccurately a heavy round bullet, whose range was necessarily slight. About sunset the commanders concluded to retire from the field, and did so, first posting sentries to observe the savages' movements. The united commands encamped for the night at Bloody Spring, as it was then named, some distance down the hill. On the following morning Lieutenant Gibson, of the regulars, with ten men, proceeded up the hill to the battlefield to secure the dead body of a private of his detachment, and when returning with it was pursued by the savages, who came down and attacked the camp in force, firing numerous shots. No damage was done by this except the wounding of Lieutenant Gibson, and after a time the savages were driven off. No further attempt against the Indians was made, and after advising with their officers the two commanders decided to remove their troops from the vicinity. Accordingly, orders were given and the retrograde march began. The total loss was thirty-one, of whom nine were killed, and twenty-two wounded. Several of the latter died of their injuries. The volunteers killed were Privates Jacob W. Miller, James Pearcy and Henry Pearl, of Rinearson's company; John Winters, of Williams'; and Jonathan A. Pedigo, of Harris'. The wounded were Privates William H. Crouch, Enoch Miller and Ephraim Tager, of Rinearson's; Thomas Ryan and William Stamms, of Williams'; L. F. Allen, John Goldsby, Thomas Gill, C. B. Hinton, William M. Hand, William I. Mayfield, William Purnell and William White, of Harris'; C. C. Goodwin, of Bruce's; and John Kennedy, of Welton's. The latter died on the seventh of November, and C. B. Hinton, in endeavoring to make his way alone to the Grave Creek House, lost his road and perished from exposure. This fight is known by the several names of the Battle of Bloody Springs, Battle of Hungry Hill, and Battle in the Grave Creek Hills. From these details, and considering that the Indians maintained their position on the battlefield without great loss, it is evident that the campaign was an unsuccessful one. It is generally admitted by the whites who took part in the engagement that the affair resulted in a partial defeat, and they ascribe therefor several reasons, either of which seems sufficient. The inclemency of the weather is set forth as a reason, and is doubtless an important one. It is known from good authority that one man perished from cold and wet, and that the bodies of those slain in the fight were frozen stiff in a few hours. This would indicate very severe cold, but from independent sources we gather that the weather throughout the winter was exceptionally severe. Troops, ill provided with blankets and clothing, stationed at the very considerable altitude of the Grave Creek hills, were under the worst possible circumstances for continuing the attack. Besides, a still more serious reason presented itself. There was not a sufficient supply of food to maintain a single company of men. The commissariat was in chaotic condition, and supplies were either not sent out, or failed to reach the nearly starving troops in time to be of use. This a notorious fact in Southern Oregon, but, singularly enough, fails to appear in the earliest published accounts of the affair. The commissary and quartermaster departments were at fault, nor do they appear to have been efficiently administered at any time during the war, although their expenses (duly charged to the United States) were preposterously great. Figures are at hand to show that the expense of the latter department exceeded, for a time, eight hundred dollars a day! And this for transportation alone. A large number of Mexicans were borne on the rolls as packers, whose daily pay was six dollars, and who had the care and management of about one hundred and fifty pack animals, which were used in carrying supplies from Jacksonville or Crescent City to the seat of war. They belonged to the volunteer service, and were entirely distinct from the trains by which the regulars at Fort Lane were supplied. It was to this management of the persons in charge of the trains that the failure of the campaign was attributed, and apparently with considerable justice. The charge of insubordination made against the volunteers in consequence of their conduct at Bloody Spring will be recalled when treating of the later events of the war. As was customary with the regular army officials at that date, a great deal of blame was cast upon the volunteers for their alleged failure to properly second the efforts of the government troops. This charge is retorted upon Captain Smith's soldiers by counter-charges of similar tenor; and as neither side in the controversy is supported by any but interested evidence, we cannot, at this date, satisfactorily discuss the question. The matter, however, is connected with the invariable tendency to antagonism of the two related, yet opposed, branches of service, which antagonism shows itself on every similar occasion, and is an annoying subject indeed. We see the spectacle of two different organizations, bent upon the same object and pursuing an identical road to the attainment of their object, but falling into bitterness by the wayside and continually reviling each other, and failing to lend their moral support and frequently their physical aid.
A. G. Walling, Illustrated History of Lane County, Oregon, 1884, page 251
In a few days the hostiles concentrated for a big fight, which came off in the Grave Creek Mountains, and was called the battle of Hungry Hill. Here the best element among the citizens came to the front, and a force of some three hundred, assisted by one hundred United States troops, attacked the Indians, who were located and entrenched in the forks of two deep cañons, about nine miles from the Grave Creek House on the wagon road. The command on this occasion proceeded on foot, starting with the rising moon. At midnight the weather was rainy and cold, and the trail was crossed by several streams. Owing to the indiscreet lighting of fires by the volunteers, the Indian scouts attacked our advance, but were driven for two miles; when, by previous arrangement, no doubt, they were strengthened by their main force, and took up the stand as above explained. Owing to a want of proper concern among ourselves, I think, the battle became a series of detached skirmishes and sharpshootings, continuing all day; and at night we counted our loss at about twenty-four; that of the enemy almost unknown. Several instances of heroism were exhibited on our side, where small parties descended to near the enemy's works to rescue wounded comrades.
The night that followed was spent in caring for the disabled and in desultory shooting. Next day at dawn the fight was renewed, I think by the Indians, and was kept up till about one o'clock, when a lull took place, and our party was got together, and we took the back track, laden with our wounded on stretchers, having failed to dislodge the hostile force, after expending all our ammunition and going without food for twenty-eight hours.
The Overland Monthly, April 1885, pages 420-422. The index credits the article to "J.G.T.", the text to "I.G.T." Attributed to Joel Graham Trimble.
H. G. Gibson, first lieutenant, in 1856, and several times mentioned herein, distinguished himself at Antietam and was made brigadier general of volunteers. Continuing in the service, he retained the rank of major of his old regiment, the Third Artillery. Gibson was wounded at Hungry Hill in 1855.
H. O. Lang, "Army Officers in Oregon," Oregonian, Portland, July 11, 1886, page 2
Captain Tobin.Captain John Tobin lectures on "Mormon Massacres and Indian Battles" at Hayes' opera house, Monday evening, Dec. 17th, 1888. For nearly a quarter of a century he was an active participant in the Indian wars of the frontier. He was taken prisoner by hostile Apaches and Utes, and was the leader of the famous charge at the Grave Creek Heights, Oregon, against the combined inland tribes in the Rogue River War. He is the sole survivor of two Mormon massacres and of Gunnison's expedition. Captain Tobin, though blind from injuries received in the line of duty is said by prominent papers of the Pacific Coast to deliver an intensely interesting lecture. He possesses high testimonials from General Custer, ex-Gov. Woods of Utah, Senator Cullom and others. All should attend his lecture.
Olathe Mirror, Olathe, Kansas, December 13, 1888, page 6. John Tobin was indeed a sergeant at Fort Lane, but his account of the October 9, 1855 breakout is nonsense, and he is completely unmentioned in any other account of the Rogue River Indian wars. And see here.
BATTLE OF HUNGRY HILL.
Recollections of a Volunteer in the Rogue River Indian War.
How the Writer Warned the Settlers and Returned in Time
to Take Part in the Memorable Engagement.
I had the honor to be high private in the ranks and chief steward in the captain's mess (Captain Joe Bailey) commanding A Company, of O.M.V., in the campaign of 1855-6 against the Rogue River Indians, immediately after the notorious raid of John and his "Invincibles" on the settlements from Cow Creek to Rogue River in the fall of 1855. A few days previous to the outbreak I had started from Jackson County to Eugene alone, but well mounted and armed with a trusty rifle, and just after passing Wagner's, the ill-fated family of that raid so soon to come, I met a little Indian boy in the road who could speak the Jargon then principally spoken between whites and Siwashes. The little fellow began in a very dramatic way to tell me of some great movement going on among the Indians, who were encamped a little to the west of the road at the time. I halted and questioned him as to what it all meant. The child told me in honest simplicity and utmost sincerity that the Indians were in council of war and meant to kill all the whites and take their guns and powder all down to the big camp. He said I had better go back, for they would kill me before I could get to the Canyon. This filled me with wonder and astonishment, for it was the first intimation I had of the coming outbreak, but I could not doubt the sincerity of the honest face and intelligent eye and earnest manner of illustration with which that dusky child of the forest portrayed to me the coming horrors from his people to the white settlers. I studied the situation a little while and came to the conclusion that being well armed and on a fresh and fleet animal, I should take the chances of making it through and the possibility of being able to give the settlers along the route timely warning of the impending danger. For although I am usually skeptical in rumors, I did believe the boy had told me the truth. So I rode at quite a brisk pace that day, taking time, however, at every habitation to tell them what the little boy had told me. My surprise grew to alarm when I found the people were already alarmed and dreading an outbreak, but I rode on at a more rapid speed until I came to the Grave Creek hill when I met two Indians on foot--one armed with a rifle and one without. The one without a gun advanced, holding out a purse, which appeared to be well filled, with the remark, "nica tika cultan"--"I want your horse." I saw the stratagem, to get me to dismount and then have the advantage, but with my eye keenly fixed on the other man, I told them the horse was not for sale; at the same time I took good care to keep my rifle in good position by bearing to the right and having the muzzle of my gun towards them. Quick as a flash the one with a gun on his shoulder seemed to take in the situation, and seeing that I was on the alert adopted a different tactic. "Tika swap," he remarked, as he began lowering his piece from the shoulder, meaning in the ruse that he wanted to trade guns, but I parried this movement as gracefully as possible by bringing my rifle to a position for instant action, as the same time giving him the motion to pass on. Seeing that I had decidedly the advantage, he did this without further delay, and I was soon in front of the Grave Creek House, where I found that the war council was known and an outbreak was expected, but the settlers being well armed and used to take the hazards of frontier life and not feeling like giving up their property to plunder and destruction without a struggle; so they were resolved to stay by their homes and fight it out if fight they must. I hurried on and reaching the "Six-Bit House" after riding ninety miles that day called for a halt for the night. Relating my incidents of suspicion on my journey, I found they were well corroborated by the signs of the times which had not escaped the pioneer settlers there. Right here let me remark that Leonidas and Thermopylae never exemplified greater human bravery than found in these settlers from Rogue River through the hills and valleys of Jump-Off-Joe, Grave Creek and Cow Creek to the Canyon in the fall of 1855, when they resolutely stood by their homes until they were burned down under their very eyes, and still defended by the fire of their own rifles, until the occupants had to come out and run the gantlet or perish in the flames. Some were saved and held out against the myriads of besiegers until aid came from the neighboring counties of Jackson, Umpqua, Lane and Benton.
VOLUNTEERS TO THE RESCUE.Sunday Oregonian, Portland, July 21, 1889, page 10
I had barely arrived at Eugene City and visited my father, mother, brothers and sisters on our prairie home, when news of the outbreak followed me. A mass meeting was called. The first company was raised at that meeting, I volunteering among the number. Joe Bailey was elected captain, and we were very soon on the march to the scene of action. Now, after this brief preliminary digression, I come back to my position in the captain's mess. Our journey to the great canyon was brief and without incident worthy of remark; but the dark, rainy night in which we passed through that canyon was an occasion not soon to be forgotten by the survivors of the raw recruits who, with hearts fired with a determination to rescue the settlers beyond or perish with them, made that irregular march through that hole in the wall without light and in a drenching rain, guided only by the sound of voices, and the projecting cliffs, which kept us from turning to the right or the left only as the road itself happened to turn that way. Just at the break of day we reached the Cow Creek Valley, wet, muddy, weary, hungry; but with very little delay for rest and refreshment we hurried on, and the first few miles of our march the next day began to show us evidence of the deadly raid. Smoke was yet ascending from the houses and barns which had been burned by the copper-colored devils, stock lay along the roadside with bullet holes through their swelling bodies, ruthlessly shot by the marauders because they could not drive it all away with them, and before we left Cow Creek we came to the spot where the captain's brother, Hal Bailey, had been murdered and mutilated. I plainly saw the stains of his blood on the roadside. Reaching the "Six-Bit House," where I had stayed overnight on my way home a few days previous, we found it intact and well defended. Here we made headquarters, from whence, on the following day, we commenced an active campaign against the notorious John who, we learned, was then in camp only fifteen miles away. Learning that Captain Smith, of the regular army, with 100 men, was already on his path, we lost no time, and after coffee and biscuit baked in fry pans we continued our line of march by the pale light of the stars, for it did not happen to be full moon, and early in the morning we overtook Captain Smith, who afterwards became famous in the War of the Rebellion, and about one hour after sunrise
THE BATTLE OF "HUNGRY HILL" WAS BEGUN.
Old John and his "Invincibles" made a stubborn resistance. One of his lieutenants was said to be a woman and of no mean fighting qualities, although I never found a very authentic verification of this statement, but it was very currently believed at the time. One company, with the regulars, had the center of the field. Major Bruce, from Jackson, brought down the left wing. The Umpqua boys filed into the right, and a sharp, incessant fight was kept up all day. The regulars would have been annihilated had it not been for Bailey's men taking to the trees to support them when they stood out on open ground, receiving the enemy's fire without shelter. They suffered severely, but we, Indian fashion, crawled stealthily from tree to tree and fired under shelter of nature's breastworks, just as they were doing, and gradually we advanced until at night we covered the whole of their camp of the previous day. As I before said, those nights were dark, and under the cover of darkness firing had almost ceased about 9 o'clock, but a continuous line of pickets was placed all along the front and we received and returned quite a considerable interchange of shots during the night, just to vary the monotony and let us know that John and his men lay on their arms with powder dry that night as well as we. For breakfast next morning we had nothing; for reveille we had the sharp interchange of rifle shots wherever a head or part of a body of exposed on either side of the hotly contested field; but about 9 o'clock relief came in on the war-whoop, and the Indians broke and ran in wild dismay. Thus the battle of Hungry Hill ended. We had lost eleven dead on the field and twenty wounded, some very seriously, and from the most authentic accounts and admissions of the Indians after the war we had killed about forty of the very flower of John's trusty band. Certain it is, this battle was the turning point of the war, and all the movements of John after this were exceedingly cautious and strategic, for in that great battle he had not only lost many of his best men, but had wasted so much of his powder that he always dreaded, and as far as possible avoided, a general engagement after. Our forces in that battle numbered about 270; the opposing numbers we never could fully learn, but it was the combined strength of the Rogue River tribes at the time.
THE RETURN WITH THE WOUNDED.
Our march back to the "Six-Bit House" was a weary task, after two nights and one day in which every man was on duty, and having been lightly provisioned. Hungry, unwashed, blackened with powder and smoke, tired, sleepy, and not of the most genial temper either, most of us, it required some degree of courage and rally of duty to racers [sic] by four and bear the litters containing our wounded comrades over fifteen miles of rough mountain trail. But the courage of the poor fellows who were, some of them, badly shot and in the utmost pain, but would scarcely allow themselves the consolation of a groan or a sigh when we stumbled on the rough stony path and jolted them severely, gave us more nerve to bear the precious burden with greater care. We reached the camp long after nightfall, and turned the officers' quarters into a hospital; we eagerly partook of the bounteous piles of bread and pans full of boiled meat and wash boilers full of strong coffee already prepared and waiting us. After that experience, no supper at Delmonico's, no rare banquet or club dinner could ever to one of us efface the memory of that simple but delicious repast. And we slept that night on the hard ground wrapped in our coarse blankets with repose as sweet and refreshing as though we had rested on beds of down in chambers of luxury. Excellent medical skill was in attendance, and the wounded were promptly dressed and cared for, and they too forgot their pain and received the blessing of tired nature's sweet restorer. I remember well some incidents of that campaign which, while they were touching to the sensitive, sympathetic heart, yet partook of the ludicrous. During the action of the previous day a regular fell near where I stood; I saw that he was unable to rise, though not killed. Several deliberate aims were taken at him as he sat, apparently unconcerned, but all missing him, but giving us a chance to reply to their fire, which we promptly did. Just at this moment the regular officer was passing near, when I told him of the perilous position of his man. He instantly ordered a file of our men to bring him out. Quick as a flash they sprang to their comrade, lifting him up, one holding each of his arms and limbs. They were coming up the hill with him on the double-quick when an Indian, drawing a bead, shot the poor fellow in the head as they carried him, and when they came to the picket line he was dead. We had been instructed to reload our pieces under cover, if possible, after firing. This being unheeded by a young man near me, I had the grief to see him receive a half-ounce ball, which passed directly through his body, while standing on open ground loading his rifle. Poor Henry Pearl! I saw the flash of the gun that did this deadly work with the same glance that told me he was hit. The range was short and the dusky warrior had uncovered his head and shoulders to get a deadly aim. My leaden messenger answered him, and in less than in a minute Henry Pearl was killed and avenged. Quickly I took off my coat and pillowed his head, but he soon breathed his last.
J. MARION GALE.
However, on the twenty-eighth, Fitzgerald, being in the Grave Creek hills, south of Cow Creek, discovered an Indian encampment, and wishing to attack it sent a dispatch to Ross, who immediately ordered Captains Harris, Welton, George, Williams, and Lewis to reinforce him. Bruce and Rinearson, coming in a little later, were also ordered to Grave Creek, where on the thirtieth were concentrated two hundred and fifty volunteers and one hundred and five regulars, although on account of the illness of Fitzgerald only a portion of his troops were available. When Ross arrived at the rendezvous late that night, he found Captain Smith of the first dragoons impatient to attack. Spies from his own and the volunteer force had found the enemy's position to be on a hill difficult of approach, and well fortified. A map had been made for use by the officers, and Smith assumed command of the combined forces. Although it was already half past ten o'clock in the evening, orders were issued to march at eleven. Smith's plan was to plant howitzers on an eminence three-fourths of a mile from that occupied by the Indians, and having divided the companies into three columns, stationed so as to enclose the Indians, to open his battery upon them before he had been discovered. His design was frustrated through someone having set fire to a tree, and after a toilsome night march he was unable to surprise the enemy. On arriving on the edge of a ravine in front of the enemy's position, instead of shelling the Indians in their stronghold, a charge was ordered. The hill on which the Indians were fortified was bald on the south side, by which the troops were approaching, except for a short but tangled undergrowth with which also the ravine they had to cross was filled. On the north of the Indian position there was a heavy forest. It should be here stated that an unexpected reenforcement had arrived during the night, consisting of two companies of a battalion called out by Governor Curry ; their captains being Joseph Bailey and Samuel Gordon. To these two companies was assigned the duty of flanking on the north to intercept the Indians in the woods when the charging force should have driven them from their fortification. The captains who led in the charge were Rinearson and Welton, their companies being augmented by portions of others and a part of the regular force also, all rushing with eagerness to fire the first shot. As had been anticipated, the Indians took shelter in the woods, but were not met by Bailey and Gordon as designed, their men finding it impossible to penetrate the dense and tangled underwood in a body; and [the Indians] were not driven back upon the companies of Harris and Bruce, who were awaiting them in concealment, as had been anticipated. These two commanders therefore joined the army in front. Thus nothing happened but the unexpected. The day passed in vain efforts to get at the Indians, who could not be approached without extreme peril, until three o'clock in the afternoon, when Captain Smith, with a small force of dragoons, made an assault. Several rounds were discharged with the short cavalry arms, which were wholly ineffectual against the rifles of the Indians, when the troopers fell back, having several killed and wounded. Firing continued until dark, when the whole force went into camp at a place named by them "Bloody Spring," where the wounded were being cared for, and where they all went supperless to their blankets. At sunrise the next morning the Indians attacked and engaged the troops for several hours, when, being repulsed, they withdrew. The troops then marched back to Fort Bailey on Grave Creek, bearing their wounded on litters. In this battle the volunteers lost twenty-six men killed, wounded, and missing. Company A lost Jonathan A. Pedigo, mortally wounded, and Ira Mayfield, L. F. Allen, William Purnell, Williams Hans, John Goldsby and Thomas Gill, wounded severely. Company B, Charles Goodwin, wounded mortally. Company C, Henry Pearl, Jacob W. Miller, and James Pearcy killed; Enoch Miller, W. H. Crouch, and Ephraim Yager wounded. Company D, John Winters killed; John Stannes and Thomas Ryan wounded. Company F, John Kennedy mortally wounded. The company of Captain Bailey lost John Gillespie, killed; John Walden, John C. Richardson, James Laphar, Thomas J. Aubrey and John Pankey wounded. Gordon's company had Hawkins Shelton, J. M. Fordyce, and William Wilson wounded. The regular troops lost three killed in action, one by accident, and seven wounded, among whom was Lieutenant Gibson. The Indian loss could not be known, but was much less than that of the volunteers, as from the nature of their relative positions it must be. Thus the second battle with a considerable Indian force was fought with a great sacrifice of life, and without any gain in peace or possessions. "God only knows," wrote a correspondent of the Oregon Statesman, "when or where this war may end. * * * These mountains are worse than the swamps of Florida."
Frances Fuller Victor, Indian Wars of Oregon, 1894, page 353
Death of A. A. King.
Alex A. King died nine miles east of Eugene Saturday morning, of paralysis. Mr. King was born in Lafayette County, Mo., June 15, 1829. He left the land of his birth to cross the plains in 1851, and settled in Lane County November 15, 1851. His first settlement was made near Pleasant Hill, but subsequently he roamed from place to place, in the meantime serving in the Rogue River Indian War. After the battle of Conger Hill [sic--Hungry Hill], with much fatigue and many narrow escapes, he rescued the body of Mr. Gillespie, who was killed in the fight.
Oregonian, Portland, November 4, 1895, page 3
Another Pioneer Dead.
Little Klamath Lake,Died, December 8, 1896, D. W. Inman, aged 65 years, 8 months and 7 days.
Siskiyou Co., Cal.
David W. Inman, a pioneer, has been called away. He was taken with paralysis on the 6th instant. His family left him as well as usual at 11 o'clock and went to his brothers who lived nearby and upon their return at 3 o'clock found him unconscious on the bed. Dr. Wright, one of our most able physicians, was immediately summoned and did everything possible for him, but it was of no avail, as he passed quietly away the next day.
D. W. Inman was born in Tennessee, March 30th, 1830. He moved to Missouri with his parents when quite young. At the age of 22 he faced the perils of the plains with an ox team, with the early pioneers, and arrived in Lane County, Oregon, in 1852, about the time the Rogue River Indians began to be hostile. In 1853 he joined the Lane County volunteers and served through the entire Rogue River war.
At the battle of Hungry Hill, the fiercest of the war, the whites were forced to retreat a short distance, when it was discovered that W. Miller was wounded and left on the ground they had been forced to leave. Well knowing the peril his own life was in, Inman went back and carried the wounded man to a place of safety amid a shower of bullets. At the close of the war in 1856 he received his honorable discharge and returned to Lane County. He was married to Miss Josephine Richardson in 1857. He then engaged in the lumber business, which he carried on for twenty-one years. The mill having burned to the ground twice caused the business to be a failure, so he moved with his family to Siskiyou County, California in 1890, where he resided up to the time of his death. He was a kind husband, affectionate father and an honest and upright citizen.
J.B.R.Eugene City Guard, December 19, 1896, page 1
HUNGRY HILL FIGHT
HOW SHASTA INDIANS DEFEATED THE SOLDIERS.
Phil Sheridan, Then a Lieutenant, Was One of the Officers--Three Days' Battle.
In these days of battles and impending battles, the younger generation are alive with the military instinct, and are mostly for war. They are ambitious to serve their country, and many of them are liable to achieve distinction. They will be interested in learning of the small way in which many officers got their start before the Civil War, and how those of them who were fighters won their way to the top of the ladder. The following narrative is a fair illustration of some of the experiences of the pioneers who made it possible for the white race to settle up on the Pacific coast. The battle of Hungry Hill was fought on the divide between Cow Creek and Rogue River, and began on the 30th of October, 1855, at a point just above the mouth of the Illinois River, Southern Oregon. The Indians (Shastas and Rogue Rivers) were commanded by Chief John, assisted by George and Limpy, and numbered about 1200 warriors. The regular troops numbered 105 men, being the commands of Captain A. J. Smith, of Fort Lane, and Captain Judah, of Fort Scott, Smith's troops belonging to the First Dragoons, while Judah's men were of the infantry branch of the service. The volunteers mustered 250 men, and were officered by Colonel Drew, commanding, and Captains Briggs, Harris and Williams, all good fighters. These men were enlisted by authority of Governor George L. Curry, of Oregon. Captain Smith, being the ranking officer in the regular service, commanded the expedition and, hearing of the presence of John and his warriors in the vicinity, determined to attack him, and laid his plans to surprise the savages. At 11 o'clock on the night of the 29th, Smith set his column in motion to reach and surprise John early the next morning, the position of the Indians having been ascertained by some friendly Rogue Rivers. John had chosen a canyon well up on the mountain for his camping place, no doubt thinking he might be attacked. Smith was frustrated in his design of surprising John by a careless volunteer, who set fire to a pitchy fir tree, which blazed up and gave the Indians ample notice of his approaching soldiers. Arriving in the vicinity of the Indians, Smith sent Drew with the volunteers to drive the Indians up the canyon. Lieutenant Phil. Sheridan, with 40 troopers and a howitzer, which was lashed to the back of a mule, was directed to take the left of the canyon, while Smith and Judah with the remainder of the regulars marched up the right side. The battle soon began, and raged fiercely for an hour and a half, neither side gaining any particular advantage, the Indians holding their ground and inflicting considerable loss upon the whites. Finally, Drew's men, who were in the canyon, found themselves exposed to a fire from the rear, which was soon found to proceed from the regulars of Judah and Smith. Sheridan's men, who were fighting abreast of the volunteers, began to complain that they were being fired upon. Drew shouted to Sheridan:
"Sheridan, Smith's men are firing upon us! Can't you have it stopped?"
Sheridan immediately shouted back:
"They are peppering us, too! It is dangerous to try to stop them now! We had better fall back up to the point of rendezvous on the hill."
"All right!" shouted Drew. Sheridan's bugler then sounded the retreat and, the order being repeated by Smith and Judah, the whole command fell back in good order to a position on the hill, as had been previously agreed upon in case they should fail to dislodge the Indians. The savages, emboldened by the retirement of the soldiers from their front, immediately came out of their hiding places in the canyon and, selecting a grove of small firs within easy rifle shot of the whites, opened a galling fire upon them, forcing the soldiers to lie down and hug the almost bare hill, or fall before their rifles. During the following night, however, rifle pits and breastworks were constructed, which afforded the troops some shelter. The place of rendezvous was poorly selected, and before other arrangements could be made the wily John had the hill completely surrounded, and retreat became extremely hazardous, if not impossible. The only thing to be done was to repel old John's charges, and keep as close to cover as possible. Shortly after the troops retreated to the hill, Sheridan sought Smith and Judah, and in tones that betrayed his disgust and anger, said:
"Captain Smith, what in ------ was the matter with you and Judah? By ------, sir, your carelessness in firing upon Drew and myself is inexcusable!"
Smith replied that, owing to the dense underbrush between himself and Drew and Sheridan, he had no definite idea of their whereabouts at the time; but, further than this statement he made no explanation, and though both Smith and Judah ranked him, Sheridan continued to speak his mind about the blunder freely, until Smith reminded him that his language was insubordinate, and would be taken into account. Sheridan replied that he, too, would have something to say at a court-martial, if Smith declared one. Judah then interrupted, by saying:
"Lieutenant Sheridan, Captain Smith is your superior officer. This is no time nor place to discuss the matter. It can be settled at headquarters."
Sheridan, still swearing, went back to his command. To Drew he said: "That was bad business, colonel, and it seems inexcusable to me."
For three days and nights the Indians continued to harass the troops, who suffered greatly for water, and were on a scant allowance of rations. During the fight, the stentorian tones of John's voice could be heard by all the soldiers, urging his braves to charge upon the hated whites. The Indians frequently taunted the troops by asking them in "jargon" if they were thirsty, well knowing their inability to get water. John, himself, often shouted to the whites, "Come out and fight like men," calling them "squaws and cowards."
The regular infantry was miserably armed, their musketoons being ineffective over 100 yards. The volunteers had all kinds of arms, from the Kentucky rifle to the "yager," the shotgun and navy six-shooter. The Indians were better armed than the regulars, and man to man were more of a match for the latter. Sheridan served the howitzer with good effect upon John's forces, and but for this useful piece of ordnance the soldiers would have fared badly. By its use the Indians were often forced to retreat from positions of vantage gained by them, where they would do great damage to the troops. Our informant, who was in the battle as a volunteer from the mines near Althouse, under Drew, describes Sheridan as a young man, apparently about 25 years of age, short, thick-set, quick in speech and action, and cool and deliberate under fire. During the time of the Southern Oregon Indian War he gave evidence, on several occasions, of his military skill; while his bravery was unquestioned, he was a great favorite with the troops, and the volunteers looked upon him as a man who would fight, and all liked his plain, bluff manner. During the fight at Hungry Hill, on the second day, the volunteers repulsed one of old John's charges in gallant style, killing several Indians at close range with their six-shooters. This excited Sheridan's admiration, and after the Indians had withdrawn, he came over and said to some of the volunteers:
"Boys, if I had a hundred thousand fighters such as you are, I could lick the whole d-----d world!"
On the morning of the third day, Sheridan advised that the little army be given a chance to fight its way out; his plan being to cut their way downhill to the river, where they could take shelter in the timber, and at the same time relieve the thirst of the troops. He argued that the Indians would overshoot the soldiers as they descended the hill, and that as there were fewer of the hostiles on the side of the hill he proposed to march down, the movement could be accomplished without great loss of life; but a majority of the officers opposed the plan as being too hazardous, fearing a panic on the part of the troops, during a retreat. Sharp firing continued during the day until about 4 o'clock p.m., when John, wearied by his efforts to stampede the whites, drew off his warriors, and left for the "Meadows."
Smith buried his dead, made litters for the wounded and, with the remnant of his brave little band, started on the homeward march, and thus ended the sanguinary battle of Hungry Hill. During the fight, Smith lost 25 men, who were instantly killed or afterward died of their wounds. The number who were wounded but recovered was 36. The loss inflicted upon the Indians was never known, but must have been considerable. Of the regular army officers who took part in this battle, Judah joined the Confederacy and attained some prominence during the rebellion. He was a Southerner by birth, and was polished and inclined to be a martinet. He was dignified and rather austere in his manners. Judah could not be accused of cowardice, and always performed his duties with due regard to instructions from his superiors. A. J. Smith remained loyal to the North during the rebellion, and under Grant in the Vicksburg campaign distinguished himself greatly as a brave and competent commander. He would have added further to his fame, no doubt, but he met with an accident just after the battle of Shiloh, which soon caused his death. Smith was a good general, and no one questioned his bravery in the Indian wars, though he was not a success as an Indian fighter. Had Sheridan been in command at Hungry Hill, says our volunteer narrator, the result might have been different, as he understood Indian character.
H. G. GUILD.Sunday Oregonian, Portland, April 24, 1898, page 24
Judge Summer Dead.
Ex-County Judge John C. Summer died at his home at Prineville Wednesday. Judge Summer was born in Indiana, September 1, 1883. When a boy he moved with his parents to Arkansas. In 1853 he emigrated to Oregon, settling in Lane County. He was a volunteer in the Rogue River Indian War, and was wounded in the battle of Hungry Hill. In 1859 he moved to Linn County, and was elected as a member of the legislature from that county in 1876. He moved to Crook County in 1893. In 1880 he was appointed county judge of Crook County and was elected to that office in 1890, serving to 1894. He left a widow and four children.
Eugene Guard, July 20, 1901, page 4
My first fight was on Hungry Hill, near Cow Creek, in Oregon. There thirty-five of those good-for-nothing Indians defeated 600 American soldiers, and 150 of them were regulars, too. It was lack of discipline that was responsible for the whole trouble. I was a green one myself, and I can realize it plainly enough now. I guess a good many of us were ashamed of the Hungry Hill defeat, but I lived to help make up for it later on.
We regulars were under Captain A. J. Smith, and Colonel Ross had charge of the volunteers. The whole thing was a mixup; a lot of raw recruits who had no idea how to obey orders. The Indians were fortified and had every advantage of position; we were away ahead in numbers, but we retreated In the end, a handful of scared and wounded men.
There were as many as four tribes represented. The Rogue Rivers and the Applegates (they got their name from Applegate Creek) were the fiercest. We realized this fact in many following battles. They were the most excitable, the ones that stirred others to fighting, and they were the most dangerous to meet.
It was a horrible battle. There was that little group of devils protected behind their fortifications, dead sure of their own safety; we, a lot of greenhorns, hardly knowing how to hold a rifle, not grasping the fact that an order was to be obeyed, all out in the open field and as easily shot down as ducks in the marsh--we fell like game before the good huntsman's aim.
I remember one half-breed, Venus he was called; he had himself ensconced in a hollow pine tree that almost hid him. He had crawled in through the smallest kind of a crack, had twisted himself around inside the tree so that he was quite invisible, and there he blazed away through the crack with his telescope rifle as easily as from a porthole. He was a deadly shot, too, that fellow; he killed thirty-five or forty of our men and came out himself with a whole skin.
The cause of that battle lay with a bunch of outlaws. They were whites, but they had acted in a way that would have disgraced Indians. They had killed, massacred thirty-five squaws, poor, helpless things who were camped on Bear Creek. So the bucks started on the warpath, no blame to them, but they killed a lot of good men instead of the outlaws. They made for the first white man's house they came to; it belonged to a man named Harris. It was a double-storied hewed house, pretty good for thereabouts. Harris and his wife and the little 2-year-old girl were at home. The woman, with the judgment that women have, tried to get her husband to stay inside; but no. he was going out to fight those thirty-five Indians. As he opened the door they shot him down, of course. The same fire that killed him wounded the little girl. Mrs. Harris picked up the child in her left arm; a pistol was grasped in the right hand. For two days and nights that woman stood off the Indians from her home and her baby, and was still standing them off when we advanced and took up their attention. That's the kind of stuff that women of the West were made of in early days.
Walter S. Kitchen, "How I Came to Be in 165 Battles," San Francisco Call, October 13, 1901, magazine section page 1
You say Mr. Klippel participated in the battle of Hungry Hill October 30th. I had forgotten the exact date, but thought it was the forepart of November, for I well remember it was a pretty cold, frosty night when all the different companies left our place to tramp down the creek single file in the dark. I had been to Roseburg after supper and got back just in time to see them start. There must have been three companies of volunteers from Jackson County, two from Douglas County, three or four from the Willamette and Capt. A. J. Smith's company of regulars from Fort Lane. There were perhaps eighty or ninety armed bucks. They had taken a snap shot at us a few days before on Cow Creek, while we were on the wing. The bullets came whistling by and made beautiful music, only it was pitched on such a blood-curdling, hair-raising key that none of us seemed to enjoy it except Barney Simmons. He was footing it away back in the rear. I sung out to him--"You'll have to hurry, Barney, or get left." He said, "No, d---- if any Injun could run him." About that time a bullet went--zip--through his shirt and burned his shoulder. He hunched, shrugged his shoulders, looked back to see where it came from and consented to take a dogtrot into camp. Well, the night the boys left our place all so cheery, they little knew what they would run into. I had quite a talk with one of Capt. Smith's lieutenants before they started, and he gave me their plans. He said scouts had been out and had located the Siwash camp. They were on an oak flat about eight miles down the creek. They were to start after dark so as not to raise the suspicion of the natives; would time themselves to reach the camp before daylight and surround them, and on first move of a redskin commence the slaughter. "Why," said I, "you won't kill squaws and all?" "Oh, yes, we will; don't propose to leave anything to breed." I had to smile. I had made "Injun" a special study and knew them as well as they knew themselves, and there was not an Indian on lower Rogue River, Grave Creek, Cow Creek or South Umpqua but what knew me, and I knew a number of them that did not know what fear was. They would face anything that wore hair. The Southern Battalion started down the creek that cold, frosty, moonlight night. It was a weird scene. All were on foot and each man had a pair of blankets, a pone of bread, a slice of bacon and a gun, all muzzle-loaders, of course. Result--They surrounded the camp all O.K., but as they closed in on it they found only the embers of thirty or forty campfires, and not a living thing. They then took the trail which led them directly into a death trap. The Indians had passed over the ridge and gone down into a deep canyon in a dense forest of fir trees and underbrush. They fought them there all day, slept on their arms that night, and were to charge them at the crack of day. There were about thirty killed and wounded. The Indians, however, changed their program and the next morning at daybreak came to the top of the ridge, charged the whites and run them back to Fort Leland, the most dejected lot of men you ever saw. I asked the lieutenant for a scalp. He seemed well satisfied at saving his own.
James H. Twogood, "Some Incidents of Early Days," Medford Mail, December 13, 1901, page 5
On October 31, 1855, the battle of Hungry Hill was fought near the present railway station of Leland. Capt. A. J. Smith of the U.S. army was at that battle, and a large number of citizen soldiery. The result of the battle was very indecisive. There were thirty-one whites killed and wounded, nine of them being killed outright. It is not known how many of the Indians were killed, but after the treaty was made they confessed to fifteen. The Indians were in heavy timber and were scarcely seen during the two days' battle.
William M. Colvig, "Indian Wars of Southern Oregon," Medford Mail, August 8, 1902, page 2
You will recollect we reached the "Six Bit House" on the evening of the second just as they were coming in with the wounded men from "Hungry Hill," where a number of our brave comrades had lain down their lives in defense of their frontier homes. The battlefield was eight miles away and was reached by a narrow trail through the mountains.
Sam Hansaker, "Reminiscences of Rogue River War," Roseburg Plaindealer, September 5, 1904, page 1
"The most daring act of bravery I ever saw," continued [Bill] Chance, "occurred at the Battle of Hungry Hill. A man by the name of Miller had his leg broken by a bullet, and when the troops retreated under the galling fire of the Indians, Miller was left lying on the field. David Inman went back to Miller, picked him up, and amid a raging storm of bullets carried him to a place of safety. Marvelous as it may appear, neither of them was touched by a bullet."
"Bill Chance, Veteran Indian Fighter," Sunday Oregonian, Portland, July 14, 1907, page 54
GOODWIN--At the Oregon Soldiers Home, March 4, 1908, Chas. Goodwin, aged 80 years, of paralysis.
Mr. Goodwin was a veteran of the Rogue River Indian War of 1855-56, serving as a member of Co. D, 2nd Oregon Mounted Volunteers. He was admitted to the Home from Josephine County in November, 1899.
He is survived by a brother at Oakley, California.
The funeral will be held at the Home tomorrow.
Roseburg Review, March 4, 1908, page 4
Chas. C. Goodwin, a veteran of the Rogue River Indian War of 1855-56 and a pioneer miner of Jackson and Josephine counties, who resided for many years on Williams Creek, died at the Oregon soldiers Home March 4th, aged 80 years.
"A Brief Record of Local Events," Rogue River Courier, Grants Pass, March 13, 1908, page 5
"UNCLE JIMMY" TWOGOOD DESCRIBES
BATTLE OF HUNGRY HILL
In the great battle of Hungry Hill with the Rogue River Indians, October 30, 1855, seven or eight companies of volunteers and one company of regulars were pitted against 80 well-armed warriors, and they got "licked." Whenever anyone tells you that the Rogues, Grave Creeks and Umpquas were not fighters, he is way off!
I was one of the first settlers among them in 1851, and claim to know what I am talking about. A braver set never existed. Of course they never came out in the open and stood up to their work, like white folks, but always got behind a log or tree or in the bush. In the great Chicago massacre at Fort Dearborn in 1812, those Indians were mere squaws in comparison to our western Indians. The engagement was opened by a company of volunteers from Jacksonville, October 9, 1855, near Table Rock. They gave them a scare, and they came down the river killing and burning as they went. Governor George L. Curry mustered into service this year, by proclamation, some 10 or 12 companies in Josephine and Jackson counties, four companies in the Umpqua Valley under Sheffield, Sam Gordon, W. W. Chapman and P. C. Noland, and Fort Leland, as our place was called, was made headquarters of the southern battalion.
The Encampment.I had been to Roseburg for supplies for the Grave Creek House, arriving home with the train October 30, 1855. I was surprised to see seven or eight companies of volunteers and Captain A. J. Smith's company of regulars from Fort Lane, all camped there. I met one of Captain Smith's lieutenants, who seemed jolly and I liked to talk over matters, so I asked him what it all meant. Said he:
"Mike Bushey's spies have been out and found the Injins. They are all camped on an open grub-oak flat about eight miles down Grave Creek."
These volunteers were all concentrated and after it got dark, so the Indians could not see their movements, they were going to all march down the creek, aiming to get there just before daylight, surround the camp and wipe them all out! Thus they were going to end a war where many more whites than Indians had already been killed. I looked the young man over, sized him up and saw that he was a tenderfoot, and then thought of the old adage: "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise"--or otherwise! I said to him:
"You aren't going to kill all the squaws and papooses, are you?"
"Yes," he said, "all and nits breed lice, and we don't propose to leave anything that will breed. Vas dot so?"
"Yes," said I, "there is a little squaw among them who used to live here with George W. Harris and family. Sophy Harris and she are about of an age and great chums." (Harris was killed at his home the first day of the outbreak, October 10.) "Well, Lucy is a bright little girl and talks good English. If she is killed will you kindly bring me a lock of her hair?"
"Oh, certainly," he answered, and I thought sure that he would not.
Twogood in 1857.
A Surprise Planned.Well, it seems that all the companies had all arrangements made to start down the creek as soon as it became dark. There were all the cavalry companies, but they left all their horses and detailed guards for them. There was Captain Labon Buoy, Jonathan Keeny, Joe Bailey from Willamette; from the Umpqua were Captain J. S. Rinearson, Sam Gordon, Ed Sheffield, P. C. Noland and W. W. Chapman; from Jackson and Josephine T. Smiley, Harris, with company A, A. S. Welton, with company F; M. T. Alcorn, with company H; Abel George, with company L, and "Mike" Bushey's company of spies, also Captain A. J. Smith's company of regulars. Smith and his company were named as the leaders of the gang, Smith acting in the capacity of advance agent, and captain John K. Lamerick was the "gig-e-deer brindle," and John E. Ross, colonel.
A Night March.I well remember that cold, frosty, bright, moonlit night of October, when the companies were lined up for marching orders. Each man had a muzzle-loading rifle, and some had Colt's revolvers for close work--but never used them. A pair of blankets, a "pone" of bread, baked in a frying pan, two slices of bacon and a tin cup for coffee--that was their outfit. They were told there would be but a 2 hours' engagement, when they would wipe out the band of redskins! They were called into line at dark, each company forming in single file. Then they started on their lonely march on a narrow trail down Grave Creek. As they left I thought and wondered, with a shiver, if they ever came to an engagement how many of them would ever get back. It must be remembered that the trail down Grave Creek was very narrow, through thick underbrush and heavy fir timber.
Hair-Raising Episode.Two weeks after the first outbreak I went over to Cow Creek, 10 miles north, with a train for a cargo of oats. We ran right into the whole band. An ox team came down from Smith to take Redfield's family away, and had got about 200 yards from the house when we looked back and here came the whole band. Over a spur of the mountain there appeared about 80 bucks, each stripped to the waist, with only a breech-clout, and each carrying a rifle. They gave one of their blood-curdling war whoops that raised our hair. In five minutes the house was in flames. The bullets commenced whistling all around, making beautiful music, but on such a high key that we could not enjoy it! About that time we were doing the same kind of traveling that would put to shame the automobile of today. We had many very close calls, but all got in safely. I will probably write this up someday--it was the most thrilling adventure of my life. Well, to get back to Grave Creek, these hardy volunteers, after stumbling along all night over a rough trail, reached their destination before daylight. Oh, how I pitied them if they ever came to a showdown! I well know, from personal experience, that there were Indians, Siwash, in that band, that would face anything that wore hair. Well, Captain Smith had the different companies deployed, part to go south and part to go north, and gradually work up to the center. No one was to fire a gun without orders, and they thought it would be a picnic to pick off each buck as he jumped up out of his blankets, but they had "counted without their host." As they closed in they simply found 15 or 20 campfires, but not a living thing. They immediately took their trail.
Ambushed.They had gone over a ridge and down into a deep canyon and the volunteers were close after them, but they came to a very sudden halt, as a dozen guns were discharged and several men fell dead. The Indians were too smart for them and had every advantage. They got down into this deep, dark canyon and behind big fir trees, while our people stood out on the open top of the ridge. Captain Smith was a brave man, but he did not possess good judgment for an Indian fighter. He stood right out in the open. The bullets were whistling all around him when Bob Hadley, who crossed the plains with me, stepped up and told him that there was no use of standing there in the open for a target. Hadley took him by the shoulder and pulled him into camp, thus saving his life, so that he could be made a general in the war in '61 in the East.
"Hungry Hill."Well, those brave men and pioneers stood and fought those Indians all day on empty stomachs, and so it was called the battle of "Hungry Hill." The result was that there were some 30 whites killed and wounded and perhaps they killed three Indians, but no one ever knew that. Captain Smith concluded that that would never do, so he at dark ordered all the men, who were also supperless, to camp right there, and to sleep on their arms.
Stampeded.The next morning as soon as it was light enough to see to charge and rout them he had planned to rout them out of that canyon, for he vowed not to leave that field without a few scalps. Result No. 2 was that Mr. Indian had, in the meantime, made different arrangements, and before daylight, from the top of the hill began shooting the soldiers, who were so completely surprised that they became demoralized and all stampeded like a bunch of Texas steers. They all came staggering back, all that were left living being very glad to get back to Fort Leland. But they were the most woebegone, bedraggled, crestfallen set of men that I ever beheld. That young lieutenant was not half as chipper as he had been, but sneaked off to camp and covered himself in blankets, and didn't get up until the next day, when he said: "Yes, we got licked."
Hon. John Hailey, Idaho delegate in congress and James A. Pinney, our ex-mayor, both residents of Boise, were in that first day's engagement.
J. H. TWOGOOD.
Evening Capital News, Boise, Idaho, February 13, 1909, page B1 Also printed in the Rogue River Courier, Grants Pass, March 12, 1909, page 6
We went on to Wolf Creek, a distance of 160 miles from Eugene City. There we found Captain Smith, from Southern Oregon. These companies combined made up a little army of 400 men. When we reached Wolf Creek, we learned that about 500 Indians were camped 50 miles from Wolf Creek, on the high mountains, between Rogue River and Cow Creek. This was the report of scouts that had located them three days before, and every one of us, to the man, was in favor of punishing the marauders as quickly as possible.
Major Ross, who had taken command, got the officers together and held a council of war. It was decided to make a forced march by night, on foot, as it was impossible to use horses in such a rough, ragged country. Everyone was excited, and anxious, to get into a fight with the Indians, and it was overenthusiasm that caused our downfall.
We stayed in camp till after dark, and then started for the Indians. Our progress was slow, on account of steep mountains, and we didn't reach the place where the Indians had been camped till about eight o'clock the next morning; instead of reaching it in the early morning hours. When we did reach the place, to our chagrin, the birds had flown, and as we read the signs they had left about two days before. Now we were puzzled--we didn't know which way the Indians had gone, and we failed to take the precaution we should have.
The men, as a whole, were ignorant of Indian ways, and their only thought was to follow the Indians. They started out, going in all directions, and there wasn't an officer that had ten men with him
During all the confusion, I looked the country over, and decided which way the Indians were the most likely to go. I knew that they wouldn't all leave their camp together, that they would scatter and come together at some certain point. I had fixed the I designated point on a ridge, between two deep canyons, and on reaching the ridge we found the trail.
I had six of my men with me, and we were at least a quarter of a mile in advance of the main army. I looked across the canyon to my left, and saw some Indians on the next ridge. We passed the word back to the main army, and it soon came up to where we were.
It was about three quarters of a mile, air line, across to where the Indians were, but we had to go about three miles to get where they were. When the main army found out the location of the Indians, they threw caution to the winds, and started for them..
My men were in advance of the main army, and we saw about 40 Indians come out on a little open place, out of gunshot from us, and dance the war dance. The temptation was too great, and we opened fire, of course, without any effect, and.they gave us the horse laugh and disappeared over a little knoll.
Now take it from me, those redskins knew their music, for we naturally thought we had those fellows on the run, and we had an idea that we could outrun 'em. We started after them, on the double quick, but they had just outsmarted us. We ran right into their trap, for the first thing we knew, we were right up against their fortification, located in the thick brush at the foot of the mountain. As soon as we were in range of their guns, they gave us the best they had. Two of our men fell, one mortally wounded, and the other lived to get well.
As soon as the firing began, our men were thrown in a worse state of confusion than they were before, if it were possible. We moved the wounded men to the rear, and then began one of the most disgraceful imitations of.a battle that was ever witnessed.
The regular soldiers and the volunteers were shouting, "Where are the Indians," and the Indians answered their question for them, by pouring another volley into their ranks. Several men fell, and then it was every man for himself. They rushed into the brush, and shot at random, sometimes shooting at one another, with the assumption that wherever they saw the brush move, there was an Indian.
During the confusion, I took advantage of the occasion to do some reconnoitering. I was hidden in the brush and timber, about 600 feet above the battleground, and could tell from the report of the guns what was going on. Occasionally I would see one of our men, and sometimes an Indian. There wasn't any chance of getting a clear view of the battle on account of the thickness of
I moved along the entire length of the battle line, and could get a fairly good idea of what was happening to our men, from one and of the battle line to the other--end what I saw could hardly be described as a battle, for it was every fellow for himself, and the Indians take the hindmost, for the Indians were securely
fortified behind their breastworks.
After taking in the situation as well as I could, I returned to where our dead and wounded were, and I found nineteen dead and wounded. While I was reconnoitering,.l could plainly see what should be done, but it was impossible, for I didn't know where any of the officers were, except that they were in the brush, and had no control over their men. It was evident that the only key to win the battle was to form the men in a line and charge the Indians, but the steepness of the mountain, and the brush, made that impossible.
I decided to scout around the mountainside and examine the lay of the country, and find out if there was any advantage to be gained by shifting our army to another position.
On coming to the Rogue River side of the mountain, I descended the mountain and came to a little creek, near the Indians' fortifications. I crawled along the bank of the creek till I was within three hundred yards of their stronghold. 1 could see a good many Indians, and got a good view of the squaw, Sally Lane, daughter of Chief Joseph Lane, council chief of the Rogue River Indians..
Sally was located six or seven hundred yards up their mountainside, out of range of our old muzzle-loading rifles. She was sitting on a horse, directing the Indians, as she could see the movement of our soldiers (as well as the brush would permit), shouting her orders with a voice equal to the sound of a foghorn. She was no amateur directing her warriors.
This lady got the name Sally Lane in 1850, when General Joseph Lane made a treaty with the Rogue River Indians, and in honor of General Lane, her father was named Chief Joseph, and she Sally Lane. I watched lady Sally giving directions to her soldiers long enough to get the location of her warriors, and then worked my way back to where our men were located.
When I got back, the number of wounded and dead had increased to thirty. At this time Captain came out of the brush, with eighteen men he had succeeded in getting together, and proposed to me that we go down below, where the Indians were, on the creek. We were to follow up the creek, to where the Indians were fortified, end I told him that I had investigated that part of the battleground very carefully, and how I found the Indians located. I told him that it looked to be impossible to accomplish anything from that source, and that we would surely lose more men; but he insisted.
We tried out his plan, and when we got within gunshot of the Indians that were secreted in the brush, all of a sudden--BANG! went the Indians' guns, and three of our men fell, badly wounded. We caught up the wounded and carried them to where the other wounded men were.
By this time it was growing late, and the men were coming from the battlefield. They brought the news that three of Captain Smith's men were dead, out on the field, and the Captain detailed a corporal, with six men, to do and bring them in.
The Indians paid no attention to them till they went to lift the dead, and then they opened fire upon them, and two fell, wounded, and the lucky ones picked up the wounded, and carried them back to where the army was.
When Captain Smith detailed twelve men to go and get the bodies, and they were met with the same result as the first, on1y worse, for three were wounded, and one killed. Then the Captain gave up the idea of getting the dead, and we had to retreat about one-half mile downhill to a little creek, where we could get water. Besides the three soldiers we left four dead volunteers on the battlefield.
The next morning at daylight, the Indians attacked us in our camp, and fought us till noon, but this time we had the advantage of them, for we were concealed in the brush, and they were more or less in the open, and had to do the moving.
During this last fight, there were no casualties on our side, and we never knew whether or not there were any Indians killed during the two fights. Our loss was twenty-three dead, and forty wounded. After the Indians retired, we buried our dead, and made litters on which to carry our wounded, and went to Wolf Creek,
where we left our supplies. We called the battle we had fought with the Indians the Battle of Hungry Hill, for we didn't have a mouthful of anything to eat from the time we left our supplies on Wolf Creek, till we got tack.
Eight days after the Battle of Hungry Hill, Captain Bailey and I went to the battleground and buried those that were left on the battlefield,.in one grave. Of those that were wounded, four of them succumbed to their wounds.
I have never seen a detailed account of the Battle of Hungry Hill, although it is mentioned in the history of Indian wars as the Battle of Hungry Hill. It seems that all the officers that were engaged in the battle were, like myself, ashamed to give the details of the battle.
From Wolf Creek, we volunteers disbanded to our several homes with the stigma of defeat written all over our physiognomies. After resting up for a few days, eighteen of us volunteers were detailed to patrol the Oregon and California road, from one road station to another. I continued this patrol duty well into late December, and then answered a call from the quartermaster, I. N. Smith, to come to Corvallis and serve as purchasing agent for the southern division of the War Department.
I served as purchasing agent in the quartermaster's department till the war closed in June, when the Indians were moved to the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation, in Yamhill County. At that time, I returned to my ranch and remained on it until 1859, and continued to raise cattle.
Cyrenius Mulkey, "One of the Bravest," unpublished typescript, Oregon Historical Society Research Library Mss. 981
THE BATTLE OF HUNGRY HILL.Right there was where the officers made their great mistake. It was like this: When we arrived on the ground where we had expected to find the Indians, we all mixed up and went to hunting for the trail. There was not an officer who had ten men of his company under command. We all scattered in every direction, looking for the Indian trail. I took a look at the country and made up my mind which way they were the most likely to have gone, and then started in that direction, hunting for their trail. The whole army finally followed after me. I had six of my men with me, and were about a quarter of a mile in the lead of the main army. I was traveling up a sharp ridge between the deep canyons and had found the Indian trail where they had all come together.
Indians, in such cases as this, never leave their camp in a body, but scatter so as not to make any more signs than they can help. They know the country and have a certain place for all to get together again. I looked across the canyon to my left and saw the Indians on the next ridge. On an air line the ridge was about three-quarters of a mile distant, but we had to travel about three miles to get across the canyon. We passed the word back to the men and showed them where the Indians were. Then all hands made a run for the Indians, myself and party being in the lead. We were the first to reach them, and we opened the battle before we got within gunshot of their fortifications. There were about forty young bucks came out from their fortification and danced a war dance; as we advanced nearer to them they retreated just over a little "sugarloaf" mound and disappeared. This was done to deceive us, which it did. We went direct to where we had seen them last, which was within gunshot of their fortifications. The fortification was located in a very steep, heavily brushed canyon. The timber and brush were so thick you could not see an Indian or anything else in it.
At this place there was a kind of bench formed on the "backbone" of the mountain, and there were two creeks heading in this flat, one of which flowed in a southerly direction into Grave Creek and the other north into Cow Creek. The main fortification was right at the foot of the steep mountain and at the edge of the little flat, and a little way down the creek, which flowed north. When we got to where we had last seen the Indians, we, of course, looked around to see what had become of them. In less than a minute there was about twenty shots fired at us, and two of my men fell badly wounded. (One of them, John Gillespie, died in a few minutes. The other man got well.) In an instant after the shooting I told my men to take the wounded men out of sight of the Indians, and they only had to move them about twenty steps until they were entirely hidden from the Indians.
At this time up came the whole army, and they were in about the greatest state of confusion that I have ever seen a company of men in my whole life. Everybody for himself, and everybody howling, "Where are the Indians?" I showed them, and over into the brush and timber they went. However, they called a halt very soon after passing this little knoll, for the Indians opened fire on them as fast as they came in sight. There were between four and five hundred of the warriors behind their fortification. Our men soon found out how the Indians were situated, but it was impossible for a few men to run them out of their fortification. Then our men were so badly scattered that it was impossible to get enough of them together to charge the fortification. So the fight went on all day in the same way. Just as soon as I got my wounded men taken care of, I returned to the battleground. My other four men had already returned, so I went alone, but did not get right into the hard fighting. I could see from the smoke and the report from the Indians' guns about how they were located. I was hid in the brush and timber on a raise which was about five or six hundred feet above the battleground [Mulkey must mean five or six hundred feet away and higher in elevation] and could tell from the report of both the Indians' and our men's guns about what was going on. Occasionally I would see a man, but the brush and timber was so thick that I saw very few of either. I kept moving along until I had traveled the whole length of the battle line. I was taking observations and I do not think that anyone ever saw a battle fought at such a disadvantage as this one was. Here was four hundred of our men scattered all over the battleground in this thick woods, and every man for himself in the brush where they could not see each other, in many cases not more than twenty feet distant. What made it worse, they were shooting at every bush that happened to move by either Indian or white man, so you can see that in many cases our men were shooting at each other.
After taking in the situation as well as I could, I returned to where our dead and wounded were located. I found nineteen dead and wounded who had been carried off the battlefield while I had been away. I knew what should be done, but it was impossible for me to do it. You see that I did not know where a single one of the officers were except that they were on the battlefield, but there was not a one of them who had any control over his men. It was a singlehanded and everybody-for-himself fight. I could see that there was but one possible way to win the fight, and that was to call all of our forces off and collect them together as best we could, then make a general charge. Even then it [was] almost impossible to get them all together. The mountain was so steep, and the brush and timber so thick, that it was impossible to line the men up in shape to make a charge. I decided to make a trip to the opposite side of the mountain, which was the Rogue River side. As I have told you there were two small creeks heading near the Indians' fortification, one flowing north into Cow Creek and the other flowing south into Grave Creek, which was a tributary of the Rogue River. I took the Rogue River side and came to the creek, I should think, about two hundred and fifty yards below the Indians' fortification. I then crawled along up the creek through the brush until I was within a distance of about one hundred and fifty yards of where the Indians were. I was near enough so that I stole two of their horses. I could see a good many Indians and got a good view of the squaw, Sally Lane, who was commanding the battle. She was located upon the mountainside about six or seven hundred yards and out of range of our muzzle-loading rifles, and at an elevation of six or eight hundred feet above the battleground, and had the fortification between us and her. The place where she was stationed, on the mountainside, was not very busy, there being quite a space of open ground. The squaw was on horseback, and was giving directions to the Indians. Her position was such that she had a full view of both Indians and volunteers. I have never seen but one other person who had as powerful [a voice] as had Sally Lane, and that was her father, Chief Joseph Lane, who was the main council chief of the Rogue River Indians, the same people we were fighting. I could hear her at that distance just as clear and distinct as though we were very near her.
This is how she got the name of Sally Lane: In 1850 when General Joseph Lane made the first treaty with the Rogue River Indian tribe, in honor of General Lane, we christened her father "Joe Lane," and herself "Sally Lane." She was a large, stout woman, and had a voice like a man, only more so. I remained in hiding where I was for about one hour, I think, watching Sally and her warriors. While I was lying there hid in the brush, I discovered two horses near me. They had long ropes on, so I decided to take them to camp with me. I crawled up until I got hold of their ropes. I went out to the end of the ropes and pulled, moving the horses very slowly until they came close to me. I would then go out to the end of the rope and proceed as before. In this way I got out of danger. I then got one of the horses and led the other until I reached the place where our dead and wounded were. When I got there I found about thirty dead and wounded, who had been carried off from the battlefield.
About this time Captain Bailey came out of the brush with eighteen of our men who had got together, and he proposed to me that we go down below where the Indians were located on the Cow Creek side, and then follow up the creek to where they were, which would partially place us on the Indians' side of their fortification. I told Mr. Bailey that I had investigated that part of the battleground very carefully, and told him as nearly as I could just how the situation was. I also told him at this time that I did not think we could accomplish anything in that way, and that I felt sure we would lose some more of our men. However, he insisted and we went. We got within gunshot of the Indians without seeing them until they opened fire on us, and three of our men fell badly wounded. We grabbed up the wounded men and retreated back the way we had come, to where our dead and wounded were.
By this time it was growing late in the evening, and our men were all leaving the battleground and coming where we had left the dead and wounded. We had to retreat about a half mile into a very steep canyon where we could get water. About the time we were getting ready to start, some of the men who had come in from the battlefield told Captain Smith that there were three of his men who had been killed and were lying at a certain place yet uncared for, so Captain Smith detailed a corporal with six men to go and get them. The Indians did not pay any attention to them until they went to move the dead bodies, at which time they opened fire on the soldiers and wounded two of them. The other soldiers then grabbed up the wounded men and retreated back where we were. Captain Smith then detailed twelve men and sent them to get the bodies. They met with [the] same defeat, only they had three men wounded and one killed. The Captain then gave up trying to get his men and went into camp, leaving the dead on the battleground. Besides the three soldiers we left four volunteers dead on the battlefield. These seven men were left on that battleground for eight days before they were buried. I and Captain Bailey went back eight days afterwards and buried them all in one grave.
We went into camp with twenty-three dead and forty-odd wounded. The next morning at daylight the Indians attacked us in our camp and fought us until noon, but they soon found out that we had the best of it as we were hid in the brush and they were doing the moving, which gave us a great advantage over them. About noon they withdrew to their fortification where we had fought them the day before. We then buried our dead, made litters on which to carry our wounded and went to Wolf Creek, where we had left our supplies.
We buried twenty-seven men who were killed in this battle of "Hungry Hill." We named it Hungry Hill for the reason that we did not have a mouthful of food all the time we were there. Besides the twenty-seven men who were killed, we carried to our camp on Wolf Creek some forty-odd who had been wounded on the battlefield. There were five of these wounded men who died afterwards.
I have never seen a detailed account of this battle in print. Not even in the history of the Indian wars of Oregon, which only speak of it as the battle of Hungry Hill. I think that all of the officers were like myself ashamed to give the battle in detail. After resting up for two or three days I took eighteen of my men and patrolled the road from Wolf Creek to Hardy Elliff's road house, which was situated at the head of Cow Creek, a distance of eighteen miles. This patrol was to guard the Oregon and California travel from one stage station to another. I continued this until in December, at which time I got a dispatch from the quartermaster, I. N. Smith, asking me to come to Corvallis. Mr. Smith sent word that he wanted me in his office to act as purchasing agent for his department.
I left my command and went to Corvallis, and worked in the Quartermaster's Department until the war was closed in June. After the war was closed the Indians were all moved from this country to Grand Ronde Reservation in Yamhill County. I then returned to my ranch and remained on it until the summer of 1859. The cattle business got rather dull in Oregon, so I concluded to drive my cattle to California, close them out and quit the business.
Cyrenius Mulkey, "Eighty-One Years of Frontier Life," unpublished typescript written circa 1913, Oregon Historical Society Research Library Mss. 981
IN EARLIER DAYS
By Fred Lockley.
"When I was 21 years old I took up a place near Spencer's Butte, in Lane County," said Cy Mulkey, of Roseburg. "Two years later the Rogue River, Klamath, Modoc, Walla Walla, Cayuse, Snake and Shoshone Indians rose. The outbreak was carefully planned and came as a complete surprise to the settlers. The Indians killed many settlers, stole their stock and burned their houses, grain and haystacks.
"When the news of the outbreak reached us, Joseph Bailey and myself went to Eugene and called for volunteers. We secured 93 men. Joseph Bailey was elected captain and I was elected lieutenant. In those days the volunteers didn't wait to be measured by government officers or to have transportation, ammunition and supplies furnished. Each man got his saddle horse, rifle, a pair of blankets and ammunition and we started south, taking our chances on securing food from the settlers along the way. All the way down, through the Cow Creek canyon, we found that houses, barns and haystacks had been burned. Lots of stock had been killed. At Wagner's place we found that the settlers had built a fort.
"Four and a half days after starting we were at Wolf Creek, about 160 miles south of Eugene. There we found Captain Smith of the regular army, camped with about 150 of his men, as well as two companies of volunteers from Southern Oregon. Ours was Company A. Altogether there were about 400 men in camp. A day or two before we arrived the scouts had located a body of 500 Indians camped on the mountain range between Rogue River and Cow Creek, about 20 miles distant.
"Major Bruce took command of the troops, and, calling all of the officers together, we held a council. We decided, on account of the roughness of the country, to wait until dark and make a forced march on foot, reaching the Indian camp by daybreak. After a hard all-night trip we reached the Indian camp at 8 o'clock next morning, but found it deserted.
"Indians during war time never leave camp in a body. They scatter out, leaving as many trails as possible to confuse the enemy. Instead of holding the main body together and having a few scouts locate the Indians, the mistake was made of becoming disorganized into a score of groups, each of which was following a trail, hoping to locate the Indians.
"While a few of us were traveling up a sharp ridge between two deep canyons, we found the Indian trail where they had all come together. Looking across the canyon to the left, we saw some Indians on the next ridge. As a crow flies, the ridge was not over three-quarters of a mile away, but by the way we had to travel it took us an hour's hard work to reach there. The word was passed back that the Indians had been located and we started hot-foot to reach their camp before they could get away. As we neared their camp about 40 young bucks came out and danced a war dance, making threatening gestures. As we advanced they retreated slowly. They finally disappeared in heavy brush over a little sugar-loaf mound. Our volunteers pressed forward, hoping to overtake them.
"When we got to where we last saw the Indians there was a fusillade. Two of the men of my company fell badly wounded. One of them, John Gillespie, died in a few minutes. Immediately after the firing most of our force arrived. They were badly disorganized. Here and there you would see an officer with a few men. It was a case of everybody for himself. The 40 young bucks had led us into an ambush, where, hidden in the timber, between 400 and 500 Indians were picking us off as fast as they could fire.
"This engagement, the battle of Hungry Hill, as it was called, was one of the most unfortunate affairs I have ever seen. We had 400 disorganized men scattered through the woods, with the Indians apparently on all sides.
"I took the hill on the Rogue River side and came to a creek about 250 yards below the Indian stronghold. I crawled along the creek through the brush until within 150 yards of the Indians. Sally Lane was in command of the Indians. She was up on the mountainside about 600 yards out of the range of our muzzle-loading rifles. She was on horseback, and she had a full view of both Indians and volunteers. She was the daughter of Chief Joseph Lane, with whom General Joseph Lane had made a treaty. I never saw anyone, except her father, with a more powerful voice than Sally Lane. Though I was 600 yards away, I could hear every command she gave. She was tall and muscular, a good general, in fact, a regular Amazon.
"I crept up until I came across two horses with long tie-ropes. Catching their ropes, I moved slowly, leading the horses. As soon as I had gotten over the brow of the hill and out of sight of the Indians, I mounted one and, leading the other, rode to where I had seen our dead and wounded. By this time there were more than thirty men there, either dead or wounded. Just as I got there Captain Bailey came out of the brush with eighteen of our men. I told him what I had seen. He proposed that we go below the Indians on the Cow Creek side, follow up the creek and get to them from that side.
"We worked our way to within easy gunshot of the Indians, when they discovered us and opened fire, wounding three of our men. Picking up our wounded men, we retreated to where the other wounded were. Dusk was coming on, so we retreated into a steep canyon where we could get away.
"Just as we were about to leave, some of our men came in from the battlefield and told Captain Smith that three of the men in his company had been killed and were lying where the Indians could scalp them. Captain Smith detailed a corporal and six men to bring in the bodies. As they began to carry the dead troopers away, the Indians fired, wounding two of the party. The four other soldiers picked up the two wounded men and returned. Captain Smith then detailed twelve men to get the bodies. The Indians allowed them to reach the dead men and then the redskins fired, killing one of the rescue party and wounding three others. Captain Smith decided to make no further effort to bring in the bodies.
"In addition to the three dead regulars, we left four volunteers on the battle ground. We went into camp that night with 23 dead and more than 40 wounded. Next morning at daylight the Indians attacked us, but this time we had the advantage. We were in the brush, and the Indians were doing the moving about. We killed quite a few of them. They gave up the attempt to dislodge us at noon. We buried our dead and made litters to carry our wounded out to Wolf Creek. We buried 27 men before starting from camp. Five of our wounded died after we reached Wolf Creek. Eight days later Captain Bailey and I returned and found the seven dead men we were compelled to abandon. We buried them all in one grave."
Oregon Daily Journal, Portland, May 5, 1914, page 6
Late [October, 1855] in the hills of Grave Creek to the southward of Cow Creek, 250 volunteers and about 100 United States dragoons had a fight with the Indians. Our captain, A. J. Smith, had grown gray in the service and yet he was outranked by the commander of the volunteers, so he had no voice in the matter. The volunteers had an idea they knew how to fight better than the regulars. Well, we had the fight and the Indians licked us. Captain Smith was told to charge up the hill and dislodge the Indians. We did so and had three men killed and seven badly wounded. During the next two days we killed some Indians, and they killed and wounded a good many whites, both volunteers and regulars. We were more afraid of the volunteers than of the Indians, for in the volunteers every man was his own boss, and some of them were so inexperienced they would shoot if they saw a bush move and as often as not the bush was moved by one of our dragoons working his way forward toward the Indians. If a regular was told to go he went, whether he knew he would be killed or not, but in the volunteers the officers had but little authority, and men stopped to argue the question. The amateur officers of the volunteers were brave enough, but they had no experience. They were lawyers and clerks and politicians, and none of these jobs had trained them in military science.
Michael Kinny, quoted by Fred Lockley, "Oregon: In Early Days," Oregon Journal, Portland, May 12, 1915, page 6
The volunteers found a large number of Indians on Bald Peak, a high mountain which is near Grave Creek. The Indians retired into the brush, whence they poured a deadly fire into the ranks of the soldiers. All day long the battle continued, and at dark the whites retired a short distance to obtain water for their wounded and dying. The next morning the Indians made a desperate attack, but were forced to retire to the brush. Nevertheless, "they retained a good position on the battleground and held their scalp dance to celebrate the victory. But the victory was dearly purchased, inasmuch as the Indians not only failed to pursue the retreating whites, but left immediately for their stronghold down the Rogue River."
J. B. Horner, "Rogue River Reds Fight Five Years Before Yielding," Oregon Sunday Journal, May 23, 1920, page 18 Horner was a professor of history at Oregon Agricultural College.
Brig. Gen. Horatio Gates Gibson, United States army veteran of the war with Mexico, Indian campaigns and the Civil War, who died yesterday, was the oldest living graduate of West Point. . . . The general bore only one scar--in his thigh--from an Indian's bullet, in what the soldiers called the "Battle of Hungry Hill," along the Rogue River in Oregon.
"Veteran of Many Fights," Kansas City Star, April 18, 1924, page 8
Last revised May 30, 2019