The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Harvey Robbins

By Harvey Robbins
October 23, 1855, Tuesday. Linn County, O.T. The Indians of Rogue River Valley having broke the treaty of 1853, and commenced hostilities against the whites by breaking out about the 10th of this month and killing a great many citizens and miners of that valley, and destroying a great deal of property by fire, and stealing such stock and property as they could take with them, killed a large amount of stock and burned the houses and grain, spreading death and desolation over the land, the citizens of that valley have become much alarmed and sent petitions to the Willamette praying for assistance, the Governor immediately issued a proclamation calling for 3 companies of mounted volunteers from Linn and Lane counties to go and chastise the savage murderers, which call was readily responded to, the southern counties furnishing their quota also, the northern counties having already turned out their brave and noble-hearted boys to quell the savage and indiscriminating murderers of the North, who have been for years past perpetrating their bloody deeds on the emigrants while passing through their country and there has been many bloody deeds committed by them on explorers, traders, and missionaries. Nothing but a severe drubbing will ever quell them. Today by order of our enrolling officer, Colonel Helms, we met at Harrisburg, elected our officers. For captain we elected Jonathan Keeney, first lieutenant, [A. W.] Stanard, second lieutenant, Joseph Yates. We then marched out of town a mile and encamped for the night.
October 24, Wednesday. This morning we were on the line of march by 8 o'clock. We arrived at Eugene City at 1 o'clock p.m. and were mustered into service and our animals and equipage appraised. We then camped near the town on the Willamette River.
October 25, Thursday. This morning our officers are busily engaged in making necessary arrangements for our trip. At 1 o'clock we paraded with Captain Buoy's company of Lane County, and Mr. Michel of Lane Co. and Mr. I. N. Smith of Linn Co. delivered us a very patriotic speech, each. We then traveled 10 miles and camped for the night on the coast fork of the Willamette River. A middling poor show for cooking, owing to the scarcity of cooking utensils, which we will get at Roseburg.
October 26, Friday. Today we traveled 25 miles and camped near the foot of the Calapooya Mountains for the night.
October 27, Saturday. Today we crossed over the Calapooya Mountains, encamped for the night in the Umpqua Valley after 12 miles march over very bad roads.
October 28, Sunday. Traveled 12 miles and camped for the night on the Camas Swale.
October 29, Monday.
Last night at about 12 o'clock a messenger appeared at our camp with an order from Roseburg, which is headquarters, calling for a detachment of 30 men to go and quell some Indians on Cole's prairie, who had been making hostile threats towards the citizens of that place. The 30 men were detached immediately under Lieutenant Stanard, the remainder of the company marched to Roseburg, 18 miles, against 6 o'clock a.m. We camped near the town to remain until our detail of last night comes up. The citizens of this place seem to treat the volunteers with but very little respect. One man has even forbade our cutting wood on his claim. We just went to his wood that was already chopped and helped ourselves. At 3 o'clock in the evening our detachment arrived with 10 Indian prisoners, which were taken without the firing of a gun. They were delivered up to the authority of the place. About night there was a guard called for from our company to protect the Indians from the violence of the citizens, some threatening their lives, others threatening to release them. Captain told them that if they would bring them back to his camp he would guard them.
October 30, Tuesday. Rained all night. We have no tents yet. The citizens will not even let us sleep in their barns. A person may very easily imagine what kind of respect the volunteers begin to have for Umpquaians. Today have to elect a superior officer to command the whole battalion. We hope that we may make a wise choice, knowing that the glory of the war depends entirely on the superior officers. It seems that Captain William Martin is the choice of all. He was unanimously elected, having no opposer at all. He runs a very strong race. We left Roseburg at 4 o'clock, traveled 5 miles and camped for the night.
October 31, 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 ahead 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.
November 2, Friday. This morning we are under orders to return back as far as Cow Creek, and guard the few citizens of that valley that have not been murdered by those treacherous villains. There are but 3 houses left standing in this valley; the rest have all been burnt by the Indians, the stock all killed and stolen and farms laid waste. 11 o'clock p.m. arrived at [William Henry] Smith's on Cow Creek. 40 remain here and the rest proceed to the canyon.
November 3, Saturday. 20 of us escorted a pack train to the canyon. As soon as they return with ammunition we expect to give the Indians another round.
November 4, Sunday. This morning 20 of us went out on a scout. We went to the summit of a high peak on the west side of the canyon. Returned in the evening without making any discovery.
November 5, Monday. Nothing to do but cook and eat and escort traveling parties from this place to Fort Bailey.
November 6, Tuesday. A large pack train arrived through the canyon loaded with provision.
November 7, Wednesday. Cold rain. The most of us without tents. 30 of our men that were detailed to guard Roseburg arrived this evening all safe and sound.
November 8, Thursday. We drove our horses off into the mountain about 3 miles to grass. The grasshoppers destroyed nearly all the grass out here last summer, and the Indians burnt all the grain, so our feed has to be brought from the Willamette.
November 9, Friday. Cold and raining. Some of the boys begin to shiver and wish themselves back home.
November 10, Saturday. Snow fell last night to the depth of 3 inches in the valley and much deeper in the hills.
November 11, Sunday. Marched to Fort Bailey and camped.
November 12, Monday. Making preparations for building a fort. It is expected that this will be our winter quarters.
November 13, Tuesday. All hands at work, each mess building their own house to winter in.
November 14, Wednesday. This morning every man seems to be stirring and making all the noise possible.
November 15, Thursday. Clear and pleasant.
November 16, Friday. Rained all night. Quite a number of us are without tents yet, but there is no chance for dodging. Here we have to stand and take it or lay down to it as we choose.
November 17, Saturday. This morning the sky is clear and the sun is just peeping over the mountain in all his beauty. An express has just arrived at our camp bringing the news of the Indians burning houses on Jump-Off Joe, and a request from Major Bruce of the Southern Battalion to Capt. Keeney for his company to meet him there to try to take the rascals in. 4 o'clock p.m. We have two bears barbecued ready for the march, and the fighting too, if we get the chance. Capt. Keeney sent an express back to the Canyon for a pack train to follow on after us with provisions.
November 18, Sunday. This morning by 8 o'clock we were on the march. We traveled 9 miles and met some men that informed us that Capt. Bob Williams had attacked the Indians 30 or 40 in number, and had completely cleaned them out, having killed 5 of them and put the rest to flight. 1 man wounded. They think that the Indians have retreated down toward the mouth of Grave Creek. We went back 3 miles to Grave Creek, thence down this stream 4 miles and encamped for the night.
November 19, Monday. This morning Capt. Keeney having determined to proceed down Grave Creek to Rogue River on foot, we sent all our horses back to Fort Leland. Captain sent back 15 men to hurry up the muckamuck, our rations being already nearly exhausted. We traveled 12 miles down Grave Creek and camped. This is a rough and mountainous country. The creek winds its way through rocky canyons. There is some gold in these mountains. From the appearance of the labor that has been done along this stream I judge there has been several dimes taken out here.
November 20, Tuesday. This morning all hands complain of being sore, after climbing mountains all day yesterday and lugging their knapsacks. Half rations for breakfast; a little dough wound on a stick and baked, and a small slice of beef constituted my meal. Having concluded to remain in camp today to wait for provision, Capt. ordered 40 men out on scout; 20 to proceed down the creek to its mouth to see if there have any Indians passed down that way on foot; the other 20 to go on to a high peak that lay to our north, to see if there could be any discovery made in that quarter. While on the summit of this peak we were startled by the firing of guns up Grave Creek, also the report of 3 guns some distance to the west. We supposed that the Indians had attacked our pack train. We went back to camp with all haste. We all gathered up and marched up the creek with the expectation of having to fight. We marched 4 miles and met 8 of our men with some of our horses packed with provisions. It was Capt. Buoy's company that we heard firing up the creek. We halted and cooked and eat our dinner. Send 10 men back to make another trip for pack animals, as all attempts had yet failed; thence up a mountain 2 miles. Camped with grass, plenty of water.
November 21, Wednesday. Remained in camp today, except 30 men on scout. We went to the summit of the mountain that we were camped on 3 miles where we could see all over the whole country. Many of the snow-capped peaks presented themselves to our view. Indians in this country have all advantage on the army. They have spies all over the mountain that see the army wherever they go. I think that it may safely be termed the Indian's home. Deer, bear and elk abound in these mountains.
November 22, Thursday. This morning we took up the line of march for Rogue River, down Grave Creek 4 miles, thence over a mountain 8 miles, which the boys named Mount Rubbing in honor of a young man [illegible]. 15 of us volunteer to go down Grave Creek to the mouth, thence down Rogue River to where the pack trail strikes the river, which is 6 miles of a deep canyon, and entirely impassable for anything else but a footman and so near impassable for them that I never want to try it again. Where the trail strikes the river there is an Indian ranch or village of about 25 huts, which we burnt. From appearance we supposed the Indians had been gone about 2 days. We think that they were probably frightened away by our first day's travel down Grave Creek. Had we not gone back when we heard Capt. Buoy's guns, we would I think have given them a close chase. There had some 30 or 40 Indians come down the river, supposed to be mostly squaws and children. They were undoubtedly badly frightened. Children and all had been running with all haste. We camped here this evening. Capt. Buoy's company arrived here and camped with us. We were out of meat. They had two beeves killed, one divided with us.
November 23, Friday. Today lying still. Myself and 2 other men follow an Indian's track 4 miles where he had gone last night. Major Martin arrived this evening with about 150 volunteers, 10 days provisions and Capt. Judah with 50 regulars, one cannon.
November 24, Saturday. Today Major Martin with about 400 men marched 15 miles over a mountain. Snow 12 inches deep for 3 miles. Encamped on the meadows. Excellent grass. 3 o'clock in the evening the vanguard discovered an encampment about 4 miles distant in Rogue River Canyon, which after examining with a glass were thought to be Indians, though not positive; as Capt. Williams is expected down on that side of the mountain it may be he.
November 25, Sunday. 2 men started at 2 o'clock last night as spies to see whether it was Capt. Williams or Indians that we had seen on yesterday evening. 12 o'clock today spies of last night not returned yet. 1 o'clock Williams arrived, came down on the same side of the river on which we did, which confirmed us that it was Indians that we had supposed to be Williams. Capt. Judah and Major Bruce went on to a mountain to take another look with the glass. Returned, report that the Indians have burnt their village. Capt. Keeney with his footmen marched down a deep ravine 2 miles to the small creek, thence down the creek 1 mile to the river. On this creek a short distance from the river, John Rogers, a young man in our company, discovered something under a large rock, which after examining was found to be a cache either put here by Indians or miners; supposed to be miners. It consisted of flour, 50 lbs., coffee 40 lbs., salt 10 lbs., 1 valise, 1 peck of chestnut acorns, several books, many other articles too numerous to mention. Camped, 6 men in each, 50 yds. apart for the purpose of cutting off any Indians that might attempt to pass down the river.
November 26, Monday. This morning the Southern Battalion came down the river. The spy of yesterday morning arrived at camp, reported that the Indians were, he thought from all appearances, preparing to fight. He said that he could distinguish one amongst them that was Charco Boston. Capt. Keeney's company was ordered to cross the river with Southern Battalion. While preparing rafts to cross the river we were attacked by the Indians from the opposite side of the river. Killed one man, wounded 22 more, Capt. Keeney's company. The river runs here in a deep canyon. The side on which the Indians were is covered with fir timber and brush so thick that we could not see them. The side on which we were was open with the exception of a few scattering trees. As soon as the firing commenced Capt. Keeney ordered his men, everyone to choose a position behind something to shelter us from their sight. 10 minutes before he advised us, all that were not at work, to get behind something and keep a close lookout for Indians, but the boys were disposed to laugh at him. The firing commenced at about 1 o'clock, continued till 8 o'clock at night, when seeing that it was impossible to accomplish our object or even do any good in any way, we left the field, carrying our killed and wounded with us to our camp. Of the 25 it is not known whether any were killed or not, though some of the boys say they are certain they killed some.
November 27, Tuesday. This morning a melancholy duty remained for us to do, that was the burying of our dead man, which we did with the honor due to him who had lost his life in defense of his country. Major Martin and Major Bruce, seeing that their forces were inadequate, sent for reinforcement, also for supplies and provisions.
November 28, Wednesday. Very cold, snowing and raining all day. This morning, seeing our 10 days' provisions were going to fall short, we were put on half rations.
November 29, Thursday. Continues blustery weather. Our company is out of flour, nothing but beans without salt, and coffee to eat.
November 30, Friday. It still continues to rain and snow. The Indians still hold their position. They fire on every man that gets within 6 hundred of them.
December 1, Saturday. Quite pleasant. Today we obtained from the Southern Battalion a few bushels of wheat which we cooked and eat. This evening a small pack train arrived with provisions.
December 2, Sunday. Snow fell last night to the depth of 6 inches. This morning Major Martin and Major Bruce, seeing that we were in danger of being bound in here by snow, deeming it unwise to remain here longer, ordered their forces to march back for the settlement. By 8 o'clock we were on march carrying our wounded men on a litter, all but the ones who were able to ride horseback. We had a mountain of 16 miles to cross. Today beginning snow on the summit 18 inches deep. We camped within 2 miles of Whiskey Creek, having traveled 14 miles.
December 3, Monday. Cold and snowing. This morning we started early. Traveled to Whiskey Creek 2 miles, thence over Mount Robin ["Rubbing"?] to Grave Creek, 8 miles, thence up the creek 4 miles and encamped for the night.
December 4, Tuesday. Raining today. We arrived at the Grave Creek House or Fort Leland with our wounded man, having carried him 40 miles in two days and a half over mountains and through snow and rain. Encamped at Fort Leland.
December 5, Wednesday. Continues to rain. Going to remain at this place until after the election of colonel and lieutenant colonel which will come off on Thursday. The candidates have been shouting here today, telling us their views and what they would do if elected. If they make their words good, woe unto the Indians.
December 6, Thursday. Cold and snowing. Capt. Keeney's company went mostly for Capt. Williams for colonel and Major Martin for lieutenant colonel.
December 7, Friday. Continues to snow. Today received the returns of the election from the South. Williams elected Colonel.
December 8, Saturday.
Continues to snow. Today we were ordered to march back into the Umpqua to where we could obtain sustenance for ourselves and animals as we could not get either one here. Snow on the hills where we had been herding our horses is about 2¼ feet deep. We think that we made a lucky escape in getting out of the mountains before the storm.
December 9, Sunday. This morning we started on the march for the Umpqua leaving our wounded man in the hospital with 3 men to take care of him. Rained all day. Snow melting very fast. The creeks all very full, some of them swimming our animals. Camped at the canyon for the night.
December 10, Monday. Today we marched through the canyon, the roads very muddy. Encamped on Canyon Creek, 1 mile from the mouth of the canyon in Umpqua Valley.
December 11, Tuesday. Remain in camp today. Provision scarce. We have no flour; we are living now on rice and meat. Capt. Buoy's company is camped here with us. They have provisions plenty, but take care to eat it themselves.
December 12, Wednesday. This morning we had half rations of flour for our breakfast. We do not know when we will get any more. It seems as though the quartermasters and packmasters are trying to manage so as to starve us out. There are several pack trains here idle and have been 5 or 6 days and nothing to hinder them from going back.
December 13, Thursday. A rainy and disagreeable day. This morning the pack animals that were laying here started north for supplies of provisions for ourselves and forage for our animals. [Remainder illegible.]
December 14, Friday. Continues to rain this morning. The mountains all around are covered with snow. General Barnum and Colonel Martin passed here today on their way to Deer Creek. This morning we were out of meat, and the quartermaster would not get any, so there being some very fine hogs running about the camp, we just killed one.
December 15, Saturday. Continues to rain. Cold and disagreeable weather.
December 16, Sunday. This morning we are out of meat, and having made several applications to the quartermaster for meat, and could not get it, Captain had discovered in the quartermaster's house a keg of syrup which he called for, and the quartermaster swore that he should not have it. Captain swore that he would. He came to camp and took a few boys with him and just walked in, carried it out, and said, "Here boys, take it," and Mr. Quartermaster took care not to cheep.
December 17, Monday. Cold and disagreeable this morning. Mr. Bolen sent out 4 men to hunt up what government cattle he had in his care, going to take to grass, as they had got so poor that the volunteers would not eat them. The cattle are about 4 miles distant. After they had gone a while they returned very much frightened with only a part of their cattle and said that they had heard a cap snap near them which they supposed to be an Indian. We think that they are afraid and want us to hunt the cattle for them.
December 18, Tuesday. Today Captain Keeney received a letter from Lieutenant Yates at Grave Creek. He says he does not expect to get here for something like a week.
December 19, Wednesday. This morning Lieutenant McKinney started back to Fort Leland. This evening a pack train arrived with clothing.
December 20, Thursday. Cold and snowing. The pack train that came here yesterday said that he would stay here a few days till after the storm, but Captain Keeney told them that they must go on to Fort Leland, for his men that were there were out of provision and destitute of clothing and consequently in a state of sufferance.
December 21, Friday. The weather very disagreeable. This morning Capt. Buoy's company left here, a part of them to go down toward Deer Creek to take some squaws that the citizens had become much alarmed about. The remainder of the company moved some 4 or 5 miles for the purpose of getting a better camp.
December 22, Saturday. Snowing this morning. Today 2 of the men that were detached to go with the pack train came back. One of the men was sick. They only went as far as Cow Creek in 2 days.
December 23, Sunday. Continues to snow, but it melts pretty near as fast as it falls.
December 24, Monday. Very cold, the ground frozen hard. Today there is considerable of murmuring in camp about the way we are getting treated here. We are very poorly clad, and in fact we have no suitable equipment for a winter campaign and it seems that there is no exertion used for our relief with the exception of Captain.
December 25, Tuesday. This morning the quartermaster of this place brought out a bucket full of brandy and treated our company.
December 26, Wednesday. Last night 9 of the men that went to escort the pack to Renoise [Vannoy's?] arrived.
December 27, Thursday. This morning we left the canyon.
December 28, Friday. Arrived at Roseburg.
December 29, Saturday. Left Roseburg.
December 30, Sunday. Crossed the Calapooya Mountains.
December 31, Monday. Arrived at Eugene.
January 10, 1856, Thursday. Met today at Calapooya, according to the orders of our Captain, made our monthly report, returned home with orders to meet at the same place the first day of February.
February 1. Met today at Calapooya and was discharged from the service by order of the Governor.
Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol. 34, pages 345-358

Last revised September 14, 2017