The Meadows Campaigns
Looking for the Indians after their victory at Hungry Hill.
Rogue River Correspondence of the Statesman.
Grave Creek, Nov. 21, 1855.Dear Bush: We are off to the mountains in the morning. Maj. Martin's command, or rather a small portion of it, returned here from Rogue River this evening. Maj. Bruce and Capt. Judah, with their respective forces, returned here also this afternoon, preparatory to scouring the country to the west of this, under the impression that the Indians are in force somewhere about the Meadows, on Rogue River, or have crossed over the mountains onto the wasters of the Coquille River. In either case, our officers feel confident that they will be able to fall in with the enemy in a few days. The report that the Indians that the Indians were gathering somewhere on "Jump-off Joe" proves to be erroneous. Several empty houses were burned, but the mischief must have been done by a small marauding party, and most likely with the intention of drawing off our forces from other points. Capt. Bob Williams fell in with a small force of Indians near the mouth of Applegate Creek, and killed five of the redskins, losing one good man, mortally wounded. It is now believed that the Indians have two white women with them, supposed to be Mrs. Haines and Mrs. Wagoner, taken in the first outbreak. [Mrs. Wagoner died in her cabin; Mrs. Haines and daughter survived briefly as prisoners.] The wounded, in the late conflict, passed through the Canyon on Monday last, in charge of Dr. Fiske--all doing well.
As they may say of Sebastopol, you may look for "stirring news" soon from this quarter. Major Bruce, Captain Judah of Fort Jones, Cal., and Major Martin, have all seen service and had experience which will no doubt be of great service in the campaign. The mountains may defeat us, but I think the Indians will not, if we can find them. You will hear from me as soon as the expedition returns.
In haste, "BOSTON."Oregon Statesman, Corvallis, December 1, 1855, page 3
Rogue River Correspondence of the Statesman.
Grave Creek, Nov. 29, 1855.Dear Bush: An express from the west reached here this evening, bringing the latest news from the seat of war. Major Bruce, Major Martin and Capt. Judah, of Fort Jones, with their respective commands, left Grave Creek, headquarters of the northern battalion, on the morning of the 20th inst., for the lower Rogue River, where, from the best information, the Indians were in force. Near the close of the first day's march their scouts were discovered, and on the next the army encamped at the mouth of Whisky Creek, where Capt. Bowie and Capt. Kinney with two companies of the northern battalion had encamped on the day previous. Evident traces of very recent departure of a considerable body of Indians were found at this point, and no doubt was entertained that they had discovered the movements of our forces and proceeded down the river, about eight miles, when our scouts discovered them in strong force on Rogue River, about six miles above the Little Meadows. Our forces had left Camp Vannoy with ten days' rations, and half of this was consumed before the enemy was discovered. No time could therefore be lost, and an attack was at once determined upon, notwithstanding the almost inaccessible position of the enemy. For this purpose Major Bruce, with his command and one company of Maj. Martin's battalion, Capt. Kinney's, on the morning of the 27th, attempted to throw his division across the river, about four or five miles below the Indian village. While engaged in constructing flats [sic--"rafts"] for this purpose, he was fired upon by the Indians from the opposite bank of the river. So dense was the forest and undergrowth of brush that no enemy could be seen--not even the smoke or flash of their rifles for some time. During the day, however, our boys had opportunity of drawing a bead on some of the redskins, and two or three we know to have been killed. We lost one killed, Wm. Lewis, of Capt. Kinney's company, one wounded from the same; two of Capt. Williams', one of Capt. Rice's, and another of whose company or name I am not informed, in all five wounded. A sharp fire was kept up from both sides of the river all day, but no further attempt was made to cross. Major Bruce very wisely concluded that it must involve a loss of life which the circumstances did not and could not justify. In the meantime Capt. Judah, with his howitzer, which had been brought over the mountains with great difficulty, accompanied by Maj. Martin and two small companies of volunteers, had gone around on a high mountain ridge to gain a position for the howitzer immediately in front of the Indians' encampment. They had nearly gained the point of the mountain some twelve miles from camp when an express arrived, notifying them that Major Bruce could not gain his position as anticipated, to act in concert. Major Martin and Capt. Judah were therefore, reluctantly, compelled to return to camp. Owing to the want of provision, and the difficulty of getting supplies across the mountains, operations were suspended until a new supply could be brought forward. A few days will therefore elapse before any new movement is made.
In great haste, yours, X.
Oregon Statesman, Corvallis, December 8, 1855, page 3
FROM ROGUE RIVER.The Yreka Union of Dec. 1st publishes the following--confirmation of a rumor published in the last Oregon papers which reached us:
Two Women Taken Prisoners.
"We gather the following items from the Table Rock Sentinel. News of a general battle at the Big Meadows on Rogue River may be looked for.
"A few days ago, a part of Captain Williams' company, who were out scouting, encountered a company of Indians just below the mouth of Jumpoff Joe, on Rogue River, who had been up on Wagoner's Creek and in the mountains thereabout for the purpose of getting their stock of provisions, blankets and clothing that they had stolen from the whites and cached in that neighborhood.
"The scouts fired on them and killed five or six Indians, getting one man wounded that has since died of his wounds. Report says that the Indians had eighteen mules packed with their supplies, and that Capt. Williams had a talk with them, but at so great a distance his rifles would not take effect--that the Indians told him they were not prepared to fight them there, but if the whites wanted to fight, for them to come down to the meadows--that the Indians were ready to fight them--that the Indians had two white women prisoners at the meadows, some fifty miles down on Rogue River.
"Maj. Bruce, with his battalion of volunteers, has gone down to see if the Indians are there. If he finds them, we have no fears but he will render a good account of the expedition."
Daily Alta California, San Francisco, December 7, 1855, page 1
The Salem Advocate of Dec. 8th contains the following letters, detailing Indian hostilities in Southern Oregon:
Roseburg, Nov. 30th, 1855.The Indians have taken their position at a place called Little Meadow, on Rogue River, with all their property, women and children. The number of warriors is variously estimated from 150 to 300. Our force will not vary far from 600 when the battle commences--which will probably not take place for a week or more, or until all things are in readiness--when, it is to be hoped, this matter will be wound up for all time.
Our men made an attempt a day or two since to surround them, but did not succeed. Some of the command were engaged in building a raft for crossing the river, when they were fired on--wounding five and killing William Lewis, of Captain Kenny's company. They kept up their fire until dark--but our boys kept concealed behind the rocks, on the bank of the river, not deeming it advisable to leave their position under such circumstances. They returned to camp after dark. A few rifles, revolvers and some 25 pairs blankets were left on the ground, besides a fine large "beef steer," weighing nearly 1,000 pounds--which the Indians took possession of during the night--thus receiving quartermaster and commissary supplies without a requisition. The army is in full view and hailing distance [of the Indians], and [we] occasionally have a talk with each other. The Indians are still engaged in strengthening their position, and when the fight commences it will be very severe, and you may expect quite a loss on our part.
Supplies are going forward rapidly, and our men will be in good condition for fighting--which was not the case at the battle of "Grave Creek Hills."
Dr. McIteeny and assistants Fiske and Danforth left a few days since for the field.
A hospital has been established some three miles from here, toward Winchester--Dr. Thompson, of Scottsburg, is the resident surgeon. The wounded of the last battle are doing well.
Yours, SAMUEL E. MAY."Two Weeks Later from Oregon and Washington Territories," Sacramento Daily Union, December 21, 1855, page 1
More Indian Depredations at the South.
Fight at the Little Meadows.
The Indians in the Rogue River and Umpqua valleys are still committing their depredations on the defenseless settlements, pillaging and burning houses and property of the settlers and, growing bolder by their success, have approached nearer the towns. The following letter was received on Thursday by Thos. J. McCarver, assistant Com. Gen., to whom we are indebted for a copy:
Roseburg Commissary Office,Dear Son--Since you left this place this morning, information of a reliable character reached here that Mr. Rice and family--with the exception of a small boy--had been murdered this morning at daylight, about fifteen miles of this place, and the house set on fire, the smoke of which has been seen by several persons now in town. [See the contradicting report, a few paragraphs below.] The boy reports about 100 Indians in the attacking party. Great consternation has been produced in this place and neighborhood.
Dec. 1st, 1855.
Adjutant Stratton, of Major Martin's battalion, is here and is now engaged in making out orders for the remnants of Capts. Bailey, Gordon and Chapman's companies now in the neighborhood to repair without delay to the scene of hostilities, and we are preparing to give them a hearty reception at this place if their object is commissary and quartermaster's stores.
I send this by the messenger who follows Capt. Bailey, who left with you this morning. We have sent a messenger to the scene of difficulty. When he returns, if necessary, I will dispatch another without delay to the Governor. In the meantime, show this to the different newspaper editors in the Willamette Valley.
I am, &c.,Thos. J. McCarver,
M. M. McCarver,
Commissary Genl. Oregon Militia.
Asst. Com. Genl. Oregon Militia.
We are also informed by Mr. McCarver that an express arrived at Roseburg on the 30th ult. from Little Meadows, on Rogue River, bringing news that a fight had taken place a day or two before at that point. Part of Maj. Martin's battalion was engaged in crossing Rogue River by means of a raft. On placing the third log in the water, they were fired upon from the brush on the opposite side by a superior number, and not being prepared for fighting were compelled to lie behind the rocks, or anything which would shelter them from the enemy's fire, till night covered their retreat. A Mr. Lewis of Capt. Kinney's company was killed; one of Capt. Kinney's, two of Capt. Williams' and one of Capt. Rice's companies were wounded; one other was wounded, but of whose company was not learned. It is not known that any Indians were killed in this engagement.
During the day, a beef belonging to the volunteers was killed, and at night the Indians crossed and carried it off, together with a quantity of arms, ammunition and provisions.
* * *Adjutant Stratton was to leave for the Little Meadows on the 3rd. Owing to the condition of things in the Umpqua he has countermanded Maj. Martin's orders, directing all the forces to the Little Meadows, and will leave 100 men to protect the settlements.
This force is deemed inadequate, and if Maj. Martin's battalion remains long in the Rogue River Valley it is feared they will suffer much from the savages, unless more companies are organized and more arms and ammunition distributed among the citizens of the Umpqua Valley. Arms are very scarce and calls are made on the Commissary Department continually, which is entirely destitute, the last having been given out during the last alarm.
The end of this war will only be when the last redskin, who has spread terror among the peaceable citizens of these two valleys, shall have bit the dust.
Weekly Oregonian, December 8, 1855, page 2
The Oregonian says: "We are also informed by Mr. McCarver that an express arrived at Roseburg on the 30th ult., from Little Meadows, on Rogue River, bringing news that a fight had taken place a day or two before at that point. A Mr. Lewis, of Captain Kinney's company, was killed; one of Capt. Kinney's, two of Capt. Williams', and one of Capt. Rice's companies were wounded, one other was wounded, but of whose company was not learned."
"Indians of Oregon," Daily National Era, Washington, D.C., January 19, 1856, page 3
Expedition to the Meadows--Col. Martin's Report.
Headquarters, Camp Leland,E. M. Barnum, Adj. Gen. O.T.:
Dec. 10, 1855.
Sir:--Herewith I have the honor to submit to you a detailed account of the operations of the Northern Battalion, Southern Division, Oregon Mounted Volunteers under my command since my report of Nov. 3rd.
After the battle of the Grave Creek Hills, in which a small portion of my command participated, a want of supplies compelled Col. Ross, commanding the ninth regiment Oregon militia, and Capt. Smith, of the regulars, to withdraw their forces from this point. Whilst making every preparation to renew the attack upon the Indians in their recent stronghold, it was ascertained that they had abandoned their position, and from the best information that could be obtained, I was led to believe had removed further to the westward and probably taken up a position somewhere on the headwaters of the Coquille, in the big bend of Cow Creek, or possibly in the lower Rogue River country. In either event their proximity to the thickly settled districts on the south side of the South Umpqua River, and the great exposure of this portion of Umpqua Valley, determined me to install a sufficient force from the several companies under my command to occupy positions to check any demonstrations of the enemy in this quarter. For this purpose, Capt. Bailey, company A, of Lane County, was ordered to proceed to Camas Prairie, on the waters of the Coquille, a point easily accessible to the Umpqua Valley, and commanding the nearest and best trails from the coast as well as that leading across the Umpqua Mountains to lower Rogue River. Capt. Gordon, of the Douglas company, was ordered to occupy a position on Cow Creek, about eight miles above the mouth of that stream, in order to protect the settlements in that quarter from the incursions of the Cow Creek Indians, who had so recently committed such outrages between the Canyon and Grave Creek. Lieut. T. W. Prather, with a detachment of the same company, was ordered for the present to proceed up the North Umpqua, to keep an eye upon a small band of Indians who were reported to be in that area.
Under the proclamation of the Governor, authorizing the organization of two southern battalions, one cardinal object was to keep open a line of communication from the valleys of the Willamette and Umpqua south to the California line. For this purpose, Capt. Keener's company, of Linn County, was stationed at Camp Bailey, about five miles south of the crossing of Cow Creek, with orders to protect the road from the latter point to Grave Creek. For a similar object, Capt. Buoy's company B, of Lane County, was stationed at the south end of the Canyon--[Camp Elliff]--with orders to keep open the communication from [his post] to the [Cow] Creek crossing. Such was the disposition of my force on the 10th of November, with headquarters at Camp Bailey. No immediate movement could be made against the Indians, as it was quite uncertain where they were to be found since their departure from the Grave Creek Hills. Had I even been in possession of this information, there was not ten days' rations on the line from Roseburg to headquarters. My first object was therefore to bring up supplies for a winter campaign if necessary.
On the 17th of November, I received an express dispatch from Major Bruce, commanding the Southern Battalion, Southern Division, O.M. Vols., informing me that the Indians had made their appearance on Jumpoff Joe, and were supposed to be in force somewhere on the waters of that stream, and requesting me to cooperate with him with all my available force. I immediately ordered up a detachment of thirty-five men from Capt. Bailey's company, and forty from Capt. Chapman's company of Umpqua County, having been notified that this company was now in the field and ready to move. With Capt. Bailey's detachment, I proceeded to Camp Vannoy, headquarters of the Southern Battalion. In the meantime, Capt. Williams, commanding a company in Maj. Bruce's command, had fallen in with and routed a small [force] of Indians near the mouth of Jumpoff Joe, supposed to be the force which had given the alarm a few days before, and to which Maj. Bruce referred in his dispatch of [the] 17th. In a conference with Major Bruce and Capt. Judah of Fort Jones, Cal., it was determined to move our whole available force down Rogue River, under a clear conviction that the enemy had proceeded in that direction. Whilst I fully concurred in this as the most advisable course to pursue, I was fully aware of the difficulties and hazards of a campaign at this season, across the mountains covered with snow, and liable within a few hours at any time during the rainy season to be blocked up to an extent to bar the transit either of men or supplies. But no alternative was left but to do this, or go into winter quarters. The latter course could not be entertained for a moment, until one attempt had been made to strike an effectual blow against the enemy. To embarrass the movements of the battalion under my immediate command still further, notwithstanding my own exertions and those of the quartermaster's department, supplies had come forward barely fast enough to subsist the men and animals from day to day. I was therefore compelled to draw upon the quartermaster of the Southern Battalion for ten days' rations. Arrangements being completed for our march, on the morning of the 20th of November, two companies of the Southern Battalion, Capts. Williams' and Alcorn's, were ordered to proceed down the south side of Rogue River, crossing the mountains which separate that stream from Illinois Valley, and join the main body of our forces somewhere in the vicinity of Little Meadows. Two companies of the Northern Battalion, under Capts. Keeney and Buoy, had already proceeded down Grave Creek in advance of the main force. On the 21st, the residue of our force, consisting of Capts. Rice's and Wilkinson's companies, under Major Bruce, one company of regulars, under Capt. Judah, and [
Our second day's march, across a very elevated ridge from Grave Creek to the mouth of Whiskey Creek, on Rogue River, was one of great difficulty, and attended with much fatigue, both to the men and their animals. Capts. Buoy and Keeney had reached here the day before. From the reports of the scouts, as well as from the appearance of a recent encampment at this place, I was no longer in doubt that the Indians were either retiring before our forces, or concentrating their strength at some point in the vicinity of the Meadows. We therefore determined to push forward to that point, notwithstanding the shortness of our supplies, for two reasons: the hope of soon falling in with the enemy, and the assurance of our guides that [an abundance of] grass would be found there for our animals. Accordingly, early on Saturday, the 24th of November, our forces were toiling to the summit of the narrow divide which leads from the mouth of Whiskey Creek to the Little Meadows, a distance of 12 or 14 miles. Our progress was much impeded by the thick growth of low brushwood which covers the summit of the mountain, and the fallen timber across the trail. In descending the mountain, just before reaching camp, the attention of Capt. Judah, who led the advance, was arrested by the appearance of a camp on the river to his left, some five or six miles. Upon consultation with the guides, Capt. Judah was informed that it was the point where Capt. Williams' [detachment] (before referred to) would strike the river in crossing the mountain from Illinois Valley. The number and character of the tents confirmed the impression of the guides that this detachment had reached the river in advance of us. About sundown we encamped upon a small tableland or jog in the mountains, which here, and for many miles below, sweeps down the river with a gentle declivity, and covered with a luxuriant growth of grass denominated the Meadows. It was determined to remain here until the location of the Indians could be certainly ascertained. Accordingly, early on the following morning scouts were dispatched up and down the river to discover their whereabouts, or any recent traces of their movements. Much to our surprise, about 10 o'clock the detachment of Capts. Williams and Alcorn was discovered descending the mountain on our trail of yesterday, having crossed Rogue River at the mouth of Whiskey Creek, some three hours after the main body left camp at that point. The doubt as to the character of our neighbors in the canyon above was at once cleared up. Thos. East, the scout who had been dispatched down the river, returned early in the afternoon, bringing no information except having discovered a few moccasin tracks, all leading up the stream. On a consultation with Major Bruce, Capt. Judah, of the regulars, and the captains of the several companies, a plan of attack was arranged for the following morning, Nov. 26th, subject in the meantime to be modified by the report of R. S. Belknap and James P. Barns, the spies who had ascended the river. It was near daylight of the next day after their departure, before their return, in consequence of which I felt some little apprehension for their safety. They had succeeded in approaching closely upon the Indians, by descending a sharp spur of the mountains fronting directly upon their encampment, on the opposite side of the river. As this point could only be gained safely after dark, the number of the Indians, or the character of the fortifications on which they were evidently [at work], could not be determined. That they were fully apprised of our presence, and making every preparation for defense, was not doubted. The position of the Indians was one of great natural strength. From the mouth of Whiskey Creek to the Meadows, the river threads its way at the bottom of a deep and uninterrupted canyon, formed on the south side of the river by a mountain running parallel to its course, very precipitous, and for the most part covered with a heavy growth of fir and pine, so thickly set with undergrowth as scarcely to be penetrated. On the north side the river is lined with a succession of serrated points or spurs, thrown off at right angles to the river from the ridge which our forces had traversed in reaching the Meadows. To reach the river in the neighborhood of the Indians, from the north, by descending along the bottom of one of the intervening gorges, was impossible; to do so by descending the spur fronting the hostile camp, before referred to, our scouts pronounced a work of extreme difficulty, and barely practicable.
Capt. Judah had brought forward from Fort Lane, with great difficulty, a mountain howitzer with twenty rounds of shot and shell, which, in the hands of this experienced officer, could not fail to be very effective if a position could be gained to bring the Indians' works within range of the gun. In this particular, Capt. Judah was left to the guidance of his own judgment, with the assurance on the part of Major Bruce and myself of any support which he might need in addition to his force of regulars. Our first intention was to move under cover of night, but the guides were of the opinion that it would be impossible for the men to work their way in darkness across the gorges and through the dense undergrowth which covered the mountains for five or six miles--the distance to be traversed from a point opposite to our camp to the bar on which the Indians had fortified themselves. Our plan of attack was therefore to be put in execution as at first arranged. Maj. Bruce, with a force of about three hundred men, composed of the four companies of his own battalion, and one company--Capt. Keener's--of the Northern Battalion, was to cross the river at the most practicable point nearly opposite the camp--once across, to extend his line as far up the mountain as possible, his left, Keener's company [resting on the river], and Capt. Williams' formed the right.
In this order he was to proceed up the river, and if successful in reaching the neighborhood of the Indians by a flank movement of his right to enclose their camp. At the same time myself with the residue of my battalion, about one hundred men, companies A and B, Capts. Bailey and Buoy, accompanied by Capt. Judah, with the howitzer and fifty regulars, were to retrace our last day's march, about six miles, at that point making a sharp turn to the right along the ridge which would lead us to the spur overlooking the village before referred to. We were informed that the mules used to transport the howitzer could travel within a half or three-quarters of a mile of the break of the ridge overlooking the river. At this place the summit of the mountain became so narrow and irregular as to admit of the passage of the men only by hewing steps in the shelving cliffs and broken [crown] of the ridge, and where a misstep would send the unfortunate footman to certain destruction. The point once reached, the descent was almost equally difficult. Capt. Judah, in the face of all these obstacles, was determined nevertheless to make the attempt to reach the only position where his piece would command the entire encampment of the Indians; and if found practicable, I had determined to throw a part of my force across the river under cover of the howitzer and thus in conjunction with Maj. Bruce to attack them in front and rear. The two divisions left camp early on the morning of the 26th and proceeded as rapidly as possible to their respective points of operation. About 2 o'clock in the afternoon, having reached a position that commanded a view of the river and canyon where Maj. Bruce was to cross, I was first [apprised] by the report of firearms at short intervals, of the opposition which his division had met with in attempting to cross the river. My first impression was that he had gained the timber on the opposite bank and [was] pushing skirmishing parties of the Indians before him towards the bar. It was near sundown when Capt. Judah and myself reached the point where we were to leave the transport mules. In the meantime the firing below had much increased and the appearance of small detachments of Bruce's command still on the north bank and a body of Indians swarming around a signal fire in plain view of us on a small open ridge that led down [to] the river on the south side about a mile below the ranches gave me pretty sure intimation that Maj. Bruce had been attacked in attempting to cross. Just at dark an express arrived from him confirming our worst fears, by informing us that he had been attacked in attempting to cross, and requested that Capt. Judah might return with the gun and cover a second attempt. It is due to Maj. Bruce here to say that the expressman totally misapprehended his message; that his object was only to notify myself and Capt. Judah; that he had been unable to proceed as anticipated; that no request was sent either for the gun or reinforcements.
As any attempt to descend the mountain and make an attack from this side would be hazardous and fruitless without a cooperation on the other, I was reluctantly compelled to return to camp, as many of the men were much fatigued from the day's march. I left Capts. Bailey and Buoy encamped on the mountains. Capt. Judah and myself reached camp some hours after midnight, where we found Major Bruce, who had reached camp with his wounded soon after dark. For a detailed account of the operations of his division at the river, you will please see his report. Capt. Keeney, of my battalion, lost one man killed and one wounded. The remainder of the Northern Battalion reached camp early on the following day. Our field operations had now reached a crisis. Some movement was to be made and made quickly, either to make another attempt to dislodge the enemy or to retire to some point in reach of supplies.
There were but three days' rations in camp on the 27th of Nov., and every appearance of an approaching storm. In the haste with which my command had been brought from the different posts on the call of Maj. Bruce, most of the tents and camp equipage had been left behind, the men, in active service since the date of their being called into the field, [had been] performing hard marches across mountains through rain and snow, and throwing themselves down at night without shelter or covering but their blankets, and poorly provided with those. [
To pursue the first course, under the most favorable circumstances and with the greatest possible success that we could anticipate, would in any event throw upon our hands from 50 to 75 wounded men. To transport these across the mountains was impossible; to provide for such a contingency, by bringing up supplies to subsist a post at the Meadows during the winter season, was therefore a first and paramount object.
Maj. Bruce and Capt. Judah, in view of these considerations, had already, on the 25th inst., sent an express to Fort Lane and [Camp Vannoy on the morning of the 25th to hasten forward supplies. With a similar] object, on the 28th [I] dispatched Adjutant R. E. Stratton, with an escort of forty men under Capt. Bailey, the escort upon reaching Grave Creek, to return with such trains as might be in readiness at that point. It was therefore determined to remain in our present position until the last moment. Mr. Stratton bore orders to Capts. Gordon and Chapman to repair with their respective companies immediately to the Meadows. Under an apprehension that the Indians, who were known to be somewhere on the waters of the Coquille or Cow Creek, might make a descent upon the settlements of the Umpqua, Mr. Stratton was left with discretionary orders for those companies, to retain them in the Umpqua if [necessary]. The precaution was found not unnecessary. On the 3rd day of December, a small party of the Cow Creeks attacked the settlements on the west of the South Umpqua, near Lookingglass Prairie, burning fifteen houses which had been abandoned by the inhabitants, killing a large amount of stock and destroying other property. On the morning of the 4th, they were attacked by a small party of citizen volunteers supported by a detachment of company A, under Sergeant Holland, and completely routed them with two of their number killed and [quite a number] known to have been wounded. One Mr. Price was wounded in defense of his house from the Indians, on the 3rd; Assistant Quartermaster General Cattleman, severely, in the attack upon the Indians on the 4th. My order to Capt. Chapman reached him at [Grave Creek. He immediately pushed on to] the Meadows, escorting the only supply train (Mr. [Fortner's]) in readiness at that point. I may here say that my battalion was much indebted for supplies to this active and efficient trainmaster. Capt. Chapman arrived at the Meadows on the 31st, bringing the intelligence to Capt. Judah that Capt. Smith, of Fort Lane, to whom he had sent for supplies, had come as far as the foot of the first mountain on the trail from Camp Leland, from which point, owing to the lateness of the season, the inclemency of the weather, and with a thorough knowledge of the country he had to traverse, he deemed it too hazardous to proceed further. Upon the receipt of this intelligence, Capt. Judah reluctantly announced his intention to return to Grave Creek.
The snow was now falling rapidly, and the supplies which the last train brought were barely sufficient to provision the men to Camp Leland. Much as we regretted the course, necessity compelled Maj. Bruce and myself also to return to our respective headquarters. Owing to a doubt as to seniority of commission, neither Maj. Bruce nor myself felt authorized to assume the command of the regiment; yet, our intercourse with each other and with Capt. Judah, of the regulars, also, has been cordial and satisfactory. Since my last report, Adjutant J. W. Drew has resigned, and R. E. Stratton was appointed to fill the place on the 20th of Nov. I. N. Smith, Esq., and Mr. W. G. Hill have rendered me much assistance from time to time, as my aides. No important movement has taken place since my arrival at headquarters. My only object being to make such a disposition of my command as best to protect the road and settlements until such time as the Colonel of the regiment shall be elected under order of the Governor, of the ----- day of November.
W. J. MARTINBy R. E. Stratton, Adjutant.
Maj. Com'd'g. North Bat.
South. Div. Oregon M. Vols.
Table Rock Sentinel, Jacksonville, March 22, 1856, page 1 Corrections in brackets made from an original letter found in the Oregon State Archives, Yakima and Rogue River War, Document File B, Reel 3, Document 690.
By the southern express we learn that the volunteers have found the Indians in a deep canyon about eight miles lower down on Rogue River than their former habitation of last winter, about seven hundred strong, and that Lamerick and Smith are erecting fortifications and preparing for a desperate onslaught upon the savage foe. It is represented that the Indians are also fortifying, and the prospects are good for a huge fight.
Letter dated "Roseburg, April 30," Oregon Statesman, Salem, May 13, 1856, page 2
THE ROGUE RIVER INDIANS.--From some facts furnished by the Table Rock Sentinel (a new Oregon paper) of the 10th of May, it seems that hostilities in that quarter are not yet ended. Gen. Lamerick recently headed an expedition against the Indians at the Meadows. Several skirmishes were had with the Indians and two whites were wounded. The forces returned to Grave Creek, after having exhausted their provisions. Two hundred, however, remained at the Meadows, for the purpose of building blockhouses.
On the 26th ult., Mr. McD. Harkness was murdered by the Indians, while endeavoring to convey a letter to Gen. Lamerick at the Meadows.
Sacramento Daily Union, May 23, 1856, page 1
Deer Creek, April 30, 1856.Friend Bush--By the latest intelligence from the south, we learn that Col. Buchanan and Gen. Lamerick have formed a junction at or near the Meadows, on Rogue River, and have commenced building forts for the protection of their respective forces. The Indians are reputed to be in force also in that vicinity, well garrisoned, and it is thought well prepared to stand either a siege or an attack from the whites. Our forces are supposed to number about one thousand men, regulars and volunteers. They are said to be well supplied with arms, ammunition and subsistence. Capt. Blakely, with 66 men from Linn County, and Capt. Keith, with 71 men from Lane, will be there in time to participate in the attack, should it be made.
To correct a false impression that has gone abroad, I will state that there is but a small supply of commissary or quartermaster stores at this place, such as clothing, ammunition and groceries, but plenty of flour, bacon and beef. There was six tons of flour brought here today for the use of the Indian Department at the mouth of the Umpqua.
An old Indian has come in and surrendered himself to the whites at the Canyon. He says he has had repeated chances to kill white men this winter, but did not wish to do it, although he knew they were hunting him and would kill him if they met him in the mountains. He desires to be sent to the reserve.
Yours, truly. [unsigned]Oregon Statesman, Salem, May 13, 1856, page 2
News from Oregon and Washington.
We understand, says the Table Rock Sentinel, that the companies of Captains Keith and Blakely, and one other company, have been left at the Big Meadows, for the purpose of erecting fortifications at that place. The Southern Battalion have pretty nearly all returned from their expedition to the Meadows, and an impression is extant that they will make another expedition, as there is considerable dissatisfaction in relation to affairs connected with the late expedition. The term of enlistment of many of the volunteers is about terminated, and it would not be very astonishing if the volunteers were, as a general thing, discharged. The Indians may fall in with Colonel Buchanan, as he, with United States troops, are somewhere down Rogue River. If the United States troops and the Indians do meet, it would not be very strange if the preliminaries of a treaty were talked over. This war of extermination is not what many bargained for. The only sure way to save life, end the war and restore peace to Southern Oregon is to obtain a treaty and send the Indians out of the country.
New York Daily Herald, June 29, 1856, page 4
Roseburg May [blank] 1856To John K. Lamerick
Brig. Genl. O.T.
In execution of your order of the first on the 3rd day of April 1856 I assumed the command of the left column of the 2nd Regt. at Fort Vannoy, appointed J. M. Cranmer Adjutant, Byron N. Dawes Sgt. Majr. and for the better regulation, discipline and subordination roll call at sunrise, morning reports, company drill from 7 till 8 o'clock each day and the reading publicly General Order No. 9 once a week by commandants of companies was directed to be enforced strictly.
April 2. Company II of the Northern Battalion was ordered to report to me at Fort Vannoy and in accordance with your verbal instructions William B. Lewis, Allen Evans, Henry Evans and H. B. Conroy were employed at a stipulated price as spies for the campaign.
April 4. Having today recd. information that the trail of the Indians who committed the depredations at Hay's had been found, preparations were made to pursue them.
April 5. Our strength in camp numbering only 182, it was determined to withdraw the several detachments of companies and concentrate our forces at "Camp Hay," for which place we marched at 10 o/c a.m. and reached there in the afternoon, a distance of 16 miles. Capts. O'Neil and Williams reported having followed the trail to the head of Briggs Valley. The spies were ordered to strike the trail near where they left it and follow it until they should be satisfied of the point of destination of the Indians.
April 6. The rains being very heavy and continuous, the spies did not go out.
April 7. The Indians having frequently obtained arms and ammunition by attacks upon private individuals, I directed that arms and ammunition exposed to their depredations should be taken possession [of] & receipted for. The mountains being covered with snow still prevented a search after the Indians. An election was held today and 55 votes for and 232 against convention. At 3 o'clock this afternoon, the weather being more favorable, the spies went out.
April 8. Your expressman & Dr. Combs arrived from Fort Leland.
April 9th. Had a false alarm today which made a very favorable impression.
April 10. Mr. Fowler come in from Crescent City; having left a government train on the mountain, requested a company to escort it into Vannoy. At 6 o'clock p.m. spies returned [and] reported having followed the trail to the forks of Galice Creek and that they were heading for the "Meadows." I determined [to] go down Rogue River on the south side by the mouth of Applegate, of which you were notified. Lt. G. W. Keeler of Capt. O'Neil's company, in command of ten men and the minute company, was stationed at Fort Hay with instructions to construct fort and buildings and take such other measures as in his opinion the safety of that section of the country should require and with orders to act as regimental quartermaster & commissary at the fort. This was necessary in consequence of the withdrawal of the several detachments previously stationed in that country.
April 11. We number 355 rank & file. Capt. Wilkinson with his company was ordered to the mountain on the Crescent City road to meet and escort the government train. At ½ past 9 o'clock took our line of march for the old Indian encampment on the south side of Rogue River & reached the mouth of Applegate two miles below Vannoy at 1 o'clock. It rained all evening.
April 12. Lay in camp all day awaiting the return of Capt. Wilkinson with the train with clothing & ammunition.
April 13. The General arrived from Leland and we continued to await the return of Capt. Wilkinson, also for arms and ammunition.
April 14. The troops were reviewed by the General. Lt. Bozarth with with 20 men of Capt. Bushey's company was sent to Fort Leland for the arms expected daily and Capt. Crouch and 10 men of Co. II was sent to Fort Lane with your request for arms.
April 15. Capt. Crouch returned from Fort Lane and reported that no arms could be obtained from the U.S. forces. Lt. Bozarth come in from Fort Leland without any arms, none having arrived from Deer Creek. This afternoon Capt. Wilkinson arrived with the train and Quartermaster Peters who had been waiting in camp for the purpose spied it out promptly and expeditiously. The column was ordered to be dismounted, the horses left at Fort Vannoy. Lt. Osborn and a detail of 24 men was stationed in command at the fort & horses.
April 16. The column being in readiness, at 12 m. by your instructions an expressman was sent you, and we again took up our line of march upon the trail down Rogue River. The spies having been sent out in advance, [we] made camp 8 miles opposite the "Picket Ranch" on the river.
April 17. At 1 o'clock a.m. the spies [were] sent out and at 9 o'clock struck camp, passed over a high mountain and made camp at ten miles on the river.
April 18. This morning at 7 o'clock the spies were sent out with instructions to go on to "Old John's" trail near where they left it on the 9th & 10 and follow on so as to join us at "Peavine Camp." In a few hours they returned & joined us at the mouth of Galice Creek and reported having heard a large gun in the direction of Bear Camp. At 1 o'clock made Peavine Camp. At 3 o'clock p.m. scouting parties were sent out in different directions. In the evening it began to rain and snow.
April 19. Understanding from Maj. Bruce that we were to have signals from the N. Battalion on the mountain east of Whiskey Creek, a close lookout was had but no discovery. Spies sent out, returned this evening. The weather being exceedingly bad and the passage over the mountains very difficult, Capt. Bushey and 16 of his men was organized as spies for the occasion and sent on to the "Bar" where the Indians were encamped last winter. Lt. Ormsby and 20 men from Capt. George's company organized in like manner were sent down the mountain to Whiskey Creek and Sgt. Lytle and 8 men from Capt. Wilkinson's and 4 men from Capt. Williams' company organized in like manner were sent upon the Port Orford trail. The snow continuing to fall rapidly. The spies all returned after night but Capt. Bushey's co.
April 20. The morning clear and cold, the whole country covered with snow. This afternoon Capt. Bushey and all his men but three returned and reported that about 10 o'clock the evening previous he visited the Bar and passed all over it, found one horse but no fortifications. No improvements but the square of an old log house built by miners some time since and a few logs cut recently. Concluding there were no Indians in the vicinity & having built a fire in a thick, brushy gulch, he was soon fired upon when they made their escape. In the confusion three of his men became separated from him and lay out. They however come in this evening, having sustained no injury. At 12 m. today Lt. J. Day and 25 men from Capt. Alcorn's co. was sent to the mouth of Whiskey Creek six miles down the mountain, with [a] letter to you informing you of what occurred at the Bar and of our determination to try getting through upon the south side of the river. Late this evening Lt. Day returned bringing letters from you that on the night of the 22 you would cross your forces from the Meadows onto the Bar.
April 21. We discovered your forces passing up the mountain west of Whiskey Creek and preparations were made to move through to the Bar tomorrow.
April 22. Everything being in readiness to march at 6 o'ck. I received by Thomas Moore and [omission] the following letter.
Headquarters MeadowsLt. Col. Chapman
We come to this place this evening and found the Indians camped on the opposite side of the river just opposite the creek that puts into Rogue River below this camp, and a Mr. Love tells me it is impossible for your command to come down on the south side of the river. You will consult your spies and if it will be tedious for you to come with your command on the south side, you will move with your command immediately by Whiskey Creek. Whatever you decide upon you will inform me of [it] immediately. I will keep the enemy uneasy until I hear from you, and if I think them not too well fortified will give them battle. These messengers are informed of particulars.
Yours in haste(P.S.) The Indians are said to be very numerous six miles below. We may get into a tight place before you come up. If your command was now here there is a good opportunity of bringing the war to a close. I need not tell you to act with promptness. I know you will do that. I will send out scouts and ascertain the particulars on tomorrow, as well as to find out if there is any amount of Indians up or down the river, and if there is I will endeavor to amuse them until you come up.
John K. Lamerick
Brig. Genl. O.T.
All that the spies knew had already been ascertained. If your order had relieved me from going upon the south side of the river upon the ground of impossibility only, that fact was found in the assertion of Mr. Love as stated in your instructions. He having been sought for by my spies on account of his better acquaintance with the country, together with your naming him, ought to have sufficed. But your instructions put it upon condition of its being tedious, a fact that no
April 23rd. Early this morning it began to rain and snow and soon the snow was
April 24. Major Bruce with 150 men of the Southern Battalion was sent to the lower Meadows, but finding the distance too great to make in one day returned.
April 25. By your orders I caused the Southern Battalion to move camp onto the hill. In the afternoon Maj. Bruce & myself were called to your tent, when you made known your plan of attack upon the Indians which was that the most of the Southern Battalion [was] to cross the river after night under the command of myself & Maj. Bruce. Col. Kelsay with part of the Northern Battalion to cross the Kenyon. Before Major Bruce decided who were to go or stay, it having been refused to him, several, I think not all, of the captains anxious to know the plan were informed and it was discussed and some objections to it suggested.
April 26. The order was rec. that
April 27. Your order of yesterday was carried into execution. At 7 o'clock the reserve moved and, reaching the opposite side of the Kenyon before you, Capt. Bushey was dispatched to reinforce Maj. Bruce. Shortly after arriving upon the battle ground you ordered me to proceed up to the Big Meadows & camp, which was done.
April 28. The snow had covered the whole country. Maj. Bruce with 100 men [of the] Southern Battalion was sent to John Mule Creek. Myself with 100 men down to take possession of the battle ground of the previous day. As ordered I went down to the river opposite their encampment. Some few shots were exchanged when the Indians seemed to have left. Offers were made by some of my men to cross, but the boats were not there nor did you direct it to be done, but some ordered us back to camp on the Meadows.
April 29. Agreeably to your order the Southern Battalion under my command proceeded across the river. It raining very heavily and being late, made camp on the Bar.
April 30. It continued to rain and snow. Orders for the whole regiment (except Capt. Noland's company) under Col. Kelsay & myself to pursue Old John by Illinois Valley while Capt. Noland was to recross & with Keith & Blakely's cos. under your command go down round by the Coquille. As the snow had covered the whole country and as some of the companies of the N.B. were very destitute of boots & shoes, Col. Kelsay requested me to bring it to your attention, which I actually did. After conversing some little about it I concluded it was a good opportunity to present a measure upon which I had reflected and repeatedly suggested that of establishing a post at the "Meadows" and taking possession of the country to which the Indians for the last six months had uniformly retreated for safety. To take the inside track
The Southern Battalion being disposed of by you and my command over it having ceased, I cannot omit to bear testimony to the uniform good conduct of its officers and men while under my command. To Maj. Bruce, Capts. Alcorn, Miller, Wilkinson, Williams, O'Neil, Bushey and Crouch and their officers and soldiers I shall ever feel grateful not only for their uniform obedience to my orders but unexceptional respect to me personally. To Adjutant Cranmer and Sgt. Major Dawes I am greatly indebted for their efficient service. Those engaged as spies at different times performed valuable service.
It is but justice that I should say that those engaged in the Quartermaster & Commissary departments on the campaign performed their duties promptly and to my entire satisfaction.
RespectfullyW. W. Chapman Report, 1856 May, Oregon Historical Society Research Library Coll. 385
W. W. Chapman
Lt. Col. 2nd Regt.
Deer Creek, May 3, 1856.Mr. Bush:--There are a number of men here from the Meadows today, who agree in their statements that a fight took place on the 27th and 28th of last month between the volunteers under Gen. Lamerick and the Indians. The number of Indians engaged in not known; all think them more numerous than previous supposed. Two hundred and fifty volunteers were engaged, fifteen Indians supposed to be killed; no whites killed; two wounded, one very bad, being shot in the mouth. A man named [McDonough Harkness], bearer of dispatches from Grave Creek to Gen. Lamerick, was killed and most horribly mutilated about two miles from the General's camp; his remains were brought into camp and buried. This man was a partner of Mr. James Twogood, of Grave Creek. During the fight from one to two hundred squaws were seen crossing the mountains in the direction of Illinois River, in great haste and heavily laden with blankets and provision. The fight commenced early in the morning, and the Indians were evidently taken by surprise. There was a thick fog upon the river at the time of the attack, preventing the Indians from seeing across; the whites were on this side and the Indians on the other. It is supposed most of the Indians killed fell at first fire, as our people approached the edge of the water on the other side, a distance of 40 or 50 yards. They retreated in great haste after the first fire, leaving their dead upon the spot. When my informant left Gen. Lamerick was making all haste to cross the river and follow the retreating foe. The troops were expected to cross in two canvas boats capable of carrying twelve men each, with arms, blankets &c. This is considered the most decisive battle that has taken place at the south since the commencement of the campaign. May all success attend the efforts of those engaged in subduing this wily foe, who has so long eluded those in pursuit of him. A close of this war certainly seems more probable than it has before. I hope for it soon, but no one knows what is in the future.
Yours, &c. [unsigned]Oregon Statesman, Salem, May 13, 1856, page 2
Roseburg, May 4, 1856.A. Bush--Sir: I left the lower Meadows on the 2nd instant, and arrived at this place today about noon. The companies of Capts. Noland and Sheffield came out via Camas Valley with me. Our little command under Maj. Massey, together with one hundred men under command of Maj. Bruce and Capt. Barnes' spy company, are stationed at the Big Meadows, where they are erecting a fort. The other portion of the regiment went out to Grave Creek under command of Col. Kelsay. Gen. Lamerick and Lt. Col. Chapman came out by way of Camas Valley.
The stronghold of the enemy is at last taken, and the soil which has so long served as a slaughter pen for our horses, mules and cattle now supports the colors of our country. From indications on the bar of their headquarters, there must have been immense numbers of stock butchered.
The "supposed fight south," between the regular forces and the Indians, did not come off at the Meadows, as was anticipated, but the fight did come off between the volunteer forces under Brig. Gen. Lamerick and the united forces of the Indians, in which the latter were completely routed. On the morning of the 27th of April, about 150 men from the northern battalion, under command of Col. Kelsay, succeeded in stealing a march to the bank of the river opposite their ranch, under a dense fog, when they took their positions and poured a deadly fire into the encampment of the Indians, which, from the best information I can get, created quite a sensation through their encampment for some time. The southern battalion soon commenced a crossfire from the bank of the river above. The Indians returned the fire, but with little effect. The fight continued during the day, across the river, during which time there was a good deal of wild shooting.
The fight was resumed on the morning of the 28th, but with less ardor by the enemy. Their main object was to prevent the crossing of our forces, in order that they might make good their retreat. During the battle it is supposed there were about 25 Indians killed--our forces met with no loss on the ground--two men were wounded--a Mr. Clifton, of Sheffield's company, was slightly wounded in the neck--Mr. Mercer, of Wilkinson's company, was mortally wounded--he died at this place this evening.
On the morning of the 29th we rigged our canvas boats, and the whole regiment, except Maj. Massey's battalion, crossed the river, but our means of subsistence were about exhausted, and it rained and snowed incessantly upon us, therefore it was deemed impracticable to prosecute the expedition further, and on the 30th the forces recrossed the river.
During the battle the Indians called repeatedly for a treaty, and from the best information which could be gained, their supply of ammunition was about exhausted.
Our little command left Camas Prairie for the Meadows on the 26th ult., and reached the same on the 28th, in time to hear the hellish yells of the foe whilst ascending the snow-covered mountain on the opposite side of the river, but too late to participate in the events of the day. It snowed almost continually upon us up to the 2nd inst., when I left camp. We have a good mountain trail from this place via Camas Prairie to the Meadows. The General has made arrangements for the transportation of supplies by this route to the troops stationed there. I start for the Meadows tomorrow. More anon.
Yours, VOLUNTEER.Oregon Statesman, Salem, May 20, 1856, page 1
Headquarters Fort LelandJohn K. Lamerick
O.T. May 5, 1856
Brig. Gen. O.T.
According to your order
May 1st the regiment recrossed the river again according to your order as follows--Capt. George & Bushey companies first for the purpose of proceeding immediately to Fort Leland; the Northern Battalion followed them. The train & Southern Battalion in their rear & camped that evening on the Big Meadows. Maj. Bruce, Maj. Latshaw & Maj. Massey selected a point on the Meadows arriving that day to erect a fort upon. May 2 according to your order captains Williams', Wilkinson's, Keith's and Blakely's companies were detailed to remain at the Meadows under the command of Major Bruce, to construct a fort. Capt. Noland's and Sheffield's companies were ordered to proceed under command of Lieut. Col. Chapman to Roseburg by the way of Camas Prairie. Capt. Robertson's, Miller's, O'Neil's, Wallan's and Alcorn's companies under my command took the line of march for Fort Leland. The command reached there on the evening of the 4th without accident worth of note.
John Kelsay Col.Oregon State Archives, Yakima and Rogue River War, Document File B, Reel 2, Document 580.
Commanding 2 Reg.
Deer Creek, May 7, 1856.Dear Bush--The news from the seat of war is of interest. On the 27th and 28th ult., the command of Gen. Lamerick had an engagement with the Indians at the Meadows, and drove them from their stronghold. The Indians sustained a heavy loss, which is variously estimated to have been between 15 and 50 men. Their dead were removed immediately after they were shot. The whites had two men wounded, one John Henry Clifton, of Sheffield's company, severely in the neck, and Elias D. Mercer, mortally; the ball entered below the mouth and passed along the lower jawbone, and over the carotid artery, entirely missing the vertebrae. The wounded men were brought to the hospital at this place, where every attention was paid them. Mr. Clifton is doing well. Mr. Mercer died on Sunday evening last, the day on which he was brought here, and was buried with the honors of war on Monday. A large procession of volunteers and citizens, some 250 in number, followed the remains to the grave. In advance of the procession was the drum and fife, which discoursed a shrill dirge to the dead as the procession moved slowly along, in which were the aged, the middle-aged and the young. At the grave remarks were made by Rev. Mr. Stevens, Rev. T. B. Sanderson, Gen. Lamerick and Col. Chapman. The remarks of Mr. Stevens were very interesting and impressive both from the substance of them and the fact that he is of foreign birth. He alluded pathetically to the deceased, whose remains were lying by the grave, and eloquently referred to the flag (American) which enshrouded them. Pointing to the flag, he said: "There is the flag of our country; no power on earth has ever brought it so low as you now behold it, but it rests there in honor over the remains of he who was once its defender and its worshiper--over him who in defense of his country, our homes and our families, and while bravely battling with a barbarous foe forfeited his last tribute to it. But, my friends, it will rise again from the earth like the spirit of our departed friend and countryman, triumphant, resplendent, to immortal honor and glory."
The idea was eloquently expressed by the speaker, and his entire remarks made a serious impression. The touching remarks of all the speakers--the presence of and great respect paid by the aged gentlemen who stood among this assemblage--produced an effect both serious and lasting.
Mr. Elias D. Mercer was in the 29th year of his age, was born in Smith County, Virginia, and formerly resided in Cow Creek Valley, in this county, and at the time of his death was a member of Capt. Wilkinson's company. He was a young man of worth and of decided bravery.
On the 26th ult., Mr. McDonough Harkness, of Grave Creek, and Mr. Wagoner, while riding an express from Fort Leland to Gen. Lamerick, were attacked near Whisky Creek by the Indians. Mr. Wagoner escaped, but received several shots in his clothes. Mr. Harkness was killed, his body cut to pieces, his breastbone was removed, his heart was taken out, and numerous acts of brutality committed upon his body too horrible to enumerate. His remains were found and brought to Grave Creek and buried. He was from Ohio and has been a resident at Grave Creek for a year or two; he was much respected for the good character which he maintained wherever known.
Gen. Drew is in town, has just arrived from the south, where he has been giving his personal attention to the duties of his office. The quartermaster's affairs on the coast and south are in good order--stations are well supplied, and the means of transportation are abundant. The General has been industrious since he came among us; he has visited the coast as well as the south, and the stations, that of Mr. Mann at the coast, that of Mr. Brown of this place, that of Mr. Huelat at Grave Creek, and that of Mr. Peters at Jacksonville, and at Vannoy's--are under the care and attention of prompt and efficient assistant quartermasters. . . .
Oregon Statesman, Salem, May 13, 1856, page 2
BATTLE AT BIG MEADOWS.
Headquarters, Southern Army,To His Excellency, Geo. L. Curry, Governor of Oregon.
Roseburg, May 7th, 1856.
I have the honor to make the following report of an expedition to the Meadows. As you have been informed in a former communication, the Southern Battalion started from Fort Vannoy on the 17th of April, and went down the south side of Rogue River.
On the 19th of April the Northern Battalion started from Fort Leland, and followed the trail traveled by the troops last winter. On the 20th we camped on Whisky Creek, near the mouth, as the rear guard was after night in getting into camp, and most of the men being very tired from a long day's march.
A dispatch had arrived in camp before I got in from the Southern Battalion under the command of Lieut. Col. Chapman and Major Bruce, informing me that they had sent out Capt. Bushey with seventeen men to spy out the Indians, who were supposed to be camped at the same place they were last winter. The spies returned and informed Col. Chapman and Major Bruce that they had been on the bar, that they built a small fire to warm themselves by, and while standing around it, they were fired upon by some Indians from the mountain above the bar. The spies then scattered and made their way to pea-vine camp, where the command under Lieut. Col. Chapman and Major Bruce had been for some three days detained on account of the severity of the weather--the rain and snow falling heavily all the time. Lieut. Col. Chapman also informed me that a number of their beef cattle had gone back to Fort Vannoy. I sent word to Lieut. Col. Chapman to move with the command as fast as possible, as they on the south side of the river had much farther to travel than the command on the south [sic] side, under Col. Kelsay and Major Latshaw.
On the 21st I left for the little Meadows and arrived with the entire Northern Battalion, early in the afternoon. Capt. Barnes, of the spy company, with some of his men went to the edge of the hill upon which we were camped, and discovered the Indians encamped on a bar opposite the big Meadows. On the night of the 21st I employed four men to carry an express to Lieut. Col. Chapman and Major Bruce, informing them of the whereabouts of the enemy, with instructions for them to consult their spies as to the character of the country south of Rogue River, and the time it would take to reach the enemy's position, and left it optional with them as to which side of the river they would come down, and also desired them to inform me of their decision.
Signals were to be used by myself and Lieut. Col. Chapman to designate our different positions and on what side of the river the enemy were encamped. These signals were to be placed on some prominent point near our respective camps. I promptly attended to placing the signal on my side of the river on the 22nd.
The messengers to Lieut. Col. Chapman returned on the evening of the 22nd, and informed me that the Southern Battalion would cross Rogue River at the mouth of Whisky Creek the same evening and would join our command that night, but on account of a heavy fall of snow and rain the command did not arrive until the next evening.
The messengers in returning from Lieut. Col. Chapman discovered a horse on the trail recently shot through the body and bleeding and evident signs of Indians. The messengers then left the trail and came to camp through the mountains. On the next day the command under Lieut. Col. Chapman arrived bringing the body of Mr. M. Harkness, horribly mutilated; his remains were interred at our camp; his companion, Mr. Wagoner, narrowly escaped, a ball having passed through his coat very near his body, but he was fortunate enough to meet the Southern Battalion at the crossing, and so escaped.
Mr. Harkness was bearer of dispatches to me, some of which was supposed to be from Capt. Smith, U.S.A., now at the mouth of Rogue River.
On the day of the 22nd, I ordered a detachment under the command of Col. Kelsay and Major Latshaw to cross the canyon west of our camp and reconnoiter the position of the enemy, which was done by the officers and men with great promptness. On their return they informed me the enemy were encamped in a very strong position on the south side of Rogue River. On the 24th a detachment under the command of Major Bruce, of 150 men, were ordered to reconnoiter the big Meadows and to ascertain if any Indians were in that neighborhood; the distance being greater than was expected, the expedition returned without getting up to the Meadows.
As this was the first clear day, a detachment was again sent to reconnoiter the enemy's camp; it consisted of 100 men from the Southern Battalion under the command of Col. Kelsay and Major Latshaw. The spies under the command of Capt. Barnes were in the meantime doing good service in finding a crossing on the river and a trail to get the boats down.
I formed a plan of attack which was to cross the Southern Battalion at night, under the command of Lieut. Col. Chapman and Major Bruce, Lieut. Col. Chapman to command the right wing and Major Bruce the left, on the south side of the river. After consulting the field officers, all of whom completely approved of the plan, I issued orders to the different officers to get their respective commands in readiness to move at 12 o'clock at night of the 25th; Col. Kelsay was to command the right wing of the Northern Battalion and Major Latshaw the left wing, and to attack the enemy from the north side of the river. A little after sundown, Major Bruce came to my tent and informed me that most of the officers of the Southern Battalion were opposed to crossing the river. I requested Major Bruce to invite the different captains of that command to my quarters. I asked them separately why they objected to crossing the river. Some of the reasons were that they would be at too great a distance from medical assistance. Several other reasons were given, which at present, is not worth mentioning. Accompanying this dispatch you will find a plan in pencil marked with each officer's position, and the command under him. Being compelled by the circumstances of the case to abandon this plan, arrangements were made for an attack at daylight on the morning of the 27th. I ordered a detachment of 100 men from the Northern Battalion, under the command of Col. Kelsay and Major Latshaw, to proceed from camp at 3 o'clock in the morning and cross what is known as Kelsay's Canyon [Kelsey Canyon], and bring on an attack at the lower end of the bar. Major Bruce was ordered to take a detachment of 150 men of the Southern Battalion and commence an attack at the upper end of the bar, or to act as circumstances might suggest. The balance of the command with the pack animals and provisions were to move under the command of Lieut. Col. Chapman and myself, to cross Kelsay's Canyon near its mouth. Capt. Bushey's company were ordered to take possession of this pass, to prevent the Indians from firing at the trains as they crossed. This detachment was ordered to take possession of the big Meadows and form a camp, as grass was abundant, and on account of its proximity to the enemy's camp. As the morning was very foggy, Col. Kelsay got up within a short distance of the enemy's camp before it was discovered. Three of the Indians had crossed as spies at daylight, and were up the bank a short distance. They discovered Col. Kelsay's command rapidly approaching; they raised the war whoop and recrossed the river to camp, but the gallant volunteers under Col. Kelsay and Major Latshaw moved with so much alacrity that a destructive and deadly fire was poured into the enemy's camp, which quite took him by surprise. The command kept up a continued fire amongst the Indians as they ran out of their huts, and must have done great execution. The command under Major Bruce no sooner heard the report of their companion's guns than they rushed with great impetuosity into the fight, and after about an hour's heavy firing on both sides the Indians were completely silenced and driven back on the bar, leaving many dead on the ground. Although they used great exertions to carry them off they were obliged to leave them until night set in. In this action we had one man of Capt. Wilkinson's company (named Isaac Mercer) mortally wounded, who has since died. A scattering fire was kept up until about 3 o'clock p.m., when the command was called off, except a few left to keep the Indians from getting their supplies. Most of the men returned to camp at the big Meadows, where the trains had been ordered by the regimental quartermaster; the rain and snow fell so heavily in the evening and during the night that the guard at the river was called in by the officers in command at that station. On the following morning Col. Kelsay with a detachment of 150 men of the Northern Battalion was ordered to go down the river about three miles below the bar, and if possible to effect a crossing for the purpose of cutting off the retreat of the Indians. When his command arrived at the river, they found some Indians and a running fight ensued, in which a private of Capt. Sheffield's company was severely wounded. We were prevented from crossing the river--the weather was cold and disagreeable all day.
During the fight of the 27th, a small detachment went down on the north side of the river, for the purpose of capturing any animals that might be below; within a short distance they fell in with two Indians, killed one and shot the other through the shoulder. On the evening of the 28th, we discovered the signal fires of the Indians making down the river, and saw the squaws crossing a bald hill on the south side of the river, making towards the coast. On this evening, Capts. Keith and Blakely's companies arrived under the command of Major Massey, and were camped on the lower big Meadows, near John Mule Creek. On the 29th I ordered the command to cross the river in pursuit of the enemy, and to endeavor to go out by Illinois Valley. This evening with the assistance of the two canvas boats, which I had made at Jacksonville, we all got across the river with provisions, camp equipage, &c. The rain and snow still continued, and on the 30th the storm so increased, and the snow fell to such a depth on the mountains, that it was considered by all who were acquainted with the country that it was impossible for the troops to move in that direction. After consulting the field officers we concluded to establish a military post at the big Meadows, near the mouth of John Mule Creek. Officers and men are of the opinion that Limpy's, George's and John's tribes of Indians were here, as several horses were captured which were taken to Hay's ranch by John's band. Some surgical instruments were found belonging to Dr. Barkwell, taken at the same time and place. Some saddles were found which were taken by the same band of Indians last winter at Murphy's creek. We also found two scalps of white persons--one of them was recognized as having belonged to Mr. Harkness, the other not known; they were both buried; many things were found, which had been stolen or captured by the Indians during the winter.
The troops during the late action behaved most gallantly and deserve the gratitude of a generous public. There has been a complete discomfiture of the Indians in their notorious stronghold; during the fight, the Indians called loudly for a treaty and a good talk. Some of the volunteers said the Indians offered to give up their guns and anything else the whites wished, if they would only treat with them. There is now an opportunity to treat with the Indians on any terms. A station has been established at the big Meadows; Major James Bruce is in command. Capt. Keith and Capt. Blakely of the 2nd Battalion of recruits, and Capt. Williams and Capt. Wilkinson, with their companies, are also stationed at this post. The two last named companies will soon have served their time out, and it is but simple justice to say that these companies have served their country most faithfully. Capt. Sheffield and Capt. O'Neil's companies have served their time out, and have received orders to give their men honorable discharges. The spy company under Capt. James Barnes has rendered the command and the country distinguished services, being always ready and willing to move at a moment's notice.
I have received encouraging news from the Port Orford company, under the command of Capt. Ralph Bledsoe. His company has rendered good service; most of the Indians are now for peace. Col. Buchanan and Capt. Smith are making their headquarters at the big bend of Rogue River, some fourteen miles west of our station at the Meadows. At present, the troops are destitute of sugar and coffee; something must be done soon to furnish these articles for the troops, or it will be difficult to keep them in the field.
Col. Kelsay has received orders to station Capt. George and Capt. Bushey's companies at Fort Hay, in Illinois Valley, and to make such other dispositions of his command as will ensure general protection of the settlements. Capt. Noland's company are stationed on the west side of the South Umpqua River, and are doing good service in protecting the families and escorting trains to the Meadows. A near trail has been opened, by which pack trains can make a trip from Roseburg to the military station at the Meadows in from 3 to 4 days. A vast mining region has been discovered on lower Rogue River, and John Mule Creek, which can accommodate from four to five thousand miners, and will create quite a market for the produce of the Umpqua Valley and Southern Oregon generally. With the greatest respect,
I am, my dear sir,
Your most obt. servant
JOHN K. LAMERICK
Brig. Gen. O.T.
Oregon Weekly Times, Portland, May 17, 1856, page 2
Correspondence of the Illinois State Journal.
Letter from Oregon.
Roseburg, Umpqua Valley,Messrs. Editors:--We have had another battle, and gained another victory. The scene of hostilities was at the "Big Meadows," and took place on the 27th and 28th of April. Our troops brought into action would number about 300 strong. The force of the enemy could not be ascertained, but was estimated from one to two hundred. Unfortunately for us, the Rogue River lay between us and the enemy, otherwise we should have made a clean sweep of them. It was not deemed prudent the first and second days to attempt crossing the river, owing to the decided advantage which the Indians would have over us before a crossing could be effected. Early on the morning of the 29th, we crossed the river without meeting with any opposition. It was impossible to follow on their trail; owing to the extreme roughness of the country, and our provisions becoming short, it was thought best for the main part, 300, to return to the settlement 40 miles distant for provision, while the remaining 200 was detailed to remain and erect a fort and other necessary buildings at the Meadows.
O.T., May 11, 1856.
Our loss was very slight, one receiving a mortal, and a second a severe but not dangerous wound. We have good reason to believe that the Indians lost 10 or 15 in killed, and 20 wounded. The Indians always burn their dead if possible. Whenever the whites interrupt [i.e., scalp or otherwise mutilate] their dead, they are forever forsaken by their friends. Let them get hold of a white man, and the manner he is cut up by these fiends is impossible for pencil to portray or pen describe. Your correspondent has seen numerous instances of this kind since the breaking out of the war. With what troops we have, we expect to prosecute the war with all the vigor in our power. "No favor sways us, no fear shall awe."--such is our motto. A number of companies are now being discharged by expiration of term of enlistment. By the first of July the entire volunteer force in Southern Oregon will be out of service, unless more troops are called for--a call which we are looking for every day. The regular forces in these parts are quite limited, and are mostly stationed along the sea coast.
From the seat of war in the north, we have but little news of interest. We have been looking for some time past for a severe engagement in that quarter, but up to last accounts not much had been done towards making peace, unless it be the capture of 300 head of horses by the Indians, belonging to the Indians. This daring theft was committed within five miles of the Dalles--a military station. The U.S. troops have taken the field in the north, and Governor Curry has ordered nearly all the volunteers to be disbanded, and return to their respective homes. This no doubt will be joyful news to those brave hearts who have left their firesides to give battle to the ruthless savage, for I blush when I say it that these same men have actually had to subsist upon horseflesh, while their enemies have "fared sumptuously every day." There is great negligence among some of the government officials in (not) furnishing supplies for the army here in the south; we find some difficulty in procuring even "half rations" of coffee, sugar &c. &c. We frequently have to try the beverage known all over creation as Father Adam's ale [water].
You must have observed in our Oregon papers the course pursued by Gen. Wool in relation to the prosecution of the present war. When he made his appearance here last fall, we hailed him with pleasure, and had no doubt but that with his presence and his troops, he would soon be the means of restoring peace again to our beloved Oregon. But alas! such is far from being the case. Gen. Wool and Gov. Curry had a slight difficulty at the first start, and ever since that time Gen. Wool has done everything in his power to injure the people of Oregon. He used all the influence in his power to prevent the merchants of California from supplying our troops with clothing and munitions of war, at a time when every family in Oregon was in imminent danger of being slain by our foes who are in open arms against us in the east, west, north and south. During the winter months (by far the best time for fighting Indians here) he and his men were quartered--(not) "in my saddle, sir," but at San Francisco or Fort Vancouver, living on the fat of the land, and enjoying themselves to all intents and purposes. Gen. Wool has now taken the field, and we hope to hear good accounts from him. I regret the necessity of making this personal allusion to this great military officer, but facts are stubborn things, and must be told.
Full returns of the recent election in regard to the formation of a state government have not yet been received. It is, however, pretty certain that we shall remain in our present condition as a Territory for a while longer, agreeably to a majority of about two hundred votes. Last year the majority was much the same.
Never perhaps in the recollection of the "oldest inhabitant" were our financial affairs at as low an ebb as at the present time. Money is indeed very scarce, owing in part to the present war, which in a great measure prevents successful mining operations. Where the mines are worked (in mining parlance) they "pan out" very well.
"Dollars and dimes, dollars and dimes,It is said that the expenses of the present war have amounted already to over four millions of dollars, which small sum, if paid soon, will set Oregon once more all right so far as financial affairs are concerned. We are waiting with all the patience in our power until "Uncle Samuel" shall square his accounts with his nephews who reside on this Pacific coast.
To be out of money is the worst of crimes."
Our markets are improving a little. Wheat, oats and potatoes command $1.00 per bushel; beef 8 cts. on foot &c. &c.
Grasshoppers are still on the increase at a frightful rate. The crops look promising. Health is good.
Yours, in peace or war,Illinois State Journal, Springfield, July 30, 1856, page 1 The parenthetical "not"s were bracketed insertions made by the 1856 editor.
From the Jacksonville Sentinel.
Gen. Lamerick's Expedition to the Meadows.
On Saturday, the 19th of April, the Northern Battalion left Grave Creek for the Meadows. On Saturday, Gen. Lamerick left and joined the battalion on Monday evening at the mouth of Whiskey Creek.
The Southern Battalion left Vannoy's under command of Lieut. Col. Chapman on the 17th, and was ordered to proceed down on the south side of Rogue River and form a junction with the Northern Battalion at the Meadows.
On Tuesday the 22nd, the Northern Battalion proceeded to the Meadows (the Meadows are on the north side of Rogue River), where Gen. Lamerick expected to meet the Southern Battalion, but on his arrival he failed to meet them, and was not able to learn where they were until the evening of the 24th. He dispatched an express with a letter to Lieut. Col. Chapman, requesting him to proceed down on the south side of Rogue River, if possible for him to do so; if not to use his discretion and cross the river and join him at the Meadows. The express found Lieut. Col. Chapman about 12 miles south of the mouth of Whiskey Creek. Lt. Col. Chapman proceeded to cross Rogue River at the mouth of Whiskey Creek, and joined Gen. Lamerick at the Meadows on Friday the 25th. On Tuesday, Col. Kelsay, with 50 men, was sent out to reconnoiter and find out the locality of the Indians. They discovered Indians, and shots were exchanged but without effect.
On Saturday Major Bruce was sent down near the river to reconnoiter. He approached near the Indian camp with a force of not over 100 men, for the purpose of drawing the Indians across to the north side of the river, as they were encamped on the south side, but in this he failed. However, a party of about 35 Indians did cross the river, and ascended a high point to reconnoiter our camp, but their position was inaccessible.
On Sunday morning about 2 o'clock. Col. Kelsay with about 250 men proceeded down to the Big Meadows, leaving 100 men at the mouth of the Cañon as a reserve, and to prevent the Indians from falling into the rear and cutting off our pack trains. About 8 o'clock on Sunday morning, the 27th April, Col. Kelsay with 150 men reached the river under cover of a heavy fog, and commenced the attack by firing across the river. The Indians immediately fell back into the thick timber and underbrush and returned the fire. During the day the Indians were seen carrying off their dead and wounded. Three dead Indians were left lying on the bar during day, but at dark when our men were compelled to draw off, the Indians came and carried them off, together with their camp equipage. On this day, Henry Mercer, of Capt. Wilkinson's company, was mortally wounded by a ball entering his mouth and passing through his jaw and neck and lodging in his shoulder.
Early in the morning on Monday the 28th, the firing commenced and lasted until 12 o'clock, then the Indians drew off. Today one of the men belonging to Capt. Sheffield's company was wounded in the neck but not considered mortal. While the firing was still going on, Maj. Bruce, with one hundred men, was sent down the river four or five miles to the mouth of John Mule Creek, made no discovery, only seen Indians passing down the river on the south side, but too far off to be reached by our rifles.
On this evening Maj. Massey, with Capts. Keith's and Blakely's companies of about 130 men, arrived.
On Tuesday the 29th, the forces, with the exception of Maj. Massey's command, crossed the river and encamped on the ground that the Indians were encamped on when the attack was made on Sunday morning. While the forces were on the south side of the river the weather was very bad, either raining or snowing very near all the time, yet scouts were busily engaged in hunting the Indian trails. It was ascertained that about two miles up the mountain back from the river the Indians had divided, a party going south towards Illinois River and the others down Rogue River.
On Tuesday, before the command crossed Rogue River, Capt. Crouch was sent with 50 men and the two wounded men and the pack train to Roseburg.
The forces all crossed back to the north side of the river on Friday, 2nd of May.
On account of the scarcity of provisions it was thought advisable to return, and the forces were all ordered back to Grave Creek, with the exception of 200 men left under the command of Maj. Bruce, at the Meadows, for the purpose of building blockhouses.
Crescent City Herald, May 21, 1856, page 2
We understand that the companies of Capts. Keith and Blakely and one other company have been left at the Big Meadows for the purpose of erecting fortifications at that place. The Southern Battalion have pretty near all returned from their expedition to the Meadows, and an impression is extant that they will not make another expedition, as there is considerable dissatisfaction in relation to affairs connected with the late expedition. The term of enlistment of many of the volunteers is about terminated, and it would not be very astonishing if the volunteers were, as a general thing, discharged. The Indians may fall in with Col. Buchanan, as he, with U.S. troops, are somewhere down Rogue River. If the U.S. troops and the Indians do meet, it would not be very strange if the preliminaries of a treaty were talked over. This war of extermination is not what many bargained for. The only sure way to save life, end the war and restore peace to Southern Oregon is to obtain a treaty and send the Indians out of the country.
Crescent City Herald, May 21, 1856, page 2
(From the Statesman Extra.)
IMPORTANT BATTLE SOUTH
Indians Completely Routed.
Indian Loss 30--No Whites Killed--2 Wounded.
From Messrs. Bradbury and Dearborn, of the south, we learn that the volunteers, to the number of 250, under Gen. Lamerick, surprised a party of Indians, comprising about 100 warriors and 200 women and children, on a bar of Rogue River, near the Meadows, and firing upon them, killed about thirty, and completely routing the remainder.
The volunteers lost none, and had but two wounded, one (a Mr. Mercer, of Capt. Wilkinson's company) badly, a probably mortally. He was brought into the hospital at Deer Creek, and it is thought has died before this.
The Indians retreated after fighting some time, and Gen. Lamerick immediately made preparations to follow them, resolved to "clean them out" effectually.
The volunteers captured ten horses.
The Indians were surprised, and the affair was adroitly managed throughout.
Mr. [McDonough Harkness], of Grave Creek House, while carrying express from Grave Creek to Gen. Lamerick, was fired upon--fell from his horse--was horribly mutilated by the Indians--supposed while alive, as wound was not mortal.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, May 13, 1856, page 2
The next morning at eight o'clock Sergeant Major Dawes read to the assembled battalion the following:
GENERAL ORDER NO. 19,
Headquarters of Second Reg., O.M.V.
Camp at mouth of Applegate,
April 12th, 1856.
Major Bruce of Southern Battalion, O.M.V., will see that captains of companies parade their respective commands on the parade ground at 2 o'clock p.m. this day, that they may be inspected by the commanding officer, and that they receive such ammunition and other supplies as may be deemed necessary. Captains will see to it that their companies shall turn out in full, and that every man shall be present unless absent by special order. By order of
Brig. Gen. J. K. Lamerick,
At the appointed hour the companies were in line ready for inspection. Gen. Lamerick, followed closely by Sergeant Major Dawes, came out from his tent and going to the left of the battalion, instead of the right, stood for a few seconds as though wishing to give the boys a fair chance to cheer. Now, while he stands expectant, let me describe the valiant General. Probably some of those who read this have been honored by the acquaintance of this same General, and to them I appeal as vouchers for the correctness of the likeness. The General is, or was, an undersized man with a small head, forehead of ordinary size and somewhat sloping backward, which slope continued until it reached the bump of self-esteem, features somewhat on the Grecian style, dark and commonplace, eyes dark gray with, when in good humor, an inclination to twinkle, but which, when the General's body was in danger from the too-close proximity of the Indians' bullets, seemed to sink away off, as though revolving some deep and mighty plan for the speedy termination of the war. The General wore, at the time of which I speak, as the only insignia of his rank, a black felt hat which covered at the time a part of his face, and around his neck was wrapped a large red, white and gray comforter, the red largely predominating. As to his courage, I know but little. I only was near him in, or during, one engagement, and I assure all who wish for the assurance that at that time he was where the bullets were the thickest. I stood by his side part of the time and know whereof I speak; for I, as 1st Lieut. of Company E, was detailed with thirty men of my company to guard the train, at the battle of the Big Meadows, on which was packed all the spare ammunition belonging to the regiment. The General and I were, during most of the time, standing side by side, and I did not see him flinch; but, on the contrary, he expressed fervent hopes that the boys would whip the Indians.
The inspection went off with such eclat as the unkempt volunteers could command, and the day closed without further incident. At 4 o'clock the Sergt. Major stepped into the parade ground and read in a loud voice an order from the Commanding General that the battalion would start to the Big Meadows on the morning of the 14th. That morning having arrived, the tents were struck and a vanguard of one hundred men under the immediate command of Lieut. Col. Chapman with three scouts ahead under Capt. Billy Lewis took an early start, an hour or so ahead of the pack train, which next followed, while the rear was brought up by Maj. Bruce. This pack train was a long one whenever the trail became too narrow for the mules to go abreast. The long line of mules bearing heavy packs of short-handled shovels seemed to indicate that our commanders intended to go into the mining business, and many were the curses invoked upon their heads by the green ones of the command when told that the war was only a speculation of Gov. Curry and General Lamerick to get the boys down Rogue River and set them to work wing-damming the river in search of gold.
The march was a quiet one, no firing allowed, and even the muleteers refrained from raising their usual loud and coarse Mexican epithets with which they at other times caressed their mules into a speedier gait. The march was through heavy timber the first few days, across deep, dark canyons and up long ridges, continually cheered by the monotonous ooh! ooh! ooh! of the grouse in the tops of the tall fir trees that covered the hills in all directions.
Now and then an unruly steer would break out of the band of beef cattle which was driven along for our subsistence, and come tearing along through the timber, followed by one or more of the men having them in charge, when it would be a race, neck and neck, till the steer would suddenly turn and [go] out of sight, and we never knew whether we had the pleasure afterwards of eating a choice steak cut from his shinbone or not. How many cattle started with the command only the quartermaster and his assistants knew, but one thing was certain, we got but very little beef to eat.
There seemed to be a new regulation adopted in regard to roll call. It was required of all commissioned officers as well as of privates to "fall in" and answer to their names when called by the orderly sergeants, thus premising that commissioned officers were liable to desert, thereby making it necessary to place them under the surveillance of the orderly sergeants who would not desert or be absent from their posts.
First camp was made on a small creek emptying into Rogue River. It was early and the Lieut. Col. called the officers to his bivouac and enjoined upon them the necessity of care in executing the duty each would be called upon to perform. The General had left us on the 13th to join Col. Kelsay at Grave Creek, therefore Lieut. Col. Chapman was anxious that nothing should befall us which might bring censure upon him, or disaster upon his command.
Lieut. O. listened attentively, and being at the time officer of the guard, felt that it was necessary for him to be on the alert, and see that the guards were equally vigilant. Stalking around in all the dignity of a master of the situation and of the guard, he approached one of the camp guards and asked him if he knew how to challenge. The sentinel straightened himself up and in an irritated and bullying tone of voice replied;
"Challenge, reckon I do, and if yer want ter fight jest say the word an' I'm yer man."
"You don't understand me, sir," and the last word was slightly emphasized. "I mean if, when you are on guard, any person approaches you after night do you know how to stop him and ascertain who he may be."
"Well," replied the guard, "what business is it of yourn whether I know or not, if you come foolin' around after dark I'll let you know how I'll stop yer."
This was too much for the promising young Lieut., and he began to rise a little higher when he told the belligerent guard that,
"I'm an officer of the guard, sir, and I'll punish you if you make any more such replies and threats."
"Officer of the guard, are yer, why didn't yer say so, then, not come like any fool would and begin to ask such questions."
The scene was enjoyed by the few who heard the conversation, but the Lieut. had enough of drilling a raw volunteer with such limited authority as the officers had over their men; for every man felt himself capable and willing to advise on any strategic points, and was pointedly averse to strict obedience to his officers unless he was first informed of the object of the order and it agreed with his own views.
The march was uninterrupted by any notable incidents until camp was made on Peavine Mountain, where the battalion lay in camp for several days awaiting orders from Col. Kelsay, and to recruit men and animals.
Capt. Mike Bushey was sent down Rogue River on a scout to discover signs of the Indians. He discovered signs, plenty of them, the story of which some pleasant writer for the Tidings told among its columns a few weeks ago. [See the issue of May 9, 1879, above.] The said writer owes me an apology for taking that nice little incident away from me; I wanted it to help fill up. I wanted to tell it myself. But there is another quite as satisfactory that he didn't tell, and I shall proceed to incorporate it for fear he takes that also away from me.
Col. Kelsay had started from Grave Creek with the Northern Battalion on the 14th and, by reason of the shortness of the distance between his point of departure and the Little Meadows on Rogue River, had reached that point by the time the Southern Battalion pitched camp at Peavine Mountain. Kelsay's scouts reported to him that the enemy was encamped in force on a large bar on Rogue River opposite the upper end of the Big Meadows, three miles below the Little Meadows. The Col., wishing to crush the power of the Indians at one blow, deemed that the best plan to accomplish that end would be to order Lieut. Col. Chapman to join him at the Little Meadows with his command, so as to make a combined and irresistible attack upon the enemy's stronghold. But how to get the order to Col. Chapman was a difficult problem to solve. The distance was only twelve miles, but the country, and more especially the trail between the two camps, was patrolled by the ever-vigilant enemy. He could not spare men from his command sufficient to fight their way through, as it was by no means certain that forces divided he would not fall an easy prey to the Indians who seemed to be well up to all of the movements of the volunteers, while their own were ever obscured from view. The turbulent river lay between the two camps, with no means of crossing it. Col. Chapman had two canvas boats, to be sure, but his camp was three or four miles from the river on the top of Peavine Mountain, and any attempt to call to him would bring down a swarm of savages upon the unlucky caller. The dispatch must be taken by one person, and that person must be well versed in the science of dodging Indians. After a short search for such a man the Col. had the satisfaction to find him in the person of Tom Moore, a young man who had spent the first years of his majority on the Pacific coast in search of gold and grizzly bear and fighting Indians.
What would Mr. Moore take to carry a dispatch to the camp of the Southern Battalion, queried the kindly disposed Colonel.
"Nothing but the dispatch and my revolver," replied the ready scout. A merry smile lurked in the eyes of the facetious Colonel (subsequently the respected judge of the 2nd Judicial District of Oregon). "I mean, how much must I pay you to carry the dispatch?"
"Not less than five hundred dollars. I would not risk my life for that amount of money, but I will take that as a bonus and risk my life for the public benefit."
"Say three hundred and you may consider yourself engaged."
"All right, when shall I start?"
"Tonight, or now, just as you please, but if you start in daylight you'll not get through."
"I'll start tonight then, as soon as it is dark and put the dispatch in Lieut. Col. Chapman's hands by 8 o'clock tomorrow morning."
CAMP AT LITTLE MEADOWS,
April 20, 1856.
Lieut. Col. W. W. Chapman,
You will break camp immediately upon receipt of this and repair with the Southern Battalion to the Little Meadows, where I am encamped. You will cross the river at the mouth of Whiskey Creek, keeping scouts ahead so that you can obtain as much knowledge of the enemy as will serve your purpose and aid in a general movement now in contemplation so soon as you reach these headquarters. You will not engage the enemy unless attacked, but will move with as much rapidity as possible.
John Kelsay,As soon as it became dark enough to conceal his movements Tom Moore left camp on foot, and as the wind had begun to blow and the clouds indicated rain, he took an oilcloth coat across his arm for better protection from the storm. Pulling his boots over the lower extremities of his pants and drawing his belt a little tighter, and adjusting his revolver, he left the Col.'s tent with the dispatch.
Col. Com'd'g 2nd Reg. O.M.V.
Instead of following the trail, he descended the steep mountainside until he reached the river, and followed up the bank of the stream as far as he could, or as [far as] the banks were clear of brush.
The clouds became more dense and threatening till at last rain began to descend, light at first but soon becoming a deluge which rendered the ground slippery and matted the already tangled thickets of brush so that locomotion was made more slow and painful. He must grope his way, sometimes on hands and knees, and seldom found an opportunity to walk in an unconstrained, upright position. Canyons, deep, dark as blackness, lined with brush and rocky declivities, descended from the ridge on his left, filled with foaming torrents, fed by the stream, which emptied into the river with a loud and continuous roar. For five or six miles he was compelled to climb ridge after ridge and then descend and ford, sometimes waist deep in the chilly torrents.
Before he had accomplished half the distance he felt himself weakening, but he struggled on. To return was more dangerous, and equally as difficult as to advance. He had not yet heard or seen any signs of Indians. Not thinking they would be out in such a night, he had cared but little to listen. But having heard what he thought was the parting of brush, and the quick, grating displacement of the sharp stones lying all over the ground, he stopped by the side of an overhanging tree and listened. No mistake, a number of persons [were] coming down the canyon from above him. Indians, of course, they must be, for none of the volunteers would be out in such a night. Standing by the side of the tree he could not be discovered, even at the distance of ten feet; neither could he discern the passersby, who seemed to him to be but little farther off. He was soon made aware of their identity by the few guttural words that he caught as they passed. They were Indian scouts returning to their companions and had come down the canyon from the trail, where they had no doubt been watching for some luckless traveler. He did not leave his position till the Indians were far out of hearing, and when he did begin his march it was with as much celerity as was possible in the pitchy darkness and wildly descending rain. About midnight he was relieved by coming unexpectedly to Whiskey Creek, the point where he intended to attempt the crossing of Rogue River. He knew that a few weeks before there was an old canoe lying on the bank of the river just below the mouth of the creek, which had been made out of a pine tree years before by a party of prospectors, and been used by succeeding ones, or anyone who chanced to pass that way. For hours he groped up and down the bank of the river in the darkness, in search of the canoe, but was at last forced to give it up. He must get across the river before daylight if possible, as after that time he might at any moment become the target of some lurking band of Indians. His only chance now was to make a raft, and he had no axe or hatchet, nothing but his sheath knife with which to cut timbers for it. Luckily, while searching for the canoe he had seen some small drift logs lying in the water's edge some distance below. The rain had now ceased and it was very cold, and ice had begun to thicken on brush and trees. Laying his oilcloth coat aside, he groped his way down in search of the coveted logs which were to construct his raft. Soon reaching the spot where they lay, he carried them one by one up to near the mouth of the creek, at a point on the river which he knew was the safest for his meditated crossing. The water at this spot was less swift than above or below, but a large rock raised its head near the middle of the channel. This rock was his only fear, as he had crossed the same river in other times on a poorer raft than he could construct with the material on hand. Cutting some small poles with his knife he proceeded to twist them into withes with which he succeeded, after some difficulty, in binding the logs together. Then cutting a long stout pole with which to both steer and propel his unsteady craft, he launched it upon the water and a vigorous shove with the pole sent it out into the stream. The current was swift and strong, and the raft rolled uneasily as it shot rapidly down the river. By the faint gleams of daylight he saw immediately below him, and upon which he deemed destined to strike, the huge rock, with the water foaming and leaping around its jagged and ominous head. Vigorously he plied his pole, but to no purpose. With headlong speed the raft struck endwise upon the rock and Tom went headlong over the raft; keeping his presence of mind he seized the rock with one hand and climbed to the top, which was only about eighteen inches above the water, and with exertion held the raft until he could step on it again. Launching it again on the current, he was carried a half mile downstream before he could make a landing.
Wrapping his coat close around and over his dripping clothes, Moore made the ascent of the mountain to the camp of the Southern Battalion, which he reached about 6 o'clock that morning, before the hour he had promised to have the dispatch in the hand of Lieut. Col. Chapman.
As soon as the dispatch had been read and its news spread throughout the camp, all was stir and activity. The herders and packers were sent out to drive in the stock preparatory to making the start for the Little Meadows. But [as] Capt. Bushey's men had not all arrived yet from their notable scout, it would not do to leave camp without making an effort for their relief. But where they scattered, no one knew whither. The order to bring up the stock was countermanded, and the commander determined not to move until the next morning, thus giving the missing ones one more day in which to make their appearance. Before night they all came in.
On the following morning tents were struck, a vanguard started ahead, and soon a long line of pack mules set out to descend the steep mountain to the river's bank opposite the only feasible crossing--at Whiskey Creek. The two canvas boats were unpacked and speedily put together. Let me, reader, describe these peculiar boats; there may be a large number of the readers of the Tidings who never saw nor before heard of a canvas boat. They are of frontier origin and, I believe, originated in the brain of some army officer stationed on the Oregon coast. They are not in use now; they as suddenly disappeared from field operations as they entered it. They were not the thing to cross a river in in the face of the enemy, for two or three ordinary bullets would let in enough water in ten seconds to swamp one, while if by chance one of them should pass over a sharp pointed rock its doom as well as that of the inmates would be sealed. They are good enough in smooth water and where there are no bullets or other missiles to penetrate them. A framework of wood composed of a long piece to extend along the top of each side, with similar ones on the ends, put together at the corners with screws; these pieces hold the top of the canoes in place. Around the bottom, 24 inches below the top pieces, extend similar ones. These are fastened to the upper pieces by means of uprights 36 inches apart, gained or halved into the upper and lower ones and fastened with screws. Across the bottom, 36 inches apart, connected with the uprights where they join the strip around the bottom, extend 2x3-inch thwarts, over which are placed light boards to stand upon. Around the outside of this frame is stretched thick canvas so tightly that water does not enter except a little that only moistens the cloth very slightly. Both ends, sides and bottom are square.
It was 11 o'clock in the forenoon when the boats were made ready for use. From five to seven men were all that could safely stand in each boat, and before all the men and packs were across it was dark--and the nights at that time were extremely dark.
That day the writer was detailed with thirty men of his company to guard the rear of the pack train, and of course brought up the rear of the command. Camp was to be made three or four miles up on the level of the ridge, and the vanguard were there early in the day, but when the last mule and man left the bank of the river and began the ascent of the mountain darkness was so intense that we were often out of the trail, and could only follow it by feeling. After ascending the rocky backbone of the ridge for a mile or so, thick brush began to be encountered on each hand, through which the trail had been cut in former years. The rear guard plodded up slowly and with difficulty, enlivened occasionally by some Sancho Panza-like voice calling out: "Oh! Boys, where are ye?" and then the lost one could be heard rattling amongst the loose stones, or wriggling among the brush in his efforts to move in the direction of the answering call, "Here! Come along!"
Suddenly the blaze of a hundred camp fires burst upon the view as the guard raised the top of the last eminence; a hundred axes were busy chopping at the pine trees, felling them for wood, and every mule, it seemed, in the long train raised his voice in gladness when he found that his day's travel and toil was over. The effect was indescribably encouraging. A weird scene, but viewed for the first time it would make an abiding impression on even an unimaginative mind.
"Where is our company camped? Where is the camp of Company E?" were the questions asked of all whom the light of the numerous camp fires revealed to the anxious view of the hungry men--nothing to eat since morning, and not accustomed to such fasting, their eyes glared hungrily at the pile of flapjacks occasionally seen before the fire of some lucky one who had been in camp long enough to have advanced that far in his culinary duties. At last the company's camp was found and all trouble was soon drowned in the delights of a cup of strong coffee and a feast upon that old-fashioned kind of miner's bread, made of flour, cold water and salt.
After satisfying a prodigious appetite, the writer in wandering around camp until the headquarters tent was reached learned that on that day at about the time the first boatload of men crossed the river they were met on the bank by a man named Wagner, who had started the day before from Grave Creek accompanied by a Mr. Harkness, intending to go to Col. Kelsay's camp at Little Meadows. While moving along the trail about six miles below Whiskey Creek they were fired upon by the Indians, and Harkness fell from his horse shot dead. Wagner received a slight wound but, turning back, succeeded in reaching a point in the trail on the ridge above the creek where he was gratified to see Chapman's command marching down the hill to the crossing of the river. Hiding himself so that he might not be observed by any of the numerous parties of Indians that were known to be traversing the country, he awaited the crossing of the first load of men and then came out and made himself known.
The next morning the command was in motion at an early hour, but with such a large following of pack trains and beef cattle it was ten o'clock before the last man left camp. A few miles from camp the vanguard came upon the body of Harkness lying on the side of the trail. A light snow had fallen and covered it with a shroud of purest white. The Indians had not only scalped the head but had perpetrated the most horrid butchery that one could conceive of. Their fiendish work was horrible to contemplate. The body had been cut and slashed in every part, as though the devilish savages could not satisfy their vengeance and hate with torturing the clay while the spirit remained. Carefully the mutilated form was taken up and carried upon a mule to the Little Meadows, where it was buried with military honors. After the grave had been filled a large log heap was made upon it and burned to ashes, as though a camp fire had been made on the spot, that the Indians might not suspect it was a grave and dig up the body, as was their usual custom.
At an early hour of the day the Southern Battalion had joined the Northern in camp at the Little Meadows. The camp was on an upper bench of the Meadows, overlooking the river, two miles away and one thousand feet below. Before the first camp was made, large pine trees formed a beautiful grove over the whole bench and for a distance below towards the driver. Relays of men were set to work felling the trees and forming a breastwork around a space of ground sufficiently extensive to contain the encampment of seven hundred men. The limbs served as fuel, while the trunks made an impenetrable barrier against bullets or a sudden attack by the Indians. Water and grass were abundant and of the best quality. A finer place for a military camp was not to be found in that section of country, and it was decided to make the camp permanent until such time as a final move should be made. The Indians were encamped on a large flat or bar three miles below on the opposite side of the river, and daily a scout would start out, to return at almost the same hour in the afternoon, which gave grounds for the suspicion that they only went far enough from camp to avoid observation, and there remained the rest of the day, and at or near the same hour would return with the stereotyped report: "Indians on the bar three miles below, some sign on this side but can't tell which way they intend to move. Think we'll find out more next time."
Thus days passed and no advance was made against the enemy. Leisure in camp was becoming irksome, and complaints soon were heard of the inactivity.
It now became necessary to begin to kindle the patriotic fires that should have been burning, but were thought by the commanders to have become extinct in the breasts of the grayback-covered volunteers. For that purpose word went out one fine afternoon that Gen. Lamerick would address them at a certain hour, and close attention was invited to the stirring and highly elevating remarks which were promised. The hour arrived and an object was seen to climb the bark of a huge pine stump and presently balance itself on the top. It was the General, no mistaking the flaming red comforter which fluttered and swayed around the laurel-crowned brow of that thrice-gallant commander. For a few minutes he held the attention of the motley crowd of volunteers who found it convenient to listen to the harangue, when he was followed by the genial and respected Colonel, who was loudly cheered by the boys for his somewhat extravagant but kindly remarks.
"I will lead you, my brave boys, to the fastnesses of the enemy and by the grace of God and our own strong arms we'll subdue the savage horde who are devastating our frontier. I will stand in the bow of the first boat when we cross the river to attack the enemy. I will stand upright as a figurehead in the first boat, and if my frail body shall be capable of shielding my brave followers from the enemy's fire that shield stall stand up as a mark for the enemy's bullets as freely as I now stand on the top of this stump." Cheer followed cheer for the brave Colonel, and he stepped from the stump to give place to Lieut. Col. W. W. Chapman, who soon vacated the now well-scratched platform to give place to Maj. Bruce and others who chose to follow.
Two or three days were spent in similar exercises, when a detachment under Major Bruce of one hundred and fifty men was sent out to feel of, but not to engage, the enemy unless attacked. The detachment was composed of the companies of Captains Wilkinson, O'Neil and W. W. Williams.
The morning was quite warm, and the rays of the sun, reflected by the many rocks, admonished the boys that the day would be still warmer; in consequence most of the boys stripped themselves of all superfluous clothing. In shirt and pants, with the ever-necessary bullet pouch and powder horn, with rifles trailed, the detachment slowly ascended the long slope of the hill which rose in rear of the camp till they reached the ridge. A line of oak and pine timber indicated the beginning of the descent, which was into a deep, dark canyon, thickly set with large boulders and stiff, scraggy brush. As soon as the irregular mass of men had reached the ridge they formed in line, the three companies abreast and with Major Bruce in the center, began the abrupt descent.
It was the intention to cross this deep gulch, and from the level plateau on the other side they expected to obtain a clear view of the Indian camp on the opposite side of the river. Slowly the descent was made. Swinging from shrub to shrub, the men let themselves down. Occasionally a hold would break, when an unfortunate volunteer would be seen to shoot quickly out of sight down the declivity, to bring suddenly up against a sharp boulder, or lodge in the branches of a tree.
A fierce storm of sleet and hail now came on, which lasted a half-hour then dwindled to a snowstorm, which soon covered the ground and treetops. The boys, who had left their coats in camp, were in a sorry fix, and would have been glad of an opportunity to engage in a skirmish with the Indians to keep the blood in circulation.
They did not wait long before an opportunity was offered. Directly in front of the command and a half-mile away ran a deep, burly creek, on each side of which was an open, grassy ground. On the opposite side of this creek, and in plain view of the volunteers, a band of Indians were seen to collect and form a line similar to, and parallel with them, and about equal in numbers.
Their leader stepped to the front of his men and harangued them in true Indian style. His style was of the active kind, one foot high in the air, then as it descended the other went up. As the boys stood looking at the edifying spectacle, some facetious one asked the Major if he would give them an imitation. The Major gravely declined, but said he would like to lead the boys against the Indians, but his orders would not permit it.
This was received with a murmur of dissatisfaction, as all were priming themselves on having a shot at them. Open remonstrance was of no avail. The Major would obey orders, and the men were constrained to submit. But it was with an ill grace, and many ungraceful epithets were bestowed on the Major, but in tones that he probably did not hear. Some time was consumed in studying the position of the Indian encampment on the river bar. A large spyglass passed from eye to eye, and universal knowledge was thus obtained of the situation. The Major reluctantly gave the order to return, the Indians still in front in battle array and sending loud, jeering banters to the volunteers, yet orders in time of war must be obeyed, and the Major was a good soldier.
Amidst the still-falling snow the column turned towards camp. Slinking and crouching to avoid the falling snow, which seemed to fall with unerring precision from the trees and brush down the back of their necks, the men returned dissatisfied to camp, and it required several speeches by the Colonel and others to bring them back to a due respect for the military genius of their commanders.
A council of war was held, from which all officers below the rank of Captain were excluded. The main point to be decided was whether to cross the river in a body in face of the bar on which the Indians were encamped, or to send a force over the river three miles above them, who should come down upon the Indians when the attacking party were ready for an assault in the front. The conclusion was reached that it would be just the thing to cross a force opposite them, who should come down upon the Indians when the attacking party were ready for an assault in the front. The conclusion was reached that it would be just the thing to cross a force opposite camp, and consummate the attack as stated above. Which battalion should cross above? The Southern, because its men and leaders were more familiar with the ground, and were possessed of the boats. The Northern, because it was the post of honor, the most dangerous. At last the smiling and courteous Colonel designated the Southern Battalion as the one [to] cross. The Major was averse, and so were most of his officers to undertaking the crossing in the canvas boats, and the men actually declared openly that they would not undertake it. Why did they not continue down the river from Peavine Mountain and thus act in conjunction with Col. Kelsay?
To attempt to cross the deep, wide and rapid river in two canvas boats that two or three Indians could sink by a few shots was, to the stupid men, actually dangerous. They even said that in case a boatload or two of men should cross unmolested, and the Indians should find them out and by a very few well-directed shots sink the boats or render them useless, that the few men who had crossed would be in extreme danger of utter destruction. And as for the Colonel standing in the prow of the leading boat as a figurehead, they didn't believe he'd do it. So the plan was abandoned, when the Major, after consulting with his officers, and hearing the reasoning of the men, said emphatically, "I'll be d----d if I will cross."
Indians were occasionally seen in the neighborhood of camp, and it might be possible that they intended an attack. Picket guards were strengthened, and at night those at the camp were doubled and enjoined to be ever vigilant.
One day at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon a rapid firing was heard on the hill near the trail leading from Grave Creek. It was the pickets, for the answering shots extended nearly around the circle. The boys seized their arms and darted off, some of them without orders or officers. The more cautious ones remained to be called out. But little stir was noticed in camp among the commanders, although a shot was now and then heard at different points. The few energetic men who had sallied out to ascertain the cause of the alarm were informed by a picket they met that Indians were prowling around, and he thought an attack was intended. After searching through the timber and examining the many patches of brush without finding anything of the enemy except numerous tracks, they returned to camp, and did not fail in many instances to inform the dilatory ones in camp that in case of an actual attack, "We must do all the fighting."
For a few days and nights storm after storm swept over the country, rendering scouting and traveling extremely difficult, while the Indians made it dangerous. Consequently nothing could be done but remain in camp.
One day, the storm blew louder and fiercer than usual. The night came on with no abatement. The clouds circled and wreathed closely overhead with that portentous humming sound which goes before all hurricanes. For a brief space the rain would descend in huge torrents, deluging the ground several inches deep with water in a few minutes, which, luckily, would rapidly run off down the hill, leaving deep tracks in all parts of the camp ground. Hail descended at intervals with tremendous force and in huge quantities.
The compact rows of tents were, in most instances, made to hug the ground, while the loose parts and ropes of the more exposed would whip and crack in mad frenzy. The inmates were lying in continued apprehension while the storm raged without, the lightning illuminating the scene and the thunder echoing and reverberating among the high hills and deep canyons of the neighborhood. A lull in the war of the elements was followed by the rapid firing of the camp guards, while some of the picket guards, thinking that they ought to give information from their edge of the circle, fired in concert. No mistake this time, the enemy were about to charge the camp. All hands must now man the breastworks. The voices of the captains and lieutenants were heard calling their men from their tents to form behind the defenses and repel the attacking Indians. Success in bringing the men from their comparatively snug quarters under the tents was only partial, still enough were aroused to answer the purpose until the enemy became more numerous and were pressing closer.
For a short time all was confusion, men and officers were mixed up in very unmilitary style. In one particular instance an officer left his own line of tents and ran to that of a brother Captain and began rallying his own men; when told that he was in the wrong locality he good-humoredly inquired, "Where are my tents then?" When informed, he departed, saying, "'tis extremely dark. Thought I was in the right place." Major ------, who had lost his reckoning, came plowing through the lines of tents calling in a loud, tremulous key for Capt. O'-----. When that officer answered him and lured him to his line of tents, the doughty Major felt himself an equal match for all the Indians in the country.
But no enemy appeared. The wet, shivering, and gladly disappointed boys crawled back under the cover of their unsteady tents to snore away the few remaining hours of the night, and dream, perhaps, of bloody scalps and whizzing tomahawks, and in their troubled sleep listen to that terrible, though never heard, "war whoop."
The next morning dawned, dark, cold and blustery. No one stirred out but the grim and reluctant guard. In the afternoon a little sunshine, and the snow and sleet which slightly covered the ground soon melted away, and mud and running water prevented any outdoor exercise. The little city of white tents, in exact and extended rows, seemed deserted and silent, save now and then an anxious cook could be seen vainly endeavoring to kindle a refractory fire, and pouring, in his choice vocabulary, a string of hot blessings on the unconscious and dripping logs.
At 12 o'clock at night Col. Kelsay was up and went to many of the tents in the Northern Battalion, and awakened the inmates and hurried them out, all except the mess cooks, and giving them only time to eat a little cold bread and meat, or such other cooked food as they might have provided in the evening, he hurried them out and on to the trail leading down the river and across a very deep and brushy canyon.
Leaving all in camp except their guns and a supply of ammunition, some with shovels, some with axes, they began their march. Preceded by Captains Lewis and ------, with their scouts, they slowly and silently in the darkness wound along the trail in single file. Coming out, about half a mile from camp, on to a level piece of ground overlooking the river below and from which could, in daylight be seen the encampment of Indians, and from which for several days the boys had watched the Indians and listened to their defiant yells, the Col. halted his men and stationed sufficient guards to prevent surprise.
A detail of men with axes and shovels were set at work cutting a trail down the steep side of the gulch which ran along on the west side of the flat mentioned above, to the bottom, or bed of the gulch, sufficiently wide to drive down the pack train and beef cattle. As soon as a hundred yards or so had been completed, the Colonel started his men down, keeping them after that close up to them to prevent their being attacked by the Indians should there be any stirring around so early. Slowly they worked in the dark, and many were the mishaps befalling the men while working in the darkness. The Col. was up and down the line of workingmen, taking a hand often to encourage the men to renewed exertions. Dark--no talking, no noise but the steady chipping of the axes, or the dull scraping of the shovels, as they dug the trail where necessary. The descent was at last accomplished and the escort begun. Should the Indians have known it and improved their opportunity, they could have hurled that band of road makers from their steep zigzag trail to the bottom of the gulch and sustained themselves no damage.
Nearing the summit of the gulch bank, daylight began to send its tokens of gray to hurry up the now greatly fatigued men. They must be in front of the Indian encampment before daylight so as to be able to secure a good position for an assault. The river lay between them, the attacked and the attacking party, but what of that, two hundred yards is a safe distance to stand from an enemy armed with old-fashioned guns.
The summit is reached at last. Some of the scouts have returned and reported all quiet below at the enemy's camp.
"Come, boys, hurry up, our road is clear now, we must travel fast, we must strike the enemy unaware and avenge our slaughtered friends," and the Col hurried to the front, and by twos the men began their march, divested of shovels and axes which they piled by the side of the trail to be picked up by the pack train when it should come after.
A mile and a half and they were in front of the enemy. The Indians' tents began to show plainly across the river two hundred yards away. The Col. ordered his men to withhold their fire till he gave the signal. He placed his men, three hundred strong, in a line fronting the encampment of the Indians; each man placing himself behind a tree, of which there were plenty, awaited anxiously for the signal from their leader.
About fifty men had slid down the bank and secreted themselves in the brush and behind the large boulders that lined the bank of the river at the water's edge. It was now broad daylight. A few men, wishing to change their positions, hurried from their coverts and rushed further down the river. Their movements were seen by the old story, the Indian dogs, who gave loud and angry barks and snarls.
An Indian came out and looked across where the volunteers were secreted. Intently gazing for a moment, he set up a howl, or ki-yi, and instantly the bar in front of the tents was covered with a mass of Indians, who came out to see what was to be seen. The boys could wait no longer--why did not the Col. give the signal? At last a rifle rang out clear on the still morning air, and three hundred more followed instantaneously and the dark mass of Indians reeled and swayed. Those in front vainly endeavored to retrace their steps, but the augmenting numbers from the tents and brush shanties crowded them still further towards the now-incessant and deadly shower of bullets poured into the writhing mass of unfortunates.
Screams, cries, shouts and yells gave token that the accursed "Bostons" were doing splendid work with their rifles. Those in the rear soon took a backward turn and the living current soon poured from the bar back into the brush, past the tents, beyond the brush houses, up the hill and lodged behind the tall pine and fir trees which lined the bluff back of the bar.
Still the deadly rifles continued the deadly fusillade. Shortly the Indians began to return the fire with vigor, and now we will leave the brave Kelsay and his equally eager men exchanging rapid and continued shots with the Indians, and return to the Southern Battalion in camp.
Two hours before daylight--the guards aroused the camp, and in a few minutes the camp fires were sending their long bright flashes far out into the gloom. As soon as the men were out of their blankets they rolled them up, took down the tents and by the time the cook had the morning meal of bread, coffee and meat the tents were ready for the packers. Hastily eating their breakfast, the men fell into companies and by the time daylight had fairly spread over the landscape were far down on the trail towards the Indian encampment, and were listening to the noise of battle while they hurried along, eager to join in the excitement of the melee.
A little after daylight the pack trains left camp on their way to the scene of the conflict and to another camp. The way was steep, and some of the mules and packs would go on rolling and tumbling down the steep descent until they brought up against a tree or huge boulder and then gather a fresh start and perhaps repeat the same performance. A struggling, sliding, rolling mass [until] they reached the bottom of the canyon. Several horses were seriously injured and one killed. The General remained with the rear guard, and taking a seat on a large stone by the side of the trail had a clear view of the battlefield which with his long spyglass he constantly viewed, from his lofty station, five hundred feet above and a mile away from the battlefield. His men he saw constantly moving from point to point. The continuous rattle of firearms made his eyes light up with grand military frenzy, his eyes showed the burning fires of strategic genius as they glanced through that well-worn spyglass. Words of chagrin would now and then find vent from between his clenched teeth, "If I only were there. If I could only pass this cursedly slow train, Lieutenant, why don't the train move faster? Give it to 'em, boys, you can lick 'em; Lieutenant, do you think I can pass the train soon?"
The train at last makes the crossing of the canyon, and the General's way is clear. He advances to the high ground a half mile from the still-raging storm of battle and surveys again the smoky scene. It was now about 9 o'clock and the fire was slackening, but from across the river defiant yells, more numerous than rifle shots, still came from the hostile band of Indians. At 10 o'clock, the bloody battle was ended and before 11 o'clock, the pack trains and beef cattle were all brought up and were feeding on the luxuriant grass growing amongst the timber, while the men spread upon the ground or stood leaning against the trees recounting to each other how "I drawd a bead on a Injun that was running right over there--do you see that tree--and I whaled away just as he got to that 'air--do you see that rock over there by that 'air bunch of brush--and he keeled over like a shot deer." Thus an hour passed in conversation among the men, in friendly rivalry as to which one of them had done the most execution. Officers, too, were not lacking in that quality of self-adulation; they as individual combatants had done much slaughter.
The volunteers remained on the ground until about 2 o'clock, p.m., when the General ordered a forward movement to form camp about two miles away, over the ridge and out of sight of the Indian encampment, where yet remained the tents, and where remained all the property in their possession.
"Why don't we camp here? What is the use of going over the hill and leaving those tents and things over there? The Indians will come back and get 'em; they'll think we're a set of doggoned cowards. Wish I was general; I'd clean out the doggoned things 'fore I left 'ere."
The whole command was averse to leaving such a splendid camp ground, and where they could watch the Indians besides. They thought that by going away and making a camp out of reach of the bar that they would thus throw away all fruits of their hard-fought battle. As there was but one General, his commands were final, and the little army began its march up the side of the long, gentle slope, among grass a knee high, and past clear, cold, running brooks.
The sky was overcast, portentous of a bad night. Before the van had passed over half the distance a heavy snowstorm set in with great violence. Still the tired and hungry men were compelled to trudge on up the hill, which now became more abrupt and obstructed. Many would have camped, but their camp equipage, tents, etc. were on the train, and that was by this time near the selected camp, far ahead. The snow continued to fall and darkness came on before all the men came into camp. Long after it was quite dark, straggling bands of men would come in, after having for hours vainly sought for their comrades and for the camp to which they had been directed by the commanding officer, but that officer had changed his mind after reaching the camp grounds first indicated and had ordered a move to another spot still further on, hence the delay and confusion attending the march for the camp.
Lieut. C------ had been left with thirty men on the bank of the river opposite the Indians' tents to watch them and prevent their being taken away by night by the Indians. He remained, but reluctantly. He could get no nearer than one hundred and fifty yards to the bar, and the deep, rapid river intervening, the night dark, and a heavy snowstorm raging, what could he do? The Indians could take their property, and Lieut. C------ could not see them. The men chafed at the situation, but there was no help for them, they must stay through the night. So they seated themselves as comfortably as possible behind trees, rocks and brush to wear away the hours till midnight, when a relief and lunch would come. About 11 o'clock, when the darkness was intense, the men heard someone stealthily approaching. Lieut. C-----, who was on the lower side of the guard, and in a line with the approaching footsteps, raised up suddenly when the sounds had approached to within ten feet of where he had been sitting, and was on the point of challenging the unknown one, when he as well as his men were startled by the challenge coming from the other party in the Indian dialect. Darkness and silence has a tendency to increase nervous anxiety, and the men, upon hearing the Indian challenge, felt at first like flight, but the next instant rushed in the direction of the intruder and called out to one another, "Kill him! Who is he? Take him alive! Shoot him!" But the Indian did not remain long enough for them to put any of their wishes into execution. He fled swiftly down the hill to the bar where the Indian boats were seen, during the day, to be tied. Calling to his friends in a voice peculiar to them, as soon as he had approached the water's edge, he turned toward where the men were stationed and fired a shot in that direction, as in defiance, while he kept up a peculiar yell, apparently telling his friends of his situation and calling on them to come to his rescue. Their paddles were plainly heard as they came swiftly across after their companion, and at the same time shots were fired from the canoes towards Lieut. C------ and his men, who were rushing down the bank toward the spot where they thought that the canoes would be landed. In the darkness and through the brush, the boys made little headway, and before they reached the river the stray Indian had jumped into the foremost canoe and was making good time across the river and out of danger. The men fired a farewell salute in the direction of the canoes and returned disappointed to their station. The venturesome Indian was supposed to be one who had come in from a tramp, and had got the two camps mixed in his mind.
No relief party being sent to them, Lieut. C------, thinking that there would be none, and also believing that if he should become engaged with the Indians he could not receive aid, no matter how badly he might need it, he determined to abandon his post and climb the mountain in the direction in which he supposed the camp to be. When about halfway up the hill they were met by six men who had been sent with orders to Lieut. C------ to abandon the watch and come to camp.
For two days the men remained in camp, with an occasional scout down the river toward Jackass Creek, and one back to the battleground of the day before, when the Indians were seen to depart from their camp and climb the mountain back of the bar and disappear in the brush and timber. No other signs of Indians were seen, and on the third day the entire command was moved back to the battleground where they were formed in double lines on the bank of the river bluff and ordered to be in readiness to fire on the enemy if they should make an appearance. As soon as all was ready the two canvas boats were unpacked, put together, and launched on the river.
Capt. Billy Lewis and his company of scouts composed of, besides himself, 1st Lieut. Allen Evans and 2nd Lieut. ------ Evans, brother of Allen Evans, embarked, and cautiously and slowly rowed across the river. Disembarking on the lower bank of the river, they hesitatingly and slowly climbed up onto the bar. No Indians, no noise, no sign whatever; the valorous company of three scouts began circulating around the bar, going from place to place like three overgrown calves in a strange barnyard. The boats were soon plying across the river and in a few hours men and supplies were safely ferried over, and the field was won.
The men started off, each on his own account, on an exploring tour around the bar. Seven scalps of white men were found, some of them were hanging on a tree, some on the ground. There were plenty of persons who knew from what unfortunate individual each scalp had been taken. A few pieces of alaqua chick (Indian money) and some pieces of Chinese money, besides buttons, shells and some other useless articles were picked up. A good rifle was found standing against a tree, at the end of a track which seemed to have been trod by a sentinel, who had set down his gun and forgotten to pick it up again. The front and greater part of the bar was clear of brush, but the back and lower end was thickly covered with matted brush and slender young trees, interspersed with a few large fir and pine trees. Paths had been cut through this brushy undergrowth, and huts had been built of fir boughs, in which the Indians had been living. Bunks, or beds, somewhat after the style of those of the whites, had been made in these huts, on some of which food was found, while a few, and one in particular, was completely drenched with blood, as though the wounded had been carried from the bar while the volunteers were firing on them in the morning, and placed on these couches, and one or two had evidently died there on the floor, and bunks were strewn with the hair cut from their heads. This is always done by some Indians when any one of their friends or relatives die.
While camped here on the bar the term of enlistment of several companies (three months) expired and, accompanied by the Colonel, they returned to Grave Creek and were discharged.
The Indians, so far from being whipped, are doubly insolent, since the late unsuccessful attack at the Meadows, which was a perfect failure on our part. The report that 30 or 40 Indians were killed and wounded is all bogus, gotten up to gull the "simple-minded."
No one in this section attributes the failure to the volunteers. Having been censured on former occasions, they seemed determined this time to make clean work; which they no doubt would have done, if Gen. Lamerick had not been there. The volunteers are loud and strong in their denunciations of the course pursued by the General. Such is the feeling at present that it would be impossible to reorganize a volunteer corps under him. There is only a small force yet in the field, who hold the ground at the Meadows, not more perhaps than 100 men.
"From the South," Oregon Argus, Oregon City, June 14, 1856, page 2
ROGUE RIVER INCIDENT.--The Yreka Union learns from a person just from Oregon, after the Indian fight on Rogue River, that after General Lamerick had arranged for the battle at the Meadows, and given orders to charge across the river, one of his men said, "Look here, Genul, this ain't gwine to do. Just as sure as you charge cross thar, some of us will get killed. Don't you know we got one man killed trying to cross here once before?" On another occasion, Major Bruce ordered his men to charge, and they responded to it with promptness, alacrity and gallantry, by saying, "Yes, we say charge; we'll chalk you out a d----d good charge, Major!"
Crescent City Herald, July 16, 1856, page 2
NEW DIGGINGS.--Miners are going in considerable numbers down Rogue River to the Meadows, where very rich prospects were discovered during the last winter, when the volunteer army was there to attack the Indians. Many persons have been waiting until peace should be concluded, and as soon as it is known that John and Enos have surrendered there will be a great rush for that locality. We have conversed with a number of men who were there and prospected, or seen others prospect, and all say that these mines are certainly very rich. And it is thought that very soon there will be some thousands of men at work there. And we have heard some express the opinion that within a year a town will spring up there larger than Jacksonville.
We learn that a great many of the volunteers that are at the Meadows are sick, and that they are being removed to Roseburg and the Grave Creek House, for medical attention.
Crescent City Herald, July 30, 1856, page 2
A PERILOUS JOURNEY.
The Story of Tom Moore, an Army Messenger in Early Times.
A Trip Over One of the Wildest Sections of Southern Oregon
When Surrounded by Murderous Savages.
Written for the Sunday Oregonian.
Not that Oregon is or has been deficient in genus hero that it is deemed necessary to advance this particular one to the front to emphasize the fact that we have had one, at least, within our borders, of that class of superior beings who have, or their acts have, formed the themes of thousands of epic additions to the literature of all nations, but it is to do an act of simple justice to one who (now in his grave) aided in an essential manner, but in his own humble way, to advance the isolated Territory of Oregon from a perilous condition of internal Indian warfare, onward and upward to a state of domestic peace and prosperity.
Tom Moore is a very plain and not uncommon name; it does not indicate, as do those old, aristocratic, blue-blood, warrior names of feudal history, that the owner was more than a common mortal, or even that he was capable of performing any physical or moral act of bravery above the plane of the most common man, yet he was not only morally heroic but did not lack that physical bravery which did when required crowns with reasonable success the exercise of his moral courage.
A detailed account of all of the acts of heroism performed within the borders of the then Territory of Oregon by our subject would not be uninteresting matter for the perusal of the general reader, but to present one only out of the many is the present object of the writer.
Away down in the pine-clad hills of Rogue River, on a small bench, or "Little Meadows," as it was called, one thousand feet in perpendicular height above the river, was the camp of the northern battalion of the Second Regiment Oregon Mounted Volunteers, under the command of Col. John Kelsay.
It was in the month of April, 1856. The Indian war had not yet been brought to a close, and the Indians, with great tenacity, still contested the field. For almost a year they had ravaged the settlements in the valleys above, and were now down the river with their ill-gotten gains.
Slowly, but with determined purpose, the Second Regiment was following their tracks through the mountain defiles, and had at last located them on a bar, or flat, on the river, opposite the Big Meadows, two miles below the camp of the volunteers.
Twelve miles up the river, above Kelsay's camp, and on the north or opposite side, Lieut. Col. Chapman, with the southern battalion, was camped on the summit of Peavine Mountain, where he had been previously commanded to remain till he received further orders from his chief below.
PLAN OF ATTACK CHANGED.Col. Kelsay, after having located the Indians, determined to change his former plan of Chapman's advance, and have him march his battalion to the Little Meadows and then, with the combined force, attack the Indians in their front, instead of his first proposition that Chapman should go down the south side of the river from Peavine Mountain and attack them in the rear, while Kelsay with his battalion would attack at the same time in the front.
How to get the dispatch to Chapman was a difficult problem to solve. Whiskey Creek entered the river from the north and opposite to Chapman's camp on the mountain three miles away. Between the Little Meadows and the Whiskey Creek crossing of the river was a high, brush-covered ridge running the whole distance of nine miles. Along the summit of this ridge wound the only trail between the two points. This trail was, a great portion of the distance, walled on each side by thick, almost impenetrable brush, while the remainder of it passed through scattering pine timber and clusters of bushes, affording excellent ambushes.
The only point to cross the river in going to Chapman's camp from the Little Meadows was at the mouth of Whiskey Creek, and the crossing and the trail were held by the Indians.
The Colonel did not deem it prudent to divide his force and send a detachment with the order to Chapman; in fact, he did not think it was necessary to do so. There ought to be, he reasoned, one man in his battalion of 300 backwoodsmen who had the moral and physical courage to attempt the feat of carrying the dispatch.
Attempt it! Was there a reasonable hope that he would, or could, succeed in reaching his objective point, with the prowling savages haunting almost every quarter of a mile of the trail?
The Col. was too humane to order any one of his men to undertake to meet almost certain death while conveying the message.
"Major, have you a man in the battalions who will volunteer to carry a dispatch to Chapman, at Peavine Mountain?"
"Yes, Col., I can send you just the man for the occasion."
"Send him at once, Major, send him at once; Chapman must be here by tomorrow night. Delays are dangerous in war and should not be tolerated. Our brave men are impatient to move to the attack; it will be difficult to restrain them many days longer."
But the Major had gone, and twenty minutes later a fine-formed, bearded, brown-eyed man entered the Colonel's tent.
"You sent for me, Col.?"
"Yes, sir, I presume so, sir; who are you?"
"Moore, Tom Moore."
"Sit down, Mr. Moore, sit down; one should never stand up when he might, with the best of reasons, sit down," and the Col.'s pleasant, confidential nature burst forth in a genial laugh.
MOORE VOLUNTEERS."Maj. Latshaw told me, Mr. Moore, that you are a brave and discreet man, just the man to carry a dispatch to Lieut. Col. Chapman at Peavine Mountain. You understand, of course, that I do not order you to go?"
"The Major told me what you require."
"Then, Mr. Moore, you freely volunteer?"
"Yes; when shall I start?"
"This instant; here's the dispatch."
"What time is it, Colonel?"
"I'll wait till dark, then, so that the Indians, who are watching us all the time, won't see me start. I'll go to my tent and make preparations for the trip. Goodbye, Colonel."
"Goodbye, Mr. Moore, May God protect you. I hope that you may be successful, and go through unharmed." [Click here for another version of the story.]
When it became dark, Tom, with two revolvers and bowie knives buckled around him, and with a long rubber coat over his left arm, stepped out from his tent and entered the open pine woods en route to his destination, taking his course between the river, a quarter of a mile below him on his right, and the trail, as far above him to his left. From the ridge on his left came many deep gulches with torrents of water pouring down over their uneven, rocky bottoms. It was raining heavily, and the night was blackness itself. His superior knowledge of the country and his sense of feeling were his only guides, his eyes being almost an encumbrance, since he was compelled to keep them almost constantly closed to save them from the brush, and from the many dry limbs projecting from the trees, on a level with his face.
Crawling on his hands and knees up steep and slippery ridges, groping painfully over the summits, then sliding sidewise down to the water; wading through that, often falling headlong into the rushing torrent, then down upon hands and knees again, or lifting himself by an overhanging branch to a foothold upon some friendly root, he measured mile after mile, until about the half the distance to Chapman's camp had been accomplished.
Sitting down under the overhanging boughs of a large tree on the summit of a ridge, he rested a short time and freed his clothes as much as he could from the accumulated water. The terrific rainfall had somewhat abated, and he again set out upon his journey. When he began the descent of the ridge he found that he had lost his reckoning, or thought that he had lost it, and stopped to steady his mind and get again, if possible, upon the right course.
ALMOST DISCOVERED.In a few minutes his keen, practiced ear detected the sharp though not loud snap of a small stick on the ridge to his left and above him. Although still raining, and not a gentle wind sighing in the tops of the tall trees, his acute sense of hearing enabled him to detect the advancing footsteps of two or more human beings down the ridge, and almost directly towards him.
Moving quickly to the side of a large tree farthest from the approaching steps, he stood and listened. In a few minutes he detected the well-known sound of an Indian's voice, talking to someone in a low tone. That they were scouts he was certain, but that they were in search of him admitted of some doubt, but at all hazards he would stand his ground and await developments.
Picking their way carefully down the ridge, they came up to a tree, not more than twelve feet from the one under which Tom was standing, and stopped. Had it been light enough for him to have taken anything like certain aim with his revolver, Tom would not have hesitated to open an engagement, but considering the darkness and the chances that his revolver might be too wet to fire, owing to the extreme dampness of all about him, he concluded to abandon the proposed attempt to capture them, and he remained leaning against the tree, awaiting the next turn of circumstances.
He was cold and stiff, and experienced a huge disgust when one of the Indians lighted a pipe for a quiet smoke. He could not see the pipe, or he would have ventured a shot at the smoker's head--only the fumes of the pipe made him aware of the situation. For twenty minutes he waited, and was at last relieved by the departure of his hated neighbors.
For many more long, weary hours he dragged himself through the tangled thickets, over slippery ridges and across foaming torrents in the deep, rocky canyons, till at last he reached the river at a point, as he supposed, not far below the mouth of Whiskey Creek. To make the attempt to cross the river during the extreme darkness he knew to be folly, even had the swollen stream been free of obstructing rocks. It was now about 3 o'clock in the morning; the rain had ceased, but heavy black clouds were whirling in broken masses overhead. The air was cold, and ice was forming in thin scales on logs and brush; his rubber coat was frozen, and his revolvers were wet and useless. He crawled under a pile of driftwood and, wrapping his frozen coat around him, settled down upon the cold, wet gravel and awaited the coming of daylight.
As soon as it became light enough for him to establish his true position he found that he was about half a mile below the mouth of the creek, at which, as before stated, was the usual crossing for miners who traveled that way before the war. Hoping to find the canoe which they had used for that purpose, which, he thought, was secreted a little below the crossing, he picked his unsteady way through the frozen brush to the place.
WRECKED IN THE RIVER.The search for the canoe was unavailing, so the only resort left was to build a raft; this, after much labor, was completed and launched. The river was swollen and the current was swift; over large rocks in the channel the water dashed in fierce, whirling cataracts. On two sides death was plainly present--to be killed by the Indians if he did not venture to cross, or he drowned in the dark, boiling stream if he made the attempt. He pulled the raft about one hundred yards up the stream, so as to avoid some rocks near the shore, then stepping upon it and pushing from the shore out into the not-distant current with a long pole, he started down the hissing stream like an arrow shot from a bow.
His treacherous float sank under the water and writhed and rolled as he flew down the stream at the mercy of the angry flood. His pole was useless, only as he used it as a paddle, but his will and nerve were strong, and he slowly neared the wished-for shore. Avoiding all of the many rocks but one, he dashed against that, and his raft broke up and floated away, while Tom remained on the jagged rock.
Wet and numb and shivering with cold, he knew that he could hold on but a few minutes to the top of the slippery rock, so, pulling off his rubber coat, folding it together and taking it in his left hand, leaped from the rock into tumbling waves and manfully struck out for the inviting shore, but sixty feet away.
Keeping his head with great difficulty above the water, and with only his right hand for a propeller, he was carried swiftly down the current, but reached at last, in an exhausted state, the icy and cold but friendly shore. At 7 a.m. he delivered the dispatch, though wet and crumpled, to Lieut. Col. Chapman, at Peavine Mountain.
Tom Moore is dead.
We who pride ourselves on being Indian war veterans of the North Pacific Coast should not forget our dead comrades, dying as they may have died, on the battlefield, at home when the war was over, in the bosoms of affectionate families or at the homes of appreciative friends, or yet in some secluded, lonely place, with no affectionate eye to weep over or friendly hand to smooth the whitening brow.
With pride we place upon our breasts the silver badge of our order and, meeting, say: "Hail, comrade!"
This only because we yet live; should we then refuse to offer to our dead companions a like, though mental, salutation?
Because we cannot share with them a material silver mark of distinction, should we neglect to offer them the golden memory of hero?
O. W. OLNEY.Sunday Oregonian, October 10, 1886, page 2
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CHAPTER XXX.On November twentieth Majors Martin and Bruce and Captain Judah left Evans' Creek, taking all the regular and volunteer troops which could be spared, and a sufficient supply of provisions for a short campaign. A day or two days later, dates differing, they encamped at the mouth of Whiskey Creek, and found traces of Indians. Proceeding down the river the next morning, keeping along the high lands back a mile or two from the stream, they found the Indians in strong force in the woods bordering the river. The country, as before mentioned, is exceedingly rough, covered with tangled underbrush, broken up into deep canyons, precipitous descents, and impenetrable gorges. It was deemed proper to cross to the south side of the river, and for this purpose Major Bruce proceeded with his battalion down to the river, being then near the mouth of Jackass Creek, and attempted to cross. The battalion were scattered upon the bar which borders the river on the north bank, and some engaged themselves in endeavoring to construct rafts to ferry the command across, while others prospected for gold in the gravelly bar. Indians within the dense cover of the trees along the south bank began firing, and the whites hurriedly left the bar and sought shelter in the brush. Captain Alcorn shouted "Form a line here; where the ------ are you running?" But his lieutenant replied, "Form ------ and ------! Break for the brush, every one of you, or you'll get shot!" And the privates thought the latter advice best, and hid themselves with desperate haste. This closed the campaign as far as the battalion of Major Bruce was concerned, for thus defeated in their attempt to cross the river they retired to communicate with Martin and Judah. The latter officer signalized himself on many occasions throughout his residence on the Pacific Coast by his devotion to artillery practice. A heavy twelve-pound howitzer was the inseparable companion of all his expeditions to fight the Indians. On this occasion he had brought this piece with infinite difficulty and labor to the Meadows, and at the time of Bruce's discomfiture he with Martin lay upon the hill above him and several miles away, firing from that lofty position his clumsy piece of ordnance at the enemy, with the effect only to set the wild echoes flying through the hitherto silent solitude. After a deal of unprofitable practice the trio of commanders resolved upon a retrograde march, and loading Captain Judah's toy upon a stalwart mule, the army slowly retired to Vannoy's and Camp Leland. One volunteer, William Lewis, of Keeney's company, was killed, and five were wounded. At least one Indian bit the dust, for George Cherry killed a brave and carried the scalp tied to his war horse's bridle.
THE FIRST MEADOWS CAMPAIGN.
Expedition Down Rogue River--Nothing Accomplished--Various Difficulties in Douglas County--Siege of the Cabins on Applegate Creek--The Enemy Escape--Killing of Hull and Angel--Conclusion of the Applegate Affair--The Army Reorganized--Its Strength--Jocular--The War Necessary--Appointment of a Brigadier General.
The various detachments arrived at the Grave Creek camp on November twenty-first, and the companies were separated, being sent to guard the more exposed places and endeavor to keep the savages from making forays upon the inhabited country lying to the westward of their position. The weather came on exceedingly cold and nearly put a stop to all military operations for a time. The various companies went into winter quarters, but a few events took place in December to prove to the citizens that a state of war existed. The first of these was the descent of some twenty or thirty Indians upon the Rice settlement at the mouth of Lookingglass Creek, eight miles south of Roseburg. The hostiles burned the Rice house, and captured some firearms and did other damage. A small company of men, commanded by J. P. Day, went from Deer Creek to the scene and engaged and defeated the Indians, killing three, it was said. The stolen guns, horses, etc., were recaptured. Castleman, a member of the company, was slightly wounded. The affray occurred on the second of December. The Indians were probably Cow Creeks, a band of disaffected natives, who were actuated by hostility to the whites, but did not, it appears, feel sufficiently warlike to join Limpy and George on the banks of Rogue River.
Some few of the peaceable, yet wretched and debased family of the Umpquas, resided in and around the pleasant vale of Lookingglass, and these, true to their harmless instincts, refrained from war throughout the troublous times of the conflict in the south, and sought by every humble act to express their dependence on and liking for the whites. When war broke out on Rogue River, these inoffensive people were gathered in Lookingglass Valley, occupying a rancheria on the creek of that name, where they lived at peace with all the world, and ignorant and careless of everything outside of their own little sphere. Mr. Arrington was nominally their agent and protector. In an evil hour--for them--certain white people of that vicinity, who imagined that they were dangerous neighbors, organized themselves into a company, and fell suddenly upon the helpless little community, and scattered them to the four winds of heaven. Several men were killed, and one old squaw, in whom old age and rheumatic bones defeated nature's first law of self-preservation, died, a victim, unmeant perhaps, but still a victim, and slain by white men's bullets. The date of this transaction is at hand, and proof of all its particulars, but like other wrongs and much violence done that race, it best were buried, and only resurrected to serve the truth where truth needs telling.
On Cow Creek quite a series of disturbances occurred during the winter of 1855-6. The first of these in brief was the attack on some hog drovers from Lane County, who were traversing the road. H. Bailey was killed instantly, and Z. Bailey and three others wounded. The Indians burned on that day (October 24, 1855) the houses and barns of Turner, Bray, Fortune, Redfield and one other. Mr. Redfield placed his family in a wagon and started for a place of safety, but soon the horses were shot, and he took his wife upon his back and carried her to a fortified place. Mrs. Redfield was wounded, however, before reaching there.
The raid of certain Indians through Camas, Ten Mile and Lookingglass valleys is detailed in another part of this volume. This affair occurred in the later months of the war.
Late in March Major Latshaw, of the second regiment, set out on an expedition against the Cow Creek Indians, taking with him a portion of the companies of Robertson, Wallan, Sheffield and Barnes. On the twenty-fourth of the month some Indians were found at the big bend of Cow Creek, and were attacked and routed. Several of them were killed or wounded, and one white man, Private William Daley, of Sheffield's company, was killed, and Captain Barnes and privates Andrew Jones, A. H. Woodruff and J. Taylor were wounded. The Indians disappeared from the vicinity after this defeat, and did not return for a considerable time. These incidents comprise the principal hostile acts which took place in Douglas County.
The people on Butte Creek, in Jackson County, had, with the first alarm of war, sought safety in a camp of log houses on Felix O'Neal's donation claim. Several families--in fact, nearly the whole population of the country adjoining--made their residences there for a time, and carried out measures of defense. Alcorn's company was recruited among the hardy settlers thereabouts, and subsequent to their return from the first meadows campaign, were posted in part at this fortified camp, and served to restore public confidence. Jake, a well-known chief of a small band of Indians, with his braves had long inhabited that portion of the country, and had refused to go on the reservation. The Indian agent, owing to the smallness of their numbers, had never thought it necessary to compel them to go there, and so they were suffered to remain, a nuisance, if not a positive danger to the whites. They were said to steal, and were not supposed to be above the crime of burning buildings. They dwelt in a rancheria between the Butte creeks. On the night of December twenty-fourth, Captain Alcorn, with a part of his men, marched to the rancheria and camped within a mile of it, in the cold and snow. At daybreak the next morning the troops moved within rifle range, and began to fire. This they kept up until the natives were killed or dispersed, their loss being eight "bucks" killed, and the remainder wounded. One squaw was wounded in the jaw, and two men were captured. Only four guns were taken, but no ammunition, and three stolen horses were recaptured. Old Jake, the chief, was not in the fight, and was reported killed by the Shastas.
A similar affair occurred at the same date between a detachment of Captain Rice's company, numbering thirty-four men, and the Indians of a rancheria four miles from and on the north side of Rogue River, and just below the mouth of Big Butte Creek. A night march and an attack at daybreak formed the salient features of this affair also, which was likewise completely successful. The Indians were taken by surprise, and after several hours' fighting eighteen males were killed, and twenty squaws and children captured and the rancheria burned. The Indians, finding themselves surrounded, fought bravely to the last. But one female was injured in the fight.
On the same day on which the detachments of Alcorn and Rice started out, a third one consisting of twenty men of Bushey's company set out on a scouting tour to the neighborhood of Williams' Creek, where a portion of old John's band were busying themselves in many a hostile way, much raised in self-esteem by the partial successes of their bold leader since the war began. On the evening of the same day an Indian trail was found by a spy party, which was followed the next day by the command, but without finding the rancheria. During the evening a man strayed off and became lost. The next day was spent in searching for him under the impression that he had fallen a victim to Indian barbarity. However, on the following day news came of his safe arrival at Thompson's ranch, on the Applegate, and of his having found a camp of ten or twelve Indians, near whom he camped for the night, but escaped unobserved. Orders were immediately given for following that trail, and, the command being divided, the Indian camp was easily found. The foremost detachment, seven in number, opened fire on them and and killed three, putting the rest to flight. No whites were injured.
Toward the last of December some scouts who happened to be near the forks of the Applegate discovered that a body of Indians probably twelve or so in number had taken possession of two deserted miners' cabins and had gone into winter quarters there, preparing themselves for a state of siege by excavating the floors of the houses and piling the dirt against the walls so as to form a protection against rifle bullets. The scouts withdrew unseen, and going to Sterling told the news. A body of sixty or more miners and others went immediately to watch the cabins and prevent the Indians from escaping, while word was sent to various military companies who began to repair to the spot. Captain Bushey arrived, and finding the position too strong for his small force to take, awaited the arrival of others. Captain Smith sent Lieutenants Hagen and Underwood with twenty-five regulars and the inevitable howitzer, with the design of shelling the savages out, but the fortune of war was unpropitious. The mule carrying the ammunition was so heedless as to fall into a deep creek and be killed, while the powder was ruined. More ammunition was sent for, and Lieutenant Sweitzer with sixteen regulars brought it on a mule. This animal was more fortunate, and the regular army drew up in front of the cabins and at a safe distance fired a shell which passed into or through a cabin and killed, as the records say, two savages. But before the howitzer's arrival the Indians had signalized themselves by a strong resistance. They had killed a man by a rifle shot, at a distance of 500 yards--a display of marksmanship equal to the best known among the whites. Five whites had been wounded.
After the shell was fired, the regulars postponed further operations until the morrow, as night was near. When they arose the next morning their birds had flown and the cages were empty. Quite a force of volunteers had gathered upon the scene. There were Captain Rice and his company, from the upper end of Bear Creek; some men of Alcorn's company, a few volunteers from Jacksonville, and a delegation from the Applegate. A much regretted event occurred during the day; this was the killing of Martin Angel, of Jacksonville, who set out to accompany the regulars to Star Gulch, the scene of the siege. When two and a half miles from Jacksonville, on the Crescent City road, Angel and Walker, who were about two hundred and fifty yards in advance, were fired on by Indians concealed in the brush beside the road. Angel was killed instantly, four balls passing through his head and neck. Walker was not hit, but escaped death narrowly. When the troops came up the Indians had stripped the dead man and were just retreating into the brush. On the same day (January 2,) Charles W. Hull was killed on the divide between Jackson and Jackass creeks, his body being soon found by scouts. Deceased was hunting, but becoming separated from his friends, was waylaid and murdered by Indians. These occurrences, happening so near to the principal town of the whole region, made a very deep impression, and there were those who apprehended the greatest dangers from the "red devils." But happily these were not realized, and the clamors of war died from the listening ears in Jacksonville.
The history of the Applegate affair includes still another chapter. After it was found that the Indians had made their escape, the regulars returned to the quiet and seclusion of Fort Lane, while Major Bruce, who had arrived upon the field, set out with portions of Rice's, Williamson's and Alcorn's companies to follow up the wily strategists who had so valiantly defended their positions, and so unexpectedly escaped. Following the trail of the fleeing Indians to the west, the scouts came upon a single Indian, who ran at the top of his speed directly to the Indian camp. The savages, warned by the shouting of the pursued, prepared for a fight and for quite a while resisted that part of Bruce's command which came into action, killing one man, Wiley Cash, of Alcorn's company, and seriously wounding Private Richardson, of O'Neal's company. Some ten or twelve horses, left unguarded by the whites, were taken by the Indians, and several more were shot. This fight occurred on the twenty-first of January, the locality being Murphy's Creek, tributary to the Applegate. Only twenty-five men participated at first, but Lieutenant Armstrong came up with a small reinforcement, and after a most plucky fight succeeded in saving the lives of the detachment. They were surrounded and, being separated from the main body of the troops, could not possibly have escaped but for the providential arrival. The total number of Indians engaged under the leadership of John was probably about fifty.
The organization of the "southern army," as it was called, it will be recollected, was begun by Colonel John E. Ross. For some reason hard to make out, but certainly not from any reasonable cause, the command of the volunteers on Rogue River was, by proclamation of the governor, dated October 20, 1855, placed in the hands of two officers each with the rank of major, and possessing distinct commands. This notable piece of strategy proved not to succeed well, owing to causes which anyone could have foreseen, and after its ineffectiveness became apparent to the governor and his prime minister, Adjutant General Barnum, the two battalions were united and elevated to the dignity of a regiment, and an election of colonel, lieutenant colonel and majors was ordered for December seventh. Robert L. Williams was chosen colonel. This officer had attained a deserved reputation as an "Indian fighter," and was popularly supposed to be devoid of fear. His qualifications for the office consisted in a highly developed hatred of Indians, a thorough knowledge of their tactics, and the liking of his fellow soldiers, who had elected him triumphantly over Bruce and Wilkinson, both efficient commanders. W. J. Martin became lieutenant colonel, whose command was to be the "right column," which was a newly invented name for the northern battalion. James Bruce remained as major, commanding the "left column" (southern battalion), and Charles S. Drew continued in his place as adjutant. Colonel Williams' regiment was officially styled the second regiment of the Oregon Mounted Volunteers, and consisted at the time of the colonel's election of the companies of Captains Bailey, Buoy, Keeney, Rice, O'Neal, Wilkinson, Alcorn, Gordon, Chapman and Bledsoe, the aggregate on paper being 901 rank and file, but the effective force was much less. This imposing force lay the greater part of the winter separately stationed at various points wherever their services were required as guards. Occasionally something occurred to break the stagnant routine of camp life, but not often. An Indian raid might be expected, else the war would have lost all attraction. The main body of the army, lying in what is now Josephine County, centered at Vannoy's as their headquarters. The right column remained about the southern boundary of Douglas County.
Almost the only interesting bit of information of a jocular character which survives to this day is the memorable trip of Captain Keeney from his post to the verdure-clad plains of the Willamette. Captain Keeney was dissatisfied with guard duty. He hungered for a sight of the hills of Lane County. He applied to Colonel Williams for a furlough, but his commanding officer refused, saying no furloughs would be granted until the last Indian in Southern Oregon was killed. The Captain persisted; the Colonel told him to "go to grass." Captain Keeney returned to his command and indignantly related the story of his wrongs, when a private suggested, "He probably meant the Willamette; that's the only grass we've seen." The Captain, elated, said, "Boys, shall we go to grass?" The answer was unanimously affirmative. They broke camp, a hundred strong, arrived in Roseburg December 27, and were in sight of their own homes in time to wish their friends a happy new year. The joke was a good one, but Lieutenant Colonel William J. Martin failed to see it as such. He made it a part of his official business to prefer charges against the homesick farmers who found the war so different from their joyous anticipations. This stern martinet accused Captain Keeney of disobedience to orders, abandoning his position in face of the enemy, "uniform ungentlemanly conduct," and other like charges of formidable tenor. The governor suspended him, but at a later date, as we perceive, the company with their captain were restored to all the rights and privileges pertaining to the most obedient, steady and reliable of soldiers.
In this time of monotony and ennui charges and counter-charges (verbal) were frequent. In February Major Bruce. incensed by the torpor of the volunteers, addressed a communication to Governor Curry, preferring charges against Colonel Williams for inactivity, failure to make public certain orders addressed by the Governor to the troops, etc. Captains O'Neal, Rice, Alcorn and Wilkinson also appended their names to these charges, whose outcome was the appointment of a brigadier general to shoulder the responsibility which Williams was unequal to. These charges were based on the latter's supposed partiality toward a certain clique of speculators who were thought at the time, and since, to be using their influence to prolong the war in order to further their pecuniary object. The whole subject of the war is entangled throughout with political and financial relations that are exceedingly difficult to unravel, and seem to ill repay the investigator, but nevertheless are so intermingled in people's minds with the cause of the war that it would be impossible to enter upon an examination without giving offense to those whose opinions are already formed. These chapters are written in the firm belief that hostilities with the aborigines were unavoidable, which it requires no very deep reasoning to make apparent. Wherever the Caucasian and the American Indian have come in contact, war and bloodshed have resulted. Even in the remote Eastern States, where the Pilgrim Fathers made head against opposing man and nature, the red men were the first and their worst enemies, and even their Puritanical principles could not avoid a war of extermination. Then from analogy we declare that the removal of the Indians from Southern Oregon was a necessity. We admit its inexpediency, while on sentimental grounds we commiserate the unhappy and unfortunate humans whom ill-starred fate drove from a land which was theirs by the right of long possession.
Sometime in the last days of January Colonel Williams removed the headquarters of the army to Charles Drew's farm, known as Forest Dale, near Jacksonville, and began the construction of barracks, stables and other buildings suitable for his purposes. This measure proved an unfortunate one for him, as it created quite a burst of indignation, being thought to be instigated by the owner of the land, whose interests would be enhanced thereby. Very soon after J. K. Lamerick was appointed brigadier general, and displaced Williams in the chief command, the latter retaining his rank of colonel of the second regiment, subordinate to Limerick. The new selection does not seem to have been a very happy one; it was made at a time when much dissatisfaction existed against Limerick, instigated, probably, by the speculative clique, and to add to his embarrassments, the period of enlistment of many men had come to an end, and these were receiving their discharges. The work of reorganizing the forces was very difficult. Most of the former captains and subordinate officers were prejudiced against the new general, and many of these declined to serve under him. The inaction of the troops through the winter had given ample opportunity for political manipulators and others to bias the minds of the troops as they chose, and those small politicians looked upon the war as affording a satisfactory opportunity to urge their claims for preferment.
By the middle of February two-thirds of the men had received their discharges, and the diminution of the necessary guards made it unsafe, we are told, for anybody to travel alone. Indians were seen repeatedly at points before deemed free from them, and alarm was felt lest there be a repetition of the sad tragedies of the preceding autumn. In this state of affairs General Lamerick removed the headquarters of the regiment again to Vannoy's, deeming that a more suitable place than the retired glades of Forest Dale. In February the companies of Bailey, Keeney, Gordon and Lewis received their final discharge, and those of O'Neal, Sheffield, Abel George, Bushey, M. M. Williams, Wallan, Robertson and Barnes were enlisted. Of these, Abel George and M. M. Williams had commanded companies attached to the ninth regiment in the preceding fall, but being mustered out, along with numerous others, they had entered the service again at the date named. It was thought that it would be difficult to induce a sufficient number of men to enter the service, but these anticipations were met by the reenlistment of nearly every man of the discharged companies, and within a few days a sufficient force had been raised to meet all wants.
The weather continued unpropitious for military movements throughout the months of February and March, and whatever strategical operations were then resolved upon by General Lamerick were not carried out. The companies remained in winter quarters, guarding suspected localities and taking care of themselves. No incidents of much importance occurred during the time, the Indians remaining mostly at their old haunts upon the lower river, until weary of waiting to be attacked. They made disconnected attempts at robbery on sundry occasions, wherever arms or ammunition were to be obtained, but there is no record of serious loss of life from these raids, until the famous one of March twenty-fifth, when Evans' pack train was robbed, and the battle of Eight Dollar Mountain was fought.
CHAPTER XXXI.Subsequent to the events just detailed, a transaction of considerable importance took place at the reservation across the river from Fort Lane. This was the removal of Chief Sam's band to the Coast Reservation west of the Willamette. It was mentioned in treating of the Indian outbreak of the ninth of October that the Table Rock band took no part in those proceedings. On the contrary, the members of that band crossed the river to Fort Lane and besought the protection of Captain Smith, assuring him of their peaceful feelings and deprecating the possible and ever-probable violence of the white settlers, which, but for such protection, would surely have befallen them. During the succeeding months they remained under the immediate care of Captain Smith and Agent Ambrose (successor of Culver), and gave not the remotest cause for suspicion on the part of the whites. Chief Joe, celebrated as the foremost member of the Rogue River tribe, was dead. For a long time he had wielded with his brother the divided authority of the tribe. He had been eminent in council; he was not a despicable enemy in battle. He died at his lodge at the lower end of Big Bar not long after the Lane treaty was signed. Notwithstanding the loss of their wisest counselor, the band remained true to the agreements made in 1853, and with a striking devotion to their word, refrained entirely from giving aid or countenance to the hostiles, in spite of the utmost inducements to a contrary course. The whole annals of Indian wars have nothing more admirable than the truth and firmness with which these sorely troubled yet constant barbarians maintained the honor of their obligations. Finally, when the Bureau of Indian Affairs had decided to remove all the natives from Southern Oregon, the Table Rock band--being with the Umpquas the only Indians accessible to authority--were sent to the permanent reservation about Yaquina Bay. Such was the state of public sentiment that a guard of one hundred soldiers was deemed necessary in order to protect this little remnant on their progress northward. And this, notwithstanding the fact that by their friendship for the whites, they had incurred the enmity of all the hostile Indians on Rogue River. The people of the Willamette, jealous of the removal of such celebrated warriors into their neighborhood, and scarce understanding the situation of affairs, called loudly for the citizens to raise an armed force to resist their coming and exterminate them, but the excitement soon calmed, and the Indians found a final home by the shores of the Pacific.
THE SPRING CAMPAIGN.
Removal of the Table Rock Band--Their Peaceful Character--A Flag of Truce--The Governor's Proclamation-- Matters in Illinois Valley--A Pack Train Taken by Indians--Battle of Eight Dollar Mountain--Election of Officers of the Second Regiment--A Grand Campaign Resolved Upon--March to the Meadows--Arrival at the Little Meadows--Reconnaissances in Force--The Enemy Found on Big Bar--A Plan of Attack--The Indians Retire--The Army at the Bar--Fort Lamerick Built--The Army Goes Home--Results.
Equally illustrative of the tone of public feeling was a circumstance which happened about the middle of February, a little time subsequent to the departure of the Table Rock band. At this time Chiefs Limpy and George, with about thirty warriors, well armed and mounted on horses, some of which carried two braves and others three, came up from the Meadows carrying flags of truce, and camped on the reservation opposite Fort Lane. They sent a messenger to Captain Smith to announce their arrival and desire for a talk. Their object was not to make peace, but to secure the surrender of some squaws who were in the hands of the agent. The news of their arrival got abroad instantly, and the various volunteer companies assembled at Forest Dale in haste, no one yet understanding the circumstances, but all inquiring as to the purpose of the invasion. Messengers went to the fort and were informed that the regulars would not allow the Indians to be molested in consequence of their coming under a flag of truce, as these same Indians had respected that symbol on a certain occasion. The law of nations and the regular army prevailed in spite of threat, and the savages returned unmolested to their lair. The Sentinel published a fiery editorial against the United States troops, and refused to be pacified. "We are informed by Major Bruce that Captain Smith said that if anyone fired upon the Indians, he would return the fire. We would ask if our citizen soldiery are to be intimidated by the threat of anyone from avenging the innocent blood that these savages have caused to flow?" This sort of rhetoric did the Indians no hurt, but it proved very expensive to those who furnished army supplies.
Returning to our main subject, we find that the Illinois Indians, previously at the Indian encampment at the Meadows on Rogue River, had become tired of the monotony of life sufficiently to induce them to make trips to their old hunting grounds in search of plunder and excitement. On the twelfth of February they killed John Guess in his field on Deer Creek, leaving him dead in the furrow. On the morning of March 24, news came to Vannoy's that the enemy had ambushed and killed two travelers, Wright, Vannoy's partner, and Private Olney, of O'Neal's company, who were encamped at the foot of Eight Dollar mountain, and that the attacking party had at a later hour met another party consisting of five men, and mortally wounded John Davis. Orders were at once sent by Major Bruce to the various companies of his battalion to repair instantly to Fort Vannoy. Captain Hugh O'Neal, who with his company was nearest to the scene of action, had immediately set out for Hay's ranch, or Fort Hay, as it was called, hoping to reach there before the Indians could do so, as that post had but few defenders. A sharp skirmish ensued when within a few hundred yards of the post and Private Caldwell was mortally wounded, and some pack mules loaded with provisions etc., were taken by the Indians, who besieged the fort after the volunteers had taken refuge within it. The enemy abandoned the ground during the night, and returning along the road southward, met and attacked Evans' pack train which was coming from Crescent City. They killed a Mexican packer, and wounded "Big Dave." Evans escaped to Reeves' farm, but the mules and packs were all captured by the marauders, who gained a large amount of ammunition by the capture. On receiving the news of this late attack, Lieutenant Colonel W. W. Chapman (recently elected to that office) ordered Major Bruce to attack the enemy with all his available force. There were perhaps 125 men who proceeded under the Major's orders to the scene of Evans' misfortune.
The foremost of these engaged the enemy while yet the remainder were dismounting. All horses were left at the foot of the hill which it was necessary to ascend to find the enemy, and a long line of battle, reaching several hundred yards along the side of the mountain, was formed and the troops advanced up the rise. Private Collins led the way up but was shot dead when near the top, falling in the road. John McCarty was also shot, dying soon after, and Private Phillips was mortally wounded. Abel George's men dismounted, and tying their horses to a fence, started up hill on the side next Deer Creek, intending to outflank the Indians, while Captain M. M. Williams engaged them in front, assisted by members of Alcorn, Rice's (Miller's) and other companies. Major Bruce with about fifty men kept along the road to the place where Collins fell. The battle was now a lively one; the rattle of rifles and revolvers was almost continuous, and frequent attempts were made by each party to charge the other. All sought cover, and there was little chance for life for the man who neglected thus to protect himself. At this interesting juncture a shout was raised that the Indians were making off with the horses, left at the foot of the hill. A number of the savages, spying the condition of affairs ran hastily to the spot and mounting some and leading others, escaped with some fifteen of the animals belonging to Abel George's Yreka company.
The most of the fighting for a time was done by M. M. Williams and about a score of his bravest men, who stood their ground valiantly, and only retreated when the Indians had nearly or quite surrounded them. Alcorn's men and others fought well also, but the general applause was marred by the conduct of a great many who either ran away during the fight, or else could not be brought into it at all. Over 200 men were within sound of the firing, but not one half that number took any part in the fight, and probably not over fifty engaged in it with energy and resolution. A hundred or more of the readiest fighters ever known among the Indians of this continent held with determination the hill and the thick woods and successfully barred the way. Against this force the volunteers effected nothing. Shortly they began to retire, and gaining the base of the hill, they mounted and returned to Fort Hay, hardly yet sensible of a defeat. The Indians withdrew in their characteristic manner, and hostilities for the time were over.
Lieutenant Colonel Chapman now established a permanent camp at Fort Hay, making it the headquarters of the companies of Alcorn, George, O'Neal, Wilkinson and Williams, and of himself, Major Bruce and Regimental Surgeon Douthitt.
On the eighteenth of March, 1856, an election was held in the various camps of the second regiment, and John Kelsay became colonel of the regiment in place of Williams; W. W. Chapman succeeded W. J. Martin as. lieutenant colonel, and James Bruce and W. L. Latshaw were elected majors of the two battalions. The respective positions of the battalions remained unchanged or nearly so, that of Bruce being stationed in the Illinois and Rogue River valleys, while that of Latshaw occupied various posts in the southern part of Douglas County, notably Fort Sheffield, so-called, on Cow Creek, a post in Camas, Fort Leland, on Grave or Leland Creek, Fort Relief and other points considered to be of strategical importance. The total force of the second regiment, as appears by the rolls, was 807 noncommissioned officers and men, commanded by fifty-one commissioned officers inclusive of the staff.
With a portion of this force General Lamerick set out in April for an active campaign to the Big Meadows, on Rogue River, then recognized as the rallying point and base of supplies of the entire horde of hostiles, known to number at least 250 and popularly supposed to be twice as numerous. Having collected all his available force at the mouth of the Applegate, the General appointed a day of parade, and fixed upon the fourteenth of April as the day for setting out upon the proposed expedition. On the morning of that day the army set out, under the immediate command of Lieutenant Colonel Chapman, who proceeded in advance with one hundred men, guided by the scouts of Lewis and Bushey. A very long pack train came next, and Major Bruce brought up the rear with the remaining volunteers. A herd of beef cattle was driven along as a part of the commissariat, to be drawn upon as occasion required, and ample provision had been made for anticipated emergencies, even to supplying a couple of canvas boats, portable and collapsible, to be used in crossing the river. Shovels for constructing roads were supplied, and twenty-five days' rations were taken, besides 100 rounds of ammunition for each soldier. General Lamerick announced his intention to remain out until the Indians were completely conquered, or until the army had to return for provisions.
The southern battalion marched down the south side of Rogue River, and in two or three days reached Peavine Mountain, some twelve miles from the Little Meadows of Rogue River, the objective point of Colonel Kelsay's command. This latter division fitted out at Fort Leland, on Grave Creek, and set out on or about the seventeenth of April and arrived safely at their destination within two or three days, having come via Whiskey Creek. No enemy was met upon the route, but shortly after halting at the end of their march the pickets were fired upon by concealed Indians, whom a diligent search failed to discover. The country over which each detachment passed was thoroughly "scoured" by large numbers of scouts, and Indian "sign" in abundance was found, but the wily savages retired secretly before the army, and made no stand. On April twenty-seventh, [two] men, [McDonough Harkness] and Wagoner, express riders between Lamerick's command and Fort Leland, were attacked by Indians at Whiskey Creek, and Harkness, a partner of James Twogood, in the Leland Creek House (otherwise called the Grave Creek House), was killed. His body was found horribly mutilated.
Captain Barnes, of the spy company, reconnoitered during the halt at the Little Meadows, and found the Indians in large numbers, scattered in the rough, mountainous and brushy country between the camp and the Big Meadows, which lie below the Little Meadows, and also the north side of the river. Major Bruce being communicated with, his battalion was ordered up, and he joined forces with Colonel Kelsay, the total force gathered there being 535 officers and men. The camp was on a high bench or terrace, two miles north of the river and a thousand feet above it. A breastwork of pine trees was formed, enclosing a space sufficient for camping purposes, and there being an abundance of grass and water near, the locality was well adapted for that purpose. The Indian encampment was found to be on a large bar on the south side of the river and some three miles below. The Big Meadows were deserted by them, and the intervening country contained none except those doing duty as scouts. On the twenty-third Colonel Kelsay with 150 men made a reconnaissance toward a suspected point, but without results, and on the same day Major Bruce at the head of a like force started to descend the slope toward the bar. At a distance of a mile from camp a creek was arrived at, beyond which were collected a considerable number of Indians, but these being beyond rifle range, and Major Bruce's instructions not allowing him to attack, no fighting was done, and the detachment, having plainly seen the Indian village on the bar, returned to camp. During the following days until the twenty-seventh, considerable reconnoitering was done, and a brush with the enemy took place, without result. The Indians were thought to number several hundred, including women and children, and were found to be as actively employed in scouting as were the whites themselves.
At a council of war ordered by General Lamerick it was resolved to attack the enemy in his stronghold on the bar, and to do this effectually and at the same time prevent the Indians from escaping over the mountains in their rear, Major Bruce was ordered to cross to the south side of the river and march to a point where they could be intercepted in case of flight. The other battalion under Colonel Kelsay in person was to proceed westward from the encampment, and gaining the summits opposite the Indians' position, was then to march down the steep declivity directly in their front and attack them from across the river. The southern battalion duly arrived at the point where they were to cross, but the two canvas boats being launched, the men declined to enter them, alleging that the Indians might easily sink them by rifle shots, or failing in that, might massacre the few who would be able to land. Major Bruce's authority was insufficient to compel them to obedience, and the plan was abandoned. It does not appear that any Indians had been seen by the battalion on their march to the river, nor does it seem likely that any considerable number of them, if any, were in the neighborhood, their total force probably having been at that hour at their rendezvous on the bar, three miles below. This is a fair example of the difficulties met with by the officers at that time. Such a state of insubordination prevailed that it rendered all plans nugatory. Every private thought himself entitled to reason upon his superior officer's commands, and to refuse compliance if they seemed injudicious. Under such circumstances it is no wonder that such a large force accomplished so little.
Major Bruce, being compelled to remain on the north side of the river, concluded to move downstream and join Colonel Kelsay at the bar. Meanwhile, this commander had reached a point on the declivity nearly opposite his objective point, and started directly downhill, following a ridge which afforded comparatively little obstruction to his advance. In this he was much favored by a heavy fog which rested upon the hills, utterly obscuring his every movement from the Indians. Thus he was enabled to arrive nearly at the river before they discovered his whereabouts. The detachment was now formed in order of battle, and all rushed down and took position on the bank of the river facing the Indian encampment on the bar, and opened a continuous fire upon the enemy. The savages were thrown into confusion by the sudden attack, and did not return the fire for some time. The women and children, the former carrying heavy packs, soon left the camp and passed up the hill toward the Illinois River, while the greater part of the males sought shelter in the edge of the fir woods behind their encampment, and watched the movements of the whites. Major Bruce arrived with his command and, taking a position on the left of the northern battalion, began firing at the enemy, who, however, were in positions of comparative safety. Desultory and ineffectual firing was kept up all day, but no means of crossing the river being at hand, nothing could be done to complete the victory. It is supposed that quite a number of Indians were killed, while the only loss to the whites was the severe wounding of Elias Mercer, of Wilkinson's company, who, on being removed to Roseburg, died upon the way. John Henry Clifton also sustained a severe wound, but recovered.
In the evening the whole force went into camp at the Big Meadows, on the north side of the river and six miles below the former camp. On the following morning Colonel Kelsay and Major Latshaw with 150 men went to a point on the river two miles below the bar, with the expectation of crossing to the south side and "scouring" the country thereabouts. At the same time Lieutenant Colonel Chapman with 100 men marched to the battleground of the previous day to engage the enemy if they were still there, with the object of diverting their attention from the movement below. The former command found Indians scattered along the shore, who showed fight and "moved further into the brush and set up a considerable hallowing," consequently the detachment did not cross. The casualties of the day were, as might be judged, very light. A private of Sheffield's company was wounded, and one or two Indians were thought to be hit, but the latter is very doubtful. About twelve o'clock the Indians "withdrew beyond range of our guns, and deeming it impracticable to cross the river at this point we drew off the command and returned to camp." Lieutenant Colonel Chapman had found no Indians at the bar, so he returned, probably also thinking it impracticable to cross. Major Bruce had "scoured" in the direction of John Mule Creek with 100 men, and he also returned unharmed.
On the twenty-ninth Captain Crouch, with his company, left for Roseburg, via Camas, to escort the wounded to the hospital. The remainder of the regiment broke camp and occupied the bar where the Indian encampment had stood, and met with no resistance in so doing. The scouts reported that the Indians had all left the vicinity and that the remains of seventy-five camp fires existed on the mountain side above the bar, making the spot where they encamped on the night following Colonel Kelsay's attack. On the thirteenth the command remained at the bar on account of bad weather, and Captain Lewis' spies reported that the Indians had gone down the river. "The provisions now being nearly exhausted, and the weather continuing so unfavorable, it was considered impracticable to follow the enemy over the rough ground before us, which was covered with snow, and many of the soldiers were already nearly barefooted." On the first of May, the troops recrossed the river, Captains George and Bushey proceeded immediately to Grave Creek, while the rest camped at the Big Meadows, at a place selected as the site of a permanent fort. Williams, Wilkinson, Keith, Blakely and Barnes' companies were detailed to remain there, the remaining companies setting out for home the next day. Captains Sheffield and Noland with their men went to Roseburg via Camas, and Robertson, Wallan, Miller (Rice's), O'Neal, Alcorn and Lewis' companies marched to Fort Leland, the headquarters of the northern battalion, which they reached on the fourth of May.
If we sum up the fruits of this, the Second Meadows Campaign, we shall find that they equal those of the first. To descend to details, we find that the army "scoured" a large tract of wild country, consumed twenty-five days' rations in two weeks, drove the Indians from their place on the bar to another place in some unknown region, and returned to civilization. It is useless to enter into any long explanations of why such slight results were attained. It must have been partly the insubordination of the troops, who while nominally under the command of their general, colonel, lieutenant colonel, four majors and unlimited captains and lieutenants, domineered shamefully over these officers and acted their own pleasure in times of emergency. It is difficult to understand why these individuals retained their commands under such discouraging circumstances, and why their own self-respect did not impel them to quit their charges in disgust. Some curious and amusing incidents, whose record has come down to us, will illustrate the spirit of insubordination which so injured the army's usefulness. After General Lamerick had planned the fight at the Meadows and had given Major Bruce the order to cross the river, one of the latter's men said, "Look here, Gen'ral; this ain't gwine ter do. Jest as sure as we cross thar, some of us will git hit. Don't yer know we got one man killed tryin' ter cross thar afore?" Rather more encouraging was a reply to one of Major Bruce's commands to charge, "Yes, We say charge, and we'll chalk you out a damned good charge, Major!" There is no question of the individual bravery of those men. As expressed by one who was among them--a coward had no chance. A more daring set could not have existed than these miners and settlers. Their experience had made them the most self-reliant men that the world contained. But the peculiar circumstances surrounding them, the fact of their officers being raised from the ranks and being consequently regarded as no better than anybody else, wonderfully impaired their efficiency and reliability.
David D. Fagan, History of Benton County, A. G. Walling, Portland 1885, pages 256-269
LIEUT. T. A. RIGGS ON THE ROGUE RIVER WAR.
Brownsville, Or., June 14, 1899.T. A. Wood, Grand Commander Indian War Veterans--Dear Sir:
Captain James Blakely's company (D), second recruiting battalion, O.M.V., was enlisted at Brownsville, in Linn County, on the 28th day of March, 1856, and was ordered to Corvallis to be mustered in, but on arriving there they were ordered to Eugene for that purpose, where they were mustered into the service of the Territory of Oregon on April 4, and, after waiting quite a while for transportation for camp equipage, were sent to the Big Meadows, on Rogue River, by way of Roseburg and Camas Prairie. In the meantime, however, the two companies of Captains Keith and Blakely, in accordance with the governor's instructions, elected a major, E. L. Massey being elected to that office. While on the way to Rogue River commissions were forwarded to the company officers, but none to Major Massey; but, instead, an order from someone for the senior captain to take command of the two companies. This caused considerable dissatisfaction, as Major Massey was much more popular among the men than Captain Keith. (Major Massey told the writer some years afterwards that he found his commission at Salem on his return from the service.)
The two companies got to the Big Meadows on the evening of the last day of General Lamerick's fight with the Indians.
Here they were ordered, with some other companies, to build a stockade fort, which they proceeded to do by digging a trench and setting poles on end therein. The two companies before named, with a few men from a number of other companies, remained here for some time before taking any active part in the campaign.
The fort was called Meadows Fort by the volunteers; in history, Fort Lamerick. During the stay here Lieutenants Cox and Riggs, with detachments from Keith's and Blakely's companies, were sent to Camas Prairie to escort a pack train, with supplies for the men.
On page 412 of Mrs. Victor's history there is an account, purporting to have been written by Captain Wallen, of some campaigning, in which Captain Blakely's company took rather an active part, though they are not mentioned at all.
The statement is made that on the 27th, the day on which Smith was attacked, "Wallen's command came upon a camp of the hostiles, which fled before him without firing a gun," etc. Having been along with the command, and a participant in the proceedings of the day, I will give a short account of the affair.
The Indian camp mentioned was on the south side of the river, and when it was found where they were, Major Massey ordered Lieutenant Riggs to take a detachment of Captain Blakely's company and make a detour around and come in below the camp, while the main force should follow the trail (Captain Wallen commanding), which passed through a low gap in the ridge, and come down opposite the camp. Lieutenant Riggs, on reaching his position, saw the Indians about their camp, some bathing in the river, utterly oblivious to any impending danger. Imagine his surprise when, instead of seeing the command filing along the trail, he beheld it on a high bluff in full view of the camp, when the Indians disappeared as if by magic. I never could imagine why the troops were ordered to take that course. It looked very much like it was done purposely to give the Indians a chance to escape. That certainly was the outcome, at any rate.
Further on, the historian says: "Two days later, on the 29th," the command was surprised while resting under some trees at the noon halt by some of John's band, while retreating from the battlefield, and H. C. Huston, of Keith's company, wounded. We were at the time of the attack about two miles below our camp on a point in a bend in the river, and had been there all the forenoon, and having found an Indian canoe there, Lieutenant Riggs was ordered across the river, with 20 of Blakely's company, to reconnoiter, and was over the ground from which the Indians fired on us. There were two decrepit old squaws sitting on the bank of the river, being the only Indians seen at the time. Six of the men wandered off up the river, when the rest recrossed. About noon Lieutenant Riggs was again ordered to cross the river and travel up to and recross at the camp, and, while preparing to do so, the Indians fired on us, when the order was countermanded, and Captain Nolan ordered over. They crossed the river below the enemy, and the six of Captain Blakely's company, hearing the firing ran down from above, when the Indians doubtless thought they were being surrounded, and left the field.
Subsequently, Keith's and Blakely's companies went to the mouth of Rogue River, and there Lieutenant Riggs was sent to Port Orford to escort a pack train after supplies for the command. As the Indians were surrendering and the war was over, the two companies were ordered to Port Orford, and from there back to the Meadows and home.
Captain Blakely sent an express to inform the citizens of Linn County that he would be at Brownsville, where the company was enlisted, on the 4th of July, where we were met by our wives and children and friends, who had prepared a bountiful repast for us.
T. A. RIGGS.Oregon Native Son, Portland, volume 1, May 1899-April 1900, pages 158-159
Early in the spring of 1856 a number of companies of troops were sent to the Meadows, down Rogue River, where it was known the Indians had gone out of our reach, as they fondly hoped. We fought them a number of times, but since the river intervened it was difficult to know just how many we may have killed. Our loss was very light. One day a detachment was taken from the different companies to reconnoiter the enemy. To reach them was a very difficult matter, on account of the deep canyons and the rough country to be crossed. The Indians were found, but it not being thought best to bring on an engagement at that time, a few shots were fired and the retreat ordered. When camp was reached and the roll called it was found that one of Company B's men, F. M. Splawn, was missing. Volunteers were at once called for, and many responded at once, but by the time the precautions were made for the return, it was too late in the day. It was the intention to make the search early next morning, but almost before dawn the camp was aroused to a wonderful degree by the guard's calling out, "Splawn's in camp!" and the good news was repeated, "Splawn's in camp!" Sure enough, there was the same brave Frank that we had all mourned as dead. Each one was anxious to learn the particulars of his escape. When the retreat was ordered, Frank, as usual, was in front, and did not learn, till later, that he was left to fight the savages alone. In order to avoid, if possible, the shots of the Indians, who were in plain sight of him, be took refuge in some bushes, which were riddled for awhile with the deadly missiles intended for the brave soldier. Here he remained until night, when he escaped from his hiding place without any injury. After traveling all night over the roughest ground imaginable, he reached camp as above related just at daylight, but it was weeks before he overcame his rough adventure.
* * *On April 25, 1856, McDonough Harkness, and another man, whose name is forgotten, left Fort Leland for the Meadows. When but a few miles from our camp they were shot at from ambush and Harkness was killed, the other man escaping. The most horrible sight we witnessed during the entire campaign was when his body, stark naked and mutilated in the most shocking manner, was brought into camp on a pack mule in charge of Captain Crouch's company.
"Southern Oregon Indian War," Oregon Native Son, Portland, volume 2, May 1900-April 1901, page 195
Last revised April 6, 2021