Varying viewpoints, and the political angle.
THE INDIAN WAR IN THE PACIFIC TERRITORIES.
Correspondence of the N.Y. Tribune.
From an Old Residenter,I have been in Oregon since forty-seven. This is [the] third Indian war since I came to this country. And I say it is false, the whites are not altogether to blame (as they are accused of being in some of the New York papers, the Tribune, for instance). It is singular that some people in the States should know so much more about our affairs than we do. Perhaps they will say they have correspondents here; that is all very likely, for we have some men here (if we may call them so) who put themselves on a level with the Indians, take their part in everything right or wrong, live with an Indian woman &c. Perhaps H. Greeley's correspondent is one of the above-named class, as he is ashamed to give his name.
Washington Territory, June 6, 1856.
I will endeavor as near as my memory serves to give a correct account of the causes of the three several wars.
First the Cayuse War. It is well known, here at least, that Doct. Whitman and family had lived among the Cayuse Indians for several years. He was their minister, their physician and friend. Without any cause or excuse, the Indians came to his house with their guns under their blankets. The Doct. was a short distance from the house; there they shot him, but not dead. They then dragged him to the house, and with his wife standing over him split his head open with a tomahawk. Next Mrs. Whitman fell a victim to their unprovoked and black-hearted treachery, next eleven emigrants (who had stopped there to winter) fell. Four young ladies they took prisoners, whose persons they violated and treated in so brutal a manner that after they were rescued and brought to Oregon City they were unable to stand on their feet. Poor Indian.
As might be expected, every man that could possibly leave their families shouldered their rifles and went to punish the poor Indian. There was not in all probability more than fifty men left in the valley. About that time, a party of Rogue River Indians came into the valley, and if they could find a house left alone, they would rob it, and if they found a house occupied by women alone, they would order them about, and if they did not cook them the best the house afforded, they would whip them, and then take whatever they pleased and leave, to hunt more mischief. Our house was one among the robbed; they stripped us of nearly everything we had, and that was no more than we needed, for we brought all we possessed across the plains.
Next came the Rogue River War. The Rogue River Indians have always been hostile in reality, although there have been several treaties made with them, and as often broken by the Indians, who have often made their brags that they could treat with the Bostons, as they call us, and get lots of blankets and almost anything they would ask, and when they were gone, all that they had to do was to kill a few whites, burn a few houses &c., and then the whites would sue for peace, make a new treaty, and pay them right handsomely for the depredations they had committed, and so on beautifully through. The immediate cause of the Rogue River War, as near as I could find out, was the robbing of a party of whites, on their way from the California mines to Oregon. The Indians attacked their camp by night, robbed them of their money, clothing and horses, and then followed them all next day, but fortunately did not succeed in killing any of the party; the whites however killed several of the poor Indians. Thus began the Rogue River War. Now comes the tug of war, the present bone of contention, the present war, is what comes to pain our sympathizing brothers in the States, most of all, why it is so I cannot tell, perhaps they can. It seems to have been a premeditated thing with the Indians all over the territories. They say themselves that they have been laying up ammunition and making preparations for this war for the last five years past, and having all things ready, they only waited for an excuse to commence, and it presented itself in the following form. Three men who had gone to the Colville mines, it seems, got out of provisions, then tried to buy of the Indians, but they would not sell, although they had plenty. They being at last driven to extremities, killed some of the Indians' cattle. The Indians were mad, the white men offered to pay any price they would ask. No, it would not do. The Indians killed two of the men, the third saved himself by flight. As soon as the news reached the authorities, instead of retaliating, they sent one Mr. Bolon, an agent and friend of the Indians, to compromise the matter. They murdered him in cool blood, then the whites began to think it was time to wake up, especially as the Indians had already declared war, a war of extermination, to all the whites on the Pacific Slope.
Perhaps they will exterminate us, but if they do, they will have a sweet time doing it.
When I think back on the early settling of this country, and think what I with a great many others have suffered from this low, inferior race of beings called Indians, not more than half a link above the baboon, it makes my blood boil. I have not the power to express one-half the scorn and contempt I feel for the poor, pitiful, would-be white man (no matter where he lives), who can stoop so low as to espouse their cause. I only wish they had a wife, daughter or sister in the same predicament of those four young ladies I spoke of. Some may think that a heavy penalty, but I would have them consider the offense. Treason, nothing short. But as they think so much of the poor Indian, I suppose they would think it was all right. By the way, I will just say, the Indians west of the Rockies are no more like the eastern Indians than filth is like cleanliness; there is neither honor nor virtue in their composition. I speak as far as I know.
JANE VAIL.New York Tribune, September 3, 1856, page 6
THE INDIAN WAR.
Correspondence of the N.Y. Tribune.
Oregon Territory, June 22, 1856.Having seen some articles in the Tribune on the subject of the Indian war in Oregon, and I thinking, as stated there, that this Indian war was got up entirely for the purpose of a speculation.
As I am an old settler of Oregon, and one who has been here since 1839, and tolerable well posted up on all matters in relation to this and the other Indian wars in Oregon, I propose to give you a few facts, and you can make such use of them as you please--only that you retain from the public print my name, for the reason that I nor anyone would be safe to give a fair or true account of this most uncalled-for, unjust, unwarrantable and unrighteous war.
This war is only a continuation of a project commenced in 1847 by a set of men who will take money or office at any cost, save the one of industry, honor or merit. A few Americans lived a number of years in Oregon and never lost hardly a man by the Indians--not so many as the Indians lost by the whites. The passes were kept open to California and to the States--in fact all the mountains of Oregon and Washington territories could be traversed with safety, and was so done by any number of men. The Indians were chastised whenever they done wrong--a crime was not left unpunished, and in this way we got along and done well until we have been reinforced by a set of men who wish to live but not let live. A war of extermination was commenced, but finding it a bad job, Gov. Curry is changing his plans and getting tired of the fun. A poor Indian stands but little chance in Oregon or Washington territories without he or she is under a United States protection.
Let this war debt be paid by Uncle Sam and he will only be asked for another, as soon as it can be brought about by the same men. The extravagant Cayuse War debt was paid, to the astonishment of hundreds. The Rogue River War debt was paid soon after. This is a third; let it be paid, and the fourth will be in contemplation in no time. Is it known in Congress that all United States officers are held in contempt by the major part of the citizens? I mean the army and Indian agents.
I do not hesitate to say that a man was never more abused than Gen. Wool has been. Had our two governors, Curry and Stevens, taken the advice of the old General, all would have been well here, and the lives of many good men saved who were persuaded to enter into this war of peculation. It is nothing else, as you have stated. All the newspapers in Oregon have to support the war or go by the board. Nearly every one has been stuffed as full of scrip as a San Francisco ballot box of illegal votes. The excitement was well got up, the plans were well laid, the unsuspecting were drawn in good, and here we are grasping at anything that can be used to substantiate our claims. Upon Congress we look for a justification of our acts. We are willing to sacrifice the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, who has done his duty like a man and a Christian. To Gen. Wool the attention of our two governors are turned (to the exclusion of Indian wars). They are determined to make out a good case by securing his downfall, which is a common way in Oregon to raise upon the downfall of another. I hope, however, that such a man as Wool will not be given up by our government to satisfy a community who are led by such generals as Walker.
Gov. Curry leaves on the next steamer for Washington, to carry on the war with Wool, having got through long since with the Indians. He is going on to show that Gen. Wool has done anything but give protection to the citizens of Oregon, but in all his efforts he no doubt will fail. It is said here by our press, which belongs to Gov. Curry (or who wants the scrip cashed), that Gen. Wool remained in winter quarters and left the poor volunteers in the field guarding the citizens. Q. What did the volunteers do last winter or in the field this spring? They have killed and nearly subsisted on the animals they have taken from the friendly Indians and American settlers; they have found the caches of corn and potatoes, besides other food, such as roots, dried salmon, peas &c., and used it as their own. In this way they have remained at war and in the Indian country so long. Our regular army dare not go and commit such wholesale depredations upon any friendly Indians; our press would be on them in no time, besides they dare not. Had Gen. Wool done what Gov. Curry or Gov. Stevens have done, he would no doubt instantly be removed, and well he ought.
As for the murders and depredations that have been committed in Oregon and Washington in the present war, if an Indian has a soul let us not mention it, or ask who has the most notches cut upon the tally-stick, lest the Indian appear in the distance. I am ashamed to acknowledge that we done all that we have accused the Indian of. And this we have done over and above--dug the bodies of dead infants from the ground and threw them at each other, as bad boys do with a dead cat they may find in the street. We have ravished their girls, who were too young, if willing, for men; we have done many other acts that the border ruffian of Missouri would be ashamed of. These things I do not wish the people in the States to know, for it is a disgrace to the Union we live in, but certainly something should be done to stop such work, and I know of nothing that will do it except refusing to pay men for such work. Give us a military force, such a one as we now have, one that will keep the lawless in check. Gen. Wool can do it if permitted, and it will be just what the best of Oregon wants. The war never will be brought to a close by Curry or Stevens, or any exterminators whatever. The demagogues and croakers of Oregon have nearly used us up, and nothing will save us but a strict arm of justice administered by Uncle Sam.
The regular arm have done good service here; in fact, if it had not been for it more lives would have been lost, and yet we would have been living in blockhouses.
LAW AND ORDER.New York Tribune, September 10, 1856, page 5
(From the National Democratic Review.)
THE OREGON WAR.
The West! the West! where is the West?We have watched, with intense interest, the fearful struggle between civilization and humanity on one hand, and savage brutality on the other, which has been maintained during the last few months in the territories of Washington and Oregon. Nothing but an honest doubt in regard to the nature of the difficulties in which Oregon matters are involved has deterred us from calling aloud, on behalf of the settlers on our northwestern borders, for that aid which is necessary to quench the fagot in savage hands and stay the torrent of ruthless murder. After the most deliberate examination of the whole subject, we are satisfied our first opinion was correct, viz: that too small a body of troops was sent to the Pacific Coast, or that the military disposition of those troops did not justify the high expectations indulged in reference to those most prominent in command.
* * *
It follows the declining sun
Along the banks of Oregon,
Nor leaves him where he makes his pillow
On the great Pacific's billow.
What is Oregon, that it should be doomed to become a land of skulls? and who are its inhabitants, that they should be plundered, murdered and immolated by the savages? The Territory of Oregon is one of the loveliest in the world; it is a land of promise, where Providence seems to have been most prodigal in the expenditure of its riches. It has the boldest rivers, the most fertile valleys, the proudest forests and the grandest mountains in the world. It has vales delicious as Sempe, groves as delightful as Arcadia, and fields fair as those of Enna,
"Where Proserpine gathering flowers,Oregon is the last home of the emigrant. Here, wearied by the march of thousands of miles, he determined to rest forever. Here he erected his cabin, planted his garden, sowed his farm, and gathered his little family at night in confident security. In the midst of his repose he was aroused by the cry that his dwelling was in flames, and he awoke only to fall before the deadly rifle, and see his children struck down, and his wife violated in his presence!
Herself a fairy flower, by gloomy Dis
Was carried off."
Tell us not that we should first inquire who were originally to blame in this matter! Shame upon the truckling demagogue who can maintain his composure and look coldly on while the fairest daughters of America are murdered and insulted upon the banks of the Columbia! These women, a little while ago, dwelt in New England, the Middle States, in the South, and in the West; they are our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters. Shall we protect them, or shall we suffer them to be butchered and immolated by the miserable savages of Oregon? All Greece engaged in the Trojan War to recover a woman who voluntarily fled her country; all Sparta would have invaded Scandinavia had such an invasion been necessary to rescue a single mother of the iron kingdom; shall we of this proud land prove the only ungallant people of the earth? We have not patience to reason with men who hesitate in a crisis like the present. It is the duty of a commanding officer to execute orders; it is his duty to take the field, conquer the enemy, and put an end to the destruction of human life. He is not the judge of the origin of a war, and he transcends the boundary of his authority when he presumes to call in question the right of a people to defend their own firesides.
In this connection we may remark--nothing had gratified us more than the bold and manly course pursued by the Delegate from Oregon, Gen. Joseph Lane. The people on our northwestern coast were certainly fortunate in their selection of a man to represent their interests in Washington City. Gen. Lane, the gallant veteran who won the glorious title of "The Marion of the Mexican War," has watched day and night over the people who live on the borders of the Pacific.
(Here followed some extracts from Gen. Lane's speech on the Oregon war, which having before published in the Statesman, we now omit.)
Here is a plain and unvarnished statement, which bears the marks of truth. We have no disposition to reflect upon General Wool; on the contrary, we entertain the highest respect for him as a man and as a soldier; if it be true, however, that he attempted, while in the neighborhood of California, to detain the 9th Infantry, then on the way to Oregon--that his influence, at one period, prevented the settlers furnishing powder to the residents on the frontiers--that he did not move boldly against the savages, but instead hesitated, upon the pretext that the whites were guilty of the first offenses; if these things be true, General Wool should be held to account by the American people.
We entertain no doubt that indiscretions in many instances marked the conduct of the white man in Oregon. There never was a frontier population which could be absolutely restrained; soldiers, though, were not sent to the territories to judge of the causes which precipitated the contest; it was not expected that they would constitute a judicial tribunal of even temporary jurisdiction, and we are proud to bear witness that our gallant army has ever been ready, at the first call of the country, to take the field and march to victory, leaving the consequences to be settled by the civil authorities. General Wool is a brave man--a soldier whose fame is the common property of the nation; if he did not act as promptly in the premises as he was expected to act, we have only to regret, on behalf of the slain of Oregon, his strange unnatural conduct.
We shall not attempt to present, in our brief outline of the frontier difficulties, anything like a systematic account of the murders, burnings and bloody conflicts which have characterized the war. It is evident that the savages had been preparing for years for the contest in which they are engaged; there was a perfect understanding among numberless chiefs of well-known courage and acknowledged talent, and simultaneous blows were struck along defenseless lines of a thousand miles. At the very time--as General Lane informs us--hostilities commenced in Washington Territory, they occurred in Rogue River Valley; in one night, the Indians traveled several miles and killed every man, woman and child on the road, with a few exceptions; they burned every house except one; they killed every woman except one--Mrs. Harris. The house of this lady was surrounded, her husband killed, and her daughter wounded. She loaded and fired her rifle eighty times, and finally escaped under cover of the darkness. Every man on this route was killed except Wagoner, whose wife and children were murdered, and who himself fell on the 22nd of February last at the mouth of Rogue River. Almost all the cattle in this region have been driven off or shot and left to decay upon the plains.
Lack of space prevents even the general glance which we had intended at the war on the Pacific. In our next number, we shall present from the most authentic records all the particulars of importance which can be obtained in Washington City. It is sufficient to remark that the beautiful territories of Oregon and Washington are subjected every day and night to the most fearful ravages; that large numbers of volunteers have been raised, and are ready to cooperate with the regular troops of the government; that there has been gross and unpardonable delay on the part of the principal officer in command. "I would never raise my voice," says Gen. Lane, "in behalf of these people, if I believed them capable of such an enormity as that charged upon them by General Wool--the enormity, startling and revolting to every right-minded man, of deliberately making war upon an innocent and unoffending people for the purpose of enriching themselves by robbery of the public treasury. I know that to avoid war they would submit, and have submitted, to many wrongs for the purpose of maintaining peace and saving the lives of their families. This war has brought devastation and destruction to every portion of the two territories, and the last letter from my own home stated that everybody there is terror-stricken, that dismay has taken possession of everybody, and that the settlers are now building blockhouses for the purpose of protecting their families and friends, and that they are determined to fight to the last. And yet General Wool charges, and his letter is read as authority upon this floor, that the people of Oregon are guilty of bringing on this war with the Indians, bringing to their dwellings the torch, and to the hearts and the heads of their wives and their children the tomahawk and scalping knife of the savage, whose soul inflamed with passion and thirsting for revenge, revels with demonic delight in scenes of carnage, and draws the greatest pleasure of which such depraved natures are capable from the agony of his tortured and writhing victim. The Indians are literally breaking up the whole country, and I am not certain but that a large portion of the Territory will fall into their hands. I am in continued dread--though I think I am not easily frightened--but by the very next arrival I shall hear something more terrible than anything which has yet reached me. They have burned our steamboats, they have destroyed numerous farms and dwellings in Oregon, and a beautiful town in the southern part of Washington Territory, on the banks of the Columbia River, and have now access to the valleys, and I have great fear they will dash into the valley of the Willamette, and do much damage."
It is fortunate for the people on the distant shores of the Pacific that they have such an advocate in Congress as Joseph Lane. Such vigilance we have never witnessed on the part of any other gentleman in the House of Representatives as has been displayed by Gen. Lane in defense of the inhabitants of Washington and Oregon territories. He is a man of whom any constituency may well be proud. Possessing an iron nerve, he dares to take any responsibility; clear and sound in his judgment, he takes no false nor injudicious step; comprehensive in his views of public policy, he seems to discover by intuition the line of justice and honor. He is one of those bold, original characters that nature, in her munificence, never fails to provide for a startling and difficult crisis.
We always indulge a feeling of pride when, in looking over the gallant Democratic champions of the House of Representatives, our eye rests upon the frank, open countenance of THE HERO OF BUENA VISTA. Thank God, some of the noble Romans still live--live, as monuments of the glorious past, and guarantees of the glorious future of America. The influence, the example, and the illustrious deeds of a few such men as "The Marion of the Mexican War," inspire us with a hope that, though the tempest of faction may rage, and threaten the dismemberment of our republic, we shall be able to weather the storm. We regret, and the people of the Union regret, and the unborn inhabitants of this continent will regret, that to the hands of Gen. Lane was not committed the management of the war on our western borders. We make, however, no incendiary appeal to the disinterested masses of this country, for we know that a verdict would be rendered in favor of our demand which would echo from hill to hill, and from mountain to mountain, and startle a whole empire of politicians. God knows, and hundreds of thousands of men in this country know, that Gen. Joseph Lane was the man for the crisis. The people of Oregon and Washington territories should be thankful, however, that they can claim his services in the Congress of the United States, and that he is toiling with unremitted zeal in their behalf.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, July 22, 1856, page 1 From the National Democratic Review of May, 1856, pages 433-440.
The True Record--Lies Nailed.
In the absence of the editor of this paper, we have made a compilation from the files of the Statesman in 1855 and 1856, in order to refute the misrepresentations of the position occupied by Mr. Bush during the late Indian war in Southern Oregon.
The Occidental and the opposition candidates for Public Printer (for Kelly, Barnum and O'Meara, judging from their speeches, are all running for that office) are very active in perverting the correspondence from the south published in the Statesman during the existence of Indian hostilities in that region, and using it against the Democratic candidate for Printer.
The correspondents of this paper expressed their own views and differed in regard to the origin of the Indian outbreak in Rogue River Valley in October, 1855. We cut the following from an editorial in the Statesman of Dec. 1st, 1855, which shows the view Mr. Bush took at that time of the different statements of his southern correspondents:
"Correspondents in the south differ somewhat as to the effect of the attack upon the Indians near Table Rock. Some regard it as the cause of the outbreak on the succeeding morning, while others think that an attack by the Indians had before been contemplated, and that the attack upon them at Table Rock was the occasion of the hostilities following, and not the cause. This latter, we think, is the most general belief in the southern country. But it matters not what may have been the immediate or remote cause, or the occasion: it is no less a matter of necessity now to subdue and destroy--exterminate, so far as that is possible--all the Indians in arms in Rogue River. There can be no more safety for life and property there until that is done, and there should be, as there is, but one opinion about this duty. Whatever it was, it has become an absolute necessity now, and the work cannot be either omitted or deferred with safety to that valley. It cannot be performed in a day, or at a blow--but it will require time and patience.
"We have not been disappointed in the serious character of this southern war, or its probable duration. In the issue of the Statesman announcing the first hostile demonstration, we expressed our apprehensions that before hostilities could be brought to a close, savage wantonness and cruelty would lay waste many of the exposed settlements and butcher their defenseless inhabitants. And we find such has been, and such promises to be, the bloody results. Their proximity to the scattered settlements, the ease with which they can make a sortie upon them and then retire to their mountain hiding places, renders them doubly dangerous, and makes them doubly dreaded. Imminent and constant danger calls for vigorous pursuit and destruction of them. And whether by this or that policy the hostilities could have been avoided or deferred, it matters not now. Certain it is that there is no escape from them now, and no alternative but to subdue and destroy the Indians. Peace and safety can be had in no other way. Our fears lie in the great difficulty of a thorough performance of the work."
On the 8th of December, 1855 [page 2], Mr. Bush noticed the slanders, which the Occidental and opposition speakers are now repeating, as appears from the following extract from an editorial in the Statesman of that date:
WHAT IS THE USE OF LYING SO?--A correspondent of the Oregonian, who pretends to write from Jacksonville, accuses us or our correspondents--and quotes the language--of talking about "the inhuman butchery at Table Rock, on the reserve," "cruel and barbarous affair," &c., &c. Now, nothing the kind has ever been seen in the Statesman.
Another editorial in the Statesman of the 1st of December, 1855, contains another allusion [to] the false charges and lies of the enemies of the Statesman. At that date the editor of this paper wrote as follows concerning
THE WAR CLAIMS.--On our first page will be found a letter from Portland, over the signature of "†," referring to the studied and systematic effort being made by the enemies of the Statesman and the Statesman's friends, to make it appear that we are disparaging the importance of the Indian war, and throwing obstacles in the way of the payment of the expenses of the same. To do this, they depend upon not what appears in our columns, but upon persistent falsehood--false assertion, assumption and insinuation. They have calculated the effect of placing us in seeming hostility to the interests of the many who have furnished property for the war, and they labor with a commensurate unscrupulousness and zeal.
We have to say that we are unqualifiedly of the opinion that those who have advanced property to carry on this war should be promptly and fully paid, and there is no press or person in Oregon ready to do more than ours and ourself to advance the early and equitable settlement of all just claims.
There do exist Indian hostilities of a serious character, and which call for vigorous suppression. It is the duty of our soldiers and citizens to repel them and chastise the offenders, and it is the duty of the government to reward them and reimburse those who yield up their property for the campaign.
As early as the 20th of October, 1855, the following editorial appeared in the columns of this paper:
For the south Gov. Curry issued a proclamation, which will be found in another column, calling for two battalions of volunteers, one comprising four companies and one five. We have not had time to hear from the counties named, but doubt not that the rolls were most promptly filled in all, and we look for stirring intelligence from the south. The danger in that quarter is more imminent than in the north, for the Indians occupy a country over which are scattered feeble settlements, wholly exposed to their ravages, and the opportunities presented for their rapine and cruelties are far greater than in the north. And consequently, it seems to be the current opinion that there will be likely to be be much more fighting south than north. Indeed, it is though by many that the Indians in the latter quarter will flee to the mountains, ere the troops can be sent in pursuit of them, few will be found to fight. Others, however, incline to the opinion that emboldened by their success with Maj. Haller's command, they will remain in force on the plains, and be readily found by the troops.
The following is the conclusion of another editorial article on the 27th of October, 1855:
We look for repeated massacres and murders by the hostile Indians of the south. They have fled to the mountains adjacent to the settlements, and there is great cause for apprehensions that, as opportunities offer, they will sally out on unprotected neighborhoods and persons, and, after burning and murdering, return to their hiding places. Always hostile, it is hardly possible that they will fail to ravage and murder whenever they can do it with safety to themselves. And their immediate proximity to scattered settlements will afford such opportunities.
Another of February 19th, 1856, concludes as follows:
The country south is entirely without protection, while the Indians are in the very midst of the white settlements, murdering and burning as occasion offers. We are told that at no time since the breaking out of hostilities has such a feeling of alarm and insecurity existed as now, and this feeling extends into some parts of the Umpqua Valley. The mistake in regard to the southern war, as we conceive, has been the supposition that the Indians could be exterminated and the war brought to a close in the course of a few months, when, not impossibly, it will be the work of as many years. Where Indians were expected to be met and slaughtered by scores and fifties, a single one, perhaps, has fallen, mingling his blood with that of a thrice-larger number of slaughtered whites.
The Indians south have got to be hunted, and it must be the work of long months of patient toil and endurance. If we mistake not, no pitched battles or brilliant victories can mark that war, or ought to be expected, for the Indians, always fighting at the time and place of their own choice, will permit none. Lurking in the mountains in scattered bands, their formidability and their terror lies in their sudden and unexpected forays upon unprotected settlements and small parties. In this way they can sell their lives most dearly, and the longest avert the fate which they know must sooner or later overtake them. And in this way will they most certainly continue to carry on their hostilities. To reach them they must be pursued into the mountain fastnesses, trailed and hunted down at a lamentable risk and sacrifice of life. With such warfare, the killing of one Indian is a task more difficult and dangerous to be performed than the killing of a score, where they can be met in open fight, on equal terms.
We might fill up whole pages of the Statesman with like extracts, which prove conclusively that Mr. Bush appreciated the exposed condition of the southern settlements and was right on the Indian war in the south, and that the Statesman was the only paper in Oregon that rightly estimated the relative importance of the campaign against the Indians in the south. But we clip a few short extracts from the communications of some of the correspondents of the Statesman in 1855:
Jacksonville, Oct. 11, 1855.SIR--We are again in the midst of the most terrible Indian war ever known to this country. I doubt not but you may search the annals of history in vain to find anything that exceeds, in savage barbarity, the deeds of these soulless miscreants, and I doubt much if there ever lived a more formidable savage foe to the white man than this band of Shasta Indians. No pains have been spared to endeavor to civilize them, but without avail. It is consummate folly to endeavor to do anything with them but kill them off.
Grave Creek, Oct. 12, 1855.It is to be hoped the Governor will lose no time in sending through the Canyon not only provisions and arms, but blankets and other necessary camp equipage, and some thousand volunteers.
There should be at least two thousand men in the valley well armed and equipped, with as little delay as possible. The Indians will soon scatter and hide away. The first snow that falls we should be prepared for a thorough scouring of the whole country from the tops of the Cascade Range to the coast. If this is not done, there will be no security for life or property south of the Canyon.
I say now that I never will sanction any more treaties with them. Extermination is my motto, and I trust it will be adopted by every man in Oregon that can pull a trigger.
Later in the progress of the war, while the California press (with which Mr. O'Meara, the candidate of the "Nationals," claims at that time to have been connected) was denouncing the people of Oregon and affording aid and comfort to Gen. Wool, in his warfare against the authorities of Oregon and Washington territories, the Statesman defended the service and refuted the falsehoods of Mr. O'Meara and his brother editors in San Francisco. The following is from the Statesman of March 11th, 1856:
THE OREGON WAR AND THE CALIFORNIA PRESS AND CORRESPONDENTS.--To our readers, who are familiar with the leading incidents in the history of the existing Indian war in Oregon and Washington territories, the correspondence and comment of the California press concerning it are simply amusing, but to those whose only information in relation to this subject is obtained from the columns of those journals, the whole affair must appear complicated and involved in contradictions.
The flippancy with which writers, who are far removed from the scene of action, assume to pass upon the merits of the policy adopted by the executive authorities of the two territories, and the magnitude and danger of the difficulties, is only equaled by their manifest ignorance of the circumstances of our position, and the dangerous realities of this prolonged war.
One of the San Francisco editors seriously asks if the account of the battle in the Grave Creek Hills, on the 31st of October and 1st November last--one of the most fatal engagements in the annals of savage warfare--was not a hoax! Indeed, it is even contended that the war is prosecuted merely to afford a market for our surplus produce. Such statements seem too absurd for contradiction. It is in decidedly bad taste for Californians to accuse the honest yeomanry of Oregon of attempts to speculate off the government. Our Territory has not yet earned such an unenviable reputation for peculation as pertains to our sister state.
The editorial from which the above is cut closes with an allusion to the factious course which Dryer and the opposition papers had at that early day and while hostilities were still pending, seen fit to adopt and persist in, thereby seeking to embarrass the officers of the service in the discharge of their duties, and to throw suspicion upon the faithfulness and integrity of the different branches of the volunteer service:
"For months, the Oregonian has been constantly endeavoring to clog the wheels of the departments, to throw distrust on all the movements of those in authority, to shake the confidence of the community in the speedy settlement of the claims of the war, by raising foolish questions and senseless quibbles about the eligibility of officers in the service. Week after week he has heralded forth to his readers that the southern regiment were destitute of any of the supplies necessary to conduct the campaign, alleging that there was a studied attempt on the part of the heads of a different departments to withhold the requisite stores, in order to break down a Know-Nothing colonel, when every express brought intelligence that an abundance of quartermaster and commissary stores, and everything necessary to a vigorous prosecution of the war, was to be had at all the different posts between the Calapooia Mountains and Jacksonville. But misrepresentation abroad, and the efforts of foes at home, will all be futile to stay the exertions of our gallant volunteers. Savage atrocity will be punished &c."
Indeed, it can be shown beyond contradiction that the Statesman is the only paper in this Territory which has constantly and consistently defended the people of Oregon and the volunteer service from the very commencement of hostilities in 1855 to the present. While the opposition press, conducted by bankrupts, drunkards, fools and knaves, has constantly endeavored to cast suspicion upon the honesty and integrity of different officers of the volunteer service, charging them with fraud and corruption, in order to embarrass and delay the final settlement and speedy payment of the liabilities which those officers have incurred, seeking to arouse suspicion in the minds of the war commissioners and the departments at Washington in regard to the correctness and honesty of the accounts as rendered by the heads of the different departments, the Statesman has ever been found a constant defender of the service, the integrity of its officers, and the meritorious character of the claims allowed and accounts rendered by them. No effort has been spared by the Oregonian, Standard and Messenger to create prejudice against the officers of the quartermaster, commissary and medical departments, and thereby endanger or delay the payment of the millions of dollars due the people of this Territory on account of services rendered and property sold and furnished to the officers of those departments for the use of the service. On the contrary, the Statesman and leading Democrats in the Territory have labored to overcome any prejudice which an irresponsible and venal press might succeed in inciting to the injury of claimants and scrip holders.
But we will defer any further notice of this subject until the return of the editor, who will, perhaps, see fit to give to the readers of the Statesman further evidence of the willful perversions and misrepresentations of the opposition, touching the relative position which the newspapers in Oregon have occupied relative to our late volunteer service.
Oregon Statesman, Salem, May 4, 1858, page 2
INDIAN WARS OF SOUTHERN OREGON
Address of Hon. William M. Colvig Delivered at the Reunion
of the Indian War Veterans, at Medford
on Saturday, July 26, 1902.
Through the courtesy of Hon. Wm. M. Colvig, The Mail is able to give in full the address delivered by him before the reunion of the Southern Oregon Indian war veterans, which was held in Medford on Saturday, July 26, 1902. The address is worth keeping by those who desire a concise history of the Indian wars of Southern Oregon, for the facts and dates are as correct as it is possible to get them.
Mr. Chairman, Indian war veterans, comrades of the Grand Army, ladies and gentlemen: I never in my life stood before an audience more representative in its personnel than the one which I now face. On the left are those who battled for the Republic in the dark and doubtful days of 1861, and who by their valor and heroism preserved from wrack and ruin the greatest and best of human governments; while on my right are a half hundred of the daring spirits who planted the standards of civilization on this western limit of the American continent. In every age there have been bold and fearless leaders, and pioneers in all the doubtful and dangerous ways of human advancement. Pioneers have led the way in every direction where the energies of mankind have pushed a farther limit, or have taken a more advanced position. Whatever the race now enjoys of art, of science, of government, to literature, or of invention, have come of it in slow payments for hard toil and persevering labor, and foremost among the pioneers of earth must ever be the heralds of a new civilization, for only the protecting aegis of national power can foster the excellencies of the human heart and make the pathways of life bloom with the varied flowers of culture and refinement. The march of empire precedes all else, and has from the time Moses led the rebellious tribes of Israel from the land of bondage down to that era when you pioneers took up your long march to the western sea.
When you old men and women, that I see before me, were young and others here were but prattling children, there came across the desert sands of the great American plains rumors of a rich and fertile country in the far-off West, "in the continuous wood where rolls the Oregon, and heard no sound, save its own dashing." Obeying the natural instincts of the Anglo-Saxon race to lead the star of empire into other lands, you pioneers of Oregon severed the ties which bound you to the homes of your childhood, and with firm steps and dauntless hearts turned your faces toward the setting sun and commenced that long and dreary march across the untracked wilderness that lay between you and the "sun-down sea." You toiled on and on, for many weeks and months. Every day was burdened with toil, and every night with sleepless vigils. Every step that you took was fraught with danger, and led you farther from home and friends, from kindred and from civilization. Disease and death followed your footsteps, and many a brave adventurer was laid to his eternal rest in the sands by the roadside. Cruel and stealthy savages contested your right of way, and battles were fought to decide between you. No "pillar of cloud by day, nor pillar of fire by night" moved on before to guide and direct you on the perilous march. You threaded the jungles of mountain ranges, and crossed over trackless deserts, where never before the feet of the paleface had trod. When rivers with swollen floods impeded your way, rude rafts were hastily constructed and the journey beyond resumed. And thus, ever with hopeful hearts, you traveled on and on, till at last it seemed a recompense for the trials passed that the fair valleys of Oregon stretched out invitingly before you. No friends were here to give you welcome, no homes to offer you hospitality. You turned your lean and footsore oxen out to graze and with your rifle in one hand and your ax in the other, you went into the primeval forests with yet-undaunted hearts and commenced the history of Oregon.
More than a half a century of time has since been added to the past. Happy homes now fill the valleys with joy and life; the sounds of clanging industry are heard echoing among the hills along the rivers, and in the productive fields. The "dashings" of the lordly Oregon are drowned in the blaring tumult of thrift and enterprise along its shores. The red sovereigns, who once held kingly sway over the vast solitudes of mountain and vale, have "read their doom in the setting sun." The debris which marked the places where once stood their rude wigwams has been cleared away, and palatial residences, lovely villages and busy cities now beautify the land. To you, old and feeble veterans, both men and women, who blazed the way to this great commonwealth and who pushed forward and protected the infant growth of its many institutions, belong all the honor. The history of its past is but a record of your lives and of the struggles, privations and hardships which you endured in those days that "tried the souls of men."
The government has been very tardy in acknowledging the debt which this generation owes to you; but finally, it has been brought to admit that your claim for services, fearlessly performed, is just. I believe that the heralds of a new civilization are as much entitled to a nation's gratitude as are those who defend and fight its battles after it has been established.
I was first invited to deliver an address of welcome to the Indian war veterans, who meet here today; but within the past few days I was informed that an historical sketch of early days in Southern Oregon, including an account of the Indian wars, would be my part in the program of exercises.
My knowledge of the subject is not very extensive. I lived in Southern Oregon as early as 1852, but was only a boy, not old enough to take part in any of the stirring incidents which I remember of those days. I see before me faces that recall events long past, and which left pictures in the album of memory that time will never efface, and you will pardon me if I refer to one of those personal recollections.
In 1855 my father, Dr. Wm. L. Colvig, and family lived in a log cabin on the South Umpqua River, near Canyonville. One bright, clear day in October of that year, myself and brother, on returning from a trip in the "canon," saw standing, in an exhausted condition, a white Cayuse pony before the door of our home. The horse was covered with blood. Everything seemed quiet about the place. We rushed into the house and saw a man lying on his back, full length, upon the puncheon floor. His clothing was partially removed. His body was covered with blood. Father was kneeling over him on one side and Mother on the other. They were dressing his wounds. He had nine separate bullet holes in his limbs and body. Dr. Colvig had his case of surgical instruments at hand, which consisted of a butcher knife and a pair of scissors. The knife was the one we had used to cut meat when crossing the plains. Mother was preparing bandages by tearing up some of our old "hickory" shirts. Well, they patched Uncle Bill Russell--called "Long Bill" in those days--up in pretty good shape. I see him here today, but I don't think that he is looking for a fight with Indians. At the time of which I speak, he had been shot by the Indians about five miles from my father's house but succeeded in riding to our door. His companion, Weaver, had a close call, but escaped unhurt.
The Indian wars of Southern Oregon were stubborn contests. It is a natural law that the fittest survive, and wherever civilization in its advance meets barbarian force, the latter must give way. When they meet there is an "irrepressible conflict," the details of which we can not always reconcile with the Golden Rule. The tribes who took part in these several wars in Southern Oregon were the Rogue Rivers, Modocs, Klamaths, Shastas and Umpquas. The only honest acquisition of the Rogue River Indians was their name. On account of the thieving and treacherous habits of the people of that tribe, the river which flows through the valley was called by the early French trappers "Rivière aux Coquins," the river of rogues. The Oregon legislature in 1853 sought to change the name, and did name it Gold River, but, as the boys say, "it didn't take."
It will be impossible for me to do more than mention a few of the more prominent incidents, and I cannot be very accurate in regard to dates and other matters pertaining to that period, as my information has been gathered from many sources, some of which are not very authentic.
It may be of interest to know that on December 27, 1850, Congress passed what is known as the donation land law, which gave to every American citizen over the age of eighteen years, if single, one half section of land; if married, one section of land, one-half of which was the absolute property of the wife, the other half of the husband. There were no settlers in the Rogue River Valley prior to New Year's Day, 1851. In the spring of 1851 a man by the name of Evans constructed a ferry across Rogue River, just below the town of Woodville. During the same spring a man by the name of Perkins also established a ferry on that river. The first donation land claim was located by Judge A. A. Skinner, an Indian agent, in June, 1851. This claim is the Walker farm, near Central Point. Upon it he built the first settler's house ever built in the valley. Chesley Gray, his interpreter, also located a donation land claim in June, 1851. It is what is known as the Constant farm, near Central Point. The following named persons filed donation land claims prior to February, 1852: Moses Hopwood, on Christmas Day, 1851; N. C. Dean at Willow Springs, December, 1851 ; Stone and Poyntz at Wagner Creek, December, 1851; L. J. C. Duncan, Major Barron, Thomas Smith, Pat Dunn, E. K. Anderson, and Samuel Colver had made their locations prior to February, 1852. I do not pretend that these were all, but the entire number of claims taken up to that time did not exceed twenty-eight.
In December, 1851, James Clugage and J. R. Pool located the first mining claim in Southern Oregon, at a point near the old brewery in Jacksonville. They had been informed by a couple of young men who were passing through the country that they had found gold near that place. Immediately after this discovery became known in California and by the incoming immigrants to Oregon, there was a rush made to the mines of Jacksonville. Old man Shively, the discoverer of Shively Gulch above Jacksonville, inside of eighteen months had taken out over fifty thousand dollars, and since that time, from the best statistics obtainable, the mines of Southern Oregon have yielded about thirty-five million dollars in gold.
During the winter of 1852, flour was sold at one dollar per pound, tobacco at one dollar an ounce, and salt was priceless. Jacksonville was laid out as a town in the summer of 1852, by Henry Klippel and J. R. Pool.
I will now speak of the Indian wars in which the people of Southern Oregon were engaged. The first recorded fight between the Indians and whites in any portion of Southern Oregon occurred in 1828, when Jedediah Smith and seven other trappers were attacked by the Indians on the Umpqua River, and five of the whites were slain, only Smith and two of his companions escaping. The next fight of which we have any account was in June, 1836, at a point just below the Rock Point bridge, where the barn on the W. L. Colvig estate stands. In this fight there were Dan Miller, Edward Barnes, Dr. Bailey, Saunders, Woodworth, Irish Tom, and J. Turner and squaw. Two trappers were killed, and nearly all were wounded. Within my recollection, Dr. Bailey visited the scene of this fight and pointed out to my father its location. In September, 1837, at the mouth of Foots Creek, in Jackson County, a party of men who had been sent to California by the Methodist mission to procure cattle, while on their return were attacked by the Rogue River Indians and had a short, severe fight, in which several of the whites were badly wounded and some twelve or fourteen of the Indians killed. In May, 1845, J. C. Fremont had a fight with the Indians in the Klamath country; it may have been a little over the line in California. Four of Fremont's men were killed and quite a large number of the Indians. Kit Carson was a prominent figure in this battle.
As before stated, a few bold adventurers had located in Rogue River Valley as early as December, 1851. During the spring, summer, and fall of that year there was a considerable amount of travel through the valley, by parties from northern Oregon going to and returning from the great mining excitement of California. Fights between these travelers and the Indians were of frequent occurrence. On the 15th day of May, 1851, a pack train was attacked at a point on Bear Creek, where the town of Phoenix is now situated, and a man by the name of Dilley was killed. On June 3, 1851, a party of Oregonians, under the leadership of Dr. Jas. McBride, had a severe fight near Willow Springs with Chief "Chucklehead" and his band. Chucklehead and six other Indians were killed; several of the whites were severely wounded.
About this time Maj . Phil Kearny, afterwards Gen. Kearny, who was killed at the battle of Chantilly in the Civil War, happened to be passing through the valley on
his way from Vancouver to Benicia, California, with a detachment of two companies of U.S. regulars. He remained a short time and assisted in punishing the Indians for the numerous depredations committed by them during the year. He had several fights while in the valley, in which about fifty Indians were killed. One of these fights was on Rogue River, near the mouth of Butte Creek, where Captain Stuart, of the U.S. army, received an arrow wound from an Indian, who was also wounded. The arrow penetrated the captain's body, and he died the next day at the camp on Bear Creek, near Phoenix. The camp thenceforth took the name of Camp Stuart, and Bear Creek in all government records is called Stewart's Creek. The captain's body was buried at a spot where the wagon road crosses the mill race in the town of Phoenix. Some years ago his remains were taken up and sent to Washington, D.C., to be buried by the side of his mother. Captain Stuart's last words were, "Boys, it is awful to have passed through all the battles of the Mexican war, and then be killed by an Indian in this wild country."
At the massacre of emigrants at Bloody Point, Klamath County, in 1852, thirty-six men, women, and children were murdered. Capt. Ben Wright and twenty-seven men from Yreka and Col . J . E . Ross and some Oregonians went out to punish these Modocs. Old Schonchin, who was afterwards hung at Fort Klamath in 1873, at the close of the Modoc war, was the leader. [Note the lack of distinction between Rogue Rivers and Modocs.] Wright gave them no quarter. He and his men, infuriated at the sight of the mangled bodies of the emigrants, killed men, women, and children without any discrimination about forty in all; and it is said that they asked for a "peace talk," whereupon a roast ox was prepared. Wright poisoned it, gave it to the Indians, and then rode away. [By most accounts, the Ben Wright Massacre did not involve poison, although he had apparently bought some for the purpose.]
I cannot give you the names of all who were killed in Rogue River Valley during the years 1851, 1852, and 1853. I will mention some that were killed in 1853. In August of that year Edward Edwards was killed near Medford; Thos. Wills and Rhodes Nolan, in the edge of the town of Jacksonville; Pat Dunn and Carter, both wounded in a fight on Neil Creek above Ashland. In a fight with the Indians on Bear Creek, in August, 1853, Hugh Smith was killed, and Howell, Morris, Hodgins, Whitmore and Gibbs wounded, the last named three dying from their wounds soon after.
These murders, and many more that could be mentioned, brought on the Indian war of 1853. Southern Oregon raised six companies of volunteers, who served under the following named captains, viz: R. L. Williams, J. K. Lamerick, John F. Miller, Elias A. Owens and W. W. Fowler. Capt. B. F. Alden, of the Fourth U.S. Infantry, with twenty regulars, came over from Fort Jones, Calif., and with him a large number of volunteers under Capt. Jas. P. Goodall and Capt. Jacob Rhoades, two Indian fighters of experience. Capt. Alden was given the command of all the forces. The first battle of the war was fought on the 12th day of August, 1853, and was an exciting little fight between about twenty volunteers under Lieut. Burrell Griffin, of Miller's company, and a band of Indians under Chief John. The volunteers were ambushed at a point near the mouth of Williams Creek, on the Applegate. The whites were defeated with a loss of two killed and Lieut. Griffin severely wounded. There were five Indians killed and wounded in the battle. On August 10, 1853, John R. Hardin and Wm. R. Rose, of Capt. Lamerick's company, were killed near Willow Springs. On the 16th of August, 1853, Gen. Joseph Lane, afterwards U.S. senator from Oregon, and a candidate for vice president in 1860, came out from his home in Douglas County and brought fifty men with him, to take part in the war. Gen. Lane was a man of large experience in Indian warfare and in all military matters. He had commanded an Indiana regiment in the Mexican War and enjoyed a well-earned reputation for bravery. On the day that Gen. Lane arrived what is known as the battle of Little Meadows was fought. Lieut. Ely and twenty-two men met the Indians near Evans Creek, in the timber, and a short but deadly conflict took place. Seven whites were killed inside of an hour; Lieut. Ely and three men wounded. They left the battlefield in charge of the Indians--at least, in the popular phraseology of that day, "they got up and got out." On August 24, 1853, the battle of Evans Creek was fought. In this fight the Indians did not fare so well, twelve of them being killed and wounded. One volunteer named Pleasant Armstrong was killed and Capt. Alden and Gen. Joe Lane were each wounded. During the summer of 1853 several men were shot by Indians in Josephine County. In the fall Gen. Lane patched up a temporary peace, which lasted till 1855.
The war of 1855-1856 was preceded by a great many murders and depredations by the Indians in different parts of Southern Oregon. I will mention a few: ---- Dyar and ---- McKew, killed while on the road from Jacksonville to Josephine County on June 1, 1855. About the same time a man by name of ---- Philpot was killed on Deer Creek, Josephine County, and James Mills was wounded at the same time and place. Granville Keene was killed at a point on Bear Creek, above Ashland, and J. Q. Faber was wounded. Two men, ---- Fields and ---- Cunningham, were killed in September, 1855, on the road over the Siskiyou Mountains.
On account of these various depredations Maj. J. A. Lupton raised a temporary force of volunteers, composed of miners and others, from the vicinity of Jacksonville, about thirty-five in number, and proceeded to a point on the north side of Rogue River, opposite the mouth of Little Butte Creek. There he attacked a camp of Indians at a time when they were not expecting trouble. It is said that about thirty men, women, and children were killed by Lupton's men. The major himself received a mortal wound in the fight. This fight has been much criticized by the people of Southern Oregon, a great many of them believing that it was unjustifiable and cowardly. Two days after this affair a series of massacres took place in the sparsely settled country in and about where Grants Pass is now situated. On the 9th day of October, 1855, the Indians, having divided up into small parties, simultaneously attacked the homes of the defenseless families located in that vicinity. I will name a few of those tragic events. On the farm now owned by James Tuffs, Mr. Jones was killed, and his wife, after receiving a mortal wound, made her escape. She was found by the volunteers on the next day and died a few days afterwards. Their house was burned down. Mrs. Wagoner was murdered by the Indians on the same day. Her husband was away from home at the time, but returned on the following day to find his wife murdered and his home a pile of ashes. The Harris family consisted of Harris and wife and their two children, Mary Harris, aged twelve, and David Harris, aged ten, and T. A. Reed, a young man who lived with the family. Mr. Harris was shot down while standing near his door, and at a moment when he little suspected treachery from the Indians with whom he was talking. His wife and daughter pulled his body within the door, and seizing a double-barreled shotgun and an old-fashioned Kentucky rifle, commenced firing through the cracks of the log cabin. They kept this up till late in the night, and by heroic bravery kept the Indians from either gaining an entrance into the house or succeeding in their attempts to fire it. Just back of the cabin was a dense thicket of brush, and during a lull in the attack the two brave women escaped through the back door and fled through the woods. They were found the next day by volunteers from Jacksonville, our late friend, Henry Klippel, being one of the number. Mrs. Harris lived to a good old age in this county. Mary, who was wounded in the fight, afterwards became the wife of Mr. G. M. Love, and was the mother of Geo. Love of Jacksonville and Mrs. John A. Hanley of Medford. David Harris, the boy, was not in the house when the attack was made, but was at work on the place. His fate has never been ascertained, as his body was never found. The Indians stated, after peace was made, that they killed him at the time they attacked the Harris house. Reed, the young man spoken of, was killed out near the house.
On October 31, 1855, the battle of Hungry Hill was fought near the present railway station of Leland. Capt. A. J. Smith of the U.S. army was at that battle, and a large number of citizen soldiery. The result of the battle was very indecisive. There were thirty-one whites killed and wounded, nine of them being killed outright. It is not known how many of the Indians were killed, but after the treaty was made they confessed to fifteen. The Indians were in heavy timber and were scarcely seen during the two days' battle.
In April, , after peace had been concluded between the whites and Indians, the Ledford massacre took place in Rancherie Prairie, near Mt. Pitt, in this county, in which five white men were killed. This event was the last of the "irrepressible conflict." Soon afterward the Indians were removed to the Siletz reservation, where their descendants now live and enjoy the favors of the government which their fathers so strongly resisted.
The war in Rogue River Valley had now virtually ended. "Old Sam's" band, with an escort of one hundred U.S. troops, was taken to the coast reservation at Siletz. Chiefs "John" and "Limpy," with a large number of the most active warriors, who had followed their fortunes during all these struggles, still held out and continued their depredations in the lower Rogue River country and in connection with the Indians of Curry County.
Gen. John E. Wool, commander of the department of the Pacific, in November, 1855, had stopped at Crescent City while on his way to the Yakima country. He received full information while here of the military operations in Southern Oregon. Skipping many details, it is sufficient to state that he ordered Capt. A. J. Smith to move down the river from Fort Lane and form a junction with the United States troops under Captains Jones and E. O. C. Ord (afterward a major-general in United States army), who were prosecuting an active campaign in the region about Chetco, Pistol River, and the Illinois River Valley. Capt. Smith left Fort Lane with eighty men--fifty dragoons and thirty infantry. I can only take the time to mention a few of the fights in that region during the spring of 1856. On March 8th Capt. Abbott had a skirmish with the Chetco Indians at Pistol River. He lost several men. The Indians had his small force completely surrounded when Capt. Ord and Capt. Jones with 112 regular troops came to his relief. They charged and drove the Indians away with heavy loss. On March 20, 1856, Lieut. Colonel Buchanan, assisted by Capt. Jones and Ord, attacked an Indian village ten miles above the mouth of Rogue River. The Indians were driven away, leaving several dead and only one white man wounded in the fight. A few days later Captain Augur's company (U.S. troops) fought John and "Limpy's" band at the mouth of the Illinois River. The Indians fought desperately, leaving five dead on the battlefield. On March 27, 1856, the regulars again met the Indians on lower Rogue River. After a brisk fight at close quarters the Indians fled, leaving ten dead, and two of the soldiers were severely wounded. On April 1, 1856, Captain Creighton, with a company of citizens, attacked an Indian village near the mouth of the Coquille River, killing nine men, wounding eleven and taking forty squaws and children prisoners. About this time some volunteers attacked a party of Indians who were moving in canoes at the mouth of Rogue River. They killed eleven men and one squaw . Only one man and two squaws of the party escaped. On April 29, 1856, a party of sixty regulars escorting a pack train were attacked near Chetco. In this fight, three soldiers were killed and wounded. The Indians lost six killed and several wounded.
The volunteer forces of the coast war were three companies known by the names of "Gold Beach Guards," the "Coquille Guards" and the "Port Orford Minute Men." I have not the time to enter into the details of the battle that was fought on the 27th of May, 1856, near Big Meadows, on Rogue River. Capt. Smith was in command of his eighty regulars. Old "John" led the Indians. The operations covered a period of two days, John using all the tactics of military science in handling his 400 braves during the battle. Just as everything was ready, according to "John's" plans for an attack upon the regulars, Capt. Augur's company was seen approaching. The Indians were then soon dispersed. Capt. Smith lost twenty-nine men killed and wounded in this battle, and had it not been for the timely arrival of Augur's company, his men would all have been killed.
While these operations were being carried on by the U.S. troops, the volunteer forces were not idle. They were kept busy with "Limpy" and "George's" warriors, at points in Josephine County. On January 28, 1856, Major Latshaw moved down the river with 218 men. He had several skirmishes and lost four or five men in killed and wounded. On May 29th "Limpy" and "George" surrendered at Big Meadows to Lieut. Col. Buchanan. On May 31st Gov. Curry ordered the volunteer forces to disband--nearly all the Indians had surrendered. About 1300 of the various tribes that had carried on the war were gathered in camp at Port Orford.
About July 1st, 1856, "John" and thirty-five tough-looking warriors, the last to surrender, "threw down the hatchet." I have now gone over, in chronological order [some of Colvig's dates were wrong, so they aren't actually in order], the principal events connected with the Indian wars of Southern Oregon. I am fully aware that the narrative is very defective, and that many events of importance have not even been mentioned. You who took part in these early struggles can easily fill in the gaps, and correct the errors that I may have unconsciously made.
There were some men who took part in the Indian wars of Southern Oregon who afterward became prominent in the history of the nation. I will name a few, viz: Gen. U. S. Grant, Gen. J. B. Hood (late of Confederate army), Gen. Phil Kearney, Gen. Wool, Gen. A. J. Smith, Gen. Geo. Crook, Gen. A. V. Kautz, Gen. Phil Sheridan, Gen. J. C. Fremont, Gen. Joe Lane (candidate for vice president of the United States in 1860), Gen. Joe Hooker (who built the military road in the Canyon Mountains in 1852), and Kit Carson.
We all rejoice that the general government has at last acknowledged the value of your services to civilization; and has made some provision of recompense for the privations which you suffered.
I see before me old gray-headed mothers who will also share with you this recognition of the nation's gratitude. It is well, and to my comrades of the Civil War, who are here, and who have been the promoters of this reunion of veterans, let me say that no women of any war, in which the American people have ever been engaged, are more deserving of the nation's bounty than these old, feeble, pioneer mothers of Southern Oregon. When their fathers, brothers and husbands went out to meet their savage foes, these women were not left in well protected cities, villages and homes, but often in rude cabins, situated in close proximity to the conflict. And unlike the chances of civilized warfare, no mercy could be expected from the enemy--surrender meant not only death, but torture and heartless cruelty. In every hour of those dark days these women proved themselves to be fit helpmates to a race of daring men--and worthy all honors that are accorded the brave.
Medford Mail, August 8 and 15, 1902, page 2 Colvig reconstructed this speech from his notes; see "Veterans Hold a Reunion," Medford Mail, August 1, 1902, page 2.
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Our correspondent, "Nottarts" [presumably Riley E. Stratton], mentions [in the Oregon Statesman, October 27, 1855, page 1] an attack upon a party of thirty-five Indians near Table Rock. We learn from Mr. Swick--who was also our correspondent's informant--the particulars of that attack to be as follows: The Indians were encamped there, and consisted of men, women and children. In the night, a party of eighteen men (two others being stationed on the opposite bank of the river to pick off any who might chance to escape and attempt to swim across it) crept up near the camp and selected a place where they could fire into the camp, and step back a few steps and be out of sight of the Indians, until they were ready to fire again, when they could step up and fire and again retire from sight. As soon as it was light enough to discern the Indians, the attack commenced--being an indiscriminate slaughter of men, women and children. The Indians were surprised, and able to make little resistance, and were soon all killed but one, who escaped. They had but two or three guns, and hit nobody with those. The only man killed, Major Lupton, representative-elect, was shot through the breast with an arrow by an Indian who was down and supposed to be lifeless or disabled. Another of the attacking party was badly, and it was feared mortally, wounded. None others were wounded. Mr. Swick informs us that this was done in revenge for the killing of Fields and Cunningham; that these Indians were not known to have had anything to do with any of the murders, or to be hostile, but that it was the purpose to make an indiscriminate slaughter of Indians. He says about 150 men were organized when he left for the purpose of making war upon and exterminating Indians; that there were plenty of men and horses in the valley for the purpose, and that they wanted nothing but arms.
We once heard Ben. McCullough, an old Texas Ranger and Indian fighter, and now marshal of Texas, upon the subject of "exterminating Indians." He declared that the thing was impossible in an Indian country, and never talked about by men who knew anything about Indians and had ever been engaged in wars with them. "You might as well," said he, "talk about killing all the wolves as all the Indians." He said they would secrete in the mountains and swamps, where white men couldn't find them.
There are experienced men here who look upon the project of exterminating the southern Indians as chimerical and impossible. They hold that portions of them will flee where they can't be pursued, and secrete where they can be neither found nor approached. If such is the case, we fear for the result of such occurrences as that near Table Rock, detailed above, if the version above shall prove to be strictly correct. If the Indians cannot be exterminated, those who survive such indiscriminate attacks will be doubly exasperated, and certain, when pursuit shall cease, to descend from their hiding places and devastate isolated settlements and massacre unprotected settlers--to carry on a sort of guerrilla warfare, making the country far more unsafe than ever before. We hope that this may not be the case in Rogue River Valley, but we fear that it will, and we are informed that such apprehensions are entertained by a great portion of the permanent settlers there.
Mr. Swick says he thinks there is no combination of tribes south, and no general outbreak among the Indians. The Chief Sam was on the Reserve, and disposed to peace. He says a party of Indians numbering about thirty were encamped near the volunteers' headquarters, and had sent in a request for peace, but that it was the intention of the volunteers when he left to attack and destroy them the next morning.
He came by the mountain trail, and says it was not considered safe to travel the wagon road. Therefore he knows nothing concerning the burning of Wagoner's and other dwellings.
It will be seen by our correspondence that Miss Pellet had left Wagoner's, and it was thought escaped, though it was not known what befell her subsequently.
LATER.--After the above was written, we received dispatches by Dr. Kane, a messenger sent in by the Indian agent to the superintendent. The intelligence will all be found in other columns. It will be seen that twelve men were wounded in the attack near Table Rock, at which Maj. Lupton was killed, instead of two, as first reported. Dr. Kane says the Indians killed there proved to be only a party of women and children and a few very old men. [Kane later revised his report.] The warriors were all absent. A different account is given of those Indians than we had received when we wrote the first portion of this article. Although not directly implicated in or suspected of any murders, they seem to have been vicious Indians, and to have made previous trouble, and not to be wholly undeserving of the fate intended for the warriors of the band.
They prove not to have had a gun in the camp, and to have fought with nothing but bows and arrows. They fought well, considering that they were but squaws and a few superannuated old men.
The massacre and burning in Wagoner's settlement occurred the day after the killing of the Indians near Table Rock (when Lupton was killed), and Mr. Swick says it was expected that the Indian who escaped fled and told his story, and that the burning and slaughter of whites was in revenge for that.
Dr. Kane says the report of an engagement near Wagoner's, in which twenty-five Indians were killed, is incorrect, as also the reported attack upon the Grave Creek House. He says but about forty Indians altogether had been killed when he left. The report of 106 killed was an exaggeration, as we supposed; for it did not appear where they were killed.
Dr. Kane came through on the wagon road, accompanied by Judge Deady, who came in to hold his court in Douglas County. Upon his return from Jackson County, he shouldered his rifle and repaired to the scene of trouble. Dr. Drew is at the ferry again. The mail carrier has now gone through.
The report of the Table Rock engagement given by "A Miner" [transcribed below] was written on the ground, and is well founded. The letter of Dr. Henry (of Yamhill) [transcribed below] was written some distance from there, and he was compelled to depend upon report for many of his facts. He evidently wrote under the influence of great mental excitement, and was too much excited for healthy judgment or counsel. He seems to be acting as commissary and quartermaster general.
Oregon Statesman, Corvallis, October 20, 1855, page 2
Rogue River Correspondence of the Statesman.On the 9th inst., an express arrived at Jacksonville bringing information of an attack of the Indians upon the settlers on Rogue River at or below the ferries, and desiring immediate assistance. Accordingly 15 or 20 men immediately left. Another express having been sent to Ft. Lane, Capt. Smith dispatched a detachment of 55 mounted men under the command of Maj. Fitzgerald. The volunteers and regulars joined forces, numbering in all about 85 men. Upon their arrival at the residence of J. B. Wagoner, his house, barns and outbuildings were burned to the ground and the charred remains of Mrs. Wagoner and her child, 4 years old, were found in the ruins. Some five or six of the volunteers being in advance of the main body discovered about 30 of the Indians in the chaparral back of the house, who immediately bantered them for a fight, when the major came up with the main body of his men and charged upon them, killing 6. The Indians fled to the mountains, being well mounted, and were pursued about 2 miles; but from the exhausted condition of the command from the 25 miles march already made, it was found impossible to overtake them. The pursuit was accordingly given up that they might proceed along the road for the protection of travelers and settlers upon it. Arriving at the residence of Geo. W. Harris, which was to appearances deserted, he was found dead within, shot through the breast with a jaeger rifle. Suddenly their attention was directed to Mrs. Harris and her daughter, 11 years of age, rushing from the chaparral near the house to them, blackened with powder and stained with blood. And here we have to report one of the most remarkable instances of female heroism and courage upon record, an account of which should be handed down to posterity as an instance of bravery in woman under the most trying and heart-rending circumstances. I will give the account in Mrs. Harris' own language, as nearly as possible:
EVANS' FERRY, Oct. 11, 1855.
At almost 8 or 9 o'clock of the morning of the 9th of October, 1855, as her husband was engaged in making shingles near the house and she was washing at the back of the house, he suddenly entered with the axe in his hand much alarmed, the house being surrounded by Indians, whose countenances and manner indicated that their intentions were not good. He seized his rifle, but in endeavoring to close the door was fired upon by them, the ball taking effect as before stated. Mechanically he discharged the gun twice at them, as she believes with no effect, and passing across the room fell upon the floor. The daughter in the excitement of the moment rushed out the front door, where she was shot through the right arm between the shoulder and elbow. The husband, reviving, encouraged his wife to bar the doors and load the guns of which there were a rifle, a shotgun and two pistols and revolver and holster pistol. She replied that she never loaded a gun in her life. He then proposed to give them presents to induce them to leave; she replied it would not answer, upon which he instructed her in the manner of loading the guns, and shortly after expired. She now was left entirely dependent upon her own efforts--her husband dead--her daughter severely wounded. Not discouraged, she commenced a vigorous discharge upon the savages, who were endeavoring to fire the house, having already burned the outbuildings. She then continued to defend herself and daughter, she watching at one end of the house and the child at the other, for eight hours, and until about sundown, when the savages, being attracted by a firing on the flats about a mile below the house, left to discover from whence it proceeded. She embraced the opportunity and fled to a small, isolated thicket or chaparral near the house, taking with them only the holster pistol. Having barely secreted themselves before the Indians again approached the house, but finding it abandoned, they commenced scouring the thicket, about 18 in number, all armed with rifles. Upon their close approach she discharged the pistol, which produced a general stampede. This was repeated several times and always with the same result until finally surrounding the thicket they remained till daylight. Her ammunition was now exhausted. She heard the approach of horsemen, at which the Indians became alarmed and concealed themselves in the rear of the thicket. She discovering the horsemen to be whites rushed out towards them, but they had advanced so far beyond that they did not discover her. They were the advance of the volunteers. Concealing herself again with the empty pistol in hand, the main body soon approached, when the savages precipitously fled.
Mrs. Harris having sent her little son, 10 years of age, to a neighboring house the evening previous, has not since heard from him, but he is supposed to be murdered. Also Frank Reed, the partner of Mr. Harris, is supposed to have been killed.
This party of Indians escaped to the mountains. The company proceeded as far as Grave Creek, where all was quiet, and it was deemed unnecessary to remain, and they accordingly returned this morning, both men and animals completely exhausted.
Capt. J. F. Miller takes charge of the volunteers tomorrow, to pursue the Indians, by request of Maj. Fitzgerald and the unanimous desire of the volunteers. He has just returned from Table Rock, at which place was fought a desperate battle at daybreak on the 8th. The Indians were completely routed, leaving 31 of their number on the ground. Of the whites, 12 were wounded, two mortally--Maj. J. A. Lupton and one Mr. Shepherd. Maj. L. was shot with an arrow in the left lung and lingered till 10 o'clock of the same day. His obsequies were celebrated at Jacksonville yesterday.
A sufficient force cannot possibly be brought into action on account of the great scarcity of arms [and] ammunition. The greatest patriotism is exhibited generally, and all the necessary resources are afforded most cheerfully by the inhabitants, as far as it is in their power to do so.
Following is the number killed as far as can be learned, and their names in the order in which they were killed. The Indians proceeded directly down the river. The first attacked were at or near Jewett's Ferry, a train loaded with mill irons. Mr. Hamilton was killed, and another, name unknown, wounded in four places. After firing upon Jewett's house, they proceeded to this place, which they reached about daybreak. Here they shot one Isaac Shelton of Willamette, en route for Yreka, who lingering for 20 hours, died this morning, Oct. 10. They next attacked the house of Mr. Jones, who was killed as before stated. From there to Wagoner's, shooting the 4 persons found upon the way, and from thence to Harris'.
Nos. 3 and 4: The men driving the apple wagon were found about 6 miles from the ferry, in the middle of the road; the first lay some 50 yards from the wagon, and the second about 100 yards from the same--wagon and loading burned; harness cut in pieces. Two of the horses supposed to belong to the wagon were recovered today by the volunteers, one a grey and the other a bay mare. A receipt drawn by Mark Abrams & Co. of Deer Creek is now in my possession and can be obtained at the Jacksonville P.O. of S. H. Taylor. A book was found in possession of one of the Indians, which purported to belong to one Geo. B. Miller. Orders, receipt &c. show him to have been a packer. Whether he was one of the deceased interred here we cannot learn. The book can be obtained at the Jacksonville P.O.
No. 3: 6 feet in height, tall, spare built, dark complexion, also dark hair, hazel eyes, large, prominent front teeth; deep blue undershirt, a mixed grey outside of it. Tweed pants with black buttons. Stockings with white feet and mixed grey legs--woolen.
No. 4: Supposed to be a brother of the preceding, also 6 feet in height; description same. Dressed in hickory shirt; mixed satinet coat, red lining, with figures of white. Fish hook and line were found in his pocket.
The two last individuals are supposed to be from Franklin nursery, Marion Co., O.T., as they were connected with teams freighted with apples, and near them was found a contract signed by one George Suttlemire, in favor of Sam Belshaw, the supposed name of the deceased.
No. 2: A middle-aged man, 35 or 40 years of age, 6 feet in height, light complexion, dark auburn hair, thick, heavy whiskers and mustache, large blue eyes, deep blue woolen shirt or frock, grey woolen pants with metal buttons. One shoe, no stockings. One wound just above the heart, passing out at the right of [the] backbone. Not recognized, particularly, but supposed to be a Mr. Cooper, of Albany, O.T.
(The above answers the description of an insane man named Hoag, who has been in Corvallis all summer, and started to the mines about a month ago. It was probably him.)
No. 1 was found about one mile and a quarter from Evans' ferry, fifty feet from road; was identified as being passed in the canyon on the 4th or 5th of this month; was riding a roan cayuse horse, driving ten or twelve head of beef cattle. Supposed to have been killed about 6 o'clock, a.m., Oct. 9.
No. 2 was found about two miles and a quarter from Evans' ferry. Evidently belonged to same party. A hat and whip were found about midway between the last two.
Mr. Jones was found at his residence, about four miles from the ferry, his house burned to the ground, and he nearly devoured by hogs. From appearances his skull was broken, as but a part of it was found. His wife received two wounds at the same time; is now at Illinois Valley, still alive.
Description of persons found killed upon the road between Evans' ferry and Mr. Wagoner's, and brought in and buried at said ferry Oct. 10, 1855:
No. 1: A young man, apparently about 25 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches in height, light complexion, sandy whiskers and mustache, blue eyes; dressed in a grey woolen undershirt, with linen bosom and collar, blue worsted and satin vest, figured, dark blue satinet coat, black horn buttons, blue neck handkerchief bordered with white, red and black in stripes, cotton socks, much worn, a buckskin glove upon the right hand, a huge scar upon the inside of right leg, just above the ankle, a small ivory-handled knife, with pipe and tobacco, found in his pockets. Supposed to be -------- Abbott, of Sterling.
The following persons vouch for the correctness of the given description of the deceased, and were present at their interment:
Lycurgus Jackson,Yours respectfully,
John F. Miller,
and 6 others.
J. G. WOODS.
Oregon Statesman, Corvallis, October 20, 1855, page 2 In 1858 B. F. Dowell listed the white casualties of October 9, 1855 as "Mrs. J. B. Wagoner; Mary Wagoner, a little girl; Mr. & Mrs. Jones; Mr. & Mrs. Haines; George W. Harris; David W. Harris; Frank A. Reed, Wm. Gwin, James W. Cartwright, Mr. Powell, Mr. Burch, Mr. Fox & Mr. Hill."
JACKSONVILLE, O.T., Oct. 11, 1855.Sir--We are again in the midst of the most terrible Indian war ever known to this country. I doubt not but you may search the annals of history in vain to find anything that exceeds, in savage barbarity, the deeds of these soulless miscreants, and I doubt much if there ever lived a more formidable savage foe to the white man than this band of Shasta Indians. No pains have been spared to endeavor to civilize them, but without avail. It is consummate folly to endeavor to anything with them but kill them off. On Monday morning last a company of volunteers attacked a band of Indians camped on the bank of the river, about one-half mile above Thompson's ferry on Rogue River, who had been annoying the settlers of Butte Creek all summer by their repeated petty thefts and depredations of various kinds. These Indians had been removed several times during the summer onto the reserve, but after staying a short time would uniformly return to their old camp ground, near the mouth of Butte Creek. The settlers' patience had become exhausted, and they were determined to teach them a lesson that they would not soon forget, and induce them to remain on the reserve. Accordingly they made preparation and marched down to Old Jake's camp at daybreak and commenced the attack. The troops from Fort Lane visited the ground immediately after the fight and found twenty-three dead bodies, eight grown men, four of whom were very aged, and fifteen women and children. An Indian boy, whose life was saved, says he saw two women more than were found, floating down the river. It appears from the statement of the Indian that all the principal men were absent, not apprehending danger, hence such a destruction of life of the women. The principal cause of that I infer to have been the fact that the women were not distinguishable from the men. The Hon. James A. Lupton received a mortal wound, from the effects of which he has since died. A young man by the name of ------ Shepard, also, was seriously wounded, probably fatally--several others slightly. The night following the difficulty, the Indians started down Rogue River, killing every person whom they met, stealing what stock they could find, taking some very fine American mares from Mr. Birdseye. Dr. Miller and Mr. Schieffelin, also, lost some fine horses and mules. At Mr. Jewett's ferry, as they passed, they killed one man and wounded two others. At Mr. Evans' they wounded two; one has since died. From there to Jump-Off Joe Creek every house was attacked and the inmates killed, though some escaped wounded. The most horrible act of all was the inhuman massacre of Mrs. Wagoner and infant daughter. Her husband was absent from home, and when he returned what an appalling sight met his eyes; some thirty or forty drunken Indians were dancing and reveling over some plunder they had taken from some wagons; his barn and grain and stock yard had been consumed by fire; his dwelling was yet standing, but before assistance could reach him it was also burned. Major Fitzgerald came upon the Indians there as they were leaving and saw ten on horseback, five of whom he killed under full jump for the mountains. A Mr. Jones was killed in his yard and his home burned; his lady and child made their escape. Mrs. Jones was seriously wounded. A Mr. Harris was killed at his home, his little girl wounded in the arm; his wife escaped. The troops reached there just in time to save her life. There were ten men found dead that day, and in all probability many more have been killed before this time; and before the close of the week I expect to hear still sadder news, for more desperate, reckless, daring, savage demons exist nowhere upon the face of the earth, and in all that constitutes savage maliciousness I doubt if they ever had an equal. Old Sam, chief of the Rogue Rivers, was solicited, coaxed and finally threatened with war against all his people if he did not join, but without avail. He took his men up into the mountains, where the hands were at work on the reserve, and protected them and the stock that belonged to the reserve. The young man employed to conduct the work on the west end of the reserve--the part that was set apart for the Shasta Indians--was murdered, his body horribly mutilated, cut across the forehead and face with an axe, from appearance while sleeping. The provisions and tools belonging to that part of the reserve were destroyed or taken off, and they left with a determination to fight as long as one was living and able to bear arms. As in the war of 1853, the Indians have all the guns in the country. Those Indians have each a good rifle and revolver, and are skillful in the use of them. They will, without doubt, unite with the Klamaths and all the disaffected Indians in the surrounding country; in fact, this little band of Shastas are the terror of all surrounding tribes, and many will join, believing them invincible; they never have been whipped, nor do they believe that white men can do it; hence the necessity of a war, although many valuable lives must be lost in consequence of it.
There will be, without a doubt, one hundred Indians, exclusive of the Klamaths, to contend with; and the Klamaths I know to be under the control of Old John, but I do not know how numerous they are. Sam and his people came into Fort Lane and claimed protection--were willing to give up their guns, and do anything, they say, to have peace.
Very respectfully,Oregon Statesman, Corvallis, October 20, 1855, page 2
While listening with eager attention for the war news from Rogue River Valley, while the late disturbances on the Klamath River are yet fresh in our recollection, and while we in Northern California may congratulate ourselves that the Klamath Indians are strangers to the Rogue Rivers in language and tradition, thus fortunately preventing a more intimate alliance amongst themselves; it behooves us to inquire into the main causes of these ever-recurring disturbances and point out the proper remedies.
The aggression of the whites upon the fishing and hunting grounds of the red man are sufficient reasons for the latter to feel inimical to our race, and he hardly needs the additional stimulus of some individual outrage, intended or supposed, to bring him out in open hostility. Our government has established reservations, whereupon to concentrate the different Indian tribes in the country, but the Indians are loath to leave their old rancherias, and without some additional incentives the process of removal can only be accomplished, if at all, in the course of several years. A mere exchange of locality is to the Indian no equivalent for the beloved soil of his fathers. The system of reservations ought therefore be connected with that of buying the land from such tribes as might be prevailed upon to remove. Appealing thus to their appetite and their cupidity in tendering a price for their lands we might reasonably look forward to a period when the Indians would be gathered under the immediate protection of the government troops and removed from the daily contact with the whites.
In a correspondence we find in the San Francisco Herald, dated Crescent City, and signed A.M.R. (A. M. Rosborough) the writer, formerly Indian agent in this northern section, expresses himself in the following manner upon this subject:
"It has been the policy of the general government in every other state and territory in the union to extinguish the Indian titles to their lands before the whites were allowed to settle upon them--in all the other states and territories the general government has been in the invariable habit of buying the Indian title to lands before extending the preemption laws over them, and authorizing the whites to settle upon them. In California, a most invidious distinction is made, to the detriment both of the whites and Indians. The federal government, upon the admission of California into the Union--now more than five years ago--reserved to itself the control and disposition of the public lands. In March 1853, an act of Congress extended the right of preemption to the public lands in this state, then wholly, and even yet mostly, unsurveyed. And yet, strange to say, no commissioner or superintendent or agent has been ever authorized to extinguish the Indian title to one foot of land in the state--no one has been authorized by the federal government with authority to buy a foot of land from the Indians during the five long years that have passed since California granted the control of the public lands within her borders to the United States government. For nearly three years now have the whites (by the passage of the preemption law) been thrown among the Indians, where necessarily collisions must take place, and yet no steps are taken to extinguish the Indian title--to buy the land of the Indians. Where is the sense of justice in the federal government gone when she, in the Atlantic States and Territories, and in Washington and Oregon Territories, pays the Indians for their lands, while in California she not only pays the Indian nothing for his land, but by her laws and dilatory action throws the whites and Indians together to butcher one another year after year, without as yet any prospect of relief to either party? By this means hundreds of whites and Indians have been slaughtered. The two races cannot live together in peace. The white vagabond, by his outrages, and the revengeful savage, have caused the death of hundreds of innocent persons, and, so far as can now be seen, 'the beginning of the end is not yet.' By reference to the acts of Congress, you will find the above statement correct. All experience has proven the undying tenacity of the Indian for his native soil, and to attempt to beg him on a reservation without means to excite his avarice, or power to excite his fear, is--in a great majority of cases--mere nonsense."
The subject of extinguishing the Indian titles by purchase has also, we understand, been repeatedly urged upon the government by the Indian agent of this state, and it is to be hoped some provisions will be made by the next Congress to meet the case. Even a large amount of money, appropriated for this purpose, must appear but as a trifle in comparison with the cost of a war and the waste and loss of life, time and property which it entails upon our citizens.
Crescent City Herald, October 31, 1855, page 2
A War of Extermination.
Since the breaking out of the Indian war in Rogue River Valley, and throughout Oregon, we hear it often said that nothing short of exterminating the Indians will give us peace and security. If this were really true, our prospects for a number of years to come would indeed be gloomy. Perhaps few consider how difficult, yes, impossible, the task of extermination would prove, if it should have reference to the warriors actually engaged in a war with the whites, for we will not believe that either individuals or communities would contemplate in earnest to slaughter premeditatedly the peaceable and innocent Indians. We believe it to be in the law of nature that the race of the red man should give way to the whites, and that ultimately he will disappear, or nearly so, from this continent, but we believe also that Providence, in its mercy, will accomplish this end without a necessity on the part of the whites to imbue their hands in innocent blood. Of the numerous tribes of Indians which once crossed over this continent, there is perhaps only a third, a fifth, or a tenth part left at the present time. Nevertheless, how few of them, comparatively, were killed in battle! Why, amongst the causes which effected the reduction of that race the wars of the white man figure but as a drop in the bucket, and thanks to a merciful Providence that it is so!
Peace, plenty and quiet seem to have been always more destructive to the Indians than war and excitement, which latter in his unfettered state compose the charms of his existence. Surround him with comforts, gratify his avarice and appetite--he grows dull and indolent, and sickness overtakes him; but drive him out into the mountains where he lives on acorns and the scanty products of the chase--he will thrive and multiply amongst the severest hardships. But if the benefits which civilization can bestow prove to be like fruits from the upas tree to the Indian race, what difference is then therein from destroying them by war? We answer that, even admitting the results of civilization to be equally destructive to the Indian, or more so than war, the effect which the two modes of proceeding have upon the white man are very different; by the one we cultivate the best feelings of our nature, kindness, generosity and solicitude for the fallen and forlorn; by the other the worst traits of character are developed in the conflict with an inferior enemy, unredeemed even by the prestige which accompanies victory in the strife with our equals.
Therefore, without any apprehension as to ultimate results, we have always applauded the Indian policy of the U.S. government which in its main features is friendly, conciliating, generous and forgiving. In its liberality towards the Indians it stands out in bold relief, as an exception to the narrow mindedness and cupidity of other governments that have come in contact with them on this continent, and its liberality has done much in compensation of wrongs inflicted by individuals upon this fallen race. There is no danger of the reservations getting too much crowded. In a few years the difficulty will be to keep up their numbers, and in ten years hence a few may have survived, perhaps identified themselves with civilization.
Past experience teaches us to consider war but as a necessary corrective, and would restrain us from looking upon it as either a ready or an efficient means of exterminating the Indians. No one can be more forcibly convinced than ourselves of the necessity of punishing hostile Indians promptly and summarily, but we feel also a great solicitude of preserving friendly relations with those who have not joined the armed bands which devastate the valleys in the interior. Prudence and good policy alike forbid us to swell the ranks of the enemy with a single warrior, if it can possibly be prevented. There are more than enough to them to be fought already. Volunteers going out as scouting parties have indeed a delicate task to perform, and much of our safety depends upon their discretion. We penned this article with the sole view of calling attention to the fallacy of that line of policy, which would look upon the present war as affording just and available grounds for exterminating the Indians without distinction.
Crescent City Herald, November 14, 1855, page 2
The Indian War in Rogue R. Valley.
The news from the seat of war is but meager. The troops left headquarters at Vannoy's on last Thursday for the "Big Meadows" further down Rogue River, where, according to recent information, the Indians had pitched their camp. A company of volunteers ascending from the mouth of Rogue River must have met them or kept them in check there some days previous, and it is to be hoped that they will not be suffered again to slip away as they did from Grave Creek. The sum total of the Indians in active hostility to the whites, as near as can be ascertained, is about 150, or at any rate does not exceed 200. They are not a tribe or tribes, but an assemblage of dissatisfied, homeless, roving, wild spirits, many of whom have for years lived amongst and with the whites there they learned the use of firearms and picked up many items, which they now turn to good account against their very employers. These circumstances and their isolated, abandoned character preclude all idea of obtaining peace with them this side of their graves. Not our own security only, but also the safety of all the peaceable Indian tribes, demand the extermination of this hostile band which is only a portion of a host of similarly disposed savages infesting the emigrant road from the boundaries of the western states to Washington Territory. It is not the specific grievances of a tribe or a number of tribes which we have to redress, but we have to deal with the passions and appetites of a collection of malcontents, who in their former intercourse with the whites have contracted habits, wishes and desires which they lack the moral courage to satisfy by honest and peaceable industry; consequently they take to the business of pirates, plundering, destroying and reveling, without considering for a moment that such a course cannot last.
We need not here repeat what has so often been stated, that in their intercourse with the whites they have secured in various ways arms and ammunition, which were doubly priced because they had to be obtained by stealth and cunning. The quantity they may have obtained through unprincipled traders in our own country, we think, is very insignificant, but it is well known that during the past summer a lively trade was carried on between them from the north, probably with the Hudson Bay Company, who were only too glad to furnish them the wherewith to annoy and trouble the "Bostons."
We have heard it remarked that in the present Rogue River war every Indian killed would cost the United States $3000. We consider this a low estimate. Another $3000 might be added which it costs the people directly in the suspension of business and the destruction of property. Look at our trade. In times of peace and quiet about $175.00 [sic] per month in gold dust taken from the mines passes through Crescent City. Now, mining has to a certain extent been temporarily suspended, trade has fallen to a mere one-third of its nominal amount, and that is in a great measure transacted with the money that had been saved prior to the present disturbances. Then after all these sacrifices we look upon a war, however urgent its necessity, as at best but a poor expedient to get rid of the Indians, and have, in a former article on this subject, endeavored to show that a peace policy will effect that end surer and speedier. It is with much satisfaction that we hear of the continued quiet and tranquility of those Indians on the coast and on the Klamath River who have never left their tribes and rancherias; even the formidable tribes, who two years ago were the principal actors in the then Rogue River war, are now to the number of some 300 peaceably on the the reserve near Fort Lane.
The dangers on the trail from here to Jacksonville are greatly lessened. Mr. Allen, a few days since, came through quite alone; and if the war can be confined to the Indians actually hostile, we consider that the worst of the troubles in that region is over. The intelligent soldier will feel it no less his duty to protect the peaceable and unoffending, as to punish the guilty Indians.
Crescent City Herald, November 28, 1855, page 2
Anson G. Henry
SPEECH OF DR. A. G. HENRY,
DELIVERED BEFORE THE CITIZENS OF CORVALLIS*,
ON THE EVENING OF DEC. 3D, 1855,
ON THE SUBJECT OF
THE PENDING ROGUE RIVER WAR.
PRINTED AT THE OFFICE OF THE OREGON ARGUS.
Fellow Citizens:--I appear before you tonight, with a view of correcting, as far as practicable, the false impressions that have been made [upon] the public mind in this valley through the columns of the Oregon Statesman, and over the official signature of the Executive of the Territory, in relation to the causes and progress of the Rogue River War; and I do so the more readily for the reason that I have taken an active part in the war from the day of the general outbreak to the time of being disbanded by the General Order of the Governor, No. 10, dated Portland, October 20th, 1855, and which was received by Capt. Smith, the commandant of Fort Lane (to whom the order was directed), on the 2d day of November following.
Oregon Territorial Capitol, Corvallis.It is no part of my intention to say anything that can with propriety be construed into a personal assault upon any gentleman here or elsewhere; and not withstanding I may in the course of my remarks animadvert with some severity upon the public acts of the Executive and his recognized organ, the Oregon Statesman, I wish it distinctly understood that I entertain no unkind feelings personally toward either Gov. Curry or Mr. Bush. I have only to do on this occasion with their public acts, which are legitimate subjects for criticism, both here and elsewhere.
Presumably this building is where this address was delivered.
I have said that false impressions have been made upon the public mind through the agency of the Executive, and his organ, the Oregon Statesman; and I will proceed in as brief a manner as practicable to give the evidence upon which this opinion is based--for I ask no man to take my statements for truth without proof, in preference to statements made by correspondents of the Statesman, and which are endorsed by the editor, and the deliberate declarations of the Executive of the Territory over his official signature.
The readers of the Statesman will sustain me in the assertion that the whole tone and tenor of its correspondence and its editorials, from the 20th of October up to the present time, have been to make the impressions: first, that the war was provoked by the outrages committed by citizens of the valley, and that the horrible massacres of Tuesday, the 9th of October last, would not have taken place but for the lawless attack made by the citizens under the lead of Maj. Lupton and Gen. Miller (both gentlemen of high character, and leading Democrats), on the Kiota ["coyote"] camp on Butte Creek, on Monday morning of the 8th of October last, the day before the general outbreak; secondly, that the force called into the field by Col. Ross, the legal military commandant of Rogue River Valley, were lawless parties of men, acting without authority of law, and with the view of waging a war of extermination against the Indians. But lest this may be questioned by some, I will make a few quotations from that sheet, and then submit the the course of the Statesman, in contrast with the real facts of the case, for your deliberate and unbiased judgment.
We copy from the editorial column of the Statesman of Oct. 20, the following:
"MATTERS SOUTH--Our correspondent 'Nottarts' mentions an attack upon a party of thirty-five Indians near Table Rock. We learn from Mr. Swick--who was also our correspondent's informant--the particulars of that attack to be as follows: the Indians were encamped there and consisted of men, women and children. In the night, a party of eighteen men (two others being stationed on the opposite bank of the river to pick off any who might chance to escape and attempt to swim across it) crept up near the camp and selected a place where they could fire in the camp, and step back a few steps and be out of sight of the Indians, until they were ready to fire again, when they could step up and fire & again retire from sight. As soon as it was light enough to discern the Indians, the attack commenced--being an indiscriminate slaughter of men, women and children. The Indians were surprised, and able to make little resistance and were soon all killed but one, who escaped. They had but two or three guns, and hit nobody with those. The only man killed, Major Lupton, representative elect, was shot through the breast with an arrow, by an Indian who was down and supposed to be lifeless or disabled. Another of the attacking party was badly, and it was feared mortally, wounded. None others were wounded. Mr. Swick informs us that this was done in revenge for the killing of Fields and Cunningham; that these Indians were not known to have had anything to do with any of the murders, or to be hostile, but that it was the purpose to make an indiscriminate slaughter of Indians. He says about 150 men were organized when he left, for the purpose of making war upon and exterminating Indians; that there were plenty of men and horses in the valley for the purpose; and that they wanted nothing but arms."
In the Statesman of Oct. 27th will be found the following, the concluding paragraph of a communication over the signature of "Nottarts," dated Winchester, Oct. 14th, 1855:
"I think there is but little doubt that beyond the depredations already committed, and lives lost, little further danger is to be apprehended. My informant reports ample force and supplies to exterminate the race, 'a consummation devoutly to be wished,' if a few reckless and irresponsible white men, who have been the first aggressors, could be made to bear them company to the other world."
The following paragraph will be found in a long editorial on the subject of our Indian wars, of the same date (Oct. 27th):
"Tho' hostile feelings had before existed south, the immediate cause of the outbreak, on the 9th, was the massacre near Table Rock on the 8th.--It is not probable that, without the massacre, an outbreak would have occurred at that particular time, and there is no reason to suppose that it would yet have occurred."
That the Statesman editor was anxious to make the impression on the public mind that the 9th Regiment of Oregon militia, called into the field by Col. Ross, by authority of law, were lawless parties of men acting without authority, is the fact that he represented Capt. Smith of the Regulars as having command, and that the battle was fought by the regulars and two companies of volunteers from the Northern Battalion under command of Capts. Bailey and Gordon, when he must have known that Col. Ross had the command, and consequently must have had with him a portion at least of his regiment. Hear what he says editorially in his paper of Nov. 10th:
"THE FIGHT SOUTH.--In the most of our edition last week, we gave a brief account of an attack upon the Indian camp in Rogue River, by a party of regulars and volunteers, in which the whites were repulsed, with a loss of three regulars and one volunteer killed, and twenty wounded--four mortally. The volunteer killed was a son of Rev. Jacob Gillespie, a member of the last Assembly from Lane County. He was in Capt. Bailey's company, of that Co., which was in the engagement. It is said no Indian was killed. * * * By dispatches received by us a few hours before news of the attack and repulse came, we learned that the Indians were encamped upon a high mountain, with their women and children, stock and plunder, which was heavy (much having been lately captured from wagons and pack trains); that they were too much encumbered to move readily, and had evidently planted themselves there for a fight. They had fortified so strongly that Capt. Smith, of the regulars, deemed it inadvisable to attack them with rifles, fearing he would be repulsed. His plan was to plant his howitzers upon an eminence three-fourths of a mile distant, commanding their camp, and from which he could throw shell and grape among them--first waiting until a sufficient number of men had arrived to afford three columns, each sufficient to whip the Indians; and stationing them so that the enemy could not make its escape without encountering one of them, he proposed to drive them from their camp and fortifications with the howitzers, and then attack them with rifles.--The attack was made earlier than the above plan could have been perfected, and we are inclined to the opinion that the men became impatient, and made a premature attack, which resulted as Capt. Smith feared. * * * * * The bravery and coolness of Capt. Smith, of the regulars, is spoken of in the highest terms, and he is represented as now having the fullest confidence of both regulars and volunteers. It is said that he held the open field, exposed to the fire of the enemy, and it is thought to be surprising that he escaped unharmed. His men also behaved well."
In the anxiety of the editor to keep Col. Ross in the background, and to laud Capt. Smith of the regular army, he has allowed himself to be betrayed into the political indiscretion of doing more than justice to the regular troops at the expense of the volunteer force, by bestowing unqualified praise upon them while he attributes the defeat of Captain Smith's well-laid plans to improper conduct on the part of the volunteers.
If the editor of the Statesman was misled by false representations to do an unintentional injustice to the brave volunteers engaged in that hard-fought and bloody battle, more destructive and bloody than the battle of Okeechobee, in Florida, in proportion to the number in the field, why has he not done them justice in his paper of Saturday last, after having been forced to admit that he has been imposed upon by his southern correspondents.--Why has he not mentioned in terms of commendation the gallantry of Captains Bailey, Breese, Rinearson, Gordon, Williams, Harris and Wilson, all of whom are justly entitled to as much credit as the editor has awarded so willingly to Captain Smith. Everybody on the ground knows that the commander, Col. Ross, was more exposed than Capt. Smith, and if it was "surprising," as alleged by the Statesman, that Capt. Smith escaped unhurt, it is still more "surprising" that Col. Ross was not shot down, and yet there is no mention by the Statesman of his having been on the ground.
It is well known to everybody in Rogue River Valley that Maj. Fitzgerald had no opportunity afforded him while in the valley for a display of his acknowledged gallantry. He was not in the battle of "Grave Creek Hills," being prevented by sickness, but his company was, under command of their orderly, the Lieutenant being left in the rear with the baggage. The company did not distinguish themselves above any one company of volunteers on the ground, and yet hear what is said in the Statesman last Saturday, editorially, of them, while no one of the volunteer companies under command of Col. Ross has ever been complimented with a notice of the fact that they were in the fight:
"Maj. Fitzgerald's command left here Tuesday morning, en route for the Dalles. The Major and his men have won a high fame south for gallantry and bravery, and the people in that section part with them reluctantly. We noticed that a large share of the men were 'domned furriners'."
A brave and chivalric man like Maj. Fitzgerald should rather consider himself insulted, than complimented, by such a notice, under all the circumstances, and will no doubt so regard it; for those who have won brevet ranks for gallantry in Mexico will not suffer themselves to be bedaubed with unmerited praise.
I will not spend time in furnishing further evidence to prove what I have charged as being the course of the Oregon Statesman in relation to the war. I will now proceed to give the evidence of the falsity of the charges made by the Statesman, and which were, without qualification, reiterated and endorsed by the Executive in the Order to which I alluded in the outset; and to remove all doubt on that point, I will read this most extraordinary document, before proceeding to the proof:
"GENERAL ORDERS, NO. 10.
"HEADQUARTERS, TERRITORY OF OREGON,"INFORMATION having been received that armed parties have taken the field in Southern Oregon with the avowed purpose of waging a war of extermination against the Indians in that section of the Territory, and have slaughtered without respect to age or sex a band of friendly Indians upon their reservation, in despite of the authority of the Indian Agent and the commanding officers of the United States troops stationed there, and contrary to the peace of the Territory, it is therefore ordered that the commanding officers of the battalions authorized by the proclamation of the Governor of the 15th day of October instant will enforce the disbanding of all armed parties not duly enrolled into the service of the Territory by virtue of said proclamation.
"Portland, Oct. 26, 1855.
"The force called into the service for the suppression of hostilities in the Rogue River and Umpqua valleys, and chastisement of the hostile party of Shasta, Rogue River, and other Indians now menacing the settlements in southern Oregon, is deemed entirely adequate to achieve the object of the campaign, and the utmost confidence is reposed in the citizens of that part of the Territory that they will support and maintain the authority of the Executive by cordially cooperating with the commanding officers of the territorial force, the commanding officer of the United States troops, and the special agents of the Indian departments in Oregon.
"A partisan warfare against any bands of Indians within our borders, or on our frontiers, is pregnant only with mischief, and will be viewed with distrust and disapprobation by every citizen who values the peace and good order of the settlements. It will receive no countenance or support from the Executive authority of the Territory.
BY THE GOVERNORNot the least remarkable feature of this document is the fact that all the allegations are couched in positive terms--nothing to indicate a doubt on the mind of the Governor of their truth; and yet we have the most conclusive and undeniable evidence, that all the allegations are false and unfounded in every substantial particular. I will take them up and dispose of them in the order in which the charges are made. And, first, "that armed parties have taken the field in Southern Oregon." The army in the field in Southern Oregon, at the time this order was issued, was called into the field by the legal and constitutional military commandant of that military district. They were regularly enrolled, supplies were regularly furnished by the legally appointed Quartermaster General, and everything was done in strict accordance with the military law of the Territory and military usage, as the records, journals, and accounts, kept by Col. Ross and Quartermaster General Miller, will show; consequently they were not in the technical sense, intended by the Governor, "armed parties," but were a regularly organized regiment of Oregon militia, called into service to meet an emergency that could not be met in any other way. It must be borne in mind that the first company of volunteers called into the field by the Proclamation of the Governor did not pass through the Canyon into the valley until the night of the 30th of October, twenty days after the general outbreak of the Indians.
E. M. Barnum, Adj. General."
The second allegation is that those armed parties "have slaughtered, without respect to age or sex, a band of friendly Indians upon their reservation." It is well understood that this charge has reference to the attack made by volunteers under the command of Maj. Lupton and Qr. Master Gen. Miller, on the morning of the 8th of October, the day before the general outbreak, and since this attack is charged as not only having been the cause of the war, but as justifying the allegation of the Governor now under consideration, I must be excused for spending more time with it than at first blush may be thought necessary. The allegation that this attack was made "on a band of friendly Indians, on their reservation," is so palpably false and unfounded, and known to be so by everybody at all acquainted with the bounds of the reservation, that I will not detain you with the proof, although it will be found incidentally proven by the evidence I shall adduce in proof of the falsity of the other allegations.
No well-informed man will question the statements of the Agent having charge of all the Indians in Southern Oregon, being the highest grade of evidence that can be adduced to settle questions now at issue; and I shall rely upon his statements mainly to sustain the charge I made of the falsity of the preceding allegation, and the charge that all these allegations were committed in defiance of his authority; as also that the war was brought on by the whites. The following will be found in a communication published in the Statesman of Oct. 20th, 1855, over the signature of "A Miner," and which, I am authorized to say, was written by the Indian Agent (Dr. Ambrose). If I have been misinformed, Mr. Bush knows and can set me right:
"JACKSONVILLE, O.T., Oct. 11, 1855."SIR--We are again in the midst of the most terrible Indian war ever known to this country. I doubt not but you may search the annals of history in vain to find anything that exceeds, in savage barbarity, the deeds of these soulless miscreants; and I doubt much if there ever lived a more formidable savage foe to the white man than this band of Shasta Indians. No pains have been spared to endeavor to civilize them, but without avail. It is consummate folly to endeavor to do anything with them but kill them off. On Monday morning last a company of volunteers attacked a band of Indians camped on the bank of the river about one-half mile above Thompson's Ferry on Rogue River, who had been annoying the settlers of Butte Creek all summer by their repeated petty thefts and depredations of various kinds. These Indians had been removed several times during the summer on the reserve, but after staying a short time would uniformly return to their old camp ground near the mouth of Butte Creek. The settlers' patience had become exhausted, and they were determined to teach them a lesson that they would not soon forget, and induce them to remain on the reserve. Accordingly they made preparation, and marched down to Old Jake's camp at daybreak, and commenced the attack. The troops from Fort Lane visited the ground immediately after the fight, and found twenty-three dead bodies, eight grown men, four of whom were very aged, and fifteen women and children. An Indian boy, whose life was saved, says he saw two women more than were found, floating down the river. It appears from the statement of the Indian that all the principal men were absent, not apprehending danger, hence such a destruction of life of the women. The principal cause of that I infer to have been the fact that the fight took place so early in the morning that the women were not distinguishable from the men. The Hon. James A. Lupton received a mortal wound, from the effects of which he has since died. A young man by the name of ------ Shepard also was seriously wounded, probably fatally--several others slightly. The night following the difficulty, the Indians started down Rogue River, killing every person whom they met, stealing what stock they could find, taking some very fine American mares from Mr. Birdseye, Dr. Miller and Mr. Schieffelin, also, lost some fine horses and mules. At Mr. Jewett's ferry, as they passed they killed one man and wounded two others. At Mr. Evans' they wounded two; one has since died. From there to Jump-off Joe Creek every house was attacked, and the inmates killed, though some escaped wounded. The most horrible act of all was the inhuman massacre of Mrs. Wagoner and infant daughter. Her husband was absent from home, and when he returned what an appalling sight met his eyes; some thirty or forty drunken Indians were dancing and reveling over some plunder they had taken from some wagons; his barn and grain, and stockyard had been consumed by fire; his dwelling was yet standing, but before assistance could reach him it was also burned. Major Fitzgerald came upon the Indians there as they were leaving, and saw ten on horseback, five of whom he killed under full jump for the mountains. A Mr. Jones was killed in his yard and his house burned; his lady and child made their escape. Mrs. Jones was seriously wounded. A Mr. Harris was killed at his house, his little girl wounded in the arm; his wife escaped. The troops reached there just in time to save her life. There were ten men found dead that day, and in all probability many more have been killed before this time; and before the close of the week I expect to hear still sadder news, for more desperate, reckless, daring, savage demons exist nowhere upon the face of the earth, and in all that constitutes savage maliciousness I doubt if they ever had an equal. Old Sam, chief of the Rogue Rivers, was solicited, coaxed, and finally threatened with war against all his people, if he did not join, but without avail. He took his men up into the mountains, where the hands were at work on the reserve, and protected them and the stock that belonged to the reserve. The young man employed to conduct the work on the west end of the reserve--the part that was set apart for the Shasta Indians--was murdered, his body horribly mutilated, cut across the forehead and face with an axe, from appearance, while sleeping. The provisions and tools belonging to that part of the reserve were destroyed or taken off, and they left with a determination to fight as long as one was living and able to bear arms. As in the war of 1853, the Indians have all the guns in the country. Those Indians have each a good rifle and revolver, and are skillful in the use of them. They will, without doubt, unite with the Klamaths and all the disaffected Indians in the surrounding country; in fact this little band of Shastas are the terror of all surrounding tribes and many will join believing them invincible; they never have been whipped, nor do they believe that white men can do it; hence the necessity of war, although many valuable lives must be lost in consequence of it.
"There will be, without a doubt, one hundred Indians, exclusive of the Klamaths, to contend with; and the Klamaths I know to be under the control of Old John, but I do not know how numerous they are. Sam, and his people, came into Ft. Lane and claimed protection--were willing to give up their guns, and do anything, they say, to have peace. Very respectfully,
A. BUSH, Ed. States. A MINER."
Am I not most fully sustained by the foregoing extracts in the positions I have taken?--that the war was not the result of the attack on the Kiotas' camp on Butte Creek on the 8th of Oct. last-- that they were not on the Reservation when attacked --that they were not friendly Indians; but on the contrary, got just what they deserved--that it was no part of the design of Maj. Lupton and General Miller to "slaughter them without regard to age or sex"--that they had left the Reservation in despite of his authority, after having been admonished of the consequences that would result from their disobedience--that the war was not brought on by the whites --that the only alternative now left for the citizens of the valley was to "KILL THEM OFF," or, in other words, to exterminate them.
In confirmation of the opinion of the Agent, and by way of showing that there is but one opinion in Southern Oregon upon the subject of the war; and that the charge so emphatically made here tonight by the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Territory of Oregon (Delazon Smith)--"That the war was gotten up by Drew, Ross, Henry & Co. for the purpose of swindling the government,"--owes its origin to his unscrupulous but fertile imagination; hear what the editors of the Table Rock Sentinel say upon this war question. This paper has recently been started in Jacksonville, and is edited by three gentlemen of high standing and character, and who cannot be presumed to be prejudiced in favor of the Whigs, being all prominent Democrats. We copy from the first number of that paper, published November 24:
"Much has been said about the war in Southern Oregon, and many persons [have] written, both North and South, giving their views of the rise and origin of the war. Some are for attaching the blame to one of the political parties, and others are for attaching the blame to another cause. We have given our views, in part, upon this subject, and will add further that we do not believe that either the Whig or Democrat party are liable for the war, or its consequences. And we here state that it is our honest conviction that so far as the war in this immediate section of country is concerned, that it had its origin as early as the fall of '54--not connected with any political movement whatever. And now that the Indians make no discrimination in their barbarous murders between Democrats and Whigs, let us--at least, in Southern Oregon--know none; acting, as we are, in the midst of a deadly savage war, in a sparsely settled country, surrounded by mountains and canyons well calculated to protect our common enemy, it certainly becomes the duty of every lover of his country, no matter what his political views may be, to unite his entire energies, soul and body, in the protection and defense of our common country.
"So far from having been suddenly driven to the field, for defense, everybody knows now that the Indians have been a long time preparing for war, and that they are better prepared with rifles, revolvers and ammunition than the whites.
"The many murders, thefts and robberies committed by the Shasta, Klamath, Applegate and Illinois bands, during the last three months, were not merely the result of their hostile disposition, but of the confidence which general concert and individual preparation had inspired, and which they were only waiting to more completely perfect, that they might commence with a more murderous and effective blow upon the whites.
"The attack upon the camps of the Kiotas may be considered the first act of the war, by those who consider the whites the aggressors, but properly the first acts of the war were the petty outrages of the Indians all over the country, and their murders of whites on the Illinois River, and the Humbug and Applegate, and the Siskiyou Mountains--for the last of which the volunteers pursued the murderers to the Kiota camps, where they had taken shelter, and attacked them, killing a portion of them and the Kiotas. The war came then, of course. It might have been precipitated upon the hostile bands before their plans were matured, but it did not find them unprepared, nor indisposed for war; and war in its most horrible forms. The war was not produced by this, nor by any other act of the whites in this region. It is simply the result of the same causes which have produced the war at the East and North--causes for which the whites--at least, in this valley--are not at all responsible."
While in Rogue River Valley the Indian Agent (Doct. Ambrose) did me the honor to read to me his official reports to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the months of August and September last, coming up to within eight days of the general outbreak. Those reports most fully sustain my positions. He represents an outbreak as certain to occur; recapitulates the murders that had been committed by the Indians, and declares that war now exists; says that the citizens of the valley had borne with the outrages as long as could be expected; that Indians from the Reservation were known to have been on Applegate at the time of the murder of the whites; that it was impossible to tell what particular Indians were hostile--has no confidence in any but Sam's band, &c., &c.--When those reports are given to the public, I venture the assertion that no candid man will believe for one moment that the citizens of the valley are in any way justly responsible for the war. It is to be hoped that the Superintendent will permit those reports to be published, as an act of justice to the citizens of Rogue River Valley; and also to relieve from embarrassment our delegate in Congress in his efforts to obtain appropriations for defraying the expenses of the southern war.
There is already enough of morbid sympathy existing at the North, and at Washington, in favor of the "poor persecuted Indian"; and should the allegations of the Governor, in his Order No. 10, and the opinion of the Statesman be permitted to remain uncontradicted, Congress will be more likely, in imitation of their Governor, to pass a law of outlawry against Southern Oregon, than to appropriate money for paying "armed parties that have taken the field in Southern Oregon, with the avowed object of waging a war of extermination against the Indians in that section of the Territory, and have slaughtered, without respect to age or sex, a band of friendly Indians upon their reservation, in despite [of] the authority of the Indian Agent, and the commanding officer of the United States troops stationed there, and contrary to the peace of the Territory." No man of sense can believe for a moment that Congress can be induced to appropriate one dollar for defraying the expenses incurred by our citizens while engaged in the perpetration of such flagrant acts of murderous outlawry, as above detailed over the official signature of the Executive of the Territory. Hence the importance of having the truth known at Washington at the earliest practicable period.
One word in retaliation to the amount of force required to carry on the southern war against the Indians, and give to the settlers in the valley that protection which they have a right to claim from the Government.
In a letter written to the Statesman, and published on the 20th of Oct. last, I urged that a force of two thousand men should be brought into the field with as little delay as practicable; and I sustained this opinion by referring to the history of the Black Hawk War in northern Illinois and Wisconsin, which occurred in 1832. I showed that although there was an open, level prairie country, while ours in Rogue River valley was worse to find Indians in than the hammocks of Florida; and the number of Indians in the field about the same as those reputed to have been with Black Hawk, and far more warlike in their character; and yet we had in the field on that occasion one thousand regular troops under command of Maj. Gen. Scott, and two thousand volunteers, and with this large force the war lasted six months; and I made the fair and logical deduction, that five thousand would not be a larger proportionable force, considering the natural obstacles to be overcome, than was the three thousand in the Black Hawk War. But the Statesman saw proper to ridicule my opinions, and caution his readers against adopting them, and the next week expressed the opinion that two hundred men would be amply sufficient to carry on the war. Hear what he says under the editorial head in his paper of Oct. 27, 1855:
"Capt. Limerick, of Jacksonville, prominent in Indian troubles in the south in times past, was here this week, on his way to Rogue River. He expresses the opinion that a couple of companies of one hundred men each, such as they have in Rogue River, will be amply sufficient for the campaign in that section. The Captain's experience entitles his opinion to weight."
Capt. Limerick repairs to the south, clothed with authority from the Governor to execute his Order No. 10, by driving from the field Col. Ross, just at the moment when he had perfected his arrangements for renewing the attack upon the Indians that were known to be awaiting his return, near the old battle ground. He was clothed with no direction;--his orders were positive and unconditional, to disband all armed parties that were not enrolled under the proclamation of Oct. 15, 1855.
It was in vain that we urged that the Governor could not have known the condition of things in the valley at the time of giving him his instructions. That there were not then troops enough in the field if all were retained. That it would be a great hardship to drive out of the service those who had just returned from a hard-fought battle, and who were then ready and anxious to return and retrieve the consequences of their former defeat. But all these reasons could not avail anything; the mandates of the Governor were like the laws of the Medes and Persians, unchangeable. The companies of Captains Rinearson, Harris, Wilson, George and Lewis must be disbanded to make room for a new organization, under Democratic leaders; and while this was being done the Indians were gathering confidence and strength in their mountain fastnesses, making arrangements for making war upon the unprotected settlers in the Umpqua Valley, as they have so recently done.
The two independent battalions are formed, and the gallant "Billy" Martin takes command by virtue of his seniority--certainly not on the score of merit. He repairs to the Meadows, on Rogue River, 400 strong, and finds there the same Indians we had fought for a day and a half, with a loss of 37 in killed and wounded, out of a force of 324 men. He attacks them and retires after the first fire, with a loss of one man killed and five wounded; sends for the two parts of companies left in the Umpqua, for its protection, to reinforce him before renewing the attack.
Simultaneously with the arrival of his messenger in the Umpqua Valley, the Indians make a descent upon the valley, destroying whole families that had been ridiculed by the Statesman for indulging in "unnecessary fears and apprehensions." The volunteers left in the valley fly to the defense of the settlements; are met by the Indians and driven from the ground with severe loss; and no doubt a messenger will soon arrive from Maj. Martin, or the officer in command, asking for more troops.
Who will be held responsible for withdrawing from the Umpqua the volunteers needed for its protection to the Rogue River Valley, to fill the vacancies caused by disbanding the six companies under command of Col. Ross? Let those who have labored to create the impression that two companies were "amply sufficient" for prosecuting the southern war, and for the protection of our citizens, answer; and then let them, if they can, raise from their premature graves those now slumbering there as a consequence of the ignorance and inexcusable partisan zeal of those placed in authority.
The gentleman from Linn (Mr. Smith) has called to the stand two witnesses (Doct. Stone and Capt. Tichenor, from Coos County) for the purpose of sustaining the positions assumed by the Statesman and Governor Curry in his Order No. 10; and well have they responded to his call--especially Dr. Stone, who has testified to more than could have been contracted for by my friend, Mr. Smith. He not only confirms all that has been charged heretofore by the Statesman, and his most unscrupulous correspondents from the south, but he swears that there were not on the ground, during the battle of Grave Creek Hills, to exceed forty Indians, including squaws and children; he knows there could not have been more than this number, all told, FOR HE SAW AND COUNTED THEM. He also expresses the confident opinion that Col. Ross and Capt. Smith "went into the battle with the fixed and settled purpose of being whipped." He also announced himself the author of the communication in the Statesman of Dec. 1, signed "Edgar." That article, and his statements just made, are known to be so unqualifiedly false and unfounded that I should not have noticed them if they had not been endorsed and commented upon by the "very distinguished gentleman" from Linn (Mr. Smith).--As thoroughly steeped as he has shown himself to be in party malignity, by making it a matter of boasting that he has signed Bush's petition to the Governor to remove from the offices connected with the pending Indian wars all those who voted for Governor Gaines at the last election; could find it in their hearts to believe a charge so unnatural and damning as the one made against Col. Ross and Capt. Smith by this man Stone. I need not say the charge is false and unfounded, for no one will believe it but those who have signed that petition, and who are ready to believe all manner of evil against their political opponents, and who would hang every Whig and Know Nothing in the Territory upon the highest trees of the forest, as traitors to their country, if in their power, and they found it necessary to secure the accomplishment of their partisans' purposes.
If the Governor yields to the demands made upon him by the Statesman, Smith & co., where will be an end to all harmony and efficiency in the prosecution of the war. If it is to be purely a Democratic war, none but Democrats can with propriety participate in it, without a sacrifice of all personal self-respect.
* * *Photocopy in the Rogue River Indian War vertical file, Southern Oregon Historical Society
At the hazard of wearying your patience, I must notice the implied, if not distinct, charge of cowardice displayed by Col. Ross and Capt. Smith in the battle of Grave Creek Hills, made by Capt. Tichenor on the authority of Lieut. Kautz and his party, of Port Orford, who took part in the engagement; and which has been endorsed and so severely commented on by Mr. Smith. The statement of Mr. Tichenor is that Lieut. Kautz and his party of ten men had fought the same band of Indians a few days previous to the battle of Grave Creek Hills, for several hours; while securing a safe and orderly retreat; removing from their pack animals their ammunition, lest it fall into the hands of the Indians during the fight, the moment they were attacked; and he confirms the statement of Stone as to the probable number of Indians that whipped Col. Ross and Capt. Smith with their 324 men; and Capt. Smith is represented as having committed the capital error of attempting a charge with the dragoons under his command, through thick tall brush, where he met with his principal loss. All I have to say about this is that nothing of all this was talked of on the ground, or before or after the fight, to my knowledge; and while I do not claim any great credit for the result of that long, protracted and hard-fought battle, I must be permitted to say that so far as I had an opportunity of judging, the officers and men behaved on that occasion with quite as much gallantry as was to have been expected under the circumstances. The failure to rout and destroy them was attributable to the number and strong position of the enemy, and not, as has been so confidently charged, want of courage and generalship on the part of officers and men. Those who are so free to criticize the conduct of those of us who were there, while they took care to remain at home, or in a place of safety, had better go out and try their hand; but it seems that Maj. Martin, who has been so much eulogized by the gentleman, by way of disparaging Col. Ross, and those under his command, with a larger force has done even worse.--But the charge of cowardice so freely hurled against those that have at least been within the reach of the enemy's bullets, and smelt gunpowder in defense of our frontier settlements, comes with an ill grace from a man that has never been known to face danger in any shape or form in defense of a flag that he has spent half a lifetime in defending and lauding with his tongue. Where was he in the Mexican war? and where was he when his own county was raising her two companies for the present war? I answer, where he ever has been, and where he ever will be found, on the rostrum, exhorting, with an eloquence and vehemence so peculiarly his own, his fellow citizens to go where he dare not lead.
I shall publish what I have said on this occasion, with all the evidence I have adduced in support of my position; and I shall submit the questions discussed to the people of Oregon, with the firm conviction that they will make a decision that shall do justice to Southern Oregon, and unite the whole people of the Territory in bringing to a speedy conclusion, the wars now menacing the peace and gaiety of our frontier settlements; and aid the efforts now making by our delegate in Congress to secure, at as early a period as practicable, compensated for all the losses and expenditures that have been, or may hereafter be, incurred.
*Corvallis was the territorial capital at the time this speech was delivered.
CRESCENT CITY, Cal., Nov. 12, 1855.
The Rogue River War--History of the Affair--First Collisions--Immediate Causes of the Conflict--The Fights--Killed and Wounded--A Brave Woman--Action of the Troops--Volunteer Discipline--Indian Cunning.
I have just returned from the Rogue River Valley, now the scene of a bloody Indian war, the history of which may not be uninteresting to your readers.
Frequent collisions have occurred during the past summer, between dissatisfied Indians and renegade whites, occasioning acts on both sides that have finally resulted in a general war.
The more immediate causes, as near as I can ascertain, are the murder of a man and boy on Siskiyou Mountain, on the road from Yreka to Jacksonville, in August last. [The date was September 25, 1855.] A party of volunteers was organized, and they maintain to have traced the murderers to the Indian reservation near Fort Lane, and two Indians, on their evidence, have been arrested, and are at present in confinement at the fort, awaiting trial, much to the disgust of the volunteers, who, anxious to inflict a more summary punishment, secretly organized an expedition under Maj. Lupton, and attacked a portion of "Old Jake's" band, who had obtained permission to go up for some provisions to Butte Creek, and had left the reserve for that purpose, when they were attacked by Lupton's party, on the morning of the 8th of October, at daylight, the result of which attack was that three warriors, four old men, and the rest--women and children--amounting in all to twenty-seven--were killed; one a child six months old, tied to its basket cradle. This is the number, as ascertained by Lieut. [Nelson Bowman] Sweitzer, First Dragoons, who was sent up to bury the dead. A wounded Indian, supposed to be dead, succeeded in shooting an arrow that inflicted a mortal wound, causing Maj. Lupton's death. One other white man was wounded by an arrow, which was all the loss the whites experienced.
On the next morning, Oct. 9, the war began, and the first woman or child met by Indians was killed. Seven Shasta Indians left the reserve at Evans Creek, after killing a young man employed on the reserve by the agent, and going down Rogue River they fired on the people at Jewett's Ferry, without effect. They proceeded on down the river to Evans' Ferry, where they fired into a party of white men encamped nearby, and killed one man. They proceeded then along the Oregon road, and killed all the travelers and inhabitants along the road to "Jumpoff Joe" Creek; among them Mrs. Jones and child and Mrs. Wagoner and child. At Harris', the last house, they met with a desperate resistance from Mrs. Harris. Her husband was shot in the door. Dragging him into the house, she barricaded the doors and he lived long enough to instruct her in the use of the rifle, and all that afternoon she kept them at bay. They went off in the evening, and fearing their return to fire the house in the night, she seized her wounded child and made her escape into an adjoining thicket, with her store of ammunition in her apron, and by firing with a revolver whenever the Indians approached her hiding place in the night, she kept them off till daylight, when she was relieved by Major Fitzgerald's command, who had received information of the depredations committed on the road the morning before, and had pursued them thus far.
The little band of Shastas was joined by George's band of about thirty warriors at Wagoner's, on Louse Creek, and when Major Fitzgerald came up on them at Harris', he succeeded in killing five or six of them, and the remainder escaped into the mountains.
From the 12th to the 15th of October the Indians appeared on Rogue River, about the mouth of Grave Creek and Galice Creek, killing the miners and traders in that vicinity and robbing the Chinese. The numbers of the Indians increased, and between the 20th and 25th they made a descent on Cow Creek, killing a number of the settlers and driving off a great deal of stock and destroying much more. In the meantime the inhabitants at every exposed point fortified themselves with stockades, and volunteer companies were organized that scoured up and down the roads usually traveled; the troops from Fort Lane and Fort Jones were out searching for the Indians to bring them to battle. Two weeks had elapsed, and not an Indian had been seen by the troops, and by no one else, except where they appeared at some unprotected point. Lieutenant Kautz, 4th Infantry, had left Fort Orford with a detachment of ten men to reconnoiter a road from Fort Orford to Fort Lane. Ignorant of the existing war, he came suddenly upon an encampment of Indians on the dividing ridge between Cow Creek and Grave Creek. The movements of the Indians were hostile, and he prepared for an attack. The Indians fired first, and the fire was returned. The skirmish lasted for half an hour, when the Indians succeeded in flanking his party and bringing down the Lieutenant and two of his men. A panic seized the rest and they fled. The two men were killed instantly; the Lieutenant escaped with a slight wound, the ball having been prevented from taking effect by a memorandum book in a pocket on his right side. Unable to rally his men, they retreated and made their escape with the loss of all their mules and everything except their arms and the notes of the reconnaissance.
They reached Harkness' station, on the Oregon road, twelve miles distant, at two o'clock at night. He sent an express to Major Fitzgerald, who was then stationed at Evans' Ferry, twenty miles distant. He arrived that evening. On the 27th they went upon the ground where Lieutenant Kautz had fallen in with them. The Indians had removed their camp along the ridge about three miles. The bodies of the two men were found scalped and mangled, and were buried by the troops. The camp which the Indians had given up indicated that they had been collected in considerable numbers and in a very favorable position for defense, and the Major decided that he would not attack them, as his command of seventy men was not considered large enough for a complete success, the desire being to overthrow the Indians at a blow.
Captain Smith arrived at Harkness' station on the evening of the 27th, and took command. Major Fitzgerald returned to Fort Lane sick, as his constitution is very feeble. Information was sent to all the volunteers in the valley, and Captain Smith concentrated all his regular force, amounting in all to about one hundred and thirty regular troops. Colonel Ross arrived on the evening of the 30th, increasing the united forces of regulars and volunteers to near four hundred. A plan of battle was decided upon to attack the Indians on four sides, and on the night of the 30th, about 12 o'clock, they all moved. They came upon the old camp where Lieutenant Kautz had met the Indians, and three of the parties found themselves together. It was now daylight, but not too late, however, to separate the commands. But the guide having pointed out the position of the Indians, the officers in command decided that there were no Indians. The guide insisted that they were there and that it was necessary to move immediately. Still they delayed, although one party had gone to the westward, and it was necessary that the other three should cooperate. It was a cold, foggy morning, and the men built fires. No sooner had the smoke begun to ascend than the opposite hill was alive with Indians, collecting their stock and preparing for an attack. The volunteers, with their usual disregard of order, set out down into the gulch that intervened and up the opposite side, instead of continuing along the ridge, which made quite a bend. It was fifteen hundred feet down and as many up again. The guide proposed to Capt. Smith to keep on the ridge, but he followed the volunteers, and they were completely worn out when they came upon the Indians.
The attack was made on the east side along the ridge, and the other party having come in on the south side, the Indians gave up their camp upon a knoll and having sent their women and children with their stock along the ridge to the westward, they defended their retreat by taking up a position just over the next kink in the ridge, where they could command the knoll they had abandoned. The south side of the ridge was covered with heavy timber and dense undergrowth. The ardor of the volunteers was checked by seeing two or three of their companions fall. There was no order or system in the attack; the troops were mixed up without regard to corps or companies; the officers did not pretend to exercise any control, and a system of skirmishing was kept up by about thirty volunteers and as many regulars for several hours without making any advance upon the Indians; the others were behind, and it was in vain that those in advance called upon those in the rear to come on. Some of the volunteers actually left the field in the first onset, and never returned. Capt. Smith tried to get up several charges, but as he did not lead them himself, and that alley were in reality impracticable from the thickness of the brush, as an Indian could fire twice before the party making a charge could advance fifty yards; and even if the Indian was routed out of his position, he had only to retreat a few yards and his position was as good as the one he abandoned, and so for almost any distance. The regulars lost two men and six wounded in these charges. Having marched all night and fought all morning, without breakfast and without water, by noon even the few who did fight in this disorderly engagement were worn out, and gradually hauled off, and only random shots were exchanged during the afternoon. The train had been left some three miles back with three days' provisions on the old camp ground of the Indians, but no arrangement being made to bring up the train, they had to camp that night without provisions, and for the sake of water they moved off into a little gulch, and left the battlefield to the Indians.
The night was cold and wet, and with nothing to refresh them but the water from the dirty little spring, and little brush fires, it seemed interminably long, for it was impossible to sleep, the sides of the gulch being so steep that the men with difficulty could get a foothold. The camp had nothing to recommend it but the water, and almost everyone felt that an attack during night would prove very fatal. So strong did this feeling prevail that about eight or nine o'clock in the night a sentinel with his revolver cocked, either in the tremor of the cold or his own fears, pulled the trigger too hard--it went off, the report created a general stampede and sound that [men] scrambled over the wounded regardless of their shrieks; a dreamy volunteer thus suddenly disturbed [illegible] a gun; it proved to be a musketoon with a ball and three buckshot; and he fired at what his imagination conceived to be the foe, and succeeded in inflicting a very respectable wound each on three of his volunteer companions. Order was restored and nothing more transpired that night.
But at daylight the next morning the Indians made an attack on the whites, and for two hours a fire was kept up, wherein the loss of the whites was but light--Lieut. Gibson, 3rd Artillery, was wounded; the loss of the Indians was greater, but probably not over two killed or wounded. The arrival of a large company of volunteers, mounted, from the Willamette Valley, compelled the Indians to retire. The wounded were then put on litters or on horseback and between twelve and one they left that ill-fought field to the Indians and reached Harkness' station on the morning of the 2d of November, between two and three o'clock, not having eaten or slept since they left it on the night of the 30th. The whites lost in all ten killed and twenty-seven wounded. Two of those killed were shot by our own men, and a third killed himself. Two others, besides the three wounded in the night stampede, were also wounded by our own men, and the surgeons who have attended the wounded gave it as their opinion that many more of the wounded were sufferers in the same way. The regulars and volunteers were to organize again about the 9th for another fight. They may find the Indians and they may not; at any rate, they will be more difficult to conquer now than then, and it is not difficult to predict a second defeat. It is not thought that there is any combination between the Rogue River Indians and those on the east side of the Cascade Range.
The Indian force in the above engagement is variously estimated from seventy to one hundred and fifty.
U.S."Our California Correspondence," New York Herald, January 31, 1856, page 3
A correspondent in the Rogue River Valley, Oregon [likely John Beeson], writes us that the account of the bloody slaughter of the whites by the Indians, alluded to in the December issue of the Journal, only gave one side of the story. The papers there were full of accounts of Indian outrages and treachery, but none gave an impartial statement, and our correspondent wishes to give our readers a correct idea of things as they actually exist, realizing the high position the Journal occupies with reference to the social condition of mankind. He says that the present war is openly advocated as being sanctioned by the Bible and Phrenology. The one, they hold, teaching that "these tribes are analogous to those whom the Israelites destroyed; and we, being God's peculiar favorites, are authorized to destroy the Philistines, and possess the land; and the other, that the Indians have thick skulls and stupid brains, and that destiny and duty alike enjoin their extermination from the earth." This sentiment, he says, is general and deep, though held by persons who know but little of Phrenology.THE INDIAN'S WRONGS.
He rightly says that "the true teachings of science, especially Phrenology, as well as of the gospel, should be 'good will and glad tidings for all.' The Indians here are much superior to those east of the Rocky Mountains; they are generally of fine figure, and many of the women are really pretty. Unlike the eastern Indians, they readily learn our language, imitate our manners, and adopt our dress. They did not leave our settlements till driven by fear, or repulsed by unkindness, they were necessitated to combine for self-protection. Unprincipled men would foment war between the tribes; then each were anxious for arms and ammunition; these were given for the gratification of lust; foul disease soon spread; disgust, abuse and cruelty followed. A horse was missed; a company formed to attack an Indian ranch; some were killed, the rest fled. The horse came home, and had not been stolen. The Indians retaliated, a few days later, by shooting two men, near the place of the first attack. Then reports of Indian threats and savage murders were in every mouth. The alarm was mutual. Then followed the scenes alluded to in your Journal, The companies organized, under Lupton and others, with the avowed purpose of killing every Indian in the valley. Lupton and a few others went to those ranches, two days before the attack, and assured the Indians there was no intention of war. This was done to put them off their guard. The assailants crept around them in the dark, and at early dawn commenced the slaughter of men, women and children; and this was called 'a battle, in which our troops were signally victorious.' Some escaped, aroused their friends, and then followed the retaliation of burning and killing. But the Indians do not half the damage they could do; they are satisfied with a house for a ranch, or life for life. No quarter is shown to the sick, or the prisoner, and numbers have been slain who were in the employ and living on terms of friendship with white families. One whole tribe was killed who were in no way concerned in the war, and were actually on their way to the fort for protection.
"The settlers generally are heartily tired of the war, but it is too humiliating to sue to Indians for peace. The latter say there is no use in making treaty, for the whites always break it, and they feel more safe to watch and fight in war than to profess peace, and have no protection from violence. They say there were more of their men shot before the war than since, as the laws for the protection of Indians were not enforced, and lust, avarice and revenge rioted upon them with impunity. The motive with many to protract the war is that it will bring thousands of money from Uncle Sam, and they are making large bills against [the] government."
American Phrenological Journal, April 1856, page 85
THE INDIAN WAR ON THE PACIFIC.
Editorial Correspondence of the Tribune:
Washington, Monday, March 31, 1856.New York Daily Tribune, April 2, 1856, pages 4-5 Lane's speech before Congress, referred to in the first paragraph, is transcribed here.
The morning, after the hour devoted to preliminary business, Mr. L. C. Campbell got the House into committee and called up a bill just reported by him from the Ways and Means, based on Gen. Lane's Oregon war bill that he undertook to rush through on Friday, but failed. The bill, as reported, appropriates $300,000 to be used by the President in making peace, or in preserving amicable relations with the tribes which have thus far been friendly, and $120,000 more for the purchase of powder wherewith to prosecute the existing war. In what proportions the money and the powder are to be used is not indicated otherwise than by the relative amounts appropriated in each item, but it is safe to calculate that the Indians will get precious little of either powder or money, however amply they may be supplied with ball. Mr. Allison of Pa. spoke against the appropriation, quoting from Gen. Wool's dispatches to prove that this war is an iniquitous fraud; Gen. Lane of Oregon and Mr. Anderson of Washington spoke volubly on the other side, and a general discussion ensued, which I left in full blast at 4½ o'clock. The House sat much later, but to little purpose. I presume the bill will be finally got out of committee and passed tomorrow. Fight the war out, subdue or exterminate the enemy, and then inquire whether our people were right or wrong in commencing it--this sentiment was distinctly avowed in the debate, though not so haughtily as in the Mexican War. And while Congress is going through the forms of putting into the President's hands money that he has not asked for, to be used no one tells us how, let me endeavor to glean from an official document (Exec. No. 26) the origin and causes of this deplorable conflict.
I do not believe Indians all saints any more than white men. On the contrary, they are barbarians, often cruel, sometimes treacherous, but seldom ungrateful for kind, considerate treatment. Three humane Quakers, sent into Oregon as Indian agents five years ago and kept there to this date, with funds and full powers, might have kept every Indian tribe west of the Rocky Mountains kindly disposed toward our people for one quarter of the sum this war will cost, and extinguished their claims to at least half their lands. Instead of this, our emigrants are pitched in upon them without arrangement or notice--many of them rough western specimens, who consider the rights of Indians on a par with those of bears and wolves. These emigrants take unceremonious possession of the best lands, fisheries and every other resource, driving off the savages who hold them by immemorial inheritance, as if they were so many flies. Of course, hatreds, collisions, revenges [and] massacres are all but inevitable.
On the 20th of August, 1854--more than eighteen months ago--it appears that a party of emigrants to Oregon were attacked by a band of Snake Indians on the Boise River, near Fort Boise, and several of them massacred--the number does not distinctly appear--and a considerable amount of booty taken.
Last summer a small detachment of regulars, under Major Haller, was dispatched to the scene of this slaughter, where they were met by the tribe to which the offenders belonged. Their chiefs, after a parley, agreed to surrender the offenders, and did surrender four--all they could find--who were tried by a court martial, admitted their guilt, were convicted and sentenced to execution. Three of them were hanged on the graves of their victims; the other, attempting to escape, was shot. The alleged cause of their attack on the white party the preceding year was the carrying off of a squaw by a white man, who was killed in the massacre. It seems that the man had bought the squaw for a horse, but the seller could give no title, having stolen her. No other motive was alleged, but it is probable that plunder was one incitement to the crime. But it does not seem that this crime and its punishment were a cause of the present war.
As early as July last, the U.S. military officers in Oregon reported to their superior, Gen. Wool, that the whites were behaving badly. Here is a specimen, from Gen. Wool's official reports:
"Upward of a hundred Indians, chiefly women and children, have collected for protection on the military reserve at Fort Jones. Captain Judah informs me that there are constant threats of a night attack upon his post, for the purpose of killing these inoffensive people, but that he has made known that he shall repel force by force. It is found necessary to issue flour and beef to the Indians thus collected on the reserve, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs declining to subsist them.
"At a council held by the Oregon Superintendent, thirty miles from Fort Orford, an Indian shot a white man. As usual, the Indian was demanded, that he might be hung. He was protected by the detachment of troops from Fort Orford, and, while being conducted to be given over to the civil authority, in charge of a constable, and guarded by a corporal's guard, the boat in which he was was pursued by a party of whites, who fired into the boat, killing the prisoner and the Indian who was poling the canoe. The corporal warned the party, before they fired, to keep off, and returned their fire, killing three of them; the rest gave up the pursuit."
On the 24th of October last, Gov. Curry of Oregon wrote to the Secretary of War that he had reliable information that the Yakimas, Klickitats and disaffected spirits from other northern tribes had united to make war on the whites--that A. J. Bolon, a sub-Indian agent, had been treacherously murdered by the orders of Kamiakin, a Yakima chief; that Maj. Haller, at Fort Dalles, had a very inadequate force; and that Maj. Rains, commanding on Columbia River and Puget Sound, had not men enough to meet and beat the enemy; wherefore he (Gov. Curry) had called out eight hundred volunteers, fully armed and equipped for a three months' campaign, "trusting entirely to the justice of Congress for reimbursement." He expressed apprehension that the settlers in Rogue River Valley (whence we have the last report of Indian massacre), "roused to frenzy by repeated outrages," "will have utterly exterminated the Indian race in that valley before an organized force takes the field," and assures the Secretary that "the utmost prudence and economy will be enforced" in the details of his rather serious operations.
Here it will be seen that no requisition was made by Gov. Curry on Gen. Wool, military commander on the Pacific, nor was ever a requisition made on Gov. Curry for volunteers by any United States officer except Maj. Rains, commanding at Fort Vancouver, who asked for four companies to reinforce the regulars about to march to the relief of Maj. Haller, beleaguered at Fort Dalles. All the rest of Gov. Curry's operations appear to have been commenced and carried on without any encouragement from or understanding with the United States military officers who ought to have directed in such matters.
On the 11th October Gov. Curry issued his proclamation, calling out eight companies of mounted volunteers. On the 15th he proclaimed again, calling for nine companies more. On the 20th his Adjutant General issued "General Orders" which threw considerable light on the origin, authorship and animus of this war. He states that a force has been called out adequate to the requirements of the service, and preludes thus:
"Information having been received that armed parties have taken the field in southern Oregon, with the avowed purpose of waging a war of extermination against the Indians in that section of the Territory, and have slaughtered, without respect to age or sex, a band of friendly Indians on their reservation, in despite of the authority of the Indian agent and the commanding officer of the United States troops stationed there, and contrary to the peace of the Territory, it is therefore ordered that the commanding officers of the battalions authorized by the proclamation of the Governor of the 15th day of October instant, will enforce the disbanding of all armed parties not duly enrolled into the service of the Territory by virtue of said proclamation."
Nov. 3rd, Gen. Wool writes officially from Benicia, as follows:
"Sir: I have the honor to report that since my last letter the Indian troubles in this department have very much increased. In Rogue River Valley, the threats of the whites to commence a war of extermination against the friendly Indians on the reserve, and in the vicinity of Fort Lane, have been put into execution, despite the efforts of the officers of that post to prevent it. Capt. Smith reports that a party of whites who had organized themselves into a company, with the avowed purpose of assisting the regular troops in pursuing and chastising the Shasta Indians for recent murders, attacked, the 8th ultimo, two camps of friendly Indians in the immediate vicinity of the reserve, and killed twenty-five (four very old men, four young men, and seventeen squaws and children). Exasperated by these brutal outrages, some of the Indians on the reserve and in the valley, heretofore friendly, proceeded to murder the whites indiscriminately, burning their houses and destroying everything in their way.
"Capt. Smith immediately sent a detachment, under Major Fitzgerald, to the scene of the outrages, for the protection of the settlers, and to punish the murderers.
"The troops are now actively employed in trying to suppress the troubles, but with what prospect of success, while there is an Indian left for whites to destroy, may be easily conjectured.
"In Washington Territory there appears to be an extensive combination of hostile tribes, which a check unfortunately given to Brevet-Major Haller, with a small command, may possibly cause to extend to yet other tribes. The Yakimas, Walla Wallas, Klickitats, Des Chutes and Cayuses are doubtless in arms. They have been excited by fears at seeing their country rapidly filling up with settlers and miners, lest their fate shall be like that of the California Indians, and hope to exterminate the whites at a blow."
Gen. Wool hereupon repaired in person to Oregon (Nov. 17) and writes thence to the Department (Dec. 13) an account of military movements, which have already been made public.
Nov. 21, Joel Palmer, Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Oregon, addresses Gen. Wool in a letter protesting against the exasperating falsehoods which certain whites are constantly spreading with a view to involve the friendly Indians in the hostilities into which some tribes have been goaded. .Here is a specimen of his letter:
"I am satisfied that the Cayuses, as a tribe, are desirous of maintaining peace, and that there must be on the part of the whites a departure from the principles of justice, and a violation of rights secured this tribe by the treaty, before they will become a hostile party in this war. Such a step will be, in their apprehension, a desperate last resort for preservation.
"This is also true of the Nez Perces. Their uniform good conduct and friendship for our citizens render all intention on their part to make war on us quite improbable.
"The reported combination of all those tribes with intent to wage a war of extermination against the whites is, I apprehend, but a phantom conjured up in the brains of alarmists, unsupported by one substantial reason, and the plot, said to have been nearly consummated, of cutting off those engaged in the negotiations last June, I regard as of the same character, originating in the same sources."
Dec. 21, he writes again to Gen. Wool, commencing as follows:
"General: The existence of a war of extermination by our citizens against all Indians in Southern Oregon, who, by recent acts, appear to evince a determination to carry it out, in violation of all treaty stipulations and the common usage of civilized nations, has induced me to take steps to remove the friendly bands of Indians, now assembled at Fort Lane and upon Umpqua reservation, to an encampment on the headwaters of Yamhill River, distant about sixty miles southwest of Vancouver, and adjoining the coast reservation.
"This plan has been adopted with a view of saving the lives of such of those Indians as have given just and reasonable assurances of friendship. The tremendous excitement among the miners and settlers in that country, goaded on by restless and lawless miscreants who slaughter alike innocent and guilty of both sexes, induced those friendly bands to abandon the reservation and claim protection of the United States troops stationed at Fort Lane."
These friendly Indians he desires to remove to a more convenient locality for protecting and feeding them, but says:
"I have received intelligence that meetings of the citizens of Willamette Valley, residing along the route to be traveled by these Indians in reaching the designated encampment, as well as those in the vicinity of the latter, have resolved upon resisting such removal, and avowing a determination to kill all who may be brought among them as well as those who sought to effect that object."
He calls for an escort to protect these poor, defenseless creatures from wanton slaughter, and proceeds to speak in the following plain English:
"Believing, as I do, that the cause of the present difficulty in Southern Oregon is wholly to be attributed to the acts of our own people, I cannot but feel that it is our duty to adopt such measures as will tend to secure the lives of those Indians, and maintain guarantees secured to them by treaty stipulations. The future will prove that this war has been forced upon those Indians against their will, and that, too, by a set of reckless vagabonds, for pecuniary and political objects, and sanctioned by a numerous population, who regard the treasury of the United States a legitimate object of plunder. The Indians in that district have been driven to desperation by acts of cruelty against their people; treaties have been violated, and acts of barbarity committed by those claiming to be citizens that would disgrace the most barbarous nations of the earth; and if none but those who perpetrated such acts were to be affected by this war, we might look upon it with indifference, but unhappily this is not the case."
Bear in mind that he who makes this statement is a federal office-holder appointed by Gen. Pierce, who enjoys of all men the best opportunities of knowing the right and wrong of this Indian contest. For my part, I do not doubt that his statement above quoted is the vital truth.
Dec. 25th, Gen. Wool from Fort Vancouver reports again to headquarters on this side that he had filed to organize an expedition into the country of the hostile Indians, because:
"I could neither obtain in this country the means of transportation nor forage, without paying enormously for them, and which the state of the war in this region does not call for. This state of things has been caused by the extraordinary course pursued by Gov. Curry, who is making war against the Indians on his own accord, and without the slightest reference to myself, nor having received any communication whatever from him on that subject.
"The quantity of the supplies required for the volunteers, and the enormous prices paid in scrip by those authorized by the Governor to make purchases for them, has rendered it necessary for me to resort to Benicia for horses and mules, and for forage to San Francisco. In this section of country no danger existed which required either the services of the volunteers or the extravagant prices which have been paid in scrip for the horses and forage, as well as everything else required for the volunteers. If volunteers were required at all, it was in the Rogue River country and along Puget Sound, but not to defend the inhabitants of either Oregon or Washington Territories against the Indians who had made or threatened them with war residing east of the Cascade Mountains."
Gen. Wool proceeds to give an account of a volunteer expedition fitted out by Gov. Curry, commanded by Major Chinn, which pushed east as far as Walla Walla (three or four hundred miles from the Oregon settlements), and there made a prisoner of the powerful and friendly chef Peu-Peu-Mox-Mox, under these circumstances:
"As soon as Major Chinn was reinforced, and with Lieut. Col. Kelly in command, the volunteers moved on to Walla Walla, but found no Indians there. Thence they moved up the Touchet River, where they met Peu-Peu-Mox-Mox and three others, with a white flag. He said he was for peace, and he would not fight, and if his young men had done wrong he was prepared to make restitution. He was taken prisoner by Lieut. Col. Kelly, and sent to the volunteer camp, when a skirmish took place with the Walla Wallas. During the engagement this proud and haughty chief, with his companions, was killed. The skirmishing was kept up for several days, with no great loss on either side, and until the Indians crossed the Snake River, taking with them their women and children.
"The only result, I think of this expedition will be to unite all the tribes in that region against us, except the Nez Perces, who still remain friendly, and probably will continue so. The expedition has been organized and fitted out at an enormous expense, and when there was no apprehension of any danger from that direction, so far as Oregon was interested. The Cascade Mountains, covered with several feet of snow, could not be crossed during the winter. There was no way of reaching the Oregon settlements, except by way of the Dalles, where we have a sufficient force to repel any number of Indians that might come in that direction. It is reported that Gov. Curry purchased a thousand horses, varying from $150 to $700 each; that he ordered to be purchased 250,000 bushels of oats at $1 per bushel; the transportation to the Dalles would be another dollar per bushel. Everything purchased, as I am informed, is in the same ratio, and as the volunteers themselves say, there is no system in furnishing rations, and every man helps himself.
"On fitting out the last reinforcement from the Dalles, Bomford and Brooks sold them a certain number of cattle, for which scrip was given. Not having all they required, they called on Brooks and Bomford for almost the same number, which they had previously received. They refused to furnish them. The volunteers paid no attention to their remonstrances, and took the cattle; this is but one of many like cases which have been reported."
The chief Mox-Mox [sic], who had been persistently slandered all the autumn, with a fixed resolve to drive him into hostilities, but who obstinately persisted in remaining friendly, and was at last captured under a white flag, was chopped to pieces by the volunteer miscreants with an intensity of barbarism at which a savage would shudder.
Jan. 19, Gen. Wool reports that he had returned to San Francisco, finding military operations among the mountains of Oregon in the dead of a snowy winter at once impracticable and needless. He says that Capt. Judah reports from Rogue River that the recent murders of women and children there by Indians were retaliatory of and immediately succeeded the massacre of eighteen Indian women and children out of twenty-five by Maj. Lupton's volunteer force, and adds:
"In my communication of the 25th December to the headquarters of the Army, I mentioned that Governor Curry called out but one regiment of volunteers, and purchased or hired one thousand horses. I have learned since that he called for two regiments--one for Washington Territory and the other for Southern Oregon--both mounted and which required about two thousand horses. The horses of Colonel Nesmith's regiment, it is reported by the volunteers, are no longer fit for service, and the Governor intends (so it is reported) to furnish them with a fresh relay--the expense of all which, together with the enormous prices paid for everything the volunteers have received, will amount to more than two millions, some say three millions, and General Adair, Collector of Customs at Astoria, says it will amount to four millions. * * *
"In Oregon, as well as in the northern part of California, many whites are for exterminating the Indians. This feeling is engendered by two newspapers that go for extermination, and is more or less possessed by the volunteers as well as others not enrolled under the banners of Governor Curry. As long as individual war is permitted and paid for by the United States, and which is expected by all the citizens of Oregon, we shall have no peace, and the war may be prolonged indefinitely, especially as it is generally asserted that the present war is a godsend to the people."
Such, as portrayed by United States military officers and Indian agents, are the causes, purposes and character of the present Indian war on the Pacific, for which the American people will be called to pay three, four or more millions of dollars. For this payment, I suppose, there is now no help; make as wry faces as we will, the dose must go down. All the comment I choose to make at present is that if Oregon were independent of the Atlantic States, her Indians would not be so shamelessly butchered, nor the Federal treasury so atrociously plundered.
H. G. [Horace Greeley]
Our Rogue River Correspondence.
CAMP AT OAK FLAT, NEAR THE JUNCTION OF
ILLINOIS AND ROGUE RIVERS, O.T.
Since I last wrote you from the Columbia River I had to leave that happy land, where the people, uncursed by the necessity of labor, have nothing to do but compete with each other for the spoils. We started for the Gila River, got as far as San Francisco Bay--were there turned back--came up the coast to Crescent City--marched thence along the "rockbound ocean shore," to the mouth of Rogue River--had a skirmish first day we got there--a recruit shot the corporal of the guard and killed him--a few days afterwards we went up the river--were engaged in a small fight, when several were killed and amongst others, the head devil of the enemy was wounded (one Enos, a Canadian Indian, who has helped to stimulate this war, promising these Indians "aid from King George's men.") Is it not rather a coincidence that the Indians all over our immense territories should have become so hostile at the same time that the English and French were going to make us behave ourselves? After this we were engaged in "scouting" and "escorting" from fort or ford, up and down the coast to the Chetco River, at which place we surprised a large force--70 or 80--over the enemy, and with forty men chased them three miles, killing their best chief and some others.
About ten days since, our chief broke camp at the mouth of Rogue River and started for this part of the wilderness. It took us seven days to cut our way over mountains and through thickets, thirty miles, to this camp. On our way, just before we got here, we met a friendly delegation from the enemy. Said delegation was a barefooted, red-shirted savage, whom we found sitting on his hams on a mountain alongside of the Indian we had sent to meet him. On the day before yesterday we came down a steep mountain, and found the other party, which had been sent up on the north side of the river, and after crossing the stream in a canvas boat to them, we all camped on this, the largest piece of flat land I have seen in the country; it is almost a mile long.
Last night all the officers were called to meet the Indian chiefs who came in to "wa-wa" (i.e., talk). Old Joshua's band--the Euchres, Chetcos and Tututnis--were represented. Terms were dictated and accepted on the basis of the four points, viz--
1. Indians to give up, and come in.
2. To go on a reserve.
3. (Proposed by the enemy)--Not to have their hands tied--i.e., not to be put in confinement.
4. That when on reserve white squatters and miners are not to be allowed to kill the men or take the women.
Note.--This fourth point, proposed by them and promised by our chief, gave the poor devils great satisfaction. Our military chief may be authorized to promise it, but I am sure has no right or power to keep the promise. The fourth point caused much "wa-wa," especially that part of it in relation to squaws. Squaws are opposed to the fourth point.
We have had more of the chiefs in today, and may hear something from the upper Indians--the hard-fighting fellows--tomorrow. These last have had so many of their women and children killed in time of peace that they say it is safer for them to continue the war; and I have no doubt they will do so, simply because they cannot give themselves up and go on a reservation of the barren mountains without danger of starvation. The government agents refuse to feed them. These Indians tried the reservation last year, in good faith; and being hungered, sent a party, principally women and children, off the reserve on the river to fish, but the volunteers were lying in wait for them, and killed twenty-three, eighteen of which party were women and children. This I have from a United States officer who went out to protect the Indians. He said, "The volunteers ran as soon as they saw the regulars coming." This looks like a very inhuman system, but it is as true as that there is a God in heaven.
These Indians do not want to fight the regulars; they want us to protect them from the inhumanity of miners and squatters, but we are powerless. Last week an express came to our colonel, stating that some of the people of the village of Fort Orford had taken a Coquille Indian from the reserve, and there had held a mock trial upon him for an alleged murder, said to have been committed two years since on a squatter (The whites and Indians were then shooting at each other, being at war); they sentenced the Indian to be hanged next day, and did hang him an hour and a half; and I am told that he not being then dead, they took him down and killed him. Now, I have lived a pretty rough life, have helped and witnessed the shooting of white men and hanging of Indians, with no other law to justify it than that of self-preservation; but though I have shared in some such scenes without a regret, I feel a shame for my countrymen, a disgust at the imbecility of our government, when I am compelled to witness, or hear of daily, the cold-blooded, calculating murders and outrages practiced on a weak race by our frontiersmen.
Now for a few words descriptive of this country, over which I have been traveling for the last three months. It is one chaotic, confused wilderness of mountains, among which small streams wind, away down at the bottoms of deep kenyons or troughs, between steep mountainsides.
Standing on the top of one of these peaks--when one can get there--naught but rocks and other peaks are seen, stretching their ugly heads to the clouds, and each one trying to look more irregular and forbidding than its neighbor, and generally succeeding in the effort; but, oh! the quantities of "quartz veins," the "red clay," the "talcose slate," and the other signs of gold which bruise your shins and tear your trousers as you travel, and which we "struck" on every mountain and in every gulch. We, of course, carry our supplies on mules, and in most places even they cannot travel. We have had with our party a train of from 140 to 250 animals for the last two weeks, and the thirty or forty packers who tend the trains all declared that they are bound to "prospect" this new gold region as soon as the Indians are moved out of it. Copper, too, in huge masses, and signs of silvers are also seen. The streams have plenty of fish in them--salmon, trout, &c., and a good many elk and deer are still left in the hills; here and there on the streams we find a small bottom of grass flat, where the Indians have their villages. They travel almost always in their canoes, and live on fish, "camas," and acorns, or such other roots and berries as grow spontaneously. They have learned some of the wants and many of the vices and diseases of the whites, which, with their natural improvidence, and the destruction of the roots they feed on by the settlers' hogs (a drove of which will destroy the "camas" that feeds a whole tribe of Indians), will inevitably kill the Indians off in a few years, even if our manifest destiny men would not insist on extending the "area of freedom" and the "banner of Christianity," with the whiskey bottle in one hand and the rifle in the other, through these regions of the heathen, "where man alone is vile."
In my next letter to you I hope to be able to give you an account of our treaty, and of some new parts of this coast, with a few reflections on the system of fare &c., provided for soldiers, and the pay and duties of officers in our army, which provides no care and little comfort for the men, and which contrives that the more an officer don't go into the field, and the more he does live in comfort at home, the more pay he gets, and the more influence he has with the President and Congress.
New York Herald, June 30, 1856, page 3
I was at Yreka--or what was afterwards Yreka--twenty-two years ago this spring, when it was a collection of tents, and first sprang into existence under the name of Shasta Butte City. I made my way there from Oregon through a hostile Indian country, in constant fear of attack an with guard kept by night and day, and I remember that great complaint was then made that the Indian war was brought about by the unnecessary and inhuman acts of some Oregon men, who shot down several Indians for the mere fun of killing them, without other cause.
"Letter from Oregon," Sacramento Daily Union, May 6, 1873, page 3
Some of the Cruelties of Frontiersmen.
J. Lovejoy, of Pittsfield, Ill., writes the following to the Chicago Times:
I was among the first of the whites that emigrated to Southern Oregon, which was in the year 1851. I remained in that country ten years. The Indians at the time the whites settled in Rogue River Valley were a powerful tribe, noted for their warlike propensities. Nature had blessed them with abundance of game; they had their deer snares, and elk pits, and it was an easy matter for them to entrap all the game they wanted. Also, Rogue River and its tributaries abounded with a plentiful supply of fish, and they had no trouble to obtain all they wanted. The white man with his gun killed and scared their game, also, the miner muddied their streams, so that they could not catch any fish.
Starvation stared them in the face. The result was that occasionally they would kill a beef or a pack mule, and then the whites would kill an Indian. The Indians would retaliate, and kill a white man; quite a number of whites and Indians were killed in this way until the summer of 1853, when the Indians proclaimed war against the whites, which war lasted about three months, and then a treaty was made; the substance of the treaty was that if the Indians killed a white man, the murderer was to be delivered up to the whites, and should be tried by law, and if found guilty, was to be hung.
About two months after the treaty, a white man was killed on the Siskiyou Mountain, between Yreka and Jacksonville. He had a pack train, which was laden with miners' supplies. The Indians took the mules and goods. When it was found out it created quite an excitement, and the whites, through the Indian agent, demanded the murderers. The Indians brought in three young warriors, delivered them up to the whites, and they were tried and hung.
A short time after that, a white man killed an Indian. They demanded justice, wanted the white man tried and hung, which was not done. The Indians became very much dissatisfied. Quite a number of Indians were killed by the whites, but the whites were never punished for it. Several Indians were hung for killing whites. Things went on this way until the fall of 1855, when the Indians made a general outbreak, and, commencing at the head of Rogue River Valley, killed men, women and children, burned all farm houses, and run off the stock, then the cry was war to the knife.
The Governor of Oregon issued a proclamation calling out a battalion of volunteers, which, with the aid of 300 or 400 regulars, was sent in pursuit of the Indians. The war lasted for about nine months, then both parties were tired of fighting, and peace was made. The Indians moved on a reserve away from the whites, and we had no more trouble with Indians.
I will mention one fact to show that whites in some instances were as depraved and base as the Indians could possibly be.
During the war of 1855 (I think in November) thirty volunteers were detailed to guard a pack train from Fort Vannoy, on Rogue River, to Illinois Valley.
I was among the number. We were six miles on our way when we discovered an Indian hut--a smoke coming out of it. It was only about a quarter of a mile off the road, and some five or six of us rode up to it, and surrounding it demanded that the occupants come out, the result of which was the capture of two squaws, one having a child of about two years old. They reported that there was a large body of Indians on ahead of us; so we concluded we would take them on to the command.
When we got back to the train, and Mr. Fowler, who was superintendent of the train, and in part owner, heard the report that the squaws made, was ready to be reinforced, and requested me to go back to Fort Vannoy, report to the commanding officer, and ask for reinforcements; which I did. When I got to the fort, the commanding officer would not send any reinforcements, therefore I started back to overtake the train by myself.
When I got some three miles beyond where I left the train, I saw the two squaws and infant lying a short distance from the road, all dead.
Mr. Fowler had detailed two men to guard the squaws, and follow along the train. Their excuse was that the squaws could not keep up, so they thought the best plan was to kill them.
Some two months after this inhuman act was perpetrated, a gentleman with his wife (I think the name was Bently) was traveling en route for the Atlantic States. They were fortunate to have a guard of U.S. dragoons. When they were opposite where these squaws were, the Indians fired some twenty shots at Mrs. Bently, but the soldiers surrounded her, and moving on at pretty rapid speed succeeded in making their escape, though several bullets passed through her clothing. One white woman they took prisoner at the beginning of the war, and they never killed her until after they found these two squaws.
Weekly Valley Herald, Chaska, Minnesota, June 12, 1873, page 11
River of the West page 399
For an account of Mr. Ogden's expedition to the Cayuse country (mentioned in the letter of Sir James Douglas) and its complete success see my letter to Mr. Brown, corresponding secretary of the Oregon Pioneer Association.
Page 496--It was Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois who was mainly instrumental in obtaining the assumption of the debt of Oregon created by the Cayuse war by the Government.
From 1849 forward I resided in the Umpqua valley and except a two weeks' membership of the Convention to form a Constitution for the State took no part in public affairs. I am not therefore in any sense an authority to be used in the history of Oregon subsequent to that time.
The Indian wars were the main historical incidents of the period. These in their bringing on, as well as management, sifted no credit upon the whites. Since 1849 a new element, the gold hunters, was added to the population, having few if any of the virtues of the early pioneers. The prompt assumption of the Cayuse war debt by the Government being a precedent, suggested an easier mode of obtaining gold than digging it from the bowels of the earth. If new diggings were sometimes difficult to find, a new Indian war was easily provoked, which served their purpose equally well.
When the supply of water began to fail in the summer an Indian war was almost sure to be inaugurated in Southern Oregon and Northern California. River of the West page 507 tells how the war north of the Columbia was inaugurated, but does not tell how the Rogue River war of the same time was provoked.
So frequent had been war in Rogue River Valley that the Government had established a military post on Rogue River near Table Rock. It was the latter part of August, the hunting season, a large band of Indians had gone into the mountains on the hunt of the Elk, leaving their old men, women, and children encamped close to Fort Lane under its guns it may be said to protect them from the miners.
But some 30 or more ruffians under the lead of a packer came out of Jacksonville in the evening, sent [illegible] to the Indian camp to ascertain its position and that there were no dangerous Indians in it, and at day light next morning rushed upon it slaughtering indiscriminately male and female, old age and helpless infancy. Certainly it was a great victory for the whites--some 30 Indians were killed and only one white man hurt. But this happened to be the brave commander of the white army--a very old Indian who had already been shot used his last remaining strength to shoot an arrow which struck the white leader in a vital place and ended his life while his "blushing hours were thick upon him." A small boy who escaped from the massacre found his way to the hunters in the mountains and told them the whites had killed all that were dear to them.
These infuriated Indians did what of course it was expected of them to do--rushed upon the defenseless settlements and committed a long list of savage atrocities, none of them exceeding in cold-blooded fiendishness the provocation.
But in this like the thousand other cases the Indian's atrocities were largely commented on and widespread--his provocation not even hinted at. For a more detailed account of this massacre apply to Judge M. P. Deady of the U.S. Court, Portland. The Judge happened at the time to be a visitor at Fort Lane, heard the firing and saw the bleeding and mangled fugitives who escaped and came to the Fort for protection.
Unattributed manuscript--likely by Jesse Applegate--SOHS vertical files. Emphasis in original.
INDIAN TROUBLES IN OREGON, 1854-55 [sic]
The Rogue River War in the years above given [actually, 1855-56] began in this wise: The Indians were supposed to be located on a reservation near which was established a small military post called Fort Lane. A party of professional scouts, styling themselves volunteers, and numbering about thirty men, made frequent visits to the neighborhood of the reserve, ostensibly for the purpose of watching marauders from the same; but judging from the characters that composed the company, several of them deserters from the army, I should judge they were bent on plunder themselves. At all events, one fine morning in June, as we troopers who composed the garrison were enjoying our bivouac under the pines--where bunks were improvised, owing to the insect-infested condition of the cabins--we were suddenly awakened by the discharge of firearms nearby. Several volleys and numerous single shots were heard. This alarm turned out on investigation to be an attack by the volunteers on "Old Jake's Camp" [the Lupton Massacre]. The Indians of this were the least formidable of the tribe, and were, at the time of the attack, quietly slumbering in peace, if not in innocence. Thus a massacre of twenty old men, women and children took place.
The soldiers, by orders, buried the victims, and were almost immediately called upon to take the field against the vengeful remainder. The party of volunteer scouts who had committed this first attack had failed to warn the settlers in the vicinity after it, and the excited Indians, taking the main route to the Willamette Valley, avenged themselves by an indiscriminate slaughter in that direction. As soon as the uprising became known, the troops followed rapidly and engaged the Indians in several slight skirmishes, one of which resulted in the killing of several men and one warlike squaw.
Our small force, now pursuing, was constantly depleted by sending squads to guard ranches, furnishing escorts to fleeing families, and similar offices. The party just referred to were picked up in the act of plundering a pack train. They had killed two of the packers, put the others to flight, and were indulging in a feast and orgy. Vessels containing whiskey, piles of raisins, figs and other dainties lay around in wasteful profusion, and several mules were discovered tied to the trees.
I witnessed here an instance of what might be called presence of mind in the presence of death, very characteristic of Indians. A stalwart "buck," who had been shot two or three times, was approached by some soldiers who supposed him dead. With what strength he still had, he deliberately turned over and threw his empty gun into a stream by his side; determined, I suppose, not to aid in any degree the further defeat of his people.
As we moved along in the night pursuit, we passed several burning houses, and, on halting near one of these, were assailed quite savagely from the rocks nearby. Two men and several horses were shot. Many ghastly sights we met, such as a burning wagon loaded with apples, on either side of which lay a white man, with bullet holes and stabs about the body. One cabin which we examined contained three dead people, the man lying on the threshold and two children behind the bed, murdered by savages, while the mother was doubtless taken for a worse fate. A widow, Mrs. Harris, emerged from the bushes near her own house, which she had defended with shotgun the day previous, bearing in her arms her little daughter, shot through the arm. They were at once mounted on a horse and furnished escort to the nearest settlement. In a large hewed tavern on fire were discovered the remains of Mrs. Wagoner and daughter; Mr. Wagoner, being away from home at the time, was spared to inflict considerable damage on his red enemies in subsequent encounters.
In a few days the hostiles concentrated for a big fight, which came off in the Grave Creek Mountains, and was called the battle of Hungry Hill. Here the best element among the citizens came to the front, and a force of some three hundred, assisted by one hundred United States troops, attacked the Indians, who were located and entrenched in the forks of two deep cañons, about nine miles from the Grave Creek House on the wagon road. The command on this occasion proceeded on foot, starting with the rising moon. At midnight the weather was rainy and cold, and the trail was crossed by several streams. Owing to the indiscreet lighting of fires by the volunteers, the Indian scouts attacked our advance, but were driven for two miles; when, by previous arrangement, no doubt, they were strengthened by their main force, and took up the stand as above explained. Owing to a want of proper concern among ourselves, I think, the battle became a series of detached skirmishes and sharpshootings, continuing all day; and at night we counted our loss at about twenty-four; that of the enemy almost unknown. Several instances of heroism were exhibited on our side, where small parties descended to near the enemy's works to rescue wounded comrades.
The night that followed was spent in caring for the disabled and in desultory shooting. Next day at dawn the fight was renewed, I think by the Indians, and was kept up till about one o'clock, when a lull took place, and our party was got together, and we took the back track, laden with our wounded on stretchers, having failed to dislodge the hostile force, after expending all our ammunition and going without food for twenty-eight hours.
After one or two short scouts, the troop to which I belonged was ordered to the Columbia River. A large force of volunteers and some regulars had been organized to carry on the war; and it shows with what subtlety and determination these Indians fought that they decoyed "C" Troop First United States Dragoons into an ambush, on a pretended truce or interview, and nearly annihilated the whole command at the Big Bend of Rogue River.
The hostilities were, however, continued on into the following year, and the Indians exterminated by piecemeal. "Old John" had but sixteen warriors left at the final surrender, and then, on the way to Alcatraz Island, he and his son actually took possession of the steamer's steerage, and he was only finally conquered after being wounded in several places. This last display of ferocity was brought about by some unscrupulous passengers, who aroused the superstition and fears of the savages.
The Rogue River Indians I afterwards found to be nearly allied to the famous Modocs, fighting, like them, on foot; all were good shots, and possessed of good rifles, and were quite familiar with the ways of the white man.
Before these deeds of war and trouble just recounted took place, it had been my fortune to be stationed for some months in the Rogue River Valley. The spot is a most picturesque one, situated among the spurs of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, bounded on one side by the pretty river, plentifully timbered with [a] variety of wood, a lofty mountain view in the distance on all sides, and the snow-covered peak of old McLoughlin overlooking the whole. Within sight of our little post was Table Mountain, a dwarfish knoll, whose flat crown presented a peculiarly inviting target for our howitzer practice on gala days. Near its base is a large cave, in which these same Indians took refuge two years before, when assailed by the whites; and their position was considered so advantageous that a truce was proclaimed which resulted in a temporary peace between the parties.
Whilst scouting, we often visited the fisheries of the natives. Their mode of taking the salmon is with the spear generally, and a most spirited sight it is at night to witness a fleet of twenty or more canoes descending the swift and shallow stream, each manned by two occupants only, one guiding the craft and supporting a lighted torch of pine, while the other takes a statuesque position in the bow, with eye alert and spear in poise. I believe the miner now makes sole use of the little river, and nearly every native, if not quite every one, has departed to wield the dart in another world.
In conclusion, I will narrate a little incident connected with the preliminary irritations that usually precede these outbreaks. Our troop, while camped at one extremity of the reservation, watching the movements of some suspected Indians, was ordered suddenly to proceed to a certain point and arrest two notorious fellows, who were rather leaders among the rest. After this was accomplished, and they were hastily conducted to the Fort and placed in the guard house, many of their people began to assemble and threaten; and during the commotion consequent on preparation for defense, an inexperienced sentinel--or rather raw recruit--allowed the prisoners to escape. This they did by simply bolting, risking the several shots that followed them quite promptly. All was now soon astir to recapture them, and in a few hours our force of sixty men appeared at the principal camp, distant about fifteen miles.
Here all was excitement, as the fugitives and their emissaries had aroused the whole tribe, who were half disposed to a war movement. They had also formed a band of some twenty of their nearest of kin, and this party had donned their war paint, and on our approach had taken to the brush. They were speedily surrounded, but for an admiring audience we had some three hundred or more of the same blood, all armed, at our backs, merely waiting for the trouble to begin. However, a parley was struck up.
Meanwhile a few more men were got up from our garrison, and the little mountain howitzer charged with grape and canister. Then an influential squaw, called Queen Mary, appeared on the scene, and by her eloquence, assisted by that of some others, a regular battle was arrested. If one had taken place, I doubt if any of our side would have escaped to fight again.
After about six hours spent in maneuvers, threats and promises, the warriors consented to appear and surrender. This they did, and a more picturesque sight I never witnessed than when those painted and feathered braves stalked boldly out from the closely woven willow copse in which they had taken refuge. Each one was armed with pistol, knife and rifle; painted in hideous stripes of white, red and black; with no clothing except the bright red-tipped moccasins, the breech clout, and the feathers adorning their heads--otherwise "stripped to the buff." And the natural beauties of the scene were many. Through the beautiful grove of monarch pines surrounding, the midsummer sunset glowed, striking and bringing into relief the bronzed and sinewy forms of the red men; while the soldiers, assembled in regular groups at advantageous points, presented a grim adjunct to the picture; and the background, consisting of the many different bands comprising the tribe, formed in [an] almost perfect circle, arrayed in particolored habits, completed a scene any painter would have delighted to copy.
Soon after and for several years those lovely wooded glens rang with the discharge of firearms and the fierce yells of the savage, and many a mangled corpse was laid to rest beneath their shades. Now the simple lowing of the domestic kine and the rattle of agricultural machinery alone are heard, marking the peaceful evolution we all have noted in the settlement of the vast frontier.
Some who took part in this Indian war have since become distinguished, and some were so then--notably, the old warrior statesman General Joe Lane; also General A. V. Kautz and General A. J. Smith, U.S.A. The ground fought over was historical in the annals of Oregon settlement. Many a sharp skirmish and tragical ambuscade was enacted here years before.
Until quite recently the music of the pack mule's bells indicated the only transportation to this region, as the train cheerily wended its way over these Tyrolean heights, conveying all traffic from the rough north coast, or penetrating the passes in communication with the gold camps; and yet many a day of hard labor will be scored before these solitudes will reverberate to the noise of the steam whistle--but it will come.
I.G.T.The Overland Monthly, April 1885, pages 420-422. The index credits the article to "J.G.T.", the text to "I.G.T." Attributed to Joel Graham Trimble.
. . . Volumes of newspaper correspondence have been published to account for the Whitman massacre, and from this has arisen much acrimonious feeling. To all of you who have a knowledge of Indian character, the solution is easy. The Indians were friendly to the first discoverers and voyageurs because they could trade with them and obtain guns, ammunition, blankets and trinkets for provisions and supplies. When the missionaries, having selected their best hunting grounds for that purpose, were becoming self-supporting, the Indians found that while their finest lands were being occupied there was
NOTHING FREE BUT THE GOSPELand they determined to drive them from the country. The Indians of the southern part of Oregon were of a different and more warlike race. They had no personal property to exchange for what they desired from the whites, and always looking upon them as enemies, they had no hesitation in obtaining it by force or strategy. They had none of the qualities with which philanthropic friends in the eastern states have clothed them. The horses, mules, guns, ammunition, blankets, and provisions which they needed must be obtained at all events. The first travelers from northern Oregon, then the only settled portion of the territory, to California would feed at their evening camp a number of Indians, who, at dawn of day, would stampede their animals and murder the sleeping inmates. This state of things existed from the time the first Oregonian passed through their country from the Willamette Valley. The struggles, the escapes, and the murders committed by the Indians cannot be told here, but ought to be a part of our records.
The first check these Indians received was in the spring of  from Gen. Phil Kearney, who was on his way from Vancouver to Benicia with a detachment of cavalry. Upon arriving in Rogue River Valley he was informed of the conduct of the Indians, and felt it his duty to give them a lesson they would remember. He attacked the Indians at the head of Bear Creek with success, but with the loss of Capt. Stewart, a gallant soldier and a veteran of the Mexican war. Gen. Jo Lane, who was on his way to the Scott River mines, arrived on the scene after the first fight, and taking charge of the men who volunteered, who gladly accepted his command, and in conjunction with Gen. Kearney and his troop, inflicted a punishment which was remembered for several years. Soon after this chastisement Governor John L. Gaines, who succeeded Gen. Lane as territorial governor, made a treaty of peace, so-called, with the Rogue River Indians, and to secure its enforcement Judge A. A. Skinner was sent by Gen. Dart, Indian superintendent, as special agent for the Rogue River Indians. Judge Skinner was a very estimable gentleman, but had about the same influence with the tribes he was sent to control as a seminary school teacher would have with Geronimo's Apaches at the present day. While in his office Indian depredations were going on all around him, which he was powerless to restrain; on the contrary, he was compelled to side with his wards to save his own scalp. The Gaines treaty was an utter failure. The Indians continued their depredations upon the whites throughout Southern Oregon, Northern California and on the coast as if no treaty had ever been made. From 1851 to
THE GENERAL OUTBREAK IN 1853Capt. L. F. Mosher, "Indian Wars . . . an Address Delivered . . . at the First Grand Encampment of Veterans Recently Held at Oregon City," Oregonian, Portland, July 8, 1886, page 6
the farmers and miners of the southern part of the state were compelled to be constantly on their guard against marauding bands of Indians, and a volume of thrilling incidents of battle, treachery and murder met by bravery, devotion and self-sacrifice might be written of this time. Among which are the murder of Woodman on Indian Creek, with the fight of Big Bend in consequence, the affair at Port Orford known as Battle Rock and the attack upon the T'Vault expedition on the Coquille in which Capt. S. L. Williams and Cyrus Hedden displayed a degree of heroism seldom equaled. Each of these incidents and many more deserve to be perpetuated in our records.
During the summer of 1853, the southern Indians having provided themselves with what was deemed a sufficient supply of arms and ammunition, in the month of August broke out into open war. On the fourth Edwards, a farmer on Bear Creek, was murdered, on the fifth Thomas Wills, a merchant of Jacksonville, was shot in sight of the town and an indiscriminate warfare upon the miners and farmers immediately followed. No one, unless he was present, can appreciate the situation in Rogue River Valley at that time. The farmers, who mostly arrived in the previous autumn, were busy in their first harvest; the miners were busily engaged in prospecting and preparing for the next winter's work, and all were too much engaged with their own affairs to notice the Indians or their movements, but none doubted that they were in perfect safety. Although the outbreak came very suddenly, the pioneers were equal to the emergency. The families near the towns were hurried there for shelter; in the remote districts the neighbors congregated at the largest log house, which was hastily provided with a stockade and loopholed for defense. In this the women and children were gathered, the little garrison left in charge of the old men and boys, while the able-bodied men rode out to meet the desperate savages. These at once formed themselves into companies, each under his favorite leader as captain. The captains were John F. Miller, J. K. Lamerick, Bob Williams, E. A. Evans and W. W. Fowler. These men furnished their own horses, arms and ammunition and to a large extent their own commissary stores. Siskiyou County in Northern California furnished two companies under Captains J. P. Goodall and Jacob Rhodes, and the United States government Captain Alden and three privates. Captain Alden, at their request, assumed command of their whole force. The first engagement between the hostile forces occurred between Lieutenant B. B. Griffin, of Captain Miller's company, and
CHIEF JOHN'S BAND,on Applegate Creek, the second was between Lieutenant Ely of Goodall's company, and the scouts from the main body of the Indians at Little Meadows. Gen. Jos. Lane, who had been elected to Congress in June, was at his home in the Umpqua Valley when the news of the outbreak was received, and without delay he hastened with fifty volunteers to the scene of hostilities. Capt. Alden at once tendered him the command, which he accepted, and an aggressive movement immediately ordered. The scouts reported the Indians to have fallen back from Table Rock towards the headwaters of Evans Creek, burning the forest behind them to destroy their trail. Gen. Lane divided his command; the left wing consisting of Miller and Lamerick's companies under command of Col. John E. Ross were ordered to proceed up Evans Creek, while the right wing consisting of Goodall and Rhodes' companies, the Umpqua volunteers and Capt. Alden, under the command of Gen. Lane, moved up Trail Creek to a designated junction near the head of Evans Creek. Each command was ordered to follow the trail, when found, with all speed, and engage the enemy whenever met without waiting for the other command. On the morning of August 23 the troops left camp. The right wing soon struck the trail of the main body of the Indians and followed it all day over a very difficult country and encamped late in the evening. On the next morning it was found that the command was in close proximity with the Indian camp which was in a creek bottom in a dense forest thickly covered with underbrush. Gen. Lane ordered an attack at once. The Indians were taken by surprise, but rallied quickly and made a desperate fight. In the first charge Pleasant Armstrong of Yamhill County was instantly killed, Capt. Alden received a severe wound from a bullet that struck him near the shoulder and passed along his back as he was in a stooping position and the general received a ball in his right arm. Gen. Lane refused to leave the field, but pressed the assault on the center of the camp while Capt. Rhodes was crowding them on the flank. In a short time the Indians begged for peace, and a truce was granted. A peace talk followed that resulted in an armistice of seven days, at the expiration of which time the Indians were to assemble near Table Rock, deliver up their arms and go upon a reservation. On the same evening the command of Col. Ross arrived on the battlefield, having discovered the trail too late to participate in the engagement. The next day the troops returned to the ferry on Rogue River and went into camp to await the result of the negotiations. This was named Camp Alden, in honor of the gallant soldier who was so severely wounded and who, a short time after, died from its effects. During the armistice reinforcements arrived from various sources.
CAPTAIN J. W. NESMITH,with La Fayette Grover as lieutenant, led a company of fifty men as an escort to Lt. Kautz, who, with seven regular soldiers had command of a howitzer and ammunition, Capt. A. J. Smith, with one company of the first dragoons from Port Orford, who had made the trip over a road which, before and since, was deemed impassable for mounted men, even without the additional obstruction of burning forests, and a company of volunteers from Crescent City under the command of Capt. Wm. Terry. The delay in camp was tedious and the cause of much anxiety to the general. Gen. Palmer, the superintendent of Indian affairs, who alone was authorized to make a permanent treaty, had not arrived, and the Indians were by no means unanimous on agreeing to the terms proposed by General Lane on the battlefield. The seven days passed and no Indians came to the treaty ground, making the situation still more critical; but at last an Indian messenger arrived in camp, fixing the date of the treaty on the 10th of September. The terms upon which it was to be held were that only ten unarmed whites should be present; the Indian chiefs were to be there with their arms and their warriors within convenient distance to support them, while Captain Smith and his company of dragoons should remain at the foot of the hill, nearly half a mile away. On the morning of the 10th the parties met at the place and upon the terms agreed upon. The white party consisted of Gen. Lane, Joel Palmer, Indian superintendent; Samuel Colver, Capt. A. J. Smith, First Dragoons; Capt. L. F. Mosher, adjutant to Gen. Lane, Col. John E. Ross, Capt. J. W. Nesmith, Lieut. A. V. Kautz, R. B. Metcalfe, J. D. Mason and T. T. Tierney. The Indian chiefs were in full force, with the exception of John and Tipsey, and were certainly a very formidable band without the addition of the armed warriors on the hill immediately above. The scene was a very striking one and will always be remembered by those who were present owing to a war speech by a chief which came near producing a Canby tragedy and which was only avoided by the coolness and decision of Gen. Lane and his power over the Indians. Col. Nesmith wrote a very graphic description of this event, a copy of which, I regret to say, it is not in my power to present to this encampment. The treaty was, however, made and formally executed, and the war of 1853 was practically at an end. By the terms of the treaty, which is too lengthy to be given here, the Indians surrendered their arms and went on the Table Rock Reservation temporarily, received $60,000 for their lands, to be paid in annuities, of which $15,000 was to be retained for damages committed by them, and they were to forfeit their annuities in case they again made war.
AFTER THE TREATY,Capt. A. J. Smith, now a Major-General of the U.S. Army, on the retired list, established a post near the mouth of Stewart or Bear Creek within convenient distance of the reservation, and named it Fort Lane, which was afterwards increased to a two-company post and which proved of great service in holding the Indians in check.
The history of the Oregon veterans would not be complete without a reference to the protection given by the citizens to the immigration by the southern route which was compelled to pass through the hostile country of the Modocs and Piutes. In this the citizens of Northern California assisted. The records of these expeditions furnish some of the most blood-curdling accounts of the murder of unarmed men, women and children and of fearful but deserved reparation by the whites that the annals of our country contain. After the treaty in 1853 Gen.Lane ordered Capt. John F. Miller, with his company of 115 men, on this duty. They were absent about three months and performed the service satisfactorily, the only casualties being two men wounded. In 1854 Gov. Davis authorized Col. John E. Ross to call into service a company of volunteers for the same purpose. In August of that year a company of seventy men, under the command of Capt. Jesse Walker, proceeded to the Lake country, where they found the Indians, as usual, waiting to rob and murder the immigrants. The campaign was a very effective one. The Indians were driven from the trail, the immigrants escorted through the dangerous ground and the Piutes severely punished for stealing stock. The command returned early in November and were mustered out of service. The only casualties being two men wounded, Sergeant William G. Hill, our present adjutant, severely, and private John Law, slightly.
This brings us to the war of 1855-6. This was a general uprising of the Indians from the line of British Columbia to and including northern California of the tribes east of the Cascade Mountains of the coast tribes from Puget Sound to Crescent City in California. The cause of the war was the rapid settlement of the country by Americans and the failure of the general government to provide sufficient troops at the proper points for the protection of the settlers. Congress, by the act of September 27, 1850, commonly called the donation act, invited settlers to Oregon and Washington by a liberal grant of land before they provided for the extinguishment of the Indian title. It is true that a superintendent of Indian affairs had been provided and divers agents had been appointed who drew their salaries with great regularity, but who really had no more influence with the different tribes than the judges of the supreme court.
AFTER THE SETTLERS HAD CONQUEREDthe southern Indians in 1853, a treaty was made, the first in our recollection, by which the Indians received an annuity for their possessory right to the land, and many others followed. I cannot resist making a digression at this point in order to give a description of an Indian treaty on this coast. They are traditional, and all alike in their principal features. It is commenced by a smoke and a grand "potlatch," which consists principally in giving the Indians a feast, for his heart is most easily reached from the stomach, a few old uniforms for the chiefs and some gay petticoats and trinkets for the women. After the feast, the talk or "wa-wa" commences, which is a very tedious performance and often lasts for days and always for hours. It is opened by the superintendent, who repeats one that appears to have been stereotypical since the days of Thomas Jefferson. The first part is a description of the great father at Washington and his power as a chief, of his being the father of the white and the red man, that he desires to treat the red man with the same kindness he bestows upon the whites; that if the red man will be good and go on a reservation he will receive an annuity, an annual "potlatch," while the second part warns him that if he violates the treaty and makes war, the Great Father will punish him with the troops. The savage appreciates the feast, but all that he appreciates of his treaty obligation is the power of the government to punish him for its violation. When, therefore, the United States government left only a two-company post in Southern Oregon at Fort Lane, a small force at Vancouver and the same on Puget Sound, with a handful of men at Port Orford, the settlers were at the mercy of the Indians, so far as the protection of the United States was concerned.
The settlement of the country by the whites led to a closer connection between the Indians of the northern and southern parts of the country, the intercourse between whom had been very limited before that time. They were thus enabled to strike the blow they hoped would restore to them the whole country, and which proved so disastrous to the settlers. The outbreak in the south came with the suddenness of a cloudburst. It is true that ever since the treaty of 1853, roving bands of Indians were continually committing robberies and murders in the remote and thinly settled portions of the country, but as the main body remained on the reservation, confidence was felt that they were under the control of the agent and the military. On the 9th of October, 1855, the warriors left the reservation
ON THE WAR PATH,following the military road west and north toward the Grave Creek mountains, leaving desolation in their track. Men, women and children were slaughtered with savage barbarity, houses and barns burned, pack trains and wagons plundered, and their owners shot and tortured. On that day more than twenty persons lost their lives; and the successful defense of her home by Mrs. Harris, over the dead body of her husband, has become a household tale of thrilling interest. When the news arrived at Jacksonville, on that day, a company was in the saddle at once, and hastened to the rescue. At Fort Lane they were joined by a company of dragoons under Major Fitzgerald and some civilians, among whom was our comrade James D. Burnett. On the following day Capt. Rinearson organized a company of about fifty men on Cow Creek, with which he guarded the road from Grave Creek north. Col. John E. Ross assumed command and called for mounted volunteers, and in two days had a force of nine companies, containing 500, and by the 1st of November there were fifteen companies, or 750 men. In the northern part of the state the war broke out about the same time as the south, and was prosecuted by the Indians in the same savage manner. At its commencement, Major Raines, commanding at Vancouver, attempted to suppress it with the troops at his command; but finding himself unable to affect anything he called upon the executives of Oregon and Washington for assistance, which was promptly rendered. A regiment of ten companies was organized in Oregon, with J. W. Nesmith as colonel and James K. Kelly as lieutenant colonel, which left The Dalles in October for a winter campaign, and sixteen companies were raised in Washington Territory.
It is impossible, in the time allotted to me, to give even a slight sketch of this war or the privations and suffering of the volunteers during the campaign which followed. The winter was one of unusual severity all over the coast. It is sufficient to say that in the north the volunteers were victorious in every engagement, while in the south the savages were forced into and held in the almost inaccessible fastnesses of the lower Rogue River. I am unable, also, at this time to recount the massacre at the Cascades, the struggle upon Puget Sound, the slaughter by Chief Enos at the mouth of Rogue River, or the Indian raid into the southern portion of Douglas County. In the campaign of the spring of 1856 Gen. Wool, who was in command of the United States troops on this coast, who persistently refused any aid in the previous winter campaign, rendered a tardy assistance to the volunteers, and the war was finally closed, as far as general hostilities,
AFTER MUCH DESPERATE FIGHTING,by a general surrender of the Indians. In the south this occurred in June, but was not accomplished in the north until the month of November, 1856.
The sketch here hastily given of the early struggles of the pioneers suggests that a perfect history of these events should be published by this association while many of the witnesses are still living, for the benefit of future generations. This is more important, since what purports to be a history of Southern Oregon has been published, we regret to say, by a citizen of Oregon[, A. G. Walling.] In this the whole facts are ignored, or so distorted as to make it appear that the Indians were the victims of the settlers and that the pioneers, especially of Southern Oregon, were desperadoes whose principal amusement was killing Indians or debauching their women. I will not insult my comrades by making a defense to such a libel, but it seems to me but simple justice that the men who laid the foundations of a state, who made its constitution and laws, who endured privations and dangers and shed their blood in its defense, if not entitled to high honors, should be permitted to leave to their descendants a name untarnished by the charge of barbarity or dishonor.
While we have not received the credit to which we think we are entitled for our services, it is certain that the United States government has not compensated those who saved this country. In August, 1856, Gen. Lane, then a delegate, obtained a passage of an act of Congress providing "that the secretary of war be directed to inquire into the amount necessarily incurred in the suppression of hostilities in the late war in Oregon and Washington by the territorial governments in the maintenance of the volunteer forces engaged, including pay of volunteers and he may, if he deem it necessary, direct a commission of three to report these expenses to him, etc." Under this act a commission was appointed consisting of Capts. A. J. Smith and Rufus Ingalls, U.S. Army, and La Fayette Grover. The commission after a thorough examination reported the sum of $4,419,949.33 was due as the expenses on the part of Oregon. Of this amount less than one-half has been paid, and it is due to ourselves to see that the balance is forthcoming. In this connection it is proper that we demand what is justly our due, the payment for
THE DEPREDATIONS COMMITTEDby the Indians upon the property of the settlers. Coming here under the donation act, the government was bound to protect our settlement, and having failed to do so, it is certainly liable for the damages incurred.
While I have referred to the lack of government aid in our emergency, it is proper that due credit should be given to those officers who did good service in these wars. The most prominent in Southern Oregon were Gen. A. J. Smith, Col. George Crook, Col. H. G. Gibson, who was severely wounded at the battle of Hungry Hill, and Col. N. B. Sweitzer; in the north there was Gen. Phil. Sheridan and many others whose records are not familiar to us. These gallant soldiers did good service then, as they have done since, and all will be held in high regard by the people of Oregon.
It is a first duty of this encampment to pay a tribute to our departed comrades. I regret to say that this duty must devolve upon a more eloquent tongue than mine. The deeds of our comrades, Gen. Joseph Lane and Col. Nesmith, are emblazoned not only upon the history of the state, but of the nation, but there were hundreds of lesser rank whose bravery and self-devotion were equal to theirs, many of whom lie buried in the mountains where they fell, with no headstone to mark the spot, but whose memory is preserved by their comrades and will be kept ever green as long as this association exists. Now, comrades, I would beg pardon for having been so tedious if it were not a privilege you gave when you invited me to address you. In conclusion I would advise that this organization be extended until every veteran is named upon its muster rolls and that every one shall furnish to his own camp his personal experience, which collected will not only be of interest to us, but will be valued by those who come after. I know not how others may feel, but the proudest legacy I can leave to my children is the bit of ribbon which proclaims me an honorable member of this association.
Capt. Christopher C. Augur, commanding Company G, took part in the expedition of Maj. Raines to the Yakima country in October 1855, previously described, and in the following days was ordered to Fort (now Port) Orford, where he performed excellent service in the Indian war going on in Curry County. The military operations there will receive treatment in subsequent chapters. From July 1856 until July 1861 Augur, with his company, remained at Fort Hoskins, in Benton County, guarding the Indians on the Siletz and Grand Ronde reservations nearby. The captain's career in the Union army during the Rebellion is well known. He participated in the battle of Fredericksburg, Cedar Mountain and other actions, took part in Banks' cotton expedition up the Red River, and eventually rose to be a full major general of volunteers and brigadier general of the United States army.…
Capt. H. M. Judah, of the Fourth, was stationed at Fort Jones, Northern California, but served a little in Southern Oregon. He exchanged companies with Capt. U. S. Grant, the latter then going to Fort Humboldt to his new command. Judah became a celebrated military engineer and acquired a brigadier generalship of volunteers. He, too, is dead.
H. O. Lang, "Army Officers in Oregon," Sunday Oregonian, July 4, 1886, page 2
George Crook, the celebrated Indian fighter, served an apprenticeship in that business in Southern Oregon and Northern California in 1852 and subsequent years. He was stationed at Fort Orford for a time. Those who remember him say he gave little promise of his future usefulness. He was a strict recluse and vegetarian--a combination of singular qualities for a West Point graduate, certainly. His highest rank in the Rebellion was major general of volunteers. He is now brigadier general U.S.A., in command at Omaha.
Benjamin Alvord, a Vermonter, entered the army in 1833, served in the Mexican War and received the customary brevet; was mainly connected with the paymaster's department; was made brigadier general of volunteers in 1862, and served manly [sic] in the paymaster's department. In 1876 he became paymaster general U.S.A., with rank of brigadier general. In 1863 he commanded the military department of Oregon.
MAJ. GEN. RUFUS INGALLSwas born in Maine, and according to the fashion of that country, was early trained in those habits of integrity and frugality with have made him so useful to the nation, which for more than forty years he has served in a militario-financial capacity. Entering the army from West Point in the trying years of the Mexican War, he early evinced the most striking qualities of fortitude and endurance, and by a discerning commander, on the lookout for brave and patriotic men, was placed in the provision department, which he has since adhered to with the most fervent energy and unflinching perseverance. Promoted to a first lieutenancy, he became taster-in-ordinary to Gen. Scott, and with the most devoted patriotism and disregard of life and digestive powers, sampled hardtack and other military viands until he absolutely ate his way to the highest rank attainable in the provision department.
Gen. Ingalls' bravery and military skill have been the theme of many tongues. The government, quick to recognize deserving merit, made him successively captain, major, lieutenant colonel and colonel, for gallant and meritorious conduct in making out vouchers and receiving and distributing rations. This was only just, for while other officers were gaily careering over the ringing plains after Indians, or picnicking on the mountains amid the beautiful snow, Capt., Col., Gen. Ingalls sat in the provision department, sampling hardtack. Gen. Ingalls' honesty and uprightness have never been suspected, and reckless indeed would be the man who could be so lost to shame as to insinuate aught against such a character. His conduct has gained him many influential friends, who are chiefly in Congress; his patriotic devotion to duty has procured him a respectable balance at his banker's. He owns the bank.
Of all the officers of whom this discourse is, but one rose from the ranks. This solitary individual was a German, August V. Kautz, who served as a private during the Mexican War, and afterward became lieutenant of infantry. He was stationed in Southern Oregon, mainly at Fort Orford, in 1855, and in the following year was in the Puget Sound region, and participated in Keyes' battle at Puyallup with the Indians. He was uncommonly unfortunate in his bush fighting, having been twice surprised by the savages, and at the Puyallup contest severely wounded. He entered the Rebellion as colonel of an Ohio regiment and was promoted to brigadier in 1864. Distinguished in the siege of Richmond. Was colonel of the 8th Infantry in 1874.…
Thomas J. Cram, captain of topographical engineers, was aide to General Wool during the Yakima war, and has been mentioned in the "Oregon War Papers" as author of a one-sided production called "A Memoir of the Department of the Pacific." Mr. Cram met the reward of long and faithful service in his appointment of colonel of engineers in 1865, and retired in 1869 with the brevet of major general, U.S.A.
R. C. Buchanan, major of the Fourth Regiment, in 1855, on the transference of Wright and Casey to the Ninth, directed the military operations in Curry County, which ended the second Rogue River war. He was an old and experienced officer, dating his first connection with the army in 1830, and had served in the Mexican War. He fought well in the Rebellion, distinguishing himself at Gaines' Mill, Fredericksburg and Malvern Hill, was promoted to a colonelcy in 1864, and brevet major general U.S.A. in 1865. Retired in 1870 and died in 1878.…
DRAGOON OFFICERS.Capt. and Brevet Maj. Edward H. Fitzgerald had acquired a bright reputation as an officer of dragoons, when, an old Mexican War veteran, he came to Oregon. He saw warm service against the Modocs and Piutes in 1852, being then stationed in Northern California. When the Rogue River massacre occurred, he, with ninety dragoons, was lying at Fort Lane, under orders to proceed at once to Vancouver. He took charge of the pursuit of the murderers, but two days later was compelled to start for the Columbia. The major died in 1866, on the eve of the great war in which his talents would surely have won him distinction.
Capt. Andrew Jackson Smith played a prominent part in the Rogue River Valley between 1853 and 1856. He led a company of his regiment, the First Dragoons, from Fort Orford to Table Rock in 1853, to assist in putting down the hostilities of the Rogue River tribe. Fort Lane was established by him during the same month, and there he lay for the next two years, watching the Indians on the reservation across the Rogue River. In suppressing the great outbreak in 1855 he took an active part, and fought the Indians at Hungry Hill and Big Meadows. On the close of the war
FORT LANE WAS ABANDONED,and Capt. Smith went to California with his command. He was prominent in the Rebellion, holding important subordinate commands. At the battle of Nashville he led Thomas' center and was brevetted major general for his gallantry. He resigned from the army in 1869, after thirty years' service, being then colonel. He lives now in St. Louis. Smith was one of the best officers that ever served on this coast, being prompt, clear-headed and efficient, and having no bad habits, such as drink and gambling. Gen. Wool, speaking of the dragoons, said in 1854 that there were three companies on this coast, with four officers, two of whom, Smith and Redford, were sober and efficient, and the others so eaten up with whiskey as to be useless to the service. Smith's singularities were numerous and entertaining. His hair was prematurely white, and he had a nervous twitching of the eye that was highly diverting. He swore like the wild trooper that he was, interlarding his everyday conversation with curious oaths. Admiral Porter, of the navy, in a recently published volume of reminiscences, tells a story of his meeting Smith under peculiar circumstances, wherein the two nearly came to blows over the question of who took Fort Hindman, but the quarrel ceased when Smith extracted a whiskey bottle from his pocket and invited the admiral to "smile."
Smith crossed the continent in 1847, having charge of the Mormon battalion, a singular assemblage of armed but undisciplined men, with women, children, superannuated relatives and household goods. Smith gave up his undesirable charges after leading them from Nauvoo to Santa Fe, and P. St. George Cooke, another officer of dragoons, brought them through Arizona to Los Angeles. This Cooke is now a brigadier general on the retired list, and has lately written a book, called "Conquest of New Mexico and California"--a tome of unsurpassable dullness and mendacity, whose object is to belittle Gen. Fremont's share in the capture of the Golden State.…
Ord likewise rose to fame during the Rebellion, became a major general and subsequently commanded the department of Texas. He was lost at sea not long since.
OF LESS DISTINGUISHED OFFICERSthere were quite a number whose names will be recalled by Oregonians, such as Lieut. Slaughter, whom a chance observation in Gen. Grant's book has endowed with immortality; Lieut. Sweitzer, First Dragoons, who served in Southern Oregon, and became later a brevet brigadier general of volunteers, and in 1877 was lieutenant colonel, Eighth Cavalry; Lieut. John Mullan, well known for his road over the Bitterroot and Rocky Mountains; Lieut. J. C. Bonnycastle, First Dragoons, who served in Northern California, and in 1861 resigned and joined the rebels.…
Joseph Hooker, "Fighting Joe," may be included in these sketches, though he performed only a quasi-military duty while in Oregon. He was a Massachusetts boy, born at Hadley, in 1815, and graduated from West Point in 1837, entering the First Artillery. He served in the Mexican War as aide to Gen. Hamer, and received the customary brevets. Became captain in 1848 and resigned in 1853. He lived in California for a time, having a ranch near Sonoma, and dissipated a great deal. The government work known as the Scottsburg and Camp Stewart military road, in Southern Oregon, was now about to be put in process of construction and Hooker obtained the superintendency of it and came to this state. A large sum was appropriated and work was carried on at various points on the road, which, as engineered, was 150 miles long. Hooker lived mainly near Roseburg during his term of office, and drank freely, spending his salary and more. He was afterwards connected with the construction of the Astoria and Salem military road, but through political influence, as supposed, he was discharged in 1859. There was a mutual friendship between him and James Nesmith, and in the political campaign that preceded the election of the latter and Edward Baker to the vacant United States senatorships, Hooker was of service to the winners, and later, when he went to Washington and applied for a command in the Union armies, he was assisted by Nesmith, who, some say, was instrumental in getting him appointed to succeed Burnside. The great battle of Chancellorsville put an end to Hooker's military aspirations in one direction, but did not by any means destroy his immense usefulness to the Union cause, for he afterwards fought valorously and successfully as a corps commander in the West, distinguishing himself at Chattanooga and other battles.
H. O. Lang, "Army Officers in Oregon," Sunday Oregonian, July 11, 1886, page 2
PIONEER DAYS.The history of Southern Oregon was a record of bloody wars in early days, and the several historians who have attempted to chronicle them have not been always fortunate in securing information of the most reliable character as to their causes and commencement. Early days saw among the white settlers of Rogue River numbers of reckless men, who had been attracted thither by the glitter of gold and the sheen of its rich placers. Such irresponsible characters as resort to a rich mining region form a very different population from that which sought the Willamette Valley. If that sort of settlers had peopled the beautiful Rogue River country, the terrible wars and massacres that occurred would have been greatly modified, if they had found any pretext to exist at all. The Rogue Rivers were a savage and untamable people, but it is true that several of their great chiefs were reluctant to take the warpath, and peace could have been preserved had men of cool judgment been prominent in connection with affairs, and if the acts of the reckless class could have been restrained.
Indian Wars in Southern Oregon from 1853 to 1855, Inclusive.
True Stories of Reckless Whites and Ferocious Savages--
Warfare Behind Rocks and Trees.
[Written for the Sunday Oregonian.]
SOME UNTOLD TRUTHS OF HISTORY.The following narrative will be reliable as to fact, and will give the world for the first time the true story of those times. It will be seen that the natives were sinned against as well as sinning, and in some instances were the victims of unwarranted outrage and aggression. Mr. Tolman was a settler in 1852. When he had been in the valley about two weeks, and had made his settlement at the north end of Oak Grove, three miles east of Jacksonville, emigrants began to arrive over the Applegate route to Southern Oregon. They made haste to take up land claims and prepare for winter. Four men who crossed with him, who had no families, were anxious to take up mining ground, so he went with them to give the benefit of his experience gained in California from '49 to '51. He selected a high bar on Applegate Creek, five or six miles above the forks of that stream, where they worked through the winter with moderate success. At the forks of Applegate Creek--where Uniontown now is--Elijah, the Indian chief, lived with his band. As Tolman had agreed to furnish these miners with supplies, he had to pass through this Indian camp on each trip to the mines, which was every ten or twelve days through the winter. In February and March a terrible sickness fell on these Indians, and a lamentable howling was kept up by their doctors for several weeks. As time passed, they became cross and impatient, and it was not thought safe to go near them. The cause of this sickness was not divulged until the close of the war of 1853, when it was known that this band of Indians had been in the habit of stealing provisions from the cabin of a man named Davis, who lived southeast of Jacksonville. To avenge himself Davis put poison in a sack containing twelve to fifteen pounds of flour and left it exposed in his cabin. They took and ate the flour, and the mysterious illness was the result.
ONE INDIAN'S VENGEANCE.Making up his mind that war was an inevitable result of existing circumstances, and judging by the conduct of these Indians, Tolman took his good brood mares and mules to California and sold them all there at a fair price, saving only one for the young man with him to ride, and buying a saddle mule for his own use. He had enclosed ten acres of land and planted it in potatoes, corn and oats, leaving a portion for hay that was set thickly in wild clover. About the first of July he went to Coos Bay with an expedition, and was gone about a month. Soon after returning, about August 4, 1853, he was summoned on a coroner's jury over a man named Edwards, who was found murdered at his own cabin door, on Bear Creek, about seven miles east of Jacksonville. They found Edwards shot dead, and his face chopped with an [illegible] concluded it was the work of Indians, but saw only signs that one was engaged in the deed.
The coroner's jury returned with a conviction that the horrors of Indian warfare were in the near future. When he reached home Mr. Tolman was informed that Bill Davis, a neighbor, had borrowed his fine riding mule to pursue some Indians, who had robbed his cabin. An hour later Mr. Tenbrook, a neighbor, came in, much excited, and said that Davis and B. Griffin had followed the Indians up Griffin Creek and the Indians "had cleaned them out," wounding the two men and killing Tolman's fine mule. This induced him to prepare for an emergency, and as he was scarce of ammunition he rode to Jacksonville to procure a supply. The news caused excitement there, and a meeting was called for that evening to discuss the situation. Tolman went home to mold bullets, but he learned that towards evening a shot was fired close to town on the Yreka trail, and cries for help heard. There was a rush to the rescue and they found that a Jacksonville merchant named Wells had been shot from his horse by an Indian sheltered behind a tree. The meeting was held "with blood in every eye." So much had occurred that very day that the public mind was wrought up to a fierce excitement. A resolution was adopted, among other matters, to exterminate the Indians--every man was to kill his Indian wherever he could be found. In the excitement of the hour no man recollected the strength of the Indians and how poorly the whites were prepared to enter on an Indian war.
EXTERMINATING THE INDIANS.Scouting for Indians began the next day, but people had gradually taken a second, sober thought over the proposition to exterminate the Indian race. One unsophisticated man was an exception, for he seemed not to have cooled off. This brown understood the resolution to be unanimously carried and accepted it as law. He supposed men in convention meant what they said, and coming across a tame Indian who was living with a farmer down the valley, he "drew a bead" on him and fired. The Indian dropped and with possum-like forbearance lay quiet while his victor tore his scalp off--it might be termed Spartan-like by some writers--for the possum lies still and plays death under the greatest difficulties. When the victor was gone the Indian also rose and found his way to his friends. It may be well enough to say here that he recovered to be a wiser if not a better man.
It was soon found that the thing most necessary to be done was to provide for the defense of women and children, to shelter the families during the war that was inevitable. Tolman went to work to provide a safe place of refuge for his own family and some of his neighbors. For this purpose he put up a blockhouse, sixteen feet square on the ground, with loopholes for the riflemen. The families were safely housed in the upper part, which was a projection all round and was nearly twenty feet square. He had a rick of perhaps fifty tons of hay; to guard this he put up a small house not over fifty yards from the blockhouse. So all his premises were well guarded. There were four men there besides himself. Two were miners who were waiting safe travel to get out of the country. The others were Tenbrook and Coffin, whose families were housed above. Mrs. Abel George and children were also there, while her husband was with the volunteers. One night before the blockhouse was up he saw at one time five homes burning down the valley and thought the Indians were making a raid its whole length. Four men watched from the roof of a cabin. One of them slipped off and came where they were sleeping and said in a stage whisper: "Get ready; the grove is full of Indians," meaning a grove of trees nearby. He hurried back to the shed, and all hands in the cabin went to work to prepare for war. The families were stowed aloft. They fixed a place in the corner, covered by a blanket, for Coffin to load (no cartridges in those days) while Tolman should fire, as they only had two guns. The cabin they were in only had one small window. Petrie got sick and lay down on a rude lounge there was. Then followed an hour of deathly silence, but no Indians came to time.
Ball's companions finally learned the fact of his false alarm and explained that he could only have heard cattle in the grove, and the sticks breaking under their tread caused him to fright. Afterwards they put out fires in the grove as a precaution. These incidents show how matters are managed in Indian wars.
JACKSONVILLE IN 1853.Jacksonville was then a village of 1000 inhabitants who lived in board houses of flimsy build. The only safe place in town was a cellar. Sometimes those on guard would get up a false alarm and shoot at stumps or a black hog in a dark night. Women and children would then be jammed into the cellar in a hurry. At first hostiles were scattering, and many natives preferred peace who were afterwards forced into the war by circumstances. There was a class of irresponsible Indians, as of reckless and irresponsible whites, while the majority of each race would have preferred peace by all means. Reckless whites, who had nothing to lose, either as to property or family, could perpetrate some act of cowardly butchery, and leave families of settlers to suffer massacre for their crimes. Then again, as in the case of Gibbs (to be told), an Indian would rob and murder his best friend at times. If the best white men and Indians could have managed matters there would have been no war on Rogue River at any time.
When the blockhouse was up Tolman felt safe. He went to Jacksonville, where people remonstrated with him for his recklessness, but he could not appreciate their interest in his behalf. One gentleman (since then resident of Salem) was indignant because he refused to be taken in--to Jacksonville. He said: "Bring your family here or we won't protect you." He thought they would need his assistance as soon as he theirs. There was a fact that explains Tolman's security at a time when others were burned out and robbed. He had never permitted the Indians about his place. Whilst he was kind he was never familiar; all through the troubles he never saw an Indian sign within half a mile of his house. His blockhouse sheltered four families all through the war of 1853.
AN INDIAN WITH A GRIEVANCE.The immediate cause of the outbreak of 1853 has only been partially explained. The Indian who killed Edwards and who shot Wills had a grievance. He laid claim to a woman who lived with a Frenchman. He went to this man and claimed his squaw, but met with a rebuff from the man and a friend who was with him. Then he went to Judge Skinner, who was Indian agent, who explained to him that he had no military force at hand to enforce claims, however just, and could not help him. He condoled with him, but that did not give him a woman to pack his firewood and do the small chores about his camp. The irate siwash went away breathing threatenings and slaughter, but no one put much faith in his threats until they learned of their fulfillment. One would think he would have haunted the ways of the Frenchman, the woman and the friend who helped to bluff him. The woman could have gone with him if it suited her to do so, but would not. Instead of laying in ambush for the Frenchman and woman, he started off up Bear Creek, cursing the white race. The first victim was a fat ox. This he killed and left. The next was Edwards, who sat at evening with his chair leaning against his cabin wall. The next evening he shot Wells. It was finally proven that this savage killed ten men before the end of the war, and no Frenchman or squaw was included in his bloody reprisals. He watched the trails and hid himself in ambush to slay and kill. Here was an instance where the vices of a white man, not an American, brought on war and fearful loss of property and life.
HAULING IN THE WOUNDED.Having about the only spring wagon in the valley, Tolman undertook to haul the wounded to the hospital at Jacksonville. Learning of the massacre at the Alberding ranch, where Indians, who had voluntarily surrendered, rose and massacred some and wounded a number, and knowing that doctors were afraid to venture there, he went up to bring down the wounded, among whom was P. Dunn, his personal friend. Henry Overbeck also went with his wagon. They found a log house, 20x22 feet square, and the floor literally covered with blood that had dried hard. The wounded men lay all over the floor, in the corners, and the middle. Several of these were emigrants, that were lately arrived off the plains. They gathered the wounded; the emigrants did the same with their wagons, and started for Fort Wagner, towards Jacksonville. When halfway there they discovered that one of the wounded had died. He had a wife and two children; they and Overbeck's aunt were in the same wagon. [omission] and their "plunder." Going down a steep place one of his horses threw himself off the grade. The wagon was upset and its freight of living, dead and wounded was piled into the gulch and the wagon tongue broke off. It was a had task to get everything back in place again. Each looked for his own, and they were widely scattered. They all the time expected to be attacked by Indians, but that trouble was saved them.
AN UNGRATEFUL SAVAGE.They reached the fort a little after night, and Mr. Gibbs died before they could get him out. The only word he uttered was the name of the brute who killed him. This Indian had lived [illegible] had only recently interfered, at great risk, to protect his life when white men would have hanged him. [See Undaunted.] This was a case of the grossest ingratitude. This base scoundrel had betrayed and slain his best friend. He snatched the gun Gibbs carried out of his hand and shot him with it, he not having the least suspicion of his intention, while the Indians at the Alberding rendezvous were rising to massacre those they surrendered to. The mistake made there was holding the squaws as hostages. They were allowed to talk to people of their tribes who came near on the mountain, and thus made arrangements for their rescue and the massacre of the whites. Indians never assault a place of which they have no knowledge of the inside and of the character of the defenses. In his experience with Iowa Sioux Tolman learned something of Indian character. It taught him to always hold them as strangers, never to allow them to enter his camp, nor see the inside of his cabin, and he did not even let them enter his dooryard all the time he had lived in Rogue River Valley. The consequence was that no Indian tracks were seen near his premises during the war. After burying the dead the next day they took their remaining wounded in to Jacksonville.
TOLMAN TRIES TO LEAVE OREGON.Mr. Tolman only tells of matters that came under his personal observation, or that were approved and accepted as facts at the time. Many versions have been published of that war, but not the entire truth given. He declines to give many interesting incidents because he does not believe they were perfectly substantiated. Like the war against slavery, it had to come. The claims of Indians and whites conflicted, and fiery natures and reckless characters on both sides precipitated events. The war seemingly closed by treaty, but it had more of the appearance of an armistice for an indefinite time. Being desirous to commence stock raising without being interrupted by Indian outbreaks, he concluded to wind up business and go to California by way of Coos Bay, and while there to clear up an investment made there for the interest of two young men. He had two land claims in Rogue River Valley, for one of which he paid $400, and for the other $500. These he sold for $5500, and the growing crop of potatoes, hay and oats brought $2100 more. He left for Coos Bay in the fall of 1853. During the eleven months he was there only one vessel entered the bay, at a time when Tolman was not able to leave on her, and not knowing when another was expected to come in, he returned with his family to Rogue River Valley in the fall of 1854. In October he bought the Alberding ranch, stock, grain and everything the bachelor had for $8500. Falling in with the prevailing opinion that there would be no more Indian trouble, he ventured $3000 in cattle, and a team to run the ranch. He put in a large crop that winter and had a profitable harvest.
SIGNAL FIRES IN THE MOUNTAIN AGAIN.No sooner was this disposed of than signal fires of Indian war again lit up the surrounding mountains. There happened along a cattle buyer from California just then, and realizing the danger that a war would bring up on his stock, running in the mountains, Tolman sold the last hoof to this buyer at good prices. He had the great good luck to gather them up and turn them over in two days' time and got the money for them. While in one sense this was great good luck, in a further sense it was disastrous. For the second time he was cut short in his prospective fortunes to be accumulated by the increase of his stock. That was the business he proposed to follow, and it was useless to attempt it so long as there was danger of Indian war. The red devils when on the warpath found delight in destroying all the property of their enemies, the whites.
The signal fires that lit up the mountains that encircled Rogue River Valley that fall were precursors of a much more serious cloud of war than they have known as yet. That terrible conflict was introduced by an act of great injustice to the natives by a man who should have known better than to drive them to war by mere suspicion without verification. Fred Alberding, who sold his ranch and stock to Tolman in 1854, went to the States. The next season he was returning to Oregon by the southern route and made his last camp for the long journey just before reaching the summit of the Siskiyou Mountains.
HOW A WAR CAN BE STARTED.When preparing to hitch up the next morning, one of the ponies was not to be found. Seeing an Indian camp nearby, he concluded they had stolen his pony. Driving that day to the residence of his old partner, Pat Dunn, he industriously circulated the news that the Indians had stolen a pony from him out on the emigrant road. In a short time fifteen men were found ready and willing to go out and "lick" the Indians and recover the lost pony. This was only to be a little before-breakfast excursion for the brave volunteers. They went on horseback to Greensprings and camped there, intending to surround the Indian camp before daylight, but they overslept themselves and did not reach the Indian camp until after sunrise and then approached the little siwash village in battle array. Seeing this the Indian men all ran away from their camp and got into ambush across a small glade, the other side of it. The whites rushed through their camp, and out upon the open ground beyond, in hot pursuit. Here the Indians fired on them from behind trees and logs that surrounded the mountain glade, killing a young man named Keene and wounding two others. This Keene was a very worthy fellow, and the creek close by is called Keene Creek to this day, in honor of his memory. The volunteers fired several shots into the surrounding brush and woods, but it is not known if any Indian felt the force of their bullets. The next thing was to get away with their wounded and their own lives, and they had a hard scrabble to accomplish it.
ONE MAN FOR A REAR GUARD.The Indians followed them up and made the gravel and dirt fly up under their feet, as they said, for their bullets followed them up the hill that led from the scene of the tragedy. A man named Jennison acted as rear guard, and, being cool-headed and more experienced, held the Modocs back, as he dodged from tree to tree and made it dangerous to come too near. Loading and firing by turns, he succeeded in knocking over the brave who was foremost in pursuit. His shouts of encouragement were no longer heard. The Indians came to the summit, fired off their guns and uttered derisive yells, then returned to their own camp. The volunteers went back considerably wider and much sadder men. They had left their horses in charge of one of their number at the springs where they camped the night before. On reaching the Indian camp they found there no braves on the warpath, or equipped for plunder, only a party of men and squaws who were industriously picking berries, a condition that signifies the utmost peacefulness of disposition. To cap the climax of their humiliation, the lost pony wandered into the valley a few days after, dragging a bush that was tied to his trail rope. In dragging this rope it had got fast to some bush, and having finally--after his detention had borne very serious and fatal results--pulled off the limb or bush, he took the trail into the valley. All had been a mistake, and the men killed and wounded were great sufferers in consequence. The Indians, who fired their guns with such glee, as will be seen, proved in the end to be the greatest sufferers of all, notwithstanding their glorious victory. Tolman says: "The place of this defeat was where the stage road to Linkville crosses Keene Creek, so called in remembrance of as good and reliable a young man as could be found, though of no experience in Indian warfare."
ORIGIN OF DEAD INDIAN PRAIRIE.An uneasy feeling prevailed among the settlers in consequence of this blunder, and various unhealthy symptoms were observed. A company was raised to scour the country and find those same Indians. Finally a detour was made by them into a high plateau, dividing the waters of Little Butte and Bear creeks, tributaries of the Klamath and Rogue rivers, when, at the head of a narrow, long glade, the volunteers discovered an Indian camp. There was something peculiar in the fact that carrion crows, or buzzards, were seen in the air, circling above the village, and occasionally one would swoop down as if seizing prey. But, making all proper arrangements, they charged upon the camp. They found there only dead Indians. The carrion birds held no false carnival, but rioted in a camp of the dead. Since that time, and no doubt to all coming time as well, that mountain glade has borne, and will forever bear, the name of "Dead Indian Prairie." How to account for this holocaust of death was a strange question! Who were those Indians who lay there so still in death? Who were the slayers? Inspection showed they were the same Indians that Fred Alberding's volunteers had encountered on Keene Creek, for they found with them articles they had lost in their hasty retreat. One, who had a bad wound in the side that was partially healed, was evidently the leader Dennison had wounded while covering the retreat.
SOLVING A STRANGE MYSTERY.This mystery was finally solved by the statement made by a band of Rogue River Indians, who camped at the mouth of Little Butte, on Rogue River, to Dr. Ambrose. It seems that, fearing they might be some way blamed for the [illegible] up on the mountain in force and slew the last one of the band they found there. Keene Creek is not on the Rogue River side of the mountain, and those were not Rogue Rivers. They were peaceably picking berries for winter use. They naturally resisted the volunteers' [sic] attack. They must have been unsuspicious when the Little Butte Indians attacked and slew them all. We have said they were to be the greatest sufferers, and now we find them all defunct. The strayed pony has been fearfully avenged all round. No one ever knew what became of their squaws. But the end was not yet. Two fearful raids were after that event made on the trail from Jacksonville to Yreka. Probable Lake Indians organized both, and it is thought certain that Modocs were in the last. If these were intended to revenge the death of the Indians on that mountain, then the effect of a trifling mistake of judgment was very far-reaching. It is the labor of the historian to search for facts and draw inferences and form conclusions. He becomes impressed with the want of wisdom that prevails on earth and can hardly believe that his predecessors were such blunderers until he compares his and our own successes with their failures. There has not been much change in man since the beginning.
THE LUPTON-HAYES FIASCO.The next blunder, and the greatest of all, was the night attack, on Oct. 7, 1855, on the Indians who lived on Rogue River. Many more innocent lives were lost in that fiasco, and in the events that came in consequence of it, than by all that had preceded it. This expedition was organized by one Col. Hayes, and by Maj. Lupton, whose military titles were probably picked up on the road to Oregon. Hayes was an unreliable blowhard who wound up his career in Oregon by a sudden disappearance. Without any reason or excuse for such a slaughter they attacked this band we have spoken of at the mouth of Butte Creek. They raised a company of forty or more reckless men, took their time to approach and surround the place, and at daybreak commenced a grand slaughter. They killed many old men and some women, as the warriors seem to have been absent. The number of Indians killed is estimated at twenty to eighty. Two whites were killed and seven wounded. Lupton was one of the killed, so his account was properly closed. After perpetrating this cowardly butchery these brave men separated and quietly returned to their several homes, letting no news of the slaughter they had perpetrated get to the world; leaving the wives and children of peaceful settlers, who took no part in the massacre, to reap the harvest of vengeance that was certain to follow it. They could not help but know that the settlers of the valley would feel the vengeance of the Indians descend upon them. Thus was introduced
THE INDIAN WAR OF 1855.To be sure there was ill feeling among the Indians along the whole frontier from British Columbia to California, but that feeling had been brought about by outrages committed b white men to some extent. All the vengeance in Indian nature would be sure to respond to such dastard acts as this last, and the Indian creed of right knows no rule save to repay such acts in kind and return pay fourfold. Their reasoning powers could not rise to the point of recognizing that the white race had its good and bad elements. They had a briefer and more satisfactory theory of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Any eye or tooth answered for reprisal that belonged to a white man, and neither sex nor age was secure from that savage vengeance. The long lines of shifting frontiers that have moved with kaleidoscopic variety the length of this continent for two centuries and a half from Jamestown to Rogue River have been marked by outrages of reckless whites and the bloody vengeance of the expiring native tribes.
S. A. CLARKE.Oregonian, Portland, March 28, 1886, page 2
THE ROGUE RIVER OUTBREAKIn one of the charming villas at Belvedere lives George W. Miller, who, something more than forty years ago, was first lieutenant of the volunteer company raised at Port Orford, Or., to aid the regulars in the defense of homes and the suppression of the Indians in what is called the Rogue River Indian War.
An allusion to the massacre in a recent publication has awakened in his mind personal reminiscences of that struggle, in which a little band of whites successfully resisted the desire for their extermination which lurked in the breast of old Chief John of the Tututnis.
Port Orford was at that time a collection of perhaps a dozen houses, with the fort, in which Major Reynolds of the United States army was stationed with possibly thirty-five regular soldiers.
"The cause of the outbreak was, undoubtedly, a system of indignities practiced upon the Indians by a number of lawless whites," said Mr. Miller to his visitor from The Call.
"One of the outrages bitterly resented by them was that of robbing their burial grounds of the boards with which it was customary for them to protect each grave. These boards were hewn with much labor from great cedar trees and with tools that a carpenter would have scorned. They were from a foot to two feet in width and of various lengths.
"Whenever lumber for certain purposes was needed, there were those in the community who did not hesitate to appropriate the nicely finished boards, without regard for the sacred significance applied to them by their lawful owners. Protestations upon the part of the Indians or settlers possessing a sense of justice were met with either insult or indifference.
"At that time there was no dearth of the flotsam which society ever casts upon the frontier. A certain number of young men, whose ages ranged from 25 to 30, were banded together and gave full play to any lawless inclination without regard for consequences. They affected the long-haired, buckskin-suited style of the dime novel hero. Some of them deferred to the Indian law of purchasing their squaw wives; others defied the custom, and, intimidating friends and relatives into relinquishing the squaws on whom their fancy lighted, bore them away after the fashion of barbaric conquerors.
"Before the feeling generated by these and other indignities had arisen the Indians were peaceful and friendly. On finding that their primitive shell coin could not purchase the white man's supplies they willingly gave labor in exchange. This work was done principally by the squaws, who dug gold or helped in unloading vessels when they ventured into the dangerous, breaker-beset harbors.
"The Indians were four years preparing for the war which they fancied would rid them of the whites and avenge their wrongs.
"Sea otter were at that time plentiful, and numbers were caught by the Indians. The usual price paid by the traders for a skin was three rifles, and in this way arms and ammunition ware purchased. These were carefully cached for the contemplated outbreak.
"The greater part of the guns traded to the Indians were what was termed the United States auger gun. These were short-barreled affairs holding an ounce ball, which was discharged with a rotary motion. The cash price paid for this gun was $12.
"When rumors of impending trouble were noised about, the traders, the majority of whom were what is termed squaw men, remarked with complacency that under any circumstances they had no cause to fear the Indians, as the presence of their squaws was a protection. It was significant that these traders were the first to fall victims to the wrath of the savages, and were all mercilessly tortured. The most prominent among them was Ben Wright, known as an Indian fighter, who for such services drew a pension from the government. The successive slaughter of other well-known characters followed and soon brought us to a realization that a bloody war was full upon us. Plans for resistance were soon put into operation. A number of men in whaleboats started to aid the settlers living at the mouth of Rogue River. The effort was futile, as the Indians attacked them when about to land, killing all save one of their number, who escaped to the fort. Among them was a merchant named Jerome, who had taken advantage of the expedition to collect a debt from a debtor at that point,
"The instigator and leader of the Indians, Chief John, was acknowledged by the white officers to be a warrior indeed, a crafty tactician, who tried to the uttermost the military skill of his white adversaries. Besides employing the usual signal fires resorted to by all savages, he invented a unique and effective human telephone system. Knowing that the women of his tribe would be safer than men from the guns of the soldiers, he stationed young squaws at intervals of 300 yards from one point to another between which he desired communications to pass. Thus the message was called from mouth to mouth with rapidity and authenticity.
"When Colonel Buchanan came to the relief of the disheartened soldiers he requested John's presence at camp, sending men as hostages, and endeavoring to treat with his red foe, but the warrior listened to his propositions disdainfully. He desired no treaty, and, looking the officer steadily in the eye, declared that he preferred to fight him man to man--a statement which the angry general could not resent, as he felt inclined to do, owing to the dangerous position of the three soldiers held by the Indians until the return of their chief.
"The Indians endeavored to keep the waters of Rogue River between themselves and the white men. Upon the further shore were their provisions, their stores of ammunition and their families. For a long time they successfully resisted the efforts of their enemies to cross.
"The story has often been told of the construction of canvas boats in which the soldiers reached the opposite shore under protection of howitzers planted upon the bank above them, and of the destruction by them of immense stores of dried fish, which at that season of the year formed the chief article of Indian food. The berries upon which they might have subsisted had not yet ripened, and their attempts to catch further supplies of fish were frustrated. Starvation or surrender stared them in the face, and a dreadful scourge of sickness, caused by lack of food, set in among them.
"When General Buchanan sent word for Chief John's surrender, the Indian replied that through necessity he yielded to the great tyee's command. When the order was given for them to leave the vicinity for the more fruitful northern reservation a chief called Tagonecia sorrowfully protested.
"'I was born here,' said he, 'and here I hope to lay my bones when I die. I have always befriended the whites and in my heart is no enmity toward them.' His request was unheeded and with the Indians well known to be hostile he was commanded to take his departure.
"Tagonecia was an Indian of fine physique, being fully 6 feet tall, of a benevolent and intelligent countenance. He was noted among his people for his ingenuity, and among other useful things could make an excellent saddle similar to those used by the Mexicans.
"When the Indians, some 1500 in number, took their departure they passed through the lines of the soldiers stationed at Port Orford. They formed a procession which was the personification of wretchedness, poverty and despair. Old men and women were led in their blindness by younger members of their tribe or family. Women weak from sickness bore heavy burdens or children upon their backs. Wolf-eyed warriors stepped with an air of haughty nonchalance and a look of baffled hatred upon their dark faces. Troops of children crept along, ragged, dirty, pitiful; and leading his people was Chief John, mounted upon a sorry mule, a look of indifference on his face, his eyes, which seemed to observe nothing, fixed straight before him.
"Port Orford was never attacked by the Indians, though scouts were often sent by them to take account of and report any opportunity for slaughter. These scouts traveled at night, running swiftly upon the beach and in the water's edge to hide their footprints. In spite of this precaution, however, they were usually seen by the watchful sentinels and a shot sent them precipitately into the sea.
"A number of peculiar incidents of that bloody period remain in the memory alter the general dark background has worn dim. At the beginning of the outbreak, I remember, a blockhouse, two stories in eight and forty-five feet square, was built on the outskirts of the little town; in this blockhouse families found shelter at night.
"There had been no indication of the presence of Indians for some time, and one of the families, growing tired of the constant moving to and fro, decided to remain at home upon a certain night. Before morning, however, an alarm of Indians was sounded, and the husband and wife, each catching up a child, started for the blockhouse.
"They had gone but a short distance when it was discovered that some much-needed belonging had been forgotten. The husband decided to return, bidding his wife hasten on to the blockhouse, which there was two ways of reaching from their dwelling--one a shortcut through the thick bushes, and the other by a wagon road.
"The wife chose the former, while in returning the husband took the road. Not overtaking her the safety of his wife and child weighed upon his mind, and the necessity of silence was entirely forgotten.
"He loudly called her name and she, though realizing the danger of such an outburst, felt compelled to answer.
"Her exact location and the progress she was making next caused him anxiety, and his call was repeated. As expostulation was impossible the wife again relieved his anxiety by loudly calling her answer. So through the strip of woodland they went proclaiming themselves an easy prey to the savages, who fortunately for them were biding their time or committing depredations elsewhere."
Although surrounded by dangers the younger portion of the community felt the need of amusement, and a dance was accordingly given.
They congregated in the only hall the place afforded, stationed pickets to guard against surprises, and, stacking their arms conveniently at hand, proceeded to enjoy themselves to the accompaniment of a brace of fiddles.
As young children formed an important part of the community, and nurses were not a feature of the frontier, each mother participating in the gaiety--and young mothers were in the majority among the women--placed her child upon a convenient bed in the dressing-room and unencumbered joined the dance.
One of the babies so disposed of is today a prosperous business man of our city.
The sympathetic members of that party received a shock in the unexpected appearance of an elderly woman who but two weeks before had a son murdered in the whaleboat expedition. Yet in spite of his awful fate she joined in dancing and made merry with the rest. Her utter heartlessness was a circumstance never forgotten by those who were present.
Mr. Miller exclaims bitterly against the blindness of the government to the interests of its law-abiding citizens in depriving them of fertile and accessible lands and bestowing them upon the unwilling Indians, who preferred the thick woods and barren shores from which they were driven and which were best suited for their savage needs.
"God made that wild country for the Injuns,"' declared Mr. Miller in conclusion, "and the government made a fool of itself in driving them away and giving them land that the white man was bound to need some day." Clara Iza Price.
San Francisco Call, April 11, 1897, page 19 Reprinted in Salem's Statesman Journal, April 14, 1897, page 7
REMINISCENCES OF ROGUE RIVER WAR
Written by "Uncle Sam" Handsaker to Lieut. Stephen Longfellow
Dear old comrade:--It was all owing to an interview I had with Mrs. A. Martindale, of Camas Valley, Douglas County, Oregon, and which was published in the semi-weekly Plaindealer in July that I learned of your whereabouts, for we had not met since the day we were discharged from the service, on the 28th day of June, 1856, at Deer Creek, now and for many years past the flourishing city of Roseburg. [Deer Creek was the original name of Roseburg.]
A lady friend of yours from Southern Oregon, after reading the interview, wrote a brief note in which she said: "One of the men, Lieutenant Stephen Longfellow, is living, located at Henley, Cal. He is rather feeble from old age and the many hardships he has endured, but is still a kindhearted, genial gentleman, with many friends who wish him a long and happy life."
Yes, old comrade, I am sure the sentiment is true, every word of it, for it is not flattering to say that during the time we were in the service, whether on the march over rugged mountains, frequently covered with snow, and nothing but a narrow trail on which to travel, or on the battlefield with the murderous Indians, "Steve" was all right. I have the kind permission of the editor of the Plaindealer for use of its columns to publish a few reminiscences as they occurred forty-eight years ago and in which the company of Capt. Buoy, Company B, 2nd Regiment, Oregon Territory Volunteers, were actors. It seems needless to say that but a few of the old company of one hundred and twenty are, so far as I know, now living. Of these I recall the names of J. J. Butler, and some of the Millirons, B. F. Powers, David Bruce, William Kilsay, and our old surgeon, Dr. A. W. Patterson, who is now 90 years of age and has lost the use of his eyes. I. J. Hughes filled a soldier's grave in Florida.
I am sure you will remember the morning of October 29, 1855, when we received orders to break camp at Roseburg, and make a forced march to assist in the battle of Hungry Hill, then raging, with the odds, owing to their superior situation, in favor of the Indians. When, in going through the "Big Canyon," a distance of eleven miles, we forded the creek twenty-two times. There were no bridges, so our horses had to swim frequently.
PLACED UNDER ARREST.You will recollect we reached the "Six Bit House" on the evening of the second just as they were coming in with the wounded men from "Hungry Hill," where a number of our brave comrades had lain down their lives in defense of their frontier homes. The battlefield was eight miles away and was reached by a narrow trail through the mountains.
Here we had the first experience of "standing guard," and the writer was one of the actors in the exciting scene that for a time was enacted in our camp. Marion P. Martin, Fourth Sergeant, was corporal of the guard, and when he gave the four guards the countersign, instead of giving each the same word, he gave each a different one, and here the trouble began. When the writer was apprehended with the stern words, "Who goes there" and answered "Friends," upon his advance to give the countersign, the word he gave was at variance with that given the challenger. At this, a call was made for the "corporal of the guard." At the bayonet's point and with the whole company aroused, wondering what was the matter, ye scribe was marched to the Captain's tent to give an account of himself, but when the corporal of the guard explained how he had given each sentinel a separate password the blame was at once placed where it belonged and all was again serene. "Six Bit House" was a deserted and rather dilapidated affair, built of "shakes." It is said to have taken its name from the fact that an Indian who had transgressed the laws was summarily hanged, but before he was sent to the "happy hunting ground" he "dunned" a spectator for "six bits" he claimed was due him.
We made our camp during the first part of the winter at Yoacum's on the bank of the South Umpqua River, three miles from Canyonville. Our only protection was tents, and they were of light material. On Christmas Eve the snow began to fall, with a cold wind from the north, and by the time the snow was six inches deep the weather became very cold and remained so for some weeks. The rivers with the rapid current froze so much that it was with difficulty we could cross with the ferry boat. Some of the boys enjoyed their Christmas greatly by having a "stag dance" to the music of a squeaky dance violin, and the "ladies," boys in disguise, wore a blanket in imitation of a dress. Our rations of bread, bacon and beans were cooked in front of our tents, with log fires in the open air. Sometimes our menu was improved with vegetables bought from the farmers. Fruit was conspicuous by its absence, as but few orchards were bearing in those early days.
Our cooking utensils consisted in frying pans in which we baked our bread and fried the meat, or in their absence a forked stick around which the dough was placed and set before the fire; a coffee pot and camp kettle. We "browned" our own coffee and in the absence of a mill would place the berries in a cloth and pound them.
(Continued in next issue.)"Reminiscences of Rogue River War," Roseburg Plaindealer, September 5, 1904, page 1
REMINISCENCES OF ROGUE RIVER WAR"Reminiscences of Rogue River War," Roseburg Plaindealer, September 8, 1904, page 1
Written by "Uncle Sam" Handsaker to Lieut. Stephen Longfellow
The life of a soldier on the frontier is not all sunshine, neither is it all shadow. You will call to mind, old comrade, the time we were camped at L. D. Kent's place, near where the town of Dillard, some ten miles south of Roseburg, is located, and how our good old Captain, when about to make a trip to Roseburg, paraded the company, and made a special request that for one night during his absence those of the boys who were fond of "tripping the light fantastic toe" might remain in camp and give the "girls" a rest, for strange as it may seem, the girls were fond of dancing too. During the day it was whispered around that the Captain's request would be ignored and the usual dance follow.
Some of the boys, who did not care to pass away the time in this manner, decided they would have a share in the evening's sports, but in another manner. One of them who I am sure is one of the few now living, but who would blush to see his name in print, explained to the picket on duty and with his trusty rifle wended his way some distance above the camp, and soon after the dance at the house had begun, fired a number of shots, piercing the night air between the shots with the Indian war whoop. Let those who never heard one, retire to some secluded spot and while he is yelling at the top of his voice, strike his lips rapidly with his hand, and he will then have a faint conception of what I wish to explain. While this part of the program is being enacted, another one of the boys, named Robert Clark, and who thought he had been slighted because he had not been invited to the dance, rushed to the door and at the top of his voice yelled, "Indians! Indians!!" It is needless to say that the house was soon vacated by its evening visitors, who hastened pell mell down the hill towards camp, many of them falling off the narrow footbridge that spanned a stream of water. When they reached camp and was given the ha! ha! they were, to use a slang expression, "hot." Lieutenant Jonathan Moore, the officer in charge, and one of the visitors at the house, demanded the name of the culprit, but as [you] may be sure it was not forthcoming. When Captain Buoy returned the following day, having heard in Roseburg that the Indians had made an attack on our camp, the nameless one "acknowledged the corn," and the decision was: "You did just right."
INDIANS ATTACK CAMP AT NIGHT.I am sure, old comrade, you will recollect the time when a part of our company with a detail of Bailey's company was sent out to ascertain if any of the Indians could be found. After hunting for them a day or two without finding any sign of them, they returned towards camp, and night coming on they made their camp in an open space in the woods. After supper was over, it was decided by the boys that they should decide in a wrestling bout which was the best man for strength and agility. Fires were replenished, and Edward Gage of Buoy's company, and John L. Gardiner, of Bailey's company, both of them stout, rugged young men in the prime of life, and with no thought that within a few moments the wily foe who was then waiting for an opportunity to kill two of our best men were so near at hand. But such is the fortune of war. Soon after our comrades had entered the ring, each one striving in a friendly manner to uphold the prestige of his company, a rain of bullets fired by Indians who had in some manner passed our sentinels, laid low the two contestants, and who died the following day. One of the balls grazed the cheek of Lieutenant Moore, and another one entered the shoulder of Jerry Taylor of our company, who at the time was playing cards with a comrade. Jerry is yet living, an honored citizen of Lane County, and will carry the ball in his shoulder to his grave as a reminder of some of the pioneer days in Oregon.
GREAT EXCITEMENT IN CAMP.In the month of March 1856, most of the troops marched to the Big Meadows, on Rogue River, near where most of the Indians had camped the greater part of the winter. Their camps were, however, on the opposite side in the heavy timber, and we had no way of crossing, so it goes without saying that during the many fights we had with them, they had the advantage of seeing us in the open, while they were sheltered by the timber. One afternoon the Indians fired on our pickets, when more men was sent to repel the attack. An Indian will never fight unless he has the advantage, and in this, as in many other instances, "they took leg bail for security," fleeing across the river in their canoes. When the boys returned to camp and the roll was called, one of our company, F. M. Splawn, was missing. Volunteers were at once called for to go and search for our missing comrade, but as night was near and the distance was at least three miles away to where Frank was last seen, loading and firing at the Indians with all the power he had, for a braver fellow than he could not be found, it was decided to wait till morning before going to his rescue. Frank, by his manly bearing and well-known courage, was a favorite with the whole company, and many of us retired to our blankets, not to sleep but to wonder if on the morrow we would find our comrade slain by the merciless savage and his body terribly mutilated, as is the Indian custom.
An abler pen than mine perhaps can portray the joy in our camp early in the morning when our outside sentinels announced at the top of their lungs:
"Splawn's in camp! Splawn's in camp!!"
Sure enough, there was our old dear comrade, but after he related the ordeal through which he had passed in the last few hours, it was no wonder he looked to be several years older. He related how when the order was given to return to camp he was in front and did not know that he was left alone, but when the retreating Indians paid particular attention to him he sought refuge in a bunch of brush, into which was sent many rifle balls but luckily did not hit him. He did not expect to escape with his life, so after saving a part of the powder, bullets and caps (for that was before the magazine rifles of modern times were invented), he threw the rest away, so if the Indians got his body they should not get his ammunition. When darkness set in he emerged from his retreat and after wandering all night over the dark, pathless mountains, the most rugged and precipitous that can be imagined, he wandered into camp as related above.
(To be continued.)
REMINISCENCES OF ROGUE RIVER WAR"Reminiscences of Rogue River War," Roseburg Plaindealer, September 12, 1904, page 1
Written by "Uncle Sam" Handsaker to Lieut. Stephen Longfellow
SHOT FROM AMBUSH.About April 15th, 1856, McDonough Harkness and another man, whose name I cannot recall, left Fort Leland for the Meadows with express for our camps. When but two miles away they were fired upon by Indians in ambush, and Harkness was killed, his companion escaping. I am sure that not one of my many comrades who saw the horrible sight we witnessed when the nude body of Harkness, lashed on a pack mule and mutilated in the most horrible manner, was brought into camp. Never will we forget the sight the red devils had wrought.
This war was carried from start to finish almost entirely with volunteers, and in our ranks could be found beardless boys and old gray-headed pioneers who had but recently left their homes "in the States," and with their families bundled into wagons drawn by the patient, plodding ox teams, made the trip to Oregon after the lapse of six months or more. Near the last of April some of the Indian chiefs, after a parley with Captain Smith, who had under his command seventy-five regulars, agreed to meet him at the "Little Meadows" at a certain time with a view of entering into negotiations for peace. When he arrived he made his camp in the timber, not thinking of treachery on the part of the Indians. After dark two squaws informed Captain Smith that the Indians would attack him early next morning. Orders were at once given to move the camp a short distance to a bald, oblong hill, where he expected to have an even chance with the Indians, but did not seem to be aware that not a drop of water could be had for his men. At 10 o'clock the Indians made the attack, but with the assistance of a howitzer and the bravery of his men, the Indians, who were armed with better guns than the regulars, were prevented from massacring the entire company. At the first opportunity a courier was sent through the Indians' lines in the night to the mouth of the river for more troops, which fortunately arrived on the evening of the second day, just as the Indians were ready to make a charge on the almost famished men for want of water. More than third of Smith's men were either killed or wounded. Our forces during this time were on the way down the river, but it was not until late in the day that we heard the howitzer, miles away. We at once started at the double quick, but when we reached the scene of their bloody fight a part of the Indian chiefs had surrendered. In conversation with some of the regulars, I was told that during the fight the Indians would creep near the soldiers and with forked sticks attempt to draw away the soldiers' blankets, and when the soldiers would raise their heads the Indians would shoot them.
This was the beginning of a permanent peace. In a short time the various tribes surrendered and were at once taken to the Grand Ronde and Siletz reservations, where remnants of them still exist.
I am sure, old comrade, that not only yourself but the many readers of the Plaindealer will breathe a sigh of relief to know that my desultory notes of the long ago are about to close. If, perchance, some may wonder why I did not make mention of more of the battles during the six months we were in service, my answer would be [that] other and more competent writers have done this.
In conclusion, it seems unnecessary to remind my old comrades that in the forty-eight years that have passed since we last met many of the old members of Company C have answered the final roll call and ere long, we too.
"By an unfaltering trust approach the grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of the couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."
The manner in which Indians of the vicinity obtained guns and ammunition from the whites was one of the interesting highlights of the radio story. A few of the guns were stolen, others were sold by merchants, and others were traded to the Indians by the miners for a squaw. A number of the squaws ran away and returned to their former redmen husbands, who, upon being sought out by the white owner [sic] would only resurrender the squaws upon receiving another gun. Ammunition was made often from the scraps of lead and tinfoil dug up by the Indians from the rubbish heaps of the white settlers.
The red men in possession of weapons to compete with the white men began trying their wings by attacking the various settlements. Their first act in 1853 [sic] was to kill a farmer [Edward Edwards] on Bear Creek near Phoenix. Two days later an Indian named Thompson was turned over by the chief at Table Rock to the whites. He was tried before the court, convicted and hanged two days later. Three or four murders followed then, and the whites armed themselves as heavily as possible and stood guard.
Miners on the Applegate, Sterling, [and] Foots Creek all came into Jacksonville for protection. A military company was formed in that city, Armstrong appointed captain, J. F. Miller lieutenant and Charles Drew quartermaster. Six companies of volunteers were raised, and one in the command of Captain Fowler was left to protect Jacksonville. Each man furnished his own horse and equipment. B. F. Dowell had charge of the transportation, Capt. Alden of the military post at Fort Jones who came with the volunteers and regulars.
There were no uniforms, but every member of the six companies organized was an "Indian fighter." A band of 300 Indians selected a strong position at Table Rock.
In the meantime the whites were sending out detachments to locate the red men and the latter having made bold assertions that they would keep up their attacks until every white man was out of the country. The first engagement was under the command of Captain Miller on Applegate near Williams Creek where an Indian band was followed and where they ambushed the whites, who lost two men. They fought there an hour with five Indians killed. The whites were finally forced to retreat, leaving the field to the Indians, the latter outnumbering the former two to one.
During August of that year two miners on their way from Willow Springs to Jacksonville were killed and robbed. A messenger was dispatched north asking for help. General Lane heard the news, raised an army of 50 volunteers and proceeded on to Camp Stewart where he found Captain Alden with his regulars and volunteer troop.
The command of the troops was offered to Lane, who accepted it and laid out an active campaign. The first attack under Lane took place on Evans Creek, where the Indians were taken unawares. Captain Alden was wounded in this battle, rescued from the Indians, who exerted every effort to capture him, and moved to the rear while General Lane ordered an advance upon the red men.
Upon becoming aware of the presence of General Lane the Indians cried for peace, and the white officer, his coat disguising his wounded arm, walked among the red men. Following this, the two "chiefs" took their troops to [near] the top of Table Rock, where a peace parley was held. The Indians handed over their guns to the whites. The peace pipe was smoked. The troops, starting for home, went into camp at Bybee Ferry, calling it Camp Alden in honor of Major Alden.
"KMED Broadcast Reviews Pioneer Times in J'Ville," Medford Mail Tribune, January 5, 1930, page 5 This oral history confabulates the events of 1853 with a few from other years.
Last revised February 11, 2020