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Battle of Spokane Plains Official Report

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Official Report Of Colonel Wright
Head Quarters, Expedition against Northern Indians,

Camp on Spokan River W, T., 12 miles below the Falls.
September 6, 1858.

To Major W. Mackall, Assistant Adj’t. General TJ. S. Army:

Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of the battle of the Spokan Indians fought by the troops under my command on the 5th inst1 Our enemies were the Spokans, Coeur d’Alenes, Pelouses and Pend ‘Oreilles, numbering from five to seven hundred warriors.

Leaving my camp at the “Four Lakes” at 6 A. M. on the 6th, our route lay along the margin of a lake for about three miles, and thence for two miles over a broken country thinly scattered with pines, when emerging on to the open prairie, the hostile Indians were discovered about three miles to our right and in advance, moving rapidly along the skirt of the woods, and apparently with a view of intercepting our line of march before we should reach the timbers. After halting and closing up our long pack train, I moved forward, and soon found that the Indians were setting fire to the grass at various points in front and on my right flank. Capt. Keyes was now directed to advance three of his companies, deployed as skirmishers, to the front and right. This order was promptly obeyed, and Capt. Ord with Company K, Lieut. Gibson with Company M, and Lieut. Tyler with Company A, 3d Artillery, were thrown forward. At the same time Capt. Hardie, Company G, 3d Artillery, was deployed to the left, and the howitzer under Lieut. White, supported by Company E, 9th Infantry, were advanced to the line of skirmishers. The firing now became brisk on both sides, the Indians attacking us in front and on both flanks. The fires on the prairie nearly enveloped us, and were rapidly approaching our troops and the pack train. Not a moment was to be lost. I ordered the advance. The skirmishers,2 the howitzer, and the 1st squadron of Dragoons under Major Grier, dashed gallantly through the roaring flames, and the Indians were driven to seek shelter in the forest and rocks. As soon as a suitable position could be obtained, the howitzer under White opened fire with shell. The Indians were again routed from their cover, closely pursued by our skirmishers, and followed by Grier, with his squadron leading.

All this time our pack train was concentrated as much as possible, and guarded by Capt. Dent, 9th Infantry, with his Co. B, Lieut. Davidson, 1st Dragoons, with his Company E, and Lieut. Ihrie, 3d Artillery, with his Company B, advancing. The trail bore off to the right, which threw Ord and Tyler with their skirmishers to the left. A heavy body of Indians had concentrated on our left, when our whole line moved quickly forward, and the firing became general throughout the front, occupied by Ord, Hardie and Tyler, and the howitzer under White, supported by Winder, with Gregg’s troop of Dragoons following in rear, waiting for a favorable opportunity to make a dash. At the same time, Gibson, with Company M, 3d Artillery, drove the Indians on the right front; an open plain here intervening, Major Grier passed the skirmishers with his own and Lieutenant Pender’s troop, and charged the Indians, killing two and wounding three. Our whole line and train advanced steadily, driving the Indians over rocks and through ravines. Our point of direction having been changed to the light. Captain Ord found himself alone with his company, on the extreme left of the skirmishers, and opposed by a large body of the enemy. They were gallantly charged by Captain Ord, and driven successfully from the high table rocks where they had taken refuge. Captain Ord pursued the Indians, until approaching the train he occupied the left flank.

Moving forward towards the Spokan River, the Indians still in front. Lieutenants Ihrie and Howard with Company B, 3d Artillery, were thrown out on the right flank and instantly cleared the way. And after a continuous fight for seven hours, over a distance of fourteen miles, we encamped on the banks of the Spokan River the troops exhausted by a long and fatiguing march, twenty-five miles without water, and for two-thirds of the distance under fire. The battle was won, two chiefs and two brothers of the chief Gearry killed, besides many of lesser note either killed or wounded. A kind Providence again protected us; although at many times the halls flew thick and fast through our ranks, yet strange to say, we had but one man slightly wounded.

Again it affords me the highest pleasure to bear witness to the zeal, energy, gallantry and perseverance displayed by the officers and men during this protracted battle.

Brevet Major W. N. Grier, commanding a squadron of 1st Dragoons, composed of his own Company and that of Lieutenant Pender, made a gallant charge at the right moment, killing two and wounding three of the enemy. The Major speaks in the highest terms of the gallantry of Lieutenant Pender, commanding Company “C.”

Lieutenant Davidson with Company “E” was rear guard to the general train, and that duty was well performed. Lieutenant Gregg with Company “H” was posted in rear of the howitzer, with a view of making a dash at the enemy, but the ground was so broken that dragoons could not operate effectively.

Captain E. D. Keyes, 3d Artillery, commanding battalion pursuing, was energetic and gallant throughout. Although the troops extended over a mile, yet the Captain was always in the right place at the right time.

Captain Keyes reports the following companies and officers as particularly distinguished.

Company “K,” Captain E. O. C. Ord and Lieutenant M. R. Morgan.

Company “G,” Captain J. A. Hardie and Lieutenant Ransom.

Company “M,’ Lieutenants Gibson and Dandy.

Company “A,” Lieutenants Tyler and Lyon.

The howitzer battery under Lieutenant White, with detachment of 20 men Company “D,” 3d artillery, behaved most gallantly throughout the action. Eight shells were thrown into the midst of the enemy during the fight, and with effect.

The conduct of Lieutenant Kip, Adjutant, of artillery battalion, is noticed by Captain Keyes as having been excellent throughout the day.

The rifle battalion, companies “B” and “E,” 9th infantry, under Captain Dent. Captain Dent with his company was on the rear guard to protect the pack train. This duty was handsomely performed, and the train moved along unharmed by the enemy or the fires.

Captain Winder was detached with Lieutenant Fleming and Company “E” to support the howitzer battery. This service was admirably performed, bravely advancing and pouring in a fire with their rifles when opportunity offered, till the close of the battle.

The friendly Nez Perces were employed chiefly as spies and guides, as well as guards to pack train. As usual they behaved well.

Again I have the pleasure of presenting to the Department the gentlemen of my staff:

1st Lieutenant P. A. Owen, Adjt. 9th Infantry, &c.
1st Lieutenant J. Mullan, Acting Engineer, &c.,
Captain R. Kirkham, A. Q. M.,
Assistant Surgeon J. F. Hammond U. S, A.,
Assistant Surgeon J. F. Randolph, U. S. A.

These gentlemen were all on the field, cool, energetic and brave, whether conveying orders to distant points of the line, or attending to their professional duties.

A memoir and topographical sketch of the battle by Lieutenant Mullan, Engineer officer, is herewith enclosed.
Respectfully, &c,
G. Wright, Col. 9th Inf’y, Com’g.

Footnotes

  1. The three companies of 8d Artillery above mentioned. 

  2. Since the battle we learn that Kamiaken, war chief of Yakimas waa nearly killed by a shell. 


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