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The Fighting Starts

Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Military,Native American,Oregon,Washington | No Comments

Major H. A. G. Lee and his company had arrived at The Dalles on New Year’s Day, 1848. To Lee, enroute, the Governor had written and had recommended the building of a blockhouse mounting one or two guns, at the Cascades. However, Joel Palmer, Commissary-General, had started a few men to the Cascades for that purpose. They built no blockhouse nor storehouse, but did erect a few cabins, and dignified the place by naming it Fort Gilliam.

At The Dalles Lee was having his moments trying to keep his men from returning home. There were shortages of everything food, heavy clothing, ammunition. There wasn’t even a spyglass until sometime after January 5th when Abernethy wrote Lee: “Mr. McMillan has a spyglass and is on his way with it.”

The Spectator for January 6, 1848, printed copies of various legislative bills those authorizing the rifle regiment; the appointment of Joseph L. Meek as messenger to Washington and empowering him to borrow $500; appointing commissioners to negotiate a loan; prohibiting the sale of arms and ammunition to the Indians; establishing at $1.50 per day the rate of pay for enlisted men in the Rifle Regiment. The same issue printed a letter from Major Lee in which he said that there was no news from Waiilatpu except Indian reports, which if true, were awful enough.

On January 8, Lee’s men spotted some Cayuses rounding up livestock. These animals had been left in care of the settlers until they could be moved to the Willamette Valley in the spring. Lee ordered seventeen men to pursue the marauders. The Indians were well mounted, while some of the soldiers were afoot. The Cayuses drove off 300 head of cattle, taunting the soldiers about being unprepared to follow them and daring them to fight: Sergeant Berry was wounded and the Indians suffered three killed and one wounded.

Why that foray? Why such apparent boldness? Henry H. Spalding at Lapwai Mission had, on his initiative, given his word to the Cayuses that there would be no reprisals because of the Whitman incident. There had been a conference at the Catholic Mission at Walla Walla between the priests and the Cayuse chiefs, as a result of which Bishop Blanchet had written Governor Abernethy urging no reprisals. When the Cayuses became aware of the presence of the Rifle Company at The Dalles and had learned that an entire regiment was being recruited, they had decided that any promises made to either Reverend Spalding or the priests were null and void. In fact, a band of Cayuses had gone to Lapwai to capture Spalding, only to find that he had fled when the captives were rescued by Ogden.

Next day, January 9, Lee sent a detachment to see Siletza, Chief of the DesChutes tribe, who had been robbed by the Cayuses for refusing to join against the whites. The soldiers captured sixty Cayuse horses, poor recompense indeed for 300 cattle.

The Spectator of January 20, 1848, contained lots of news. Its front page carried the story of the ransom and rescue of the captives and their safe return, and a letter from Reverend Spalding expressing fear for his life. There was a translation of a statement by four Cayuse chiefs, giving as their reason for the massacre at Waiilatpu, that Whitman had been poisoning Indians. The statement ended with a suggested basis for peace. Also printed was a list of the officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, of the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th companies of the regiment. Also a copy of a resolution passed at a public meeting at Tualatin Plains considering every man a member of the militia and calling for a survey of all men in the district, a sort of early ancestor to the modern armed services draft law. There was also a notice calling a meeting of the citizens of Champoeg County for the purpose of organizing an additional company of volunteers for the Cayuse War. Most important was the resolution passed at French Prairie to enlist a company for the Rifle Regiment, for there had been some doubt about the reaction of the French settlers living there to an American war.

Colonel Gilliam had started for The Dalles with one contingent of his regiment. Several other companies were in various stages of preparation. At that time Cornelius Gilliam was forty-nine years of age. Born in North Carolina and raised in Missouri, he had served in both the Black Hawk and Seminole Indian wars, and became a captain under General Zachary Taylor. He was also a captain of State Militia in the effort to expel the Mormons from Missouri. He served in the Missouri Legislature and in 1844 led a large group of immigrants into Oregon. He had been ordained a minister of the Freewill Baptist denomination and settled in Polk County where he, as its minister, organized a church on the North Luckiamute River. Bigotry and narrow-mindedness in religious matters were to be found everywhere among the colonists and Gilliam was no exception. He was ready to believe that the Catholics incited the Indians; that the Hudson’s Bay Company was doing likewise; that the Hudson’s Bay Company was Catholic, when, as a matter of fact, Dr. John McLoughlin was the only Catholic among the Company’s leadership in the’ territory. In fact, the Colonel declared he would “pull down Fort Vancouver about their ears,” and the Hudson’s Bay Company thought he might try. There was a letter from Chief Factor Douglas to Governor Abernethy about Gilliam’s threat and a conciliatory reply from the Governor.

Gilliam started out with 220 men, Joel Palmer accompanying him. They stopped at Fort Vancouver where, on their personal credit, they bought $800 worth of goods necessary for their immediate needs. The soldiers were mounted but had no packhorses, hence their provisions were sent by boat which necessarily slowed the troops.

At the Cascades they were met by a messenger from Major Lee telling of the first skirmish at The Dalles. At this news Gilliam decided that he would not wait for the peace commissioners to catch up with him and hastened toward The Dalles. Arriving there he found a number of military orders from Governor Abernethy, all cautioning non-offense to friendly tribes and impressing Gilliam with the single purpose of the expedition to apprehend the murderers. The Governor enlarged upon that subject by saying hostilities would cease if the criminals were surrendered and restitution made for stolen property. There was also an official notice of the appointment of Palmer, Newell, and Lee as Peace, Commissioners.

Late in January, 1848, Gilliam, with 130 mounted officers and men, went as far east as the Deschutes River for the purpose of punishing the Indians who had driven off the 300 head of cattle. Believing that he knew the approximate location of the Indians, Gilliam sent Major Lee, with a detachment, to investigate. Lee found the Indians but they had witnessed his approach and had started to move their families to the mountains. Lee attacked. In the skirmish one Indian was killed and two women and some horses were captured. The detachment decided to return to the main force but were attacked in a ravine. The Indians rolled boulders down on the soldiers but fortunately none of the latter was injured. After dark the return to Gilliam was accomplished and next day, January 30, the entire force started in pursuit. Overtaking the Indians, the troops charged and in the fray 20 or 30 Indians were killed, the exact number being seldom known in Indian warfare because of their practice of removing the dead from the field of action. The troops also recovered four head of cattle, 40 horses and several hundred dollars worth of personal property. One soldier was wounded. The Indian village was destroyed but the old people, who had been left at home, were spared. Skirmishing continued for several days, usually under the personal leadership of Lee. During these days three soldiers were killed, one being accidentally shot by the guard, and two, Jackson and Packwood, having been decoyed from camp and killed. Two others were wounded by arrows.

When Palmer and Newell reached the Cascades they found cause for concern. Supplies there were being systematically robbed. Flour barrels had been opened, part of the contents stolen, and the barrels headed up again. But a cannon had arrived as had Captain Thomas McKay’s company. The march toward The Dalles was resumed. The post at The Dalles had recently been named Fort Lee, officially, although it was most frequently referred to as Fort Wascopam. The two companies reached that fort on February 10 without any skirmishes enroute. Next day a conference was held between the officers and the commissioners for the purpose of agreeing upon a course of action. New companies were arriving and as each put in its appearance both parties fired salutes in spite of the shortage of ammunition. The regiment now numbered 537 officers and men.

On February 12 Colonel Gilliam notified the peace commissioners that he had issued orders to march on the 14th. The commissioners were disturbed because they were hoping for a council with the Nez Percés and feared that the movement of the troops would alarm the Indians and thus prevent a council. But discipline within the regiment was not good and Gilliam reasoned that the best cure was to get under way. Accordingly he left a corporal with 20 men to guard Fort Lee and removed Chief Siletza’s band below The Dalles for their own protection as well as to remove temptation from them.

With The Dalles as a base of supplies, Gilliam pressed immigrants’ wagons and ox-teams into service and marched. He crossed the Deschutes on February 16, taking a nine-pounder cannon, which they mounted on two wagon wheels. Next day they camped on the east bank of the John Day River. The Commissioners had sent messengers ahead with a flag and presents of tobacco to the disaffected tribes along the Columbia River and had received information, which caused them to conclude that all the tribes above The Dalles had united against the troops. From their camp on the John Day River the Commissioners sent a letter to the officers in charge at Fort Walla Walla and also a flag and presents with a letter from Reverend Spalding to the head men of the Nez Percés. The messenger was captured and the presents confiscated but the letters were forwarded to McBean at Fort Walla Walla. Fortunately, when William McBean received the letters, two Nez Percé chiefs, Timothy and Richard, were there and they were among the Nez Percés addressed in Spalding’s letter. These chiefs hastened to their people with Spalding’s request, supplemented by advice from McBean and to this circumstance is due, in all probability, the neutrality of the Nez Percé tribe. McBean also sent a reply to the Commissioners but it fell into the hands of Chief Tauitowe, who had confiscated’ the presents. The chief destroyed the letter as well as one from Brouillet of the Catholic Mission. That was an unfortunate occurrence because the Commissioners did not know how to interpret the failure to receive replies and the circumstance caused many subsequent headaches.

While encamped, Major Lee was constantly on reconnaissance. He found the camp of a small party, which had cached its property and retired to the hills. He was ordered to pursue them and did so on February 19, but returned to camp on the 20th, reporting that he had followed the trail of a party of Indians headed toward the Blue Mountains but had failed to overtake them.

On February 21 the army again took up its march and covered a difficult 20 miles, camping that night on Willow Creek. The wagons came up late. The men were tired, hungry, and ill tempered. They were now 200 miles from the Willamette River and were poorly clad and only half-fed. They had come to fight and did not like the idea of escorting peace commissioners. They wanted to turn back. In fact, one company voted to return if all the flour on hand was not distributed immediately. Colonel Gilliam wisely decided to stay in camp on the 22nd. He held a regimental parade and made a speech, which was well received by the men, and they shot off some more of their precious ammunition to celebrate the Colonel’s oratory.

A party of Deschutes Indians under Chief Beardy came into camp the morning of February 23. They brought the flag sent them from The Dalles and announced that they were present in answer to the summons. The army moved on but the Commissioners remained for a talk. The chief said that he would have arrived earlier except for the fact that the soldiers had shot at his people and caused them to run away. He further announced that he was willing to go to war against the Cayuses and that he wanted always to remain a friend to the Americans. To show that he meant what he said he accompanied the Commissioners to the camp of the army where a council was held. The chief was told to move to The Dalles and remain there until the Commissioners returned and that he could expect the arrival of other chiefs in the immediate future. Gilliam sent a note to the garrison at Fort Lee. Chief Beardy (sometimes known as Chief Sue) presented a fine horse to Captain Tom McKay as a gift from Welaptulet, head chief of the Deschutes. With the horse came, word that the head chief would bring in all the property stolen from immigrants if that would secure the friendship of the Americans. Robert Newell subsequently reported that Colonel Gilliam would have preferred fighting the Deschutes because he could not excuse their previous conduct.

The regiment was about ready to start for the Umatilla Valley on February 24 when two Yakima Indians arrived bearing a letter from the Catholic missionaries saying that the Yakima tribe had listened to their advice and would not help the Cayuses and that the Yakima had announced that they had no quarrel with the Americans,

Four days earlier word had been sent to the Umatilla Mission about the Commissioners’ intentions but no reply had been received, so Gilliam decided to move on to Waiilatpu without regard for the Commissioners’ plans and sent a messenger to Governor Abernethy with that information. The troops set out just before noon, the Commissioners riding in advance and carrying a white flag. They soon saw two Indians, evidently an outpost for they kept their distance. Then many Indians were seen in the hills, all of them making signs of hostility. The Commissioners fell back to the troops. Indians came from all directions, ranging themselves alongside the soldiers and the battle was on.

Numerically the two forces were about equal. The Indians had waited in a locale favorable to their type of warfare, but the troops knew something about fighting over uneven terrain, too. The soldiers deployed, extending their lines to protect the cattle and wagons. To the northeast, where the battle raged most violently, the soldiers suddenly advanced at double time. That took the Indians aback. The soldiers yelled louder than the Cayuses. This surprised the Indians even more. They stood long enough to fire one volley and then retreated to some rising ground. This sort of tactics continued a volley from the Indians, an advance by the troops, and the Cayuses falling back to another hill. At last the Indians broke and fled, leaving their dead and wounded on the battlefield.1

The Indians lost eight killed and five wounded while the army’s casualties were five wounded, one of whom was Lieutenant-Colonel Waters. The troops camped without water or wood. One incident in particular took some of the conceit out of the Indians. As the battle started, two chiefs, Gray Eagle and Five Crows, rode up near the wagons. Gray Eagle yelled that he and Five Crows were big medicine and that he could swallow bullets. Some accounts recite that he spotted Captain Tom McKay, whom he knew well, and shouted: “There’s Tom McKay; I’ll kill him.” Other accounts say that McKay, hearing Gray Eagle’s boast about being able to swallow bullets, said “Then let him swallow this one,” whereupon Captain McKay shot Gray Eagle through the head. At the same moment Lieutenant Charles McKay shot Five Crows, shattering his arm. This circumstance, plus the discovery that the Americans knew how to fight Indian fashion, disconcerted the Cayuses. In a letter to a friend under date of February 29, Lieutenant Charles McKay said that Five Crows got away only because the Lieutenant did not have a good horse.

But the Indians were not licked. They had boasted among themselves that when they met Gilliam’s troops they would beat the soldiers to death with clubs and then go to the Willamette Valley to take the women and property of the Americans. They said that the Americans were women. There is some explanation of their point of view because American immigrants often took the safer way out of difficulties while traveling. Encumbered by families, goods, herds, and tired from weeks of travel, they would get to safety, if possible, instead of fighting, when harassed by Indians.

Soon after camp was made, the half-breed Nicholas Finlay, who was at the Whitman Mission at the time of the massacre, came into camp with two Indians who pretended to be brothers, but who were believed to be spies. Finlay’s connection with the Indians is obscure. The fact is that he was living at Whitman’s and was not molested. Robert Newell had no use for him and said that Finlay “told lies and showed much treachery.” The troops had an uncomfortable night without firewood or water. They set out early on the morning of February 25th and traveled all day without water, surrounded by Indians. There was some evidence of dissention among the Cayuses. Some of them had not joined in the fighting the previous day and these sent messengers asking for a council; for that matter, even some of the murderers did. However, officers and commissioners alike declined to talk until they reached water which did not occur until sundown at the Umatilla River. The troops were in bad humor. Not only had they been without water, but also without food while enroute.

That night the Americans camped on the west side of the river, the Indians on the east side four miles upstream. The Cayuses said that the troops would never cross the Umatilla but they did the next day and camped a mile closer to the Indians. Whenever the soldiers were on the move the Indians swarmed along the hills bordering the line of march. Most of the hostiles made war like demonstrations. After the regiment encamped that night, Chief Sticcas and a considerable number of other Cayuses made overtures of peace and were told by the commissioners to meet them at Waiilatpu. These Indians told the commissioners that Five Crows had admonished his people to fight the Americans without interruption if he died, as he would do if he lived. One patent reason for the hesitation of the commissioners to parley was the failure to receive McBean’s reply from Fort Walla Walla, which letter had been confiscated as previously described.

It may be well to revert for a moment to the subject of the letters of McBean and Brouillet. As we have said, these letters were intercepted by the Indians, hence the commissioners did not known whether the Catholic Mission had been endangered or even whether their own letters had reached Fort Walla Walla. Subsequently, when the commissioners, with the army, reached Fort Walla Walla all the missing facts were supplied. Had the replies been received no doubt peace could have been made on the Governor’s terms, namely, the surrender of the murderers and restitution of the property. But most of the guilty ones wanted to avoid surrender, and the commissioners coming with an army and refusing to hold council because of the non-receipt or replies, caused the Indians generally to be confused. So they took the natural course to fight.

On the morning of the 27th not an Indian was to be seen. Nothing had been stolen during the night, which was proof that the Indians had skipped. So the army continued its march toward Waiilatpu and on February 28 camped on the Walla Walla River. The Commissioners interviewed William McBean and the priests and learned that all were alarmed over the union of the Columbia River tribes with the Cayuses, but that Peu-peu-mox-mox, Chief of the Walla Wallas was in favor of peace. That was a good omen. Brouillet gave the Commissioners an account of the Whitman Massacre as he had learned of it.

On February 29 the troops moved six miles up the Walla Walla River and encamped. There they rested while Major Lee and a detachment went back to the fort for powder.

On March 1 Gilliam marched his regiment five miles to the camp of Chief Peu-peu-mox-mox who reiterated his friendship for the Americans and in proof of that contention sold several beef cattle to the commissary. From the Chiefs camp the troops could see dust caused by Cayuses traveling toward Waiilatpu. On March 2 Gilliam camped near the despoiled mission.

Now the Americans could see for themselves. No whites hand visited the site since the ransom of the captives. It was evident that care had been exercised in the original burials but that predatory animals had dug up the bodies. Robert Newell says in his journal that Dr. and Mrs. Whitman had been interred together with an ornamental picket fence around their grave and that all others had been placed under a common mound surrounded by a board fence. These attentions had probably been given by the captive men. However, the condition of the remains was such that they were hastily replaced in a common grave. Papers, letters, books were scattered about in mud and water. Wagon wheels and various odds and ends had been placed in the house before it was burned. The documents were quickly scrutinized and most of them destroyed. Had they been preserved it is probable that we might know more about the events, which led up to the disaster. It was learned from them, however, that Dr. Whitman had been aware of his danger but stayed because he expected the arrival of United States troops.

The Commissioners reported that Colonel Gilliam was so incensed over the scene that they had no chance to hold a council with the Indians. Gilliam said that he had come to fight and that there was plenty of reason, so he would fight. He held a meeting with his officers and started building a fortification.

On March 4, 1848, three months late, Joseph L. Meek started for the national capital. A detachment of one hundred men accompanied him and his eight companions as far as the Blue Mountains. Meek’s group wore the caps and cloaks of Hudson’s Bay Company employees because it was safer to travel through Indian country as Britishers than as Americans.

On March 5 two men, William Craig and Joseph Gervais, went to meet a large party of Nez Percés whom, it was reported, were coming to join the Cayuses who had journeyed to Waiilatpu for the conference with the commissioners. According to Newell’s journal, Colonel Gilliam did not like the approaching visit and threatened to do battle the next day. As it turned out no battle occurred because on the next day, March 6, Craig and Gervais returned saying that 250 friendly Nez Percés and Cayuses were near and in the afternoon they were brought into camp and received by salutes from the army. Next day a council was held at which several chiefs spoke. Old Joseph, Jacob, James, Red Wolf, Timothy, Richard, Kentuck, and Camaspelo all professed friendship, or, at least, expressed a desire to avoid war. Then General Palmer and the other Commissioners spoke. Colonel Gilliam had been added to the staff of Commissioners and while, as military commander did not like the proceedings, went along with the others in his role of Commissioner. The Nez Percé chiefs were asked to go to the Cayuse camp, then twenty-five miles away, to try to induce the Cayuse to surrender the murderers. The army was to wait one day, then follow to the Cayuse camp. That plan was followed and next day the army set out. After marching three miles they met the Cayuse Chief Sticcas (sometimes spelled Stikus or Stickus) with cattle, goods, and money taken from the mission and from murdered immigrants. This property had been given up by the Cayuses to create a favorable sentiment toward them. Sticcas wanted to parley, Gilliam did not but finally agreed and the troops camped.

In the Bourse of the talk Sticcas said that the Cayuses would not give up Tamsucky or Tauitowe. The former was known to be guilty but Tauitowe had not been suspected. However, since Sticcas named them together it was reasonable to conclude that Tauitowe also was guilty. Gilliam offered to accept the half-breed Joe Lewis in place of five others but no agreement was reached. That did not mean that no progress had been made, for the Nez Percés remained neutral and the Cayuses were divided.

The army started out again on March 11 but without the commissioners. The latter with Captain McKay and others who were ill, left for the Willamette Valley. The force, which remained, numbered 268 officers and men. When the returnees reached Fort Walla Walla they found Peu-peu-mox-mox there and still expressing friendship. He gave the Commissioners a wealth of information about the Whitman massacre.

McBean, of the Hudson’s Bay Company, furnished an escort as far as The Dalles where the contingent arrived on March 17. Their Palmer had a talk with Chief Beardy of the DesChutes tribe who promised to remain friendly, bring in stolen goods and stop stealing. On March 24 the group reached Oregon City.

The Spectator for March 23 was full o Indian news, aside from detailed reports of the Cayuse War. It reported that the dwelling and household goods of a Molalla chief had been burned by whites in retaliation for a small theft by a Klamath Indian. There was an editorial pointing out that Indian title to lands had not been extinguished and that settlers were having enough troubles without unwarranted wrongs against innocent natives. There was the account of a whipping administered to ten Calapooia Indians for cattle stealing and the report that Klickitat were committing depredations in the upper Valley. There had been two robberies by drunken Indians near Oregon City. The property had been recovered but who was responsible for selling the liquor? Three letters were published. One was from Colonel Gilliam to Governor Abernethy asking for more troops; one from Commissioners Palmer and Newell to McBean saying that prospects for adjusting the Cayuse difficulties looked good; and the third from Chief Factor James Douglas to Abernethy reporting on the favorable disposition of the Indians around Ft. Colville.

In the meantime Gilliam with his remaining troops had set out again, as previously stated. His plan called for a march to the Cayuse camp and had not proceeded far when they were met by three Indians with a flag of truce and some stolen horses. The Indians reported that Chief Sticcas had decided to capture Joe Lewis as suggested by Gilliam; that he had done so and recovered some stolen property but that Lewis had been rescued by his friends and the property retaken. Gilliam did not know whether he could credit the report and thinking that Sticcas might be fooling him, hurried on his way. That night they camped on the Touchet River where they received a message from Tauitowe professing friendship and saying that he wished to disassociate himself from the Cayuses who were hostile. The information also recited that Tauitowe was camped on the Tucannon River; that Tamsucky had gone to join Chief Red Wolf on the Snake River; and that Tiloukaikt had gone down the Tucannon intending to cross the Snake River in the country of the Palouse tribe. Gilliam made a night march and before dawn arrived near the mouth of the Tucannon and the Cayuse camp. He waited for daylight and then moved within a few hundred yards of the Indian camp. An old Indian came out to talk to the Colonel and reported that this was the camp of Peu-Peu-mox-mox, Gilliam’s friend, and not that of Tiloukaikt; that the latter had left, abandoned his livestock which could be seen grazing, and which the Colonel could take if he chose. The troops then went into the Indian camp where they found only a few braves. These were armed and dressed for war but seemed friendly. At the campsite the Tucannon River ran through a canyon. After tiring work, the soldiers reached the far side where the cattle had been grazing only to see the cattle swimming the Snake River and headed into the Palouse country. The army had been fooled. The soldiers rounded up the few cattle, which remained, and a large number of horses and headed back for their camp on the Touchet.

Then it happened. Four hundred Palouse, allies of the Cayuse, attacked. The Cayuse, including the murderers, had left their allies to fight the troops. It was really a vicious combat. The troops kept moving, fighting all the time, but their progress was slow. At night, still several miles from their camp, they stopped without fire or food. They had marched all through the previous night and were fagged out. They couldn’t sleep because of constant harassing fire from the Indians. In the hope that firing would cease, they turned loose the captured stock but without any cessation in the firing. At daylight the troops set out again and the Palouse attacked at once. The troops went to the hills on the west side of the river to avoid ambush and as soon as all were in that general location gave an Indian war whoop of their own to let the Palouse know that they were ready for a fight. The Indians didn’t hesitate. Again the running battle was on.

At this point an incident occurred which probably saved the troops. The companies from Yamhill and Washington counties were hardest pressed and called for reinforcements, which were furnished. Because the troops continued to move and also because the first attack had been repulsed, some of the soldiers thought that the Indians would not follow. The troops really wanted to continue the battle and sent an interpreter to a hilltop to yell a challenge, which stirred up the Indians again. As the regiment neared the Touchet, Captain William Shaw with 20 picked men was ordered to cut off the Indians who had been hanging onto the flanks all forenoon. The Indians sensed the plan and took a shortcut to beat the detachment to the river. But Shaw ran his horses for three-fourths of a mile and succeeded in beating the Indians to the vantage point, which was a lifesaver for the army that day.

While the Yamhill and Washington counties’ companies and their reinforcements were engaged, the rest of the troops were having a hot time in their own sector. The Indians had erected a crude fortification, which the soldiers had to pass, resulting in several being wounded, one of whom died soon after the fight. The Indians lost four killed and 14 wounded. Then the squaws begged their warriors to stop fighting which they did, and challenges could not get the braves to renew the battle. The Indians did not attempt to cross the river, so the victory was with the soldiers. The regiment was glad for a respite. They had been fighting without interruption for more than a day and the fact that the Palouse had enough was welcomed.

On March 16 the regiment arrived at Ft. Waters. There Colonel Gilliam held a council with his officers, all of whom understood the difficulties of their primary task. There were many unknown factors. It was probable that the Nez Percés would remain neutral and it was possible that the Yakima and the Walla Walla would not join the Cayuses. Of course the Palouses had firmly fixed their allegiance by their attack on the troops. The attitudes of several tribes farther north was unknown. Summarized, the whole situation simply meant that the pursuit of the murderers during the ensuing spring and summer might easily prove fruitless. Then there were always a few renegades from even the most friendly tribes and these few either actively joined the warriors or acted as informers. The council of officers could not agree upon a course of action. Some wanted to raise another regiment. Others wanted to keep only enough men in the field to hold the forts and let the rest go home. The condition of the commissary finally determined the decision. Provisions were running short in the field but were on hand at The Dalles. So it was agreed to keep half the force in the field, while the other half was to proceed to The Dalles to escort a supply train to Ft. Waters.

Footnotes

  1. Some idea of the pressure by the troops is to be gained from that circumstances because the Indians invariably tried to remove their dead and wounded. 


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