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The Affair at Cottonwood

By Brig.-Gen. David Perry, United States Army (Retired)I was returning July 4th from Fort Lapwai to General Howard’s command in charge of a pack-train loaded with ammunition. It had been expected that Captain Jackson’s troop of cavalry would reach Lapwai in time to furnish a safe escort. Fearing that the ammunition might be needed, I decided not to wait longer and pushed ahead with a small detachment. No one believed the hostiles to be within striking distance, as the last reports located them in the Salmon River Mountains. Imagine then my surprise at meeting Whipple’s command that afternoon several miles from Cottonwood deployed in two lines with his mountain guns between them. Then it was that I learned of the appearance in that neighborhood of a large body of hostiles and the fate of Rains and detachment. It appears that Whipple’s scouts reported seeing Indians in the hills back of Cottonwood where the command lay and in the direction of Lapwai. Orders were immediately given to “saddle up.” As soon as they could get their horses, an advance-guard under Rains started off at a gallop. In their eagerness to get away they outstripped by several minutes the command, which was just in the act of mounting when firing was heard in the direction of the advance-guard. Proceeding at a gallop they reached the scene of the firing only to find that the entire detachment had been cut off. The Indians evidently had seen them coming, or perhaps – which is more likely – had prepared for the whole command a trap which was sprung by the advance-guard and which...

In the Land of Burnt Out Fires

In the Land of Burnt Out Fires A Tragedy of the Far NorthwestBy Dr. BradyThe most costly war in which the United States ever engaged, considering the number of opponents, occurred in the winter of 1872-73 in the lava-beds of Oregon. Fifty Modoc1 Indians, under the leadership of one Kientpoos – commonly known as Captain Jack, held that pedregal against overwhelming numbers of regular soldiers upon whom they inflicted defeat after defeat with little loss to themselves. They were not captured until treachery had played its maleficent part. To understand this tremendous drama a knowledge of the first act is essential. In September, 1852, an emigrant train, comprising sixty-five men, women and children, was making its way northward into the lake region of southern Oregon. The California-Oregon trail led between Lower Klamath and Tule Lakes. Huge bluffs several hundred feet high approached nearly the shore of Tule Lake, leaving a narrow road between the cliffs and the water. There the emigrant party mentioned was overwhelmed by Modoc Indians led by old Schonchin. The Modocs closed both ends of the trail and attacked from the bluffs. The settlers fought bravely, but to no avail. Those not killed were captured and tortured to death with every device of savage malignity. One man, desperately wounded, and left for dead, escaped to tell the tale. Two girls of twelve and fourteen were spared. The massacre of Bloody Point long remained a ghastly memory on the frontier. This affair was the culmination of a series of unparalleled atrocities. The magnitude of this latest massacre, however, begot stern determination for revenge. One Ben Wright, a...

The Epic of the Nez Percé

Xenophon has chronicled the retreat of the ten thousand; De Quinces has romanced about the migration of the Tartars; a thousand pens have recorded the annihilation of the Grand Army of Napoleon: the story of Joseph and his Nez Pierces is my theme – the story of the bitterest injustice toward a weak but independent people to which the United States ever set its hand. And at the outset let me confess that I am the advocates do the friend of the Indian, at least in this instance! In 1855, Governor Isaac I. Stevens of Washington Territory negotiated an equitable, even a liberal treaty by which the Nez Pierces were confirmed in their undoubted title by immemorial occupancy to the vast region in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, including the valleys of the Snake, the Salmon, the Clearwater, and the Grande Ronde Rivers. The scope of the Steve’s treaty was so extensive and its provisions so fair, that it is probable no question would ever have arisen had not the convention been abrogated in 1863 by a new treaty which materially diminished the Nez Pierce Reservation. This treaty was signed by a majority of the Indian tribes and has been loyally kept by them to this day. Old Joseph and other chiefs declined to sign it, refused to live on the proposed reservation, and continued to occupy the fertile valleys of the Wallowa and Imnaha, tributaries of the Grande Ronde and the Snake respectively. They also refused even to stay on the lands they claimed except when it suited them. As the majority of the Nez Perces had signed the...

Northwestern Fights and Fighters

The Epic of the Nez Percé: Refusing life on a government-selected reservation, Chief Joseph, Chief Looking Glass, Chief White Bird, Chief Ollokot, Chief Lean Elk, and others led nearly 750 Nez Perce men, women, and children and twice that many horses over 1,170 miles through Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana mountains, on a trip that lasted from June to October of 1877, until checked by Miles just short of the Canadian border at Bear Paw Mountain (1877). This manuscript depicts their story.

Land of Burnt Out Fires, Modoc Indian War

Should an officer stationed in Oregon receive an order about the 25th of December to march his company three hundred miles to take part in an Indian war, both he and his men would, most likely, consider the same a very cool proceeding. And they did. Now, this is about the distance from Camp Harney to the Modoc country. Our instructions were “light marching order,” instead of comfortable wagons where one could stow a tent and numberless blankets. However, what comforts or necessaries could be taken along were piled upon those unfortunate mules and off we went. The snow lay pretty deep at home, but we launched out into the great prairie, which resembled one huge, fleecy cloud, and in imagination the effect was the same as riding on the unsubstantial sky which possessed almost as much sustaining power. We plodded on through the virgin whiteness, never before disturbed by foot or hoof, and at the day’s end dismounted to sleep in its folds. The old campaigner does not, however, take such a desolate view of the situation. Reminiscences by Major J. G. Trimble In the Land of Burnt Out Fires Carrying a Stretcher through the Lava Beds Major Boutelle’s Account of His Duel with Scar-faced Charley The Capture of Captain Jack Jackson’s Expedition First Battle of the Modoc War The Disaster to Thomas’ Command The Killing of the Commissioners The Last Fight of the Campaign...

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