The Last Fight of the Campaign
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From the Report of Brig.-Gen. H. C. Hasbrouck, United States Army (Retired)
I marched from Redding, California, my Battery B, Fourth Artillery, being equipped as cavalry, under the command of Captain John Mendenhall, Fourth Artillery, April 19, 1873, and arrived at Promontory Point, April 28th. April 29th marched under Captain Mendenhall to Captain Jack’s old stronghold in the lava-beds. May 7th I left the stronghold in command of my own battery and Troops B and G, First Cavalry, and arrived at Peninsula Camp, May 8th. May 9th, under verbal instructions of the Department Commander, marched to Sorass Lake in command of my battery, Captain Jackson’s Troop B, Lieutenant Kyle’s Troop G, First Cavalry, and Warm Spring Indian scouts under Donald McKay, Act – Asst.-Surg. J. S. Skinner, medical officer. Camped at the lake with the cavalry and Indians, and sent the battery to camp in the timber about one mile to the southeast. May loth was attacked by the Modocs just before daylight. Their main line occupied a line of bluffs about four hundred yards distant, and a smaller party soon took possession of a lower line about two hundred yards nearer. Outposts had been established the night before upon the higher bluffs, but the Modocs succeeded in getting possession without their knowledge. The horses were stampeded by the first volley and Indian yells and ran through the camp in every direction. Under the personal supervision of Captain Jackson, the men who were asleep in their blankets got their arms with steadiness and alacrity. I directed Lieutenant Kyle to take a portion of his Troop G and recover the herd, and Lieutenant Boutelle to order the battery up at once.
A few minutes after the first shot was fired I ordered a charge, and the nearer line of bluffs was quickly carried. Capt. James Jackson, First Cavalry, led the right, and First Lieut. H. M. Moss, First Cavalry, the left of the charging party which was dismounted and composed of B Troop and part of G Troop. After a short pause the high bluffs were carried and the Modocs pursued with as much rapidity as possible for about four miles, when further pursuit was abandoned.
At the commencement of the action I directed Donald McKay to send his Indians, who were mounted, one half to the right and one half to the left. They were soon on the flanks and endeavored to gain the rear of the enemy, but his retreat was so rapid that they were unable to do so. When the battery arrived at the foot of the bluffs, the men were dismounted and sent forward through the rough lava rocks, but our line had advanced so quickly that they did not arrive on the firing-line until after the fighting was over.
Lieut. F. A. Boutelle, having delivered his message to the battery, joined the charging party just as the higher bluffs were taken. I would have continued the pursuit but for the want of water. It was expected to find some at the lake, but it had dried up and none could be obtained, though wells had been dug the night before. The officers and men had no water issued to them this day. I had but twenty gallons and that was reserved for the use of the wounded of whom there were twelve. The horses were all recovered by night.
For list of officers and men who particularly distinguished themselves, I respectfully refer to my report to the Cavalry Command, Modoc Expedition; and for the list of killed and wounded, to the report of Act.-Asst. Surg. J. S. Skinner to Chief Medical Officer, Modoc Expedition.
The Modocs left one warrior dead on the field. They abandoned a number of ponies, a lot of blankets, fixed ammunition, and loose powder and bullets which I turned over to the Warm Spring Indians. Just after sundown, the wagons sent for having arrived, the wounded were transported to Peninsula Camp with Lieutenant Boutelle in charge of escort, and the rest of the command marched to Promontory Point, the nearest place to water and the supposed position of the Modocs.
May 11th Sent despatch to Department Headquarters that I believed the Modocs were near Sandy Butte in the lava-beds, and as the country in that direction was impracticable for mounted troops, asked authority to turn in horses at Peninsula Camp.
May 12th. Turned in horses to Peninsula Camp and marched on foot to Sandy Butte and found Modocs in strong position there. Donald McKay was obliged this day to relinquish command of Warm Spring Indians and be sent back to go into hospital.
May 13th. Visited Major Mason, Twenty-first Infantry, whose command had camped the night before about three miles north of the butte.
May 14th. Arranged with Major Mason plan of attack for the next day. In the afternoon of the 14th an Indian scout reported to me that he thought the Modocs had fled. First Lieut. J. B. Hazleton, Fourth Artillery, with twenty-six men, all of whom had volunteered for the purpose, advanced through the stronghold and confirmed the report.
May 15th. Followed the trail about eight miles and found that it led in a southwest direction; returned to Sandy Butte that evening.
May 16th. The horses for the command came up just after sundown. Act.-Asst.-Surg. J. E. Fallon reported to-day.
May 17th. Followed trail with command mounted and found it led along the Ticknor road and afterward branched off toward Antelope Springs. Met Captain Perry, First Cavalry, with his squadron half-way to Van Bremmer’s. My men who had had no water all day received a small supply from him. Went into camp at Van Bremmer’s.
May 18th. Captain Perry marched to Antelope Springs. I was to march to ford on Butte Creek, and the next day the two commands were to march toward each other in the valley of the creek until they united. While on the march to the ford I found the trail of Indians going up the hill opposite Van Bremmer’s. I sent Captain Jackson to follow it with a troop of cavalry while I moved slowly down the road with the rest of the command. Very soon some shots were heard and I ordered B Troop and the Warm Spring Indians to join Captain Jackson at a gallop. When we joined Captain Jackson, I found him in hot pursuit of the Modocs who were the Cottonwood or Hot Creek branch of that tribe. They were pursued along the top of the hills opposite Van Bremmer’s Mountain about eight miles, to a point near Fairchild’s Ranch and at as fast a gait as the very difficult ground permitted. Two bucks and three squaws were killed, the latter through mistake, and a number of squaws, children, ponies, blankets, etc., were captured.
Beside the rocks there were many juniper trees which afforded good places for hiding. Had the ground been more open many more would have been killed or taken. The Indians were now so much scattered and the horses so exhausted that the pursuit was stopped and the command camped at Van Bremmer’s. Captain Jackson was distinguished in this affair for his gallantry and sound judgment. Lieutenants Moss, Boutelle, and Kyle led their men ably and gallantly. Acting Assistant-Surgeon Skinner, the efficient medical officer of the command, rode in advance with the line officers. All the men, as in the previous affair at Sorass Lake, did their duty. A message to Lieutenant Hazleton, commanding Battery B to remain in the road with the pack-train, until he should receive further orders, was incorrectly delivered by the orderly to whom it was intrusted, and the Battery continued its march to Butty Creek and did not return to Van Bremmer’s until the 19th.
May 19th. Marched to Fairchild’s Ranch and sent twenty men under Lieutenant Boutelle to escort mail-carrier, who reported to me he had been fired on while making his way to Tule Lake and forced back.
May 20th. Command was saddled and about to resume march in search of the Modocs, when Mr. Fairchild told me that he had learned from one of the captured squaws in our possession that the Modocs were tired of fighting and wanted to surrender unconditionally, and that they were on their way to give themselves up when we attacked them on the 18th. I sent out the squaw to tell the Indians to come in and give themselves up, and made her distinctly understand that the surrender was to be unconditional.