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Topic: Indian Wars

Retribution for Previous Losses

Headquarters Expedition against Northern Indians, Camp on the Spokane River, W. T., 16 miles above the ‘Falls’ September 9, 1858. Sir: I remained during the 6th at my camp, three miles below the falls, as my troops required rest after the long march and battle of the previous day. No hostile demonstrations were made by the enemy during the day; they approached the opposite bank of the river in very small parties and intimated a desire to talk, but no direct communication was held with them, as the distance was too great and the river deep and rapid. Early on the morning of the 7th I advanced along the left bank of the Spokane, and soon the Indians were seen on the opposite side, and a talk began with our friendly Nez Perces and interpreters. They said that they wanted to come and see me with the chief Garey, who was nearby. I told them to meet me at the ford, two miles above the falls. I halted at the ford and encamped; soon after Garry crossed over and came to me; he said that he had always been opposed to fighting, but that the young men and many of the chiefs were against him, and he could not control them. I then told him to go back and say to all Indians and chiefs, ‘I have met you...

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Measuring Strength with the Northern Indians

Having crossed the river and being now properly in the land of the enemy, a final inspection of the different branches of the command and equipment was made before moving forward. Ominous signs had for several days appeared in the north. Smoke arising at various points during the day and the illuminated horizon at night indicated that the grass was being burned over a broad front, plainly denoting also that Indian scouting parties were vigilantly covering every nook and corner of that vast region. But few doubted that somewhere beyond that fire line the hostiles were preparing to the...

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Wright’s Order 6

Orders No. 6. Headquarters Expedition against Northern Indians Camp on Snake River, at Mouth of the Tucanon August 19, 1858 The field work erected at this place will be called “Fort Taylor. 1Named in honor of Captain Taylor, who fell in Colonel Steptoe’s engagement with the Northern Indians. Captain Keys, commanding the battalion of the 3rd artillery, will designate a garrison for Fort Taylor, of one company, or at least sixty-five rank and file, exclusive of officers. The two six-pounders will be mounted in Fort Taylor. The two mountain howitzers, with ammunition, &c., complete for field service, will be turned over to an officer to be designated by Captain Keys. Assistant Surgeon Brown is assigned to duty with the garrison of Fort Taylor. The troops of all arms will be held in readiness to cross the river as soon as the fort is completed. By order of Colonel Wright P. A. OWEN, First Lieutenant 9th Infantry, A. A. A. G.” Headquarters Expedition against Northern Indians Camp on Snake River, at Mouth of Tucanon August 19, 1858 Sir: I reached this point yesterday, and Captain Kirkham, with the pack train and residue of the supplies, arrived this morning. The field work at this place is progressing rapidly, and will be ready for occupancy within four days. On my march from Fort Walla Walla the weather was in tensely hot, and...

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Wright’s Order 5

On the return of Lieutenant Davidson to Walla Walla with the supply train, as directed in Orders No. 3, Colonel Wright, being in readiness, moved forward with but brief delay. While yet at Walla Walla he issued the following orders for the government of the command throughout the coming campaign. Orders No. 5. Headquarters Expedition against Northern Indians Camp Near Fort Walla Walla, W. T. August 14, 1858 The residue of the troops for the northern expedition will march from Fort Walla Walla tomorrow, and unite with the advance at the Snake River. Marching from Snake River, the order will be as follows: The dragoons The mountain howitzer company The battalion of artillery serving as infantry The rifle battalion of 9th infantry Pack train of corps and headquarters One company of infantry as rear guard General trains of quartermaster and commissary. The mounted troops will not precede the howitzer company more than four hundred yards, and on approaching canons or defiles where dragoons cannot operate on the flanks, they will be halted and the rifles advanced. No firearms of any description will be dis charged, either on the march or in camp, except in the line of duty, without the special authority of the commanding officer. No person except the employees of the staff departments and officers’ servants will be allowed to accompany the troops or to encamp with...

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Wright’s Order 3

Chief Timothy was proud of his own record of friendly relationship with the whites, and his counsel to his people was ever to preserve a spirit of good feeling between the two races. He possessed an old flint-lock gun which, he said, was given to his father by the explorers, Lewis and Clark, and which he valued highly as an heirloom. He himself remembered the visit of the explorers, and in his declining years loved to recount the events which clustered around the coming and going of the first party of federal officials that ever traveled across the continent. Colonel Wright did not accompany the column from The Dalles to Walla Walla, the command for that movement probably having been given to Captain Erasmus D. Keys of the Third artillery. The colonel, with a suitable escort, reached Walla Walla a few days after the arrival of the force. Immediately after the arrival all arms of the command were put through rigorous drills which were continued daily by way of preparing for the exigencies of the northward movement. The Third artillery companies, with the exception of Major Wyse’s company, drilled twice a day at light infantry tactics. Major Wyse practiced his company in the regular artillery drill, using mules for the mounted battery instead of horses, as had there to fore been the custom. Some unusual interest was observable among...

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Preliminaries Before the Battle at Tohotonimme

The events of Colonel Wright’s expedition against the Indians who opposed the advance of Colonel Steptoe are set forth in detail and at length in his own reports and letters. These appear in full in the following pages with the interjection of such information from other sources as the author deems expedient for the purpose of rendering the narrative complete. Preceding the reports of the expedition is also the pertinent correspondence leading up thereto. Because of the exactness and completeness of detail which characterize these reports, written from the field, as they were, during the progress of the campaign, their value as historical matter could hardly be improved upon; therefore no apology is offered for their appearance in this volume. In order to be in closer touch with operations which were decided to be necessary for the subjugation of the northern Indians, General Clarke, after receiving full intelligence of Colonel Steptoe’s defeat, proceeded to Vancouver, Washington Territory. In the meantime it had come to his knowledge that the Hudson Bay Company’s pack train at Colville, consisting of some two hundred horses, was about to start for Fort Hope to bring in the year’s supplies, and that it was intended to bring also about two thousand pounds of powder with a proportionate quantity of ball. It had previously been the custom of the company’s agent at Fort Colville to barter...

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Casualty Report – Battle at Tohotonimme

Report of the killed, wounded and missing in the battle at To-hoto-nim-me, May 17, 1858 Company C, First Dragoons. Killed Brevet Captain O. H. Taylor Private Alfred Barnes Mortally wounded Private Victor Charles De Moy Severely wounded Privates James Lynch and Henry Montreville Slightly wounded Farrier Elijah R. Birch Company E, First Dragoons Killed Second Lieutenant William Gaston Mortally wounded First Sergeant William C. Williams Severely wounded James Kelly, William D. Micon, and Hariet Sneckster. Slightly wounded James Healy, Maurice Henly, Charles Hughes, and John Mitchell. Company H, First Dragoons Killed Privates Charles H. Harnish and James Crozet Missing First Sergeant Edward Ball 1It is said that Sergeant Ball assisted the commissary in carrying out the orders to destroy the liquor in the evening at the close of the battle, and being overcome by the effects of the spirituous ration, made his way through the darkness to the creek, where, under cover of the brush, he stretched himself in slumber. He was awakened by the chill air of the early morning and after advising himself that no other representative of the command remained about the field, he put off in pursuit of his fleeing comrades, reaching the fort some time after their arrival. He was a man of sterling qualities as a fighter and possessed great powers of endurance. He was especially commended for his courage by Colonel Steptoe....

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Colonel Steptoe’s Report

On the day succeeding the return to Walla Walla, Colonel Steptoe dispatched the fol lowing report of the expedition to head quarters of the Department of the Pacific at San Francisco: “Fort Walla Walla, May 23, 1858. Major: On the 2nd instant I informed you of my intention to move northward with a part of my command. Accordingly, on the 6th I left here with C, E, and H, First dragoons, and E, Ninth infantry; in all, five company officers and one hundred and fifty-two enlisted men. Hearing that the hostile Pelouse were near Al-pon-on-we, in the Nez Perces...

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Dragoon Soldiers Retreat

Lieutenant Gregg reached the trail and following it soon overtook the advance companies, which had moved under some restraint, expecting him to join them, and the whole command proceeded rapidly onward. Specter-like, they galloped over high ridges, presenting a chain of fleeting figures that loomed strangely on the starlit horizon. Sinking again into deep hollows fashioned among the hills by the Great Architect, they formed a mass of darkness more dense than the gloom through which they moved. It was a hard ride, fatiguing alike to horse and rider. The unscathed soldier fought with his exhaustion to keep himself...

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Battle at Tohotonimme

The portentous events of the day now fully impressed Colonel Steptoe with the danger that would be incurred by pressing his advance farther toward Colville and he determined, therefore, to retrace his steps toward Snake River. For potent reasons he desired to accomplish the return without a clash with the Indians. His light supply of ammunition and the overwhelming, well-armed force opposed to him augured much against risking an engagement. And, besides this, he had entertained no thought of projecting his command offensively into the country of the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene in violation of their avowed friendly relations,...

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Palouse incite Coeur d’Alene and Spokane Indians

Numerous indications of the recent presence of Indians were observed as the expedition proceeded north from Snake River. Evidently a considerable number of had gathered in the vicinity of Red Wolfs crossing and, being fully aware of their own guilty conduct and of the punishment justly due them, they fled to the Coeur d’Alenes and Spokane to incite among those tribes, if possible, a spirit of hostility toward the soldiers in the hope of thus being aided by their counsel and numerical strength. After marching eight days, Colonel Steptoe reached the Palouse River and on Friday morning, the 14th, when about to resume the march, some Indians appeared and informed him that the Spokane would resist his entrance into their country. Although entertaining the belief, as expressed in his letter to Major Mackall of January 29th, 1858, that there existed among the Spokane and other northern tribes such a state of feeling that but slight encouragement would suffice to engender hostility, he did not believe there had transpired any events of recent origin which might be considered of sufficient account to induce them to interpose hostile opposition to his advance through their country. The information created general surprise among the officers. The Spokane had heretofore been regarded as preserving a friendly attitude toward the whites; no depredations had been charged against them, and an officer of the expedition writing...

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Biography of Colonel Edward J. Steptoe

The available records of the Steptoe family go back to the year 1697, when Anthony and John Steptoe, brothers, located in Lancaster County, Virginia. From one of these was descended Colonel James Steptoe of “Hominy Hall,” on the Lower Potomac. Colonel James Steptoe arose in military rank from the militia of his colony, and his career in the profession of arms began with his appointment as captain of “a company of horse” in 1734, from which position he was promoted to the office of colonel. He was twice married, and there were born to him six children. One of...

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Biography of Captain Oliver Hazard Perry Taylor

Oliver Hazard Perry Taylor was the youngest son of Commodore William Vigneron Taylor of the United States navy. He was born at Newport, Rhode Island, September 14th, 1825. He entered the Military Academy at West Point July 1st, 1842, before he had reached the age of seventeen, and graduated July 1st, 1846. On the day of his graduation he was appointed Brevet 2nd Lieutenant, First dragoons, but did not enter immediately upon his duties. The company to which he was assigned was serving in New Mexico against hostile Indians, and it was there he joined it on October 25th,...

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Biography of Lieutenant William Gaston

William Gaston was born at Newburn, North Carolina, April 5th, 1834. He was the oldest of a family of three children of Alexander and Eliza W. Gaston. Alexander Gaston was a man who exercised marked local influence and was of some political prominence in his state. Among the public duties committed to him was that of representing Hyde County in the State Convention of 1835. Judge William Gaston, father of Alexander Gaston, served as a judge of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. He was also for several years a member of Congress from that state. The Gaston family...

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