Southern Oregon, so much as to include the southwest portion, is represented on map No. 9. The boundary between the State of California and the Territory of Oregon is the 42nd parallel of north latitude. The town of Crescent City is in California, about 13 miles south of the boundary. After passing Humboldt Bay this is the next port possessing any military importance north of San Francisco, from which, by the steamer's track, it is distant about 320 miles. It can be safely entered at all times, except in fogs and during the prevalence of south and east winds; but there being no piers or docks lighterage has to be resorted to.
VI.--Military considerations in reference to the Oregon portion of the department of the Pacific
It was through Crescent City that Fort Lane, while garrisoned, was supplied. The fort is 85 to 100 miles distant from it in the interior, following the pack trail, seen on the map, which runs through an exceedingly broken country. It was Crescent City that General Wool selected to be made the principal centre of operations of the troops for closing the Indian war in southern Oregon in 1856. The results showed the wisdom of the selection.
With the exception of the Coquille and the Umpqua, the rivers represented on map No. 9 are not at all navigable except for canoes, being generally of rapid current, rocky beds, and in many places running through deep cañons.
Rogue River, named "Trashit" in the aboriginal tongue, was by legislative enactment changed in name to "Gold River;" but from causes which I omit to mention, all persons outside of the valley of this stream still persist in the use of the first appellative. This river, coming from the west slope of the Cascade Range, is of rapid current, and only navigable even for canoes in a few of its reaches. Its lower half is full of rapids and cañons. It has no considerable valley until we get some 40 to 60 miles above its mouth; and then we come to a beautiful and fertile one, of only about 30 miles in extent, however; it is this that is called the Rogue River Valley, in which is situated Fort Lane. Great difficulties are in the way of opening a road or passing from the mouth of the river up to this valley; the trails are circuitous, tortuous, rough, and steep; and it is only under difficulties that this tempting and much coveted valley can be reached from any point on the coast.
Coos Bay is important in respect to its coal veins. Small vessels enter it to receive the coal which, being of a quality valuable for domestic purposes, is mined in considerable quantities; but as yet it is not profitable for sea steamer purposes, requiring too much bulk for a given amount of heat--two to three bushels of this giving only the heat of one of anthracite. As the veins are more deeply penetrated, however, the coal is found to improve in quality.
It is but a mere step, as it were, from Coos Bay across to the Coquille River; and it is quite probable this river once had a channel through this bay into the ocean. The present mouth, however, is to the south of the bay, and it is blocked by a sand bar so as to effectually prevent ingress of vessels; but above the bar the Coquille River presents the character of a beautiful deep navigable canal, fit for steamers, for more than 50 miles of its course; and its valley, though narrow, has much good soil to recommend it. In the autumn of 1851 a force of our troops, under the immediate command of Lieutenant Colonel Casey, had a smart successful conflict with the Indians at the junction of the north and south forks of this river; one party of the command ascended in boats while the other proceeded by land; the pursued, in attempting to escape one, fell unexpectedly into the fire from the other, and were effectually chastised.
In regard to the Umpqua River, its mouth can be entered by sea steamers, under very favorable circumstances of wind and weather, also by small sail vessels; but it is not of a character to be regarded as a harbor, and it is only by light draft steamers that it can be safely ascended 24 miles or so up to near Scottsburg. Above this there is what is called the valley of the Umpqua, which is quite an extensive tract of most excellent soil. Should there be a good road opened from the head of navigation of this river into the valley it would add greatly to the value of this district of Oregon, and it would be useful for military purposes; and I think a good military road should be made between the mouth and Scottsburg.
Near the mouth of the Umpqua there was a Hudson Bay Company post, but now the site is occupied as a military post, established in the summer of 1856, by order of General Wool, when the detachment post at Port Orford was abandoned; the latter, however advantageous at the time when it was established, no longer being regarded necessary after the close of the Rogue River Indian hostilities and the removal of the tribes from their old homes to the coast reservations; but during the military operations which resulted in this removal the post at Port Orford proved of signal advantage, fully justifying the views of the officer under whose orders it was established.
From Crescent City to Rogue River, thence to Port Orford, the shore is broken and divided by spurs of the mountains coming quite down to the water's edge, throwing the mule track back from the sea up the steep sides and over the sharp crests of the spurs, making the route a very difficult one for the animals to tread; and yet it is the only land route connecting the shore settlements. Indeed, in almost all the country adjacent to the coast, and back into the interior as far as the Oregon trail, the roads generally are nothing more than pack trails for animals or foot paths for Indians and their pursuers.
With the exception of the valleys of the upper part of Rogue River, of the Umpqua, and of the Coquille, to which I have already made allusion, the whole country represented on map No. 9 is extremely forbidding to the eye of the farmer. Immediately on the coast the ground is covered with a dense forest of cedar, inferior pine (called Oregon pine), spruce, fir, &c., of trees of such gigantic size as to preclude the idea of clearing the land for cultivation. Further inland the background of this natural amphitheatral picture, viewed from the sea, is a succession of hills, then mountains of volcanic origin, rising one above the other, presenting their rocky fronts and sharp summits in beautiful shapes and variety of color, and showing their well defined crest line in clear relief against the sky as far as the eye can reach; and, as long as it can endure to observe, as we steam along the coast of Oregon, it.will meet pretty nearly the same picture. The forest lands and mountain slopes of this coast will never be brought under cultivation. They are fit only for lumbering, and mining, perhaps, in some places. To the botanist, the florist, horticulturist, mineralogist, and geologist, they afford fields of interest, and, if explored, would probably yield many new and valuable specimens to their respective cabinets.
At Port Orford, which is just immediately south and under the cape bearing this name, there is a tolerable harbor, or rather, a "hole in the shore," into which steamers of the largest class can safely enter and approach to within a few hundred feet of the beach, when the wind don't blow too hard from the south or southwest, and the fog is not too dense. Under a north or northwest wind, once in, vessels may ride at anchor here in security. This is not only the best, but it is the only place entitled to the name of harbor on the whole Oregon coast. A coast so strikingly destitute of harbors as this can contribute very little to the commercial prosperity of the State upon which it may front, presenting, as it were, a barrier rather than affording entrances to the interior.
Lumber is extensively manufactured by steam mills near Port Orford. It is here that the Oregon white cedar is found of an extraordinary size. Boards from three to five feet in width are produced of perfectly "clear stuff," and of such quality, for the plane, that this kind of timber has, in a measure, superseded the white pine for interior finishing; for exterior work, however, it is not so well adapted.
On former official maps Cape Orford and Cape Blanco are put down as one; but Cape Blanco, whose approximate longitude 124° 45' W., and latitude about 42° 45' N., is distant from the former about ten miles. Between the two capes there is a beautiful indentation, bordered by a continuous sand beach, passable for wagons at all times, and affording the only wagon road passing out of Port Orford; all other routes leading out of this settlement can only be traveled on foot or on the backs of animals.
As soon as a military post was established at Port Orford attention was called to the advantage of having a direct communication with the Oregon trail. Several explorations were made with a view of finding a good route for a wagon road, but none were attended with favorable results for such a purpose. In the autumn of 1855 General Wool directed another effort to be made, and Lieutenant Kautz, 4th infantry, was put in charge of the party. The route which he reported most favorably upon as the least formidable in difficulties is represented on map No. 10.
While about closing his field labors his party was attacked by Indians--hostilities having commenced between them and the Oregon volunteers unbeknown to the lieutenant.
From my own reconnaissance in this district of southern Oregon, and other sources of information, I think the best system of roads that can be opened in order to bring the Rogue River, the Coquille, and the Umpqua valleys into communication with a seaport would be--
1. To open a road on the direct route seen on map No. 10, from Port Orford to the Oregon trail.
2. To open one from Cape Blanco to the navigable part of the Coquille; also one from the head of the navigable part of this river, following the middle fork, to the Umpqua Valley.
With such a system well executed these secluded valleys could avail themselves of Port Orford, as there is already by nature a good wagon road from this to Cape Blanco.
Cape Blanco, although possessing no harbor or "hole in the shore," is not destitute of interest geographically, it being, I shall believe until more accurate observations prove the contrary, the most western point of terra firma belonging to the United States; certainly it is the most western habitable portion; not only is it habitable, but it is actually inhabited, squatted upon, and claimed by the "Bostons." From the fact of Captain Gray, the discoverer of the mouth of the Columbia, and his crew having sailed from Boston, this appellative was given them by the Indians, and extended to those since coming from the east to distinguish them from the Hudson Bay Company's people. Within the recollection of many now living the term "far west" was applied to no further than St. Louis, then the most westerly settlement of civilization. After that it became to mean somewhere about Independence, Mo.; thence climbing the eastern slope of the Rocky mountains and looking over its crest we saw it applied to the Mormon settlements of the Great Salt Lake basin. But here it rested only for a brief period; seemingly weary of resting place or local habitation, it departed from the city of polygamists, and with more wonderful strides than ever, crossing entire ranges of mountains, scaling with a bound the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade, traversing California and Oregon, it came to the Pacific. And here it is on the very brink of this ocean; and "far west" at this moment may be most legitimately applied to Cape Blanco. It is here that the Anglo-Saxon is arrested in his onward march by the broad Pacific. Westward the wheels of the emigrant wagon can roll no further. Another turn on their already well-worn axles and all are precipitated down the frightful steep of Cape Blanco a thousand feet into the deep bosom of the ocean. It is here that the cry of ''Westward, ho!" by land must cease; and if on reaching this point the proneness for migration be not satiated, the journey further towards the setting sun must be on the ocean wave; or if migrate still our people will, thence by land must their course be in retrogression. Further than Cape Blanco I doubt if ''Westward the march of empire hath its way," unless the "Bostons" can invent a bridge four thousand miles in span, and whose abutments shall be Cape Blanco and Cape Lopatka. Although there is still an onward migratory wave from the east to the west, a return wave has already begun to roll backward; and between the two--the direct and reflex--if we ourselves are not, another less fortunate race will be crushed--blotted out of existence--to make the way clear for the "Bostons."
Gold.--From the mouth of Rogue River to Cape Blanco, the point I have shown to be the "far west" of our country, the very sea beach sand is full of gold dust; and in many places it has been washed, and a profitable return for the labor realized. In other spots it has been tried and abandoned, not from an absence of gold, but because of the smallness of the yield. At Rogue River and Cape Blanco large quantities have been obtained from the sand. The gold dust is an impalpable powder, so fine as not to be recognized with a microscope of ordinary power. To obtain it the sand is washed by a little stream of water, and while passing through a machine adapted to the purpose the dust is amalgamated with mercury, and afterwards placed in a crucible and the mercury of the amalgam driven off by heat, and the gold is realized in a solid form at the bottom of the crucible. Not only does this precious metal exist, in the form described, in the sea-beach sand, but it is found, in a more palpable form, however, in sand forty miles interior to the coast (at Johnson's Diggins). There is, however, a difference in the physical character of the two; that from the interior has crystals resembling the amethyst and also the topaz, which, though in small numbers and not perceptible to the naked eye, are brought into evidence by the microscope. Not so, however, in the beach sand; in this all the particles are black and the angles more rounded, owing to more attrition caused by the surf.
Gold is also found in Rogue River Valley, on the Coquille branches, and undoubtedly exists pretty generally in spots all over the district under consideration; and it is this which has been the principal inducement for the whites to be willing to enter this district at so much hazard.
Indian hostilities.--This portion of southern Oregon has been the theatre of more Indian troubles than any other part of our Pacific possessions. The whole district represented on map No. 9 was full of Indians. Those more particularly occupying the valley of Rogue River have been regarded, since first known to the whites, as treacherous, brave, and energetic; and if at that time they did not know they were soon taught, by the whites themselves, how to use the rifle and revolver to good advantage. Notwithstanding all the evidences of danger staring them in the face, the whites underrated the skill, bravery, and local advantages possessed by the several tribes who occupied this district, as was the case in other parts of Oregon, and the first conflicts, as might have been expected, proved disastrous to the Bostons. One, probably the very first of these conflicts, I shall soon briefly describe; its result emboldened these Indians to defy, and inspired them with a reliance upon their own strength to effectually resist, the obtrusion of the whites into their country.
The scene of this encounter was in the harbor of Port Orford. Between the mouth of Rogue River and Cape Orford there are scattered about in the bay many lofty rocks, towering high above the water in pyramidal form; isolated from each other by channels of deep sea water; they are the remaining solid portions, once of the land, that have been able to withstand the battering of the surf for ages. One of these is directly in the harbor, and possessed with historical interest. It is denominated Battle Rock, and stands so near in that at low tide it can be reached by wading; but it is only by one narrow face that it can be scaled, or its summit approached by the human foot. Once up. however, the top of the rock affords sufficient surface for a party of a score of men to stand on, or to ensconce themselves. It is probably 60 feet above the level of the sea. Usually upon a calm sunny day its summit is densely covered with a flock of sea birds, of all kinds, so different in color, shape, and size as to delight the ornithologist--some sitting, some standing, some apparently sleeping, some hopping, others flapping, screaming, crowding, and fighting, seemingly, to secure, each for himself, a momentary resting-place upon the rock; while high above all this din the atmosphere is darkened with myriads of the flock flying in all manner of gyrations--now ascending, next descending, some enlarging, others contracting the orbits of their flight--all looking down the while upon the angry strife of their fellows below, intently watching for the first vacant spot of the rock to suddenly dart down, seize, and perch upon it in turn, or contribute to the confusion. Such is but a feeble picture of the scenes with which the summits of these dark and towering pillars in Port Orford Bay are daily animated. But upon the summit of Battle Rock a different strife from that of the birds was enacted.
In early times of the influx of population into California, immediately succeeding its acquisition to the United States, adventurous spirits to the number of a dozen or so chartered a schooner, and embarked at San Francisco, bent upon exploring the coast of Oregon, for purposes in general, and the purpose, in particular, of discovering a suitable site for a town, to be laid out into lots for sale. Arrived off what is now Port Orford, then not known to the Bostons, and attracted by the favorable aspect the site presented through the medium of their telescope, the schooner's prow was turned to the entrance of the bay, and when sufficiently in (about 10 o'clock, or five bells, a.m.) her anchor was let go, and she swung head to tide, then half ebb. The whole party, except the master and cabin-boy, were soon seated in the yawl, pulling ashore for a more minute examination. So engrossed were they in the discussion of speculative profits of "town lots for sale," little did they think there ever was such a thing as an ambuscade, or even dream of anything more, in the shape of an enemy, than a grizzly bear being near the handsome site that lay so invitingly before them. No sooner, however, had the party safely beached and secured their only boat above high water mark, crossed the beach and fairly reached the high plateau, and began to admire the advantages of the site, when all of a sudden they were startled by a terrific yell in the rear, discovering the horrible reality of being completely surrounded and cut off from all access to the schooner by a hostile band of Indians, one party of whom being already in possession of their boat, and in all outnumbering the little band of adventurous speculators in "town lots for sale" ten to one. Here were symptoms unmistakable of an enemy more formidable than grizzly bears; and if, perchance, there was a doubt of the intention of the Indians towards our little party it was but for a moment, as they were immediately saluted, in front and flank, by a shower of flint-headed arrows. This was promptly returned, but the Indians, nothing daunted, rushed furiously on, pouring in volleys of arrows as they advanced, and the fight soon became pressing. The little band of Bostons bravely and adroitly defended themselves, retreating until forced to the very water's edge, as it happened, directly under Battle Rock. The whites were not long in seeing that their last and only hope consisted in gaining its summit. In hasty council, amid showers of arrows poured in from their pursuers, it was decided to make the attempt to scale the rock. The effort proved successful, and, although possession was disputed by the countless number of sea birds which had held it undisturbed by any but their own kind for centuries, our friends, all eleven in number, thus separated from their schooner, some already wounded in the onslaught, found themselves on top of the citadel rock, and for a moment in comparative safety. The battle ceased, however, only long enough for the parties to survey their relative positions. The Indians, led on by their oldest chief, renowned in savage cunning, repeatedly attempted to scale the citadel, eager for the conflict hand to hand; but the Bostons defended the rock most successfully; every redskin venturing to scale it was a fatal mark for the unerring rifle or revolver. Their telling, well reserved fire and the flood tide at length gave the Bostons a respite, a breathing spell, for the first time since their surprise. It was not long, however, before they perceived their wily foe, the old chief, preparing to add to the attack a regular siege; and on looking for the schooner, with amazement beheld her fast sailing out of the bay. But before charging desertion, it must be told that the master, on discovering the ambuscade and becoming satisfied, although successful in baffling attempts of the Indians who had seized the yawl to board him, that he was powerless to render immediate aid by waiting, slipped his cable, and, by aid of his boy, hoisted sail and squared away before a fresh breeze for San Francisco, 375 miles before him, for assistance, that being the only point where it could be obtained. In this laudable undertaking we leave the schooner, and return to Battle Rock.
As soon as the next ebbing tide would permit the old chief returned to the assault of the citadel, but with no better success. In the meantime he had sent the swiftest runners to the remotest of the band, who, to the summons, came swarming in to swell the number of the besiegers. Every morning's dawn revealed to the unfortunate besieged a prospect more gloomy for each succeeding day. It was only during high water that it was not necessary to stand by their arms to prevent an escalade, which was as certain to be attempted as that low tide would ensue. The ravenous flock so unceremoniously dispossessed of their perch came circling and screaming around, excessively annoying them during the day, and the coming of night only afforded time for sad reflection in reference to the morrow.
For three days and as many nights, with several of their number wounded and bleeding, the heroic little band of "town lots for sale" speculators held the citadel, without food, without water, without rest, in the broiling sun of the day and in the cold damp of the night, against fearful and increasing odds. On the eve of the last night, their ammunition being very nearly exhausted, a council was held; it resulted in the bold, unanimous resolve, to make, under the cover of the dark, at low tide, the desperate effort to abandon the rock by the same narrow face they had gained it, and each for himself to run the gantlet through the enemy's ranks, to seek, as a last resort, his own safety in the dark recesses of the woods immediately in rear of the Indians. At the proper stage of water that night this desperate attempt was made, and none, save one, ever escaped to tell the story of their disasters; he was two years subsequently found a poor maniac prisoner, in possession of the Coquille band. But what of the master of the schooner? He, true to his friends, returned with a strong party, after a trip of ten days, only, however, to find Battle Rock again in possession of its feathered occupants, and his friends beyond the reach of human succor. [This version is wildly inaccurate.]
The discovery of gold in the Rogue River Valley attracted, with some well-disposed persons, many of the most unprincipled and ungovernable white men from all countries; with few exceptions, but for these wretches, it is believed the Indians of Oregon would have been the most peaceable, friendly, and easiest managed, with proper care, of any uncivilized tribes within the bounds of the United States. It is very true the Rogue River tribe was one of the few exceptions referred to; but they had felt the force of a blow administered by a command under Brevet Major P. Kearny, captain 1st dragoons in 1851, near the mouth of a branch of Rogue River about 15 miles north of Table Rock (see map No. 11); and whether this was sufficiently salutary or not, their roguish and stealing propensities afforded no just provocation, more especially when not in the commission of crime, for the infernal acts of cruelty committed upon them by some of that class of unprincipled whites, such as are always known to lurk on the confines of civilization, between the peaceable settlements and the Indian lodge, acknowledging no law but that of force, and in their hearts and acts far deeper down in the scale of human degradation, and far more capable of producing mischief in the settlements, because, to an evil heart, there is coupled superior intelligence, than any Rogue River Indian was known to be, before or since the discovery of gold in his valley.
Does anyone ask what these infernal acts of cruelty have been? and by whom have they been perpetrated? Official public documents tell us: In the autumn of 1852, "a party of citizens, under conduct of one Captain Ben. Wright, massacred over thirty Indians out of forty-eight, who had come into his camp by invitation to make a 'peace.'"
It seems "Wright determined not to return to Yreka without bearing some evidence of success in his expedition, and having failed to find them by hunting for the Indians, he invited them to his camp by means of a squaw. Upon this invitation forty-eight came, and while there Wright directed his men to charge their rifles afresh, to make a sure fire, which was done in presence of the Indians, without exciting their suspicion, and then, upon a signal from Wright, they suddenly fired upon the Indians, and succeeded in killing about 38. The signal was the discharge of a revolver by Wright, by which he killed the two principal Indians, with whom he had been engaged in talk. Wright's men returned to town, bearing on their rifles the scalps of their victims, he reporting that he had demanded of the Indians stolen property, and on their refusal to deliver it up he had thus punished them."--(Ex. Doc. 76, 34th Cong., 3rd session.) [The details of the Wright massacre are disputed.]
As a natural result of this treachery, the tribe combined with the Rogue River Indians, in the following summer, and attacked a settlement near Jacksonville.--(See map No. 11.)
We thus have what are believed to be the provocation and beginning of the Rogue River war of 1853, terminating in a fight between the Oregon volunteers, with one captain and ten soldiers of the United States army, under General Jo. Lane, and the Indians, on the 24th September, 1853, on the side of the mountain seen on map No. 11, to the south of Battle Creek.
Captain B. R. Alden, 4th United States infantry, had been ordered, in anticipation of any outbreak that might follow in consequence of the massacre by Wright, into that district; and promptly, on the first intimation, repaired with all the men, ten in number, of his company who were fit for duty, and before General Lane arrived, ''the whole country had been scoured, under the direction of Captain Alden, in all directions, and the main body of the Indians driven to their strongholds in the mountains."
But this did not satisfy the volunteers; so, on the next day after General Lane joined the forces at Stuart's Creek, he was elected to take command on the 22nd of September. After assuming it he divided his force into two battalions, "in order to better scour the whole country," which he himself reports had already been scoured, and put one battalion under citizen Colonel Ross, and the other under Captain Alden (who, be it observed, was an army officer, and had ten regulars) and the general put himself at the head of this battalion, directing the one under Ross to proceed up Evans' Creek, and Alden's to go via Table Rock, thence up the same creek.
The command started from Stuart's Creek at 4 p.m., 22nd September, and after pursuing the Indian trail under difficulties caused by the Indians setting fire to the woods in their rear, up Evans' Creek, thence up Battle Creek; the general reports that on the morning of the 24th, while riding in front, "he heard the crack of a rifle in the direction of the enemy," and without halting he advanced alone, and by his ear discovered their camp "in a dense forest thick with underbrush, which entirely obstructed the view."
When the troops came up the general announced his order of battle: "Alden, at the head of one company, to proceed on the trail to attack the enemy in front, and part of another company to go round and turn their left flank. Alden proceeded to engage them in the most gallant manner; his well directed fire was the first intimation of our approach. It being found impracticable to turn their left, the flanking party proceeded to engage them on their right. The men were now deployed, taking cover behind the trees, and the fight became general.''
The general also reports: "I was delayed a few minutes for the arrival of the rear guard; these, all but fifteen, I immediately led into action. On arriving on the ground I found Captain Alden, who had been shot down early in the fight, dangerously wounded, in the arms of his faithful sergeant, surrounded by a few of his men. After examining the ground and finding that the enemy were securely posted behind trees and bogs [sic] and concealed by underbrush, and that it was possible to reach them, I determined to charge them. I passed the order, led forward in the movement, and within thirty yards of their position received a wound. Believing the shot came from the flank, I ordered our line to be extended to prevent the enemy from turning it, and the men were again ordered to cover behind trees." In this position, which they held for three or four hours, the general says that his "men were cool and determined on conquering." "Finding myself weak from the loss of blood, I retired to the rear to have my wound examined and dressed." While the general was in the rear the Indians cried to the whites "that they wished for a talk; that they desired to fight no longer; that they desired peace," and expressed a wish to see General Lane, who says: "Finding that they were much superior to us in numbers, having about 200 warriors well armed with rifles and muskets, well supplied with ammunition, and knowing that they could fight as long as they saw fit, and then safely retreat into a country exceedingly difficult of access, and being desirous of examining their position, I concluded to go among them."
During this interview the preliminaries of a peace were agreed upon. The treaty was completed at Table Rock a few days after; but it seems not until Captain A. J. Smith, 1st United States dragoons, arrived with his troop from Port Orford, were the negotiations for the peace concluded. General Lane says: "This arrival was most opportune."
It was soon after this that Fort Lane was established, and Captain Smith put in command. In speaking of the participators in this action, the general says: ''Too much praise cannot be awarded to Captain Alden; the country is greatly indebted to him for the rapid organization of the forces when it was entirely without defense; his gallantry is sufficiently attested by his being dangerously wounded while charging at the head of his command almost at the enemy's lines." And then goes on to compliment, in the most flattering terms, the volunteers by whose voice he had been put in command; while it has been positively asserted that when the order to charge was given not a man of the volunteers advanced, but that Alden and his ten regulars charged unsustained. Ross' battalion did not arrive in time to participate in the fight, and only two companies, including the regulars, were engaged.
It will, I think, be perceived, on a careful examination of the general's report, that so far from a victory of the volunteers over the Indians having been gained, the latter were rather the victors; at the best it will not be regarded better for the whites than a drawn battle. The Indians asked for peace while yet in possession of the field, and obtained it. In granting it the general undoubtedly exercised sound judgment. He said, "I have no doubt, with a proper care, the peace can be strictly maintained;" and so it would have been, undoubtedly, but from causes similar in kind to that which provoked these hostilities.
The gallant general who figured as the hero of the closing scene of this three days' war was elected and took his seat in Congress as delegate from Oregon soon after, and during that Congress a large amount was appropriated to pay the volunteers who were in this service. The notorious Ben Wright not long after was appointed sub-Indian agent at Port Orford, and came to his death in the spring of 1855 by treachery at the hands of Indians on Rogue River--in their view a just retribution for his own treachery. Captain Alden soon after resigned his commission, and the army lost a gallant and meritorious officer.
Having presented the provocation, the progress, and conclusion of this affair, I leave it to others to infer what may have been the motives in superseding Captain Alden, and who were the gainers among the principal actors.
At the mouth of the Coquille River, "on the morning of the 28th of January, 1854, under the conduct of one Abbott, a recently discharged sergeant of the 1st dragoons, a party of whites attacked the different lodges of Indian families at daylight, before they were up, and sixteen Indians were killed and four wounded. The alleged cause was that the chief had threatened war; that he would not treat with the whites; that he had fired a shot at the house at the ferry, &c. The chief said he had fired at ducks in the river, and not at the house." On investigation it was found that this was a wanton, unprovoked attack upon inoffensive families.
In July, 1855, a council was to be held by the then superintendent of Indian affairs in Oregon with the tribes in this district, at a point about three miles up from the mouth of Rogue River. The Indians, on invitation of the superintendent, were assembling. On the day previous to that fixed for the treaty one, from provocation, wounded a white man before the detachment of troops that had been sent from Port Orford to keep order had arrived. The whites assembled to the number of sixty, and loudly demanded of the sub-agent the offender, to hang him. This summary process was stoutly opposed by that functionary, but on the arrival of the troops he agreed to allow him to be taken under their conduct before a justice of the peace for a hearing. The justice bound the prisoner over for trial, and remanded him in charge of the corporal's guard to camp for safe custody. The corporal, with two privates, the prisoner, and another Indian as canoe-man, were returning in their canoe down the river, when they discovered a boat containing three whites in hot pursuit, and two others, containing whites, following. Soon the foremost came near the corporal's canoe and fired into his party,killing both Indians--the prisoner and canoe-man. Notwithstanding, the council was held, and the Indians of Rogue River and Port Orford agreed to quit their native soil and go to reside on a tract that had been designated as the Coast Indian Reservation, further north, represented on map No. 14. It was the design to gather all the bands along the coast of Oregon and place them upon it, there to teach them agriculture and the arts, and to forever prevent whites from acquiring the rights of soil upon it.
Now, it is certainly not to be denied that some of the Indians, especially in the upper part of the Rogue River Valley, may have objected to the treaty, and evinced some reluctance to comply; but they had two years' time allowed in which they were to make preparations and go, and it is believed that had the whites shown patience and forborne to interfere the superintendent would have had them all removed within the time specified, and Oregon would have been saved the shame reflected upon her by the commission of those most outrageous deeds that followed; such, for example, as that perpetrated by one Lupton and his party, "who killed 25 friendly Indians, 18 of whom were women and children;" and that perpetrated by one Hank Brown and party, at Looking Glass Prairie, "in killing from 8 to 10 friendly Indians, invited there by the settlers for protection and safety."
From such acts of cruelty can it be at all surprising that a retaliatory spirit was manifested on the part of the Indians?
We now have some of the provocations that in reality gave rise to the Rogue River war, of 1855, which was first formally and officially declared against the Indians, in the proclamation of George L. Curry, governor of Oregon Territory, October 15, 1855--assigning as the casus belli that he had been informed "that the Shasta and Rogue River Indians in southern Oregon, have, without respect to age or sex, murdered a large number of our people, burned their dwellings, and destroyed their property; and that they are now menacing the southern settlements with all the atrocities of savage warfare;" and by this same proclamation he calls out companies of mounted volunteers, to constitute two battalions--one to be denominated the "northern battalion," the other the "southern battalion."
The commanding officer at Fort Jones reported officially to the United States commanding general of the department, November 2, 1855, that "the recent murders by Indians of women and children in Rogue River Valley, were literally retaliatory of, and immediately succeeded the massacre by Lupton and his party."
In confirmation of which we have the official letter of the adjutant general of Oregon, dated October 20, 1855, in which it says "information had been received that armed parties had taken the field in southern Oregon, with the avowed purpose of waging a war of extermination against the Indians in that section of the Territory, and had slaughtered, without respect to age or sex, a band of friendly Indians on their reservation, in despite of the authority of the Indian agent and the commanding officer of the United States troops stationed there."
Now, can any conscientious man believe that the intelligent, industrious officer, Captain Smith, who was then, and who had been, in command at Fort Lane, in the very centre of these Indians during the period of more than two years previous, would not have known, and reported to headquarters, a necessity, if there was one, of more military force than that of the United States already there to meet the exigency in the district of which he was the responsible commandant? No report was made by him or either of the commandants of Fort Jones or Fort Orford expressive of any such necessity.
The governor says he was moved to call out this force "by a petition numerously signed by citizens of Umpqua," and ordered them to rendezvous at Jacksonville, which is the identical focus of the organization of General Joseph Lane's volunteers of 1853, who had been so liberally paid by the United States from an appropriation disbursed among them just previously to the getting up of this moving petition, which, if granted, would bring occupation for eight hundred men and as many horses for the ensuing winter, and they would only have to ride about and kill Indians until planting time next spring. These battalions, with the title of "southern army," were under the command of Brigadier General John K. Lamerick, and it is not surprising that with such an array and the well known hostility of many of the citizens, some of the Indians flew to their arms and others to the United States military posts for protection.
On rendering his report of March 31, 1853, General Lamerick only cites three skirmishes, in which he claims success for the several divisions of his army; of these, one was with Old John's band of about 200, while on the trail to Crescent City, in which the enemy retreated fighting to the mountains; 3 whites and 10 Indians killed; another, when 100 volunteers attacked 75 to 80, on Cow Creek, and drove them; one white killed and one wounded; four Indians killed; the third was when a company attacked 75 Indians, six miles south of Camas Prairie, and drove them, killing three. But he makes no allusion to the shameful conduct of the 250 volunteers who had agreed to support Captain Smith's regulars in the fight of Grave Creek Hills, where, by a single blow, had these volunteers come up to the work, the war would probably have been brought to a close in 15 days after the issuing of the governor's proclamation; nor does he report other affairs of more shame to the "southern army" during the succeeding winter, of which some are enumerated in an official report by the commanding general of the department of the Pacific, May 30, 1856.
He says "no man can have felt more keenly or grieved more sincerely than I have at the sacrifice in southern Oregon of many innocent men, women, and children by savage warfare." But what was the cause? No other than the massacre by volunteers and citizen of some 80 or more friendly Indians. As in the case of the killing, by two companies of volunteers, a friendly chief (Old Jake) and his band, comprising between 30 and 40 males, besides destroying their huts and provisions, and exposing their women and children to the cold of December, who, in making their way to Fort Lane for protection, arrived there with their limbs frozen; the killing in the most brutal manner, with clubs, two old squaws, one of whom was lame and carrying a child, which was taken by the heels and its brains dashed out against a tree; that of the same Brown who was concerned in the massacre by Lupton, during which an Indian boy, twelve years of age, who could speak some English, ran to him and said "I have done you no harm, my heart is good towards you, you will not kill me." Brown replied "Damn your Indian heart," and seized him by the hair and with his bowie knife severed his head from his body; the determination of certain citizens to murder 400 friendly Indians at Fort Lane, waiting there to be conducted by the superintendent of Indian affairs to the coast reservation, but prevented by Captain Smith, the commanding officer; the similar determination in the Willamette to kill the same Indians, and all who might accompany them, should the attempt be make to take them to the reservation.
It has already been said that an immediate effect of the organization of the governor's southern army was to cause some of the Indians to stand to their arms; one of their first acts afterwards was to attack the little party of 10 under Lieut. Kautz, 4th infantry, when about closing the exploration for a road from Port Orford to the Oregon trail in the direction of Fort Lane (see maps Nos. 10, 12).
In this attack, which occurred on the 25th October, 1855, at a point marked with that date on the map, the lieutenant made a successful defense without serious hurt [two of Kautz' party were killed], and the party made their way safely to Fort Lane, this officer having, in the meantime, discovered the position of the main body of Indians then under arms to be in the Grave Creek Hills, about 45 miles from Fort Lane.
All the disposable troops at the fort were put in motion. The command of regulars consisted of 85 men and 4 officers: Capt. A. J. Smith, 1st dragoons; First Lieutenant H. G. Gibson, 3d artillery; Second Lieutenants A. V. Kautz, 4th infantry, and B. Alston, 1st dragoons. At Grave Creek they were joined by 250 volunteers, under Colonel Ross. From this point they moved in three detachments by different routes towards the position of the Indians. Unfortunately, from an error of the scouts in regard to the location, all three detachments came up in front instead of on different sides of the Indian camp. About daylight 31st October the regulars, accompanied by two companies of the volunteers, after climbing very steep and difficult hills, came in sight of the Indians. Fires were then imprudently built, which gave the Indians warning. At this point the baggage and provisions were left in charge of Lieutenant Alston. The command descending a mountain gorge, and climbing the opposite acclivity, came upon the Indians, charged and drove them from the crest of the hill on which they were encamped and some 50 yards into the brush over the crest.
From the top of the hill [Hungry Hill] for a distance of 1½ mile it was a dense thicket; on the left and on the right there was a precipitous descent into a gorge filled with large pines, with undergrowth, in which the Indians concealed themselves, and all efforts to dislodge them proved futile. Several charges were made by the regulars, but the men were picked off so effectually by the Indian rifles that but little advance was made into the thicket. The regulars stood their ground well, but the volunteers, with the exception of about fifty, were of no benefit in the action.
The troops continued to occupy this position until near sunset, now and then exchanging shots with the Indians. After posting pickets the troops descended to a spring to bivouac for the night, their loss during the day having been thirty killed and wounded. The next morning Lieutenant Gibson, with ten men, was sent up the hill to bring down the dead body of one of his detachment; this had barely been accomplished when the Indians came in large force around, and after exchanging numerous shots, with but little effect, save the wounding of Lieutenant Gibson, for two or three hours, were driven off, and left the troops in possession of the field. At noon on the 1st November Captain Smith having found by his experience the day before that no confidence could be placed in the promised support of the volunteers, ordered a return to Fort Lane, which was reached the next day.
The number of Indians was estimated at 300. The number of troops actually engaged did not exceed 120, with every disadvantage of position. The Indian loss, according to their own admission afterwards, was 7 killed. The greater portion of the regulars were dragoons, and their musketoons proved utterly inadequate to cope with the rifles in the hands of the Indians.
No effort of Captain Smith could persuade the volunteers to go round and take the Indians in the rear, while the regulars would charge in front, and it seems only 50 out of 250 of the volunteers of the governor's southern army could be induced to take any part in the action, after coming to the point where, with resolution, they could have been instrumental in capturing the whole body of Indians in arms.
In the case of this southern army of Oregon we have the example of a governor of a Territory organizing a military force, with a general officer at its head, and sending it into a field within the command assigned by the President to a general officer of the United States army; the said governor in the meanwhile not so much as condescending to inform the President's officer of the measure, nor of the orders, it now appears, he issued to the volunteers which prescribed the relations they were to hold with the United States troops regularly stationed in the same field. It was only by accident, as it were, in the following month the United States officer commanding the department of the Pacific obtained a knowledge of the governor's military measures. To say nothing of the question of the legality of those measures, one familiar with military usage cannot fail to perceive in them either a marked contempt of the authority of the President's commander of the department, or else a total want of knowledge of that courtesy which of right and by usage is due to such officer.
On the 9th of the same November, while Major General Wool, United States army, in command of the department of the Pacific, was at Crescent City, on his way to the field of Indian hostilities, which had broken out in the preceding month in the Yakima country to the north of the Columbia, he received the first intelligence of the fight just described, and it was then that he also first received authentic information of the governor's declaration of war, and of the southern army of his volunteers being in existence.
General Wool's presence in southern Oregon at this juncture was exceedingly opportune. He was personally in position to enable himself to judge of the necessary measures to be taken for the future duties that would properly devolve on the troops under his own command in this district. Accordingly, acting upon the basis of humanity towards the Indians, and at the same time having a due regard to the safety of the settlements, the commanding officers of the United States army in this district were instructed during the winter to receive at their posts and protect from violence all friendly Indians who would come in and express a willingness to go in the following spring on the reservation set apart for them.
In spite, or more probably in consequence, of the operations of the governor's southern army during the winter, it turned out in the spring that the number of Indians in arms had increased; that they had the entire command of the lower part of Rogue River; were besieging a blockhouse filled with citizens near the mouth, and were really threatening the destruction of all the whites there; while many of the friendly Indians had repaired to Crescent City, Fort Orford, and Fort Lane for the promised protection, and to be ready to move according to the terms of the treaty.
Several bands, deemed unfriendly, were in arms at different places in the valley above; among these was that of Old John, who said "the whites are determined to kill me and my band and we may as well die fighting as in any other way." Indeed, this band alone had become so formidable as to defy the "southern army;" and finally it became necessary for the superintendent of Indian affairs, and for the safety of the settlers, to call upon the regular troops to end the troubles on Rogue River.
Accordingly, General Wool, being previously well advised of the topography of the district, and the probable positions of the bands in arms, devised and put into execution the following plan of military operations for ending this Rogue River war by the United States troops. After sending a detachment of troops from Fort Lane to guard and conduct the friendly Indians waiting there to the reservation, there was left a small disposable force under Captain Smith, 1st dragoons.
One company (Captain Augur's, 4th infantry) was ordered down from the Columbia River to Port Orford, where Captain (Brevet Major) Reynold's company, 3rd artillery, was already stationed; as soon as Augur's could arrive there would be troops enough to protect the friendly Indians and public stores collected here, and leave another small force disposable for the field.
Captain Floyd Jones' company, 4th infantry, was ordered from Fort Humboldt to Crescent City, to protect all supplies and public property that might be landed there, also to guard the friendly Indians who had been gathered there by the superintendent of Indian affairs in Oregon.
Captain Ord's company, 3d artillery, then stationed at Benicia, was ordered to be in condition for field service, and in readiness to embark at a certain time in the steamer from San Francisco to Oregon.
Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan, junior, major 4th infantry, was selected by the general as the commanding officer to execute the plan of field operations.
On the 5th of March the general himself embarked with Ord's company, Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan, and a few officers of his staff; Captain Cram, Corps Topographical Engineers; Lieutenants Bonnycastle and Arnold, aids-de-camp, and Assistant Surgeon Milhau, for the field of operations; and while on his way up explained very fully to Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan the plan he desired him to execute. Lieutenant Bonnycastle subsequently relinquished his appointment as aide, and joined the force in the field.
Ord's company was to land at Crescent City, and the movement to commence from there as soon as it would be judged that the force from Fort Lane under Captain Smith, he having been advised, should be able to reach the Illinois River, see map No. 9; and the force at Port Orford was to proceed towards Rogue River, all three being subject to the orders of Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan.
The general believed that by starting the three forces, all tending ultimately to meet somewhere near the mouth of the Illinois River, that from Crescent City moving towards the mouth of Rogue River, that from Port Orford towards the same, or to a point higher up, and after uniting both to ascend the river, while Captain Smith's would be descending the valley, all the hostile bands would be most likely to be encountered or ferreted out. He was aware of the natural difficulties of the ground, and of the severe labor the troops must apply to the task.
The field of operations is represented on map No. 12, and the points where engagements occurred are designated by the symbol of two swords crossed.
On the 8th of March Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan landed at Crescent City, and in one week after had his command in motion. The force from Crescent City left on the 15th and encamped at the mouth of Rogue River (Ord's company skirmishing there with the Indians) on the 20th of March.
And now it was that most of these Indians began to show signs of yielding, but their chiefs were tardy in coming in. The Tutooteney band were obstinate; their town was 11 miles above the mouth, on the right bank (seen on the map), at the entrance of a small stream from the west. On the 26th of April Ord's and Jones' companies, 112 men, Captain Ord, Captain Jones, Lieutenant Drisdale, and Doctor Millman, were sent up to raze that town; it was destroyed, but not without obstinate resistance. The Indians were in force, and, having the advantage of descent and cover, attacked the troops in flank and rear. It was a spirited fight, resulting in the Indians being driven up and across the river; then the troops withdrew in good order, losing Sergeant Nash, however, who was shot from the bush, and arrived in camp the next night.
On the 29th of April Captain Ord's company moved from camp at an early hour and encountered the Indians on the Chetco River, where he found them in force on the right bank. A running fight ensued; the Indians, running faster than the pursuers, succeeded in crossing the river and dispersing themselves in the hills.
Captain Smith's force had descended the valley from Fort Lane, and the chief in command had consented to hold a council, he, as well as the superintendent of Indian affairs, hoping that all now standing aloof might be induced, after the lessons already received, to come in, lay down their arms, and go upon the reserve.
Oak Flat, on the right bank of the Illinois, was designated as the council ground, and there the council was held on the 21st and 22nd of May, the result of which was that most of the Indians agreed to come in, and three days were allowed them to rendezvous at Big Meadow, above the Big Bend of Rogue River, where they were to deliver up their arms, and thence to be escorted by the troops to Port Orford. All but Old John's band promised to come in with seeming sincerity. The whole command, except Ord's company, were present at the council; that had previously been sent to Port Orford to escort a provision train to Oak Flat, and as it had not arrived, Reynolds' company was dispatched, by the trail seen [on the nap] to the south of Pilot Knob, to meet it should it come by this route; but it came by the mouth of the river, thence on the east side. It was highly important to protect this train, without risking an attack.
On the 24th Captain Smith, with 50 dragoons and 30 of the 4th infantry, 80 in all, left the council ground for Big Meadows, to receive the arms and to escort the Indians to Port Orford; it was probably intended to conduct them thither by the most direct trail, after opening or improving it, from the Meadows. Smith had crossed the river; and encamped at the point marked C on the evening of the 26th, Augur's company having accompanied him nearly there to escort a train back. On the day of Augur's return, probably the 25th, the chief in command moved from Oak Flat down the Illinois, leaving Jones' company at its mouth, and himself, with Augur's company, crossed Rogue River and went up to a point marked B, about three to five miles west, to open or improve the direct trail, to which I have referred, from Big Meadows.
It will now be seen that on the evening of the 26th of May Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan's forces were situated: himself, with Augur, at the point B; Ord, escorting the train, on the east side of Rogue River, within about ten miles of Oak Flat; Jones, at the junction of the Illinois; Reynolds, about ten miles from that junction, on the Port Orford trail; Smith, at Big Meadows, at the point C; and the main body of the Indians were about five miles above the meadows, on the bank of the river.
It had rained very hard all day the 26th, and this was assigned to Captain Smith as the reason why the Indians had not arrived at the place of rendezvous. As the rain had rendered the trails muddy, this seemed a reasonable excuse, and he trusted they would all be in by the close of the following day.
Battle at Big Meadows.
As before stated, Captain Smith was encamped, on the evening of the 25th of May, at the point C; but before many hours had elapsed, that same night, circumstances occurred causing him to distrust the Indians, and he immediately commenced moving his camp, and by midnight his command were occupying a much better position--an oblong elevation, 250 yards in length by 20 in width, represented on map No. 13, between two small creeks entering the river from the northwest. This is a mound of low elevation, and between it and the river there is a narrow bottom, which is Big Meadows. The southern border of the mound is abrupt and very difficult to climb; the northern border more difficult; the west end is approachable, and can be ascended with some difficulty, white the eastern is a gentle slope, easy of ascent. The top is a plateau of an area sufficient for one company to encamp on. Directly to the north there is another mound, about the same size, covered with scattering trees and brush. The summits of the two are within rifle range, and at about the same elevation.
Early on the morning of the 27th Smith dispatched an express to apprise Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan of his new position, and that the Indians had not come in, and said to the express, "I think Old John may attack me." It is to be observed that this chief had not assented to the agreement of the others. The express reached his destination that afternoon. The lieutenant colonel sent him back to Smith, and requested to be informed if he desired to be reinforced. The express, however, could not reach Captain Smith, and, finding he was surrounded by Indians fighting furiously, returned, but, getting lost during the night, did not report to Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan until 10 o'clock the next morning (28th of May).
The chief in command immediately called in Augur's company (then cutting a road), and ordered it to join Captain Smith at the Big Meadows. The shortness of the time in which Captain Augur executed this order proved that gallant officer to be equal to the emergency. The distance, on the very difficult foot trail, is nearly eighteen miles, and it was accomplished in four and a half hours. In the meantime stirring scenes were being enacted at the Big Meadow mounds.
Smith's command had been up all night moving his camp, and, notwithstanding his men were much fatigued in consequence, by dawn of day his position was defensible. After starting the express off, and as the morning light increased, numerous parties of Indians were seen coming from all directions, and soon the north mound was occupied by a large number.
A body of 40 warriors came up the gentle slope of the east end of the mound, occupied by the troops, as if to enter camp. They signified a wish to see Captain Smith, as they said, to give up their arms to him; but that officer was on his guard, and directed them to deposit their arms outside, designating a spot where all the Indians must lay down their weapons. It afterwards appeared that this was a stratagem to seize the person of Captain Smith. By the precaution already taken of planting a field howitzer so as to sweep that slope, and of stationing Lieutenant Sweitzer with the infantry, to defend at all hazards the crest of the western slope, he was in condition to make good his refusal to allow the warriors to enter his camp, and after a short colloquy they retired, and were seen to hold consultation with their chiefs on the opposite mound, where it had been discovered Old John was very active in giving orders.
It was now apparent to Captain Smith that an attack was meditated soon to be made upon his position. At 10 o'clock on the morning of the 27th May, the Indians having completely surrounded, opened a smart fire upon it, and simultaneously charges were made up each slope, upon his flanks, but these were repulsed with the howitzer and infantry. Now the voice of Old John rose above all others, issuing his commands in tones so clear that they were distinctly heard in Smith's camp, and interpreted to him. During the day this master spirit frequently ordered a charge to be made by his warriors, and it was attempted, but as successfully repulsed as the first. The Indians were continually firing rifle shots from all quarters into Smith's camp, and parties often boldly attempted to scale the steeps of his mound, which protected his front and rear. In these desperate efforts at escalade, which gave the troops ample work to resist, several Indians on coming near enough were made to fall, roll over and bite the dust. Only 30 of Smith's men had arms at all adapted to long range: the 50 dragoon musketoons could only tell [i.e., be effective] when the enemy came near. The Indians were much better armed and delivered effective shots, themselves unharmed, comparatively, from the north mound. The battle was thus prolonged till night.
During the night of the 27th Smith rendered the position of his men more safe from the enemy's rifles, by digging pits and erecting breast defenses, such as they were, with his few articles of camp equipage.
On the morning of the 28th the Indians, refreshed, and augmented in numbers, again opened fire upon the troops, and the battle was continued pretty much in the same manner as it had been the day previous. Old John could be heard above all the din shouting, urging, encouraging, and even cursing his warriors to stimulate them to a renewal of the desperate charges, which, as often as attempted, were successfully repulsed, while Smith's men were now less annoyed by the rifle shots of their enemies. The troops were directed by their officers to husband well their ammunition, and never to make a shot unless there was a fair prospect of its telling. But the shots from the north mound had told sadly upon the little command, and Assistant Surgeon Crane had his hands full. The dead and the wounded numbering 29.
About 4 o'clock p.m. the Indians were observed to be forming, under the direction of "Old John," in two bodies, apparently with a view to charge both flanks simultaneously, as well as the front and rear, at the same time with an unusual number. Smith was not mistaken in this conjecture; soon they were seen advancing, and the flanking parties were halfway up, Smith, in the meantime, while giving orders to his men how to act in this emergency, caught glimpses in the distance of approaching numbers. Augur's company had come! and that officer gallantly entered the arena leading his men at double quick, charging the Indians in [the] rear. At the same moment Smith, for the first time, ordered a charge from his right and from his left, down both slopes of his mound, upon the advancing foes. And now it was that the commanding voice of their chief was heard no more, the Indians broke and endeavored to escape by crossing the river, and victory declared for the troops.
The number of warriors who had arranged themselves under the banner of Old John for this last struggle for the defense of their valley was about 400.
This chief was known to be brave and capable to command. He had planned his operations well and extensively. After learning of the scattered positions of the forces under Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan, he counted upon destroying Smith's command on the morning of the 27th in a short time; then to immediately descend and attack Jones, at the mouth of the Illinois, before Augur's company, being on the opposite side of Rogue River, at some distance, and Reynolds, at a still greater distance, could come to the rescue; and then to cross the Illinois River and attack Ord and capture his train. So confident were his warriors that Smith would fall an easy prey that they had pieces of rope to the number of Smith's men in readiness to hang every one.
On the 29th, the next day after their defeat, the Indians sent word to Captain Smith that they wanted "a talk." On the 30th the lieutenant colonel in command arrived at Big Meadows with his whole force. The Indians again agreed to come in and go upon the reserve. Old John was the last to give in, but finally assented.
About 20 miles above the mouth of Rogue River Captain Augur had another fight with a party, about the 8th June, and brought them in; and by the last of June the Rogue River war was at an end, and all the Indians that had defied the "southern army" of Oregon so successfully were either at or on their way to the coast reservation in western Oregon.
The expectations General Wool had entertained of the officer who was selected for the command in this important service were fully realized, and the manner in which his plan for closing this war was executed by Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Buchanan met the general's entire approbation.
Western Oregon.--Map No. 14 shows so much of this as includes the coast Indian reservation, and the military posts Umpqua, Hoskins, and Yamhill, and the upper part of the Willamette. These three posts were established by General Wool's orders in July, 1856, for the purpose of guarding the Indians, in number about 1,500, whom his humane measures had been instrumental in moving to this reservation. After the removal of these Indians from the Rogue River Valley and Port Orford district, it was no longer necessary to maintain troops at Fort Lane or Fort Orford. The positions occupied by the new posts, considering the mountain passes through which the Indians could escape and return to their old grounds, were believed to be the best that could have been selected to prevent their escape and at the same time to afford protection to the settlements in this part of the Willamette and to the Umpqua valleys. The reservation is about 72 miles in length, coastwise, and 24 miles in average width, extending from the Pacific back to the summit ridge of the Coast Range of mountains.
Should it be deemed expedient Fort Hoskins might be moved into the reserve and placed on the Siletz, at a prairie seen marked on the map at P.
"The topographical memoir and report of Captain T. J. Cram, relative to the Territories of Oregon and Washington, in the military department of the Pacific," Topographical Memoir of the Department of the Pacific, March 3, 1859, House Documents, session of 1858-59
Last revised March 17, 2015